The Invasion

by Stubby

Summary: The saloon comes under attack from unwanted intruders. It is up to the Seven and the rest of the townsfolk to fight them off… Disclaimer: You know the drill by now. They’re not mine, I didn’t make any money, no harm intended, please don’t sue.

No creatures were harmed during the writing of this fic.

Note: This story originally appeared in the GG Zine, in the Chester section.

Thanks to Julia plot guru and beta-reader extraordinaire.

"Yeaaaarrrggghhhhh!" the bloodcurdling scream shattered the early morning calm of Four Corners. Chris Larabee and JD Dunne burst out of the jailhouse, guns at the ready, and raced to the saloon, where the terrible cry had emanated from.

Chris scowled and grabbed JD by the collar as the younger man ran past. "You want to get your head blown off?" he growled at JD. "Look first." Following his own instructions the gunslinger peered in over the double doors. Seeing no immediate threat he cautiously walked into the building, signalling for JD to follow.

"I don’t see anything." JD whispered as he looked around the empty room. "Where do you think it came from?"

"Upstairs." Gun still at the ready Chris headed for the staircase, only to step back in amazement as Ezra appeared wearing only his hat and a towel strategically wrapped around his waist. The con man was holding his clothes in one hand and his boots in the other, waving them around in the air as he sprinted barefoot down the stairs.

Not noticing his friends he continued to jump about waving his clothes and shaking his boots, his normal poker face filled with horror.

"Ezra!" Chris shouted for the third time. "What in God’s name is going on?"

Ezra turned to Chris "Vermin," he said, his voice shaking with hatred and loathing. "We have been overrun by vermin." He shook his boots one more time, and understanding dawned on Chris as two particularly large cockroaches fell out of the con man’s boots, scuttling away as they hit the floor.

"Jeez Ezra." JD holstered his guns "It's just a coupla bugs. We thought someone was being murdered."

"It's not like they’re rare around these parts. You see ‘em every day." Chris added.

"Well it is not every day that one finds them in one’s bed, boots and clothing." Ezra replied indignantly.

"I think you’d better get some clothes on." Chris suggested. "Or else we’ll have Inez screaming too."

"Yeah, your towel’s slipping Ez." JD pointed out helpfully. Ezra blushed a deep shade of scarlet as he realised he was standing, mostly naked, in the middle of the saloon. "I do apologise for my lack of attire." He stammered, whilst side stepping quickly behind the bar. JD was intrigued to see that it wasn’t just a man’s face that turned red when he blushed.

"Would one of you gentlemen mind watching the stairs for me?" Ezra asked "I would hate for Inez to see me in such a state of undress."

"Sure thing Ez." JD responded cheerfully, taking up a guard position at the foot of the stairs.

The gambler had just donned his trousers and was pulling on a fancy white shirt when Nathan bounded in, eyes wide, medical bag in hand.

"What happened? Who’s hurt?" he demanded. Before anyone could answer however Buck arrived, trying to run and buckle up his gun belt at the same time. As a result the ladies man tripped up the front step and crashed headlong into the saloon doors as they swung closed behind Nathan.

"Aw Godabbit!" Buck cursed, grabbing his flattened nose with one hand and holding onto his gun belt and sagging trousers with the other.

"You certainly know how to make an entrance Mr Wilmington." Ezra remarked into the stunned silence that followed.

"I think I boke my dose." Buck complained, sinking into a chair. Nathan hurried over to help assess the damage.

"So, what happened?" Nathan asked looking up from his task as Chris and JD sat down at the same table.

"I hit my dose!"

"No, I mean what was all the screaming about?"

"It was just Ezra getting’ all excited over some bugs." JD explained.

"You mean all that hollerin’ was ‘cause of a few insects?" Nathan was incredulous. "I thought someone was being murdered!"

"Ow, watch it!" Buck hissed as the distracted healer poked his nose a bit too hard.


"Well, it was fortunate that I was not being murdered" Ezra commented from behind the bar. "As I would surely have been killed by the time you two arrived."

"I came as quick as I could." Buck protested "I was kinda busy ya know. In fact all that screamin’ put me and Miss Josie right off."

"An’ I was up all night lookin’ after little Eliza who has earache an’ since I didn’t hear any gunshots I took the time to put some clothes on – unlike you." Nathan added.

