On this hot, sultry summer day, Four Corners was quiet - too hot for any laborious activity. Chris Larabee and Buck Wilmington were out of town, escorting a prisoner, as requested by Judge Travis. They would be gone for several weeks, possibly a month. Josiah Sanchez and Nathan Jackson were gone for about a week or two to visit a doctor friend of Nathan's. The doctor requested Nathan's help with an epidemic he was trying to treat in a nearby town. He also asked Nathan to bring a friend to help out. This left Ezra Standish, Vin Tanner and JD Dunne to keep an eye on things in Four Corners. On this particular day, Vin was relaxing on the front porch of the sheriff's office, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere. Meanwhile, inside the sheriff's office, JD and Ezra played a friendly hand of cards. Strolling up the main thoroughfare was Casey Wells.
"Hi, Vin," Casey greeted.
"Ma'am," Vin acknowledged as he tipped his hat.
"JD around?" she inquired, making her way up the stairs.
"Yes, Ma'am," he answered. "He's inside," he stated as he was opening the door.
"Hi, JD. Ezra," Casey greeted the two card players.
"Hi, Casey," greeted JD as he removed his hat and stumbled a little to greet his lady love.
"Ma'am," drawled Ezra, still dealing cards to JD and himself.
"I hate to interrupt and all..." she began.
"Then don't," Ezra quickly responded.
"...but Aunt Nettie and I were wondering if you'd have supper with us?" Casey continued to JD, ignoring Ezra's remark.
"Sure...well..." JD began, but then hesitated, "if it's alright with you guys?"
"G'ahead, kid," Vin assured him. "We can handle this," he continued as he pointed out the door to the quiet town.
"And with whom am I to pass the time?" Ezra questioned, obviously irritated at Vin's liberty to dismiss JD without consulting him.
Ezra continued to shuffle the cards in his hands.
"I guess you'll have to make do with my comp'ny!" Vin grinned back at Ezra.
With that, JD and Casey left the sheriff's office; Vin followed them out. The couple mounted their horses and made for Nettie Wells' place. Vin returned to his relaxed state on the front porch, while Ezra, feeling lonely now by himself inside, decided to join him.
"If you are to be my company, why do you leave me to sit by myself?" Ezra queried.
"I figgered by watcha said you wanted it that way," Vin answered without even glancing in Ezra's direction.
Mere acquaintances, Vin and Ezra were more alike then they both knew. Both men secretive of their pasts. One who preferred loneliness to the evils of man, and one who feared the loneliness of the company he keeps. Neither spoke for some time. Time passed. Ezra struggled to find words this man, this uncivilized, yet somehow civilized ex-bounty hunter, might be able to share with him. As he cautiously studied Vin, he noticed the deepness of his blue eyes. He noticed as Vin smiled and tipped his hat at the passing ladies - how his eyes did not smile with his lips. He realized something about this seemingly strong, silent man: while apparently content, maybe even happy, on the outside, he was a train wreck of emotions inside. His eyes - a window to his soul, a tormented soul. It was all Ezra could do to keep from asking the, now as he thought, troubled man of his past. Besides, he knew Vin would never indulge him anyway. So, they sat...silent...both men deep in thought.
With dusk, arrived an army regiment of no more than a dozen men. The cavalry men went directly to Vin and Ezra. They inquired as to where they could get some good food, a bath and a woman, in that order. Ezra quickly pointed to The Standish Tavern for the men's eating pleasures. Vin informed them of the hotel across the way from the tavern. The men thanked Vin and Ezra; then, turned their horses towards the tavern.
A cool breeze was beginning to blow in from the West taking the heat of the day out of the town. Folks began to come out for a little music, song and dance.
None of the cavalry men noticed their leader, an officer of colonel's rank, ride into town. He was a hard man. His face chiseled by every battle he fought. His eyes and hair were of the same ashen gray. His moustache was a bit bushy, perhaps in need of a trim, on his upper lip, of which there was nearly none.
Ezra, by now, had gone down to the tavern to join his customers, leaving his silent friend the way he wished to be - alone.
