Out of the Darkness
Author's Notes: anyway, this
is the sequel to Deadlier of the Species and also has quite a bit to
do with my last one, The Eternal. it would be a good idea to read both
of them before this one or you might not know what's going on. this takes
place nearly 2 years after Deadlier and about 4 months after the events
in Eternal. Little warning, i am trying a different approach with this one, so excuse any
awkwardness(sp?). i think that's all i have to say. let me know what
you think. lanna :)
It's been three days since we rescued Chris from that god awful place.
Three days since I got any real sleep. Chris hasn't shown any signs of
life except for shallow breathing since we got out of that place. Dammit.
He had just started to really recover from that Eternal incident. Then
they had to come along and pull him back in. What is it that attracts
evil to you, Chris? Why can't the bastard just leave you alone? I swear,
if you die, I'll go find Ally and join up with her. I'll hunt down and
kill every last person who has anything to do with those people. I don't
care if its a man, or a woman. They'll pay and pay dearly.
My gaze moves to the other side of Chris, where Buck sits, captured
by one of the same dozes that keeps me going. I'm willing to bet if Chris
dies, he'll go with me. In fact, there's no doubt about it. He was there,
along with J.D. and Josiah. They all saw first hand what was done to
Chris. How his mind was warped as it had been with Katanya. Yeah, I have
no doubt Buck would go with me and perhaps even further. My thoughts
drift to J.D. Wonder how the kid's holding up. After all, he went through
a lot too, being the first one that Chris 'recruited.' Kid's probably
scarred for life after what he's seen. Especially after nearly having
his heart carved out of him, and by his hero no less. I hope Josiah is
doing him some good.
The door opens and Buck is instantly awake, his hand on his gun, ready
to draw. It's only Nathan and he relaxes. Nathan sets the tray of food
he is carrying down and I get out of my chair to make room for him. He
feels Chris' head and vital signs and does some other things, then looks
at us and asks, "Any change at all while I was gone?" as he has done
for the past two days whenever he leaves for a bit.
I shake my head and Buck asks, "Any luck finding Melinda?"
Nathan nods. "Yeah, finally tracked her down in Frisco. She's on her
way." He looks back at Chris, and adds, "I just hope he holds out long
enough for her to get here and that she can do something for him." I
am silent for a moment, then ask quietly, "Any sign of..." but I trail
off, unable to go on.
Nathan shakes his head, his eyes sad and I know what he's gonna say
before he even opens his mouth to say it. I save him the trouble. "She
ain't dead, Nathan."
Nathan is silent for a moment, then puts his hand on my shoulder.
"I don't want to believe she's dead either, Vin. But you have to accept
the fact that she just might be. It's been three days. If she were alive,
surely she would have turned up by now."
I don't respond and I don't miss the worried looks Buck and Nathan
exchange. I ignore them.
After a moment of silence, Nathan says, "I brought you two some food.
Would do you good if you ate, especially since you aren't getting much
Neither of us respond and both of us notice Nathan doesn't press us.
Instead, he says, "I'm gonna go look in on J.D., then I'll be back."
He turns to go, and pauses at the door, looking back. "Please, try to
eat something," he says, then is gone.
I look at the food, but don't make a move toward it. I'm not hungry
right now. Perhaps later. I re-take my chair and stare at Chris unseeingly.
My thoughts are on her. The one who I never expected would awaken in
me the love I never thought I'd know again, especially after the start
we had. I smile as her image floats around in my mind. My thoughts go
back to the night before hell on earth took on a whole new meaning. The
night we made love under a sunset so...spectacular that I felt sure then,
as I still do now, that is was God's way of showing us his love and approval.
That's why I don't believe she's dead. God wouldn't show us his approval
and then take rip us apart. He's not that cruel. Is he? I'll have to
ask Josiah. If anyone would know, he would.
I'm shaken from my thoughts as Buck suddenly cries out and angrily
smashes his fist into the wall.
"Damn her!" he growls. "I swear I'm gonna hunt her down and kill her
if it's the last think I do!"
I say nothing, but wholeheartedly agree with him. Once again, one
harmless looking girl had managed to turn everything around her upside
down and caused serious damage. It had been nearly two years since we
had seen her. I didn't expect to ever see her again after the last time.
But, then again, there have been plenty of people in my life that I had
never expected to see again, only to have pop up at the most unexpected
time in the most unexpected place. Again, my thoughts go to J.D. Seeing
her again and having her rip us up again must have been one of the most
hardest things for that boy. After all, he's in love with her. Maybe
God is that cruel. Or maybe he's trying to tell one of them something.
Again, I'll have to ask Josiah.
Buck has calmed down somewhat and is now picking at some of the food
Nathan left for us. I still don't feel I can eat, so I turn my gaze back
to Chris, silently praying for Melinda to have a speedy journey, silently
hoping that she can help him, as she did with those Eternals. As I do,
my mind travels back to the day I last saw Chris, slowly returning to
his old self, with more life in him than he has now. He was getting ready
to head over to the next town on some sort of business, refusing any
"Chris, would you please reconsider?" Nathan said as he watched Chris
mount his black horse. "You're still recovering. I really don't think
it's a good idea to be going off alone right now."
Chris looked down at Nathan from his horse and replied, "I can take
care of myself, Nathan. I'm not some kid who needs a babysitter."
"I know that," Nathan replied, "It's just that you're not fully recovered
and anything can happen."
Vin, J.D. and Ezra stood on the boardwalk, watching Chris prepare
for his trip and listening to the argument. It had been Nathan's last
words that prompted Vin to speak up.