"My apparel were unfortunately festooned with vermin, hence my current state of undress." The gambler retorted, giving his jacket a cautious shake before putting it on and walking over to join the others at the table.

"I still can’t believe all that noise was over some cockroaches. It's not like they’re rare around these parts" Buck commented as Nathan finished checking his nose, deciding that it was only bruised.

"Unlike you, I am very choosy as to what and whom I share my bed with and I was most unhappy to discover that I was sharing it with the local fauna. I believe that most people in my situation would have had a similar response."

Ezra’s explanation was cut short as Inez appeared at the top of the stairs.

"Is it safe senors?" she asked, peering cautiously around the saloon a shotgun clutched tightly in her hands.

"Yeah, darlin’ come on down" Buck’s usual smile was somewhat marred by his swollen nose and blackening eyes.

"What is going on?"

"I apologise for disturbing your rest, but I had intruders overnight." Ezra began.

"Six legged intruders." JD grinned.

"Cockroaches." Inez sighed, "They are becoming a real problem." She headed over to the bar and started getting coffee ready for the men. "Customers are complaining and moving out. People do not want to share their beds and food with insects. Profits are down." After a few minutes she brought the steaming mugs over to the five men. "We need to do something." All eyes turned to Chris.

"What ya lookin’ at me for?" he growled.

"You are their leader senor."

"And you’re real good at cleanin’ up vermin." Buck grinned.

"The only vermin I clean up stand on two legs" the gunslinger replied. "JD you’re the Sheriff, you think of somethin’"

"Hey, I’m the Sheriff, not pest control." JD protested indignantly.

"The relevant word being ‘Sheriff’" Ezra pointed out. "Your job is to serve and protect this town no matter what the threat. I’m sure you can think of something."

"Well, while you’re thinkin’ I’m off to bed" Nathan yawned, "I got some sleep to be catchin’ up with." He finished off his coffee with a single gulp and with a last glare at Ezra headed back to his room.

"So JD, ya got any ideas?" Buck asked, looking at his young friend. JD’s brow was creased in thought.

"Well, we’re going to need help. There’s an awful lot of them critters, too many for just the seven of us to kill. We need a way of getting other people to join in and squash them."

"How’re we gonna persuade people they want to come and squash bugs?" Buck wondered.

"We will need to provide an incentive." Ezra declared, "We must make it worth their while."

"Why don’t we offer everyone free drinks if they come and kill bugs for a day." JD looked up, "that would work."

"There’s an awful lot of bugs JD." Chris pointed out, casually flicking a cockroach off the table. "One day ain’t goin’ ta do it."

"Well, we’ll make it three days then."

"No senors. That will not work, I cannot provide free drinks for everyone for three days, it will cost too much."

There was silence again as everyone thought.

"I know." JD declared. "We can make it a competition! The person who stomps the most ‘roaches each day gets free drinks the next and the overall winner gets free drinks and a free meal for three days."

"That might work." Buck agreed, "It wouldn’t cost the saloon so much and it’d get people squashin’ that’s for sure."

Ezra’s eyes lit up. "I’m sure that the townsfolk would be willing to partake in a wager or two on the outcome of the contest."

"Inez, what do you think?" JD asked.

"It is a wonderful idea Sheriff. We shall start tonight."

"I’ll go over and see if Mrs Travis can print some posters." JD leapt up and headed for the door.

"I shall discuss the rules of the contest with Inez." Ezra decided, "We would not want any confusion over the winner."

"Well, I know someone who’s got a shift at the jailhouse." Chris looked pointedly at Buck, who taking the hint stood up and tipped his hat at Inez, "I’ll see you this evenin’ darlin’" he drawled.

"An’ I’ve got places ta be too Ms Recillos." Chris commented heading out after his friends.

As soon as they had left Inez sprang into action. The contest would bring lots of people into the saloon tonight, there was lots of work to be done.

Day One

Seven o’clock, the appointed hour, arrived and the inhabitants of Four Corners were gathered in the saloon, anticipation filled the air. JD stood up and began to read out the rules that Inez and Ezra had come up with.

"The competition will be judged by Ms Recillos. The judge’s word is final, there will be no arguments about the final decision.

Squashed bugs are to be collected by the squashee so that they can be counted at the end of the evening.

No one is to use saloon glasses to collect their bugs in – people gotta drink out of them after we’re done.

