M7FFA Entry

 

Another Beginning's End


by Iron Butterfly


Author's Note: I would like to thank and give credit to Anoria, Erin, and my mom for all their helpful input and for proof-reading this for me. Hannah Spears, Ty, Kurt, and the other members of the Johnson gang; however, are the products of my own twisted mind and therefore belong to me.




"I don't know 'bout this Ty. I mean, you sure this is gonna work?" Bill asked nervously, riding up to the front of the group.

"What the hell are you so worried about?" Ty glanced over disdainfully before returning a casual gaze to the town ahead, "You done this plenty a' times."

"Yeah, but there weren't never no seven gunmen guardin' the place."

"It ain't seven gunmen," another member of the group said from Bill's other side, "only three of 'em's in town, me an' Kurt checked it out earlier. I got it all worked out. 'Sides," she turned an accusatory glare his way, "my plans've always worked before ain't they?"

"Yeah. Yeah, they have, Hannah, it's just-"

"Well then shut up an' do yer job," she said as the group entered town.

Recognising the dangerous tone in the command and the fact that he was caught between two people it was not wise to anger, Bill immediately shut his mouth and dropped to the back of the group continuing, however, to survey the streets nervously.

The eight members of the Johnson gang rode up to the bank and dismounted. Ty glanced up and down the streets. The sun had just sunk below the horizon and the streets, free of occupants, were bathed in a gray light. They were right on time, the bank was about to close for the night.

"So far so good Han," he commented quietly, standing next to her.

"Yeah," she said, adjusting the saddle on her horse, "but if we take Bill in, nervous as he is, he's gonna get us all caught." Hannah held his eyes with hers, making sure he understood.

Ty nodded, as long as she thought the plan was still gonna work it was a go. "Jesse, you and Bill stay out here with the horses. The rest of ya inside."

"You folks are just in time," the bank manager said when the group came through the door, "I was just about to close up."

"Lucky us," Ty said drawing his gun, the others following his example. "Hands on the counter where we can see 'em."

The terrified man quickly did as he was told.

"Han, Kurt," Ty gestured. The two quickly went behind the counter and Kurt searched the manager for keys. Finding them he opened the iron bars guarding the vault. Hannah pushed the manager none too gently into the door.

"What's the combination? What's the combination!" she repeated, cocking her gun.

"It's, uh," the manager stuttered, looking down the barrel of Hannah's pistol, "4-46, 21, 3."

Hannah nodded for Kurt to open the vault, keeping an eye on her hostage.

"Got it." The vault door swung open, revealing a dark room beyond.

"What's takin' 'em so long?" Bill asked, alternating between nervous glances at the bank and the streets.

"What the hell are you talkin' about?" Jesse asked. Bill's nerves were starting to annoy him. "They just went in there. Now calm down, you're makin' the horses nervous."

"Y'all hurry it up back there," Ty called, "We got company coming down the street."

"All right. Brett, catch," Hannah tossed a money bag to one of the men in the front room. She quickly slung her saddlebags, laiden with money, over her shoulder and started tying up the bank manager while Kurt tossed the rest of the bags to the others. "Get the stuff on the horses, we'll be out in a sec," she called.

Ty nodded and they left.

Kurt started filling his saddlebags. A few seconds later a string of obscenities could be heard coming from outside. Hannah and Kurt straightened to look over the counter and out the window and saw that Bill had dropped one of the bags, spilling money into the street.

"Shit!" Kurt hissed, quickly stuffing one last stack of bills into his bag, "He's gonna get us all caught."

"If he doesn't, remind me to shoot him later," Hannah replied, giving one of the ropes a final sharp tug.

"You and me both."

"They're robbing the bank!"

"Shit! Go, go, go!" Hannah yelled. Leaving the manager inside, they slammed the vault shut and ran for the door.

When JD heard Josiah yell about a robbery, he was in the restaurant near the bank. He ran outside and after allowing a few seconds for his eyes to adjust to the growing dark, he saw a robber who had been scrambling to pick money up off the ground fall, hit by one of Josiah's bullets. Most of the gang was already on their horses returning fire, effectively pinning Josiah down when JD saw two figures still in the bank through the window. He fired at one of the mounted robbers before running for the two in the bank and had the satisfaction of seeing his target fall from his horse. The rest of the gang started riding away. JD arrived at the door, colliding with the last robber and the two landed in a pile inside the bank, the other's gun clattering to the floor. They wrestled, rolling around the floor of the bank for a minute before JD managed to grab his opponent's hands and pin him down beneath him.

JD panted, catching his breath, as he got his first good look at his captive. "What?" JD's grip on the robber's hands relaxed as he looked down in bewilderment at his prisoner. During the struggle, the robber's hat had been knocked off revealing wavy curls of auburn hair reaching just below "his" shoulders. "You're a girl?"

Seeing her chance, Hannah twisted her right hand free and slammed her fist into the kid's cheek, knocking him backwards. She rolled to her right, reaching for the gun with her left hand. Hannah had almost reached it when the sound of another gun being cocked made her freeze.

"I wouldn't," a voice said threateningly. Casting a cautious glance over her shoulder, Hannah found herself looking down the barrel of a revolver held by a tall man with peppered gray hair. She held her breath, taking in her options. Shit. Hannah let her hand drop away from the gun.

Josiah kicked the pistol out of the robber's reach and pulled her to her feet. "You all right JD?" he asked, as JD was just getting up from the blow the woman had dealt.

"Yeah," JD responded half-heartedly, covering his eye. "Where's the manager?" he asked, looking around the bank with one eye. Before Josiah could reply there was a bang on the safe door followed by a muffled cry.

Josiah cocked his head to one side. "You wouldn't happen to know the combination would ya?" he asked his prisoner.

Her eyes narrowed. "Go to hell."

"I may at that. In the mean time, I'd appreciate you tellin' me what the combination to this here lock is."