"You know we've had reports of a couple gangs wandering around the
area. You have to admit, Chris, you ain't in top form right now. You
run into one of them gangs...well, it'd be best to have at least one
of us along."
Chris shot Vin a cold glare that he returned calmly. Chris Larabee
was a man who was very good at intimidating people, but in the short
time the two had known each other, Vin had never fallen into that trap.
Vin was sure it pissed Chris off something fierce, but he also thought
it was why the two of them were so close.
They stared at each other for a moment, and then Chris said, "I'm
going. *Alone.* I'll be back in five days."
He shot them all a hard glare, then spurred his horse and took off
down the street.
"Still wouldn't accept company huh?" Buck asked as he and Josiah joined
Vin shook his head in response as J.D. asked, "Should one of us follow
"Probably," Vin replied, "But he'll most likely shoot us if we do."
J.D. was silent for a moment, then said, "I'll wire the Sheriff over
there and have him let us know when Chris gets there."
"Now that's a right good idea Kid," Buck said, smiling at the boy.
Vin hid a smile of his own as the kid grinned and hurried off to do his
task. Then, with one last look in the direction Chris had gone, Vin turned
and followed Buck and Ezra toward the saloon.
The cowboys watched with suspicion as the lone rider slowly approached
them. The rider wore black from head to toe and the face was hidden in
the deep shadow of the hat, so the cowboys had no way of identifying
the rider as friend or foe without talking to him.
When the rider was close enough, one of them stood, holding his rifle
casually and said, "Hold up cowboy. Identify yourself."
The rider reined in and sat, staring down at the men silently. "What
are you, deaf cowboy? I said identify yourself!" the man growled, cocking
The stranger held up a gloved hand, then slowly slid off the horse.
Faster than any of the others could follow, the stranger grabbed the
cowboy's rifle, pulling it and him forward. A knee came up and connected
with his stomach, sending him to his knees, gasping for breath. His head
was jerked back and a blade was pressed to his throat. Stunning green
eyes peered out of the shadows of the hat, piercing the man's friends,
who stood with dumbfounded expressions. As one began to go for his gun,
the stranger spoke.
"Unless you want to see what vocal cords look like, I suggest you
remain as you are!"
The men looked at each other in surprise at the voice, but the stranger
ignore them and said to his prisoner, "The next time you call me cowboy,
or any name related to the male species, I'll see to it that you lose
your membership. Do you understand me?"
"Y...yes ma'am," the cowboy stuttered.
The woman smiled. "Good boy. Now, I want to see Kate and Jason. Take
me to them."
She released him and he scrambled to his feet. She re-mounted her
horse and followed the man past the rocky cannon and into a beautiful
valley. Several moments went by and then a large house came into view.
The cowboy urged his horse into a trot, met up with another cowboy
and exchanged words. The other man nodded and hurried back toward the
house. When the pair arrived at the yard, a woman in her early twenties
was standing on the porch, watching curiously. She was dressed casually
in a red dress and her long brown hair was done up in braids and hung
over her shoulders.
"I'm Kate Roberts," she called as she stepped off the porch and approached
the little fence, "What can I do for you?"
"Well, a nice steak would be a good start," the black clad woman replied.
Kate's eyes narrowed. "You're voice sounds familiar. Do I know you?"
"I don't see how you could possibly forget me."
The woman reached up and removed her hat. Long, fire red hair cascade
down her back and around her shoulders and her green eyes sparkled in
Kate's eyes widened. "My God. Tessa?"
"In the flesh," Tessa Williams replied, flashing a dazzling smile.
Kate laughed, opened the gate and embraced her old friend.
"It's so good to see you, Tess," she said, "We'd heard what happened.
Where have you been hiding?"
"Mexico. The Hollands got me up there and hooked me up with some friends
of theirs who hid me."
"What on Earth are you doing back here?" Kate asked as she led Tessa
inside the huge house, "You should have stayed where you were safe instead
of risking travel."
"Well, during my time in hiding, I thought a lot about those men who....took
"The Larabee gang?"
Tessa nodded, her eyes growing dark. "Yeah, the Larabee gang. The
bastards who killed three of my girls and turned the fourth into a traitor.
Two months ago, I decided it was time to avenge them and started thinking
of ways to go at it. I've spent last month over in Purgatory and it was
then that I thought of you two and you're little club."
Kate raised a brow. "You mean...?"
Tessa nodded. "I can't think of a better way. According to my sources,
Chris Larabee went over to Stone Canyon a few days ago and is now heading
Kate thought for a moment, then smiled. "Well then, if we're going
to recruit him, we'd best intercept him before he gets back home." "Intercept
who?" a new voice asked.
The women turned and found a handsome man in his early thirties standing
in the doorway behind them. He started when he saw Tessa.
"Tessa Williams? Is that you darling?"
Tessa smiled. "Yes Jason, it's me."
She rose and allowed him to take her in a hug. "Damn, girl! It's good
to see ya again!" he exclaimed.
"Tessa was just telling me she's back to avenge her girls, Jase,"
Kate said, "And her revenge plan involves us and our...club."
Jason looked at his sister in surprise. Then a smile crossed his lips.
"Well hell, we're always on the lookout for new members. In fact, we
haven't had a good initiation party in quite a while."
Tessa smiled, then said, "What would I ever do without friends like
Chris felt more relaxed than he had in months. The trip to Stone Canyon
had been uneventful and a little fun. Four Corners had been starting
to suffocate him. Or maybe it was his six companions. Either way, it
had been good to get away, even if it was only for a few days. He closed
his eyes as a cool breeze caressed his face, enjoying the softness of
Screaming reached his ears and his eyes flew open. He drew his gun
and reined his horse in, looking around and listening carefully. His
gaze was drawn to a hill on his left and he urged the horse in the direction.
