The Barkeep's Simple Request
by Kris Mashburn
Author's Note: Katie Harper is a figment of my imagination,
no resemblance to any person living or dead is intended.
It was late afternoon in Four Corners, and Chris Larabee was headed
for the saloon. His rounds done, he wanted a shot of whiskey. As he entered
the saloon, Chris noted Ezra at his table along with Josiah and J.D.
"Chris, you gotta see this, " Buck called out, standing behind JD,
"Ezra is teaching the kid the fine points of poker." A big grin
washing over his face.
Chris nodded, and continued toward the bar. He ordered a whiskey,
but then noticed that the barkeep hadn't moved. The barkeep was just
looking at him, and then signaled with his head to move down the counter
with him. Chris obliged.
The barkeep was nervous as he began, "Now Mr. Larabee, I don't want
you to think that I repeat things I overhear, but this is kinda important
"Just say your piece".
"Well, these two fellers were talking 'bout hitting the Harper place
tonight, and well, Mr. Harper used to be good to me, and I would jus
hate to see his daughter get hurt," the barkeep paused, but seeing he
had Chris' attention, continued. "They said if they had to kill her it
was okay with the boss. Mr. Larabee, she's out there all alone, and I
was hoping that..."
"I'll take care of it," Chris broke in, then turned around and headed
for Ezra's table.
"Boys, we got ourselves a situation," Chris calmly told them. They
all started to rise.
"Josiah, go get Nathan, and JD get your badge, it may come in handy",
Chris gave the instructions as he was turning to go find Vin.
In minutes the seven were on their horses, weapons loaded, and on
their way to the Harper place.
Before they could even see the Harper place, they heard the exchange
of gunfire and spurred their horses on. With the house in sight, Chris
motioned for Josiah, Buck and JD to circle around to the side of the
house. Chris, Ezra and Nathan approached the front with guns drawn, as
Vin took position on the high ground. The sun was just about to set,
but Vin still had enough light to pick off two of the gunmen before they
knew what hit them. Chris and Ezra picked off another two that were trying
to circle around back while Nathan silently crept up behind a gunman
and clubbed him with the butt of his gun.
As Buck, Josiah and JD proceeded around the side of the house, they
came upon a man trying to set the place on fire. Buck shot him in the
shoulder, then followed JD and Josiah who were already trying to put
out the fire. Buck grabbed JD's hat and scooped water out of the horse
trough to throw on the fire. JD was all set to protest when they all
heard a scream from the house, followed by a gun shot. All seven men
ran to the house. Nathan and Chris exploded in through the front door
as Buck kicked down the back door. Nathan and Chris stopped short right
quick as they were facing the muzzle of a rifle in the hands of a very
angry looking woman.
"One more step and I'll shoot you, just as I did your friend here,"
she raised her rifle to make her point.
"Ma'am you've obviously confused us with these gunmen here, we are
the law, come to aid you in your time of distress," Ezra stated with
a smile as he walked full into the room.
"Oh, of course", she said with complete disbelief in her voice.
"JD," Chris said solidly, never taking his eyes off the girl.
JD came in around Buck, pulling his badge out as he crossed the room.
He held it out to her as he said," I'm the sheriff of Four Corners ma'am,
JD Dunn". He didn't have a hat to tip, it was still wet.
Vin looked over Nathan's head at Josiah with a half squint, as if
to say "How'd he know?", Josiah just half shook his head in response.
Sometimes Chris was spooky.
"I'm Katie Harper," she said as she slowly lowered her gun. "Thanks".
Nathan stepped up and asked, "are you all right ma'am?"
"Miss Harper, that there is Nathan Jackson, our doc." JD said brightly.
"I'm not a doctor, ma'am, just had some army training during the war,"
Nathan corrected. "You're looking awfully pale, ma'am".
"I'm fine, really. Just a little tired", her shoulders drooped as
she replied. Katie brushed some hair out of her face, and realized she
must look a fright...and in the same thought realized she just didn't
care. After all, I just shot someone, .....and the way the men were looking
at her, she realized she must have said the last part out loud.
Nathan went over to her and led her to a seat saying, "Ma'am, I think
you should sit down".
Vin said, "let's go round up some prisoners". Glancing at Buck and
"Yeah, that's if any are still alive", Buck added as he followed Vin
out the door. Josiah grabbed JD as he left.
Nathan looked over at Ezra and told him, "There is a fellow tied up
around side the house, might still be out from the head clunking I gave
him". Ezra chuckled as he left.
Chris walked over and sat across from Katie, hat now in his hand.
He looked up slowly and said, "My name's Chris", then asked, " Do you
have any idea who would want to kill you and why?"
Katie smiled back at him and said, " I have an idea on the who, just
not sure about the why." Chris raised his eyebrows slightly, waiting.
"The cattle rancher, Stuart James".
Outside Buck, Vin and Josiah were collecting the dead bodies, while
JD and Ezra were dealing with the living ones. As JD checked the binding
Nathan had put on earlier, Ezra was bringing Buck's victim around front.
When Ezra joined JD, both gunmen sitting next to their dead cohorts,
"Hey Ezra, do you remember Lucas James?"
"Of course I do JD," Ezra replied, with a huge smile," he serendipitously
enabled me to procure a pardon."
"Huh," JD said with a baffled look, "The judge pardoned me."
"Oh, right....well the gunman with the bullet hole, he rode with Lucas."
JD said,"I recognize him," pointing with his head.
Ezra got a knowing look on his face, and said to JD. "Sheriff, watch
your prisoners, I'll relay this information to Mr. Larabee." He turned
and went back to the house.
As Ezra entered the front room, he noticed that although the room
was well furnished, the furniture itself was old. He signaled Chris with
his hand, and stepped outside. When Chris joined him, he said," JD recognized
the men as compatriots of Lucas James."
Chris nodded, " well that fits with what she told us." He paused,
then looked at Ezra and said," get the others."
As the rest of the men entered the house each one introduced themselves
to Katie, and then made themselves at home. Seven men, sitting and standing,
here in my front room, Katie thought to herself. Then as she ran her
fingers through her hair, she started her story." We've been here about
ten years, Four Corners wasn't even here yet. My father had a horse training
ranch, and we were doing fine. Then came cattle rancher Stuart James,
he wanted to buy my father out and Dad said no! Then little things started
happening, but it wasn't until the corral burned, and we lost some important
stock that my father figured James was behind the accidents. " Katie
paused with a far away look, as though she was remembering, then her
gaze locked with Chris' and she continued. "We had to sell a lot of our
personal stock to cover the loss, and again James pressured my father
to sell. Again he said no. Then about eight months ago, just before you
all got here, my father died. He fell off his horse and broke his neck,
they said it was an accident."