Any breakages or damage will be paid for in full by the person or persons responsible. So watch what you swat folks.

Only whole bugs count, legs or other bits that break off will not be counted separately.

Bugs can only be squashed in guests’ rooms with the guests’ permission…."

Sat in his usual corner, Chris grinned to himself tuning JD out as he looked around at the gathered townsfolk, all eager to earn themselves a free meal. Or just plain earn themselves a fortune he amended catching sight of Ezra’s red jacket by the bar. The con man was busily taking bets from the large crowd of people that surrounded him.

Chris couldn’t help but snort as he heard the short odds that Ezra was giving out on him. Anyone betting on the black clad gunslinger would be disappointed, no one was going to catch Chris Larabee running around stomping on beetles.

"What’s going on Brother?" Josiah’s voice startled Chris out of his reverie as the larger man sat at his table. "What’s with all the rolled up newspapers and such?" Josiah gestured at the array of squashing implements the competitors were carrying. They ranged from old rolled up editions of the Clarion, to fly whisks, old boots and JD had even managed to come up with a frying pan from somewhere.

"Hell, where ya been Josiah? It’s a bug squashin’ contest. Inez, JD an’ Ezra cooked it up between ‘em. They got sick of them damn ‘roaches turnin’ up everywhere an’ decided to get rid of ‘em."

"You mean all these folks are here to slaughter these poor innocent cockroaches?" Josiah was horrified.

Chris nearly choked on his beer. "They’re only ‘roaches Josiah."

"They may only be humble ‘roaches Chris, but they are still God’s creatures and all creatures have their place."

"I take it you’re not goin’ ta join in then?"

"No, I will not take part in this butchery." Josiah replied "I’ll head back to the church, see I if can come up with a suitable sermon for Sunday, somethin’ about not wantonly killin’ our Lord’s creations…" As he stood up to leave the saloon something caught the preacher’s eye causing his face to darken in fury. Chris looked up to see what had caused Josiah’s anger and was surprised to see the large man’s gaze locked firmly on Buck.

"What in God’s name are you planning on doing with that?"

Buck froze in place, following Josiah’s furiously pointing finger to the book he was holding. Realising he’d been caught out the ladies man started to stammer out an explanation.

"Well, er, erm, it was just the right size and weight, I, erm, would have, um, put the book back when I’d finished with it…"

Josiah snatched the offending book from Buck’s grasp. "You will NOT use one of my hymn books to carry out the murder of God’s creatures." To emphasise his words Josiah hit Buck round the head with the hymnbook as he spoke. Continuing to mutter about Buck’s indiscretion Josiah stormed out of the building.

Buck stood there, everyone staring at him. "I guess I’d better find something else to use," he said once he’d manage to gather back his scattered wits. An enraged Josiah was a pretty awesome sight.

Chris turned his attention back to the proceedings as JD finally finished with the rules and declared the contest open. There was a great cheer as the competitors sprang into action with a whirr of newspaper and thump of shoe, not to mention the occasional clang of frying pan.

+ + + + + + +

As the evening wore on the gunslinger had amassed a respectable collection of dead cockroaches without even leaving his seat. Chris was content to sit back and keep an eye on the proceedings but his lightning reflexes and deadly aim proved fatal for the large number of cockroaches that ran over his table or came within stomping distance of his boots. It became obvious early on that JD and Buck were going to be in the front running. What they lacked in skill and technique they made up for in energy and enthusiasm, whooping and hollering as they descended upon the saloon’s poor unsuspecting cockroach population. It hadn’t taken long for JD to discover that his frying pan was a bad idea. It was much too good at its job, rendering any ‘roaches that he squashed so flat that it was impossible to scrape the remains up to be counted. Chris had breathed a huge sigh of relief when JD had swapped the pan for a boot, there had already been a few near misses between the frying pan and people’s fingers. So far the casualties had been minimal, two cowhands getting into a fight over the ownership of a cockroach corpse that they both claimed to have killed. Seeing the trouble break out Chris had leapt in and diffused the situation by flicking the dead bug out of a window and then sending the two men off to Nathan’s clinic to be patched up.

Chris was just beginning to wonder where Vin had got to when the sharpshooter strolled in and dropped into the chair opposite.

