Lone Wolf Series

The Long Way Home

By Yolande

Special Thanks to MItzi.


Vin Tanner snapped his head up, turning his ears into the gentle wind.  He stepped away from the fire, concentrating on the sounds that could only be explained as nature and eliminating them from his mind.  The fine hairs on the back of his neck stood upright and the tension caused his shoulders to go taut.  He stared out to the distant mountains with the many ridges and valleys in between, scanning the land for the source of his concern.  The forgotten mug of coffee was raised part way to his mouth, his arm locked at the elbow.  Another gust of wind lightly stroked his long hair, and with it, the strange garbled call that had initially alerted him.  “Ya hear that?” he asked, still facing away from the camp. 

Buck Wilmington kicked a cloud of dirt over the flailing fire, quickly extinguishing the meagre flames.  He sensed uneasiness in the softly spoken tracker, and knowing that the younger man had an innate familiarity with nature, he didn’t dare ignore the Texan’s concerns.  He followed the scrutinising gaze of Tanner and marched up beside the lanky man, lending his eyes and ears to the futile search.  

Buck dusted his hat on his thigh and strained his vision until tears formed in the corners and he was forced to wipe away the moisture.  They stood still for a solid five minutes straight, without a word spoken between them.  Wilmington glanced to his left and studied the profile of his companion, noting the intense concentration.  He glanced at the blue-grey sky that was partially clouded and his lips tweaked upwardly at the sight of the hawk that spiralled down to the earth.   A relieved sigh parted his lips.  “Just a hawk, Vin.”  Buck pointed out the bird as it soared upon the wind currents and shaking his head, he chuckled.  Clapping the tracker on the shoulder, he started to walk away.  

“Nope,” Tanner dismissed quickly, barely giving the moustached man’s notion any creed.  The deep frown remained on his face, but he too, turned from his reverie.   He strode to where they had tethered the horses the night before and proceeded to saddle Peso.  He replayed the frightened cry over in his mind – No, it hadn’t been the call of a hawk.  He knew the difference. 

Buck raised an inquiring eyebrow, but followed suit and saddled his grey without comment.  He had been looking forward to returning home.  Four days on the trail stirred at a man’s sanity.  Not that he minded being out on the road, but it was always nice to have a cold beer, a fresh shirt and a willing woman at the end of the trail.  And he was certainly missing the company of the tender flesh.  And the perfect woman sprang to mind, bringing a sparkling glint to his eyes and an energetic lift to his movements. He mounted the large gelding and relaxed into the comfortable gait of the animal, eager to resume his journey home.  Tanner was already disappearing over the rim of the embankment. 

At the bottom, Tanner turned in his saddle and waited for Wilmington to join him.  “Need to check out what I heard… Could be someone’s in trouble,” Vin announced solemnly.  He could never leave, knowing that he might have been able to help. 

“Ah… it ain’t nothin’, Vin,” Buck persisted.  And it appeared from the direction Vin now faced, that they would have to head away from Four Corners.  And that meant getting home would take even longer. 

“Ain’t gonna force ya ta come.  I’ll go m’self, an’ check it out.”  Tanner read the mood of the ladies’ man easily.  Buck was anxious to return to Four Corners.  And that was fine with Vin.  They’d hardly known each other long enough to trust so blindly.  Why would Buck follow Vin on his say so?  With nothing to back up his claim of foul play and nothing but a hunch to go on.  The tracker lifted his shoulders and left them fall.  A grim expression clouded his normally bright blue eyes.  It didn’t take a genius to realise he was on his own and he guided Peso around a boulder determined to proceed, no matter what the consequences. 

Wilmington glanced down the usual trail that would take them home, and then, across the unknown track that Tanner planned on taking.  He fidgeted with the reins, and sighed heavily.  His indecision unsettled the taller man, and before he’d reached an outcome Tanner had already left.  Buck stared bewildered at the retreating back of the former bounty hunter.  What was the rush?  He wanted to scream at Vin.  Couldn’t Vin give him a few minutes to make up his mind?  It was difficult enough, without having to think under a time limit. 

In the end, it wasn’t really a choice.  He’d go with Vin, if only to prove that the stubborn Texan was wrong.  Plus, he’d seen that look of desperation in Vin’s eyes, just before he’d turned and left.  There was no telling what fool trouble could be around the corner, if Wilmington wasn’t there to pre-empt it.  “I’m coming,” he muttered unenthusiastically, but Vin was too far ahead to hear the grumbled words.  Buck spurred his mount forward, and after a short time edged level with the tracker. 