Nathan piped up saying, " I remember that, ma'am, the break seem wrong
for a horse fall, but the town just chose to ignore that."
"I didn't have any proof then, and I don't have any now," Katie said
regretfully. She rested her head in her hands.
Chris looked at Katie and said "Ma'am I think it would be best if
you stayed in town tonight."
"But why, you all caught the gunmen?" Katie's voice sounded confused.
Vin came further into the room and said,"Ma'am, in case more men show
up, when these here fellas don't return. It'd be best if you weren't
"Fine, fine, just let me get a few things," she said wearily. "I'll
meet you in the barn," and she left the room.
Chris asked Josiah and Nathan to put the living prisoners on horses,
then asked Buck and JD to get the dead ones ready to travel. Ezra and
Vin accompanied Chris to the barn. They were greeted by snorts from the
two occupants. Two large, black horses. The only difference between them
was a white star on one horse's head. They didn't appear to be comfortable
with the strange guests.
Katie walked in the barn and went straight to the horses, rubbing
their muzzles. Making sounds for their ears alone. The horses seemed
comforted and quieted down. Katie turned to the human occupants and stated
"If I'm going to town, they're going with me." She then got the bridals
off the hook and went to work.
Vin offered to saddle the horses, but even as she smiled her thanks,
she shook her head and said, "It'd be best if I do myself, they can be
temperamental with other people." Then she took to saddling them both.
She threw her little bag on the saddle horn, took the reins and walked
Vin, Ezra and Chris looked at each other and followed her out.
Josiah and Nathan had the prisoners on their horses and were mounted
themselves. Buck signaled they were through, and Katie was atop one horse,
holding the reins of the other. JD had Vin, Ezra's, and Chris' horses
waiting, then the group slowly headed to town.
Later, after getting Katie a room at the boarding house and the horses
stabled, the seven were sitting in the saloon. Chris looked over at the
barkeep and nodded his head, the barkeep smiled in return. Chris then
turned attention to his whiskey glass, and swallowed the contents. Then
looking at the rest of the group, asked" Where do we start?
"Think we should keep an eye on the place," Vin said.
"Keep our ears open here in the saloon, Ezra's real good at that,"
"Why thank you Mr. Jackson," Ezra smiled, flashing his gold tooth.
"An excellent idea, one that could prove most enlightening."
"Miss Harper said she will be going back to her place in the morning,"
Josiah explained his conversion with her. "I believe she will be very
stubborn about it."
"Josiah and I will take Miss Harper home in the morning, Vin, you
take first watch, and check around for tracks. " Chris stood and picked
up the whiskey bottle, "Boys, we'll meet back here in the afternoon;
'night," and he walked out of the saloon.
JD got up and rushed out after him. "Chris," he called to him. Chris
stopped and waited.
"Chris, how'd you know we'd need my sheriff badge?" JD asked.
Chris raised his head and gave JD an enigmatic look, then almost smiled.
" 'Night JD."
JD looked after Chris, still not understanding, turned around and
went back to the saloon.
The sun hadn't been up but a short time and yet Chris was already
dressed and headed for the livery. He had only gone part way down the
street, when Josiah fell into step beside him. They nodded at each other,
never breaking step and arrived at the livery only to find that Katie
had already left. They saddled their horses and rode out to the Harper
Vin was already on watch as Chris and Josiah rode up. Chris nods at
Vin, as Vin points down to the Harper place and says," She pulled in
just after dawn, I scouted around and found some tracks from yesterday,
lead off in the direction of James' place.
"You want to follow them and see where they take you?" Chris inquires
"I was planning to," smiles Vin, "jus waitin' for you boys to arrive."
"Josiah, you stay on watch, I'll go with Vin, in case we find trouble."
Josiah smiles, and says, "It seems trouble doesn't have a problem
finding you, even when you're not looking." Vin and Chris shake their
heads in agreement, then turn the horses and ride away.
Ezra walks out of the telegraph office with a paper in his hand, and
a pensive look on his face. He looks up and spots Nathan, and crosses
the street to intercept him. "Mr. Jackson, I've discovered that we have
another problem, would you be so kind as to round up JD and bring him
to the saloon? I will endeavor to locate Mr. Wilmington so that we might
discuss it together." Ezra says this a bit faster than he usually speaks.
Nathan nods and hurries off. Ezra continues toward the saloon.
Inside the saloon Ezra spies Buck on the landing with Molly, one of
the saloon waitresses. He waves his hand to attract his attention. Buck
notices Ezra, and was all set to ignore him, when he noticed Ezra's unusual
pallor. He makes his excuses to Molly and heads down the stairs to join
Ezra and Buck were already seated when Nathan and JD enter the saloon.
They moved to join them.
"Gentlemen, I received a telegram from my mother. In her line of work
she is privy to all sorts of information, and to her information is power.
She has relayed to me her discovery; someone has put a price on Chris'
head, with a $500 price tag." Ezra looked visibly shaken as he told them
JD grabs for his gun as he looks around the bar. Buck puts a calming
hand on his shoulder, and says "hold on kid." Then Buck's face turns
deadly earnest as he looks around the table, and says, "we've got to
get this information to Chris."
Ezra pulls his pocketwatch out and checks the time. "It's just 2:30
now, they all should be back at 3:00. It might prove prudent though,
to ride out and meet them part way."
Nathan rises and says," I'll get my supplies, just in case, and meet
you at the livery. "He turns and leaves. The others rise forcefully and
The riders are a short ways out of town, when they see two riders
coming in, Josiah and Katie.
They all pull their horses in, and the guys tip their hats at Katie.
Buck turns toward Katie and says, "Ma'am," then he faces Josiah square
on and continues," get a bottle of whiskey and glasses and set up at
the sheriff's office." Josiah notes the tension, nods, and takes off
with Katie. The others ride on.
Vin and Chris were moving at a good clip, letting the horses set the
pace. Their tracking took them further than planned and they wanted to
get to town on time. The peaceful tranquillity was shattered by a gunshot,
hitting the tree that Chris had just passed. They quickly jumped off
their horses, and lay on their stomachs, guns out.
"Do you see anything?" Chris whispered.
Vin shook his head no, and whispered back, "the shot came jus north
of those rocks." Once again the silence was broken by gunfire, the bullets
hitting the ground several yards in front of them. Chris returns fire
to the general direction, as Vin has his telescope out.
Then gunfire erupts from the east, aimed towards the rocks, as Buck
and JD enter the clearing.
