AU is Open

 

The following is a work of fan fiction based on the CBS television series, The Magnificent Seven. It is in no way intended to infringe on the copyrights of CBS, MGM, The Trilogy Entertainment Group, The Mirisch Corp., or anyone else who may have legal rights to the characters and settings. This story is strictly for entertainment. 

Thanks to Sarah and Antoninette,  MAC for all the feedback and support, TexasAries for the great picture of JD, and for my niece Mary for her original art work for the title banner. 

 

Main characters; Chris, Vin, Ezra, Buck.

Carnac is a made up term by me for a half vampire, half human - the name is taken from an archaeological site in France.

 

Warning for Adult language and situations, m/m (C/V/B), (C/V) , (E/OMC rape),  (C/E)(E/B)

 

 

Story continues from  The Guardians, the Regulators part one and two.

Marshal Burns had been asked by Judge Travis to recruit the Larabee Gang which is made up of two Ghost Rider gunmen, a Carnac which is part human, part vampire gambler,  and a Phoenix tracker,  to protect the town of Four Corners from the “bad element.” Now en-route Chris, Vin and Buck have just rescued Ezra from a saloon owned by Mr. Wickes, where he has had to prostitute himself to pay off a never ending crooked debt. While in Wickes Town they are joined by a member of a medieval Brotherhood an ex-preacher called Josiah Sanchez.

Wickes Town is left burning as the gang head towards Four Corners.

 

Evening on the trail to Four Corners

 

Seated near the camp fire, a cup of coffee in  hand  Ezra contemplated  the crackling flames, deep in thought. All the time he was trapped in Wickes Town forced to whore himself to the cowboys and drunks that visited the saloon he had clung to the knowledge that his friends would come for him, that he was no longer alone.  The hand on his shoulder brought his head round; he looked up the black clad sleeve and into the face of Chris Larabee. The fingers tightened on his shoulder in reassurance, raising a hand Ezra laid his hand over the top of Chris’s hand, and he saw the slight nod of the head. Ezra smiled the warmth lighting up his eyes, as he got to his feet, brushing down the trail dirt from his jacket, as he watched Chris bend picking up his blanket and move away from the campfire into the darkness.

 

Ezra turned his gaze meeting Buck who was grinning behind his cup, and favored him with a wink, then he looked at Josiah, he was the newest edition to their gang. The ex-preacher had tried in rescue him from his Johns and when that had failed he had paid for his ass to give him a safe night’s sleep. Surprising him by not laying claim to him but rather offering him his blood and companionship. Even so Ezra’s gaze hardened as if challenging him to comment on what he, they were going to do. But all he saw was understanding in the older man’s face. Turning Ezra followed Chris into the darkness.

 

The blanket had been laid on the ground, and Chris was laid knelt on it, he reached a hand up and Ezra took it, before sinking gracefully down onto the ground, the light of the fire flickered behind them, and seemed to light up the gunman’s eyes. But Ezra knew different the fire he was seeing in Chris’s eyes was the legacy of what he was a Ghost Rider, a mortal who had accepted the supernatural pact and become a demonic bounty hunter in return for being granted the powers to hunt down the killers of his beloved wife and child. Reaching out Ezra began to unbutton the black shirt, his nimble fingers working quickly, as he felt Chris’s hands him, stroking and caressing him, through his tight grey pants, suddenly he swore, gave Chris a push sending him sprawling onto his back, and was on top of him, ravishing his mouth with hot kisses as he rubbed himself against that questing hand, that was making him hard and needy. Suddenly he was flipped onto his back, and pinned down, as Chris loomed over him and a hand was stripping his gun belt from his lean hips and tugging at his pants belt, as Chris captured Ezra’s lips, demanding entry, plundering his hot sweet mouth, his tongue dueling with Ezra’s as his hand pushed into the gambler’s pants, and found his cock, a rough calloused thumb rubbed the sensitive head, causing Ezra to moan, his hips trying to arch up into the touch.

 

Finally gasping for breath the kiss was broken and Ezra, left panting for air, “I think you have missed me Mr. Larabee.”

 

The smile on the gunman’s face would have shocked most people who through they knew that handsome, somber unsmiling dark clad man.

“Can’t have done that good a job Ez, if your still calling me Mr. Larabee,” then the gunman leaned closer, Ezra gasped as a long fingers pressed past his balls and rubbed his center, “by the time I am finished Standish, you’re going to be screaming my name.”

 

“T t threat Mister,” then Ezra cried out as the tip of the  finger pressed into him, and the scream was cut off as Chris reclaimed his mouth with a searing kiss.

 

Perched on one of the rocks overlooking the trail, Vin smiled, as he heard the cries of someone being taken hard and fast, echoed through the night air. For the young phoenix all was now right in his world, Ezra was now back where he belonged within his tribe.  Chris might fuck Ezra now, but he knew with a certainty of his soul that in the morning, Chris would turn to him, and only to him to honor the re-birth of the tribe as the dawn broke.

 

Ezra rolled from his stomach  onto his side, propping himself up on one elbow, half naked his clothes laying open for his lover “That Chris, as always was something special” he purred like a contented cat, under  Chris’s hand which  was stroking his bare hip. Ezra trailed a hand over his lover’s chest, brushing his skin almost reverently with his fingertips, trailing his hand up to touch his throat. Chris dipped his face and pressed a kiss to Ezra’s hand, and then drew him closer, rolling so that he was under him, as his other hand slide round the back of Ezra’s neck, and guided the gambler’s face down to his throat. His fingers caressing the back of Ezra’s head, playing with the short hairs on his neck, as he felt the sting as the carnac’s fangs bit into his flesh and the soft suck of his mouth as he began to feed. He heard Ezra moaning happily as their emotions of love, passion flooded over him, the carnac didn’t have to take much blood; the emotions fed him, without that connection he would waste away. Ezra gave a satisfied sigh as he licked the small wound sealing it and he sank down into his arms.

 

Early Morning.

Buck  sat enjoying his coffee, Josiah was on the last watch, and he could take a few minutes to just relax he looked towards his own blanket and saw Ezra curled up asleep. Earlier he had been woken from his sleep to find Ezra knelt by the side of his bed roll. In the moonlight, Ezra had had an ethereal beauty that had taken his breath away, and he had readily opened is blankets and let the carnac slide in. Buck had gathered Ezra close, as cool fingers released him from his own pants.

 

Buck had caught the errant hand, and pressed a kiss to the palm of his hand.

Lightly he stroked the young man’s stomach and chest, soothing caresses not meant to arouse him, but to relax him. When he felt the tension leave the gamble, he carefully eased him so that Ezra’s head rested on his chest, and he could nuzzle against his throat. “It’s alright Ezra,” Buck said as he tilted his head to one side, and offered his throat to the carnac, he felt the huff of warm breath against his skin and then the brush of fangs.

 

“There is no price Ez, never any price between us” Buck said reassuring him.

 

“What if I want there to be Mr. Wilmington.” Ezra breathed, as his lips claimed Buck’s and his hand caressed him.

 

Chuckling Buck, pushed the gambler’s unbuttoned pants and draws down over his lean trim thighs, and cupped him in a big hand, as he rolled Ezra under him as the gambler’s legs opened to receive him, and Buck inhaled the musky scent of sex and pushed into Ezra’s already open and slick center, with one push. Green eyes opened wide and he moaned loudly as he was filled for the second time that night, his hand burrowing under Buck’s shirt as he clawed at him his head thrashing from side to side. Suddenly Buck stilled, Ezra screamed at the lost of sensation, his eyes flying open, his fangs flashing “stop now and I will kill you Mister, mis …. Wilm…ing…ton.”