Vin gave the ladies’ man a sidelong look and nodded silently in gratitude.  A small smile ghosted across his mouth.  He wondered why Wilmington had come.  It wasn’t like the older man wanted to.  The past few days Buck had spoken of nothing but getting back to Four Corners and hooking up with some woman named Emily.  Tanner couldn’t fathom these men he rode with.  He had been positive Buck wouldn’t join him. 


The two lawmen rode in silence for ten minutes.  Neither willing to discuss why they were still riding together.  Vin was too afraid to question Buck on his unexpected loyalty and Buck was still struggling with his urge to show Vin that the younger man could depend on him, even knowing that Tanner was leading them on a wild goose chase. 

“Reckon we need to get up high.  That ridge yonder will work,” Vin indicated with a quick glance.  

Buck groaned.  With each step the horses took, it brought them further away from Four Corners.  And Emily.  And there was no telling how far Tanner would want to go, especially once they didn’t find anything.  

The tracker heard the undisguised moan from Wilmington, and for the umpteenth time wondered why Buck was still dogging him, especially as he was not even attempting to hide his displeasure.  He briefly wondered if Chris was at the bottom of Buck’s attitude.  Or maybe it had nothing at all to do with the black-clad gunslinger.  Whatever the reason, Tanner was beginning to suspect Wilmington didn’t have an answer to that question himself. 

Almost at the top of the ridge, Vin dismounted.  He dug through the saddlebag for his eyeglass, and crept up to the point.  Lying on his stomach with his legs crossed at the ankles, the tracker closed one eye and looked down the scope. A breath caught in his throat. 

Wilmington approached the edge in much the same manner, but with a little less caution, tucking his hat in his large hand.  He shook his head, and dropped carelessly beside the tracker.  He rolled on his back, not bothering to look over the ridge, and brought his knees up.  “We gonna be stayin’ here long?” he yawned in boredom. 

“Depends…” Vin hedged. 


Vin looked up to the sky and contemplated Wilmington’s question.  “After it’s dark…” 

“What?” Wilmington squawked, abruptly sitting up and spinning on his backside.  Had Tanner gone mad?  He crawled to the crest on his elbows and squinted over the side.  “That’s a whole posse down there,” he gasped, surprised at the discovery.  His eyes widened to saucers and he shook his head in awe.  Obviously Tanner had heard something earlier.  “Just what the hell are you plannin’ on doin’, Tanner?”  He didn’t see any point getting involved in that mess of potential trouble. 

Vin handed the eyepiece over to Buck.  “See that grove of trees,” he directed with his finger. 

“Yeah…” he stretched out the reply, wondering where Tanner was leading him.  Then he adjusted the position of the scope.  “Aw Hell!” he dropped the lens and cursed under his breath.  “They dead?” 

“Don’t reckon so…Least not as yet,” he added grimly. 

Two young girls were tied both hand and foot under the stand of evergreens.  Their slim bodies where slack and unresponsive; neither girl moved when one of the overly rowdy men passed them by.  

“Damn, but they’re just young’uns,” Buck growled.  His anger surfaced quickly, and he immediately damned his initial reluctance to follow Vin.  

“Pr’obly scared to death, too,” Vin spat.  “Damn Vultures!” 

Wilmington clenched his hands into a tight fist, his knuckles turning white.  He was surprised at the vehemence in Tanner’s voice.  “How many do ya reckon are down there?”  He had returned the scope to the tracker, and now wished he still held it.  Buck could see the hoard of bodies below, but counting them proved difficult. 

“Near enough ta twenty.” 

“You want to stay and keep an eye on them, while I get the others?  Or would you rather I stayed?” 

“I ain’t waitin’,” he declared resolutely, “they might not have that long.” 

The normally gregarious man slid down from the crest and studied the longhaired tracker.  Once again Vin had taken him back by the harsh tone.  Buck put a rein on his own temper; he could be the voice of reason if desperate times called for it.  And Vin was acting solely on emotions at present.  Not thinking straight.  “That’s a big ask, Tanner,” his face was a mask of seriousness.  “We’re gonna need more’an a little bit of luck…” 

“Yep…need a distraction…” he suggested as a half-hearted smile touched his lips. 

“What cha plannin’, Hoss?”  Buck returned the grin with a smirk of his own. 