Buck ran the rest of the way to the bank, narrowly avoiding a collision with the undertaker who was already hauling away the bodies of the two robbers, when he saw JD walk out covering his left eye.

"What happened kid? You okay?"

"I'm fine Buck. It's nothing," JD said, swatting his friend's hand away.

"It don't look like nothing," Buck said, concerned at seeing the bruise that was already forming on the boy's face. Just as he was about to pose another question, Josiah walked out with the robber.

"We'll get your money back," Josiah said, trying to calm the manager.

Buck's face lit up at recognising the prisoner as a female. "She's the one that did that to your face?" he asked laughing.

JD was about to respond when the woman spit at Buck.

"Hey!" Buck cried indignantly, "That was a compliment."

"The hell it was," she said glaring.

"You best behave yourself," Josiah said, tightening his grip on her arm.

JD let his hand fall from his eye. "You better take JD over to the saloon and see what Inez can do for that eye 'til Nathan gets back," Josiah added.

Buck nodded, "Yeah."

"Oh, come on. It ain't that bad," JD protested to Josiah's retreating form.

"You ain't seen it yet," Buck smiled, heading for the saloon.

"Is it really that bad? Buck?!" JD cried, running to catch up to his friend.




"The only one you caught was the woman?" Chris asked, annoyed. He, Vin, Ezra, and Nathan had been out of town delivering prisoners to the army for transport to Yuma prison and had just gotten back. Needless to say, after a day of riding, the latter part of which having been in the dark, returning to find the bank had been robbed and that five members of the gang had managed to escape only a half hour before he and the others arrived had put Chris in a bad mood.

"Now Chris," Buck said, trying to calm his friend, "we're lucky we caught any of 'em."

"We? Me an' Josiah's the ones that caught 'er. I don't know where you were," JD said. Inez had given him some meat to hold against his bruised face keep the swelling down but it was off now, revealing a puffy and ugly black eye.

"Yeah, and you got your fool face banged up in the process. You're damn lucky she dropped 'er gun."

"She surprised me," JD insisted in his own defense, then added, "I wasn't expecting no girl."

"Well," Ezra chuckled, "the young lady was obviously likewise enchanted."

"Girl's got a hell of a right hook," Vin observed.

"Anybody talked to her yet?" Chris asked, trying to bring the gathering back to business. A good number of the local businessmen had already come to him demanding that their money be retrieved at once and he was anxious to have them off his back.

"Not yet. We *were* waitin' for you," Buck said.

"All right. Vin, you and me'll head out the morning, see if we can't find where they ran off to. Everyone should try and get some sleep, I have feeling it's gonna be a long day tomorrow," Chris said, getting up from his seat. "Let's go Buck."

"Where we goin'?" the ladies man asked from his comfortably reclined seat.

"We're gonna pay our prisoner a little visit, see if that 'animal magnetism' of yours don't work on criminals," Chris said with a small grin.




"Chris."

"Josiah," Chris nodded a greeting, "She said anything?"

"Nothing useful. I did find these though," Josiah said, rising from the chair behind the sheriff's desk and handing Chris several wanted posters. Buck looked over Chris's shoulder as he flipped through them. Ty Johnson, Kurt Brown, and Hannah Spears; all members of the Johnson gang, wanted for a number of bank robberies in the territory.

"The manager ID these other two?" Buck asked, looking up.

"Yep. Haven't been able to find any on the departed yet though. If you two don't mind, I'm gonna go grab a bite to eat."

"Yeah sure, Josiah. We'll watch the place," Buck nodded, looking at the posters Chris handed him.

Chris walked up to Hannah's cell. She was sitting on the cot, her back to the rear wall of the jail. She had glanced up when Chris and Buck had entered before returning her gaze to the floor indifferently although Chris was sure she had been listening. Now she raised her gaze to Chris, quickly sizing up the figure in black, meeting his eyes with a challenging gaze.

Chris was momentarily startled. The woman sitting in the jail cell couldn't be any more than a year older than JD. Her brown eyes, however, held none of the youthful naivete that JD's did. They were the hard eyes of a person who had been through more than their share of pain and had learned to hate the world because of it. Chris recognised that look as one his own eyes had held on occasion; to see it in one so young was disturbing.

"I'd imagine you're Larabee," Hannah said, talking around a cheroot she had pulled form inside her jacket before lighting it.

"That's right," the figure in black answered.

"Y'all should make it easy on yourselves and let me go now 'fore they come back," she shook out the match's flame and dropped it on the floor.

"Is that so?" the dark haired man asked coming up next to his friend, having set the posters down on the desk.

"Was I talkin' to you?" Hannah asked, throwing a disdainful look his way.

"We'll consider ourselves warned," Larabee nodded, grinning dangerously.

Hannah shrugged, undaunted, "It's your life."

"You wanna tell us where the rest of the gang is?" Larabee asked, coolly.

"I wouldn't know."

"Now you listen here," Larabee's companion moved up to the bars of her cell. "The judge'll be here in three days. There ain't no reason a nice little girl like you's gotta end up in prison. Tell us where your friends went to and he just *might* go easy on you."

Hannah rose from her seat and walked closer to the two questioners, looking from one to the other. "I don't see no badges. Y'all ain't the law," Hannah took another draw on the cheroot and stepped up so she was face to face with the annoying dark haired man, "I don't have to tell you shit." She then blew the smoke in his face.

He drew his face back from the cloud and let out a little breath. "Cute," he smiled, "real cute." His expression turned serious, "Gimmie that!" he reached between the bars, caught hold of Hannah's left hand, and grabbed the cheroot.

"Hey!" she yelled as he threw it on the floor and stomped it out, "That was my last one damnit!"

The annoying S.O.B. then reached though the bars and grabbed a hold of her other wrist. "I'm not the bad guy alright? I'm tryin' to help you," he said, his dark blue eyes catching her brown ones.

"I don't *want* your help," Hannah said, and slammed her right hand down causing Buck's, which was gripping her wrist, to be smashed against an iron bar.

