Reap a Bitter Harvest

by Deirdre

Part 11

"You guys seen Billy?" Mary Travis asked Buck and J.D. who were just outside the sheriff's office.

"No," Buck shook his head, "Something wrong?"

"I hope not." She fretted, "He ran out after breakfast and I can't find him."

"Maybe he headed over to Kyle Nevins place." J.D. noted of Billy's friend from school.

"I suppose..." She nodded. "I'll ride over there. If you see him, grab him."

"Will do." Buck nodded. "I'll have a look around town. Maybe I can scare him up."

"Thanks Buck." Mary nodded, "How's your arm, J.D.?"

"It's my drinking arm..." J.D. crowed, giving Mary a smile. "It's slowin' me down."

"Aw, hell. J.D.," Buck grinned, swiping the youth's hat, "You can drink milk from either hand."

Mary left the two friends jostling on the boardwalk and headed for the livery. She was settled into the front seat of the buggy, when a voice interrupted.

"Where do you think you're going?"

"To find my son." She replied, and stared right back at the green eyes, not the least bit intimidated by Chris Larabee.

"Billy missing?" Chris squinted and shielded his eyes from the morning sun.

"I haven't seen him since breakfast and I'm worried. It's not like him to wander off and not tell me where he's going. With a gang on the loose..."

"More the reason for you to stay here." Chris directed, his own parental fear rising. "I'll take a look around."

"I'm perfectly capable of finding my own son." She retorted, "So if you'll unhand my team."

"Don't be a difficult..."

"If you say female I'll shoot you myself."

"You're staying in town and that's final." He snapped, shifting uneasily in her gaze.

"Excuse me?" She said icily. "I'm not sixteen and you're not my father."

"No, I'm not." Chris leaned over and gripped the frame of the buggy, "But if I were, I would have paddled you more. Now turn this team around."

"Okay," She agreed mildly and saw his face screw up in puzzlement.

"Oh, no you don't" He shook his head, reading her mind, "You'll take off as soon as I'm gone. Truce?" He offered, and saw her nod. "I'll ride with you."


Vin was on his stomach, eyes shifting all around him, his keen ears tuned into every sound in the area. There were still out there, content to wait him out. Time was on their side. It had been a close to an hour since he'd crawled in here. Every time he raised his head, a shot flew by. He heard movement from the brush behind him and his shoulders tensed. He rolled over on his back and rested his mare's leg on his hip. He had his finger on the trigger, when the steps got closer.

"Vin...Vin...why are you on the ground?"

"Billy!" Vin screeched and dove, covering the blond boy with his body as shots rang out. He pulled the small boy back behind the rocks and kept him under his shoulder and chest. "What are ya doing here?" He hissed, not hiding his anger and seeing the total fright in the six-year old's eyes. "I told ya it was dangerous. Ya couldda been killed. Dammit..." He hissed, realizing the deep mire he was sinking in.

"You're squooshing me Vin..." the boy huffed, squirming.

"Too's better than getting yer fool head shot off. Those bad guys I told ya about? That's them shootin' at me. Why didn't ya stay in town?"

"I'm sorry Vin...I wanted to help your eyes."

"My...eyes...what?" Vin cocked his head and saw the large blue eyes peering at him.

"They've been sad all the time...I like your happy eyes better...I missed them. I thought I could help...I'm sorry." Billy's voice wavered.

"Aw, hell..." Vin felt wounded and saw the little chin trembling. He pulled the boy closer and squeezed him hard. "Ya ain't gonna cry now...yer a big boy...we're pards right? Ya git t' bawlin' and them fellers'll find us right quick." Vin said, eyeing the horizon and sensing movement. He saw a blur of blue fabric in the trees to the left and fired, sighing in relief when a body dropped into the river.

"Just like old times, Tanner." Pritchett called. "Give up and I won't hurt that boy you seem so fond of."