Buck laughed and they gave a hard thrust into Ezra and the carnac cried out as his nails cut into Buck’s back, making him grunt with pain.

 

“Brat.”

 

Buck snarled and began to thrust hard and fast, as he turned the carnac’s sharp mind to an incoherent mass of need. Then with a roar Buck came filling Ezra with his cum, at the same time as the carnac came against bucks stomach. When Buck tried to pull out, he was caught and held tightly as Ezra didn’t want to break their joining not yet, as he was riding the high of Buck’s emotions, the very joy of life that filled the bigger man. Pressing a kiss to his swollen lips and then to his forehead, Buck eased them onto their sides and wrapped in strong arms as he nuzzled sleepily close to his neck, reveling in their physical and mental connection.

 

Buck had woken just before dawn and made the fire and put the coffee on as in the weak morning light Chris had taken Vin, as they had faced the rising sun, Vin’s cries of completion heralding the new day.  

 

Well as he had known Chris for the last twelve years, Vin had joined them little under a year ago, and the younger man had come into their lives and Chris’s bed. Vin had lived with the Phoenix Rising Tribe, one of the only white men to survive and be adopted into the vicious demonic tribe. But it had left scars on his mind, on how he thought and acted, every morning Chris would take him as dawn broke, as phoenix belief was that each dawn in doing so their love was re-born. Now they slept wrapped in each other’s arms under the blankets, the two men always slept together, their need for each other was more than just sex, and Buck knew that he was looking at two sides of the same coin. Chris needed Vin like he needed air to  breath, they only slept apart when forced to, but even then Chris liked to try and keep the head strong independent tracker within arms distance.

 

The blanket had fallen from Vin’s back and he saw the tattoo, he could remember all too clearly when he had first seen it. The tattoo,  was a fire bird, a phoenix, the raised wings were on Vin’s shoulders blades the trailing flight feathers were on the back of his arms, the body covered his back, finishing at the base of his spin, long tail feathers crossed his ass cheeks and onto the thighs. It was a demonic tribal tattoo, which was enough to get any white man, hung on sight.

 

He had drunkenly reeled into their bedroom only to be confronted by an angry naked Vin Tanner who had been knelt on all fours over Chris when his head had come up from mouthing Chris, Buck had seen the fangs, Tanner wasn’t human, and he was sharing Chris’s bed. SHARING CHRIS LARABEE’S BED, he remembered the words reverberating through his mind. CHRIS LARABEE WAS SHARING HIS BED WITH A MAN, WITH A DEMON.

 

“Buck” Chris has snapped his name, his tone hard and cold.

 

Chris had reached for his young lover, “It’s okay Vin,” Chris’s tone was soothing, his hand caressing Vin’s thigh, as the younger man had snarled at him in one of the demonic tongues, all deadly animalistic grace ready to  launch himself into an attack at this intruder.

He had pleaded to his old friend “Chris, don’t tell me you’re fucking a demon” he had been unable to hide the disgust in his voice as he had added, “For Christ sake, he belongs to one of the tribes. Anger growing now the shock was being pushed back by his indignation. “That’s a phoenix rising tattoo, he he’s a fucking phoenix,” he had spluttered.

 

Chris had looked him in the eye, with that same look of possession that he had given him when they had first set eyes on his future wife. “He’s mine Buck. Now I don’t’ know why you’re here, but if you can’t accept us, then get the hell out of my sight.”

 

He had tried one last time. “You know he’ll take a fucking knife to you the first time you don’t please him in bed.”


Chris’s smile had been one that he hadn’t seen in three years, since he lost his family, “Then I best make sure I don’t.” Even as he spoke his hand caressed Vin’s chest his nail trailing over a pebble hard nipple, as his young lover, rubbed his face against Chris’s arm as he arched his body into his touch.

 

That had been on hell of a first meeting. When Chris and Vin left town, he had followed them. 

 

It was then he realized that Vin was awake and looking at him, he raised his cup of coffee at him, the Texan nodded and reached for his shirt, dressing quickly. “Going somewhere Vin.” Chris said.

 

“Breakfast.”

 

“And so he leaves me,” Chris drawled sadly with a smile.

For a moment Vin froze, Chris rubbed his leg reassuring him, and Vin smiled, and gave him a quick kiss and then buckled on his mare’s leg and gathered up his coat, and hat and came over to the fire, kneeling down to pour a cup. He took a sip and frowned “horses’ piss.”

 

“Now Junior, just because it’s not as thick as the mud of the Rio Grande don’t make it piss.”

 

“Huh.” Vin snorted back at him, and moved off back to Chris, to share his coffee with him, Buck turned back to see Josiah, watching them, the older man smiled, and joined him at the fire.

 

“Still asleep I see,” he nodded to Ezra.

 

“Yeah, old Ez, don’t think the day should start before noon, so he’s going to be really pissed off real soon, when Chris wants us to hit the trail.”

 

“Shouldn’t you wake him” Buck smirked.

 

“You can Preacher, only watch out.”

 

“He wakes up swinging.” Josiah’s asked.

 

“Nope.”

 

Josiah stood over Ezra, and was just reaching out when Buck added “He’s got himself a derringer, he comes round shooting.”

 

The ex-preacher paused, “No need Mr. Sanchez, I am awake, no one could sleep through Mr. Wilmington talking, and the man has the voice of as loud as a Mississippi steam whistle.” Ezra drawled as he sat up, wincing slightly as he felt the rigors of last night.

 

“Coffee.” He looked to Buck.

 

“It’s alright Vin didn’t make it.”

 

“Then there is a god in the heaven.” Ezra drawled as he got to his feet.

 

Marshal Burns caught up with the Larabee gang  on the trail, as they covered the last few miles to Four Corners, he had taken the hint and left the gang to camp separately,  knowing that his presence was not wanted.  Burns rode in silence watching the other five men; Buck Wilmington moved position as they travelled riding first with Ezra, then with Josiah, then Chris and back with Ezra again. Vin Tanner, kept out front with Chris or on his own, Larabee again was solitary not speaking unless someone did first. Even after all these miles he was no closer to understanding these men other than what they were prepared to show him..

One thing he knew for certain was  his brother in law Judge Orin  Travis might have miscalculated in hiring them, sometimes the cure could be just as bad as the disease, and Four Corners didn’t need any more gunmen. 

 

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Four Corners

The town was overcrowded, with a thriving economy that could support three saloons. It didn’t matter that this was the town that Judge Travis had brought them in to protect as far as Chris Larabee was concerned the town was just as dangerous and as hostile and any of the dozen towns they had drifted through. The gang would reply only on each other, challenge one of them and it would bring down the wrath of the other four.  Buck had positioned himself close to the marshal as they rode into town, not trusting the man as far as he could throw him, none of them trusted Burns. 

 

Buck could see Ezra Standish, sitting up straighter in the saddle as soon as he saw the saloons, he opened his mouth but before he could even get the words out Chris answered him.   

 

“Don’t even think of it Ezra, Chris warned without even turning round.”

 

“Mr. Larabee it would be remiss of me not to.” Ezra started only to be cut short.