Ezra enters from a different direction also firing on the rocks. Nathan
calls out as he approaches Vin and Chris, then join them on the ground,
his gun also drawn.
As Buck, JD, and Ezra converge on the rocks, they find one body on
the ground, and evidence that another rider got away. Buck stands up
and waves an all-clear sign for Vin, Chris and Nathan, who then join
them on the rocks. Buck rolls the dead guy over, then looks at the group,
and asks, "does anyone recognize him." Negative head shakes all around.
Chris turns to go down and retrieve his horse, saying over his shoulder,
"let's get back to town."
Ezra calls after him, "Chris, we need to talk."
Chris stops in his tracks and turns around," Ezra, you only use my
first when it's serious, what...."
"Chris, we've discovered that there is a $500 price tag on your head,
as of yesterday," Ezra states flatly, cutting him off.
With a dark, closed look on his face, Chris got on his horse and rode
toward town. The others mounted and followed, catching up with Chris,
then stayed with him for the rest of the ride.
In town, Buck steered Chris and Vin to the sheriff's office. Josiah
was there waiting. Ezra updated Chris, Vin and Josiah on his mother's
Ezra looked at the group before him, as they took a moment to let
the information sink in. Ezra was amazed at the amount of concern he
felt for that ever-pensive man in black. He was so use to not caring
how events effected others, that these feelings were surprising.
Chris looked at the group with his closed look and said," this is
my problem, I'll deal with it alone. I won't put any of you in danger."
"Now see here," Buck immediately jumped in with, and joined by Nathan
who said at the same time," No sir!"
But it was Josiah, with his quiet, resonant voice as he said, "Chris,
you would never think of letting any one us face this situation alone,
and we won't let you!" that drew everyone's attention, followed by nods
of approval from all but Chris.
Buck added the final trump card, "besides, Chris, we all will be watching
you real close now, so you might as well let us help you, 'cause we'll
do it anyway." Buck just sat back in his chair and smiled at his oldest
As Chris' head was bent down, no one saw the softening of his eyes
as he thought of how these men had become "friends" he could depend on.
When he lifted his head all traces of emotion were gone and all he said
was, "fine, so be it."
With that settled, Vin then asked, "Ezra, you think you can find out
who your mother heard this from?"
Ezra nodded as JD said, "what about Miss Harper?"
Josiah poured out the whiskey as the men talked about what Vin and
Chris had discovered while tracking and formulated a few plans. Vin confirmed
that the tracks had lead back to the James place.
They also decided to not mention to Katie the "other" situation that
had come up, for fear that if the town got wind of it, they worry unnecessarily.
Ezra left to wire his mother and Chris and Vin went to find Katie.
Josiah went to ready the church, since none of them would be using their
rooms tonight. Nathan, Buck and JD placed themselves about town keeping
Chris in view.
Chris and Vin found Katie in the town newspaper office. Vin tipped
the edge of his hat to Mrs. Travis and Chris nodded and said, " afternoon
Mary Travis smiled at both the men and asked, "What can I do for you?"
Vin said. "We're lookin' for Miss Harper, the boarding house said
she was over here."
"Yes, she's in the side room looking in the old news story files.
She wanted to read about what was taking place around the time of her
father's death." Mary replied as she moved around the counter and showed
them the side room.
Katie looked up as they all moved into the room. She had smudges of
newsprint on her face and hands, but smiled at the trio as she said,
"Who'da thought that reading was such dirty work?"
Chris returned her smile and asked if she had found anything important.
"Not anything direct, but Mr. Travis had written many articles about
water and water rights. The articles are written so well that some of
the finer points leads to some very interesting conclusions."
The discomfort that Mary felt at the smile that Chris had directed
at Katie dissipated at the compliments about her late husband's work.
She added, "he was always very thorough about matters effecting the territory."
"I'm trying, but I don't remember my father talking about water,"
her face was pensive with her old memories. Katie then stands up and
turns to thank Mary, and laughs at the state of her hands. Mary hands
her a cloth kept on the desk for just such occasions. Katie says, "thanks,
Mrs. Travis, for all your help today, it gives me something to look for
As they're leaving Mary's office, both Vin and Chris tip their hats
at her as they exit the door. Mary stands there as the three of them
walk towards the saloon.
Nathan and Buck close in to join them, as JD keeps to his lookout
until they all reach the saloon.
As JD enters the saloon he sees Buck and Nathan seated at table with
Katie, and he joins them.
Vin and Chris were at the counter getting some whiskey and more glasses.
They signal to Ezra, who at the time was winning another hand from an
When they are seated Chris asks, "where's Josiah?"
Nathan answers, "he was readying the church, he wants us to bed down
Vin nods, and says, "good idea."
JD asks," does he have any food?
Buck laughs as he stands up and says, "let's go find out."
After super, Katie tells them that she wants to check her father's
papers tomorrow. She thanks them again for their help, and bids them
goodnight. She then heads for the little room Josiah provided for her.
Chris and Vin had just stepped out back for a smoke, when Ezra joined
them. They sat there in a companionable silence until Ezra broke it with
his information. "My mother wired a response to my inquiry," Ezra then
turned to look directly at Chris and Vin as he continued, " to quote
her, a cattle baron from your part of the territory."
"James," whispered Vin.
"James," agreed Chris.
"I'm inclined to believe that our new situation is a diversionary
tactic to take our attention away from Miss Harper," Ezra stated in his
usual abbreviated manner.
"Good thinking Ezra," Vin said.
With a dangerous look in his eye, and a hard voice, Chris said, "one
we'll use against him."
Next morning the sun had barely peeked above the mountains when Katie
headed out of town on her black devil. She couldn't let the seven men
waste more time on her, and she wanted to check on her father's papers.
She let her black have his way, as they raced the wind to get home. Katie
and the black noticed the smoke at the same time, the horse smelled it,
she saw it. The smoke looked like it was close to her place, so she spurred
the black faster. Katie reined in hard when she saw that it was her place
on fire. She jumped off her horse and was running down the hill when
a hand grabbed her from behind.
JD was on the way to his office when he noticed Katie's black devil,
saddled and reins dragging in the middle of the street. He walked over
to the horse and attempted to pick up the reins, but the horse snorted
and backed up. JD left him there and returned to the church.
Ezra was the only member of the seven that hated the morning, and
it was obvious that he wasn't going to get any more sleep this morning.
He peeked at his pocketwatch, 7:30am!, he was ready to make a rude remark
when he noticed that Chris was preparing to leave. That explained why
the others were up and ready to go. Ezra bitterly acknowledged to himself
that he must rise also.