Vin remained silent, trying to discern where the bounty hunter was. He could feel Billy's heart hammering in his chest and rubbed the small back. "S'okay Billy...he's as dumb as he is ugly." Vin pinpointed the area where Pritchett was and drew out his spyglass. He took a hard look and spotted the eyepatch, almost hidden behind a tree. "Listen up, Billy. I got a bead on that fella. When I take off and start shootin', ya git yer tail back to town, the same way ya got out here."

"But Vin..."

"Shh!" Vin whispered, "He's listenin'..." He raised his head and nodded, drawing his gun and taking off.

Billy rolled over and covered his head as the shots rang out. Then there was silence. His heart was hammering and he kept his eyes closed. He heard boots crunching on the gravel and screamed as the hand touched his shoulder.


"S'okay, Billy...It's me...he's dead." Vin dropped down and caught the frightened boy. He felt the heaving breaths and pulled him back, eyeing him good. "Ya alright?"

"Yeah..." Billy nodded, "My Ma's sure gonna be mad..."

"Yer Ma's about the finest woman I've ever met. She's a real lady. My Ma died when I was younger than ya are now. I miss her every day. Listen good, Billy," He gripped the small shoulders and leveled a serious gaze at the solemn little face. "Yer Ma's the best friend y'ell ever have. Ya listen t' her...and don't ever disrespect her. Yer a lucky boy..."

"I know..."

"One more thing," Vin angered, "Don't ever run off like that again. Ya tell yer Ma where yer goin'. What if that gang found ya first?"

"I'm sorry, Vin..." Billy choked, his eyes fixed on the dead man wearing an eye patch.

"I'm gonna tie them up and we'll take 'em back t' town. Then yer gonna tell yer Ma how sorry ya are fer puttin' the worry on her."


Chris glanced at the pale features of Mary Travis, who was wrought with fear. Billy wasn't at Kyle's house, and she was really worried. He pulled the buggy in by the Clarion and slid off the seat. He turned to help her down and felt her trembling.

"He'll turn up. Little boys are real good at finding places to hide." "He won't be able to sit for a week," She muttered, eyeing the streets for a small blond head.

"He's probably with Buck and J.D. at the Sheriff's office." Chris theorized, trying to convince himself as well. He took her arm and led her up the boardwalk. He saw Buck and Ezra outside the Saloon. Buck shook his head and Chris felt Mary rock back. "Easy, now. We'll find him."

"We searched high and low, I'm sorry Mary." Buck nodded, feeling awful about the missing boy.

"What if he wandered off and that gang got a hold of him?" Mary vocalized her fear and felt Chris's arm around her shoulders.

"Not likely. The last thing that gang wants is a...Shit..." He swore as his eyes saw the dusty tracker at the other end of town.

Mary's head jerked up, "Billy..." She choked, spotting the blond boy sitting in front of Vin Tanner, . She took off up the boardwalk, with Chris and the others behind her.


The livery was deserted when they rode past. As they neared the sheriff's office, Vin slid off Diablo. He pulled the string of horses, bearing bodies, over to the hitching post. Vin's peripheral vision caught the flying blond newspaper proprietress approaching fast, following by a black storm cloud named Larabee. He muttered under his breath as he lifted Billy down.

"Great..." He muttered, spotting the lethal look in the leader's eyes, as he turned away.

Billy knew Vin was mad. He hadn't said a word all the way home. He was standing beside him and stole a fast glance upwards and cringed. Vin's jaw was clenched and his eyebrows were furrowed. He was mad, alright. It happened so fast, that later the only thing Billy would recall clearly was the forceful shove that took him out of harm's way.

Vin tied Diablo to the hitching post and felt Billy's hand tug his coat. He knew Billy was upset, and he wanted him to be. Maybe next time he'd think twice before pulling a stupid stunt like that. He was about to address the issue again, when he spotted a tall stranger directly across the street. There was something familiar about his face. He locked eyes with the man, whose dark stare narrowed in recognition as well. Then he realized who he was looking at and rested his hand over his gun. The deadly intent shone from the stranger's eyes and a small, feral smile caught the tracker's attention.

"Shit..." Vin swore and drew his gun, spotting the already raised arm his adversary, who'd recognized him as well.