 

“Ezra” there was no mistaking the warning in Larabee’s voice as he added “don’t make me shoot you.” Josiah kicked his horse forward and patted the gambler’s arm, only to have it jerked away from under his hand, whatever he said was not loud enough for the others to hear, but Ezra’s reaction was, “That is immoral Mr. Sanchez,” and he kneaded his horse forward muttering under his breath.

 

Buck grinned and asked “What did you say to him Josiah, whatever it was; Ez is angrier than a wet hen.”

 

The preacher shook his head, “All I said was that we could play poker for nothing over dinner, if he wanted a game.”

 

Buck’s laugh was genuine “Josiah, oh Josiah,” he pounded him on the back, “Ez never plays cards for nothing, it’s against his religion.”  But even as he was joking, Buck was watching Chris and Vin, he could see the tension in them, and understood why, Vin was at risk and that put Chris on edge and that was never a very good idea. 

 

Josiah was looking thoughtfully at Ezra when Vin said “Ez get’s you like that, you either want to knock his lights out or fuck him raw.”

 

“What, err yeah” Josiah suddenly seemed to realize what he was agreeing too when he saw the amusement on the Texan’s face.

 

Vin laughed “Don’t worry, old Chris threatens to shoot him at least once a day and he’s not done that yet.”

 

“That’s when I am not threatening to plug your worthless, scrawny ass Tanner.” Chris said, his voice cold, it made the hair on the back of Josiah’s neck stand on end. But all Vin Tanner did was grin back at Larabee, “You want to try it cowboy.”

 

“Buck did he just call me a cowboy.”

 

“Sure sounded like it Chris,” Buck was grinning broadly.

 

“Like I said cowboy, go threaten someone that cares.” Vin turned his horse   and headed towards the nearest saloon.

 

Josiah saw Marshall Ed Burns looked up to the heaven, and heartily agreed, Larabee's gang were soft on the eye, but damn hard on the nerves.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

The Spotted Horse Saloon was one of the better saloons in town; they only cut their drinks once with water, rather than cut it with rubbing alcohol and the saloon girls weren’t too used up. Vin gaze casually swept the street, before he entered the Saloon, and he took a seat at a corner table with his back to the wall, he tugged his hat brim down lower over his eyes, and with a soft sigh sank an extra couple of inches lower in the seat.

 

Chris came back with a bottle and three glasses, and saw the cocky mischievous smile on his young lover’s face, turning Chris followed his line of sight, to where Ezra was dealing cards for a poker game, looking up long enough to tip his hat in a two fingered salute to his leader. Ezra ignored the glare aimed at him, and went back to his card game. Josiah raised his beer to Chris then went back to watching the poker game as he covered the younger man’s back.

 

Chris sat down in the seat next to Vin, like his lover he had his back to the wall, in their line of work it didn’t pay to let someone get the drop on you.  Pouring a whiskey he pushed one to his partner and then poured his own, downing it, he poured a second.

 

“Seems like Josiah is staking his claim,” Vin said his voice catching, as felt a strong hand under the cover of the table caress him from knee to groin, he opened his legs slightly to allow the hand access to him, and eased down another inch in his seat so the questing fingers could press against the entrance to his body and smiled as he saw the predatorily look on Chris’s face. “Seems he’s not the only one old man,” he teased.

 

“Show you who’s old.”

 

“In your dreams Larabee.” Vin added pulling himself up so that he eased away from those questing fingers as he saw the woman heading towards the table. But Chris just growled at her, the girl turned and fled, Chris was in no mood to share.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Buck had followed Ed into the jail, but the sheriff was missing. Just at that moment the door to the jail crashed open, a young kid stood there breathing heavy, “Sheriff, there’s going to be a gun fight,” he blurted out then realized the sheriff was missing

 

“Shit,” Ed swore and turned to Buck who just shrugged and pushed out of the door.

 

Marshal Burns recognized the man “Joe Redman, he’s a gunman.”

 

“Yeah Redman never knew when to keep his mouth shut,” Buck said.  Joe Redman was stood facing down Chris Larabee, the man in black was smoking one of his habitual cheroots, and if anything he looked bored.

 

To Larabee’s left leaning against one of the post to the porch of the saloon was Vin Tanner, he looked relaxed but Buck knew that the Texan would be watching out for any traps, that Redman might have set for Chris, while his attention was fixed on the gunfight. The red of Ezra’s jacket showed that he had moved opposite to Vin his hand resting not far from his gun.  Josiah was stood near their horses petting the big grey that Buck rode.

 

Burns started forward only for Redman to yell at him “stay out of his marshal this is between me and this cock sucking bastard,” he snarled.

 

Buck’s voice sounded sad, “Joe always had rocks in his head, knew it would be the death of him.” He shook his head, even as he moved into place. Redman was known to ride with at least three to four men.

 

Redman looked round his men knew they had been marked by Larabee’s gang and it look like for the first time he was going to have to do it alone. Fear spread through him, his hand flashed down towards his gun, and he started to pull it free from its holster as the bullet ploughed into him. Redman staggered back a step, his eyes shocked as he saw Larabee stood there gun in hand, fighting against numbing fingers Redman tried to lift his gun, then he knew nothing as a second bullet went through his head and he toppled backward, and hit the ground.

 

Burns stared at Larabee was if he had just grown horns and a devil tail, the man was inhumanly fast, then the gun whirled on his finger and slide back into the holster and Larabee took another pull on his cheroot, and then tossed it away and walked back to the Saloon. Burns watched as each of Larabee’s men, moved back to the Saloon the last being Tanner, each protecting the other’s back. Suddenly Vin dropped to his knee, his mare’s leg in his hand, and he fired, there was a cry of pain, and one of Redman’s men toppled from his hiding place, he was dead before he hit the ground. Chris had spun round at the shot, gun in hand, only to halt as he saw his young lover, get to his feet, holstering the mare’s Leg, and then walk past him into the Saloon. Vin didn’t have to check his kill, he had shot the man through the head, and no one walked away from that.

 

Buck ignored the other dead body; the man had played his hand and lost. He turned his attention to the two lawmen, “self defense, clear and simple, Joe drew first.”

 

“He’s dead” a new voice cut in the newcomer both men were shocked when they saw the badge pinned to the youth’s coat, the sheriff of Four Corners looked to be all of eighteen years old.

 

“Your Pa in boy” Buck asked. He saw the anger flare in the boy’s eyes.

“I am the sheriff, name’s Dunne, so what can I do for you marshal, he ignored Buck, and turned his attention to Ed Burns.

 

“Marshal Burns, I am waiting for Judge Travis, has he arrived yet.”

JD Dunne, dug in his pocket and tugged out a buff form from the telegraph office, “Judge Travis will be in on the late stage” seeing the question before it was asked he added “should be here at 2.00 o’clock” but all the time he was talking his eyes kept going to the dead body and the undertaker who was checking each of them in turn.

 

JD took stock at the big man with the marshal. “You see this,” he indicated Redman.

 

Buck nodded, “Usually out come when you lose a gunfight, remembers that kid.” He shrugged and then went to join his friends in the saloon.

 

JD stood there watching the man walk away, he had arrived in time to see the last man enter the saloon, and it had been the buckskin dressed man with the long hair carrying a mare’s leg.

“I’ve seen him before,” JD said to Marshal Burns as he turned and hurried back into the office.

 

Burns hesitated torn about warning the youngster, but reminded himself that he wasn’t been paid to wet nurse the kid sheriff, and headed towards the Clarion newspaper and his daughter Mary who  stood in the doorway.