It was at that moment that JD came bursting into the church, "Katie's
horse came into town riderless!" he announced almost breathless to the
Josiah put his hand on JD's shoulder to calm him down. Chris looked
over at JD and asked, "how do you know it riderless, Katie should just
be saddling him up about now."
JD looked exasperated as he explained, "he's just standing there in
the middle of the street, looking all hot from a hard ride." JD felt
it should be obvious to all of them that he would know what he was talking
Vin was up and out the door first, saying as he went, "let's go take
a look." The others made quick work behind him. Ezra trailed, figuring
he would just forget about a shave this morning.
Vin approached the horse slowly, making soothing sounds with his palm
up so the horse could smell him. The black snorted some, but didn't back
away. Vin had a way with animals; his free inner spirit must touch the
same cord within the critters. He placed his hand on the muzzle, and
stroked him on the side of his neck. He turned to the others, never taking
his hands off the horse and said, " he has had a good run, and one of
Katie's bags is still attached to the saddle."
Josiah spoke first with a forceful "let's ride."
No one argued, they just ran for the livery. Vin followed slower,
taking the black with him.
In minutes the seven were on their horses, weapons loaded, and on
their way to the Harper place. Again.
When they were in sight of the ranch, thick, black smoke was billowing
upward and they could make out a body hanging from the tree. Fearing
the worst, JD spurred ahead and turned in, only to hear the crack of
a rifle and feel a stinging in his arm as he was knocked from his saddle.
Buck yelled out "JD", as he and the others all left their saddles
to take cover on the ground.
JD answered, "I don't think it's serious" still in his prone position,
just holding his head up.
Nathan was already sliding down to JD's position. Confirming JD's
words, Nathan yells over his shoulder, "he'll be fine."
Vin had his telescope out surveying the area. "It's Katie in the tree"
the gasps were audible, and Buck said "bastards," as Vin continued, "she's
hanging by her hands, not her neck, I think she's still alive."
Chris charged down the slope in an attempt to reach the tree and was
met by a rain of bullets. Dropping to his knees, he draws his gun to
return fire. From up above him Vin and Ezra were already returning fire
and picked off two of the marauders. Josiah was just reaching Chris as
he was cutting the rope to bring Katie down. Josiah was under Katie to
catch her, and gently lay her unconscious body on the ground. Chris yelled
Vin, Ezra, and Buck showered bullets upon the gunmen to allow Nathan
safe passage to aid Katie. Hitting two more, the last gunman throws out
his gun, and walks out with his hands raised. Buck approached the man,
kicked his gun away, and signaled him with his gun to move toward Josiah
and Chris. The gunman turned to move away, then whipped around quickly
with a knife in his hand. As he was about to release it Vin nailed him
dead center in his chest. Buck tipped his hat to Vin still on the hill
All the while the fire blazed on.
Buck, Ezra and Vin went to check about putting the fire out, as Nathan
was examining Katie. Nathan gently laid her head back down on Chris'
lap explaining, " her wrists are rope burned, and she has a bump on her
head. It's this bump I'm worried about, I don't know how hard she was
hit." Again he searched for her pulse. Josiah got up while ripping his
shirt, walked to the watertrough to wet it and returned to Nathan. Nathan
wet her face and neck, then let it rest on her forehead.
Although half the house was gone, Ezra, Buck and Vin saved the barn,
and got the fire under control, then finished putting it out. They almost
looked worse than the house; they were all wet and sooty. For once, Ezra
was not concerned for the state he was in, but concerned for JD and Katie.
They each made their way over to where Katie was lying.
Katie regained consciousness with a scream. She struggled to sit up,
but her head swam with the pain. Chris' restraining arms tried to lay
her back gently.
Nathan spoke softly to her, " Katie, you're OK now, just your friends
are here. Lie back and tell me if you hurt anywhere something other than,"
"My head hurts so much, I'm not sure if I'd notice anything else."
Her raspy voice replied.
Chris let out a big sigh, which had Buck looking at him closely.
Chris then resumed his leadership role, asking JD, "can you ride?"
JD tried to sound chipper as he said, "sure, as long as I don't gallop,"
but his voice sounded strained.
Buck said, " I'll ride right next to him to make sure he makes it."
His voice didn't match the concern etched on his face for his young friend.
JD only heard the voice and responded in kind with, "I don't need
no nursemaid, Buck."
Josiah and Chris exchanged smiles, one worry lessened.
Ezra and Vin rounded up the horses. Chris carried Katie under Nathan's
watchful eyes, and Buck was glued to JD's side. Vin and Ezra took the
lead and Josiah pulled up the rear for a slow return to town....together.
Nathan was kept busy all the afternoon and part of the evening with
his make-shift hospital. He had both patients and visitors in his small
rooms. Digging the bullet out of JD's arm was not as difficult as trying
to get all the dirt out. Buck was pacing as the entire process was going
on. He threw out some encouragements to JD, but as his voice sounded
so worried, Nathan shushed him with his hand. In the other bed he had
Katie, who seemed to be resting comfortably. Both Chris and Josiah leaned
against the wall. Chris had his usual pensive look, where you knew he
was thinking, just never knowing what he was thinking about. Josiah,
on the otherhand, seemed to be praying for both the patients. His concern
was easy to read, and he was ever ready to assist Nathan, if need be.
Footsteps on the landing alerted them to the fact they were about
to have company. Josiah went to the door with his hand on his gun. The
door opened without a knock, and Vin walked in. Although everyone was
relieved, Buck said irritably, " Knock next time, or you might git yer
fool head blown off," and as if he was making a point, he still had his
Vin just nodded. His wet hair the only indication that he had cleaned
up. His clothes looked the same, only minus the soot. "Ezra's still at
the bathhouse, reckon he's giving his clothes a bath too." He said this
with a slight smile, which brought responding smiles from all the conscious
"How's JD," he asked of Nathan.
Nathan was just finishing tying off the bandage, he looked at all
of them and said, "he should be jus fine, we just have to watch for infection.
We all need to let them get some rest."
Vin told them he'd stay to keep watch, and they should get cleaned
up and grab some food.
He made eye contact with Buck, who then held back a bit. "There's
two new fellers in the saloon, Ezra's gonna try to find out where they're
from," he told Buck quietly. Buck nodded to Vin, and there was no trace
of the fun-lovin' Buck look on his face. He caught up to Chris and the
others at the bottom of the stairs, and filled them in. Then they all
headed for the saloon.
Ezra looked in fine form at his table, cards and money in front of
him. Anyone watching would assume he was totally engrossed with the game.