The colonel rode past The Standish Tavern where he saw glimpses of his men enjoying the festivities of whiskey and women...and gambling. He continued to ride until he came to the sheriff's office. He abruptly stopped when he saw the figure of a man sitting on the porch.
In a quiet voice, the man - Vin - asked, "Su'um I can do for you, mister?"
"The name's Dunn, Colonel Jonathan Dunn. Me and my men'll be spendin' a few days amongst y'all," the colonel answered. With that, Colonel Dunn turned his horse and headed for the hotel.
Morning came and it started to be another exceedingly hot day. Vin returned to his position on the front porch of the sheriff's office. He looked around town and realized there was something dreadful about this day, but he couldn't place it. He thought about the soldiers that came in the night before. Could it be them? What are they up to? Why are they here? He thought to himself, as he intently watched them go to and fro about the town.
Ezra appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, in front of Vin saying something, but Vin's preoccupation kept him from hearing until Ezra nearly bellowed, "VIN!"
Vin quickly snapped back to the moment and the man standing before him, "What!? You don't have to shout; I'm not deaf!"
"I said, 'Good morning'," Ezra repeated in a more hospitable tone.
"Oh, g'mornin', Ezra," Vin replied, a little more pleasant.
"What, may I ask, has captivated your thoughts and attention?" Ezra asked, as he moved a chair to sit beside Vin.
"Su'um ain't right," he answered staring into the street.
Ezra quickly glanced about the town and responded, "Whatever do you mean?"
"Do you know why the soldiers are here?" Vin asked ignoring Ezra's question.
"No. No, can't say that I do," he replied as he now glanced about the town focusing only on the soldiers.
Vin cautiously watched the soldiers as he spoke to Ezra, "This ain't gonna be a quiet day...this ain't gonna be a good day at all."
Ezra swallowed hard at the observation. He knew when Vin got a feeling about something he was rarely wrong.
No sooner had Ezra and Vin finished their conversation than Colonel Dunn and his soldiers stood before the two men.
"Good day, Sirs," the colonel greeted.
"Sir," Ezra responded.
"Colonel," Vin, too, responded.
Turning to Vin, the colonel stated, "I do believe I introduced myself last night, but for your company's benefit, I will again. My name is Colonel Jonathan Dunn. These are my men. May I ask who you both are and where the sheriff is, as I see neither of you are wearing a badge?"
Ezra went first, standing to greet the colonel with a handshake he hoped would tell him more of this man, "Ezra Standish, and there is no sheriff. We represent the law in this community."
"Vin Tanner," Vin replied without budging from his seat or offering his hand in friendship, as he was still quite leery of the soldiers that had come to pay a visit.
Colonel Dunn motioned with his eyes to several of his men as soon as Vin spoke his name, "Vin Tanner, eh? Well, Mr. Tanner, ain't you the lucky fella? You are just the man we were looking for." Turning to Ezra, he questioned, "No sheriff, huh? This'll be easier than I thought!"
The soldiers followed the silent command of their leader and encircled the con man and tracker.
The colonel drew his gun, "Mr. Tanner. Mr. Standish. Step inside - NOW - and hand your weapons to the sergeants at the door before you enter."
Vin and Ezra had nothing they could do but comply.
From afar, Mary Travis attempted to see what the commotion was at the jailhouse, but to no avail. She nervously kept an eye on the sheriff's office from the newspaper office as she began her day of going over stories for the newspaper.
Colonel Dunn instructed his men to bind Ezra's hands tightly behind him and place him in one of the jail cells. The soldiers complied. With Ezra out of the way, the colonel was at liberty to do as he chose with Vin. Colonel Dunn motioned to two sergeants and instructed them to hold Vin. The men each took one of Vin's arms in hand and restrained him as the colonel turned to lock the door of the sheriff's office.
"I take it I'm in serious trouble?" Vin questioned.
Colonel Dunn didn't answer, but merely strolled back across the floor and placed a strong-armed fist in Vin's gut. As Vin doubled over, with obvious pain in his face, the colonel finally responded to Vin's question.