The heart-wrenching scream caused the dazed Texan to jerk. He scoured the sidewalk, but the stranger had fled towards a horse tied at the side of the livery. He holstered his smoking gun and rolled over, intent on taking pursuit. From where he was lying in the street, he spotted blood and cringed when he saw the source of the crimson flow.

"Oh God..." He moaned and crawled over to where Billy Travis lie on the boardwalk, his face obscured by blood. He was pale and motionless. "Billy..." He choked, reaching a trembling hand out, only to be shoved harshly aside.

"Don't you touch him." Mary Travis hissed, baring her maternal claws. "Billy...Billy..." She dropped down and cradled the injured boy. "Thank God..." She closed her eyes as she found a pulse. She took her handkerchief out and tried to wipe his face. Her arms were shaking so badly; she wasn't making much progress. She saw only calm in Chris's green eyes and they met her own over Billy's body. She saw his head dip and allowed him to take the boy. He quickly found the wound and pressed the sodden cloth to it. She felt the buckskinned arm reaching in towards Billy and wheeled around, slapping Vin Tanner hard.

"I was only tryin' to help...I..." He reeled back, stunned.

"Help!" Mary seethed, staring coldly at the man she felt responsible for her son's malady. "Haven't you done enough by getting him shot? It isn't bad enough that bounty on your head causes trouble for the honest citizens of this town? Now the children aren't safe as well."

"What the hell were you thinking?" Chris raged of the tracker's decision to ride out with Billy Travis. He diverted his gaze from the startled younger man, whose throat was locked. Chris kept pressure on the boy's head wound and couldn't help but think of his own son. He recalled all too well cradling Adam's dead body.

"I knew this day would come." Addy Ford's loud, nasal voice was heard above the gathered crowd of townspeople. "Your kind always brings nothing but trouble and bloodshed. Why couldn't that bullet have found you instead of an innocent child? How can you hold your head up? It should be hanging in shame."

"...or at the end of a rope, you misbegotten whelp." Bert Thomas shouted, joining the murmuring throng.

"You're not fit to live among decent people." His pal Conklin added, over the nodding heads around him.

"Mary, it ain't like that..." Vin pleaded, his voice barely audible. He managed to get to his feet, and his heart was pounding so hard, it rammed against his chest wall.

"Don't you say another word." Mary lashed out, "This town hasn't been safe since you rode in here. Every day brings the threat of another bounty hunter with a gun and dollar signs in his eyes. You don't care what ramifications that price on your head has; or who gets hurt or killed because of you. How much more innocent blood will stain your hands before you do the right thing? The decent people of this town haven't been safe since you rode in here. Get out..." The distraught mother hissed, shoving him hard, "Get out...get out..."

"Mary," Nathan Jackson appeared, finally able to force his way through the despicable mob. He pulled the hysterical mother away and grabbed the buckskinned sleeve. He tried to catch the tracker's wide-eyes. "Vin, ya alright? Vin..." He gave a quick once over and seeing no sign of injury, moved to check the wounded boy. He glanced at the boy in Chris Larabee's arms. "Get him to the clinic..." He snarled, jerking Chris into action.

Vin felt every cruel word, stinging him like poisonous arrows. They swirled in his head, biting and spreading the poison. As the venom entered his system, it caused irreparable pain, breaking his heart and shattering his soul. The words "decent people" screamed at him. He wasn't included in that group. The pain devoured him; jagged teeth ripped his insides apart. He felt the crowd closing in and their cries of bigotry slammed into him like bullets. He stumbled backwards, backing up until he was flat against the wall...with no escape. His heart was racing and his mouth dry. The other words sailed by "bastard", "no account bounty hunter", "murdering son-of-a-bitch". He was dizzy and lightheaded; they were closing in like wolves on a kill. His tortured blue eyes met his best friend's, pleading for help. The icy green glare that stared back, severed his last defense and lanced his heart. His insides turned to water and his knees buckled.