"OW!"

"That's enough!" Chris yelled.

"Son of a-!" Buck cried, dropping the end of his obscenity for a pained whimper, cradling his hand.

Chris cast a concerned glance at Buck. "You all right?"

"What kinda question is that?" he asked in exaggerated hysteria, "She damn near broke my hand!"

"That's what you get for bein' rude ya damn bastard!"

"I said that's enough. Now sit down," Chris commanded sternly. "I'll watch her, you go have Nathan take a look at that hand."

Buck nodded, shaking his hand out. "Watch yourself Chris."

"Say 'hi' to your little friend with the black eye for me," the prisoner called, receiving an ugly look from Buck as he closed the door.




"Would you care for something to eat?" Ezra asked unenthusiastically, walking up to the cell carrying a tray. He had tried to convince Chris to assign someone else the less than pleasurable task of watching the prisoner with no success. Chris had reasoned that he and Vin had to leave early the next morning to track down the robbers. Meanwhile they needed any information they could get as to where they might be and Miss Spears hadn't exactly taken to Buck or JD and Ezra hadn't seemed to be doing anything important at the moment. Nothing important, just a lucrative poker game, he thought to himself.

Spears got up from the cot and walked to the front of the cell. "I ain't eatin' that," she said after getting a good look at the food.

"Less than voracious today?"

"What?"

Ezra sighed. "You're not hungry?" he explained.

"I have my standards," she said walking back to the cot and sitting down.

He let out a little chuckle. "I would have to agree that the cuisine here leaves much to be desired; however, you will be here for some time."

"If that's the best food you got to offer then I figure I can wait to eat 'til the boys come and break me out."

"I see. When exactly should we be expecting them?"

"Larabee send you in here to get me to talk?"

"Dragged would be the more appropriate word. I assure you jail sitting is not one of my proffered professions," he said setting the tray down and seating himself behind the desk. "I can think of numerous other things I would care to be doing right now." He raised his feet up on the desktop and drew a deck of cards from his jacket.

"Gambler huh?" the prisoner asked.

Ezra grinned mischievously, "You wouldn't happen to be interested in partaking in game of chance would you?"

"Sure, I'll play. It beats sittin' here starin' at the walls," Spears said, "I ain't gonna give nothin' away though if that's what you're thinkin' ."

"Of course, not. I give you more credit than that, my dear. This is mearly a means by which to pass the time."

"All right. Long as you don't mind playin' on credit; the boys got all my money"

"Not at all," he smiled out of one side of his mouth.




"Ezra," Chris' voice called, followed by banging on the door.

The gambler groaned, rolling over to the side of his bed farthest from the obnoxious noise emanating from the door.

"Ezra get up an' answer the door."

Ezra reluctantly opened his eyes and raised his head from the pillow, gazing over his left shoulder. Judging by the light coming through the window, it couldn't be any later than six. Closing his eyes, he sighed disgustedly and flopped onto his back, letting his head fall back onto the pillow. "Mr. Larabee, there is not a reason good enough to explain why you have disturbed my repose," Ezra drawled from his bed.

"I need to talk to you 'bout the prisoner."

Ezra sighed heavily and rolled to a sitting position. "Could you wait for just a moment?" he mumbled, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Getting up, he pulled on a pair of black pants, his boots, and a freshly ironed white shirt. He glanced at his mirror and grimaced. Smoothing his hair with one hand, he opened the door.

"You get anything out of 'er?" Chris asked, looking, in Ezra's opinion, entirely too alert considering the hour.

"Unfortunately no," Ezra said, still trying to shake off the cobwebs of sleep, "During our more than two hours of poker, the only information I was able to obtain is that she can, in fact, hold her liquor." Chris gave Ezra a questioning look. "I was running out of ideas," he explained.

Chris let out a small smile, "Nathan replace you?"

"Chris!" Vin called from the end of the hall, cutting off Ezra's reply, "We got trouble," the tracker walked to were the other two were standing.

"What happened?"

"Feller just rode in, says a gang took the Olsen's place. Told him to tell us if they don't get Spears back by tonight they'll kill the family."

"The Olsen's have a young child do they not?" Ezra asked, suddenly awake.

"A little gal," Vin nodded, "an' the missus is expectin'."

Chris's jaw tightened. "Get everyone in the saloon *now*," he ordered. Vin nodded, having expected no less, and took off to wake the others. "Ezra, you go over to the jail an' guard Miss Spears. Send Nathan over."

Ezra nodded, watching Chris hurry off. He turned and walked to his closet, retrieving his green jacket and his hat. Before he left, Ezra looked at his reflection again, stroking his chin. No time to shave, he though ruefully and left the room; what on earth possessed him to take this job?

"What're we gonna do?" JD asked after Chris and Vin had filled all of them in, "I mean, we're not gonna let'm get away with that are we?"

"We may not have a choice, JD," Vin said.

"If they've got the Olsen's in there like they say, we may have to give 'em what they want," Buck said, his voice low.

"And just let 'em get away?"

Inez ducked in between men, setting their food out and offering refills on coffee.

"We go in shootin' tryin' to get the family out, somebody's gonna get hurt and it probably ain't gonna be the gang," Nathan rationalized.

"Nathan's right," Chris said, "We don't wanna put the family in any more danger. If that's what it takes, we'll hand Miss Spears over. Soon as we've got the family safe we'll go after the gang. Any questions?" Chris paused, looking around the table, "Good." He got up, grabbing a plate and cup of coffee to take to Ezra. "Everybody finish yer food. We'll saddle up an' meet outside the livery in fifteen minutes."




"Me and Josiah'll bring 'er out," Chris told them once they had reached the edge of the small clearing surrounding the Olsen's place. The house was like most in the area, one story with a porch out front. There was a barn to the right of the building and a corral which held the Olsen's two horses branching off farther in that direction. "I want the rest 'a you to wait back here."