"Hey Cowboy." Vin smiled. "The saloon seems a mite busy tonight." Chris explained the contest to his friend, watching Vin’s interest sharpen at the mention of free drinks and food.

"Reckon I can join in?" Vin asked.

"Well you’d better," Chris replied. "I got a lotta money ridin’ on ya."

"You bet on me?"

"I reckoned your huntin’ skills would work as well on bugs as anythin’ else." Chris reasoned, "Wasn’t reckonin’ on ya getting’ here so late though. You’ve gotta a lot of catchin’ up to do."

"Wasn’t plannin’ on bein’ so late, but I got to fixin’ some fences for Miz Nettie an’ didn’t notice the time slippin’ by" Vin admitted. "I’d better get to it then, an’ save your money." Vin grinned as he stood up.

Chris watched curiously as the sharpshooter headed over to Ezra. The two men engaged in a long conversation before Ezra handed something over to Vin and Vin headed off up the stairs.

+ + + + + + +

"Ow! Damnit, be careful!" Nathan, sighed as the door to the clinic was unceremoniously kicked open and Chris staggered in supporting old Virgil Watson. Nathan had been able to hear them coming from across the street, Virgil letting out a constant stream of curses as they struggled their way across the street. Nathan had no doubt they were heading his way, there had been a steady stream of casualties from the contest all evening.

"Get him sat on the bed." The healer instructed Chris before asking "So what happened this time?"

"Mr Watson’s foot got in the way of a bug." Chris explained tersely, still out of breath from hauling the man up the stairs.

"I hope this bug huntin’ nonsense in worth it, half the town is gonna be out of action at this rate." Nathan complained, then turned to the crusty old man, "Okay, let’s get that boot off and see the damage."

"Don’t worry Nathan, it’s nearly finished for tonight, they’re just gonna start countin’ ta see who’s won."

"Great, only another two days to go then." Nathan replied sarcastically. "Oh go on back Chris. There’s nothin’ you can do here." Nathan could see the longing looks the gunslinger kept giving the door.

"Thanks Nate, I just want ta see who’s won."

"You wanna see if you’ve won your bet more likely." Nathan guessed out loud.

"Well, I did put some money on Vin." Chris admitted as he stood up and walked to the door. "Hope your foot’s okay Mr Watson." He tipped his hat and headed back to the saloon.

When Chris got back to the saloon the counting was nearly over. It looked to be between JD and Buck. Inez, with the somewhat unenthusiastic help of Ezra had already counted Buck’s pile of corpses and were now just finishing counting JD’s collection.

Chris looked around worriedly, sighing in relief as he caught sight of Vin coming down the stairs, bucket in hand. Larabee hadn’t seen the sharpshooter since he’d mysteriously disappeared up the stairs earlier. Chris hadn’t been worried as such, but he did have quite a lot riding on the result. Seeing Vin and Ezra’s large grins Chris relaxed knowing his money was safe.

JD’s shout of victory was cut short as he saw the sharpshooter walked up.

"I reckon I mighta kill’t a few more’n ya." Vin smiled as he tipped his bucket up onto the bar. The avalanche of squashed cockroaches was obviously more than JD had managed to dispatch and the young Sheriff had to reluctantly concede defeat. Somehow Vin had managed to kill more bugs than Buck and JD put together.

"And the winner is…Senor Tanner!" Inez announced handing Vin his first free drink. The sharpshooter smiled his thanks.

"Better luck tomorrow JD." He said as he walked on over to where Chris and the other townsfolk were settling their bets with Ezra.

Vin waited until the crowd had died down a little bit before approaching the gambler. "I’d like my share now."

"Certainly Mr Tanner. I consider the expense well worth it. Thank you for your services." Ezra counted out a not insignificant sum of money and handed it to Vin.

"Sorry I disappeared Cowboy." Vin grinned at Chris, "I was usin’ them trackin’ skills like ya said."

"Where did ya find all them bugs?" Chris wanted to know.

"Well after ya explained what happened this mornin’ with Ezra and getting covered in ‘roaches in everythin’ I figured the best place to find lots of ‘em would be Ezra’s room."

"Vin came to me and explained his truly ingenious plan." Ezra continued whilst handing Chris his winnings "And I was only to happy to provide him with access to my room and supply him with some recompense for destroying the repulsive creatures that had taken residence therein."

"That was good huntin’ Vin." Chris smiled. "Let’s see if ya can go for the double and win tomorrow as well."

