Thanks to Mitzi and NotTasha for beta reading this story.
Notes:- I'd just like to point out that Distemper, putrid fever and throat disorder are all old medical terminology for diphtheria.
Story moved to Blackraptor October 2009
Tanner,” the enigmatic Southerner drawled, “are you certain that
you are faring well?”
fine, Ezra. Wish ya’d stop askin’ me that,” Vin groused
With a heavy
sigh the Southerner nodded his head obligingly and refrained from
commenting further on the Texan’s uncharacteristic temper and the
distinctive shade of green that flushed Tanner’s cheeks.
“As you wish.”
held his mount in check while Vin directed Peso past to take the
lead. Once they where a full length ahead, Standish reined in
behind. Ezra didn’t know what more he could do. The
damn stubborn tracker persistently denied any ill health, but to the
gambler the indications clearly pointed to that assumption.
Standish mused that at least the longhaired Texan wasn’t falling
from his saddle – not yet. But they were still two days out
from Four Corners and only one town lay between here and their final
his resourcefulness at convincing the tracker to alter their journey
to include Cortez. He knew he was good, and could talk around
the most stubborn of men, but Vin Tanner was the exception to the
rule. His mother would be aghast to hear ‘her baby boy’
admit a failure. She believed his ‘God given talents’ were
all-inclusive - nobody would deny him anything. But Vin could
see through him instantly.
Tanner,” Standish paused after the obviously strained and
impatient groan uttered from Vin. “Vin,” he persevered.
“If I am not mistaken, there is a small municipality that lays a
short distance to the East of here.” Ezra lifted his gaze to
the climbing sun, squinting at the bright light to get his bearings
and nodded in what he hoped was the correct direction. He
waited a beat, impatient for the tracker to confirm his
calculations. After all, the gambler was not at his best
surrounded by wilderness. That definitely was Vin’s arena.
With an exasperated sigh he pressed on. “And taking in your
present condition…” Ezra halted, wincing at the feral look the
tracker whipped around and bestowed on him. Damn, he hadn’t
wanted to alienate the man.
scowled at the conman for seemingly an eternity, ending the angry
glower by spurring his black gelding into a frenzied pace down the
could do with the reprieve…” the Southerner called futilely at
Tanner’s departing back.
fine…” Vin shouted dismissively, not willing to discuss this
with the Southerner. How many times did he have to repeat it?
Doesn’t Standish ever give up? Or shut up, for that matter?
How was it
that he always got lumbered with the gambler? Reckon Larabee
must hate my guts fer partnering me with the walkin’, talkin’
dictionary. Get a touch of a sticky belly and he’s acting
like Nathan. Hell, he’s worse ‘an Nate! Gonna have
me a serious talkin’ with Chris when we return. No way in
Hades would he be pairing up with Standish any time soon. Let
Larabee deal with the gambler! “’Sides, ain’t gonna be
long ‘til we get back.” Yep, just another day.
Should be home sometime tomorrow.
glanced up at the Southerner’s worried expression and figured
he’d been miserable company for Standish this trip. Normally
they had an enjoyable time in each other’s company. And much
to his surprise, Standish was quite adept at roughing it on the
trail, even though when they travelled as a group he complained
bitterly the entire time. It seemed to be an act that he had
to partake in, like a ritual. But when it was just the two of
them, the conman didn’t flit and flutter, but genuinely helped and
pulled his own weight.
In a much
more subdued voice Vin admitted, “Ain’t nothin’ serious, Ezra.
Jest a tummy ache. Probably that steak I ate last night…told
ya it didn’t taste so good.” All the while he hugged his
abdomen loosely with his left arm. Knew he shouldn’t have
listened to Ezra and eaten at the fancy restaurant – even though
the gambler had paid for both their meals. Probably too many
spices and condiments – that was never good for a man who was
satisfied with a simple dish of meat and three vegies.
uncharacteristically snorted. “Normally I would agree with
your conclusion, except for the fact that I also consumed the same
repast and have not been afflicted with any symptoms such as
last night Vin had been genuinely taken with the feast set before
him, eager to sample the elite fare. He’d eaten like a
starving urchin. Ezra’s pleasure waned at the tracker’s
about-face. Standish had been delighted when Vin accompanied
him to the restaurant and elated that Tanner trusted him to chose
their meals. Now that sense of accomplishment was fading.
see how it could be anything else,” Tanner griped in frustration.