When he reached the top, he saw a lone woman struggling with two men.
Chris spurred his horse and ran down the hill. The men saw him and began
to draw their weapons, but Chris shot his own, the first bullet spraying
up the sand at their feet and the second nicking one of the men in the
He cried out, then shouted to his friend, limped over to his horse,
mounted and took off. His friend threw the woman to the ground, jumped
on his horse and took off as well. Chris reined in and watched them for
a moment, then holstered his gun and dismounted.
"You all right, Miss?" he asked, offering her his hand and helping
She nodded. "Yes. Thank you so much Mr...."
"Larabee. Chris Larabee."
She smiled shakily. "Kate Roberts."
"You hurt anywhere, Miss Roberts?"
"No, just shaken I think," she replied, looking herself over.
"Where do you live?"
"About an hour that way," she said, pointing south.
Chris looked in the direction, then looked around the area. "Think
I'd better escort you. Wouldn't want anybody else gettin' any ideas."
"Oh, you don't have to do that," Kate protested.
Chris shook his head. "You're right. But it wouldn't be right to just
leave you here."
Kate studied Chris for a moment, then smiled and nodded. "All right.
That would be very kind of you."
Chris helped her mount her horse, then mounted his own and followed
They arrived at an impressive spread an hour later. Several cowboys
stopped their work to stare suspiciously at Chris as the pair road by,
but a look from Kate quickly diverted their attention. As they entered
the yard of a large house, a man of about thirty approached them, a curious
expression on his face.
"Welcome back, Kate. Who's your friend?" he asked, helping her down.
"This is Chris Larabee. I ran into some...trouble during my ride and
he helped me."
"What sort of trouble?"
"A couple of cowboys decided I would be good sport."
"Good lord! Are you all right?"
"Yes, Jason, I'm fine. Thanks to Mr. Larabee here."
"Chris," Chris replied as the man looked up at him.
"Well Chris, I must say I owe you one. I'm Jason, Kate's brother,"
he said, stepping forward and offering his hand.
"Was my pleasure," Chris replied, grasping the other man's hand. He
glanced up at the sky, then said, "I'd be best be going now. Just wanted
to be sure your sister got home all right."
"Oh, Chris," Kate spoke up, "Please, won't you stay for dinner?"
Chris shook his head. "Thanks, but I really should be getting on home."
"Please," she insisted, "It's the least we could do in return for
Chris hesitated and a pleading, irresistible looked entered her brown
eyes. 'Aw hell,' he thought, 'It's just dinner. So I'll be a few hours
later than expected. Big deal.'
He nodded. "All right."
She broke into a huge smile as Jason called one of the cowboys wandering
"Take the horses to the barn," he said, then turned and followed Kate
and Chris to the house.
"Chris Larabee," Jason said with a thoughtful look later that evening
as the trio sat eating supper. "You wouldn't happen to be the Chris Larabee
who leads the protectors of that town called Four Corners would you?"
Chris nodded, a little uncomfortable at the recognition.
"Well I'll be Kate!" he exclaimed, "You brought home a man who's fixing
to go into legend!"
"Jason," Kate gently admonished with a smile, "Don't embarrass the
man now. He's our guest."
Jason grinned, then said, "So tell me, Chris, what's it like protecting
a town from desperadoes and all that?"
"Like war. Boring until something actually happens."
Jason laughed, then asked, "What are the men you work with like?"
"They're a good bunch. Rough around the edges, but then who isn't?"
"Amen, brother. Would you like some wine?"
"Take whiskey if you got it."
Jason nodded and motioned for one of the servants. The man disappeared,
reappearing a moment later with a large bottle and filling Chris' glass.
An hour and a half later, Chris stood outside with the Roberts, waiting
for his horse to be brought.
"It was a pleasure meeting you, Chris," Jason said, again offering
Chris took it and they shook firmly. "Pleasure meeting you as well,"
He blinked and his vision blurred, then cleared.
He looked at Kate as she said, "Thank you again for your assistance,
Chris. I hope you come back to visit sometime."
Chris nodded. "Maybe I will," he replied. His vision blurred again
and he shook his head.
"Chris? Are you all right?" she asked, concern in her voice.
"Yeah, I'm fine." He tipped his hat to her, nodded to Jason, then
turned and moved toward his horse. He hadn't gone more than two steps
when a surge of dizziness overtook him and he fell to his knees. His
stomach lurched and pain filled his head, and then all went dark.
The five days Chris had said he'd be gone for turned into six. And
then seven. By the time nine rolled around, J.D. contacted the sheriff
in Stone Canyon, who told him Chris had left days ago, as he had intended,
and should have been back right on time. As soon as the other men heard
this, Buck, J.D., Ezra and Vin saddled up to go out hunting. Figuring
Stone Canyon would be the best place to start, they headed there. When
they got there, J.D. and Buck went to talk to the sheriff, while Ezra
and Vin headed for the saloon. True to form, the first thing Ezra did
was get himself involved in a poker game. Vin let him be, knowing his
talent for getting information was nearly as good as his talent for conning
While Ezra played, Vin went to the bar, got a bottle of whiskey and
sat a table in the corner to wait.
Twenty minutes later, J.D. and Buck came in and joined him.
"Nothing!" J.D. exclaimed as he sat down, frustration in his voice.
"Chris left days ago, just like he told us in his wire," Buck added.
"You sure we can trust him?" Vin asked, "Could end up being like that
sheriff who put Chris in that prison."