 

 

JD took a deep breath his hand was shaking as he folded the wanted poster and pushed it into his pocket and headed for the saloon.

 

The wanted man was leant against the bar, sipping a beer, but he could see that he was watching him in the large mirror that ran the length of the bar.

 

JD excelled slowly, “Vin Tanner you’re under arrest for murder.”

 

The man Tanner turned slightly “Not going to happen,” his hand resting on the mare’s leg as he put the drink down and turned to face him.

 

“I don’t want to have to kill you, but you’ve got to the count of ten to put both your hands on the counter, or else 1, 2, 3.”

 

“Sheriff you should really rethink this course of action, it has implication that you might not want to face,” the southern accent started JD, he glanced in the mirror, and saw a gambler black hat and red coat seated to his left, a pack of cards moving between his fingers in a blur of paste board.

 

“Law is the law mister, err 3, 4, 5.” It was with a sickening feeling he realized that Tanner wasn’t going to make this easy

 

It was then he saw the man in black from the gunfight, he had moved up to flank Tanner, his low brimmed hat in the low light of the saloon threw his face into dark shadow.

 

“Get out while you can kid.” The voice was cold and deadly.

 

“Can’t do it cowboy.” JD said.

 

“He just call me a cowboy, Vin,” there was an icy amusement in the man’s voice.

 

“Yeah he did.” Vin Tanner acknowledged with a shake of his head.

 

“I don’t want to have to kill you mister, but Tanner’s wanted and I am bringing him in.”

 

The chuckle put the hairs on the back of his neck on end, as the man in black his left hand reached behind his back to hold the coat out of the way, as he right hand hovered over his gun. He raised his head and stepped forward, the light caught his face and JD found himself looking into the coldest eyes he had ever seen, the smile that tugged the man’s lips made JD swallow hard.

 

JD’s hands went for his guns, and he hadn’t even cleared leather, when a bullet had slammed into the bar counter near his elbow, plowed up wood splinters.

 

His mouth dropped open, the man in black was inhumanly fast, and he had never seen a man move that fast.

 

Buck stood there shaking his head, “Boy you're one lucky son of a bitch,” he clapped the young sheriff’s back so hard that the smaller man went flying into the bar counter. “Old Chris doesn’t usually pull his punches when someone goes after Vin, you’re one of the lucky few to walk away from a gunfight with Chris Larabee.”

 

JD Dunne, was looking at the man in black, his mouth dropped open as he heard the name, “Larabee, that’s Chris Larabee, I drew.” His face went pale and he swayed on his feet.

 

Buck caught him and pushed him back against the bar, and handed Dunne a glass of whiskey “drink that I think you need it son.”

 

“Not many people have Mr. Larabee's sartorial elegance, I would have thorough that even in a backwater like this, you would have recognized him,” Ezra said as he downed his own drink, wincing at the raw edge to the liquor. Before tugging out his flask and taking a sip and savoring the expensive liquor.  “Now that gentleman is the nectar of the gods.”

 

Buck could sympathies with JD, whole heartily having been at the wrong end of Larabee draw once himself. He nudged the boy’s arm to get Dunne to drink; he looked like he needed it.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

The batwings of the saloon, crashed open, as Judge Travis and Marshal Burns came in fast, their eyes fixed on JD Dunne.  “What the hell, Sheriff Dunne.”

 

“I drew against Chris Larabee.” JD blurted out.

 

“DUNNE” The bite to Travis’s voice snapped JD back to the present. “What happened”? Travis demanded, looking past the young sheriff he saw the way Chris Larabee, was stood protectively in front of Vin Tanner the man looked like the grim reaper.

 

Chris’s voice was cold enough to give frostbite as he said “Burns said that part of the deal is territorial sanctuary for Vin, and yet your pup pulled on him. So much for your good faith Travis.”

 

The judge held a hand up; he had to talk quickly before this got out of hand. “This was a mistake, Mr. Larabee, Sheriff Dunne acted without the authority of my office,” he paused, “I appreciate your restrain in your response.”

 

Buck was enjoying himself, “Whoopee Ez, he speaks nearly as pretty as you do.”

 

“Buck shut it.” Chris snarled. “Vin.” He was willing to go with whatever his young lover wanted

 

“Let him talk.” Vin drawled and collected a bottle “He’ll pay,” he jerked a thumb towards Travis and walked to the corner table, with his deadly shadow following him. 

 

Judge Travis settled in a chair, he looked the men over, his gaze resting on Vin Tanner thoughtfully.  Then he switched his attention back to Chris Larabee. “You get one dollar a day each and I give territorial sanctuary to Mr. Tanner. You work with Sheriff Dunne, and you make sure that the bad element, know they’re not welcome.”

 

Chris took a shot of the rotgut whiskey, “food and board for us and the horses, bullets, explosives whatever we need. Dunne can keep his badge, but he follows where I lead.” Chris looked over the rim of his drink, the smile he gave the Travis was chilling, and when we leave Vin’s a free man, you pull all the wanted posters.”

 

“Mr. Larabee” the judge started to protest, but seeing the look on Larabee’s face knew he had a bigger price to pay.

 

 “Do we have a deal”? Chris said levelly.

 

Travis nodded and put his hand out, and for a long moment it hung in the air, then Chris shook on it.  The judge just hoped that he wouldn’t live to regret making a deal with the devil. Larabee smiled as he stood up draining his glass, and slide the bottle into the pocket of his long black duster, “judge we are the bad element.”  Ezra made himself comfortable in his new home, and pulled out his pack of cards. “Can I interest you in a game judge”?

 

“When hell freezes Mr. Standish, when hell freezes.” Orin said but his lips twitched into a something just short of a smile.

 

 

0-0-0-0-0

North end of Four Corners

 

William Jones looked at himself in the mirror, he was the dandy of Four Corners, he dressed to impress. Before he left his house, he kissed his wife on the cheek, and ruffled the hair of his twins, and then set off to the bank. He had been badly shaken by the events in Wickes Town and also angry, he had paid good money to Wickes, for what he saw as an investment, the fact it was other people’s money meant nothing to him.

 

A respected banker he was trusted, well more the fool them. Walking along the boardwalk, he touched the brim of his hat to the ladies, he considered himself the perfect god fearing gentleman. He didn’t frequent the saloon that was for the lower classes, better to have a glass of ten-year-old Scotch, in his own study, rather than have to put up with the filthy unwashed masses as far as these rubes were concerned he was above reproach. 

 

William touched his hat to Mrs. Potter and Mrs. Wells, and that brat Casey, and continued onto to his bank he was just unlocking the door when the batwings of the saloon opened and he saw a long haired  vision in buckskin walking out, causing him to drop his keys. Mr. Rudd the cashier quick scooped them up, only to have them snatched from his hand without a word of thanks by an unusually flustered William Jones. The banker sank down in his chair in his office and poured himself a sherry, the only civilized drink he allowed his clients. In his mind he conjured up pictures of the young long haired man, his naked body twisting and turning as thrust into him, his hand wrapped in the long chestnut hair, holding him in place. He had recognized him from the shootout, and he was one dangerous son of a bitch, but once tamed he would be spectacular.  He would ask Wickes for him, maybe keep him cuffed to his bed, his own personal pet, yeah that was it. Jones’s hand slipped down the front of his pants, and he rubbed himself, the knock on the door snapped him out of his daydream,  he kept them waiting as he straightened his clothes, then harshly barked at them to come in.