Slapping the reins over Peso’s rump, Vin dug his heels into the
black’s girth, urging the gelding to increase his pace and
lengthening the distance between the two lawmen.
kneed Chaucer into a similar stride and drew level with his
companion in a short time. Reaching over, he grasped Peso’s
bridle and brought them both to a slow lope. Why did Tanner
keep running away from him? It was almost like Vin was scared
Ezra would see something if they stayed together. What exactly
was Tanner hiding? What was so important that he couldn’t
rest up for a day and recover his ailment? “I fail to
understand why we don’t take a sojourn and consequently allow
yourself time to recover. Ezra had been surprised when the
longhaired Texan finally admitted to what Standish had guessed at
now for some time. And he wasn’t about to let the matter
rest, now that he had the former bounty hunter’s confession.
“A few hours and we could arrive in Cortez.”
scowled balefully at Ezra, but allowed him to pull Peso to a stop.
The normally softly spoken tracker welcomed the rising ire.
“What…so you can skin out some fella who can’t afford ta lose
his last dollar?” Tanner swivelled in the saddle and his lips
curled up into a sneer. He watched closely for any flicker, or
change, in Standish’s expression that confirmed the assertion
offended the gambler, but the conman’s face remained impassive.
ignore that remark, because I know you are not at your peak
don’t go doin’ me any favours,” Tanner retorted. The
lanky tracker stretched back in his leather saddle and planned to
debate the issue further, but the dull ache that had been present
since the day before yesterday, took him by surprise with a new
ferocity. He doubled over the saddle horn and bit his tongue
to suppress the agonised moan that sought to escape his mouth.
But the tortured sound that met his ears was evidence enough that
he’d failed in this task. “Aw Hell!” he rasped weakly,
swaying to the left.
The gambler swung down from Chaucer and with a growing frown and
foreboding, sidled alongside the distraught tracker. “If
this is your way of convincing me that you are indeed fine, then let
me assure you, it’s not working.”
screwed up his face as the pain slivered inside his guts. The
eruption of juices from his mouth came abruptly and without warning,
spewing down his leg and coating a good portion of the gambler into
the bargain. Vin would have laughed at Standish’s squeamish
expression had he felt better.
Southerner stayed his position, holding the ill man upright in the
saddle while Vin vomited down the front of his jacket and
shirtfront, though only by a mammoth battle with his will.
“A little warning wouldn’t have gone amiss, Vin,” he
admonished wryly, flicking the chunky bits from his sleeve with a
suppressed horror. He wondered briefly if his jacket was going
to be salvageable.
Tanner panted, gripped in the folds of the tortuous pain.
Ezra shrugged, he’d been worse off at times. Damn, but it was gonna smell bad in a few hours!
The sun was
tracking a downward path across the motley blue-hued sky, when the
weary twosome approached the outskirts of Cortez. A black
circle of death hovered above them, trailing doggedly behind.
The birds of prey were a grim reminder of the reality that
threatened their existence. The Southerner glanced up and
shuddered, wishing he could effectively remove the cloud of death,
but he’d already wasted a number of valuable bullets into the
persistent circle and still they followed.
much longer,” Standish advised the semi-coherent man. Vin
had slipped into a troubled sleep, bowed over the neck of Peso.
“I can’t guarantee a doctor, but if not, we can wire Nathan.
He’s bound to come.” Ezra waited anxiously for a reply,
then sighed disconcertedly at the heavy silence. “After
you’ve recouped your strength, you will feel significantly
improved.” God, he hoped so. Standish lifted his
worried eyes to the heavens and whispered a reverent prayer.
about ta die on ya, Ezra,” Vin’s hoarse voice drifted slowly to
was weak and Standish frowned at the hunched body of the Texan.
