by Sammy Girl
AU - Hunter's Moon
|Disclaimer: Not mine, not making any money.
Authors Note: This is a story in Joe Lawson's awesome Hunter's Moon AU, which you will find at the Blackraptor Adult site, along with the adult version of this story. If you haven't read Hunter's Moon, and adult is not your thing, a PG summary of the original story can be found at the end of Duality, also at Blackraptor. Thanks Joe, for the AU and all the help. Thanks too to Kerry for proof reading and because this is all her fault! And to Tina for help with the editing.
Warning: This work of fiction contains graphic descriptions of violence between animals including deaths. The writer does not now, nor has ever supported or endorsed the so-called 'sport' depicted, which has been rightly illegal in her country for years, but was still practised in the 19th Century, when the story is set.
"Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make."
Ezra Standish rolled over and stifled a groan as his hip encountered a rock under his bedroll. God, he hated camping out. Finally he pulled himself up on to his feet. Now a whole new stiffness set in, actually the more he tried to move, the worse it seemed. It was soreness, not stiffness, or perhaps both, whatever it was, he didn't like it. He looked over at his horse, quietly chopping the long sweet grass near the creek. Riding was going to be torture today.
That night he and Buck had camped early because the creek was so inviting and the weather so stiflingly hot. They had swum and generally played in the water. Buck had seemed very amused with Ezra, as if he didn't believe Ezra ever played.
Since neither of them really felt like cooking - it was just too hot to make a fire - they contented themselves with biscuits, hard tack, and apples. Finally they had been lying side by side on their bedrolls as the breeze - that was as hot as it had been during the day - blew over their bodies, neither man had bothered to put his shirt back on.
"It'd be nice if it was like this more often," Buck commented idly.
"Knowing our luck, some miscreant, you or Mr Larabee annoyed, irritated or even slightly ticked off, God knows how long ago, will suddenly turn up and demand satisfaction, and you know what?"
"They may be out for you, but it will no doubt me that gets injured."
"You've noticed that have you? I wondered how long it would take you to catch on," Buck chuckled.
He walked a few steps away from the bed roll, casting his eye around looking for the Two-Blood. Not seeing him, but discovering a pile of clothing, he wondered if his friend had changed into wolf form and gone for a run. Now that they knew about Buck's true nature, Ezra had chided himself he had not seen the signs before. He prided himself that he could see peoples 'tells', and yet he had missed everyone of Buck's. After all - no matter how late Buck went to bed, no matter what 'activities' he got up to in the night, he was never late up, he was a habitual early riser. Buck liked his steak so rare it ran with blood when cut; he rarely if ever ate any vegetables. And when he slept - and Ezra had watched him sleep while on watch often enough on the trail - he always started on his back but ended up on his side; all his long limbs stretched out to the side, his head tucked down against his chest; it was a very canine position. And then there were the dreams. When Buck dreamt he twitched, his limbs jerked and trembled and he made little growl-like sounds and yips. When you took it all together it was so obvious, he could have kicked himself.
His musings were interrupted when he spotted Buck, the true Buck not the wolf. He had evidently been bathing and shaving in the creek, now he walked up the bank to retrieve his clothing.
"Mornin' Ez!" Buck called as he noticed Standish staring at him. "Why don't you wash up while I get coffee started?"
Buck and Ezra were headed to a mining town in the mountains, called Blue Creek. The sheriff had arrested a man who had tried to rob the stage. He matched the description of a man who had attempted to rob the bank in Four Corners, although he had failed, mainly due to Ezra's quick thinking, he had killed a cowboy as he stole his horse to make a successful escape. Since only Ezra had seen the man up close, he was travelling to Blue Creek to make a formal identification. Buck came along because it was, as a general rule, safer not to travel alone. No one seemed to know much about Blue Creek, other than it was apparently thriving. As they made their way higher up into the mountains a small breeze picked up, for which they were truly grateful. They entered the town with the breeze on their backs.
Blue Creek was relatively small, much the same size as Four Corners but the streets were crowded and the buildings all looked new or in good order. As they made their way along the main street looking for the sheriff's office, Ezra became aware of an unpleasant odour. As they got closer to the end of the town the wind shifted, so that now it was more to their side rather than their backs and suddenly the odour got stronger.
