by Chris Noto

Disclaimer: Don't own them... they belong unfortunately to... uncaring and dull fellows... and I don't profit on M7 either .I wrote this only to keep them alive in my dreams, that's all.

Acknowledgments: A grateful thanks to my beta TJ, lady, without your help I' ll never been able to write a Chris' monologue, you know I'm a vixen, and proud of it.

Note: I dedicate this humble story to Ninheve that with her kind messages helped me to hold on in a very difficult time of my real life.

Thanks: Ninheve made the collage for this story. She did a very great job! Thanks a lot again, Lady.

Feedback: as usual no bullets, please!

Know yourself. – Socrates

It happened again!

A youth, as usual... the mild, new fair hair on his chin was unshaven, the soft stubble of adolescence... I wonder what farm he came from. Looking for a rep... tired of being a nobody. He was faster than most and if he'd lived long enough, someday he would've been a man to reckon with.

But now...

He was merely bullet bait for a gunman like me... I shot him. The first slug sent his hat spiraling away, the second hit him square in the chest, and he went straight down. I watched him drop. I saw the dark flow of his blood spreading onto the dirt. The unfired gun was still clutched in his dead hand and I just turned and walked away, my black duster flowing in the wind...

Forgive the manners... name's Chris Larabee. Some folks call me the ‘ bad element'.

What would you call a man wearing not a speck of color but black... if not the Devil himself?

This hue has painted my soul since that dreadful summer.

It was a long time ago, yet the pain is still thrusting at me like a dagger.

The names and the faces of my beloved ones besiege me from the past.

Time may have dulled the blade but it has only sharpened that one blinding pain.

Today is Sarah's birthday and yet, again I have killed a man without the slightest bit of compassion.

And now, I'm there...

Persistent memories have pulled me back to a place I have tried to forget, and to a time that was, in my mind, the last golden summer of my life.

In the soft light of the fading sun I see the outlines of a familiar landscape, the mountains, the little river, and the trees along its curves. Further along, are the graves on the hill.

I feel on my skin the soft wind that walks this place between twilight and darkness and I walk, numbly, like a blind man towards the two crosses.



With the gentle touch I reserved only for them, I put my trembling hands on the bare wood.

Instantly, my heart beats to suffocation and tears burn my lids.

The darker it gets the more I seem to see Sarah again. She is still in front of me. Her auburn sparkling locks whisper softly around her lovely face. Her eyes are so wise and so full of love!

When we came to this ranch Sarah and I wandered around our barely furnished house and we talked all day long. It was so perfect I couldn't still my heart. And I though to myself ' Larabee, this is your fresh start!'

I was in a world where anything was possible. Where bad didn't exist. Where hope was real and palpable.

That night we kissed on the porch for a long time before I grabbed her delicate fragile body in these strong, masculine hands. I picked her up and carried her to our bedroom. Gently, I laid her on the bed and then covered her face with even more kisses.

She'd feel so small in my arms and she smelled so sweet. Her skin glowed.

Oh, I remember so well the softness of her skin. How I have longed to touch it again. It was just like milk, and so smooth to the touch... like silk under my fingers.

Memories of Sarah are incomplete without Adam. She called him her greatest gift to me. And he was...

Such a wonderful child!

I was there for his birthing. The woman put him on Sarah's chest and he smiled at me .He had Sarah's blue eyes but the rest of him was just like me. Holding his light body in my arms that first time, I felt a joy I had never experienced before It was a strange thing that happened after that - it was amazing - I began having these crystal clear dreams, which I'd remember when I woke. I experienced so many wonderful things with Adam in those sweet, lost dreams.! We had rides on the prairie, spent hours in rocking chairs on the porch and.... decorating a Christmas tree.

I haven't dreamt like that.... not for.... not since.... maybe never.

Now I keep having that nightmare. It sneaks out in the quiet of every night, shadow and smoke. I wasn't there when all this happened and I've dreamt.

I imagine the flames roaring high as the fire took hold. A crimson flash that grew, covering the sky, and then was followed by total darkness.

I don't remember much about coming home. Fragmented images, sounds and voices tore away my soul that day. My whole world went black.... as black as the soot that covered my hands.

In the days and night that followed, I first imagined the distant spot of light. A spectral shaft of red, orange and yellow that glowed even brighter as the fire took my house, my family.... my life.


Christopher Larabee, the well bred ex – Union officer, the good father, the peaceful rancher, he burned with it, in.... soul.

I can't explain how.... but as if by magic, like the mythical bird that can spring up again from its ashes, that man was eventually revived, yet, in a totally different form. Chris Larabee, the black – clad gunslinger arose like the Phoenix.

I had never planned on becoming a gunfighter. And in the strictest sense of the word, I'm not one now...... I'm a peacekeeper; I'm the law in Four Corners.