The tracker had not moved an inch. “Pardon?” he
asked with trepidation. Was Tanner actually awake? Or
was his imagination running rampant?
weren’t gonna die,” Tanner rasped.
Southerner mouthed his thanks to the darkening sky and a tentative
grin touched his lips. He shot a lecherous grin upward to
their constant tail. “I’m delighted you could grace me
with your company once again.”
stayed low over his mount. If he remained perfectly still,
then he didn’t hurt so much. And except for the constant
swaying movement of Peso jarring his body, he didn’t feel too bad.
Not really. Well, not like he did earlier. Vin had never
felt such excruciating pain before, and he’d had his fair share of
injuries over the years. Thankfully it had passed quickly,
leaving him with just the gnawing ache to concentrate on. But
his greatest fear was when the debilitating pain would attack him
again. And they were still a full day’s ride from Four Corners -
that’s if they had been still heading to the western town.
But even now, Tanner guessed they weren’t heading directly there
anymore. What was Standish saying? “Huh?”
as ever, Mr. Tanner,” he chuckled.
sighed. Getting decent conversation out of the former bounty
hunter on a good day was difficult. What chance did he hope
for today? “Shan’t be long ‘til we have you ensconced in
his eyes and let his mind wander with the rhythmic clip of each
horseshoe as it hit the stone-rutted trail. Without asking, he
knew Ezra had altered their route and they now headed toward Cortez,
the town he’d originally planned on skirting. He wouldn’t
admit it out loud, but he was kind of relieved that Standish had
done that. As much as he wanted to return home, he was
beginning to regret leaving Durango that morning, especially when he
was feeling so poorly. If they’d stayed longer, Ezra could
have spent more time at the tables and not been bothering him, and
he could have regained his health before departing on the journey
west. That damn tainted meat! That had ta be the reason
he was feeling so poorly.
sound of bullets flying over his head drew him out of his stupor.
Peso startled at the uproar and closeness of the bullets. The
mount pranced in a wild circle and Tanner struggled to retain his
hold. In the end, it didn’t really matter because Standish
pulled the tracker from his horse and to the ground. The
bone-jarring thud reawakened the nagging ache and he groaned in
agony. “Shit!” he hissed.
vaguely heard Standish’s grunt as the air whooshed out of his
lungs and the rasped response of, “Eloquently put.” His
vision swam for a moment, but when it cleared he counted six
determined souls barricading the entrance into Cortez. The
wide-stance postures of each man mirrored that of the man by his
side. Each toted a rifle and Tanner clearly read the menace in
their eyes that stated they were prepared to use them, beyond the
the way ya come!” The owner of the heated demand stood
sightly in front of the others and at the centre of the pack.
He shot another round of ammunition over both Standish and
Tanner’s prone positions. They lay exposed on the dirt road,
but the Southerner tried valiantly to cover the tracker with his
not here to cause you any trouble,” Ezra protested. Had someone
warned the town of their arrival? That did not make sense.
No one knew that the two lawmen would visit the town of Cortez.
And they’d done nothing to warrant the attack. Unless…Ezra
paused, they were after Tanner for the bounty on his head. But
again…how could they have known? “I have an ill
man…” he proceeded cautiously. Obviously it was all a
protectors huddled in a circle and an animated muttering occurred
between the group of six. When they finished, they stood
two layers deep, barring entry. “Stay away!”
“Don’t come any closer!” And “We’ll blow yer fuckin’
heads off iffen ya do.” Were bellowed from a comparative safe
distance. A touch of hysteria and desperation tempered their
winced at the last remark. These men weren’t murderers;
there was more urgency in their tones than any real threat.