 

At noon, Jones left the bank to take luncheon with his wife, it was then he saw Ezra Standish coming out of the saloon. William turned way, hiding his face to avoid the man’s eye, what he did in Wickes Town usually stayed in Wickes Town, but now there was Standish that could  tell the good people of Four Corners, just what he was doing in Wickes Town. He had to do something and do it quickly, somehow he had to get Standish discredited and out of Four Corners, and fast.

 

 

0-0-0-0-0

Three hours later

Howards’ Livery and Blacksmiths.

 

Tiny Howard towered over the smaller Texan, and held the already grubby bit of paper in his hand, “this here is a note of promise from the Judge Mr. Tanner, it mean that you don’t have to pay for your horse’s  board and feed, hell we’ll even check his shoes for you, and the bill goes to the Judge.” Tiny saw the slight flush to the tanned face, and guessed that Vin Tanner couldn’t read or write, he had no idea what was on the paper.

 

“You sure that’s all covered”

 

“Yeah, all down in black and white, you show that to Mrs. Brandy and you’ll get your room at the boarding house, food’s thrown in as well.”

 

Vin looked towards the boarding house, “never was one for living indoors.”

 

“Look,” Tiny started then stopped and bite his lip, not sure if his wife would like what he was going to suggest “I’ve got an old wagon round here, sound as a bell, we don’t use it anymore.” He jerked his thumb “It’s over here.” 

 

Vin hefted his Winchester and followed him, the wagon had taken a beating but looking inside of it, it was in good condition and water tight.  “How much you want.”

 

“Nothing,”

 

“I don’t take charity.”  Vin all but snapped the words.

 

“Don’t offer it Mr. Tanner, it’s a good business deal, if you’re in the wagon, you’ll be near my livery, and I can’t see any rustlers getting past you.”   Tiny held Vin Tanners eyes levelly, there was a long pause and then Vin nodded, and stuck his hand out. Tiny took it in his large hand, his grip was firm, but he made no effort like some big men to crush the smaller man’s hand.

 

Tiny mused “I’ll get the wagon moved over there, between the livery stable and the Potters store, the Potters have had a few break ins, help them as well.”

 

Vin headed back to the saloon whistling softly to himself, off key, he had a home to his liking, he would keep the room, for the winter if it got really bad and they were still here, but the wagon would serve his needs in the meantime, he grinned, this time when old Chris got on his high horse about him sleeping outdoors, he had an ace up his sleeve.

 

Pushing through the doors of the saloon, he noticed Ezra was well entrenched in a game of poker. He caught Ezra’s eye and the carnac nodded, and continued playing. 

Chris had made it clear they had to keep contact with each other regularly, until they got the feel of the place, because they sure as hell couldn’t trust the townspeople.

 

JD came in after him, collected his milk from the bartender and then went over to where Vin was sitting in the corner. “Mind if I sit down Mr. Tanner.”

 

Vin didn’t answer but pushed one of the chairs opposite him out with his foot for JD to take a seat.

 

“We still got a problem Dunne.” 

 

“No Mr. Tanner, look we got off to a bad start, and….” JD spluttered to a halt, he put his hand out, for a long moment it hung there, and then Vin shook hands with him as the Texan drawled “and the name’s Vin, Mr. Tanner was my pa.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

 

William Jones stood in the telegraph office and waited for the message to be sent, “I want your boy to bring it straight to my office at the bank when the answer arrives.”

 

The man looked at his message pad.

 

“To W, Your property has arrived safely in Four Corners, business deal still going ahead, but will expect compensation in trade, William Jones.”

 

Jones pushed the money across, and then paused at the door “straight away mark you Mr Rudd”

 

“Of course Mr. Jones,” Mr. Rudd the telegraph operator said, then he waited for the door to close before he put in on a pile to send in the afternoon, as he hissed “pompous ass.”

 

It was late afternoon when Mr. Rudd finally arrived in his office holding a brown envelope holding the reply to his message. He watched as Mr. Jones opened the envelope, and then saw the smile on his face, whatever he was reading certainly made him happy, happy enough to actually tip him a nickel for once.

 

 

Morning

 

It was late morning when Vin started to circle back towards the town from his patrol; Chris had decided that regular patrols of the town and surrounding areas were the only way to make an impact on the lawlessness that had taken a hold on the town. The regulators had to be seen as a force to be recognized. So he had taken the first patrol checking on the farms and small ranches on the outskirts of Four Corners.

 

From what he had been told he knew that this was Nettie Wells ranch it was small, but the corral and barn looked to be in good order, Vin was surprised to see that next to the corral was several wagons, taking out his spyglass he studied them carefully they looked like farmers. His mind made up, Vin kicked his horse forward, as soon as they saw him the men stood brought their guns up ready.  One of the farmers blocked the way, the disgust plain on his face, as he looked Vin up and down, “Get out of here breed. We know all about you murdering scum, now get your carcass off this ranch before I.”

 

“Put that gun down Mr. Parker” the voice was strong, and it was one that was obeyed straight away, “this is my ranch, and who stays and who goes it up to me, and my old Spencer carbine.” Nettie Wells patted the rifle that she carried tucked under her arm.

 

“Mr. Tanner isn’t it?” Her keep brown eyes swept over the tracker, she had heard about the regulators, and this one fitted the description of the tracker.

 

“Yes Ma’am” Vin tugged the brim of his hat. “Just on patrol, checking that you’re alright.”

 

“Get down Mr Tanner” Nettie smiled “I’ve got fresh coffee on the stove.”

 

Vin nodded “Might kind of you ma’am.” He swung out of the saddle, and led his horse to the hitching rail, Mr. Parker reluctantly moving out of his way.

 

“You shouldn’t allow his kind in your house, Mrs. Wells, he’s a filthy not good killer, his kind are a dime a dozen round here I.”

 

Vin’s hand dropped to his mare’s leg, the easterner by his accent was pushing him. Nettie placed a hand on Vin’s arm.

 

“Mr. Tanner is my guest, and I heard you the first time Matthew Parker, if you don’t keep a civil tongue in your head; it will be you that’s not welcome here.

 

“Nettie” Park pleaded, but it fell on deaf ears.

 

“Come in Mr. Tanner,” she smiled and ushered the younger man in. She liked what she had seen of him, and she would trust her instincts over Parker’s any day. It was over the coffee that she began to explain about the trouble that Parker and his family was in, it was the typical story, land brought by the family back east, was nothing but a paper purchase.

 

“Might be worth Parker bringing his papers in to show Ezra, he can smell out a con quicker than most.”

 

“You think he’ll do it.”

 

“Hell ma’am he’ll be right pleased to do it. But Nettie couldn’t help but see the mischievous grin that lit up Vin’s face.

 

Nettie studied him carefully the well used buckskin jacket and a slouch confederate cavalry hat, the shirt was washed out and old, as were his pants, held up as they were by leather braces and his boots had seen better days. Instead of a colt, he was wearing a mare’s leg he wouldn’t be a fast gun, but then with Larabee, it wasn’t needed, and in a close fight she was sure it was his bowie knife that he would grab hold of. He was good looking, his eyes a vivid blue, Nettie smiled gently at him, if only she was 30 years old. Pouring the coffee she cut a slice of pie and placed it in front of him, one thing was sure he needed feeding up, he was way too slim. From where she stood she could see Parker and his friends looking towards the house. She turned back to him “What can I tell you about the town Mr. Tanner?”