Tanner glanced down into the ravine once more then back at Buck.  He tilted his head to his left shoulder and smirked.  “They ain’t gonna know what hit them.” 


The buoyant atmosphere below increased with each passing hour.  The large group of revellers laughed and drank copious amounts of alcohol.  With each swallow, course language spewed from their mouths and their lecherous glances at the tethered girls became more frequent.  Small scuffles broke out on the outer rims of the makeshift camp, but these came to an abrupt end when one, or both of the parties involved, remembered the two innocent females and anticipated the fun they were going to have at their expense.  

Occasionally, the men would edge closer to their hostages, taunting them with gestures or groping at their crotch.  They whistled and heckled the frightened girls, laughing when both girls shrank back cowering against the tree.  

Wilmington could feel the growing anger in his friend and hoped Tanner would stick to the plan and not go off half-cocked.  The tension radiated off the younger man.  He stiffened each time one of the revellers approached the girls.  If Buck wasn’t here, he was certain Vin would have already attempted to rescue the girls.  And he could just imagine how that would have turned out, considering the odds of twenty to one.  Tanner wasn’t seeing things clearly at present.  His focus had tunnelled solely on the young prisoners.  And it had fallen to Buck to keep a lookout.  “You want to talk about it?”  There had to be a reason for Vin’s total absorption.  Buck was worried about the girls’ safety too, but they didn’t seem to be in any immediate danger.  And their chances of rescue and escape increased with each passing moment they managed to remain hidden.  If only the girls could hold out until dark.  And Vin too, for that matter. 

“What?” Vin asked, not even bothering to shift his gaze off the valley below. 

“Why are ya all het up?” 

“And you ain’t?” Vin swung around hissing in disbelief.  He’d seen the anger in the tall gunfighter.  They had a job to do and he was aiming on saving those innocents.  He thought they shared the same intentions. 

“Yeah, I’m mad!  But it’s not the same.” 

Vin rolled back on his middle, drawing the scope to his face.  “Buck!” he growled, as the ladies’ man pulled the eyepiece out of his hand and tucked it under his coat. 

“I can see it!  Vin I know what I’m looking at!   Hell, I’ve seen the same look staring back at me for the past four years in Chris’ eyes.” 

“You don’t know what yer talking about, Buck!  And this ain’t got nothing to do with what Chris went through.” 

“You reckon?  You plannin’ on getting us both killed to save those girls?  ‘Cause I don’t fancy dying just yet!” 

Vin shifted uncomfortably under Buck’s scrutinizing gaze.  “I got it under control,” he assured.  Taking a deep breath he stared insistently at Wilmington.  “Can I have the scope back?” 

“Sure.”  He handed it over, and returned to his mount, checking the rigging.  He wondered if he had the right to press Vin on the matter, or whether he was better off leaving well alone.  He could see a range of emotions cluttering the normally quiet tracker’s façade.  Maybe he wasn’t the one Vin could open up to.  Maybe Vin didn’t trust him.  


The sun had dropped behind the sloping hills and the long shadows of dusk stretched over the plains.  With every minute past, the night grew older and the shadows soon mingled, joining together to form a deep hue of darkness.  A smattering of early stars dotted the horizon and the small sliver of a moon crested low, but under the depths of clouds.  Only the lone fire in the centre of the camp gave some light to the flat area below the ridge.  

They needed to time their attack to the exact moment so it would benefit them all, because once they broke cover and revealed themselves, there was no going back.  

“Now,” Tanner announced, not bothering to wait and see if Buck was ready.  He had taken a few steps and almost stumbled at the restraint. 

Buck snaked his hand around the tracker’s arm, pulling him back to around face him.  “Not yet.” 

Vin’s eyes flared and he yanked his arm free.  “It’s dark.” 

“And it will be that much darker in another twenty minutes.  We wait,” he reasoned.  

Vin dropped impatiently back to the ground.  He’d waited all day, could another few minutes hurt?  He bowed his head between his shoulders, sending a silent prayer to Josiah’s God.  If ever they needed help, it was now.  Buck patted his back, a calming gesture he gratefully acknowledged with a soft grunt. 

His stomach fluttered and he vaguely recalled he’d not eaten since that morning.  He was not hungry though; it was nerves that twisted his gut unmercifully.  Vin checked his mare’s leg and the knife in his boot.  He was prepared.  Now he only had to wait for Buck’s okay.  The last quarter of an hour had stretched interminably.  

