A Diamond in the Rough
Galloping through this isolated path she casually rests herself upon
her cream colored stallion. The meandering hills and landscape mesmerizes
her eyes and mind. She looks beyond the hills then suddenly feels a
jerk, a sense of falling and a crash. She sees a smear of the sky then
a huge animal on top of her, cutting the sun's rays. A growl.
"You okay Miss?" asks a man kneeling beside her. She adjusts her
eyes on him and notices the half-shaven, dark eyed, middle-aged man who
has just saved her life. "I'm fine thank you," she assures him getting
up. He helps her by holding her waist and placing one hand on her back.
She smiles wiping the dust off her and sees the bear on the ground. "He
was just a baby. He probably was as startled and scared as you were,"
the man tells her taking out his handkerchief and wiping his face. "And
hungry too," she says walking toward her horse which has gotten caught
in the bushes. She picks some of her things that fell off along the
way and places them up back on her horse then walks toward the man's
wagon. "We weren't formally introduced. My name is Susan Bloom.. "Harry
"Thank you for saving my life..
"All in a day's work ma'am." He tips his hat and starts.
Bang! Bang! Bang! The shots broke the silence of the trail like thunder.
Susan hurries to see where she heard the shots and comes to a clearing.
She sees men gathered around a wagon and a man on the ground. The men
are kicking and yelling at the down man. Only one is on a horse and
he is the one from where the shots rang out. Susan gathers herself and
takes out her gun.
She rides up to the group of men and sees that the down man is the
same one who saved her life before. She fires once getting their attention
and holds up her gun to the man who is on the horse. The man holds his
own on her as she draws near.
"I suggest you get away from that man," Susan demands him.
"I suggest you move on..
"I suggest YOU move on and leave him alone," she says cocking the
hammer of the gun.
"And what business do you have for this old man?.
"He saved my life..
"And now you've saved his," he says and pauses looking at her straight
in the eye.
Turning his solid head, he commands to his men "Come on, let's go..
"But.." one of the men rebukes.
"Let's go. We're done here." They ride off and Susan gets down to
help Sharpe up.
"Roles have reversed a little, huh." Sharpe points smiling.
"It seems that way..
"They gone and took my wagon, damn."
"I guess that's what they came after you for..
"You could say that. But I'm not one to give in without a fight.
We better get going. I don't want to spent another minute here," Sharpe
tells her as he heads weakly to her horse. Just then a shot is fired
and Sharpe is knocked to the ground. Susan runs to his aid and blood
emerges from his chest. She presses on it and holds her gun scanning
left to right. She signals for her horse to come near.
Another shot is fired. Harry Sharpe grabs her hand and demands "No.
Leave me. There's nothing you can do. Go, get out of here."
Her eyes are wild and confused.
A third shot is fired that careens her right shoulder.
"Go!" he pleads as replaces a piece of rock in her hand. "That's
what they were after."
She looks back at him and he is gone. She gets on her horse and rides
"Enough," orders the boss. "The man's dead."
"What about the girl?"
"Let's go on with the plan. We can't waste our time on some cowgirl..
Forging a bond between the green earth and herself she carefully eases
off her grasp of the horse and her gun. She is weary, tired, and needs
some rest. She places her gun back and goes off her stallion. She had
seen a creek near and decided to stop to rest there with her horse.
She guides her horse down a meager hill to the edge of the creek. She
takes a look at the rock still clutched in her hand.
*What does this piece of rock mean?* thought Susan. *After all, it
looked like they were just after his wagon.* Susan shook her head. *Oh
yeah like I'm an expert on looks or how things appear. I'm not exactly
a lady: going off most my life, running and hurling from one disaster
to another.* She looks back at the piece of rock in her hand. *Then
again why did they kill him? He knew something he shouldn't have or
was a part of it which I truly doubt.* Her eyes slowly enclosed her and
"What's a prisoner's favorite punctuation mark?" JD is livelying
his friends up with jokes he's made up which at the moment is not very
"The period, because it means the end of his sentence," JD announces.
His six friends utter something and each goes away tending to their
things or looking for some.
"Oh come on guys. Vin, you thought that was funny right?"
Vin Tanner nods and goes out the swinging doors.
"Buck come on." JD looks to him for approval.
"Kid, don't quit your day job," Buck tells his friend wrapping his
arm around him.
As she observes her surroundings, she wonders if this town would take
kindly to strangers. Strangers like herself anyway. She stops in front
of the general store and climbs off her horse. She unhooks her little
knapsack and bag placing them on her shoulder. She unbelts her saddle
and lays it on the wooden rail. Her gaze transfixed itself on a tiny
hole at the edge of the saddle. Susan turns back to her stallion and
sees the spot. A bullet hole. The blood was smeared probably from the
saddle and now is dripping out. Susan quickly grabs a piece of cloth
and places it on her horse's side.
"Damn it, Cadbury, why didn't you tell me?" she yells rubbing her
horse. "I could have walked here instead of riding on you." The blood
is seeping through the cloth and she has to find something to cover it.
She bends down and looks through her bag. Nothing. She looks up. The
store. She jumps over the wooden rail onto the boardwalk and goes inside.