Chris didn't see a man in agony, or the tortured eyes of his best friend, pleading for help. He didn't read the message in the sky blue eyes, desperate for reassurance, thirsty for faith and hungry for his brother's open hand. He only saw a child's bloody face, a wayward bullet's damage and all reasoning was lost. His anger welled up and increased to a fever pitch, then exploded when he saw the fishing rods on Vin's horse.

"How could you?" The seething blond gunslinger hissed, standing and striding away quickly with Billy in his arms.

Mary followed Chris's gaze and saw the fishing gear. "Fishing? You took him fishing...with that gang on the loose? It wasn't bad enough you got J.D. Billy out there...with them waiting for you?" She gasped, shocked and stunned and felt Nathan leading her away. Chris's long strides, with Billy safe in his strong arms, had him already nearing the clinic.

"I didn''s not...Chris..." Vin stammered, his eyes drilled into the black cloth back of his departing best friend.

"Vin...what'd he look like?" Josiah's booming voice caused the anguished man's head to rise.

"Tall...dressed like an undertaker...white hair and short beard...headed south...paint horse." Vin stuttered, swaying and gasping as the mob descended.

Josiah and Buck were already mounted and headed in the direction the shattered man indicated. Ezra ran for Deuce, his own mount, when J.D. stopped him. The Gambler noticed the sheriff's bandaged arm was not in a sling.

"No...You stay here. Use that silver tongue of yours to get rid of that mob. See to Vin..." J.D. ordered, glancing at the inferno brewing down the street.

"Very well." Ezra agreed, wincing at the free-flying slurs being hurled at the shell-shocked sharpshooter. He moved towards Vin, who stood unmoving, his chest heaving frantically. Ezra winced at the lost blue eyes, large and unblinking. They were filled with an unreachable pain, darting from side to side in time with the frantic breathing. "Unless you wish to spend the rest of the day within the confines of a jail cell, I'd suggest you disperse immediately." He shouted as two bottles and a rock flew past him. The largest bottle hit the traumatized tracker in the head. "VIN!" He screamed, as he saw the lean body disappear.

Vin blinked hard and jerked his head, staring dumbfounded at the boardwalk. He felt the mob pressing and crawled away, ducking into the alley and finding his legs. His pace picked up and he raced to the end, where his eyes caught the beckoning doorway.

The gunshot halted the mob, silencing them for a few seconds.

"I believe I made myself perfectly clear," Ezra warned, keeping himself between the mob and the alley where Vin disappeared. "A more virulent group of vultures I have not yet encountered. You're disgraceful conduct..."

"Shut up Standish and get out of the way..." Bert Thomas screamed, picking up a rock.

"I wouldn't..." Ezra warned raising his gun.

"How can you defend the likes of him?" A voice called out.

"The likes of him, is a far better person than the likes of any of you..." He drawled, green eyes icy. "...bloodthirsty vigilantes..." He muttered, "Go about your business. The next bearer of a filthy slur or bottle or rock, will be incarcerated."

It took a good five minutes and several more slurs before the crowd dispersed. Ezra holstered his gun and followed the path that the wayward tracker took. At the end of the alley, he gazed around the backends of several of the town's buildings. His eyes narrowed at a stain marring the wooden doorframe of the rear door to the church. His long strides halted at the sight of a bloody partial handprint. He took the steps two at a time and entered the House of God.

Part 12

"Oh God, there's so much blood..." Mary gasped, at Nathan's elbow. She held one of Billy's limp hands as the healer continued his examination.

"Head wounds always bleed alot," Nathan kept his tone calm, "He's breathing fine and his got a good strong pulse. Hmmm..."

"What?" Mary asked, spotting the dark face crinkled.

"Wood and glass..." Nathan replied, gingerly picking the shards of glass and bits of wood from the bloody blond boy's hair. The jagged cut was on the side of his head, about two and a half inches above his ear. The sticky lump had been cleaned and once Nathan was content that all the debris was out of the wound, he would clean it with Carbolic, sew it up and wrap it good.

"He...he...wasn't shot..." The concerned mother stammered.