"Well, I reckon it’ll be harder tomorrow," Vin noted. "After all the squashin’ that’s gone on to day, I reckon it’ll be a mite harder ta find anythin’ ta kill."

"In that case, you’d better get some sleep, so you’re on top form. I‘ve got money ridin’ on ya Vin." Chris slapped his friend on the shoulder.

"Yup, I guess I’ll turn in. Night Ez, night Miz Recillos. I’ll see ya tomorrow for my free drinks."

Vin headed off to his wagon and Chris to his room. Ezra made to head up the stairs to his room but was Inez blocked his way.

"Where do you think you are going?" she asked.

"To my room, for hopefully the first uninfested slumber I have had for some time."

"Not before you’ve helped me clear these up." Inez gestured at the mountain of dead and still twitching insects that Vi had left on the bar. Ezra groaned quietly to himself as he gingerly began to help Inez pick up the bugs and put them back in Vin’s bucket. This was not how he’d imagined the evening ending…

Day Two

Same time, same place. The residents of Four Corners had congregated again, ready to resume their battle with the saloon’s cockroach population.

Once again Chris Larabee sat in the corner, content to watch the proceedings and crush any hapless bugs that came within range. Even though there were less of the insects around tonight he seemed to be squashing even more than yesterday. It was probably ‘cos of Ezra he decided, looking at the con man who had settled down in the chair next to him. The damn bugs seemed to follow the gambler around. It was easy to tell where the gambler was by listening to the frequent yelps of horror and disgust as he discovered yet another bug located somewhere on his person.

"The cursed creatures are following me around." Ezra complained shaking another cockroach off his hat and onto the table. With lightning reflexes Chris snapped out a hand and flattened it, scraping the remains off the table and into his jar. "I reckon you’re right Ez."

"I have come to the conclusion that they are conspiring against me. Maybe all these evil beasts are relatives of some cockroach that I killed in the past. That’s it!" Ezra decided, "they want revenge!"

"Na, Ez." Vin interrupted as he crawled past on his hands and knees tracking his prey. "They’re just like any other wild critter, they can smell your fear."

"I resent that Mr Tanner, are you insinuating that I am in some way afraid of these insignificant creatures?" Ezra’s indignant protest went unnoticed as Vin continued on across the floor, fully focused on his task once more.

Chris tried to hide his laugh, nearly choking on his drink in the process. The distraction nearly cost the gunslinger his life. He failed to notice JD sneaking up behind him, with boot in hand and a maniacal expression in his eyes. Chris’s only warning was the look of horror in Ezra’s eyes as the gambler looked past him, he started to turn to see what Ezra was staring at but it was too late. JD, caught up in bug hunting fever brought his boot down firmly on the cockroach he had been stalking, the cockroach that was sitting on Chris Larabee’s hat.

Silence suddenly descended on the saloon, the only sound was the noise of Ezra’s chair scraping on the floor as the gambler quickly moved himself out of the line of fire. JD stood there, mouth hanging open, eyes boggling at the enormity of want he had just done. Eventually his mouth started working furiously.

"Ah, Chris, I’m sorry I didn’t mean it, I just got carried away, I didn’t hurt ya did I? Should I fetch Nathan?"

Chris didn’t reply, he just sat in his chair, the famous black hat squashed down over his ears by the force of the blow, and covered in the slimy remains of the obliterated beetle. Slowly looking up he subjected the young Sheriff to the full force of the patented Larabee glare.

Wilting under the gunslinger’s gaze and needing to fill the silence JD continued desperately. "I’m really, really sorry Chris. I’ll buy you a new hat tomorrow, I’ll take dawn patrol for all next week." Still Larabee sat in stony silence. "I’ll, um, I’ll go and see if I can find any bugs to squash upstairs, okay?" JD finished, backing rapidly towards the stairs.

"A wise move." Ezra commented from Chris’s elbow.

"Git, while the going’s good. And stay git." Buck hissed as JD moved passed him.

Once JD was out of sight Inez breezed up to Chris’s table and placed a whiskey by his hand. "A drink senor?" she asked.

Wordlessly Chris picked up the glass and emptied it with one swallow, as he thumped the glass back down the saloon burst back into noise again and the bug hunt resumed.