Walking across the street of this dusty town, Vin came to the water
bucket. He needed some fresh water for himself in his wagon for he was
running out. He picks up the bucket and proceeds to take up some water
from the well. As he bends down and turns his head he sees a blood soaked
cloth on the ground beside a horse. He drops the bucket and walks over
to the horse. He walks around and sees him bleeding on his side. He
takes out his bandanna and places it on the horse's side. The horse
moved a little unfamiliar to this person beside him.
"Hey buddy. You're going to be all right." Vin Tanner wonders what
had happened to this beautiful horse and who owned him. "Where's your
owner pal?" He pats and rubs the horse's mane. He sees plates, brushes,
clothes and other bear necessities scattered on the ground including
a knapsack. *Must have left in a hurry,* he thinks. He looks back at
the horse and rubs him.
Susan comes out of the store carrying some first aid instruments and
many bandages. She sees a tall young man with a slouch hat standing
next to her horse and was about to call to him to get away but notices
him talking and tending to her horse as well as he could. Cadbury isn't
"Excuse me Sir," says Susan. Vin Tanner looks at a figure carrying
bandages dressed in a chestnut overcoat, leather boots, and a tan cowboy
"That's my horse," she continues.
"Ma'am." Vin nods his head to the young lady. "He's hurt."
"Yes, I know," Susan says as she goes under the wooden rail to the
side of her horse.
"Do you know of anyone who can fix him?"
Vin looks at the lady and says "Yeah, there's an animal doctor at
Susan looks back at the first aid things she has just bought. "I
guess I won't be needing all of these." She puts them in her bag. "Where
are the stables?"
Vin nods in the direction. "I'll take you there, it's not that far."
"All right," agrees Susan as she gathers her things. She unwraps
the reins and gets Cadbury to turn. "Good boy." She rubs his forehead.
Vin watches and begins to walk beside the horse keeping pressure on the
"What's his name?"
"Cadbury," she tells him.
"And yours?" asks Vin.
"Oh!" She smiles not realizing that she didn't tell him. "It's Susan
"Vin Tanner." He tips his hat.
"Nice to meet you. And thank you. Cadbury doesn't let just anyone
touch him." She rubs him again. "I guess he likes you."
"He's a beautiful horse."
"Yeah, I've had him for along time. We've been through a lot."
They come to the front of the stables and stop.
"Here," Vin Tanner gives her his bandanna. "I'm going to go see if
he's in." Vin goes in and then comes out. "He's in. Bring Cadbury
"He's going to have to stay the night." Justice Pine told Susan.
They had spent the day cleaning and repairing Cadbury's wound including
taking the bullet out. It was growing dark when Justice Pine told her
"Thank you. We appreciate it," she tells the doctor caressing her
horse. They lead Cadbury to the stables and place him in a corner.
Vin Tanner talks to the doctor and walks back to Susan. Susan was surprised
Vin had stayed during the whole process and offered his services.
He knew exactly how to handle Cadbury and was so gentle. She had
never seen anyone care so much about animals and was glad he had showed
up when he did.
Vin Tanner kept himself busy during the whole operation deciding it
best to help the doctor out and this lady. Besides, he needed a change
in pace and sights. He slows his steps and stops in a leaning position.
"He should be better within a couple of days."
"That's fine. We're not in a hurry to go anywhere." Susan inspects
"You got anywhere to stay?" asks Vin caringly.
"I'm staying right here."
"You don't want to go to a hotel."
"No, thanks. I'd rather stay here with Cadbury for tonight. I have
everything I need." Susan pulls out her knapsack.
"Well, Miss, sleep tight."
"Thank you Mr. Tanner. You've been very helpful. Good night." Susan
watches him stride out of the stables and lies down looking at Cadbury.
"Well, buddy, he was awfully nice don't you think? Let's hope the
rest of this town is like that."
Strolling through the streets, Susan is once again observing the town.
Not finding anything peculiar it seemed like a descent place. She sees
a fruit stand and decides to buy one. She flips through her pockets
and came across the rock. It had bugged her that she didn't understand
what this rock meant. *What am I supposed to do with it?* It's no gem
or didn't appear to have any value.
Sounds of gunshots broke her train of concentration. People start
to run and causes Susan to drop the rock. She's now in the crossfire.
Some men were trying to rob the bank and it seemed they were running
towards her. She soon sees other men moving in and surrounding her.
One of them was the man who helped her with her horse, Cadbury. She
then sees a young kid in a bowler hat along with an older man with a
mustache. Susan thinks she saw some coming from the church and a clinic.
Her gaze finds that of a man in a black coat yelling to the people then
suddenly, Susan felt an object strike the back of her head and she falls
to the ground. She felt herself get pulled up half way in a kneeling
position. Then a deathlike silence. The bank robber has a gun pointed
to her head.
"Don't try anything, Larabee. Or she's a goner."
"You've done enough. Let her go." A stern voice demanded.
Susan tilted her head to glaze at the solitary man blocking the bank
robber's escape. The intense, strong-willed, look in the eyes of the
black attired man honed Susan's instincts that he meant business. Noticing
movement off to the side she sees the fancy dressed gentleman from earlier,
coming around the back side of the building. One in front, another coming
from behind, Susan knew she was in a bad situation and didn't want to
be caught in the middle.