 

 0-0-0-0-0

 

Four Corners Livery

Afternoon

 

Ezra was waiting for Vin to finish stabling his horse after he returned from his patrol, “So Chris told you to find me” Vin drawled.

 

“Before you say anything more Mr. Tanner, I must say that but for the foul mood of Mr. Larabee I would not be joining you on this excursion.”

 

Seeing the look on the tracker’s face he signed, “Given Mr. Larabee’s mood I decided it’s best to give in to his draconian impulses,” Ezra shook his head “God spare me from barbarian, let me re-phase this, I give in to Mr. Larabee’s demands.”

 

Vin smiled “What’s he catch you doing Ez.”

 

“Nothing Mr. Tanner, you are looking at an innocent man.”

 

Vin just laughed and then started off down the street, with Ezra by his side, protesting his innocence.

 

“SO what did you do Ez”?

 

“The name is Ezra, Mr. Tanner, I am sure that even you can vocalize two syllables.  His tone was one of a long suffering.

 

Vin just looked at him for the moment.

 

“I see that I am not making any impression on you Mr. Tanner. It’s true what my dear late mother once said; there are no gentlemen north of the mason Dixie line.”

 

“Good job, I am from Texas, Ez, and your ma is still alive last I heard.”

 

“That Mr. Tanner is beside the point.”  The southerner fell into step as the tracker started walking back towards the jail as he began to explain his indiscretion.

 

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Vin was leant against the post of the jail porch, as Ezra was sipping his first cup of coffee of the day and the gambler was still protesting “I fail to see why, Mr. Larabee has us meet every stage coach.

 

He ignored the chuckle from his friend and drained the rest of his coffee in time as the stage came round the corner of the street.

Ezra adjusted his jacket sleeves and prepared to meet the newcomers.

 

The first man off was a whiskey drummer, his bulky suitcase the trade mark of a salesman, the next was a couple of suited men, one tall and willowy the other short and stocky, and they had money. A smile twitched Ezra’s lips, sheep to be fleeced; the next was a brightly dressed professional gambler. Vin’s hand dropped to his gun, as he saw Ezra step out into the sun light, and head towards the man. This was the last man Ezra wanted to ever see again, Turner had been the reason that he had been imprisoned and he had ended up having to work the debt off, with his cards and his body.

 

“Mr. Turner,” Ezra.

 

The gambler in the peacock blue jacket, turned at the sound of the voice. His face suddenly widening into a grin, “Ezra, your friends in Wickes Town have missed you,  you still owe Mr. Wickes $760 , he looked Ezra up and down, each day your missing Mr. Wickes is adding another $10  to the debt. If you come back now, he’ll let you whore in the saloon, but if he comes and get you Ezra.” The man leaned in, “he’ll have them use you down the mining camp, and those miners won’t care what they do to you, one hole as good as the next.”

 

Ezra ignored the comment “What are you really doing here Mr. Turner; you didn’t just come for me.”

 

“Four Corners is an open town, Ezra, with the boy sheriff; this is the perfect business opportunity for Mr. Wickes.” Turner gloated, his eyes raking up and down the gambler’s body.  A wolfish smile lit up his face as he saw Vin’s hand resting on the mare’s leg. “You think you could beat me to the draw mister, with that sawn off.” He paused “I don’t think so.”

 

“You think too much.” The voice was low and deadly.  The smirk was wiped off Turner’s face as he turned to see Chris Larabee stood there. “Only a fool would come into my town and threaten my friends. Now you have a choice, get on that stage coach and leave or take the hearse to Boot Hill, your choice.”

 

“You.”

 

“The coach is getting ready to leave mister, be on it.”

 

The green eyes burned into Turner and the gambler, dropped his hand towards his gun, “You can’t force me out of here mister.”

 

“Want to try your luck.” The smile that touched Chris’ face was cold and deadly.

 

Tuner swallowed hard, and then let his hand drop away. “Standish owes important people money, I.”

 

“You're going to tell Wickes to forget it.”

 

“A threat?”

 

“No Turner a promise.” Chris said levelly, as he added “you buy in trouble for Ezra and I’ll personally hunt you down, and kill you.”

 

 

Turner hesitated and then climbed back on the stage, leaving town as fast as he had arrived.

 

“That will not be the end of it Mr. Larabee, and until I can clear the debt, Mr. Wickes or his colleagues will keep coming.” Ezra put in levelly watching the coach disappear into the distance.

 

“Did he cheat Ezra”? Chris asked levelly.

 

Ezra nodded “I for one believe he did.”

 

“Then you pay him nothing, and if he comes he can collect his due in lead” Chris said, and then added. “I’ll take a walk round the town, you two check up on the kid sheriff.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

 The jail.

Ezra sat playing solitaire, he was alone in the jail the cards flipped out of his hands onto the tabletop, but in reality his mind was fixed on other things, he knew that Turner would report to Wickes, and they would be back. The knock on the door brought him back to the present, and he sat up straighter when he saw William Jones stood there.

 

“Mr. Standish,” William said the name, savoring it, “Or should I call you Ezra, after all, I think that after I’ve fucked you we shouldn’t stand on formality.”

 

“What is done is done; forget it,” Ezra paused “because I think you have more to lose then me. You see Mr. Jones, the good people of this town are not going to like the fact that their banker” Ezra smiled at the look on Jone’s face. “Why looked surprised, you don’t think that I saw you earlier, and the people here love to gossip even with a gambler.  Mr. Jones” Ezra’s voice was mocking, “The financial savior of Four Corners, was in Wickes Town fucking a whore. How is that going to appear to them? Female yes, but a male, that is going to take some explaining. “You had your fun forget it.” 

 

Williams’ face darkened, this was not going the way he wanted it to Standish was too calm.

 

Ezra paused and his mouth twisted into a sardonic smile, “You have to ask yourself are you willing to risk it, risk your position in this town, if not, mind your business and I’ll mind mine.” The gambler collected his cards together with a flourish, and with a touch of his fingers to his hat he walked out, pushing his cards into his vest pocket as he went. But for all his cold nerve with the Banker, he was worried; Jones could cause a problem for Chris.

 

It had not gone as he wanted, Jones muttered under his breath, as he watched the gambler leave the jail, his eyes lingering on that tight ass,  he was all too aware of the risk of trying to blackmail the southerner, but it was only the first step in his plan. Standish through he had the upper hand, now was the time to turn the tables on him. 

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

The next morning.

 

JD Dunne was stood watching the people go by; just over 24 hours ago he was the sheriff on the town, solely in charge of it, now he was still the sheriff, but Chris Larabee was calling the shots, and the man scared the hell out of him. Coming west had been the ambition he had nurtured since he was old enough to read the dime novels, he had used the money his mother had saved for a one way ticket west when he realized that he would never be able to afford a college place. His guns were his treasured possessions and he had thought he was fast until he had seen Larabee, and he had the sneaking suspicion that the gambler, Standish was faster than him and Buck as well, you didn’t get to be an experienced gun hand without having the skills to do it. Hell at this rate the only one he could out draw was Vin Tanner. JD started as the bank cashier came up to him, with a note, stating that Mr. Jones wanted to speak to him on a private matter.

 

It was the first time that the man had even acknowledged him, let alone asked to speak to him.