A short time later all hell broke loose. Buck accidentally stomped on Yosemite’s hand as they both attacked the same cockroach. Howling in pain the blacksmith stood up and delivered a swift left hook to Buck’s face.

"Ah, not again!" the ladies man cried out in dismay as the punch landed squarely on his already bruised nose. Enraged Buck took a swing at Yosemite but connected with Pete Young a cowhand from the Five Bar ranch. Hearing the commotion JD came running back down the stairs only to trip and collide with another customer who then spilled his drink on someone else. In seconds just about everyone in the place was involved in an all out bar brawl.

Chris let out a long suffering sigh figuring he’d better put an end to this before too much damage was done to both furniture and people. He looked around to see if any of his fellow lawmen were ready to back him up. Buck and JD would be no help, they were right in the thick of it. Ezra was trying to make his way across the saloon and through the fight without spilling any of his drink. Chris winced as Ezra ducked right to avoid a stray punch only to slip on some spilled beer landing heavily in the puddle on the floor. No help there then. That left Vin. Chris spotted the sharpshooter on the opposite side of the saloon, leaning on the wall and looking at Chris, waiting for his signal. Chris gave him a nod, then stood up drawing his gun.

The sound of a gunshot cut sharply through the noise of the fight. Everyone froze in place. Chris looked confused, glancing down at his unfired gun, then looking across at Vin. The sharpshooter shrugged back, he hadn’t fired either.

"Everyone stop fighting." Inez yelled at the top of her voice. The smoking pistol she held in one hand emphasising her point. "The next person to move will be shot." She looked over at Chris. "I know, it’s your job senor, but I wasn’t going to let anymore furniture get broken. Would you like to take over from here?"

"Yeah I got it Inez," he glared round the room. "Like the lady said, the next person that moves will get filled fulla holes." All eyes focused on the irate gunslinger, everyone trying desperately not to focus on the cockroach smeared across his hat.

"JD, round up anyone who’s hurt and get ‘em over to Nathan’s. You might want him to take a look at that lip while you’re at it." Chris gestured at the Sheriff’s bleeding mouth. "Everyone else, sit down or get back to bug crunchin’ I don’t want no more trouble. Buck, go with JD, you’re bleedin’ all over the floor." With that Larabee sat back down at his table, casually bringing his hand down on another cockroach as it scurried across his table.

Nathan was going to be really peeved Chris realised as JD rounded up the casualties. It looked like the healer might have under estimated when he’d said that half the town would end up injured. It was a pretty sorry looking bunch that limped out of the saloon and across the street. Buck was still clutching his bleeding nose, glaring angrily at Yosemite who was cradling his mashed hand. Pete Young and another cowhand leant on each for support as they walked and JD brought up the rear holding a grubby handkerchief to his lip.

Vin ambled across the where Ezra still sat on the floor, cursing fluently in a several different languages. "You alright Ez?" The tracker leaned down offering his hand.

"Yes thank you Mr Tanner, although I believe my clothes have not been so fortunate." The gambler brushed ineffectually at his alcohol soaked jacket. "Good Lord I smell like a distillery. If you will excuse me I will return to my room and change my attire." Still cursing he turned and walked across to the stairs and disappeared up to his room.

"Hey Chris." Vin called across to his friend, "I reckon your money is safe again tonight." Chris grinned, Vin was right, the fight had all but eliminated Vin’s main competition. JD and Buck had been doing really well as had Yosemite. Now that they were all out of the running it left Vin with a clear lead. It didn’t look as if anyone would catch him.

"Don’t get cocky Vin," he called back. "There’s still an hour to go and anything could…" Chris broke off in astonishment at Josiah burst in with a rolled up newspaper in his hand and fire in his eyes.

"Josiah, what are you doing here?" After yesterday’s outburst Chris had assumed that Josiah would steer clear of the saloon while the ‘slaughter’ was in progress.

"Brother, I have seen the error of my ways," the large man declared, "I have decided to do my part in ridding our fair saloon from this scourge."

"What changed your mind?" Vin wanted to know.

"I had a sign. When I found two cockroaches in my lunch and one in my drink I knew that our Lord was telling me that while all his creatures have their place, the saloon is not the cockroaches’ place." With that explanation Josiah set off around the saloon squashing with his newspaper or flattening with his huge feet.