Vin nodded, "We'll be ready."

Satisfied, Chris turned his horse. Josiah, leading the prisoner's horse, followed behind Chris as they rode up to the house. They kept their eyes open, watching for any move from the gang who were nowhere in sight and came to a stop fifty yards in front of the porch.

"Johnson!" Chris yelled, "We brought the girl."

The front door opened halfway and Ty Johnson appeared, holding Josh Olsen in front of him, his gun to Josh's head.

<<"Hannah, get away from the window!" An auburn haired woman with a toddler on her hip pulls her daughter protectively behind her. After assuring herself the child is all right, she hypocritically pulls back the curtain and cautiously peers outside.

"Who's pa talkin' to?">>

"You all right Han?" Ty called.

Hannah blinked, the memory scattering. "I'm fine," she said. "Took you long enough to get me out," she complained.

"You ready to trade?" Larabee asked.

"Let Hannah go an' I'll give up mine."

"If I do that, you've got no reason to give 'em up," Larabee returned coolly.

"I ain't stupid. I send out these three and you all ain't got no reason not to shoot. I don't know 'bout you but I don't want any trouble here. I jus' wanna get Han an' go."

"You gotta give me somethin' to work with Johnson. Let the girl and 'er ma go, we'll give you Spears."

In one quick motion, Ty lowered his gun and fired causing Olsen to scream as the bullet tore into his upper leg.

Simultaneous cries erupted from the house.

"Josh!"

"Papa?!"

<<The auburn haired woman jumps, inhaling sharply as a shot rings out, her free hand flying to her mouth to muffle her cry.

"Pa!" the girl shrieks, watching from behind her mother as he falls to the ground.

Tearing her eyes from the scene, the woman lets the curtain fall and hurries with her children to the back of the house. "Quick, take your brother and go hide in the wood shed," she says hurriedly, placing the now crying toddler in her daughter's arms and pushing them to the back door.

"Ma-"

"Do as I say, now! Don't you come out for anyone; you stay hid." A heavy pounding on the front door causes her to cast frightened eyes in that direction. "Go!" she cries, drawing a knife from one of the kitchen drawers.>>

Chris pushed back his duster as he and Josiah reached for their guns. Johnson caught Josh before he fell and pressed his gun to Olsens' head, warning them against it. "You ain't got any f***ing say! I'm callin' the shots. Now let Hannah go."

"Josiah, let 'er go," Chris ordered, glaring icily at Johnson, struggling to contain his anger.

Not now, Hannah thought, trying to pull herself together. This was not the time or the place. Forcing her hands to stop shaking, Hannah dismounted and held her manacled hands out to the tall man.

"Proud 'a your friends now?" Josiah asked after he'd unlocked the restraints, holding her eyes for a moment. The look she gave him was pure hatred. He knew that any effort at drawing sympathy was probably a lost cause but for a moment there, he thought he had seen something. There was always a chance.

Hannah pulled her hands away from his and turned and walked towards the house, struggling to contain herself. Ty moved from the doorway so Hannah could enter and then backed in himself, dragging Olsen, and closed the door.




"What the hell was that?" Hannah demanded as calmly as she could, once the door was closed.

"What was what?" Ty asked.

Hannah pointed to Olsen sitting with his back to the wall where Ty had dropped him, his wife desperately trying to stifle the flow of blood coming from his wound while their daughter huddled nearby. Hannah was almost shaking with barely controlled rage. "You didn't have to shoot him."

"I had to get you out didn't I?"

"You have the family, they're not gonna do anything that's gonna get them hurt!" she exclaimed. "Damn, I thought you knew better than that Ty," Hannah admonished, trying to pull herself together. She needed a clear head to think them out of this one. She took a deep breath. "You got any idea what you got us into? If he dies then it's murder," the sharpness in her voice returned.

"It ain't the first," he shrugged.

"No it ain't but it's the first one anybody's gonna give a damn about and it just might buy us all a spot at the gallows. Brett, gimmie a gun."

"What for?" he asked cautiously. Everyone who joined the gang learned fairly fast that Hannah was not a person you wanted to cross and she had just as much authority in the gang as Ty. Brett had been with the gang for awhile but it still made him nervous when she yelled at Ty like that. If it had been anyone else, they would have been rewarded with a black eye. At the same time, Brett was glad it wasn't him she was mad at.

"'Cause they took mine and you got two," she said testily, "If we gotta shoot our way out I sure as hell ain't goin' out empty handed."

"We better git goin'," Kurt said as Hannah checked the chamber of the pistol Brett handed her and holstered it, "The more time we give 'em the harder it's gonna be fer us to get out 'a here."

Ty nodded, "Jimmy grab the girl. We may need a little insurance."

"No!" Mrs. Olsen screamed, grabbing her daughter and pulling her to her chest. Olsen put his arm out, placing himself in front of his wife and child."Glad to." Jimmy walked to where the girl and her parents were. She was probably no older than four, and had her father's dark hair.

"Ty, we don't need her, it's just more trouble. They'll never let us get away if we've got the girl with us," Hannah protested.

"If they don't want 'er hurt I reckon they'll behave this time." Ty turned away from Hannah and moved towards the back of the house and the rear door where Jesse was keeping an eye on their escape route. Kurt and Brett followed.

"Come 'ere darlin'," Jimmy called.

"Leave her alone," Josh Olsen pleaded. "Take me."

Jimmy kicked Olsens' wound, causing him to collapse in pain. Mrs. Olsen cried out, struggling to fight off Jimmy who suffered a few blows before backhanding her and pulling the girl away.

The little girl reached out to her mother, "Mama!"

<<"PA!">>

"You ain't gonna do us any good," Jimmy said to Olsen, "You'd be dead 'fore we got two miles."

"Take me," Mrs. Olsen begged.

"You wouldn't get very far with that belly on you either. 'Sides," Jimmy crouched down so he was face to face with the two of them; holding the girl in his left arm and away from her parents and holding his gun loosely in his right hand to keep them away, "we can still have fun with your daughter."