Wilmington watched Vin’s slumped shoulders.  He knew there was something wrong, something that predetermined the tracker’s hasty actions.  Something that he had no idea about, and that could undermine the outcome of tonight’s raid.  He’d not been able to convince the tracker to talk about whatever it was that was worrying him.  He hoped Vin’s unusually cavalier attitude would in no way hamper their rescue attempt.  He sighed wearily.  “Time to go, Vin.” 

Tanner nodded.  He slipped into the night, disappearing silently down the slope.  

Buck only waited a few seconds then headed down the opposite side of the ridge.  A small slip of gravel crunched under the heel of his boots and he winced at the overly loud noise.  He hunkered to the ground, listening.  He waited in the still shadows for a moment and when nobody came to investigate, Buck continued.  He needn’t have worried about the revellers hearing him, as they were very raucous and didn’t bother with posting a guard, but he was cautious just the same.  He slipped into the outskirts of their camp and ducked between the horses. 


The former bounty hunter circled the camp, then spiralled inwards to come up at the backs of the young girls.  He didn’t want to frighten them any more than they already were, but he needed them to know that he and Buck were there to help them.  He also needed them to remain still, even once he released them, and he couldn’t have the monsters on them before they escaped.  All of them.  Yes!  This time they would all escape to safety.  No one was going to die.  Not unless they deserved it, he amended. 

Vin cupped his hand in front of his mouth and made a soft sound that resembled a prairie hen.  He heard the girls move, twisting around nervously to identify the sound.  “Name’s Vin,” he whispered. “No need to be afraid.  We’re gonna get you outta here.  You girls have names?” he asked, creeping closer to the back of the tree.  Slipping his knife down the ropes he freed their arms.  “Don’t move none,” he ordered, “need you to pretend that you’re still tied up.  Can you do that?”  A soft whimper met his ears and he bit the inside of his cheek.  Damn, if they had already been hurt, someone was going to pay!  

“I’m Cally, and and…” she stuttered nervously, hiccuping through tears that streamed down her bruised face.  “…and my sister Sharn.” 

“Well, they’re right pretty names,” Vin smiled.  “How old are you girls?” 

The same voice spoke, Cally answered.  “I’m thirteen, but my birthday is next week, so then I’ll be a year older.”  They sounded so young! 

“I’m twelve,” Sharn spoke for the first time. 

Vin nodded, he needed to release the girls’ feet.  “Can either of you swing your legs closer?”  He heard a shuffle and then saw the first pair of bare feet peek around the trunk of the tree.  He'd have to be quick.  “Good girl,” he praised, not knowing which of the girls he’d just released.  Tanner made short work of it, slicing through the hessian rope.  “Leave the ropes sitting over your feet, don’t want them to get suspicious and come over here to check.  Who’s next?” 

“Me,” Sharn giggled nervously. 

Once both siblings were released Vin crouched, impatiently waiting for Buck.  He leant around the trunk of the tree and peered valiantly past the revellers.  He frowned.  Where was Buck?   “How’d you girls come to be in the company of these troublemakers?” 

“Pa pa died.  Then Uncle Hedley said we had to earn our keep.   When we couldn’t get jobs in town, he sold us to Mr. Dugan,” Cally sniffed.  “He’s the one with only one eye,” she shuddered in horror, trembling against her sister. 

Vin searched the campsite for the man Cally described and found him at the centre of attention.  Even from this distance, and though it was dark, Dugan was easily discernible with the leather binding across his face covering the deformity.  The drunken man weaved a wobbly path, circling his group of cohorts and drinking directly from the bottle.  Again, Tanner felt the surge of anger that gripped him.  He sneered at the drunken monster.  How could these other men be a party to such revulsion?  He’d watched them throughout the day and none of them were worthy of absolution.  He closed his eyes and was struck with the horror of another lifetime - a time that he had no control over, but a nightmare that was forever etched on his soul.  He gasped as the painful memory tore through him.  A choking sound filled the void.  This was not the time to remember unwanted memories. 

Vin glanced over to where the horses were tethered, and through watery eyes, saw a dark outline moving among them.  He hoped the silhouette proved to be Buck.  He roughly wiped the moisture off his face.  

A relieved sigh escaped, when a shout, followed by a clap of dynamite exploding, filled the night air.  Tanner spared a quick glace to his right, pleased to see all the rioters with their backs to him.  He quickly moved around the tree and urged the girls to follow.  He needed to move fast, as they were bound to discover the girls’ disappearance before long. 