"That's no way to treat a Lady," Ezra says formally aiming his derringer
at the bank robber, which distracts his attention away from Susan for
a moment letting her slowly reach in her gun belt to pull out her peacemaker.
"I mean it, the girl's a goner," the man declares grabbing her soft
wavy brown hair, pulling her head back roughly against his shoulder.
"Man, did you pick the wrong girl," Susan tells him. He looks down
at her and sees a gun aimed at his crotch. "Which is more precious,
the money or your balls?" Her fingers cock the hammer. His eyes widen
and he loosens his grip of his gun. Susan sees her chance.
She grabs his arm while she slides one leg underneath causing him
to fall to his side. She gets up still holding his arm and he screams
in pain. She takes hold of his gun and is now in back of him in the
same position she was-kneeling.
JD's mouth is wide open amazed at what just happened. "Did you see
"Yeah. That I did. Well, can't leave her standing there forever."
Buck is amazed himself as he's walking over to her.
"Now that's a trick I've never seen before," Ezra tells her standing
next to her on the boardwalk. Chris Larabee walks to her.
"I won't be needing this." Susan gives him the man's gun.
"Thank you Miss."
"It's Susan. Susan Bloom."
Chris begins to ask her something but is cut short by Buck.
"May I say that was a sight. You're also much more captivating up
close. Perhaps you can show me a few of those maneuvers?" Buck charmingly
smiles unable to control himself.
"It looks like you've captured more than just Mr. Thomas." Chris
looks at Buck disapprovingly. He understands Buck's genuine feelings
about ladies and he has come to expect it but, Buck can also overstate
his intentions. Chris looks at Thomas and lifts him up.
"I didn't have to do anything." Chris looks back at Susan. Susan
looks at Thomas and moves closer to him. She points the gun again and
guides it up to his face. She pulls the trigger and click. Thomas jumps.
Nothing. She brings the barrel up over her shoulder.
"I knew I had to buy something." Susan smiles, winks, and walks away.
Collecting notes for her article in the Clarion newspaper, Mary Travis
finds her way in the saloon. Searching she finds the lawmen at a table
and proceeds to them.
"Hello boys. I was hoping you would help me with my article," Mary
greets the gentlemen.
"What can we do for you, Mary?" Chris asks the lovely blonde.
"I'm doing an article on the bank robbery from this morning. I need
to know more about the lady bounty hunter who captured Jay Thomas," informs
Vin makes a sharp glance around the table and puts down his glass.
"What's there to know?" asks Chris a bit uneasy with Mary writing
about this person especially since Mary could stretch things somewhat
like the way he experienced when he first came into town.
"Well, can you tell me what her name is?"
"Ah well, I know that one." Buck jumps at the opportunity. It's
not surprising that he would know, it's basically his job to get familiar
with all the new ladies. "It's Susan Bloom. Pretty name for a feisty
"Is she a real bounty hunter like Vin before, Mrs. Travis?" asks JD
to Mary inquisitively.
"I don't think so but, ever since this morning people have been questioning
what she does. Some even think she's after Mr. Tanner being that he's
got a bounty on his head." Once Mary said that everyone looked at Vin.
"But," Mary continues "if I can find her maybe she'll clear some things
"Maybe she doesn't want to be found," Josiah speaks up.
"She can't stay hidden forever, Mr. Sanchez."
"Mary you're not going to put false reports on your paper. It's not
right," Nathan tells Mary.
"Of course not. I only write the truth and always will."
"I can tell you one truth. Jay Thomas is mighty glad that gun wasn't
loaded." Laughter proceeds from JD's remark.
"Amen to that."
Resting against a pole, Susan hears some commotion from the townspeople
as they pass by.
*Bounty Hunter. Me? I wish.* She looks at the ground and there's
broken pieces of an object scattered. It's her rock she realizes.
Something else catches her eye. She bends down to collect the glittering,
shining crystal. A diamond. It was inside the rock.
*So that's what he meant,* she realizes. *They were after diamonds.*
"More re whiskey Senorita?" Inez pours a fresh bottle into Susan's
"Is the bar always this noisy?" Susan asks.
"Only at night Senorita." Inez smiles at the newcomer.
"Thank you." Susan picks up her glass and takes a sip. She closes
her eyes just for a moment to let everything sink in. The clanging of
glasses, the banging of chairs, the laughter, and the talking. It's
been along time since she's heard this much noise. She often dreamed
that life would be this lively and exciting. Probably full of hope and
miracles. But that's not how life works. She knew that because besides
all the laughter and the joyous sound there were loathsome and lonely
She looks back down at her glass and sees the diamond next to it.
It reflects the candlelit lamps circulated in the room. *He said this
is what they were after. This is what they killed for, not for the wagon.
But, this is only one. There has got to be more but where? Maybe those
men thought the diamonds were in the wagon. They are probably long gone
with them anyway. I don't see how I could do anything.* Turning her
head she takes another drink. Her eyes meet up with a man. A man who
was observing her and wanting to know what she was all about but, who
was he to judge a person. She gradually sets down her glass and looks
away. She gets off the stool and adjusts her hat. She looks back at
him and nods.
Chris nods in recognition. He only noticed her a few minutes ago
and was observing her. She never once realized that he was observing
her until that moment when their eyes met. Even then she never flinched.