Actually Ezra was listening to the two "cowboys" at the table across
from his, as they talked about their target. A name wasn't mentioned,
but it was obvious to Ezra whom they were talking about when his companions
entered the saloon. The cowboys eyes watched and their conversation ceased.
Chris and Nathan headed for the bar, Josiah and Buck sat down at Ezra's
table seemingly as though they wanted to play. Ezra dealt a few hands
and won the last of his only real opponent's money. When he had left
the table, Ezra relayed what he had overheard. Josiah joined Chris and
Nathan at the bar. Ezra and Buck left the saloon.
Outside the saloon, Ezra checked his sleeve gun and reloaded his holstered
gun. Buck quickly went to Nathan's to fill Vin in, then hurried to rejoin
Ezra. He and Buck then took up positions to follow the gunmen as they
Josiah, Chris and Nathan watched the two "cowboys" leave the saloon.
Josiah then finished his shot of whiskey and he too left the saloon.
Nathan was facing Chris, as he calmly finished his whiskey, then Chris
set his glass down as he said, "let's do this."
Nathan exited the saloon first with Chris right behind him. They both
looked around for any sign of the gunmen. Chris then saw as Buck stepped
out into the street, nodding his head and so ducked behind a wagon, pulling
Nathan with him. At that same moment shots rang out. One hit close to
where Chris had been, the other took the gunman down. The shots also
alerted the other gunman, who then stepped out and leveled his rifle
on Ezra for shooting his partner. But that was more than enough time
for Vin to shoot him dead. The carbine's sound reverberated through the
The seven regrouped in the saloon, Ezra then tipped his hat at Vin
and said, "That was your second excellent shot today, Mr. Tanner, one
that I feel very fortuitous to reap the benefits of." Ezra then flashed
him a very sincere smile.
Vin nodded and smiled in return.
Chris threw a shot of whiskey back, slapped the glass on the counter
and said with quiet sincerity, "I thank all of you."
Josiah broke the silence with, "let's check on our patients." They
all headed for Nathan's room.
Later, back at the church, they filled JD in on what he had missed.
JD hung his head and said," I miss all the fun."
Chris stood up and gave JD one of his dark looks, then moved toward
the door to light a cheroot.
Buck swatted JD on the head, saying to him, " sure know how to put
your foot in it. You don't joke about having to kill someone."
JD said somberly, " I know, it just didn't come out right."
Next morning Katie awoke not knowing where she was. She saw Nathan
asleep in the chair next to her. She gently called out to him, "Nathan,.......
Nathan," and was rewarded by his stirring.
"Ma'am, good to see you awake, how are you feeling?" Nathan said as
he stretched to fully awaken himself.
"What hurts the most are the memories, otherwise, my head feels tender
and my wrists feel something awful."
"I have some suave that should help ease the pain in your wrists,
your head will be tender for a few days," Nathan brought over the suave
and applied it gently.
"It smells like my horse liniment," Katie wrinkled her nose as she
Nathan smiled and said, "that's where I got the idea, use lots of
the same ingredients."
Katie smiled in return, "then it should work good, always does for
JD and Katie walked into the sheriff's office later that afternoon
to find the six others waiting for them. Chris got up and gave Katie
his chair, they had left the chair behind the desk empty for JD.
Josiah started right off with, "Katie, do you remember what happened?"
"I saw the smoke, and was dismounting when I was grabbed from behind.
One of the men tied my hands up. I think he was gonna hang me, but another
man yelled that he couldn't kill me 'cause they hadn't found what they
were looking for. At that point I tried to get away, felt a pain in my
head, and I guess I didn't wake 'till you guys were there." Katie paused,
then asked in a strained voice, " what happened to the house?"
Chris answered her query, "most of the house is burned, the barn wasn't
touched and your horses are fine. The men that did this are dead."
Ezra, remembering something Katie had said, inquired further," you
said they were looking for something, do you know what?"
Katie shook her head, and Buck concluded, "then it must have burned."
Katie then half smiled, "no, my father didn't keep his important papers
in the house, they're in a strong box buried under the water trough."
"One of us will retrieve them for you, safer that way," Chris stated
in a voice that booked no argument.
"It would be best to continue using the room at the church," Josiah
suggested, "that would also make it easier protecting you 'till we straighten
this situation out."
"Okay, 'cause I already feel bad that JD got hurt on my account, I
don't want you all to do anything dangerous," Katie said, looking over
at JD in a sling.
Buck, Ezra, Vin and Chris all smiled at Katie's "dangerous" remark,
Buck then spoke up, "Oh, don't worry ma'am, dangerous is our middle name."
They made there way out of the sheriff's office; Josiah and Katie
were going over to the church to put together an evening meal. The others
were going to the saloon. They all tipped their hats at Mary Travis as
she exited the general store. She singled out Nathan with a call of his
name, after smiling at the others.
"Something I could do for you, ma'am?" asked Nathan as he stopped
in front of her.
"Do you have time to come over to my office?" Mary asked him. Nathan
nodded and walked along beside her.
After Mary closed the office door she continued to her back room.
She then turned toward Nathan and said, "Nathan, I know the town looks
to you for all the doctoring, so I was hoping you could use this desk
here. It has lots of slots for your supplies. "
"Why ma'am?" Nathan looked doubtful.
"Oh, the judge is bringing my large desk out, and I really have no
place for this one. You will be helping me out, Nathan, truly." Mary
looked imploringly at Nathan.
"Well then, that's right nice of you, ma'am, thank you." Nathan nodded
his head to Mary. "I'll get some help and we'll get in the morning."
"Good, that's fine, see you in the morning then," Mary walked Nathan
to the door.
Nathan then went to the saloon to join his friends. He sat with JD
and Buck who were watching Vin, Chris and Josiah play poker with Ezra.
It was obvious who was winning. After Chris folded, Ezra smiled and said,
"thank you, gentlemen, for an enjoyable game."
"Reckon for you, seein' how you won," Vin said dryly.
Ezra then pushed a copy of the Clarion News toward Chris and said,
" I think you all might find that article interesting," pointing to the
cattle rustling story. Chris smiled as he pushed the paper toward Josiah.
Josiah handed it to Vin as he said, "that's rich, James complaining
about the theft of his cattle."
Josiah then stood up, pushing back his chair saying, "Katie'll have
supper ready." So they all headed for the church.
Next morning JD needed to have his bandages changed, so Nathan and
JD headed over to Nathan's place. Katie went along, as she was determined
to pull her own weight and organizing Nathan's new desk was a way to
do it. Chris followed to keep an eye on Katie, and Josiah went along
to guard Chris. Nathan figured his place would be over crowded again,
unless he was sneaky. Smiling to himself he asked Josiah and Chris if
they would fetch the desk.