Furious, Olsen tried to throw a punch at Jimmy but he was weak from blood loss and Jimmy easily dodged the blow, laughing as Olsen to fell on the floor.

"Maggie," Olsen moaned.

"Leave her alone!" her mother cried.

Hannah closed the gap between herself and Jimmy in two strides. She pulled the girl from his grip and slammed Jimmy headlong in to the wall and, grabbing a hold of his right arm, twisted it behind his back.

Jimmy cried out in pain, "Hannah!-"

"Listen to me you bastard," she said fiercely into his ear, "if you so much as touch that little girl again I'll break your f***ing arm! Do you understand?"

"Ah, shit!" he whimpered, trying to squirm out of her grip, "Hannah, it was just a joke, I swear I didn't mean nothing by it."

"I don't see anybody laughing do you?" she asked, giving his arm another yank.

"Hannah, cool down," Kurt said, stepping up behind her. "We gotta get out 'a here remember," he said gently.

Jimmy squealed again. "I won't touch 'er again I swear!"

Hannah gave Jimmy one final push into the wall and then released her hold. Kurt stepped forward guiding her away from Jimmy but she shook off his hand.

"You see that Ty? She tried to break my arm," Jimmy complained.

"You ain't gettin' any sympathy from me," Ty said, his voice cold. "Touch the girl again and I won't stop Hannah from breakin' your arm 'fore I shoot you."

Hannah's eyes drifted to Josh lying where he'd fallen, now unconscious from blood loss, and his wife hovering hopelessly above him.

<<The girl stands stone faced at the foot of two fresh graves. Everyone has left, the mourners, the preacher, all gone and now they're alone. The headstones, simple wooden crosses, bare the names Richard and Shannon Spears.>>

"Kurt, grab the kid," Ty said, "We gotta get goin'."

"No," Hannah picked the girl up in her left arm and drew the gun Brett gave her. "You ain't takin' 'er."

"Han, what the hell are you doing? We gotta get out 'a here now and we need the girl," Ty said, walking towards her.

Hannah cocked the gun and pointed it at Ty. He stopped his advance, holding his hands up. "I can't let you do this. I won't let it happen again," she said, backing up towards the Olsen's, pulling the misses up behind her.

"Han," Ty said carefully, taking another step forward, "what the hell are you talkin' about? This ain't got nothin' to do with yer folks."

"You have NO idea," she cried, "And I swear, if you come any closer I'll shoot so don't push me Ty!"

Out of the corner of her eye, Hannah caught Brett sneaking up on her left. She spun and kicked him in the gut, sending him stumbling backwards. Ty rushed forward to grab the girl but Hannah turned and fired. The bullet ripped through Ty's shooting arm. "Go!" Hannah ran for the front door, pushing Mrs. Olsen in front of her.

"Shoot 'er!" Ty yelled, clutching his arm.

They were already at the door when the first bullet slammed into the wall, causing an eruption of splinters. Hannah was slipping out the half opened door after Mrs. Olsen when a bullet caught her in her right side, slamming her body against the door jam. Hannah stumbled and fell out onto the porch on her back so as not to crush the girl. In the house, she could hear Ty cursing as he and the others ran out back to the horses. She let the gun fall and pressed her hand to the wound.

"F***," she winced, rolling onto her left side pressing her face to the wood.

"Are you hit?" the woman asked, looking down on Hannah with worried blue eyes. She kept her back to the wall and clung to her daughter.

"I'm fine," Hannah managed through clenched teeth. "Run over to them," she nodded towards Larabee and the preacher, "Get you're daughter safe...Go!" she yelled after the woman hesitated. Mrs. Olsen cast nervous glances to either side and hurried off the porch as fast as she could. Her energy gone, Hannah rolled onto her back and slipped into unconsciousness.

"Damnit!" Chris cursed, hearing the first gunshot come from inside the house. Chris and Josiah drew their guns as Vin, Buck, and Ezra rode towards the back of the house, leaving JD and Nathan to watch the front. Another series of gunshots erupted and someone burst through the front door. Recognizing Connie Olsen, Chris and Josiah held their fire. After seeing another figure carrying the girl fall out onto the porch, they cautiously started towards the house. Connie and her daughter stayed for a moment with the fallen person, then ran down the steps towards them.

"You all right?" Chris asked, catching the woman's arm.

She nodded quickly. "Josh-"

"I know. Stick with me for now, okay?"

She nodded again.

"Nathan, JD, get up here!" Chris yelled, hearing a shot being fired at the rear of the house. Josiah was already on the porch, keeping an eye on the front door while taking a look at the fallen figure.

"It's Miss Spears."

"She alive?" Chris asked coming up next to Josiah, his back to the wall, shielding Mrs. Olsen and her daughter from the door.

Josiah put his fingers to her throat. "Yep," he replied, finding a pulse, "just passed out."

Chris nodded, "Stay out here with them. I'm checkin' inside for Olsen." Not waiting for a response, Chris jogged to the door, staying low. After peering inside around the door jam, he entered the building, gun drawn.

"Wha'd we got?" Nathan asked coming up on the porch and kneeling next to Josiah.

"Seems our robber had a change of heart," Josiah explained, "Chris went inside fer Josh."

"Looks like she's only hit once," Nathan said, taking care of the patient on hand. He pulled her jacket back and untucked her shirt and camisole so he could get to the wound. "It don't look too bad. Long as we can get 'er into town and get the bullet out, she should make it." Nathan took the bandana from Hannah's neck, shook the dust out and pressed it to the wound.

JD stood back watching the surrounding area for trouble, not really knowing how to help.

"It's clear," Chris called from the doorway. His face was grim. "You better get in here, Nathan."

"Hold that there would you Josiah. Keep pressure on it, we don't want 'er loosing any more blood."

"I got 'er. You go on an' take care of Josh."