He remembers from the morning when she overpowered Jay Thomas she never
flinched or showed any sense of backing down. Not even to him.
Her eyes told a different story. Chris takes up a shot of whiskey.
He didn't think much about her before but, once Mary and the others started
talking about her being a bounty hunter and Vin being the bounty he started
to think differently. Truly she couldn't but, he didn't want to risk
anything happening to his friend. Vin understood him in a way unlike
the others and that made him more susceptible and easier to talk to.
He didn't ask many questions and held to that privacy and you knew that
what you had told him or said wouldn't come out from his lips unless
you wanted it out. Vin helped him fill that empty space Chris held inside.
Treading through the forests, five men come back from their excursion
to an abandoned fort.
There are three other men sitting beside a fire.
"Boss, there is a problem," one of the men tells them.
"What is it, Asa?" the boss asks the medium built but, stressful
"The path that the wagon was supposed to take ain't there anymore."
"What do you mean?" the boss yells.
"Well, uh, the path has been closed."
"Closed? What do you mean?" One of the men lifts him up by the shirt.
"They built a train track there and they're still building it," the
man meekly states.
"Dean. Put him down. There's got to be another way."
Dean puts him down and looks at his friend and boss, Luke.
"What else is there?" Luke asks Asa.
"Well, sir, it seems that they have been rerouted to a town called
Four Corners. It's not that far from here."
"How is that supposed to help us get the diamonds?" Dean asks.
"It is just a little setback. We'll go there tomorrow and see how
this town handles." Luke's reassurance that everything will work as
planned settles them in.
"Clearly gentlemen, the time has come for the unveiling." The southern
drawl only reaped of an uncontested win at hand. Buck, disgusted, puts
down his hand.
"I have better luck with women than playing cards."
"You merely lack in skill Mr. Wilmington..
"You merely cheat Ezra," Buck rebukes.
Chris comes in the saloon hoping to find someone.
"You guys seen Vin?" he asks in his husky voice.
"I distinctly remember him going in the stables," Ezra tells him.
"Thanks." Chris exits.
"Now, who's ready for another game?" Ezra shuffles his cards.
Chris walks over to the stables hoping that Vin didn't leave yet,
if he was going out for one of his rides. He sees the stable door open
and hears people talking.
"So, do you think he can ride today?" Susan asks Vin who came to the
stables to check on his patient.
"I reckon so."
"Hear that Cadbury." Susan tells her horse patting him. "We can go
out." She picks up her saddle. "Thank you so much. You've been a great
"No problem, Susan."
Vin helps her with belting her saddle. Susan looks at him and notices
the harmonica in his pocket. She silently grins at the thought of him
actually playing a tune. Vin notices her grin from the corner of his
eye and smiles himself. Susan sees the smile and wonders if he's mocking
her or laughing. Her smile fades away and she feels betrayed in some
"Listen Vin, I know I'm not like other ladies who come around here.
I may not talk all nice or dress the same or even act the same as them.
I know the rumors and speculations they call or think of me but, what
the hell do they know." Susan flatly declares to him.
"Do you think I believe them?" Vin asks her. Susan continues to look
"No...it's just...I don't know." Susan looks away. "I..just didn't
want you to feel that way."
"What about your friends?"
"Heck, you're the most fun they've seen in awhile," Vin tells her.
Chris not denying it smiles at the little remark and decides that
what he needed Vin for could wait.
Arriving at the hint of dawn, Luke's gang separate and take a look
around this quiet and peaceful town. Luke heads to the saloon and gets
himself a drink.
Standing outside he notices two men at the jailhouse and assumes that
they are the lawmen around the town. One in black clothing and the other
is just a kid. He then sees a tall, thin man with a slouch hat coming
towards them. The one in black says a word or two to him. Someone on
horseback comes slowly across. He looks up and stares at the person.
*What a pleasant surprise,* he thinks to himself as the horse comes in
front of him. She sees him staying calm and not wanting to make a big
deal out of it. Her suspicions are greatly affected by his appearance
and she understands what she has to do. *But not now,* she thinks to
herself, *going to have to weigh my options.*
The clouds of darkness enveloped the town quickly until the only sound
of life was the music and laughter from the saloon. Reading outside his
church, Josiah took the time out to examine who was coming into town.
*What lovely creature has wondered into our mists?* he thought as
the figure came closer to the light. *Oh, it is only Miss Bloom. *He
nods his head to her and she nods back. *She is disturbed,* he thinks
to himself, *she carries such a sorrow in her eyes and a strong will
in mind yet, does she understand her heart?* He stayed with the figure
until it drifted out of sight.
*I have to tell.* Her thoughts are racing as she came off her horse.
*There's no way around it. They are going to strike. I know it, I saw
it in his eyes. But there is only one I can tell. I hope he believes
me.* Pacing herself she draws near to his wagon. *He lives in a wagon.
Well, it's better than not having one.* She straightens herself up and
goes to the back of the wagon. *Should I knock? There is a light. Stop
hesitating.* She takes a deep breath.
"Mr. Tanner?" She calls out hoping that she didn't disturb him.
"Yes, Susan." A hand touches her shoulder. Startled she twists her
body and was about to grab his hand but, lost her footing.