 

Jones waved JD to a chair, “Thank you for coming Mr. Dunne, something has come to my notice, and I think you need to see it”

 

It had cost him two bottles of rot gut whiskey and $30 but old Cooper, the type setter for Mary Travis’s Clarion newspaper, had run off a bill for him.

William had stood on the bill, and then last night poured some coffee on it, making it look well used. Inside he gloated as he handed it to JD and waited for the shock, and he had to stop himself laughing as he saw the blush that fused the young man’s face. If his tastes didn’t turn towards older meat he would have worked at getting this virgin ass in his bed, but he had his sights set on Ezra.

“Of course I was very distressed to see this,” he indicated the bill. “I know that they have been employed by the judge, but I am sure that a man as honorable as Judge Travis wouldn’t knowingly have employed such a man.”

 

“Sheriff Dunne” he noticed  the boy sat up a little straighter. “I think that we must keep this secret for the moment, the judge is trying to help this town, just as I did when I brought my bank to Four Corners and you did when you’re stood up and was counted, and became our sheriff. I will of course go along with whatever you suggest. But perhaps the best course would be to keep keen eyes on Mr. Standish, and allow him to determine his own fate.”

 

JD hesitated, sodomy was against the law, hell so was being a card sharp, and conning people, but it was the first that cut to the very heart of JD. Standish had been nice to him, and although a little distant, was polite and friendly, even in the short time he had known him, which he reminded himself was only 48 hours. He would trust his own judgment, and if Standish tried anything he would act.

 

“Can I keep this”? He picked up the bill.

 

“Of course sheriff.”

 

JD nodded, “And this will remain just between us, but I will deal with this.”

 

“Certainly, after all one bad apple can poison the whole barrel.”

 

Only when JD had gone did William smile broadly and pour and savor his whiskey, and then opening his draw he pulled out the telegram that arrived earlier.

 

Mr. Jones

 

Will come and collect my property.

 

W.

 

It was just getting better and better.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

JD was walking along the boardwalk, automatically acknowledging the people that passed him but not really seeing them, he jumped as a hand dropped on his shoulder, he whirled round his hand going towards his gun, and then it dropped away, as he saw Buck stood there. The big man grinned at him, “Son, your face looks like a month of wet Sundays, what’s wrong.”

 

“Nothing, I,” JD paused and bit his lip. “What if you found out something about someone, and it well, it’s really bad what would you do”?

 

Buck scratched his moustache thoughtfully, “Well, JD I would remember what happened with Vin.” He paused, “Have you still got a problem with Vin, Junior doesn’t usually, hold a grudge, but then if people piss him off their usually dead. So, recon, you’re safe, since you’re still breathing.”

 

“Not Vin, I well apologized and he’s okay with it.”

 

He noticed Buck’s eyebrows lifted at that, the kid had a lot to learn, Vin was more complicated than he realized, Tanner would accept the apology, and respect the spirit it was given in, but if JD crossed him again, or caused heaven forbid problems for Chris, and then the kid wouldn’t see another dawn break. There was a dark side to Vin that made him just as dangerous as Chris Larabee, old Chris was like a rattler, you heard him before he struck, might not give much warning, but it was still there. Vin was more like the Texas Coral snake, no rattle and kills you dead without a sound.

 

“Look Buck, if I can’t sort it I’ll be back,” JD headed  towards the Saloon, as he saw the Baker boys coming into town, better to warn them now than wait for them to get drunk, and then have to crack a few heads.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

The Saloon, Late Evening.

 

Ezra was playing cards, with Tiny and Yosemite Howard, one of the whiskey drummer and one of the suits from the stage coach by the name of James Ryan. It was low stakes poker, but the brothers were enjoying themselves, they were bickering good natured, giving Ezra a broad grin at some of the dry comments that the gambler shot back. Tiny got up and went and collected three beers and put one down in front of each of them. “You managed to win that hand brother, or has Mr. Standish done it again.”

 

“Just playing my cards brother which is more than you can do.” Yosemite quipped back, clapping his brother on the back as he took a drink of his beer, so that he sprayed it over the table. Ezra brushed some of the froth off his jacket cuff. Only to have Tiny lean across with a non-to clean rag he was using as a handkerchief.

Ezra pulled back a look of near horror on his face, “I am a fine gentleman really.”

 

“Sorry about that Mr. Standish can’t take Yosemite any where twice, because they won’t let him back to apologize for the first time.”

 

The brothers left around ten o’clock leaving  the other three men to continue playing, with the brothers gone the stakes began to increase, with a flash of his gold tooth Ezra laid his cards down “ a full house gentlemen” he said as he collected in the notes and coins. That was the last pot of the night and they agreed to have another game tomorrow, it was as Ezra was pocketing his money he froze as he turned one of the coins over, it was the right size and shape as a dollar, but lighter in weight, it was a brothel token he glanced at the door at the men’s departing back, he didn’t know which one had thrown it in the pot. But it seemed someone else knew his secret.

 

 

 

He was half way down the street when Ryan stepped out of the shadows, flicking a coin at him, Ezra caught it up in mid air, and “you have a point to make Mr. Ryan.” The gloating smile was the only warning he got when he was suddenly attacked, a blow to the stomach doubled him over and stopped him yelling for help. Ezra was slammed against the side of the alleyway a knee came up hard and fast, he managed to turn and take it on the thigh but it still carried on up and caught him in the stomach. He was released and fell to his knees.

 

 “Complements of Mr. Wickes whore.” The harsh words were hissed into this ear, the foul breath wafting over his face was the last thing that Ezra heard before the butt of a rifle connected with his head. He never felt himself being picked up and dragged towards the wasteland behind the stores and into a stinking hut or when he was thrown down onto filthy blankets, he started to come round as he felt hands clawing at his pants.

 

Ezra began to struggle and managed to get in a couple of hard blows, splitting one of his attacker’s lip, and blooding another’s nose trying to mark them, before he was pinned down on his stomach, and his pants hauled down to his ankles and ripped off. Knowing what they were going to do made him struggle all the harder, but he couldn’t get free. A hand knotted into his hair and his face was roughly pulled so that he could look up into the face of one of his attacker. Richard Turner looked down at him, and over his shoulder loomed William Jones. The bankers face was flushed with excitement, breathing hard, getting off on what was about to happen.

 

“Told you to be nice Standish, by the time were finished you’re going to wish it was just my cock up your ass, whore.”

 

“Impotent, cocksucker couldn’t get stiff if you were three days dead.” Ezra snarled as he spat the crudities at him. William face went bright red, the hard bulging erection in his pants went down, and he saw the smirk on the trapped man’s face, and his foot lashed out kicking Ezra in the side.

 

The men took their turned fucking the helpless limp body, drunk on the power they had over the gambler, blood and cum strained Ezra’s pale thighs, Williams anger grew as he was unable get it up enough to mount the gambler, seeing and hearing the jeers from Wickes’ men at his failure, the banker went crazy kicking out at Ezra, his face a mask of anger, until Richard Turner dragged him away.

 

“What’s the fuck are you doing you’re going to kill him.”

 

William laughed it was bitter and was off key, Richard took a step back there was something cruel and dark in the banker, he didn’t want to cross him.

William wiped the spittle from his lips, “get your hands off me” he pushed Richard away from him, “Tell Mr. Wickes, that everything will be ready for him on Tuesday, and that when this is over I want Standish, and I want that tracker Tanner chained to my bed” he stalked out of the hut.

William had only been gone a matter of minutes when suddenly there was a cry from the darkness it was wolf, and the door of the hut exploded inward, as the animal came in all teeth and glowing red eyes.