"Is he gonna be all right?" Connie asked nervously, holding her daughter to her side as she crouched down near the preacher.

"I don't know ma'am. Nathan'll do the best he can."

Chris came out of the door, "You got a wagon?"

"Yeah, it's in the barn."

"JD, come help me get it ready," Chris said, starting towards the barn.

"Is Josh all right?" Connie asked, stopping Chris with a hand.

His blue eyes stared into hers, reading the pain and worry there. Chris didn't want to give her what might be false hopes and kept his voice impersonal, "He's lost a lot 'a blood. Nathan said he won't know til he can get 'im inta town and operate."

"Don't worry ma'am, Nathan's a real good doctor. I'm sure your husband will be fine," JD said, hoping to comfort her. The Olsens were friends of Nettie and Casey Wells and had only just returned a few months ago to claim their land after Guy Royal had driven them off, his threats concerning Connie and their little girl being enough to scare Josh into leaving. JD had picked Casey up from visiting the family once; they had seemed like nice folks.

 Connie nodded, hoping he was right, and the two jogged out to the barn.

"Can I go in?" she asked anxiously.

"I doubt Nathan'd mind," Josiah assured her.

Left by himself, Josiah concentrated on keeping pressure on Spears' gunshot wound. A few moments later, Chris and JD brought the wagon out front and backed it up to the porch so that it's passengers could be loaded more easily. Chris went straight inside, while JD stood waiting.

"JD, you wanna help me get 'er inta the wagon?" Josiah asked.

"Yeah, sure," he said, climbing up the stairs around the wagon bed.

"Hold this here so she doesn't loose too much more blood when I move 'er."

JD grimaced as he pressed his hand to the now bloody handkerchief. Josiah eased his arms behind her back and legs.

"Josiah?"

"Yeah?" the preacher grunted, lifting Spears off the porch.

"Did she really get shot saving the girl an' 'er ma?" He followed next to Josiah as the preacher carried the robber, carefully stepping from the porch to the wagon bed. JD had been under the impression that Hannah Spears was a hardened criminal. Especially after the way she had treated himself and Buck, her saving the girl and her ma seemed out of character.

"Looks that way." Josiah set her down on one side of the wagon and took over for JD.

"What do ya think made her do that? I mean," he faltered, unable to find the right words.

"I'm not sure son, but I intend to ask 'er."

"Careful now," Nathan cautioned as he and Chris emerged from the building, Chris holding under Josh's arms, Nathan holding his legs. Together they eased Olsen into the wagon. Nathan climbed into the back next to his patients as Chris hopped out the side.

"There ain't a whole lot a extra room back here ma'am but you an' Maggie can sit up front," Nathan told Connie reassuringly.

JD helped Mrs. Olsen and her daughter into the wagon, Chris having mounted up and collected the other's horses.

"Can you drive this all right JD?" Chris asked after all the passengers had seated themselves.

"Sure I can," the kid replied confidently.

"All right, watch out for bumps," Nathan cautioned, "These two don't need to be jostled around but we do need to get 'em into town quick so don't worry 'bout aviodin' 'em too much."




"What the hell do you want?" Hannah asked, glaring at the preacher from her position lying on the cot. The last few days had been a complete disaster. It was bad enough that she had gotten herself shot. The fact that she had lived threw it only to be thrown back in jail did nothing to help her mood and now she had to put up with this.

"I figured you might wanna talk," he said, calmly taking a seat in front of her cell in a chair he'd brought over.

"About what?" she asked testily, starring at the ceiling.

"Oh, I don't know. How about your little act of heroism yesterday?"

Hannah swung her legs out and sat on the side of her cot, arms locked on either side of her body. "You mean why I threw away my life and spat on some of the only people who've ever given a damn about me?"

"No," he said with quiet authority, "I mean what makes someone like you risk her own life to save a woman and a child she doesn't even know?"

"A momentary and *serious* lapse of judgement."

"I don't believe that anymore than I think you do."

"Well, you're wrong," she replied dismissively. Hannah eased herself back to lie down, "Don't you have something better to do than pester wounded prisoners?"

"Not at the moment."

Hannah sighed, rolling her eyes at the ceiling.

"Judge Travis is gonna be here tomorrow," Josiah continued. "Now, I see somethin' good in you and I'd like to help. What your so-called friends did yesterday was wrong and I think you knew that and I think that's why you did what you did. It'd be a shame for you to go to jail for a few mistakes."

"Well, I don't want your help," she said, turning her gaze from the ceiling to Josiah, "not unless you're gonna let me out 'a this cell." Hannah raised herself up on her elbows, "I ain't about to stab my gang in the back just to shave off a few years of prison cause those 'so called' friends have been takin' care of me since I was fourteen!"

"You joined up with the gang when your were fourteen?" he asked.

"No, that's when I joined up with Ty. Him an' me started the gang later. An' the only mistake I've made lately was to save that woman an' her little brat instead of myself."

"I doubt the Olsens'd call that a mistake," Josiah said, cocking his head to one side.

Hannah sighed and looked away for a moment, pushing back the torrent of emotions and memories threatening to overwhelm her, before returning to his gaze. "Good for them." She turned and lay down on her left side, staring at the wall.

Josiah looked up from his book in response to a knock on the door. That late already? he wondered, noting the darkness outside the shades. Nathan had come by a few hours ago to check up on Miss Spears but Josiah hadn't thought it had been that long ago. Time flies, he reflected. Sighing, he rose from his seat behind the desk to answer the door.

"Hey Josiah," JD said, standing in the doorway holding a tray of food.

"JD," he said as a greeting, "How's Josh doin'?"

"He woke up about an hour ago. Nathan said he ain't gonna be able to walk for awhile and he's gotta stay in bed for a few weeks but he's gonna be all right."

"The Lord be praised," Josiah said, relieved.

"What about her, you get 'er to talk?" JD asked. Vin, Buck, and Ezra had followed the gang until they entered a creek at which point their tracks had disappeared. They had searched a mile in either direction but had found no sign of the runaway group.