"No, I've dealt with him before," J.D. said, "He's a good, honest
"Well," Vin said, "Guess the only thing we can do is wait and see
if Ezra comes up with something."
Buck and J.D. nodded and we fell into silence.
Finally, about an hour later, Ezra's game broke up and he joined us.
"Anything?" Buck asked.
"A few of them saw Mr. Larabee leave on the day in question, but that's
about it," Ezra replied.
"Damn!" Buck muttered. He sighed. "Now what?"
The three of them looked at Vin, who just shook his head and said,
"Wish I knew."
Chris struggled to get the breath that had caught in his throat. He
gasped harshly and then fought the pain that was attacking him.
"Easy Chris," a female voice reached him, "It's all right, just take
He opened his eyes, suddenly aware of the intense heat around him.
For a moment, he figured he had died and gone to hell, until his eyes
focused on the woman above him.
"Kate?" he asked hoarsely.
"Shhh," she replied with a nod. "Just lay still and keep quiet. You're
very sick Chris."
Sick? When had that happened? The last thing he remembered was getting
ready to leave, then pain, then darkness.
"You've been delirious with fever for four days now. This is the first
time you've really woken up."
"Aw hell!" he started to sit up, but Kate quickly restrained him,
an easy task in his weakened state.
"Chris! Lay still!" she exclaimed.
"I gotta get back," he insisted, but stopped his struggles as the
pain returned, "They'll be looking for me."
"We've already contacted your friends, Chris," Kate reassured him.
"They were here for two days, but then got called away on an emergency
or something. We expect them back any day now."
The door to the room opened and a young, pretty Mexican girl entered,
carrying a tray of bottles and other things.
"Chris, this is Rosa. She's been helping to look after you. She's
very skilled in medicines and stuff."
Rosa nodded to Chris with a small smile, then handed Kate a glass
"Here, drink this," she said, helping him to sit up a bit.
The liquid tasted awful and burned as it went down his throat. He
coughed as he lay back down, the heat seeming to flare and get hotter.
He tried to voice his distress, but the thick darkness had moved in and
claimed him again.
Kate smiled as she watched Chris lose consciousness again.
"You really need to have your friend there show me how to make that
She looked to the doorway and found Tessa standing there, smiling.
"How's he doing?" she asked in a disinterested tone as she came into
"Few more days and he'll be ready for the next stage," Kate replied,
looking back at Chris. "We just got to make sure his friends don't stumble
on any information that'll lead them here."
"How long will it be before he can start brining in the others?"
"This is a long process, Tess. We're looking at a month at the very
least, three months at the most before he'll be ready to send out."
Tessa stared at Chris for a long moment. "Finally, she said, "I waited
two years for vengeance. I guess a little longer won't matter." She looked
back at Kate. "Think I'll go for a ride before supper."
Kate nodded. "All right."
She watched Tessa leave, then turned back to find Rosa on the other
side of Chris, her hand on his chest, frowning slightly.
"Rosa?" she asked.
Rosa looked up and said softly, "Miss Kate, do you realize who you
Kate looked at her quizzically.
"I was not certain before, but I am now."
Kate sighed. "Well come on, Rosa, out with it."
Rosa looked from Kate to Chris and back again, then began speaking
in rapid fire Spanish. Kate's eyes widened as she listened and, when
Rosa finished, raced from the room to find Jason.
Jason looked up as Tessa entered the barn, and smiled.
"Hey there, darling," he greeted, "Going for a ride?"
Tessa nodded as she went over and patted her horse's neck. "Yeah.
It's time to give my baby girl here a good run."
"Mind if I tag along?"
Tessa regarded him for a moment, then nodded. "Sure. Guess we could
use the company."
Jason smiled and grabbed a saddle for his horse. Before he could get
much further than putting it on the horse's back, Kate ran into the barn.
"Jason!" she exclaimed, "You're not going to believe what Rosa just
"She seeing good things or bad things this time?" Jason asked, continuing
to saddle his horse.
"Jason, Chris Larabee is the one."
"The one what?"
Kate moved and spun him around so that he was looking her in they
"Jason, he's the one," she repeated, stressing the words.
Jason stared at her for a moment, then his eyes narrowed. "You don't
Kate nodded. "Yes! The one the Order has been waiting for since the
beginning! Larabee is it!"
"Is she sure?" he asked, his expression bewildered.
"She's never been wrong before. You know that as well as I do. You
wanna hear something interesting? Seems Larabee had a run in with an
Eternal recently and actually beat her! Turns out, though, that whoever
the Eternal was, she left a little something hibernating deep down inside
of him. Ironically, that little something is exactly what the Order needs
and, therefore, makes him the chosen one." She smiled widely as she finished.
"Isn't that positively delicious?"
"I'll be damned," Jason finally said when the information had sunk
"You two wanna clue me in on this little pow wow here?" Tessa spoke
Kate turned to her friend, the big smile getting bigger.
"The Order has a prophecy," she began, "It's been around since the
beginning. It states, and I quote, that 'a chosen child of Darkness will
one day appear. It is not known what form the child will arrive in or
even if he will be on the side of darkness. Should he arrive on the side
of good, it is up to the members who find him to take the appropriate
steps to prepare him for his destiny. The chosen child of dark will slay
the chosen child of light, and the blood that flows will release a force
so powerful, it will make all children of darkness unstoppable.'"
Tessa raised her brows, then smiled. "Well now, that does sound appealing.
Now, you wanna tell me what on Earth an 'Eternal' is?"