"Whoa. You alright."
Vin Tanner catches her before she falls. Standing face to face with
him she moves away.
"I'm fine." Vin looks in her and asks. "Everything okay?"
"I need to tell you something," she flat out says getting her composure.
"Why don't we go inside?" Vin opens up the back of the wagon and jumps
inside. He gives his hand for her to climb up. Once they were settled
she starts to tell him about the Harry Sharpe and the menshe saw kill
him. She tells him about the diamond and the fact that she saw the leader
of the group here in town this morning.
Vin listens very carefully and doesn't ask any questions until it's
"That's how my horse got shot," Susan tells him.
"They are after diamonds," says Vin.
"But, I don't know what diamonds or where they are. This morning they
came here for a reason and I'm afraid that they are going to strike.
Do you think you and your friends can help?.
"We're going to have to talk this over but, I don't see any reason
not to," replies Vin.
"Then you believe me? Because if you don't I will do this by myself,"
she says so definitively getting up, not wanting to make him thinks she
"Yes, I believe you," responds Vin standing up looking at her straight
in the eye.
Susan perceives the understanding and respect in him. She know she
would help her in his subtle ways.
"Thank you." she says with great relief. She turns her head and sees
the silver moon sparkling. She wants to breathe in all the fresh scents
and tranquillity of the night air but is startled by the noise coming
from the saloon. She bends her head a little and puts her hand to her
forehead over her eyes closing them.
"Is something wrong?"
Vin notices the change in mood.
"Oh, nothing. It's just the noise." She looks back at him. "I've gotten
so used to the silence and stillness that it....sort of became a part
He studies her with silence and she can do the same. She looks into
his face, sees the twinkle in his ocean blue eyes, and forgets about
the world. She felt herself free inside with a blissful sensation flow
through her in this moment. Everything seems to evaporate into the night
as she continues to gaze at him. Vin hunts through her visage and draws
closer to her sturdy but, soft exterior. Unfolding a smile with her eyes
he finds the magic inside. *Such a beautiful smile, it's a shame of the
things you hide behind it.* Drawing nearer to each other they close their
"Vin." Chris appears outside and quickly turns away. He just caught
them before their lips even touched and he felt that he had violated
them. Looking back at each others' eyes they step away. Her eyes still
locked into his she whispers.
"I should go." She picks up her hat and steps out. "Good night." She
tells Chris facing him as she strides away.
"Good night," Chris answers. Vin steps down with his slouch hat and
looks at Chris.
"I'll knock next time," Chris says grinning at his friend.
JD stumbled into some of the townspeople walking the boardwalk as
he hurried over to the saloon, where the others waited for him.
"Sorry...Sorry," he uttered, breezing through the saloon doors. Grabbing
a chair JD sat down next to Buck, listening as Susan finished giving
more description of the outlaws.
"That's all I can remember." Susan finished looking at each man.
"There's a wagon coming through here that's headed to Valley Court."
JD spat out, not being able to keep the information to himself any longer.
"That could be it. Does it say what's on it?" asks Susan.
"Nope. They wouldn't tell me what's on the wagon," JD answers.
"That has to be it. When's it coming?" Susan declares.
Glancing over to watch his hero, JD waited 'til the blond gunslinger
nodded his head to answer the small woman's question. "It's scheduled
for this afternoon around three."
"Okay guys, do you believe me?" pausing to catch her breath. "Do you
want to help me or what?" Looking into each man's face around the table
as she asked them. Her heart skipped a beat as she came across the disbelieving
green eyes of the men's leader. "Well...Mr. Larabee?"
His eyes never left the young women's face. "Well....What do you say
boys?" Chris asked, voice low.
"I never let a lady fight by herself. I'm in. Kid you coming?" Buck
tells his companions and looks to JD.
"You bet I am."
"I'm in," Vin declares.
"God never turned down a stranger. I'm not going to start." Josiah
nods his head in agreement.
"Count me," Nathan says sitting next to Josiah. "What about you Ezra?"
"Well, I had no inclination in playing solitaire tonight. I'm in."
"Okay Miss Bloom. We're in but, only if what you say is true."
"That will be apparent soon," Susan tells him adjusting her hat and
walks toward the batwing doors. She stops when she is an inch away, turns
her head slightly looking back, and says "I hate it when I'm wrong anyway."
Hours passed as Chris silently in the shadows grinds his teeth as
Susan walks passed the batwing doors of the saloon. He's still unsure
of what to think about the woman, not knowing if he could bring himself
to trust her, he wasn't like Vin. It was true she has not been a threat
of any kind, but...Chris couldn't put his fears to rest-even for Vin's
sake. *I can not ignore a situation that I can't control.*
Walking into the saloon Vin strolled over and leaned next to the bar
to watch Chris sitting all alone at their usual table. Concern was etched
in his face as Vin studied his best friend. He had the feeling Chris
was purposely keeping his distance. Not liking where this was going,
the tracker moved to sit down next to Chris and poured himself a glass
of whiskey. Both men's eyes turned to the sound of the saloon doors being
slammed open as Susan walked back though followed closely by Buck who
is trying to make some kind of conversation.
"Doesn't he ever quit?" Vin states to his friend.