Josiah cast a look at Miss Spears- sleeping on her back, hat over her face- then turned back to JD, shaking his head. He moved out onto the porch with the kid and closed the door. "She's a troubled soul. I'm trying' to help but every time I reach out my hand she turns away."

"What'd ya mean?" JD's brow furrowed.

"I think somethin' yesterday might 'a stirred up feelin's 'er memories she's been tryin' to hide from for a long time. Somethin' she's running away from," Seeing JD's confused look, Josiah went on, "I could've sworn I saw 'er flinch when Johnson shot Josh. 'Thought I saw somethin' in 'er eyes but it was gone 'fore I could be sure. Ya know, she told me that her an' Johnson started the gang and they been takin' care of 'er since she was fourteen."

"Fourteen? Geez, that seems awful young. What happened to 'er parents?""I don't know," Josiah fell quiet, thinking about the last few days. "She might talk to you though."

"Me?" JD asked, surprised. "I-I don't think that's such a good idea, Josiah. I don't think she likes me."

"Maybe not, but she ain't afraid of you either. You're closer to her age, she doesn't feel threatened by you."

"Well, the feeling ain't mutual."

Josiah couldn't help but smile. "You were wonderin' why she saved 'em. Now's your chance to ask."

Hannah raised her hat to see who was coming in the door. They sent the kid to watch me? she thought. Now *this* is insulting. Hannah took her hat off her head and set it on the floor. Holding her side with her left hand, she raised herself to a sitting position and crossed her legs in front of her, dropping her hands in her lap.

JD faltered for a moment. Her brown jacket hung from the edge of the cot and her blue shirt was untucked and unbuttoned, revealing her camisole and, through the bloodstained bullet hole in the fabric, layered bandages.

Hannah enjoyed the kid's discomfort but to his credit he recovered fairly quickly.

"How's your side?" he asked, taking the keys to her cell off the peg and strolling up to the bars.

Hannah rubbed the sleep from her eyes with a hand. "It's sore. How's your eye?" she asked brightly, looking up.

"It's fine," he answered in a slightly annoyed but tolerant tone. "Here, Nathan had me bring you some food; he said you needed to eat something."

Hannah didn't refuse. Since her injury yesterday, the food her jailers brought had improved quite a bit. Well, at least they were considerate bastards.

Being cautious, the kid opened the cell door and set her tray on the floor, keeping his eyes on her the whole time.

Smarter than he looks, she thought to herself. Hannah waited until the kid relocked the cell before getting up and retrieving her meal; she didn't need any more problems right now. Besides, it wasn't like she really had anything to escape *to*. Picking up the tray, Hannah walked back and resumed her sitting position on the cot.

Having returned the keys to their peg, the kid sat down behind the desk. For awhile, the jail was silent, save the sounds of Hannah eating.

"Why'd ya do it?" he asked, breaking the silence.

Hannah glanced towards her guard. "What's that?" she asked, taking another bite of her dinner.

"Join up with Ty Johnson. Josiah said he an' you started the gang," he explained.

"I suppose you don't think a girl's tough enough to be a bank robber," she accused.

"I didn't say that," the kid said defensively. "What I meant was why would you wanna do that?"

"Why not? It's excitin' enough. You getta do whatever ya want."

"Gettin' chased after and shot at is exciting?"

"You tell me, you're supposed to be a lawman ain't you? 'Bet you've been in a few gunfights, though I don't know for the life 'a me how it is you ain't dead yet. 'Sides," she continued, "if ya do it right, you don't get too many bullets headed your way."

"But at fourteen? What about your parents?" the kid asked, sounding interested.

"What about 'em?" Hannah returned her attention to her plate.

"What did they think? About you being in a gang at fourteen?"

"I wasn't in a gang at fourteen."

The kid's face was a picture of confusion, "But-"

"I met Ty when I was fourteen," she explained. "We didn't start a gang an' start robbin' banks 'til I was almost seventeen." Correcting the kid's misconceptions was easier than answering the real question.

"Oh. Okay, so...?"

"What?" Hannah asked, wishing he would drop it.

The kid sighed, "What did they think, your parents?"

"Nothin'." Hannah kept her expression blank.

"What do you mean nothin'? I'm sure they-"

"I mean nothin'," she snapped, looking up for a moment before dropping her gaze again. She continued, her tone returning to neutral, "They been dead four years by then."

"Oh," he dropped his gaze, "I'm sorry. I didn't...my mama died just last year an'-"

"You talk to much, kid," his sincere tone kept Hannah from replying as harshly as she normally might have. She set her empty tray on the floor.

"It might help to talk about it."

"What is it with all 'a you wantin' ta help me?" she demanded angrily. "First it was the guy with the mustache, then the preacher, an' now you," she gestured with her arms. "What do you want from me?"

The kid looked lost, "Nothin'. I guess we just don't wanna see a good person thrown in prison is all."

"A good person?" she exclaimed, "How the hell do you get off thinkin' I'm a good person?"

"I-I don't know. I didn't at first. It's just, what you did yesterday...Well I guess it got me to thinkin'."

Hannah sighed disgustedly. "That don't make me a good person, just soft and stupid," she said reproachfully.

"I wouldn't say that."

Hannah looked up to meet the honest gaze of his hazel eyes.

"No, I doubt you would," she paused, looking down at her hands. "So you wanna know why I saved the girl?" The kid nodded. Hannah let out a deep breath. "Alright. When I was twelve, some visitors rode up to the house. My pa went outside to talk to 'em, tellin' my ma to stay inside with me an' my baby brother. My ma and me watched from a front window; I didn't recognise none of 'em but Pa seemed to. The men argued with my pa for a while, then one of 'em pulled out a gun and shot 'im. Ma sent me an' my brother to the woodshed out back to hide and stayed in the house. Then the men broke in, had their way with 'er, an' killed her too. I did my best to keep Trevor quiet an' the men left. After spendin' a night out there, watchin' an' hearin' everything play over an' over in my head I got on my horse and rode inta town.