"You are in the worst trouble you could possible be in, you filthy mixed breed Bastard!" The tone in his voice spoke the utter hatred for the ex-bounty hunter's kind.
Ezra knew what "mixed breed" meant, but he couldn't figure out why the colonel referred to Vin this way. As far as he knew, Vin was of the same "breed" as they. Could Vin be hiding such a secret?
"What're you talkin' about?" Vin questioned his attacker in a guttural, painful tone.
"You know damn well what I'm talkin' about!" The colonel snapped.
"Major!" Colonel Dunn demanded, "Give your men some practice at ass-whoopin', and then, lock this mixed breed bastard up with his cohort."
"Yessir," the major promptly responded.
The soldiers then took turns at restraining Vin and beating him. When he fell to the floor, no longer capable of standing, they began to kick at him. All the while, Ezra sat helpless in his cell.
Twenty minutes later, Vin was badly beaten, broken, bloody and unconscious. The soldiers dragged his limp body to the cell where Ezra sat watching sadly the torturous treatment bestowed upon his friend. Ezra quickly went to Vin's side; yet, he was helpless, as his hands were still bound.
"Vin!" Ezra whispered. "Vin, wake up, Vin!" he continued over and over trying to arouse his unconscious friend.
His pleas went unheard by Vin.
"Shut up in there!" the major hollered from the main office where he sat relaxed at the desk.
Colonel Dunn, meanwhile, decided it was time to inform Four Corners of the treacherous men they now had in custody. He sent some of the soldiers to call a town meeting, which was to gather just outside the sheriff's office.
"Ladies. Gentlemen. I am Colonel Dunn of the US Calvary. I and my men have taken over protection of this town, as we have relieved Mr. Standish and Mr. Tanner of this task," the colonel spoke to the townspeople.
A gasp could be heard from the crowd.
He continued, "You may or may not be aware the Mr. Tanner is a mixed breed Comanche bastard, capable of almost any dreadful behavior. Mr. Standish seems to be an Indian-loving sympathizer, as he is standing by his savage friend."
Mary stood among the crowd wondering how Vin and Ezra could possibly get out of this. She knew this man must be lying about Vin, but what if he wasn't? How would the townspeople react to this news? As many thoughts ran through her head, Casey and JD, both of whom had just arrived back in town, pushed their way through the crowd to her. The three stared at one another - eyes full of questions.
"Do you know anything about this, JD?" Mary asked.
"No, Vin's never said anything to me nor has anyone else, " JD stated, "but that colonel is my uncle," he continued.
"Your uncle!?" Casey gasped."He sounds like a hateful person!"
"You'll have to explain your relationship to him later, JD," Mary stated as she turned back to the man speaking to the crowd.
"Colonel, how can you make such an accusation toward this man, who has protected this town with his life numerous times, and expect us to believe you?" Mary questioned the colonel.
"Ma'am," he began, "I do not expect all of you to believe me, but I've known Vin Tanner a lot longer than all of you have. I don't know what he's pulled over your eyes; maybe his friend has conned all y'all into believing what he wants you to believe. I can tell you, I know first hand of his family's blood."
"How; then, tell us!" aman yelled out from the crowd.
"Because, my friends, I was seduced by his mother - a half-breed Comanche. Vin Tanner is my son by this half-breed whore. Therefore, I know what he is capable of."
Another gasp by the townspeople could be heard throughout the town.
As the colonel dismissed the crowd, Mary asked JD to get as much information as he could get out of his uncle. She again reminded him that at some point, more than likely after Vin and Ezra were free, he was going to have to explain his relationship to the colonel. JD nodded in agreement. JD went to the sheriff's office and Mary and Casey went to the telegraph office to wire Mary's father-in-law, Judge Travis.
JD approached the sheriff's office.
"Uncle Jonathan?" he questioned.
Colonel Dunn spun on his heels to meet face-to-face with his brother's son.
"JD! How are ya?" he asked.
"Awright, I guess," JD responded. "What's this about Vin being your son and Comanche?"
"Have a seat, boy, " Colonel Dunn said as he motioned to a chair, once occupied by Ezra, on the porch.