Ezra turned to look at Buck, if he found the smell unpleasant, he hated to think how it was affecting Buck with his much more finely attuned senses. The answer was there for him to see, Buck looked grey or even green. Standish wouldn't have been surprised if he had leapt from Steel's back then and there, and run for the nearest outhouse.
"Um, Ezra?" Buck said somewhat unsteadily.
"Go my friend, I will ascertain the man's identity and join you - back at the creek?" Ezra offered. "Just what is that smell, anyway?"
"Tannery, up in the hills to our left, I'm sorry Ez, if I lived here I could have gotten used to it but like this, all of a sudden " Buck looked very guilty.
"Go, I will be fine, go go." Buck tipped his hat at Ezra and with a smile turned is horse back the way they had come and galloped out of town.
As it turned out it wasn't the same man. True, they were of similar height, colouring and build but it wasn't the same man. Ezra resisted the desire to engage in a game of poker with people who didn't know him, and after purchasing a meal, headed for the store. Finally loaded up with oranges, - an expensive rarity, biscuits, bacon, a pair of steaks, and an apple pie he headed back toward the creek. By keeping up a good pace he reckoned he would make it back just before dusk.
He found Steel easily enough. The big grey was hobbled so he wouldn't wander too far and was standing in the shallows browsing on the lush vegetation along the creek banks. Buck's big, well cared for saddle was propped up against a tree, his clothes overflowing out of his saddle bags, and his boots sitting neatly beside the saddle. Buck had clearly 'gone wolf' as JD liked to put it.
Ezra unsaddled his own horse and, like Steel, hobbled him and turned him loose. He built a fire, not something he did often because he wasn't very good at it, the others always did it, claiming it was quicker than watching Standish struggling. When he was done, it was getting dark, and still Buck had not returned. Once he had brought the hoses back to camp and tethered them, he tried calling, but still Buck did not show. Eventually he had to cook his steak and eat, still calling occasionally. When Buck did not come in response to the smell of cooking Ezra tried firing his gun in the air but to no avail. In the hours since he had returned to the creek side, Buck's absence had generated a variety of emotions in the southerner. First amusement and a little disappointment, then irritation and annoyance that quickly moved to anger, but as darkness fell anger became worry and now, in the black of the night, fear.
Buck was not like Chris or Josiah or come to that Vin, he just didn't take off and not tell anyone, he would never let a friend worry about him unnecessarily. Too worried to sleep Ezra sat by the fire waiting for dawn. As the sky paled he penned a note and tucked it into Buck's saddlebags with his clothes and saddled his own horse.
The wolf had been enjoying just being alive, running in the sun for the sheer joy of running, picking up scents and following them, not to find where they until lead, not to track down the prey that had left them, but just because he could. Then he had picked up a new scent, a female wolf, a female in season, a scent no wolf, no matter what his heritage, could ignore. Lifting his head he tried to get a better sense of where the she wolf was. Then he was up and running, stopping every now and again to check his progress, finally he found her. She was young, maybe only three and she stood in a small wooded grove. The scent of her was intoxicating, it clung to the ground and the trees, it hung in the still, swelteringly hot air. Only the smallest, lightest of breezes disturbed the warm air heavy with her enticing aroma. He approached.
Suddenly something snapped up all around the huge wolf, one moment he was walking towards the waiting female, the next he was lifted up off the ground as a net hidden under the dusty soil snapped up. He struggled ineffectually against the strong net that held him prisoner as it swung four feet of the ground.
Frankie Williams approached the grove from his down wind hiding place. He bent and patted the she wolf.
"Good girl Sheba, snared a good one." He walked up to and around the snarling angry wolf. "Jeez, youre a big one, arent you?" He approached to get a closer look; in response the wolf snarled and snapped so much he stepped back. "Big and mean, oh you are just perfect my fine, fierce friend."
Williams let loose a loud whistle and in response a wagon rumbled into the wooded grove, driven by a second man. As the net was lowered toward the wagon, the powerful wolf prepared himself to make a break for freedom. But just as he landed on the wagon he found the men were both behind him and in front, so he couldn't watch both. And that was his undoing because suddenly he gave a yelp of surprise and pain as something sharp hit his rump.