"Well, basically, Eternals are human like beings who survive by consuming
human souls. Each soul buys them up to four hundred years of life. Pretty
sweet huh? A few Eternals have been known to circulate around the groups
over in Europe. In return for a few...good souls, they hand over some
Tessa thought about this, then nodded. "All right. So, if Larabee
is your chosen....child of darkness, then who's the child of light?"
"We're still searching for that one," Jason replied. "Could be anywhere."
"I'll go to the nearest telegraph office in the morning and put out
the word. Should get the other groups searching harder if the knowledge
that the chosen one has finally turned up," Kate said.
Jason nodded in agreement. "It'll also give those who can time to
get here and those who can't a chance to set up the right ceremonies."
Tessa looked from one to the other, a small smile making its way across
her lips. "You two sure know how to make vengeance different."
Six weeks passed with not one clue as to Chris' whereabouts. We notified
the law in several towns, asking to keep an eye out for him and, as a
result, had a few scares. On a number of occasions, we were notified
to come and identify a body matching Chris' description. Thankfully,
each one turned out to be a false alarm, which meant there was still
a chance Chris was alive.
By the third false alarm, Buck looked ready to have a breakdown. Hell,
so was I, the relief was so intense.
By the time two months passed, the others had pretty much given up
hope of ever finding him. I think they believed Chris had chosen to disappear
without a trace, and that we would only see him again when and if he
wanted them to. But I didn't believe it, and neither did Buck. We both
knew something was wrong and the feeling of helplessness was killing
Josiah always told us that God works in mysterious ways. That there's
a reason for everything he does. Well, I'll be damned if I can figure
out the reason behind what happened next. By this time, it had been about
two and a half months since Chris disappeared, and another of us was
about to follow him. Literally....
J.D. walked slowly down the dark, deserted street, breathing in the
scented night air. It was well past three in the morning, but he could
hear activity still coming from the saloon on the next street over. He
stopped, listening to the sounds float through the air, then decided
to stop in. Maybe a drink or two would help kill his insomnia.
He turned to cut through an alley, but stopped when the sound of a
slowly trotting horse reached his ears. He turned back and peered into
the darkness, trying to identify the lone rider out at such a ungodly
hour. As the figure came closer, J.D. was able to pick out familiar features
and his heart started racing.
"My God. Chris?" he called, rushing forward to meet the rider. "Chris
is that you?"
He grabbed the bridal of the horse as it stopped, next to the Sheriff's
office and looked up at it's rider.
"My God, Chris!" J.D. exclaimed, "Where on Earth have you been? Everyone's
been going nuts looking for you!"
"I've been to an amazing place, J.D. filled with amazing people,"
Chris replied as he dismounted. "I'm here to get some things, then I'm
J.D. gaped at him.
"What do you mean? Aren't you gonna let the others know you're all
right? Say goodbye even?"
"Not right now. Later. I need to get back right away." There was a
pause, then he added, "You're welcome to come with me J.D. You'd really
like this place. Got some really pretty girls you'd enjoy meeting. How
J.D. looked up at him just as the light from the street fires illuminated
his face and held back a gasp. There was something extremely different,
almost frightening in Chris' eyes and it made J.D. nervous. But his fear
of Chris disappearing again and not coming back quickly overrode his
nervousness and he nodded.
"Ya okay. Just let me get some stuff from the office, and then get
my horse okay?"
Chris nodded. "Make it fast. I'll meet you back here."
J.D. nodded and hurried into the office. He quickly sought out paper
and a pencil and scribbled out a note. He then grabbed a few things he
kept there, then ran to the livery and got his horse. Chris was waiting
for him when he got back and with a short nod, they trotted out of Four
J.D. struggled all through dinner to keep his attention off Tessa
without success. As he had two years earlier, he felt drawn to her. And
that scared him. Thanks to Chris' behavior, he didn't believe for a second
that Tessa was there to reform, though he wished with all his heart it
was true. He couldn't afford to fall under her spell again, for to do
so would almost certainly mean death.
He wondered why the others had shown up yet. Vin should have been
able to track them without even trying. His mind flashed to the man who
had taken off without his horse and then shown up a short time later
and his suspicions soared.
'Maybe he sabotaged the trail,' he thought. 'That would certainly
help explain why the others haven't shown up yet. I've gotta get out
of here and get back to them.'
He suppressed a yawn and realized it had been a while since he last
slept. 'Better put off leaving till tomorrow night and get some sleep.
Give me a chance to gather more information too.'
He looked up to see Kate watching him.
"I'm sorry, what?"
"You look exhausted, darling. You should go get some sleep."
J.D. smiled. "That's just what I was thinking," he replied.
"Well, before you do," Kate said making a gesture to a servant who
disappeared from the room and reappeared seconds later with a pitcher,
"You must join us for a quick, goodnight drink."
J.D. glanced at Chris, who nodded slightly. He looked at Kate and
smiled. "Sure, I'd be happy to."
The servant filled his glass as another filled the others. Kate raised
her glass and, as the others followed suite, said, "May we all live long
and joyous lives."
Everyone murmured their consent and downed their drinks. J.D. looked
at the glass with a puzzled expression.
"What was that?"
"Homemade wine," Kate replied. "It's an old family recipe. Do you
J.D. nodded. "Yeah, it's delicious."
Kate smiled gently. "Would you like some more?"
J.D. was about to accept but for some reason, something inside screamed
at him not to. Holding in his puzzled feelings, he shook his head and
said, "No thanks. I think I'll be getting to bed now."
"All right. Sweet dreams and we'll see you in the morning."
J.D. stood and immediately faltered. He gripped the back of the chair
as his vision blurred and dizziness assaulted him.
"J.D.?" Kate asked, standing, "Are you all right?"