"I'm sorry to inform you that this terrible savage is none other than your cousin," Colonel Dunn informed.
"Vin's a good person, Uncle Jonathan. I've known him for a while now. He'd never hurt anyone, intentionally," JD protested.
"Well, boy, as I said before, he has tricked this entire town - you included," he lectured. "He is wanted by the US cavalry for crimes committed against white settlers."
JD left to meet up with Mary and Casey. They met at the newspaper office.
"Did you get through, Mary?"
"Yes, JD, the judge is on his way."
"Good; I'm afraid for Vin and Ezra," JD nervously stated.
"Did you find anything out?" Casey asked.
"Naw, not really. He just apologized for Vin being my cousin. He also said he was wanted for crimes against white settlers," JD answered with disgust.
Back at the jail, the colonel kept watch on the town from the front porch. The major was the only one standing guard inside. The remaining soldiers were patrolling the town.
Vin had awakened, but was in a great deal of pain. Ezra managed to free his hands but not without tearing the flesh on his wrists. He tore pieces of his shirt to wrap his painful wrists. He then began to tend to Vin.
The major, sitting at the desk, began to get drowsy. A sergeant was sent to relieve him.
Ezra mapped out a plan of escape in his mind. He whispered his plans to Vin, who was ready for anything that would free them of the situation they were facing. They only needed JD to pass the jail in order for the escape to work. Ezra kept watch for JD through the cell window, which faced an alleyway, as Vin rested.
"Psssssst," Ezra hissed through the window.
JD looked suspiciously down the alley only to see Ezra waiving his hand at him, frantically. JD continued on his way non-chalant-like. He turned down an alley a couple blocks down and double-backed to the jail.
"Ezra!" JD whispered.
Ezra peeked through the bars in the window, "What, dear boy, took you so long? Do you wish us to grow old and meet our demise in this cell?"
"I couldn't turn down that alleyway, as my Uncle Jonathan sits on the front porch. He would've noticed," JD explained hurriedly.
"Your uncle!? Never mind! Get us our horses. Bring them around to the back exit. Try not to alarm the soldiers, and damn-it, try not to get caught!" Ezra requested in a quiet, yet firm, demanding voice.
"I'll have'em there as soon as I can. I'll come back here to let you know when they're there," JD whispered back. He, then, turned and left the way he came.
JD gathered the horses and left them by the back door per Ezra's instructions.
"Ezra!" he called softly, as he followed through with his promise.
"Yes, Mr. Dunne?" Ezra answered.
"The horses are ready. Good Luck!" He whispered through the bars to his two friends.
"Thanks, JD," Ezra responded gratuitously.
"How's Vin?" JD inquired.
"He'll survive if I can get him out of this Hell!" Ezra snapped with anger towards his situation, not at JD.
"I'll be going then," JD finished as he left down the alley.
"Thanks, again, friend," Ezra whispered as he slouched back on the floor beside Vin.
"You awake, Mr. Tanner?" Ezra nudged.
"Yeah...yeah, I'm awake." Vin said quietly.
"It's time, my friend. Are you ready?"
"Yeah, sure. Just help me up," Vin responded in a much slowed tone, breathing heavily between most words.
Ezra helped Vin to his feet and to the cell door.
"Pssssssst," Ezra hissed to the sergeant sitting guard at the desk out in the office.
What d'ya need?" the sergeant questioned, a bit perturbed at the interruption.
"My friend here needs to relieve himself of the liquor he consumed earlier this day," Ezra conned skillfully.
"Awright, lemme get the key," the sergeant answered as he retrieved the key from its position on the wall beside the desk.
Just as the sergeant unlocked the cell door, Ezra slammed the man's head into the bars of the door, rendering him unconscious. Ezra helped Vin over the sergeant's body and to the back exit. He opened the door and helped Vin onto his horse. The colonel, hearing the ruckus, started through the jail, catching a glimpse of Ezra mounting his steed. As the colonel reached the back door, he could only watch as Ezra led his and Vin's horses out of town. The colonel rallied his men together to go after the pair. They followed until dusk began to fall. The colonel figured they would head back to town to regroup and make plans to recapture their prisoners.