"He doesn't know how." Chris grinds his teeth and moves his lips.
"Well, maybe when the wagon comes it may give Susan some time to breathe,"
"How do you know that it will?" Chris asks skeptical to the whole
situation. He didn't want to say it so bluntly but, he's not one to weasel
out something into a million words like Ezra. Vin looks back at his friend
and realizes that Chris still had doubts about the whole thing.
"You don't believe her?"
"It's not exactly black and white here Vin." Chris turns to his friend.
"What makes you think she is making this all up? Why would she?.
"She could be turning tables on us, Vin. You don't know her. You think
every person who comes into town doesn't have a secret agenda to live
"Then why did you agree? You could have told her what she had wasn't
enough to get all of our help..
"Because there may be more to this than what she wants us to believe."
Chris in a steel face eyes his friend with the knowledge of matters involving
"Do you think she's in on this?.
"I think she's in on you..
The wagon came according to schedule and the contents were shown to
be carrying diamonds. It was supposed to be a secret move but somehow
word leaked out. The seven peacekeepers made a plan to send this wagon
out and to leave as scheduled but, the diamonds would leave the next
morning with another wagon. A few of them would ride with the scheduled
wagon to catch the men who were after the diamonds and then comeback.
Waiting anxiously for the wagon to come into view, Dean calls out
"Hey Asa, what time is it?"
"It's ten minutes 'til five."
"Alright men, gather up and get ready." Dean yells out to them. He
brought five men with him including Asa and the rest of them stayed with
the boss, Luke. "Here they come." The wagon appears in the evening sun
and the men start on their run towards it. They start shooting it to
get the wagon's attention but, then shots are fired back at them. The
wagon goes faster and the men on the horses split up. One man on horseback
moves closer to the side of the wagon and tries to get on. All of a sudden,
Ezra jumps up and knocks him over his horse. Ezra gets on the horse and
continues shooting. Nathan is on top shooting as well. JD is controlling
the reins of the wagon and keeping low, he spins the wagon back.
Dean takes aim at JD and just when he is in striking distance a sharp
pain grips him and he falls to the ground. Vin Tanner aim sat another
person. Asa sees Dean fall and makes a run for it.
"Boss! Boss!" Asa comes back calling hysterically. Luke comes out
wondering what happened.
"Where is everybody?
"Boss, there was an ambush...there.. there were men with guns waiting
for us. They shot Dean." Telling him out of breath and alarmed.
"What? How in ...."
Luke angrily yells out and suddenly his mind clicks. "That girl! Damn
Susan sees the wagon come back and runs to it. It's definitely had
a long trip. The wheels are crooked and there are holes everywhere. Its
drapes are down and at least one of the doors is broken. Vin comes out
carrying two men with Ezra following, his derringer at hand. JD comes
down with a grin and Nathan calls out for Josiah.
"We lost this one on the road."
"He was the lucky one," comments Vin.
"Let's dispose these miscreants in the proper housing." Ezra points
his gun and they go into the jailhouse. Chris steps out.
"How'd it go?"
"No real trouble," Vin tells him.
Susan walks over next to Chris and tells him, "There are more."
Susan looks at Vin. "How many did this?"
"About five. Reckon they'll come back."
"We'll be ready," Chris says.
Susan turns back at Vin. "You alright?" she asks him.
He nods his head and she turns walking back to the stables. Once inside,
she goes to her horse and rubs his head.
"Everything went well, Cadbury." She stretches her head and back and
goes to her lamp. Someone grabs her mouth and holds her making her unable
to move. He whispers into her ear.
"Time for a little barbecue."
Pacing towards the saloon where his imminent partners were enjoying
the fine luxuries withheld, Vin Tanner sets himself down worn out from
the recent expedition.
Pouring out a drink, he savors the taste on his tongue and eases back
against his seat. His mind starts to wander and it sets on Susan. He
begins to contemplate about the first time he saw her standing with her
arms wrapped around the bandages like cradling a baby. Her suspicious
green eyes gazing at him underneath her tilted hat. Then just last night,
he saw something else. It was something deeper and oppressive that she
perhaps couldn't handle.
*She's a strong and dependent lady with a wicked sense of handling
herself in situations,* recalls Vin, *still, I feel she's not trying
to get herself out of it but, seeing how far it goes.* Justice Pine comes
running through the doors.
"Fire in the stables," he yells with wide panicked eyes. Everyone
jumps up and runs outside. They see the bright orange flames and dark
black smoke hovering over the stables. *Susan!* Vin realizes. He runs
and tries to open the big stable doors but then the horses knock it over.
They flow out of there within a flash and Vin goes inside.
"Susan! Where are you?" he yells with frustration and fearfulness.
Pulling his bandanna over the lower part of his face to protect it against
the smoke and heat Vin heard the screams of a terrified horse trapped.
Recklessly, he tries to go through the heavy black smoke to reach the
horse knowing it had to be Cadbury. Vin heard Chris and Buck yelling
for more water as they washed down the flames.
"Susan!" There is still no answer but detects Cadbury's cries and
knows that he must get to him. He searches blindly through the fiery
heat and the charcoal smoke yielding his search for just a seconds which
he feels he cannot stake at this point. Cadbury's upper torso leaps up,
frightening Vin and falters him back. He straightens up, winces, and
finds that Cadbury's stall has a board diagonally blocking the door.