A mad rush of horseflesh bolted and stampeded through the inner circle of the camp, effectively cutting the group into two.  The drunks belatedly lunged at their freed mounts, but most galloped off and evaded the capturing hands.  Several men lost their footing and succumbed under the hooves of the frightened beasts.  The sudden confusion had many of the men drawing their weapons and firing them.  It only served to frighten the horses more. 

Buck whistled loudly, boldly adding to the confusion of gunfire and startled horses.  He glanced once at the tree where the girls had been and, satisfied that they were no longer there, he presumed Vin would get them to safety.  Wilmington struck a match against his boot, a thin spark of light flared a minute before he lit the fuse.  He paused a moment then threw the stick of dynamite into the melee.  

Wilmington whooped with delight and yelled, then hightailed it up the ridge.  Half way along he threw another, his last stick, into the chaos.  He crouched, running in the semi erect position, toward his mount.  Buck stumbled over the rutted surface, falling face first into the dust.  He sucked in a harsh breath as a bullet past harmlessly over his head, and swallowed thankfully that he lost his footing when he did.  Had he been standing, the bullet might have struck him.  He hesitantly crawled to his feet, and checking over his shoulder, he raced forward.  


Dugan stood dumbfounded as the chaos surrounded him.  He searched the outer rims for movements, but with little moon, and fading campfire to guide his weakened eyesight, he found nothing unusual. What he did discover was the absence of his future source of pleasure.  Both girls were missing.  He took a pre-emptive step toward the tree, but was cut off as another mount reared before him.  The one eyed bandit stumbled, falling awkwardly to his knees.  Clenching his fist and punching the air he bellowed.  “They are mine!  I paid good money for them!”  He shot wildly at the darkened shadows along the edge of camp, screaming with rage.  The gun emptied of six bullets and he threw the weapon away angrily.  He surged on unsteady legs, and pulled a colt from the holster of another man.  He roughly pushed aside the colt’s owner and when the man attempted to rise off the ground, Dugan put a bullet in his leg.  He then emptied the barrel of the stolen gun into the night. 


Drunken shouts and cries heralded their escape and the sound of gunfire and dynamite split the night, topped off with the pounding echo of the terrified horses’ hooves thumping the earthen bowl. Vin urged the girls up the slope and to where he’d left his mount.  He hadn’t seen Buck since he’d left the camp and he prayed the older man managed to escape.  He hoisted the girls into the saddle and quietly led them down the opposite side of the ridge. 

A short time later, Buck reined his mount in behind them, a gregarious smile parting his lips.  

Vin returned the smile, and glanced beyond Wilmington’s shoulder.  “Anyone behind you?” 

Wilmington chuckled.  “Nah!  They’re still trying to catch the horses, and work out what’s happening.  Be a long while before any of them are up to setting up a chase.  But I wouldn’t be hanging around here for too long, just the same.  That fella with the eye-patch sure was a cranky ole bastard, like he’d fallen in a cactus patch.” 

“Didn’t plan to, Buck.  And he was Dugan.  He bought the girls off their uncle.”  Vin mimicked the snarl that escaped Buck’s mouth.  “Yeah, a real nice arrangement,” Tanner added sarcastically, “for him.” 

“He might cause trouble for them girls if he ever finds ‘em.” 

“He won’t,” Vin predicted confidently.  “Besides, there’s gonna be seven of us to protect them in the future.” 

“How are they?” the ladies’ man frowned in concern at the quiet siblings. 

“They’ll be fine, now.  I want to get a little further away, then I’ll double back and cover our tracks.” 

“Sounds like a plan to me, pard.” 


The sun had not yet risen, but the early morning glow from below the horizon, stretched up its waking arms into the dawning sky.  The slow procession marked a path across the forbidding plains.  Later in the day, the group would come to Four Corners. 

Cally and Sharn huddled together on Vin’s mount.  They cast wavering glances at the men who had freed them, still shocked by the change of events.  Until they reached Four Corners, which was where Tanner had spoken of taking them, they would put their trust on hold.  

Vin didn’t blame them.  After all, they were young, and their limited experience with the males in their lives was not the best.  He’d felt it to be less traumatic for the siblings to share the one horse, and not separate them.  Although, that left the tracker sharing a saddle on Buck’s mount. 

Vin jabbed Wilmington in the side, and smiled innocently at the older man when he winced and turned accusing eyes on Tanner.  Vin shrugged, and a roguish grin lit his features as the childish giggles welcomed his ears.  