"We'll get an early start in the morning. They can't get too far with Tanner's condition," stated Colonel Dunn.
Vin was becoming very weary after riding for several hours into the night. Ezra grabbed the reins of Vin's horse and pulled him to a halt.
"Mr. Tanner, I do believe we need to get some rest if we intend to outrun the colonel and his men. We shall never do ourselves any good if we keep at this pace."
"Sounds like a good idea to me," Vin agreed.
They stopped their horses by a creek and set up camp for the night. Ezra did his best at trying to round up something for supper. After they ate, they settled in to get some much-needed rest. Ezra placed himself as close to Vin as possible to monitor his condition.
"Vin, how are your injuries fairing after that ride?"
"Painful," Vin moaned, breathing heavily.
"I'm sorry; I'm not Nathan. I have no idea how to even begin to heal your wounds," Ezra stated apologetically.
"It's ok; you've done more than enough already."
"We should leave at daybreak," Ezra thought out loud.
"No, Ezra," Vin gasped. "We should leave a few hours before daybreak."
"Why do you suppose this?" Ezra inquired.
"'Cuz if we don't, they'll leave at daybreak and catch up to us. We can't travel fast 'cuz of me. If you'd like to go on without me, you can. You need to get away, too, 'cuz you helped me escape. You're no better'n me now, in their eyes. I don't wanna slow you down," Vin explained.
"Mr. Tanner, if you presume I aided in your escape only to abandon you here to await your impending demise, you are a lot more delirious than I gave you credit!" Ezra snapped insulted at the thought he could be so insensitive, heartless and selfish.
"Ezra..." Vin began, but had to pause to gasp when a sharp thrust of pain shot through his side, "Ezra, I thank you for your help. I just thought..."
"Vin Tanner, we are in this dilemma together! I intend to see you though this matter and right this wrong against you. Or at least I will die trying," Ezra interrupted.
Vin smiled through the pain, "Thanks, friend."
Ezra placed Vin's head on his shoulder, "Get some rest. We have an early start and a long journey ahead of us."
Both Ezra and Vin dozed off shortly after their conversation.
About two hours before dawn, Ezra awoke, cleaned the campsite and readied the horses.
Ezra nudged Vin, "Vin....Vin....Vin....time for us to ride."
"OK," Vin acknowledged, rather sleepily.
Ezra helped Vin mount his horse.
"Ezra, get a branch or something and hide our tracks," Vin ordered.
Ezra did as he was told.
"We need to ride in the creek for a while," Vin stated.
"Do you think that will suffice to distract them from our trail?" Ezra asked.
"With any luck," Vin responded.
After riding for about an hour, Ezra inquired, "Have you given consideration as to where our final destination will be?"
Vin had no answer. The two rode for several hours considering their options as they rode, silently. The heat of the new day was upon them and beginning to take its toll on the pair, as they began to travel slower. Ezra removed his coat, and the two had finished three of the four canteens they had with them. As they searched for another water hole, they took turns sipping water from the last canteen. Water was scarce, and the sun was blistering hot. The heat was already playing tricks on their eyes, forming realistic images of water holes in the horizon only to be later determined as ghosts..."Another damn mirage!" Ezra would mutter angrily, as well as disheartened.
Finally, Vin answered Ezra's question of earlier that day, I dunno where we can go, Ezra."
Ezra looked at his friend; he saw the worry on his face, "Don't fret, Vin, we will locate someplace to rest and for you to get well."
They traveled for some time before leaving the treacherous desert and reaching the foothills. Stopping only momentarily along the way to check for water and refill the canteens. Vin was growing weaker, but he pushed on. Ezra, too, was growing weak from the onset of, now, dehydration. His wrists still ached from the tearing of flesh he endured during their escape. He attempted to clean them and their bandages with the water they were able to collect, but they still were very sore. Several hours into the foothills, the twosome came upon a stream of the clearest of waters. Ezra dismounted and helped Vin from his steed. They held each other upright as they removed their sweaty boots and began to wade into the crystal waters. The coolness almost made them both pass out from heat exhaustion. While relaxing by the stream, Ezra spied a cavernous cave hidden by large shade trees; oaks he thought. He glanced over at Vin resting against a rock. He thought, if he could only get Vin to stay there; he could get help. He remembered, if he was correct as to their current location, this area to be near where Nathan's friend, Dr. Shannon, lived.