Josiah looked at Chris and said, "I think we've been had Chris."
"So do I." Chris left his hat and duster on the wall hook, and left
"You're healing real good," Nathan told JD as he finished wrapping
his arm. He went around his make shift curtain and was heading toward
the door, when it burst open.
Two cowboys entered and one of them said, "You the doc?"
Before Nathan could get out an answer, he felt a gun in his side.
The same cowboy said, "you're coming with us."
Katie saw and heard the whole exchange and quickly pushed JD down
on the table, told him what was happening, and suggested he play unconscious.
JD nodded, understanding the urgency. Katie then told him to have Vin
track them. She then went around the curtain saying, "the patient will
be out for a couple more hours doctor." Then acting as if she was surprised
by the visitors exclaimed, "another house call doctor?" Then turning
to the visitors said, "do you have a buggy or do we have to ride?" All
the while rushing around putting things in Nathan's bag.
The cowboys took her at face value and answered her question, telling
her they were riding.
She smiled at Nathan as she took Chris' hat and duster off the hook
and said, "see doctor, I'm remembering to dress right this time, aah,
all that dust," hoping Nathan would understand.
Nathan nodded and said, "that's good, nurse," stressing her new title.
The cowboys then herded them out the door and down the stairs. At the
livery they got horses and headed out of town.
JD waited till they got down the stairs before he opened the door.
He was crossing the street to Mary's place as the cowboys with Nathan
and Katie were riding away. He burst in the newspaper office yelling
for Chris. Breathlessly relating what had happened to Chris and Josiah
as they headed to the church to get the others.
As they were saddling the horses, JD filled in the others on the situation.
As Chris was ready to mount his horse he said, "damm, where's my hat?'
"Katie's wearing it, along with the duster," JD said.
Chris' eyes looked doubly strickened and Buck cried out, "good god
almighty." Both immediately understanding the implications. Ezra sucked
in his breath sharply and jumped on his horse.
JD looking baffled cried, "what!?"
Buck mounted his horse, then said to JD in a deadly voice, "she'll
look like Chris to a stranger." Then spurred his horse to catch up with
Vin, Chris and Ezra. Josiah and JD quickly followed.
They had been riding around a half-hour when Vin stopped and got off
his horse. Checking the ground closely he then stood up and said, " they
ain't goin' to James place, we're purdy close, though, so keep your eyes
open." He remounted and turned left.
They hadn't gone but a couple of miles when the air crackled with
gunfire. They pushed the horses even harder. The answering gunfire resounded
against the hillside. As they rounded the bend there was a corral on
the left. Several bodies were on the ground, and the gunplay was straight
ahead. Chris was intent on the gunplay until he caught sight of his possessions
on the ground, with Katie in them. He was off his horse and on the ground
beside her in seconds, murmuring "Katie-girl, Katie-girl," holding her
limp body. He then stood, taking out both guns, walking toward the gunfire.
His eyes burned with a raging anger, that could have seared all in it's
Buck and Josiah found Nathan trapped under a dead horse and freed
him. Nathan then rushed over to Katie, as Buck continued to cover him.
The rest had already entered the gunplay, realizing they had to fight
on two fronts, the attackers and the cattle rustlers.
After checking Katie's pulse, Nathan found that she was still alive.
Nathan then anxiously called out to Buck, getting his attention, he pointed
to Chris. "He thinks she's dead, she's not, tell him."
Bucked looked over to Chris, who was standing erect as he strode into
battle firing and hitting targets. Buck sprinted up behind Chris, then
rolled his feet out from under him, bringing him down. Chris responded
by rolling further then springing up into a crouched position, shoved
a gun into his attacker's chest and discovered Buck.
"Buck, what the hell you doing, I coulda killed you," Chris sounded
"She ain't dead, Chris, Katie is still alive. You were acting like
a crazy man. I couldn't let you kill yourself." Buck look as serious
as Chris had ever seen him.
"You're wrong, I had the situation under control," Chris said as they
ran for cover behind some trees.
"Hey, Chris, this is me, I saw your face, you care for her." Buck
said this quietly.
"Not like you mean, jus don't want to see her life cut short on account
of me." Chris said it like he meant it.
"Whatever you say, pard." Buck said to his friend, still not believing
All of the ambushers were dead. Vin and Ezra had three of the rustlers
captured, Josiah came over to help tie them up. Nathan was still working
on Katie with JD's help. Buck and Chris checked the downed rustlers for
signs of life. They found one alive and brought him over to where Nathan
Chris asked after Katie as he and Buck dropped the other body close
"She's lost a lot of blood, but she seems to still be breathing strong.
We gotta get her back right quick, so as I can check for the bullet.
She don't need an infection right now." Nathan tried to relay this in
a reassuring manner. He had JD holding a cloth on the still bleeding
wound. He didn't mention that she had a second bullet hole. Nathan then
stepped over to the other victim, he had a bullet hole in his arm and
was in mild shook as his teeth were chattering. Nathan asked Josiah to
put one of the horse blankets over him.
Vin and Ezra had their three prisoners tied up to the corral. They
then went and retrieved the wagon. Vin drove it over to where Katie was,
while Ezra was dumping the wagon contents. Nathan looked up, mighty grateful
for the wagon. There was no other safe way to move Katie.
Josiah and JD replenished both food and water for the cattle and made
sure the gate was firmly closed. Buck then joined them as they each took
charge of a prisoner. Vin took charge of driving the wagon, as Nathan
and Chris loaded Katie and the other prisoner into the wagon. Ezra tied
their horses to the back of the wagon since they would be moving slowly.
He then joined Chris and Nathan in the back of the wagon for the journey
The next few days were rough ones. Katie went in and out of consciousness.
Nathan had to dig the one bullet out before he could get the bleeding
stopped. Chris and Ezra, neither of which, would hardly ever leave Nathan's
place, both paled on finding out about the second bullet hole. Buck would
spell each of them, Nathan included, so they could get some sleep.
Vin and Josiah went back to the rustler's camp to check on the cattle,
and more importantly to Vin, see if he could read the tracks of the original
attackers. The ones who shot Katie, thinking she was Chris. Vin knew
they had to settle this or Chris would fester on this additional guilt.
Vin and Josiah followed the tracks back to James' place again.