Something bad must have happened. “We are lawmen from Four
Corners and my friend has become unwell on the journey home and
needs medical attention,” Standish persisted, confused by the
entire situation. At this point he was beginning to wonder at
the rudiments of just leaving and continuing on.
up on his elbows and interrupted the gambler with a light tap of his
boot to Ezra’s knee. “Let’s go,” the Texan urged;
feeling like crap and not wanting a fight.
twisted to look at the tracker and a frown marred his handsome
features. “We can’t, Vin,” he implored. Lifting
his head from the heady earth he returned a venomous glare at the
hostile welcoming party. “He requires a
doctor.” Standish waved his hand in the direction of Tanner,
attempting one last-ditch effort.
muttering among the group began again in earnest. One man
stepped a fraction forward, then thinking better of it, slid back
securely within the crowd. His partners looked to him, waiting
for him to voice their unanimous decision. They didn’t have
to wait long. “Look, we’re real sorry an’ all, but we
ain’t lettin’ nobody through,” he explained. “The
whole town has been beset with diphtheria, and we can’t take the
chance of it spreadin’ further. Ain’t willin’ ta risk
it. Don’t want nothin’ else coming in either, we got
enough ta deal with! You two best be on yer way,” he shooed them
with the barrel of his rifle. “Real sorry fer scarin’ ya,
Mister, but we hadda make sure nobody passed.”
friend would have a better chance of surviving if he don’t come
into town, ‘cause if he did, he’d be leavin’ in a wooden
box,” another voice added sympathetically.
nodded his head in understanding, and sighed despondently. It
was so easy for diseases to wipe out an entire community. In
fact, these six town’s men probably were jealous of Vin and Ezra
being free to ride away and leave Cortez well behind, where they, no
doubt, were doomed to succumb. They might all be dead within the
week. He rolled on his side and cautiously rose up on his
knees, not wanting to provoke another attack. “I don’t
suppose you could persuade your local medico to commute here to at
least check my friend?”
A man with
a mop of untidy mouse brown hair and a tatty slouch hat pushed to
the front of the line. Raising his weapon to his shoulder he
failed to hide his anger. “Doc’s dead!” he growled,
wiping at his red-rimmed eyes and swollen nose. “Now git back on
those nags, ‘cause yer wasting our time. My wife is lying on
her deathbed, I’ve already lost my eldest son and three-year old
daughter and I’m here arguing with the likes of you when I should
be with her,” he ranted, shaking his fist in the air as the rifle
dropped forgotten to his side. The first speaker dropped a
sympathetic hand on his shoulder and the remainder of the group all
nodded in unspoken empathy, for they’d all suffered the harsh loss
of one or more of their children, and or spouse.
watched the united front and the unconditional comfort issued; he
accepted that they’d receive no help from these people. His
first priority was to get Vin help, and as the husband with the
dying wife stated, they were wasting time debating the tos and fros.
“We will heed your advice and take our leave.”
ya mind if we stop now?”
glanced around the unforgiving land; tufts of buffalo grass pushed
through cracks in the slate rock ground and clusters of wildflowers
dotted the landscape. The ground was flat and sparse, with no
shelter or barriers from the weather should it turn for the worst.
The warmth from the day had heated the rocky surface, and it would
be some hours before it left and the wicked cold of night penetrated
the inner layers of the rock, making them the texture of ice against
one’s skin. He glanced at the dying sun and over to the
tracker. “Might as well, retire for the night. I trust
you’ll be satisfied with the meagre accommodations,” he teased
lightly. The soft sound of a chuckle from Tanner brought a wry
smile to the gambler’s face.
do, Ezra,” Vin acceded. Hell, so long as he was off his
mount, Tanner didn’t care where they camped for the night.
here will suffice,” Standish drawled, he sniffed at his jacket and
grimaced; it had dried, and as he’d predicted, stank worse than
the outhouse in summer. It would be a dry camp, but the
canteens were still partially full, and he would use some of the
water to sponge his jacket. The gambler climbed down from
Chaucer and moved stiffly to the side of Tanner’s black.
down m’self,” Vin retorted.
then do it!” the Southerner replied brusquely, tramping away from
the Texan to unsaddle his mount.
stunned for a moment by the gambler’s compliance, he watched the
terse and jerky movements Standish made as he threw the saddle to
the ground. He swallowed the empty words he was about to utter
when Ezra stated he was going to collect some firewood.
man hugged his arm about his waist and leaned forward over Peso’s
shoulder. Shit this was gonna hurt. Better get it over
and done with, before Standish returned and found him still seated
in the saddle. It was done quickly, but it hurt like the demon
from hell skewering him with a hot poker. Vin collapsed to his
knees and hung his head to rest on the ground. The long ride,
coupled with Ezra pulling him out of the saddle at Cortez and now
his own pathetic attempt to dismount, was too much. He groaned
in anguish as his stomach knotted in pain and heaved where he knelt.