"No..." Nathan recalled the broken wooden display outside the store when Billy had been found. "I'm guessin' Vin shoved him out of the way and he hit that rack of mason jars." He kept his tone level, but inwardly he was seething. He could excuse part of Mary's caustic words, due to being a mother whose only child was bleeding in the street after a shootout. But Chris Larabee had let half the town mentally tar and feather the quiet Texan, without uttering a word. That was something that turned the former slave's stomach. He rested Billy's head against the pillows and turned away to wash his hands.

"He'll be okay, won't he Nathan?" Mary asked, brushing the blond locks that spilled onto Billy's forehead.

"He should be, Mary." the healer replied brusquely, "I'll feel better when he wakes up and we talk to him."

Chris didn't miss the angry eyes that flicked on him briefly. He remained at the foot of the bed, eyeing the small pale boy's chest rise and fall. How could Vin have been so careless? Riding out with Billy into a hornet's nest. He scowled and sighed, angry at the tracker's shortsightedness. His recent frame of mind was probably a large factor in the poor decision.

"You're not gonna check on Vin?" Nathan didn't hide the acid in his voice and Chris looked at him lazily.

"Vin can take care of himself. It was a stupid thing to do, Billy could have been killed." The angry leader replied. "It's his own fault..."

"You ain't got that right." Nathan directed, his dark eyes murky. "You didn't even ask him what happened. Did it ever occur to you that your assumptions might be wrong?"

Chris's face remained blank and his unblinking gaze never left Billy's face. Nathan saw Mary's mouth form a grim line and the edge of hostility in her eyes. He shook his head in disgust at the two of them, and went to get the material he would need to cleanse, stitch and bandage the unconscious boy's head.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra glanced around the deserted church. The wooden pews were empty and the sun shone through the stained glass window, sending scarlet rippling images on the ground. He made his way forward slowly, eyeing the area between each pew carefully. He spotted another partial bloody handprint and studied the area ahead. He was about to call out for his troubled friend, when he heard the hollow voice.

Vin's legs finally gave out and he slid to the floor. He blinked in confusion at the back of the altar. He turned to find the sunbeam, that glared brightly on his face. He welcomed the warmth to his skin, but inside his blood was ice cold. He shivered all over, as the words ricocheted off every part of his brain. Murderer...misbegotten whelp...decent people haven't been safe...been safe...decent people...decent. He covered his ears and curled up, trying to make the voices stop. The sudden silence gave him his answer. He sat up and leaned against the stone altar heavily. He made no attempt to stop the blood that ran down his face. He sighed deeply, Mary was right. He'd lived in the shadows too long not to realize he didn't belong in the sunlight...with decent people. Billy's bloody face came to mind...and J.D.'s arm...and then...he swallowed hard and closed his eyes as Nathan's raw, wounded back made it's daily appearance.

"The crows fly south against the wind. The land they flee is cold and barren.

The mocking soil, once rich and firm, has dried, witherin' my tender soul.

The reaper's scythe is raised high above my head, his faceless cloak is callin'. I will not turn away. Fer the blood of the innocents will not dry upon my hands.

The time has come to reap a bitter harvest."

Ezra was stunned into silence. He stood a few feet away from the anguished figure. The empty voice was full of remorse and defeat. Vin's haunting words wounded him deeply. The gentle spirit within this man that created such moving poetry, left the Gambler in awe. He swallowed hard and tore his gaze away from the pale face, streaked with blood, to the steady motion of his hands. Vin was wiping the clean hands against his thighs, trying to absolve unnecessary sin. He dropped to the catatonic man's side and grabbed the moving hands.

"Don't..." He pleaded, trying to reach the lost blue eyes, large and forlorn. The moist depths went straight through Ezra's heart. He lifted on hand to tip the face, assessing the wound that the wayward bottle left on Vin's hairline. He pressed a cloth against it and the hands began to scrub themselves again. With one hand pressing the head wound, Ezra gripped Vin's shoulder with the other. The glassy eyes never blinked, or gave any indication that the bearer was aware that anyone was there. "There is no blood upon your hands, Mr. Tanner. Those grievous wounds you bear are unwarranted. Vin...Vin...Please hear me." His voice died out and he saw the bloodless lip part. The blue eyes raised heavenward.