Vin was hoping some of the answers would be in Katie's papers. He
got JD and Josiah to go out with him to Harper place. Vin and JD took
lookout points while Josiah dug up the strongbox. The box was right where
Katie said it would be. They brought it back to town, and straight to
Chris couldn't stay away from Nathan's. Katie wasn't out of the woods
yet, as she continued to fight the mild infection that had set in. Chris
knew she was only there because of him. That she'd been shot because
they thought she was Chris Larabee. Guilt washed over him afresh, as
he tried to will her to live.
It was early evening on that third day when Ezra finally found what
they were looking for. Ezra
rubbed his eyes, then said, "gentleman, not only did Mr.Harper hold
his own water rights, he controlled over half of Stuart James' water
rights. Mr. Harper actually owned that land, and James only had a lease.
The lease rights expired at the same time Mr. Harper did."
Josiah then rested the papers he'd been going through on the floor
next to him. Resting his arm across his knee he speculated, " so James
probably had Harper killed thinking he could get all the water rights.
Only he couldn't find them, so he had 'em burn the place."
Ezra finished it for him, "figuring the daughter didn't know anything
about them, and to make sure, tried to scare her."
Chris nodded and confirmed, "that's how I figure it too, then he added
the price tag on my head to distract us. Hoping to keep us from finding
out about the water rights." Chris then looked even more dangerous as
he added, "we finish this."
Vin said, "we can't just ride into his place, he has more than a regiment
"So we bring him to us." Chris' dark voice stated.
"Not into town here, innocent people might get hurt," Nathan told
"No, at the Harper place, in fact, gentlemen," Ezra smiled broadly,
"we let it be known that we know where to unearth Mr. Harper's papers,
and when we shall do it."
"Kinda like when we helped Mrs. Travis," JD said.
"Exactly," said Ezra.
"Ya know he won't be coming alone," Buck said.
" 'spect not," Vin said smiling like he's got a secret.
The seven then made their plans.
Next morning Katie's fever broke, and she asked for some water. Chris
held the cup to her lips as he propped her up. He was visibly relieved
as she fell into a restful sleep. He then left her to Nathan's care as
he went to clean up.
As Chris entered the saloon, he could hear Buck and Ezra already putting
the plan into motion.
How they were planning on going out to the Harper place and get his
important papers later in the afternoon when Josiah was free. Then as
expected two cowboys paid for their drinks and left the bar in a hurry.
Ezra and Buck smiled at Chris and then the three of them headed for the
At the church the seven loaded their guns and rifles, then headed
to the livery to saddle the horses. Nathan checked on Katie, who had
been moved back to her room at the church. He let her know that both
Mrs. Potter and Mrs. Travis would be checking on her, and then he joined
They rode out of town as though they were in no great hurry and stopped
when they reached the fork. It was there that they waited. Vin took out
his telescope and checked the view.
"They're comin'," Vin smiled as he informed them.
"As expected," said Chris.
The six riders coming reined in their horses as they saw their way
was blocked. Blocked by a magnificent line of seven men stretching across
the road; rifles in their hands, gun at the ready.
The middle cowboy called out, "we only want Larabee, but we can kill
the lot of you if you try to interfere."
"Well sir," Ezra called out, using his most deadly smile. "I foresee
a most unfortunate future for you and your comrades," he paused for just
a second, and as if on cue, all seven men aimed their rifles at the gunmen.
Ezra then continued, "as our rifles are trained on your chests, and should
you move more than a hair, we will be forced to end your miserable lives."
It was obvious that the gunmen were caught unaware, as their hands
weren't even resting on their guns. Even though the message was unspoken,
the gunmen slowly raised their hands above their heads.
Ezra then continued with instructions, "one at a time you will toss
your weapon onto the ground," pointing to the man at the right.
JD dismounted to kick the guns even further away before he would bend
over to pick them up.
The first three gunmen did exactly as Ezra had asked, but when it
came time for the spokesmen to comply, he instead spurred the flank of
his horse in hopes of injuring JD. A distinct boom from a carbine quickly
ended the play as the man fell to the ground beside his horse. The other
two gunmen quickly shed their guns, shaking their heads as if to say
we're done, and kept their hands held high.
The five gunmen had their hands tied and bound to the saddlehorns,
and were taken to jail in town. The sixth, slung over his horse, went
straight to the undertaker. They picked up more ammo at the jailhouse.
Now they were ready to work on the next part of their plan; the Harper
Buck, Josiah and Ezra rode into the Harper place as planned. They
went to burned area of the house and set up like they were about to dig.
Ezra picked up a shovel hoping he wasn't really going to have to dig,
when they heard the bird whistle alerting them to incoming riders.
Four riders came in with their guns drawn, and pulled up just short
of the digging tools. Two riders stayed on their horses guns pointed
directly at Ezra and Buck. The other two dismounted, one of the men held
back with his gun trained on Josiah, the other went right up to Josiah
and demanded what they had. Josiah handed him the shovel.
"Oh, you think your funny preacher man," the young gunman yelled at
"Not at all, we haven't even started yet," Josiah enjoyed his own
Pushing Josiah, the gunman said with a sneer, "Then start digging
Josiah, Buck and Ezra all dropped their shovels and stepped back,
"Then we'll shoot you dead," the gunman said angrily.
Ezra smiled briefly, saying, " I don't think so." Pointing behind
All the gunmen turned as JD, then Nathan, then Vin and finally Chris
stepped out from different vantage points.
One of the gunmen said, "but you're suppose to be dead." He was pointing
The young gunman on the ground panicked, turned to shoot Josiah, and
instead fell forward as the sound of Vin's carbine cracked the air. The
two on horses fired their weapons as they kicked the horses forward,
only to fall to Chris' and Nathan's bullets. Buck and Ezra subdued the
other gunman without any gunplay.
The seven didn't relax for a moment knowing that they still had James
to contend with. Vin had his telescope out and confirmed that even more
riders were coming. Vin then returned to his high vantage point. Ezra
also moved to higher ground with his rifle. The others fanned out leaving
Chris to greet the incoming riders.
Another four riders entered the Harper ranch. This time, one of them
was Stuart James. As James looked at Chris, he said, "I know you."
Chris smiled and said, " well, it is nice to be remembered."
James raised his hand and the gunmen behind James drew their weapons
as two more gunmen rode in the front. But in the time it took to blink
an eye Vin winged both of the gunmen behind James. Josiah and JD took
out the two coming in.
As Josiah reholstered his gun, he said to JD, "well the lord did say..do
JD shook his head at Josiah saying, "I don't think this is the kinda
situation he was talking about, Josiah."
Josiah smiled a large happy smile, "all things are a matter of interpretation,
Chris looked about him and then smiled, a menacing smile, at Stuart
James and said, "It's just us, now James."