"Mr. Tanner, " Ezra began. "There's a cave...there," he said pointing in the direction of the Earth's opening behind the trees, "We should make use of it."
"That's fine," Vin agreed; much to Ezra's surprise, Vin was in no mood to argue with anybody.
Ezra and Vin took their horses by the reins and began to walk towards the cave. They stopped for a moment to rest; then, they decided it'd be easier on horseback and mounted. Now, they reached the cave in no time. Ezra unloaded the horses as Vin leaned against a wall deep within the cavernous hillside.
"Vin," Ezra came to his friend's side, "I believe we are near Nathan's doctor friend, Dr. Shannon."
"So," Vin moaned.
"So...if I leave you with food and water, I can venture out a little at a time to try to find them. I journeyed with Nathan twice to pay a visit to Dr. Shannon. I believe I may find him on my own...or possibly even meet up with Mr. Jackson and Mr. Sanchez, themselves. What do you think?" The gambler asked.
"Sounds good, g'ahead. I ain't gonna be of any use to you if we keep travellin' this way," Vin uttered as he tried to swallow through the pain he endured in his sides after their trek from the creek to the cave.
"Are you certain it is OK?" Ezra asked, a bit taken back by Vin's passiveness.
"Yea, g'ahead, while there's still light," Vin assured.
Ezra gathered a few things he might need and took one of the canteens.
"You sure you'll be OK?" Again, questioned Ezra.
I'll be aw'ight, Ezra; now go!" Vin answered, rather abruptly.
Ezra led his horse outside, stopping at the entrance to glance back at his friend. Vin smiled back and waved him off. Ezra, too, smiled; then, he headed off. While riding, Ezra thought of his friend. The newfound friendship they seem to have found. The trust Vin Tanner was putting in him. The depth of his own loyalty to a man he didn't think he knew, let alone had even the slightest bond with - common or otherwise. His thoughts sifted through the events over the last several days - the whole episode in Four Corners and the trials of their journey since they left. A smile spread across his face when he thought of how close he and Vin seem to become. But, worry crossed his brow, extinguishing the broad grin from his pale lips as his thoughts turned to his friend's worsening condition.
He thought to himself, "How could I leave him when he needed me? No, Ezra, you had to go to find help. There was nothing more you could do. A friend in deed! Abandon him - that is what I have done. Left him to perish out here in this wilderness...alone."
Just then, as Ezra was about to turn his horse around in utter disgust of himself, his eyes laid upon two horsemen. Could it be? One appeared to be white; the other - a Negro. Ezra could barely refrain from shouting for joy. His thoughts were running rampant in his head. What if it's the cavalry...another mirage...or real ghosts? He had to find out, if not for himself, for Vin. He owed him that much, considering he so cruelly abandoned him in a cave with no more protection than his own gun. As Ezra approached the men, cautiously, they recognized him. They spurred their horses toward the lone rider.
"Ezra!" Josiah hollered.
"Josiah! Nathan! Am I pleased to see the two of you!" Ezra excitedly blurted as they all approached one another.
"You look terrible, Ezra," Nathan observed.
"Nathan, we need your help!" Ezra stated still trying to catch his breath.
"Slow down, boy. You ain't makin' no sense. Who's we? You're alone," Josiah attempted to calm Ezra.
"Vin and I. Vin's holed up in a cave. I didn't want to leave him, but we needed help. He's injured and needs medical attention," Ezra defensively informed.
"Aw'ight, calm down; you did whatcha had to. Now let's get back to Vin and see if we can get him well." Nathan tried to assure Ezra he didn't do anything wrong by leaving Vin to go for help.
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