He held his belly with his arm, panted and gasping; sweat trickled
down his face. His head ached; a hammer pounded behind his
eyes and a dull roar whined in his ears, he felt utterly miserable.
Unable to deal with anymore torment, he slumped to the side, landing
inches from his vomit.
Standish lifted the damp cloth off the younger man’s forehead.
wearily opened his eyes and gazed up into the gambler’s concerned
features. He grimaced at the stale taste in his mouth and
attempted to roll onto his back, but Ezra had anticipated this and
had a knee pressed into his back holding the Texan on his side.
presumed you might have enlightened me,” Standish curtly replied.
sighed, leaning into the gambler’s hold. “Sorry,” he
apologised, recalling their earlier argument.
slightly bobbed his head, accepting the tracker’s apology.
Hearing the obvious regret in Vin’s voice, the Southerner decided
to dismiss the matter and concentrate on his friend’s more
immediate needs. “Are you up to a meal?”
screwed up his face and shook his head. “Ain’t hungry.”
something to drink…”
the canteen to his lips and poured the luke-warm liquid into his
mouth. “Drink,” Standish ordered refusing to take no for
indeed a fortunate man, Mr. Tanner,” the gambler noted with a sigh
like crap, Standish,” Vin hissed, barely raising his head from the
hunched position he’d assumed over Peso. “So what the hell
are you yakkin’ about?” he groaned.
chuckled. “Our presence in town must have been sorely
a welcoming committee,” Ezra informed the tracker.
Southerner led the black leisurely toward the town limits. He
was taken by surprise to find the five lawmen waiting for them and
he spurred Chaucer ahead relieved to be able to pass the
responsibility of Tanner over to the competent hands of Mr. Jackson.
come any closer!” the man in black commanded. Chris Larabee
held up his hand and pointed at the pair.
lifted his eyebrow upward into a speculative gesture. Did
Chris just instruct them to stop? No! That wouldn’t be the
case, he’d obviously misheard. “Greetings, gentlemen,”
Ezra waved and continued to approach the line of five regulators.
ta stop,” Larabee hollered the order.
eyes widened stunned by the brutal tone of voice Larabee used, but
he reluctantly obeyed. “Pardon?” This was not going
how he’d planned. They’d obviously heard some
rumours while he and Vin were absent, and it could only concern him.
He didn’t for a moment even consider that Tanner could be the
cause. When would they learn to trust him? “Vin’s
unwell. Mr. Jackson, if you could see yourself to tend him?”
moved restlessly on his mount, but remained in line with the others.
His eyes darted past the gambler and travelled over the stooped
form. He licked at his lips fretfully. “Ya been
through Cortez.” It was a statement not a question.
exactly,” Standish began, shifting uncomfortably in his saddle.
“What has this to do with anything?”
wired us that ya’d been there,” Jackson paused staring intently
at the gambler to ascertain if this news was correct. At the
terse nod, he continued. “They got a Distemper epidemic,”
he paused again, as though it pained him to continue.
"That's putrid fever."