But when I take up stance in the street with the butt of my gun and its balanced weight in hand, I'm standing again with all my nightmares, by the barrel of that fire. I feel my body stiffen as the fingers of memory take a firm grip of my soul. Anger holds me, shaking my whole being, flaring up my chest. My heart beats faster, my pulse is racing I think for a brief moment I'm going to kill and I pull the trigger. It feels in an odd way almost natural. When my spurs clink on the wooden floor of a saloon every other noise ceases and a deadly silence spreads all over the room. Everyone turns frightened eyes at me. Well, to tell the truth it's not me they are looking at but at my gun. . I have no features, no body.... no soul. I'm nothing but the fastest draw in the territory. You know, my hand possesses a skill of its own. I say it without any pride or complacence for I take no pleasure in this. But it's not a matter of choice. Fate has much of a hand in this. One day I'll find on my way a man faster than me.... I don't care. I'm ready to tangle. The threats of dying don't bother me. Sometimes I feel like my whole life happened just to prepare me for that one last challenge. That's when you find out what kind of man you are. You know, Mary told me when we met she had found everything about the legend surrounding me as the notorious gunslinger Chris Larabee. I told her that she didn't know me for not a single line that had been written was about the man I really am. In the book of Life they gonna write down that Chris Larabee was a battling cuss who fought till the last. That's what they are gonna write

Now I'm staggering on my feet as I slowly register the pain. There is blood on the grass. Damn! I'm bleeding! One of the boy's friends must have taken a pot shot.

My head is reeling.... the blood.... the memories.... it's all too much.

Where am I now?

I'm far from town. Someone has dragged me under the trees.

I'm comfortable, rolled onto my back.

There's a fire burning, and someone has wrapped my wound in a makeshift bandage...

I elbow myself to a raised position, clenching my teeth against the stiffness and the pain.

My rescuer isn't here. I let my gaze wander around and at last I can make him out, on the nearest hill. There, against the pure darkening sky, is the lanky silhouette of a man in a buckskin coat.


Damn pigheaded tracker!

He has followed me!

Tell Tanner he can't do something and that's exactly what he wants to do.

I'll end up shooting him one of these days, but right now, it's such a relief to know that he is here.

I straighten myself and fumble in my pocket for cigars, draw them out and one is in my mouth before I can figure out how it got there. Ash flickers on my match, and smoke swirls around as I lay quietly on my bedroll watching my friend.

He is sitting cross-legged on a rock, stark still, looking at the distant profile of the mountains. And I remember another dusk, a few months ago at the Seminole village. He was in the same position. His gaze lost in the remoteness of the horizon. His mind clearly wasn't of that moment in time .I approached then, and a comfortable silence fell as we sat, facing each other, among the uncertain light of the swaying sun with the wind breathing through the still landscape.

Giving me that lopsided half grin of his, Vin started to speak in a soft, husky whisper. With lightness he didn't feel he told me about a little town, in Texas, Tascosa, about a man who had framed him for murder, and then, he ended up calling me friend for the very first time. I looked him straight in the eye. And it was as if I were looking at my own reflection coming up from the blue depth of those emotive, large pools. I saw in them the haunted, blazing gleam both of predator and prey and as a sudden I realized: that's me, right there. That boy is exactly what I feel like, on the inside. Same loneliness, same pride and the same sorrow. It was only a glimpse but I knew beyond a shadow of doubt, I had in front of me my brother in soul...

Lost in my reverie, I again close my weary eyes. When I open them again Vin is squatting at my side, his light brown hair shimmering gold in the firelight. He doesn't utter a sound. He knows I'm not too keen on talking tonight. He stares at me with pained apprehension then he leans on me and touches my forehead, his eyes stricken and sad. His hand usually so steady is trembling.

Damn him, and those eyes of his! So trusting, so unbearably innocent! Sometimes I can't look in them without feeling curiously disturbed and uncomfortable. For I know they look through me as if I were made of glass.

But without them I could have been lost. These ever seeing eyes have rescued me lots of times... ... not only on finding the right trail or hitting the mark... they saved me from Ella... when she came like a banshee to claim my body and soul... I, blinded by lust, was falling into her arms.

I look up at his face, so pale under the usual tan and his expression is so full of such a sincere and deep concern that I can't help but raise a hand in reassurance as a little smirk curves my lips...

Stretching his arm, he takes hold of my shoulder in a firm grip. He usually avoids physical contact but I must say that his hand is an amazing conductor of sensations. His silent, reassuring presence at my side is so brooding that a sense of calm washes over me and I smile to him. With a sigh of relief he flashes me back his boyish, full smile. Then he turns and with a slight nod gestures towards the plain.

In the light of the rising moon I just can make out the silhouettes of five men riding towards our camp.

They are all here, for me. Buck, my old friend, Nathan, the man I saved and who in return, has saved my life so many times, Ezra, the only gambler I know, with a hidden, soft soul, Josiah, the strange preacher, J.D, the kid.

My pards, my trail mates. We met by accident and willingly decided to stay together. The hardships of this life have united us as if we were one. Have you ever been in the West? I mean the real West, not the fairyland they describe in dime novels. But the wilderness where the sun parches your lips, the wind cuts your skin. . Where on your trail you can find no living soul for miles and the only sign of a human presence could be the remains of a covered wagon and the buzzard's stripped bones of its occupants scattered all around. It's a wild land, a dangerous land, haunted by eerie forces. There is no place so hushed and silent as the prairie for a man who rides with the only company of his past, of his ghosts.

All changed for me when I met those men. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by my good luck, first in finding them and then in finding such understanding in them. We share our food, our trails our actions and most of all we share our dream, the big dream to make this wonderful, untamed land a safer place to live in. Maybe we are only a bunch of damn fools, but it doesn't really matter...

I look up at the sky. And my face is now bathed in light from the full moon.

I can smell the sweet fragrance of wild flowers all around.

It's Sarah's scent.

They say that death ends life... but it doesn't end a relationship...

She is still here with me.

I guess she begged the Almighty to grant me the wonderful gift of such friends.... brothers

And with a smile I whisper, 'Thank -- you, my love for that!'

The End

Picture of Vin