Stuart James got off his horse, using his cane on the uneven terrain,
walked over to the corral. Chris put his foot on a rung of the corral,
waiting for Ezra and Josiah to join them. The others stayed in their
lookout positions, as no one trusted James.
Ezra looked at Chris and received a nod that was accompanied by a
rare smile from Chris' eyes. Ezra then turned to James and flashed him
an insincere smile and began," Mr. James, fortune has indeed shined down
upon us," indicating Chris, Josiah and himself with a sweep of his hand,
"for we have been entrusted with the safe-keeping of the Harper Papers.
In particular, the complete water-rights deed and the deed of ownership
of the property adjacent to your ranch."
James looked considerably paler, but still returned with, "I have
a lease on that adjacent property."
"Ah, Mr. James, you obviously have not read your fine print adequately,
your lease was terminated upon Mr. Harper's death." Ezra relayed this
with barely disguised glee.
"Now the way I see it, Mister James," Chris stated in a voice that
booked no argument. "You will end your attempts to "deal" with Miss Harper.
She owns all this property free and clear. She has absolutely no intention
of changing water rights or ownership of any property."
"Now see here, you have no right to speak to me this way," blustered
James. It did not sit well to be on the receiving end of orders.
"Actually, we do," Josiah spoke with his clear resonant tones. "Miss
Harper has entrusted us with the deeds themselves. If you contact her
in any way, shape or form, we will produce ample proof that you engineered
the burning of the Harper house and the terrorizing of Miss Harper. We
will also be able to have you implicated in the death of Mr. Harper."
"That's blackmail," puffed James.
"No, Mr. James, it's not. We ask for nothing in return. We are just
attempting to ensure the safe-keeping of Miss Harper." Ezra replied.
"What'll it be James?" demanded Chris.
"You are interfering in the destiny of a nation," James spoke angrily.
Josiah said with a smile, "you're just not that important Mr.James."
"You'll need to move your fence line this week." Chris said. "We'll
Feeling his back against the wall, finally replied, "I don't have
"No, you don't," said Josiah.
James said nothing more, he returned to his horse, mounted, and rode
off without another look at anyone.
Vin watched him until he was completely gone before joining the rest
of the guys readying to leave. Then seven of them rode back into town
as calmly as they left.
Nathan rushed into the church to check on Katie. He ran into Mrs.
Potter as she was leaving. She relayed that their patient was doing well,
and had eaten some soup. Nathan thanked her and continued on to Katie.
Chris and Ezra were not far behind.
Katie smiled as Nathan entered. At his inquiring look, she answered,
"I'm feeling better, just tired, even though it seems I'm already sleeping
"You'll heal faster with the rest. Any pain?"
"No, only if I move," Katie smiled again. Nathan returned that smile.
When Nathan returned to the main area, he saw Chris and Ezra waiting.
"She's mending jus fine," Nathan told them. Then Nathan shared with
them why she went that day, "she said she'd seen the gun, and that she
was afraid that the look on their faces meant they were gonna kill me.
Chris, then she said, by damm, not if she could help it. I didn't even
have a scratch, I kept thinking it shoulda been me."
"Nathan, you saved her, she was shot 'caused she was wearing my things,
it was my fault." Chris still sounded guilty.
"Nonsense," Ezra said loudly, "neither of you are at fault."
Chris said softly, "how do ya figure?"
"Chris, you did not put that price tag on your head, and Nathan, you
could no more of stopped her at that time, as they probably would have
killed her, right then and there." Ezra paused, hoping they were listening.
"Gentlemen, I for one, am pleased that her strong spirit was not extinguished."
He then nodded and left the church.
Chris too, nodded at Nathan and left. He followed Ezra over to the
saloon. As they both went in, Chris said lowly, for only Ezra's ears,
"thanks." Ezra smiled to himself as he went to his table.
Chris joined Josiah at the bar, looked at the barkeep and said, "whiskey."
Buck watched as Vin rode out of town, and thinking he was going to
check on the cattle, followed him. Only as they came to the fork, Buck
knew the he wasn't going to the cattle. Curious, Buck continued to follow.
As they approached the James place, Buck saw Vin dismount and place his
gun under his bedroll, and take out an extra knife. Vin then disappeared
into the night, silently like an Indian. Buck waited, in case.
Vin was approaching the James homestead, blending into the night.
Not disturbing the horses or the dogs, he entered the house. He stealthily
entered James' bedroom, approached his sleeping form and took his knife
out and laid it against his neck and pressed. James awoke, eyes flying
open, fear upper most in his mind, unable to see his attacker.
Vin then whispered with more venom than the others had ever heard,
"If one hair on Chris Larabee's head is harmed, or someone takes a pot
shot at him, I'm coming back, I will kill you. Slowly, with pain. You
know that I can." He wrapped James up in his covers, and stealthily left
the way he came.
Buck saw Vin return to his horse, as the homestead came alive. Buck
waited for Vin and rode away with him. Vin looked over at him and said,
"thought of you as back up."
Buck smiled, realizing Vin knew he was there the whole time. They
went to the cattle camp and replenished their food. Vin was leaning against
the corral as Buck came up to him.
"You dealt with Chris' problem out there, didn't you?" Buck said standing
next to him.
"Thanks" Buck felt mighty grateful.
When they reached town, they went to the saloon. JD said to them both,
"where ya been?"
Buck answered, "Fed the cattle." Then went to the bar and got a whiskey.
The following week Katie moved over to the boarding house again. She
was much stronger, and only had two pink scars to show for it. The small
one on her side didn't hurt at all; the one on her left shoulder pained
her when she lifted her arm. Nathan had assured her she was healing fine.
She just couldn't work on her house, and her house needed a bit of work.
Chris and Ezra filled her in on the situation with James. They included
what they had said about her father and how James had never denied it.
Chris said, "It's not enough for a court of law, but it will keep
him from bothering you again."
She went to the livery to check on her horses, grateful no harm had
come to them. She noticed what good shape they were in, and knew they
hadn't been neglected. She spoke soothing words and rubbed their muzzles,
both human and horse enjoying the reunion.
Later, when she knew she'd find them all in the saloon, went to speak
Chris' eyes softened as she walked in the saloon, and he added an
extra chair at the table for her. Ezra concluded his game and joined
Katie smiled, a deep full smile, that enclosed each man in its warmth.
She then said, "You seven men were magnificent, because of what you did,
I have my life back. I don't if words can express my thanks, but, I give
you all, a big, heart felt thank you."
All seven men smiled in return.
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