The second man held up a syringe. "Thank God for morphine!" he exclaimed as he watched the wolf try and fail to fight off the effects of the drug. When the big wolf regained his senses he was in an iron cage in the back of a dark moving wagon. The cage had been built for an average sized wolf, such a wolf could have stood up and just about turned around in the small cage, but this wolf was huge and he could neither stand properly nor lie down without curling his legs up and he couldn't turn around. In realisation of his captive state, that he was a prisoner travelling who knew where, that his pack would have no way to track him and rescue him, the wolf let out a howl of rage and despair.
Frankie's brother Rhys turned back to shout at the wolf from the driver's seat. "You shut yer yap!" The wolf growled and snarled at him, rattling the bars as he tried to get at his tormentor and captor. "You carry on like that an' I'm gonna pump you so full a morphine you won't wake up 'till we git there!" Miraculously the huge wolf went quiet, as if he actually understood the threat.
Ezra cursed himself repeatedly as he slowly circled out from the campsite on foot, searching for any sign or clue as to where Buck might have gone. If he had only listened when Vin had been instructing JD on how to track. The hot spell had baked the ground hard as rock, the grass away from the creek was brown and stunted, nothing marked the wolfs passing. After more than three hours of fruitless searching he gave up and mounted his horse. Steel whinnied at him as if to say 'Where is my master? Why are you leaving without him?'.
"I will find him for you, have no fear my faithful friend, you remain here in case he returns." Ezra spoke softly to the big horse.
Ezra rode out and began to spiral out from the campsite, calling, shooting and searching for any sign of man or wolf. He hadn't eaten breakfast and didn't stop for lunch as he became more desperate and afraid. It was getting on to dusk when he came upon the wooded grove. Dismounting - the better to search in the shadows under of the trees - he finally found some signs, signs so clear even he couldn't miss them. A wagon had been driven into the grove and had left in the same direction; which had to be significant. Mounting up again he began to follow the wagon tracks as they lead away from the grove, it quickly became clear the tracks were heading north. Eventually it became too dark for him to follow the marks - which while clear in daylight were almost indistinguishable in the fading light - so despite the urge to keep following, he forced himself to stop and make camp. If he lost the tracks in the night, what help could he be?
The wagon carrying the wolf rumbled to a halt. The driver dismounted ignoring the creature imprisoned within. Rhys met his brother who had ridden ahead with his pet wolf Sheba at a pre-arranged campsite.
"You wanna go for a second one?" Rhys asked.
It was normally their practise to return to their client with at least two wolves.
"No, look at the size of him. No he's worth almost as much as two little un's. 'Sides weather's about to change, no we'll head back now."
The cage had an opening at the bottom of the front panel high enough for a dish to be pushed through. Only when both men and the she wolf had been fed, did the men push in a dish of water and drop in a hunk of salt beef. The huge wolf drank the water after sniffing it carefully, but refused the meat, snarling at the men.
"Suit yourself, ain't no skin off my nose if ya starve yer self," Frankie commented as he left the wagon.
Ezra forced himself to make a fire and eat. If Buck was lost out there someplace he might see the fire and it would do Buck no good if he faltered through lack of food and rest. Eventually he fell asleep only to be woken an hour or so before dawn with a massive thunder crack.
"NO!" Ezra shouted just as the first raindrop hit his face.
Why, he asked himself, did God send the rain now? Now - when it would obliterate every sign the wagon had left. Why did God not want him to save one he had so obviously blessed? For in truth Ezra failed to see how anyone could have endured what Buck had in his life and retained his humanity, retained his honesty and decency, become in fact a force for good, if he were not blessed by God.
But God was not listening, and the heavens opened in earnest and the rain came in torrents to scour the earth of every sign and clue as to the fate of the missing Two-Blood. There was nothing he could now do but call the pack for help.
"What the hell happened?" Chris demanded as he dismounted just outside Blue Creek.
The rest of the Four Corners pack had ridden like the wind to reach the town, but it had still taken them nearly a full day and a half to reach Ezra. The gambler explained the events leading up to Buck's disappearance and his attempts to find him as they rode out to the campsite where the ever-patient Steel still waited for his master to return. Chris, ever the alpha male and pack leader, took command.
"Nathan - I want you and JD to stay here in case he comes back, JD you give Steel some exercise. Ezra, you'll take the rest of us out to this place were you found the wagon tracks. After you show us where you lost the tracks, you and Josiah head into town see what you can fine out, Buck's one big wolf, maybe if someone shot him they'll be boasting about it."