"I...I don't feel so good," he replied a little shakily. He shook
his head as his vision blurred again and then cried out as pain wracked
his mind. He didn't hear his name being called out and was dimly aware
of being touched, possibly shaken before darkness sucked him into it's
"What's wrong with him?" Chris asked, looking over at Kate.
"Don't worry, he'll be fine. The boy was nervous and extremely suspicious.
I could see it written all over him. I think he was also getting ready
to take off. Well, we certainly couldn't have that, so I made a move.
In a few days, he'll be good as new and more than willing to stay with
Chris nodded thoughtfully. "When do you want the next one brought
Kate looked at Jason who said, "Tomorrow. We're gonna need a little
time to get J.D. prepared."
Chris nodded. "I'm going for a ride before I turn in."
"I'll join you," Tessa spoke up with a small smile.
Chris nodded and the pair left. Kate looked down at the unconscious
boy, then up at one of the hands. "Get him to the sick room and have
Rosa start work on him."
As the hand left with J.D., Kate looked at Jason and said, "I really
think I'm going to enjoy this. Something tells me we're headed for a
Jason smiled and kissed his sister's head. "If you say so. Come on,
let's go catch up with Chris and Tessa. We wouldn't want something to
go wrong and have them kill each other."
Kate nodded. "Yeah. Would hate to have a repeat of five years ago."
She shuddered. "Even *I* can only handle so much blood and mutilation."
Buck couldn't believe it when he spotted the familiar form of his
oldest friend riding toward him. He'd been out on patrol for nearly an
hour now and Chris Larabee was the last thing he expected to encounter,
though he had hoped his friend would turn up.
"Hello Buck," Chris greeted as he reined in.
Buck stared at him a moment, then everything he had been thinking
came pouring out. "Chris! Where the hell have you been? You know how
freaked out everyone's been? And where's J.D.? He okay?"
Chris nodded. "J.D.'s fine. Well, he will be in a few days. He took
sick last night."
More worry mixed with the anger in Buck's eyes. "Sick? Where is he?"
"Calm down Buck and I'll explain everything."
Buck forced himself to quiet down and listened as Chris related his
story. By the time the older man had finished, amazement had joined the
other emotions in Buck's eyes.
"Come on," Chris said, "I'll take ya back and you can see J.D. and
meet the Roberts."
Buck shook himself. "Chris! You know damn well I can't just take off!
We need to go back to town and show the others you're safe and sound
and tell them this. We can all go back with you."
Chris shook his head. "The spread ain't that far from here.
Buck was torn. It was quite clear Chris wasn't going to go back to
town. Not now anyway. Not only that, but Buck suddenly saw that J.D.'s
note had been right. Something *was* wrong here. Buck could see it in
Chris' eyes. He fought back a shudder as he remembered how Chris' eyes
had been when the demon Katanya had him in her power. They didn't look
now as they had then, but there was definitely an eerie shine in them.
That was what made Buck's decision. He just hopped he wouldn't regret
"What's the problem?" Kate asked as she followed the cowboy back to
the sick room.
"I don't know Miss Kate," he replied, "I don't understand Spanish
and that's all she's speaking."
"Well, what happened?" Kate asked with a touch of inpatients.
The cowboy shook his head. "Don't rightly know. She was fine last
night when she was tending to the boy but when she came in to tend to
his fever today, she just started ranting and raving. No one can figure
out what she's saying or what the problem is. All we know is that it's
got something to do with the boy."
They reached the room and Kate entered only to be immediately bombarded
by Spanish. She narrowed her eyes as she tired to make sense of what
the Mexican girl was trying to tell her. Finally she gripped Rosa's arms
and said, /Rosa! I don't understand what you're saying! Calm down./
Rosa stopped talking and took several deep breaths. Finally, when
she was calm enough, she repeated what she had been saying. Kate's eyes
widened and she looked back at the man who had fetched her. "Get Jason
As the man hurried out of the room she turned back to Rosa and asked,
"Are you sure?"
Rosa nodded. "Without a doubt," she replied. "The signs are all there."
Kate looked at J.D. who tossed in fevered restlessness in the bed,
and her heart began beating faster.
"Kate? What's going on?"
She shook herself and looked up to find Jason had appeared. She must
have been a sight for Jason immediately gripped her arm, concern all
over his features. "Kate, what's wrong?"
Kate looked back at J.D. and a smile began crossing her lips. "Nothing's
wrong, Jason," she whispered. "Something is very, very right."
Jason stared at her. "Well? Are you gonna tell me or not?"
Kate slowly turned and looked up at her brother. She gazed at him
a moment, then related what Rosa had told her.
Jason's reaction was much like her own, but he was much quicker to
recover his voice. He looked down at J.D. and said softly, "I'll be dammed.
Who would have ever guessed they would turn up riding together?"
"I know. Isn't it exciting? The prophecy is playing out. The time
"What's going on?"
They both turned and watched as Tessa entered the room, a curious
expression on her face. Kate smiled. "Tessa, you've done it again."
"Done what?" Tessa asked cautiously.
"You've brought us exactly what we need."
"And that is?"
"The Child of Light," Jason replied, slipping and arm around his sister's
Tessa stared at them in surprise. She glanced at J.D. and said, "You
Kate nodded. "Yup. You're gonna be greatly rewarded for this Tess.
If it hadn't been for you..." She trailed off, her smile growing wider.
It took a moment for Tessa to work through her surprise and when she
finally found her voice, she said, "So, what now?"
"Well, first things first," Kate replied, "We need to get our dear
Child of Light here into a more secluded place for a while. Chris will
be returning with another of his friends shortly and we can't have them
ruining things. We're gonna have to give him some different medication.