"When we rode out to that little ranch house yesterday," she said, no longer able to meet the kid's gaze, "an' Ty shot Olsen, it was like it was happening all over again. 'Cept I was older this time and I could do something about it." Hannah turned a steely gaze towards her jailer, "*That*'s why I saved the girl. Not 'cause it was the right thing to do, 'cause I wanted to change somethin' that won't never change."

"I'm sorry," he shook his head, "I didn't..." The room fell silent for a moment before he continued, "What happened after...?" he asked gently.

"We didn't have any relatives anybody knew of so the preacher and his wife took us in. They didn't really want us around anymore than I wanted to be there so when my little brother died a year later of scarlet fever I left. I scrounged around, beggin' an' stealin' what I needed to get by, turned out I was pretty good at it. That's when I met Ty.

"He was just startin' out then and wasn't very good," she explained. "Ty, he's good at brute force stuff an' gettin' people to follow him but plannin' ain't exactly his strong point. So, he offered me a partnership. We wandered around for a couple 'a years makin' a decent living off it. Then one night we decided burglary was only gonna take us so far and I figured we were good enough to try our hand at robbery so Ty rounded us up a gang."

"Where do you think they went to?"

Hannah's anger flared up again, "What'd ya think I'm stupid? I tell you a story and so now I'm gonna open up an' tell you everything you wanna know? I ain't that easy. I ain't rattin' out my gang."

"Ya ain't one of 'em anymore," he said quietly. Hannah looked up sharply but the kid continued, "Even if you got out 'a here you couldn't go back."

"Don't you think I know that?" her angry tone turned bitter. "If Ty ever sees me again, he'll kill me and I wouldn't blame him. What good is it for me ta tell you anything? Even if I told you and the judge decided to take it easy on me, what am I gonna do? Robbin' banks an' stealin' 's all I ever done."

"You can learn to do somethin' else. They broke the law," the kid pointed out.

"So did I. Just 'cause I made a mistake an' got caught don't mean I gotta take 'em down with me," Hannah countered.

"What about Josh? He could 'a died."

"Olsen was my fault!" Hannah's harsh tone returned. "Ty had already lost two men, he was just tryin' ta get me out."

"That don't make it right," he insisted.

"No," she admited, only some of the heat gone from her voice, "No, it don't."

When Buck came by a few hours later, JD got up to leave.

"Kid?"

JD turned. "I have a name," he said.

"Well, I reckon you do but I ain't heard it yet," she said.

"Oh, right," he said, realizing that they'd never really had occasion to exchange names. "Um, JD Dunne."

She smiled, "JD. Hannah Spears; but I imagine you already knew that."

JD nodded. "You were gonna say somethin'?"

"Right. Uh, I'm sorry. About your eye," she explained.

A small grin spread on JD's face. "Thanks."




The next day, Hannah found herself in The Grain Exchange, which doubled as Four Corner's courtroom when it was needed. In front of her Judge Orin Travis sat behind a desk, reviewing the facts of the case. Larabee, the preacher, and JD were the only other people in the room, all standing behind her.

"Hannah Spears," Judge Travis started, "you have been arrested in the process of robbing the Four Corner's bank and are wanted in connection with the robberies of several others in this territory. The other members of your gang have and continue to elude capture. However, when given the chance to escape, you instead saved a little girl and her mother from your gang who had been holding the family as hostages against your release.

"Now, the Olsen's, Mr. Sanchez, and Mr. Dunne here have spoken to me on your behalf and as you are not wanted for any murders I am willing to release you into probation, the terms of which being that you remain in town and obey the law until such time as I deem you no longer a threat, if you would be willing to reveal the location of your gang's hideout."

Hannah took a breath, "I will not."

"Excuse me?" the old man asked.

"I'll tell you where the money is stashed but I ain't gonna turn my friends in."

"I'm afraid that's not good enough, your friends have broken the law."

"Are you sayin' a person's loyalties should have exceptions?"

"That's very noble of you but do you honestly think those men would extend the same loyalty to you?"

"Not all of 'em, certainly not after what I done. But before we came here I know some of 'em would have and they're the ones I'm coverin'."

The judge sighed, "Miss Spears, you're a smart young woman with your whole life ahead of you. I should hope that you're smart enough to take this opportunity to make it a decent one."

Hannah opened her mouth to speak but was cut off by Josiah.

"Could I talk with her for a minute Judge?"

Judge Travis nodded, "Make it quick."

Taking Hannah's arm, Josiah lead her to a corner of the building.

"Now what excatly is it you think you're gonna accomplish by not talkin'?"

"I ain't tradin' their lives for mine," she insisted.

"You know, a wise man once told me that a new begining can only come from another begining's end. I had ta think about that for awhile then I realized it made pretty good sense. Now the way I see it, this is your chance at a new begining. That's somethin' not everyone gets an' when they do, most of 'em don't even realize it's there 'til it's too late. Question is, are you gonna take it an' end what you started with Johnson or are you gonna turn away an' waste the rest of your life wishin' you had?"

Judge Travis cleared his throat. "Miss Spears."

The preacher gave Hannah a meaningful look before moving aside, "After you."

"Do you have something to say before I pass sentance?" Judge Travis asked after they had returned.

She let out a deep breath and closed her eyes before speaking. She had bought Ty and Kurt two days, she hoped they had been smart enough to make it count. "The hideout's a couple miles north 'a Dry Creek in a little meadow. It's a little one story cabin."

"And the stash?" Travis promted her.

Hannah glowered at the judge. "The money's in the saloon. Back room, under the floor. There's a loose board underneath the table."

"Very good," he nodded. "As soon as the two have been positively located, I will have you released into probation. Until then you will remain locked up to ensure that your testimony is valid. Court is adjourned."

The End





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