As the hour wore on Chris’s confident grin had evaporated. Josiah was like a man possessed, not a cockroach survived where he passed. Vin was doing his best to keep up, but he did not have Josiah’s feet nor his fervour.

When the hour came to an end Inez and Ezra counted out the corpses. Chris scowled as the result was confirmed, no winnings for him tonight and no free drinks for Vin. Vin looked at him and shrugged apologetically and Josiah dug into his first free drink.

"Sorry Cowboy, I thought I could win it, but there just ain’t no stopping Josiah when he goes all Old Testament".

"Ah well, I shoulda known better an’ quit while I was ahead. Nobody wins a bet with Ezra two nights running." Chris looked at Ezra who was positively beaming. The gambler had made a killing, no one, but no one had put any money on Josiah. Nobody had expected him to join in, never mind win, but Ezra had gambled on the appropriate persuasion spurring Josiah into action. He knew how seriously Josiah took his food and figured that a few strategically positioned bugs would do the trick. Now all the con man needed to do was call at the clinic and his plans for tomorrow would all be in place. As he started to walk for the door he was startled by a hand on his shoulder.

"Not yet Senor, we still have to clean up, remember?" sighing Ezra collected the cloth that Inez thrust at him. Oh well, Nathan would have to wait until later…

Day Three

Swearing to himself Vin trotted to the saloon. He had been late getting back from patrol and had missed the first half-hour of squashing time. He know he’d have to employ all his hunting and tracking skills if he was going to win the overall competition. The last thing he needed was for Josiah and the others to have gotten to big a head start on him. Josiah was going to be hard to beat but Vin reckoned he could do it, cockroaches were going to be pretty scare on the ground after the last two days and he figured his superior tracking skills would stand him in good stead giving him the edge over everyone else.

On entering the room Vin stopped dead in surprise at the scene before him. It was carnage, a massacre had occurred. He looked around seeing bodies everywhere.

"You’re too late Vin." Chris called from the table were he was sitting with a miserable looking Buck, JD and Josiah. "The contest’s over."

"What happened?"

"There ain’t no bugs left ta kill. They’re all dead." The preacher explained mournfully. He’d been looking forward to doing some more smiting

"I can see that." Vin looked in amazement again at the thousands of dead cockroaches covering the floor. Inez and a very reluctant Ezra were busy sweeping them up from the floor, the bar, the window ledges and everywhere else the dead bugs lay. He couldn’t believe there’d been that many bugs left after last night. "What killed ‘em?"

"Nathan did." Buck pointed to the healer sat a few tables away tucking into a large hot meal.

"He cheated!" JD added indignantly.

"I did not cheat." Nathan called back, "I just used a different method is all."

"I didn’t think you were competing?" Vin was confused.

"Well after last night’s little riot I figured I’d better put a stop to this whole thing before someone got hurt."

"Hey, I already GOT hurt." Buck pointed angrily to his very broken nose.

"Well okay, before someone got killed," Nathan amended.

"So how’d ya kill em?"

"He used chemical warfare." JD was still annoyed. "He poisoned them all this morning. I say that was cheating."

"Now, now Mr Dunne. Nowhere in the rules did it say how the vermin were to be despatched." Ezra commented as he swept another mound of insects off the bar into a bucket.

"You’re only saying that ‘cos no-one bet on Nathan an’ you won everyone’s money." Buck pointed out.

"I have to confess that I did make a significant financial gain during this contest." Ezra admitted, "but everyone else in this humble town benefited as well. We can all now sit down, eat a meal and enjoy a libation without being in fear of it being infested."

"And it’s only fair that I get somethin’ out of this." Nathan added, "since I had to spend the last two days patchin’ all you idiots up."

"It has been a great success senors." Inez beamed at them as she fetched Nathan another beer. "No more bugs, no more complaints and the saloon made lots of money from all the drinks people bought during the contest. It was a marvellous idea Sheriff." JD positively glowed from the praise.

"Aw shucks Inez, t’wern’t nothin’" he mumbled into his glass of milk.

"Well since it's all over and you good fellows have nothing else to occupy your time this evening would anyone like to assist me in sweeping up these deceased creatures?" Ezra asked optimistically.

"Ah no Ezra, sorry I can’t help I’ve got to go and check on the jail." Vin hastily finished his drink and walked for the door.

"Sorry Brother, I’ve got work to do back at the church."