We can't bring him to our side now cause of who he is."
"We're also gonna have to alert the others of what's happened," Jason
Kate nodded in agreement. "I'll have someone get on that. Right now
we'd best get him moved. Chris will be back soon." She thought for a
moment, then added, "Let's not tell Chris of this little development.
I think it would be better to wait till further into his treatment so
he doesn't fight it off or anything."
Jason nodded. "Good idea. You go do what you need to and I'll get
the kid moved." He looked at Tessa and added, "You better make yourself
scarce too. I bet whoever Larabee brings back is gonna kick up more fuss
than the kid did."
Tessa nodded. "I'll just hang around wherever you stick J.D."
Jason nodded, and everyone set to work.
"I don't like this," Vin said as he scanned the streets. "Buck should
have been back hours ago."
"Think he ran into trouble?" Josiah asked.
Vin shook his head as he took the reins of his horse and mounted.
"I don't know. But I aim to find out."
Josiah nodded as he, too mounted. The pair looked down at Ezra and
Nathan, who watched them from the porch of the Sheriff's office.
"What do you want us to do should our resident ladies man returns?"
"Stay put. I kinda doubt he'll show up though. I smell a rat." With
that said, Vin spurred his horse and he and Josiah took off out of town.
Ezra and Nathan watched them disappear, then turned and went about
Vin and Josiah picked up Buck's trail quickly and followed it, taking
note of when he met up with a second rider. Vin looked in the direction
the tracks went together, then up at Josiah.
"Looks like they're headed in the same direction J.D. went with Chris."
"You think the second rider was Chris?" Josiah asked.
"Only one way to find out," Vin replied, standing and remounting his
horse. "Lets see how far we get this time."
They set off at a light trot, following the tracks. But, as with J.D.,
the tracks soon vanished.
"Same as last time," Vin said, his voice laced with frustration. "Someone
covered the tracks." He stood and glared at the ground. "What the hell
is going on around here? If it was Chris that Buck met up with, then
why the hell didn't they come home? Why does it look like Chris is taking
us out one by one?"
Josiah shook his head. "Perhaps we're dealing with another powerful
force of evil."
"Would only figure," Vin replied bitterly. "Why the hell do they always
go after Chris?"
"Because of who Chris is and what he's gone through, it makes him
an easy target," Josiah replied.
Vin shook his head. "Come on, let's get back to town."
He remounted his horse and the two men hurried back the way they had
"Any luck?" Nathan asked as he and Ezra approached their two comrades.
Vin shook his head and related what they had found. When he finished,
he looked at the others silently for a long moment then said, "Until
we figure out what's going on here, we stick together. Nobody leaves
town or goes very far without at least another of us. Understand?"
The others nodded and Vin glanced around. "I don't know about the
rest of you, but I need a drink."
He turned and headed for the saloon, the others following. After they
had been seated a few moments, Vin said, "Oh, and one more thing. If
Chris shows up again, *don't* go with him. In fact, make sure he stays
here. I don't care if you have to hit him over the head and hog tie him,
just make sure he don't leave."
Again the others nodded and a silence that lasted for a long time
"Buck, calm down. If they say it's not a good idea to see the kid,
then it's not a good idea to see him," Chris said, putting a calming
hand on Buck's arm.
"I thought you said he was gonna be all right?" Buck replied, agitated.
Chris shrugged. "How was I to know he'd picked something else up too?
Quit worrying. Kate and Jason have one of the best care takers around."
"I can't help but worry, Chris. And it's not just J.D. I'm worried
about. You've been acting really strange lately what with disappearing
on us, then showing up and taking off again with J.D. What the hell is
going on? I mean *really* going on?"
"Nothing's going on Buck. I told you what happened. Take a look around.
Can you blame me for wanting to stay here?"
Buck shook his head. "Under the right circumstances, no, but this
is different Chris. There's something going on here. I can feel it and
I can see it just by looking at you."
Chris chuckled. "This thing with J.D. has you paranoid, Buck. Now
come on. Let's go get some supper and then we'll head back." He paused,
then added, "With J.D. if it makes you feel any better."
Buck nodded. "Yeah it would. Nathan can care for him just as well
Chris smiled slightly. "Let's go then."
After dinner, Buck was left to talk with Kate Roberts and a couple
of the cowboys while Chris went to look into a few things. He kept his
discomfort hidden, though it was a struggle. Kate Roberts was a very
charming young woman and it was all Buck could do not to fall under her
Finally, Chris came back and Buck stood. "Was nice meeting you Miss
Kate," he said with a smile, "But it looks like Chris and I will be taking
J.D. and heading home now."
"We aren't heading back," Chris said.
Buck shot Chris a sharp look. "Why's that?" he asked.
"Bad storm headed this way. Wouldn't be a good idea to take J.D. out
'Dammit,' Buck thought. Figures the weather would be against him.
"Oh dear," Kate said, "I'd better get out there and help prepare for
"We'll help out," Chris said and Kate smiled.
"Thank you. Come on, let's go see what needs doing."
Several hours later, Buck lay in bed, staring at the ceiling and listening
to the storm rage outside. He and Chris had worked hard to help prepare
for the storm, which hit full force just as they were finishing. Everyone
had gathered inside the main house and sat around, talking. Finally,
Chris led Buck outside and to the guest house, which Buck had to admit
He and Chris had talked for a while and then retired to their rooms.
Buck wished he had been able to see J.D. He was extremely worried and
was quite certain there was more going on than he was being told. He
decided he was leaving in the morning with or without Chris and J.D.
He would ride back to town and get the others. Figuring that was the
wisest course of action, he closed his eyes and began to drift off.