The images danced before Vin's eyes, screaming loudly. Billy's bloody face...Chris's distrustful eyes...Ella's sneering face...J.D.'s accusing stare...the taunting words from the townspeople. It was overwhelming, smothering him with acid fumes. The venom from the bitter words that caused so much pain, now left him totally numb. He lost all sensation and will. The last image was the worst...Nathan's back splayed open and streaked with bloody marks. His vacant eyes stared down at his hands, which were drenched in blood. "...blood of the lambs...blood of the lambs..." He murmured.

"No, Vin, you have no innocent blood on your soul. God, help him to hear me." Ezra pleaded, his pale eyes on the image of the cross. He gathered Vin by the shoulders and tried to find the lost soul beneath the azure eyes. His heart quickened as they blinked and the head tilted.

"Oh God...What have I done?" He whispered mournfully, "Nathan...I'm sorry...God fergive me...Nathan..."

"Vin?" Ezra gasped and caught the body as it slumped forward. He gently laid the tracker down and took off his jacket, attempting to cover the trembling body. It was then he saw the small pool of blood he was kneeling in. He pulled the buffalo hide coat aside and saw the large stain on Vin's hip. "Dear Lord..." he murmured, his deft fingers pulling the loose waistband down. A large, crimson gash was revealed, opening a deep wound on the Texan's hip. Ezra glanced around and saw some clean altar linens on the bench nearby. He grabbed one and pressed it against the bleeding wound. He couldn't move Vin by himself all the way across town and felt confident the unconscious man was safe in Sanchez's Sanctuary. He bent over the pale face and rested a hand on Vin's collarbone and neck. "I'll be back, Vin. I'll stand by you."

On the trail...

The trio of peacekeepers followed the trail left by the fleeing gunman. It took them south then east as the gunman seemed to be following a specific path. Buck was in the lead, with Josiah and J.D. trailing him. The ex-preacher saw Wilmington slow down and rise in his saddle, shielding his eyes to the sun.

"Buck?" Josiah called curiously.

"I got 'im." Buck called, "There...beyond that crest...I can see the paint."

"Yeah..." J.D. agreed, spotting the tiny movement. "Let's get the bastard."

The lean figure in black looked back and saw the pursuers were closing ground fast. His horse had pulled up lame and he sought shelter. He eyed the cluster of rocks ahead and urged his mount onward. He slid of the paint and loaded both pistols. With a eye on the turn in the bend, he waited to send the would-be-lawmen to the gates of hell.

"What?" J.D. asked as Buck's lean arm flew out.

"I lost 'im...something ain't right." Buck tossed, sliding from his horse. He crouched over the tracks they were following and fingered the imprint. "His horse is favorin' a leg...he's hold up."

"I'll check it out." J.D. slid down and peered around the brush. The only landmark within the next several miles, was a cluster of rocks ahead. "Yup...he's out there alright. So what do we do?"

"Divide and conquer." Josiah stated. "J.D., you backtrack and cross the river, come up behind him. I can see the rise off the river from here, I'll see you coming. Buck, you head to his portside, that's the only way he can run. I'll draw his fire from here, after J.D.'s in position."

"Let's do it." Buck snarled, peeling off.

Several minutes later, Josiah saw J.D.'s bowler hat bobbing through the trees behind the cluster of rocks. He saw J.D. wave his rifle high in the air. He stood and fired, and the return fire sent him back behind the large tree. Buck's gun went off, joining J.D.'s. He heard Buck whoop and jumped up, joining his partners by the rocks.

"That's one less bounty hunter poor Vin'll have to worry on." Josiah said, squatting by the dead man, who matched the tracker's description.

"He's not one of them." J.D. affirmed, eyeing the body.

"You sure?" Buck asked, glancing from the body to the youth.

"Yeah...I saw all three of 'em plain as day." the sheriff confirmed, "He's not one of them."

"Who the hell is he?" Buck queried and eyed the expensive suit of clothes. "Fancy dresser like Ezra..." He turned over the dead man's hands, which were unmarred. "Soft hands like Ez too...Gambler?"