"I’ve gotta get my nose checked out." Buck leaped to his feet.

"An’ I’ve gotta check his nose." Nathan ate his last bite of dinner and headed after Buck.

"I, erm, I’ve gotta go an’ buy a hat ." JD explained hurriedly, not looking at Chris as sprinted for the door.

Ezra looked hopefully at Chris. The gunslinger stared back at him. Ezra sighed, "No I guess that wasn’t very likely."

Finishing his whiskey, Chris grinned at the gambler. "Night Ezra."

"Good evening Mr Larabee." Ezra looked around at the cockroach-covered saloon, seeing Inez looking pointedly at him and tapping her foot on the floor. He sighed again, it was going to a long evening…

One Week Later

The bug hunt had been a complete success. Not a single cockroach had been seen in the saloon since Nathan had wiped them all out. Buck’s nose slowly healed, as did Yosemite’s hand and the other various injuries sustained during the contest. Things quickly returned to normal, well as normal as things ever got in Four Corners. There was an attempted bank robbery that the Seven easily foiled, and some cattle rustlers that were soon rounded up, but all in all it was an average week for the small town.

Vin was just getting up ready for his dawn patrol when a hideous shriek rang out from the saloon.


Swearing Vin finished pulling on his boots, grabbed his mares leg and, with a wistful look at the shirt he hadn’t had time to put on, jumped out if his wagon and raced for the saloon.

He was soon joined by Chris, JD and Nathan.

"What’s goin’ on?" He asked as they ran.

"Dunno, but it sounded an awful lot like Ezra." Nathan panted.

"It’d better not be cockroaches again." JD growled.

"Na, it’s too soon." Nathan said "There won’t be any bugs there yet."

"It could be serious this time. So be careful folks." Chris instructed as they burst through the swing doors and looked frantically around trying to spot the threat. Their eyes all froze on Ezra who standing at half way down the saloon stairs half dressed, waving his jacket around in a manner all too familiar with his audience.

"Look! Look! My jacket is ruined!" the Gambler has horrified.

"Ezra, have you got us all runnin’ over here again ‘cos of a few bugs?" Chris was nothing if not annoyed.

"No Mr Larabee" Ezra explained waving his hole-filled jacket, "It’s much , much worse than that. "It's MICE……"

The End

The Invasion : Aftermath

(an extra snippet)

Ken ‘Roach shuddered as he watched the terrible scene before him. It was a massacre, all his friends and family had been slaughtered. Those that had survived the stomping and squashing had succumbed to the deadly white powder that had been scattered around their home. Why had this happened? What had they ever done to deserve such a horrible fate? They had been living peacefully and were harming no one. As he watched the last of his friends scooped up into a bucket he turned to his fellow survivor. Raquel ‘Roach softly rubbed feelers with her husband, trying to offer sympathy. A whole generation had been wiped out, but they had survived, they were still alive and soon there would be the patter of hundreds tiny feet as a new family of ‘roaches were born.

Ken felt his resolve return with his wife’s gentle touch. This was not the end; it was merely the beginning. They would learn from this horrific experience. They would teach the new generations what they needed to know. They would tell them that the best room to sleep in was the one that had the drawers full of wonderfully coloured clothes that were so warm and cozy. They would also tell the children of the dangers that lurked within their home. They would learn to avoid the man in black who moved so quickly that it was impossible to escape his hand of doom, also there were the two noisy men who leapt and jumped and squashed and never got tired. They must also know of the quiet leather clad man who could creep so silently and find a roach no matter where it hid, and there was the huge man of thunder with the giant feet of death and voice of wrath. Finally and most deadly of all there was the dark man who brought the evil powder of death.

Silently Ken swore an oath of vengeance. He would not rest until these foul ‘roach murderers had been made to suffer for their hideous crimes against Insectdom. In a month or so Ken and Raquel would have an army of children and children’s children to rise up against their mortal enemies and avenge the deaths of the ‘Saloon ‘Roach Clan. Ken, Raquel and their family would plague the seven men of destruction. The men’s days of eating without finding ‘roaches in their food, drinking without finding ‘roaches in their drink, dressing without finding ‘roaches in their clothes and sleeping without finding ‘roaches in their beds were numbered.

There was nowhere the men could hide, nowhere the ‘roaches couldn’t get. Soon Ken swore, soon their time would come….

The End?

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