"He's not dead!" JD stated angrily.
None of them had wanted to acknowledge this fear, but many farmers and ranchers would shoot a wolf on sight without a second thought, every time Buck 'went wolf', especially during the day, he took that risk, but it fell to their leader to voice it.
"I don't believe it either JD, but it remains a possibility. Whatever happened we will stay until we know or Buck is back with us, I promise you we will not give up on him!" He placed his hand on the younger, smaller mans shoulder. "Look after Steel, keep a good watch, all right?"
JD nodded his agreement.
In the grove, Vin found evidence of the ropes used to hoist the net into the air, places on the tree branch where the bark had been rubbed smooth. Ezra was even more convinced Buck had been captured, not shot or trapped. The possibility that Buck was lying somewhere, caught in a trap, bleeding and in pain had haunted his nightmares and invaded his thoughts even during the day. Action, something to do, to be instructed and not have to make the decisions somehow made it easier to bear the fear and uncertainty.
Ezra had been right about the thunderstorm, no sign of the wagon was left, all they knew was that it had been going north before the trail was lost. Ezra and Josiah spent their time in the town asking questions and keeping their ears and eyes open. After two days it was beginning to look hopeless and Chris was intending to just head north and hope to find something. That night Ezra entered yet another game of poker with no enthusiasm or intention to win. People were more loose-lipped when they were winning.
"Tell me sir," he addressed the well-dressed older looking cowboy at the table. "Does anyone around here engage in any other form of sport a gentlemen might wager upon?"
Just why someone would apparently go to the trouble of capturing a wolf instead of killing it had been taxing Ezra for some time.
"What kind sport would you be interested in young fella?" the man asked, taking two cards. "I'll open for two."
"Oh any kind, in my own state of Louisiana there were cock fights for example, where a man might places a friendly wager see your two and raise you two."
"Well, now you mention it, I heard of a place north of here, don't know about cocks but they got dog fightin' see you and raise you five."
"Most interesting, do you know any more about this place? See your five raise you another five."
"Don't know where exactly, but I heard it was two hundred ante just to get in through the door call."
The man lay down three jacks. Now he had the information he needed Ezra was disinclined to let the man win, especially now he needed two hundred dollars. So, with not even the smallest of smiles, he lay down his five diamonds to take the pot, which came to twenty three dollars, so with what he had already he was still one hundred and fifty six short.
With no more information Chris determined they would move north following in the general direction of the wagon. It the course of the next two days, they passed through several towns and discovered some more information. The dogfights were held at a ranch near a town called Pine Springs, the two hundred dollar ante was true, but a guest could accompany each player. On arrival at Pine Springs only Ezra and Nathan entered the town.
It was decided that Ezra would play the part of a bored southern gentleman looking for some sport, Nathan would be his manservant. While Ezra played poker to picking up the extra hundred they needed, the two of them would try to find out more and hopefully get Ezra an invite and, more importantly, an exact location.
"Yessir." Nathan really, really hated playing the 'boy' and if Buck's freedom or even his life hadn't been at stake, he wouldn't ever have considered it. What Nathan didn't know was that Ezra hated to play the 'master' just as much, and was only doing it for exactly the same reasons.
"Take the bags to the hotel, register us then come and find me." With that, Ezra strode across the street toward the biggest, most opulent looking saloon he had seen in a very long time.
He practically drowned in the smell of money and gambling as he entered the fine establishment, even the working girls were tastefully dressed. It didn't take long for him to locate the bigger players and most profitable games. As the afternoon wore on to evening Ezra worked his way through the games, toward the big game in the back room. Nathan played the attentive servant to perfection while trying to get information from the girls, bar staff and even other servants he identified. Finally, at around ten in the evening, Ezra had just taken a big pot of around a hundred and sixty dollars. He now had close to two hundred and fifty dollars. If possible, he wanted to get to six hundred - that way all of them could get in.
"Mr Sands?" A man approached Ezra as he collected his money.
"Sir? Ah don't believe ah have the honour of your acquaintance."
"I'm Mr Ross's foreman, he wants you to join the game." The man who spoke was an average looking man, with bad teeth and receding hair.
Ezra stood up, placing his winnings in his wallet.
"Come Nathan," he commanded, not bothering to look at Jackson.