"Dunno." Josiah shrugged, "He got any papers on him?"

"He's familiar..." J.D. murmured, squatting and eyeing the face closeup. "I've seen him somewhere."

"In town?" Josiah asked, watching Buck search the jacket and pants pockets.

"No..." the youth denied, face wrinkled in concentration. "He's wanted...I'm sure of it...I bet I got papers on him." He slapped the dead man's knee. "That's where I saw him."

"What the hell?" Buck frowned and pulled out an envelope. His eyes widened in shock when he scanned the contents and handed it to Josiah. "What do you make of that?"

"What is it?" J.D. asked, seeing Josiah's eyes widen.

"Holy Mother of God." The preacher's voice lowered and he shook his graying head. He eyed the contents inside. "It's is a receipt for some items in the safe and some money he deposited today."

"Yeah?" J.D. inquired, "How much?"

"Five thousand dollars." The eldest said and slipped the envelope in his pocket.

"Private hunter?" Buck inquired and began checking the deadman's saddlebags.

"Maybe...but...I don't think so, Buck. That's a custom made silk shirt...even Ezra can't afford them. That suit had to cost a hundred dollars. Solid gold pocket watch...diamond pinkie ring..."

"Nothing in here," Buck stated, "But some extra ammo...he wasn't plannin' on leaving yet."

"Somebody dresses that fancy has luggage." J.D. eyed the two older men. "Let's get him back to town and check his room."

"...and find out who bankrolled him." Buck stated as they lifted the body onto the horse.

Back in Four Corners

"How is young Master Travis?"

"He'll be okay, outside a bad headache...Ezra?" Nathan frowned, spotting the blood on the Conman's gray pants.

"Rest assured, that is not my blood. It belongs to Mr. Tanner." Ezra stated tersely, "If your duties are finished here, I require your assistance. He collapsed at the altar in Josiah's church. One of the bottles thrown by those miscreants in town hit him in the head...and he's been wounded."

"I knew it..." Nate hissed, glaring at Chris before turning back to Ezra. "How bad?"

"A bullet grazed his hip. The physical damage he sustained isn't serious." Ezra sighed and rubbed the tension between his temples. "It is the other wounds, internal and emotional that have proven to be grievous."

"What to you mean?" Nathan asked, still angered by Chris Larabee's stone face and wall of silence.

"He's..." Ezra paused, recalling the awful sight, "When I encountered him, he was unaware of his surroundings. He was trying to wash the 'blood of the lambs' from his hands. He's been broken...he's...shattered."

"You happy now?" Nathan growled, flashing a pair of angry brown eyes at the silent leader. He shook his head in disgust and followed Ezra from the room. He felt a body behind him and turned, smacking a hand on Chris Larabee's chest. "Don't bother...You're a little late." he spat in disgust.

"Where is he?" Nathan asked, dropping to the spot where Ezra's discarded bright red jacket lie beside a small, sticky pool of blood.

"He was unconscious when I left..." Ezra eyed the empty room and then entered Josiah's rooms in the back, which were also empty. "It would appear he's gone to seek relief from the enduring pain within him."

"Gone where?" Nathan asked, sticking his head out the door. He scanned the street and made a mental note that Vin's horse was gone.

"Within the cloak of the Reaper..." Ezra cantered, in a distant voice. "Who?" Nathan turned back. "Ezra you ain't makin' any sense." He eyed the silent Gambler and wondered at the grief in his pale green eyes. Ezra didn't respond right away. He seemed lost in thought and far away. He saw the handsome man's face drop and he glanced at where the eyes went. Ezra was staring at his open palms.


"He was huddled right here." Ezra paused over the spot. "He called it the 'blood of the lambs'...he was trying to wash it off his hands." The gentle tone turned hard as he continued "Those vultures..." he hissed..."and then there is our illustrious leader, the man in black." He spat "It would appear his heart harbors that malignancy as well. His silence was more painful than all their words put together." He sighed and put his hat on, and headed for the door. "I only hope I'm not too late."


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