"That's putrid fever."
can’t come into town,” Larabee reluctantly finished, “in case
ya got it too. Can’t have it spreadin’…”
getting extremely tired of the bantering back and forth across the
twenty-yard distance. Chaucer was anxious to return to the
stables, as he was to his own bed. He grinned wryly and kneed
the mount to close the gap. He almost fell from his horse when
his five friends drew their weapons and pointed them in his
direction. He swallowed abruptly, staring dazed at the raised
weapons. His mouth dropped open as he stared at the five
regulators he’d thought were his friends. He moved his gaze
along the line, not one of the men would meet his eyes. Why
would they resort to this? “Vin was ill prior to our visit
to Cortez,” he persisted. He couldn’t have Distemper…could he? He was just ill…something he ate, Vin
from Cortez said one of the town folk’s visited Dove Creek right
before he was struck down with the illness. He brought it back
with him. They buried him and his family the day before
yesterday. We sent a wire to Dove Creek, they’ve got the
illness there too.” Larabee shifted in his saddle; he
glanced sideways at Buck, he could see the same apprehensions on
Wilmington’s face that were pressing down on him. God, his
Colt felt heavy in his hand, it shook slightly and by its own will,
drooped. He had never had to pull a gun on a friend before.
He glanced beyond Buck to ascertain how JD was holding out.
Dunne had been, by far, the most vocal about drawing on Ezra and
Vin. Dunne stared blankly at the pair; his face was pained and
They had discussed the possibility before they left Four Corners that Tanner and Standish might be resistant to their precautions. None had been particularly impressed when Chris suggested they draw their guns should either man not heed their advice. While they rode from town they argued loudly about what they planned to do. Larabee had pulled them to a halt and laid down the law; they needed to act as one, if they didn’t, the tracker and gambler would dismiss their warning. Jessup, the sheriff from Cortez, hadn’t been clear about how much contact Vin and Ezra had with the town, the note was alarming in its severity and brusqueness. Nathan had been terrified when the wire had been passed around. It never occurred to them that they would find one of their friends showing signs of illness. Such a development scared them witless.
gambler sidled alongside the tracker and reached for his shoulder,
squeezing it reassuringly. Under his breath, so only Tanner
could hear, Standish muttered a promise to help him. “We
hardly had any contact with the citizens of Cortez,” he muttered.
“Hell, we didn’t even get passed their blockade.”
He smiled weakly at the dispirited croak from Vin.
they say, Ezra.”
are his symptoms, Ezra?” Nathan intruded, then not waiting for an
answer, supplied them himself. “He have a fever?
Headache? Sore throat and feeling sick?”
gambler glanced at the tracker and nodded, disheartened, as Nathan
listed off the symptoms.
having trouble breathing?”
Ezra stated triumphantly. That means he hasn’t contracted
probably come later,” Jackson announced philosophically. He
turned to Chris, “He could have it; dunno ‘til I check him over.
But we can’t take the risk of lettin’ ‘em into town.
It’s too risky.”
gonna know then fer sure if he’s got it?” Chris queried.
He felt the pit of his stomach boil wondering if he was doing the
right thing. When the wire from Cortez had arrived and Nathan
had declared that Vin and Ezra needed to be stopped from entering
town, he was hesitant to follow the healer’s advice. Surely
if the two lawmen had come in contact with the disease Jackson could
treat them? But Nathan had studied his medical books and was
determined to keep the disease from entering Four Corners. It
was Josiah’s voice of reason that persuaded the sombre gunslinger
to sway on the side of caution. Still, it went against his
about Ezra?” Dunne questioned uncertainly. “He ain’t
sick.” JD glanced at the Southerner to verify his assessment
and frowned at the grimace that passed over Standish’s face as he
shifted in his saddle. The gambler tensed under the
sheriff’s scrutiny and returned the blatant appraisal with a face
of indifference. Dunne had to wonder what it was he thought
he’d seen. Ezra was probably just anxious about Vin’s
condition and plum eager to be out of the saddle, he reasoned.
but he’s been with Vin the past few days. There’s no
telling whether or not he’s gonna be coming down with it, too,”
Nathan added morosely. “We need to get ‘em both someplace
safe so they won’t be passing it on.”
my cabin,” Larabee rubbed at his jaw in thought.
Chris, but I don’t reckon it’s big enough for the three of us to
share.” Nathan had already determined that he would be
staying with the pair.
about Nettie’s? There is plenty of room out there,” JD
spoke rapidly. He didn’t want to have to send his friends
away - not like this.
work,” Jackson agreed, “but Miz Wells and Casey won’t be able
to stay there. They’ll need to understand that.”