“What was that for?” 

Vin smiled conspiratorially at Cally; she sat in front of her sister.  “Well, you’re takin’ up all the room on the saddle, figured it was time to get back some more room.”  He jostled in the seat to emphasize his plight. 

Buck levelled a grin of his own over his shoulder to the girls.  “I can make plenty more room,” he warned Vin, and glanced poignantly at the ground. 

“You gonna push me off?” Tanner wailed indignantly. 

“Reckon so if you take up any more space, and don’t quit wriggling.” 

“Then you’re lucky you ain’t sharing with Josiah or Nathan.” 

Wilmington chuckled softly and winked at the sisters.  “Least I could count on them to sit still.”  He knew that Vin was attempting to draw the youngsters out of their silence and was pleased with their combined effort.  “Reckon we’ll be home soon.” 

Vin held the leading rope from Peso, trailing the black gelding a pace behind the grey mare.   “Reckon so.” 

Wilmington rolled his shoulders, attempting to ride out the ache of the long ride.  He brushed his moustache with his fingers and licked at his lips.  He had so many burning questions he wanted to ask the tracker, but he didn’t want to offend the Texan by asking.  

Vin knew that the gregarious man wanted to talk; he could feel it in his tense posture.  It was only time before Wilmington would have wanted an explanation. 

“Aw hell.  You can tell me to mind me business, but…” 

“You want to know why I acted like a greenhorn?” Tanner finished.  Buck nodded.  The tracker rubbed at his jaw and swallowed the rising bile.  “Happened a long time ago, Buck.”  He still wasn’t decided if he wanted to bring the subject back to the forefront of his mind.   The raw emotions were exposed, and the situation with the girls uncovered a lot of unwanted memories that he’d thought were long buried. 

“If it’s too personal, ya don’t need to do this.” 

“No.  It’s all right.   ‘Bout time I told someone.  Might as well be you,” he grinned weakly at the older man. 

Tanner twisted in the seat to see if the girls were listening.  If they were, they gave no signs.  They didn’t need to hear his pitiful tale.  He sighed deeply.  “Don’t remember ‘xactly how it all happened,” he spoke, barely above a whisper.   “There were four of us - me, Lon, Eneko and Tainee.  She was only four, and so little,” he croaked. 

“So what happened?” 

“Weren’t none of us family.  Lon was the oldest he was ten.  Then there was me, Eneko was seven and then Tainee.” 

“Sounds like you had a soft spot for the little girl,” Buck teased lightly.  He had a sneaking suspicion about what Vin was going to say and almost wished he hadn’t prompted the Texan to reveal his past. 

Vin snorted.  “We all did,” he remembered wistfully.  “I remember waking up in this stink-hole of a shed.  The others were already inside.  I don’t know how the other kids got there, or when, or for that matter, how I even arrived.  It’s not something I remember.  They’d come and go, leaving us food and water, but they wouldn’t let us out of that shed.  And Tainee asked tirelessly.   And we all wanted to go back to our homes and families.  They taunted us, pointing and laughing at us.  Running their filthy hands up our legs and holding us to the floor and slobbering over our faces.  I’d been there for two days, when they took Eneko away; he never came back, but I can imagine what they did to him before he died,” he added with a shudder. 

“Oh, God, Vin,” Buck gasped in horror.  “You don’t have ta keep going…” 

Tanner didn’t hear him.  “After Eneko left, Lon and I decided to get out of there.  And we did.  We got safely away, took Tainee with us, and we just ran for our lives.  We kept on running, we were so scared that those men would be coming after us.” 

“Sounds like you did good,” Buck praised. 

“Yeah, real good,” Vin sneered. 

“Tainee got sick, and there weren’t nothing Lon or I could do about it.”  He didn’t need to say that the young Indian girl died. 

Wilmington sighed, shaking his head in sympathy.  “You weren’t ta blame.  You got her away from those sick bastards.  It was just her time,” he reasoned. 

“Don’t make it any less painful.” 

“Nope, don’t s’pose it does.”  There was a long drawn out silence between the two men.  Only the steady fall of the mounts’ hooves on the hardened path was heard.  “Seeing those young'uns tired up like that, bring it all back?” 


Buck glanced at the sisters, huddled under the warm blanket and smiled.  “They’re safe, Vin.  Thanks to you.”


Tanner followed Buck’s gaze and a ghostly smile crossed his features.  “We did it together.” 

The End.

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