"Just you, Mr Sands," the foreman warned.
The foreman raised an eyebrow as Ezra handed his wallet to Nathan..
"Mr ?" Ezra enquired.
"Don Cole." The man supplied.
"Mr Cole, I trust Nathan completely, where I go my money goes and therefore so does Nathan."
Cole turned to view the very tall well-built Negro behind Ezra, he certainly didn't want to tangle with him.
"Very well, this way." He indicated the way to the closed back room.
The back room was actually a fairly good imitation of a small gentleman's club. The circular gaming table in the centre was covered in the finest green baize and trimmed with Moroccan leather. The chairs were mahogany, generously upholstered in dark green leather. The lamps suspended above the table were made of gleaming brass and topped with bottle green glass. Under normal circumstances Ezra would have been in seventh heaven, he could have died right there and been happy. The men around the table were clearly taking a break from their gaming, but looking at the money sitting ready in front of the various seats, this was very definitely the big game. If he played it right not only would he get his invite to the dog fights, but also the stake money.
A tall man with steel grey hair and a cut glass tumbler in his hand walked around the table.
"You must be Mr Edward Sands, I'm Leland Ross welcome to my saloon." He held out his hand and they shook.
"Ah am very glad to meet you Mr Ross, and may ah compliment you sir, on such a fine oasis of gentlemanly civilisation. Ah had despaired of findin' such comforts and such stimulatin' challenges this far west."
Nathan personally thought Ezra was laying the accent on a bit thick, but Ross seemed to be lapping it up.
"And who would this be?" Ross indicated Nathan.
"That is Nathan, where ah go he goes, it is rule of mine." He turned to Jackson and extending his hand clicked his fingers. "Money Nathan!" he commanded.
Obediently, Nathan handed over the well-stuffed wallet. The point was well made and no one questioned Nathan's presence. The game went well, some of the men were skilled players, others just very rich and liked to think they were good. None were so good Ezra had to resort to cheating, although he was quite prepared to do that if needed. Ezra regaled his new gaming partners with tales of his gaming exploits both real and imagined. He told them of cock fights in New Orleans, poker tournaments on riverboats, horse racing in Kentucky and alligator wrestling in Louisiana.
"Tell me mister Sands, have you ever seen dog fighting?" Ross finally asked.
"Once or twice, but the contests were so uneven there was very little sport in it. Why do you ask?" Ezra tried desperately to remain calm.
"I have an interest in the sport, breed my own dogs and even hold the occasional contest for a select invited players. I was wondering if you would be interested?"
Ezra didn't want to seem too keen and they still didn't know if Buck had been taken to fight.
"Ah might be, what sport is there?"
"We have dog fights, and to add variety we pit the best dogs against other opponents, rather than each other. No one wants to lose his best dog to a friend."
"Other opponents?" Ezra asked.
"Yes, mountain lions, wolverines, bears, and wolves. Of course sometimes we have to put up more than one dog or there would be no contest, but it is fine sport, might I interest you? We had a meeting only this last weekend but there will be another this weekend coming, costs two hundred to get in."
"Ah may well be, ah..er ah have couple of acquaintances, they are due to meet me here in a few days who might be interested as well." Ezra decided to strike while the iron was hot.
"Can you vouch for them?"
"Most assuredly, both are a little rough and ready but wealthy men and lovers of good sport."
"Who are these gentlemen?" Ross enquired.
"Mr Christopher Lawson, a horse breeder from California travelling with his younger brother Vincent, and Mr Joseph Sanchez and his son Juan, from Mexico. Young Juan has been studying in the East, Senor Sanchez wishes the boy to gain some more 'experience' if you understand?"
"Oh indeed I do. Them eastern colleges can be a mite soft on a boy. My man Cole will give you directions, the fights begin next Friday, at around eight p.m., at my ranch. I'm sure you will find it entertaining."
The ranch proved to be huge, the house new and very large. There were a number of buildings, which might house the dogfights, but without getting closer even with Vin's telescope, it was impossible to tell which. Security was high; a man with a rifle on the water tower, another in the hayloft meant no one could approach the ranch undetected. Cole had made it clear to Ezra no 'players' would be admitted before Friday. So, much as they hated it, the pack had to wait it out until Friday, which since it was only Monday, was a whole five days away. Chris and Vin made an appearance in town playing the parts Ezra had set up for them, likewise Josiah and JD. They refrained from gambling, but Ezra continued to play in order to raise the six hundred they were going to need. In between being seen in town they kept a watch on the ranch, but although they saw dogs there was no sign of any other animals. Then on the third day the wind picked up and changed direction.