The hand that covered his mouth and the blade that was pressed to
his neck brought him back to alertness very quickly. He stayed very still
because of the knife and looked up at his attacker. It was a man, though
Buck couldn't make out any features thanks to the darkness and the fact
the man's face was masked.
"Stay quiet," the man whispered, "I'm a friend."
He removed his hand and the knife and sat back on the bed. Buck quickly
sat up a bit.
"Who are you?" he asked in a low voice.
The man shook his head. "Doesn't matter. Listen carefully. You're
in grave danger here. You need to get that kid and get out of here...tonight.
If you don't, you'll end up the way Larabee is and that kid will end
"What's wrong with Chris?" Buck asked, hoping to finally discover
what was going on.
"No time to explain." The man reached into his pocket and took out
a key. "Follow the path out back. It'll take you to where the kid is
being held. This key will get you inside."
"How can I get him out of here when he's sick?"
"He may be sick, but he can travel. You may have to hold him in front
of you. Either way, just get him out of here. One of my associates is
going to be contacting you and your friends shortly. She'll be able to
help him and explain what is going on."
He once again reached into his pocket and this time pulled out a vial
filled with a clear liquid.
"If you get caught," he whispered, "they'll try and get you to drink
something they'll claim is water or whiskey or something. Try to avoid
it. There's a special little poison mixed in with it that they use to
bring people under their control. Just in case you can't avoid it though,
drink this. It'll fight off the poison and keep your mind your own. Make
sure you drink it all."
He stood. "Wait ten minutes, then go," he said, then quickly slipped
out the door.
Buck's heart pounded in his chest. He'd known something was wrong
but he never expected it to be this big. He forced himself to stay calm
and examined the little bottle. He considered the fact that the man wasn't
a friend, but the enemy.
'Can't take the risk of ignoring him when he could be telling the
truth,' he thought and quickly opened it. He drank the contents, wincing
at it's bitter taste and when ten minutes had passed, quietly left the
room and followed the man's instructions.
Through the pouring rain he soon spotted a small, windowless cabin.
He approached it carefully and tried to listen for movement inside. Hearing
nothing, he carefully put the key in and unlocked the door.
The room was dimly lit with oil lamps and sparsely furnished. In one
corner was a stove and next to it a door that was closed. He didn't approach
it, however, for his gaze landed on another corner of the room where
two beds were, one of which was occupied.
"J.D." he whispered and quickly moved to the bed.
His friend looked horrible. He was covered in sweat and looked like
death warmed over. "J.D., he whispered, shaking him to see if the boy
When he didn't, Buck prepared to gather him up and carry him out.
However, a noise behind him caught his attention and he quickly turned
only to see something come rushing at his face. His vision exploded into
whiteness that quickly turned to black.
"Buck. Buck, can you hear me?"
Through the fog that clouded his mind, a voice penetrated and reached
him, helping to guide him out and to the land of alertness.
"Come on, darlin,' time to wake up. Open your eyes."
Buck struggled to do as the voice said and finally managed to pry
his heavy eyelids open. He blinked and Kate Roberts' concerned face floated
into view above him.
She looked to a point he couldn't see and said, "He's awake."
Buck blinked again and Chris appeared in his vision.
"Welcome back to the land of the living. How do you feel?"
"Like I was in the middle of a stampede," Buck groaned. "What happened?"
"Well, we were hoping you could tell us," Kate replied. "One of my
hands was checking on the animals last night and came across you unconscious
in the mud. It looked like you had slipped and hit your head on a rock.
If he hadn't have found you when he did, then who knows what would have
"What were you doing wandering around in that storm, Buck?" Chris
Buck carefully sat up so that he was leaning against the bed's headboard.
"I can't remember," he said with a confused frown.
Kate exchanged a glance with Chris, then picked up a glass from the
"Here," she said, giving him the glass, "Drink this. It'll make you
Buck brought the glass to his lips and his mind's eye suddenly flashed
back to the night before and the strange man. Along with that memory
came the memories of finding the cabin and J.D. and of someone knocking
him over the head.
"Buck?" Chris asked, "You all right?"
Buck nodded and put the glass aside. "Yeah, I'll be all right."
Kate nodded and put a hand on Chris' arm. "We'll let you get some
Buck met Chris' eyes and forced a smile. "Talk to you later, Pard."
Chris nodded and smiled back, though it didn't reach his eyes. "Later."
Buck relaxed slightly when the pair left, his gaze moving to the glass
on the night stand. His thoughts went to J.D. and, on impulse, he searched
his pockets. He was surprised when his hand closed around the key, wondering
why it was still there. Surely he would have been searched. He shook
his head. It didn't matter. What did matter was that it was still there
and he still had another chance to get the kid and get out of there.
First chance he got, he would try again.
Kate softly closed the door behind her and turned to Chris. "I got
the feeling we've been infiltrated and whoever it is has tipped him off.
The fact he was in the cabin with a key no less confirms that Unfortunately
I don't have any way of finding out who the intruder is. If they're an
agent from the Group, then they know how to blend in." She slammed her
fist into her other hand. "Dammit! Those agents are such a pain in the
ass. Thank God there's so few of them left."
"So what do you want to do?" Chris asked.
She turned her gaze back to him. "Well, thanks to our intruder, Buck
probably can't be turned now. I bet he finds the key still in his pocket
and when he does, I'm willing to bet he'll try to get J.D. and get out
of here again."
She shook her head and sighed. "It's a pity really. We could have
used him. Now, it looks like he'll be sharing J.D.'s fate." She smiled
coldly. "But then again, the more the merrier."
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