Chris ordered brusquely, “get over to Nettie’s place and ask her
if she minds, then get her and Casey out of there and into town.
Buck, go with JD.” Larabee worried that Tanner was not going to
survive, he didn’t look so good. He was nearly hanging out
of the saddle and had not said a word since they’d met up.
What if Nathan was right? Could he cure the two men of the
dreaded disease? “How you doin’, Vin?”
lifted his head; he acknowledged Larabee’s query by a meeting of
eyes. “Ain’t got no putrid fever, Chris,” he croaked.
He should know, his mother died of the dreaded
He should know, his mother died of the dreaded throat disease.
mouth thinned to a narrow line. He hated having to do this.
“Everything’s gonna be fine,” he assured. But his
confidence in his own declaration was shot.
gunslinger and his mentor set a fast pace to the Wells’ ranch.
JD Dunne and Buck Wilmington skidded to a halt in front of the
wooden cabin, stirring up a flurry of dust. Smoke rose from
the chimney in a welcoming gesture, but both men were well aware of
the frosty reception that awaited them, until they made their
identity known. The older woman would have heard their horses
approaching and set up by the window with her Spencer Carbine, ready
to take a shot at them. Nettie Wells was a spritely old woman
with a deadly aim.
Dunne yelled urgently, sliding gracefully from his mount.
man,” Nettie Wells admonished, stepping from her home, still
brandishing her weapon. “That is no way to come calling on a
young lady!” she chastised.
chuckled and tipped his hat in respect. He’d allow JD to
handle the prickly aunt and niece.
started an apology, then remembered why they had come.
“Sorry, Mrs Wells…um Casey. We don’t have real long,”
he urged, striding up to the veranda and attempting to herd the
women towards the barn.
the hurry, JD?” Casey aggressively pulled her arm from the young
sheriff’s hold. “Ain’t goin’ nowhere with you, JD
Dunne, ‘lessin’ you explain yerself!” she stamped her foot in
looked back to Buck for support, but the older man seemed to be
concentrating on the road away from the farm. “Ma’am,
Vin’s real sick…and maybe Ezra too,” he added sincerely and
felt a wash a satisfaction that he’d finally garnered Nettie’s
sick?” Nettie clarified. “Well what are we waitin’ for?
Hitch up that wagon, young man, and let’s be on our way.
He’s in town? That right?”
ma’am…I mean he’s sick and all, but he ain’t in town…”
cha talkin’ about, JD?” Casey interrupted, struggling to follow
the path of the conversation.
is…they might have putrid fever…” he sighed at the sudden gasp
from Nettie Wells. “Nathan said that they can’t come into
town, and we was wondering,” Dunne kicked at the dirt on the
ground with the toe of his boot, “if they could come here ‘til
they get better.” JD couldn’t even admit to himself that
it could be a possibility they would die.
grabbed at her aunt’s arm and glared accusingly at JD. “I
there’s nothing you can do. Now hush girl!” She
glanced over to the ladies’ man and clasped her weapon tighter.
“How long do we have?”
long, ma’am. They should be right behind us.”
nodded and turned back to her home, perhaps seeing it for the last
time. Her home may need to be burned after the disease entered it.
But she couldn’t deny these seven men the right to use her place;
she’d willingly make the sacrifice. “Casey, pack a bag…
and hurry girl!”
ain’t gonna let them kick us out of our house, are you, Nettie?”
Casey!” she ordered sternly.
Mrs Wells.” JD smiled wanly.
clean sheets on both the beds, and I’ve just finished baking bread
and biscuits. Plenty more linen in the chest off the kitchen,
if it’s needed.”
be sure ta let ‘em know, Mrs Wells,” Buck thanked obligingly.
Dunne hitched the wagon and escorted Casey and her Aunt into town, leaving Buck to stand watch over the ranch house until Tanner and Standish arrived.
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