Vin quickly goes to the upper side and with all his strength pulls the
board off the railing letting it drop.
Vin grabs Cadbury's reins trying to lead him through when a huge crackling
noise from above is heard and a beam cuts in between them. Cadbury flees
out into the open and JD instantly makes a run after him grabbing his
reins and calming him down. Chris knows Vin's inside and rushes inside.
"Vin!" A tormenting yell from Chris as he tries to see a sign of his
friend. He moves in closer but trips and is struck with a burning sensation.
One of his hands has slided into one of the blazes and Chris instantly
brushes it off cursing. He takes out his handkerchief and wraps it around
his left hand. He continues to look for Vin and finds him trapped underneath
Vin feels a heavy load on him but can't get himself to move. He then
feels a touch and after awhile he is able to take a deep breath. Immediately,
he feels himself being carried away and dropped to the ground. Vin opens
his eyes and coughs. He is handed a cup of water and drinks it.
He tries to get back up but, is held down.
"What were you trying to do? Save the horse!" Chris yells at him.
Vin's eyesight clears up and Chris is staring at him very disapprovingly
with patches of dark smoke on his face and a piece of cloth wrapped around
one of his hands. He sees Cadbury with JD next to them and the horse
Chris looks at his friend unable to answer and then Vin sees something
sticking out of Cadbury's saddle. He hazily gets up, takes it out, and
"Mills Place. No diamonds or no girl."
Dragging along through the dark track, she perceives the irate mood
the clan has reserved. She is pushed into one of the tents and stands
facing the boss. His countenance is one of fury as he casts his eyes
"I should have killed you along with that old man."
"Ain't that a misfortune."
"Don't play games with me," yells he while advancing towards her with
a frustrated poise.
"Aren't we a little touchy?" says Susan making it known that she is
not afraid of him.
"I spared your life and this is how you repay me. Do you think that
for a minute that I would let you get away?"
"Like I believe you with our last encounter. Why did you kill him?"
"The same reason you're going to get killed. You're in my way."
"The feeling's mutual."
"You probably figured it out, right? Why you're still alive?" Susan
keeps her eyes on him as he continues to try to weaken her sense of courage
and status. She refuses to give in.
"Take her away and tie her up," he says glaring at her. "Asa, go get
the others. We got a long night ahead of us."
Looking through his nautical spyglass, Vin Tanner scanned the field.
Luke's men were ready for a fight and made a good note of it with the
amount of ammo each of the men carried around.
"Looks like they're expecting us," Vin tells Chris who is sitting
next to him overlooking the place.
"Let's not keep them waiting," he says getting up.
Riding out into the field, the seven men separate and go to positions.
Buck and JD go to the left, slide off their horses, and head to the two
guards keeping busy. Buck signals for JD to take the chubby one with
the leather boots while he takes on the dark, heavy built man with the
jagged face. JD lowers himself behind a few bushes as the chubby guard
leaves his friend. The guard sees something in the bushes and goes to
inspect it promptly taking out his gun. He edges near looking over the
bushes. He sees a movement and crack! JD stands behind him holding his
gun in a fist position.
"Ow!" mutters he as he shakes his hand. "That'll teach you not to
mess around with my hat."
Buck carefully creeps behind the dark haired guard. He points his
gun and whistles. The guard turns around and sees the gun in his face.
Buck signals for his rifle. The guard starts to put it out for him but
swings it across Buck's side. The guard punches Buck on the left side
of his face and Buck is knocked down but, quickly gets up. The guard
makes another swing fortunately, Buck is prepared. Buck ducks and charges
into him until they hit the wall. Buck re-stabilizes possessing the rifle
and furiously says "Here how does THIS feel!?" swinging the rifle across
the guard's head and knocking him out cold.
Josiah and Nathan who went to the right had their own little battle
to pick. Someone had Nathan in a choke hold with a gun to his head signaling
Josiah to put down his gun. Josiah slowly leaned to place the gun on
the floor but watched as Nathan's right hand edged to his knife. Josiah
and Nathan make eye contact and in a flash Nathan grabs his knife and
stabs the man in the leg. Josiah knocks the gun from the guard's hand
and watches the man fall.
Ezra heads to one of the tents and hears people talking inside. He
peeps in through a hole and sees Susan tied up.
"Well, little lady, it seems the boss has bigger plans for you than
we thought," one of the men tells her as he grabs her and goes out of
the tent. Ezra follows the men and sees that they are heading to a wagon.
The man throws her up and places her next to a barrel. He proceeds to
tie her up. Ezra scans one of the men standing a few feet behind the
wagon when the man yells.
"Asa, call me when you're ready. I gotta go get my hat." The man heads
back to the tent. Smash! Ezra stands over him glancing over his shoulder
to make sure no one was looking and does the old switcharoo.
"Hey, Russell. It's ready," calls Asa. Ezra steps out with his hat
bent down over his face. "Okay, bring it out front. The boss is waiting.
And you two," Asa continues addressing the other men "get up here and
keep this cowgirl company." Ezra gets up front and takes the reins.