The wolf had been placed in a cage just six feet square and three feet high. He was given water, but only minimal food.
"Keep 'im hungry Jack," Cole had told the man who fed the dogs and other animals. "Keep 'im hungry an' mean."
The cage, along with three others, was underground, the ceiling so low the guard could barely stand upright. It was dark most of the time and it smelled bad - the odour was bad enough for humans, but for the other creatures incarcerated down there the stench was overpowering and relentless. The huge wolf was stiff and sore, he just ached to stretch his legs to run, and down in the darkness it was impossible to tell how long he had been there. He was hungry and although he got water it was warm and stale, so he dreamt of cool clear creek water, and the creek he had been beside only a short time ago. At least he thought it was a short time ago. He had examined the cage carefully, iron bars on the floor meant he couldn't dig his way out. The door was locked with a new looking padlock. At first he though they knew he was a Two-Blood, but on spotting that all the other cages had new looking padlocks hanging from the doors he dismissed the idea. Perhaps since wolf pelts, not to mention bears skins were valuable the captive animals had to be locked up to protect them. He then had a sickening thought, his pelt was only worth stealing now, not after they were finished with him. Just how much damage was there going to be? Well if they wanted him mean they had it, he was one angry, mean, pissed of wolf and any chance he was offered he would be away, and if he got to bite a chunk out of one of his tormentors, so much the better.
Jack opened the doors at the far end of the underground structure and descended the steps. He left the doors open to increase the light and make the stench less unpleasant. A warm breeze blew in from the surrounding hills and carried on it was a faint scent. At first the wolf didn't notice, then another gust of wind blew in. He raised his head and sniffed, the scent was familiar, something safe and calming, he sniffed again and finally recognising the scent and what it meant, the huge lupine threw back his massive head and howled, and howled.
There was just something so distinctive about that howl, something so pain filled, that JD stood up suddenly, quickly followed by Sanchez.
"It's him," the young man breathed, "Oh God - listen to him - he sounds so sad!"
"Then we better give him something to feel happy about, hadn't we?" With that Sanchez let loose his own howl, except it was more like singing, as if it was a full moon and he was singing at the moon. Quickly JD joined in, adding his higher but equally powerful voice to Josiah's baritone.
When his call was returned, the wolf just howled all the harder, but this was a call of greeting and relief. They were there, his pack had come for him, they would rescue him, he wasn't alone, they hadn't forgotten him or abandoned him, his family had come for him!
"You shut yer noise!" Jack ran his long heavy stick along the bars. "Shut up! Or I'll smash yer teeth - in see how long you last like that!"
The wolf just growled at him, approaching the bars menacingly, licking his lips, and still the low growl continued in the back of his throat. Outside, the howl the wolf had answered was faint and to Jack's ears somehow not quite normal, but the huge wolf threw back his head once more and howled in reply
"You think they're here for you? What - you think a pack of mangy wolves is gonna save you? Oh no my friend, yer fate is sealed, you ain't ever gettin' outta here!"
More than anything the wolf wanted to tell him, show him, how wrong he was. But that was just too risky. No, he could wait it out, no matter how long it took the pack was here and they would come for him.
That night the two voices that had called to the wolf were joined by four more, but with the doors shut they couldn't hear his reply to their song. Still they sang, reaching out to their captured pack-mate with every fibre of their beings. Ross stood on the veranda and listened.
"What do you reckon Cole?" he asked the Forman.
"Don't get it sir, that big fella he just keeps callin' to 'um but we can't find sight nor sound of them. We found evidence of a camp, but no wolves, not so much as one paw print. I tell you it's weird."
"Don't know that either, they pulled out long before we got there, looked like seven horses, thats all I know."
The two men listened a while longer until the strange wolf song stopped. "It ain't like any wolf howlin' I ever heard a'fore sir, it's more like singing than howlin'." Ross nodded his agreement with his subordinate's assessment.
"Double the guard on the stock, tell them to shoot to kill if they have to, come Saturday this will all be over." With that the wealthy rancher turned and retired inside for the night.
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