Luke sees Chris and Vin coming and gets his men out front. He stares
at the black attired man and his blue-eyed companion. Chris surveys around
and sees Buck and JD at the right ready for action and Josiah with Nathan
signaling for the go. Vin looks around and calls for Chris to turn. As
their gaze turned, they see Susan tied to a barrel of gunpowder on a
"One false move and there is going to be a very big explosion," Luke
maliciously says watching them advance.
"Heck, there's going to be one even if we don't move," utters Vin.
"Where are the diamonds?" Luke demands looking at Chris. Chris looks
at the wagon with Susan on it and spies the guards. He notices Ezra sitting
slumberly disguising himself on the wagon. Chris glimpses over at Vin
then stares right back at Luke and replies "Right here," Chris glides
his hand uncovering his pistol. "You want it?"
Luke thinks this guy is dead for his audacity and thinking he could
outsmart him so he glances around unfortunately, what he thinks is not
what he expected. He watches some of his men give up their guns to the
seven then flashes over at Susan and yells out in frustration.
"Shoot her." The two guards with Susan grab their guns and the one
in back of Susan points it at her head. Ezra quickly turns around and
shoots him in the back. The other guard takes a minute to assess what
just happened and sees Ezra aiming his derringer at him. He has his gun
at Susan and gives Ezra an icy glare. The man clenches the trigger and
a shot is fired. Vin Tanner had his gun ready and aimed at them by the
time Chris spoke up with Luke. When the guard fell he was relieved he
*Impeccable, Mr. Tanner.* Ezra thinks to himself once he sees the
guard fall down without killing Susan. He hears a gun fire from underneath
the wagon startling the horses and they begin running. Ezra is caught
unbalanced and goes for the reins. An arm abruptly wraps around his neck
and is choking him. It's the man he shot in the back. He wrestles with
him trying to get loose when he sees that he can reach the reins. Ezra
stretches his foot out to catch them and when he does he yanks them making
the horses do a sharp turn. The man is forced to the edge along with
Ezra and they both fall down.
Susan has wrangled herself free from the barrel and is untieing her
legs while riding on this runaway wagon. She holds on to the side of
the wagon because of the bouncing of the road and progresses forward.
She reaches the front and the reins are flying striking the horses. She
climbs over the seat and tries to catch them. The horses makes a violent
turn and she flies to her side.
The firing of bullets and yelling of men become the norm in just minutes.
Vin sees Susan struggling with the wagon and leaps on his horse. Susan
gets back up again and hears someone coming towards her. She turns to
see Vin catching up with the wagon. He jumps on and he goes to where
she is sitting. The reins are now underneath and he goes in between the
horses to grab it. He carefully and quickly takes it and levels himself
between the horses pulling the reins to a full stop.
Luke's outrage surpasses his idea of any consolation of winning as
he watches the gunfight.
The smell of defeat takes over so he makes a run for it. Chris eyes
him and yells to the others "Cover me."
He races through and spies Luke running over to his horse. Chris slams
into him and yells "Where do you think you're going?" Luke is forced
down with his gun thrown from his hand but grabs a piece of board lying
on the ground. Luke swings it at Chris but he ducks and punches Luke
in the stomach.
"You're finished," Chris proclaims.
"Ouch!" Buck yells at the healer. "That stings." Nathan has just put
some alcohol on his friend's bruise.
"Buck that bruise isn't going to heal by itself," Nathan nags him
trying to get him to sit still.
"He's just doing his job Buck. I'll tell you a new joke to help ease
the pain," JD tells his friend while waiting on him in the clinic. JD
already had his bruises looked after by Nathan.
"Kill me now Nathan," Buck teases his friend and flops flat on the
"Buck!" JD is annoyed by the less than serious remark from his companion.
Nathan grins a little at the events that perspired and sees Ezra walk
"Ezra I should get a look at you," Nathan yells at him. "I saw that
fall you had from the wagon with the guard and it wasn't pretty."
"Don't worry Mr. Jackson. He broke my fall," Ezra replies not wanting
any medical attention but to get back to the saloon for a well deserved
Besides, he already heard the pain Buck was having. *Better him than
me,* he thought.
The streets swarm with people accompanied by the bustle of noise as
he relaxes outside the saloon. Dwelling in his seat, he casually rubs
the back of his broad stiff neck and grabs his bottle. Pouring his glass,
he hears the sound of boots coming towards him and the figure sits down
beside him apprehensive with the placement. Chris bites his lower lip,
however understands the uncertainty, so glides his glass in front of
"I didn't think you cared." Her voice audible for only the dust to
hear with her head down but, her eyes facing Chris' upper physique.
"You don't know what I think," Chris voices in a harsh tone as he
pours himself a glass. Susan stiffens up like a cold breath of air swooped
down upon her.
"Mr. Larabee I know you don't think highly of me and I have in no
way wanted you to. I just want to say thank you before it's too late."
"Point taken." Chris pauses and sips a drink. "You're leaving?" Chris
inquires making a mental note to himself.
"You got a reason for me to go?" asks Susan.
"Just one," responds Chris looking at the buckskin clad walking out
of the Clarion.
"You got a reason to stay?"
"Just one," Susan replies looking in the direction Chris is and glances
at Mr Larabee when a sly smile comes across her face. *I know what you're
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