 

Only it was no ordinary wolf this one stood on two legs, its body covered in long dark hair, claws extended from over long fingers, its muzzle peeled back showing yellow and white teeth. Turner reacted where the other men stood staring in disbelief; it was a werewolf, a powerful one. Then even as he escaped his men began to die as teeth and claws carved open fragile flesh. When the final man lay twitching and dyeing, the werewolf moved over the unmoving gambler, it bent down its large head with its razor sharp teeth, nuzzled at Ezra’s throat, nudging him, a throaty growl coming from the animal as he didn’t move. It’s clawed hand pawed at his jacket, then travelled down the trim body, until it found his naked ass, he scented between his thighs, and then threw back its head and howled, the whole hut shuddered under the noise. Then the werewolf leapt forward as its long fingered hand hit the ground it was transforming in mid air and what landed and ran out of the hut was not a man wolf, but a large timber wolf. It headed quickly towards town, and then taking the steps two at a time, it went up the stairs to the healer’s clinic.

 

It scrapped at the door, Nathan Jackson; the Four Corners healer opened the door, if he was shocked to see the timber wolf he didn’t show it.

 

Walking to one of the beds he picked up a blanket then turning, tossed it to the now naked man stood there.

 

JD caught the blanket, “The hut behind Mason’s funeral home, Standish the gambler he’s been attacked.”

 

“JD.”

 

“Not me, I like him. They, JD’s voice faltered, I killed them, and he’s down and hurt.” The younger man trailed off, a newly evolved werewolf he had trouble remembering what he saw in his man-wolf state. Nathan quickly filled his bag, pulled on his knife harness, and threw the bag over his shoulder, and started down the stairs. Leaving JD to pull on his clothes and hurry after him.

 

 

0-0-0-0-0-0

Nathan Jackson has seen his fair share of death during the War, but what he saw in that hut was nothing short of butchery, yet in the middle of all the carnage untouched by it was the man that JD had called Standish, the southern gambler.

 

Ignoring the dead bodies, Nathan knelt down, checking Ezra first for vital signs, he signed with relief that Standish was alive, he turned as he heard JD arrive, dressed but clutching the blanket.

 

“JD,” Nathan had turned back to Standish, and then looked back to JD when he didn’t get a reply, “JD” he snapped the name to get his attention. His voice was harsh, “There dead, JD, Standish is still alive we have him to concentrate on.”

 

JD nodded, finally pulling his eyes of the dead bodies and torn limbs.

 

Nathan gently parted Ezra’s legs, knowing from the blood the gambler had been raped, he then with his thumbs parted the bloodily and bruised cheeks, and then swore violently as he saw the damage. Without looking up he said, “Take that expression off your face JD, the man’s hurt and it wasn’t his fault.”

 

“It was.” JD spluttered.

 

Nathan’s head snapped up, “No man deserves this,” he took a steadying breath. “If you can’t be any help leave the blanket with me, and get Josiah, he’s sleeping at the Church.”

 

“What about Mr. Larabee.”

 

“Once I know what I am looking at, now get boy.”

 

Nathan shook his head, expelling his breath in an angry hiss, at the stupidly of the young, he couldn’t do anything here, for the gambler; the dirty in here would invite infection. Carefully he eased the pants up, to at least give him some privacy and then draped him with the blanket, the man’s skin was ice cold and clammy, and he was starting to go into shock, and that could be a killer, he had to get him back to the clinic and warmed up.

 

The heavy footsteps and Josiah was there, bending swiftly he caught Ezra up in his arms, JD had told him the older man enough for words not to be important between the two men.

 

Josiah cradled Ezra like a child in his arms, and effortlessly carried the man with Nathan leading the way. Josiah was an old friend of the black healer. They had first met in the War, when Nathan had saved his life after a drunken surgeon had nearly killed him after he had been wounded with a botched operation. He had seen something special in him, and knew that they would meet up again. Now it seemed the time was right.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

In his study William Jones, sat drinking back his whiskey, his whole body was alive, with excitement, he looked at the blood on his hand, dried under his nails, and he could see in his mind, Ezra’s body laid out for him. The tight hole oozing blood and cum, his face began to flush and he became hard. When his wife timidly knocked on the door, he snapped at her to go to bed, slowly he got to his feet, and drained the glass, and a few minutes later followed her. But as he took his wife, it wasn’t her face that he saw as he thrust into her unresisting body, as she lay still and unresponsive, as he had his way with her, but the dark hair and face of the gambler.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Clinic

Josiah laid the unconscious man onto the table, and then put the kettle on the stove to boil some water, as Nathan began to carefully, ease Ezra onto his stomach.

 

He worked in silence, examining him, pushing back the nausea that welded up in his throat, as he saw the damage.

 

“Josiah, I am going to need you hold him down, because there is no way that this isn’t going to hurt like the devil.” He saw the anger burn into those brown eyes, and knew that the man that had done this would die.

 

Pouring the hot water into a bowl and adding a little cold, he used clean linen to wash the blood away, dropping them into a bucket.  The door to the clinic opened and Vin, Chris and Buck came in, hovering behind them was JD, he took one look and disappeared out of the door.

 

“He’s alive Chris, but badly hurt,” Josiah spoke first.

 

“JD told us.”   The three men stood looking down at their fourth.

 

Knowing they wouldn’t move Nathan said, “You” he pointed to Buck “I need you to wash your hands, and you two.”

 

Josiah supplied the name, “Chris and Vin.”

 

Nathan had seen them around the town, but hadn’t yet met them, but had heard Josiah speak of them. “Yeah right, Chris and Vin to hold his ankles, and spread his legs, Josiah is going to hold his shoulders down, and.”

 

“Buck” the third man supplied his name. “You might not want to do this, but I need you to keep him spread, while I treat him.”

 

Buck nodded and did as he was asked, Nathan, took a deep breath, “there is no way I can do this without hurting him, but I’ll do my best to make it quick.”

 

Long slender fingers reached into Ezra, as he tried to identify the damage. The scream made them all jump and Ezra began to struggle, Nathan quickly let go and pulled his fingers out of the moving body they were red with blood.

 

Josiah leaned into Ezra whispering softly, “Your safe son, safe.”

 

Buck released his hold and moved quickly so that Ezra could see him, his hand cupping the gambler’s head, “Ezra.”

 

“B   B  Buck.”

 

“Were all here you’re going to be alright, but Nathan Jackson, he’s the healer he’s got to treat you, and it’s going to hurt, no way round it.”

 

Nathan had moved and was dashing hot water into a cup, onto a small bag of herbs, then a little cold water, and came round to the head of the bed, “Buck can you lift his head.” He moved so that Ezra could see him, “I need you to drink this; I will help with the pain.”

For a moment he stood there, green eyes boring into brown, and then Ezra closed his eyes, and turned his head away.

 

Vin swore, and then moved round all but pushing Nathan out of the way, he caught Ezra’s face his fingers digging into his jaw, “Ez your going to drink this mud, or” he leaned in and whispered, Ezra’s eyes sprung open.

 

“Mr.  T Tanner,”

 

“You know I’ll do it, every fucking one.”

 

“Philistine.” Ezra shuddered, Vin put his hand out and Buck pushed the tin cap into it, and Ezra drank the stuff down, for a moment it nearly came back, but a glare from the cobalt blue eyes of the Phoenix and Ezra swallowed hard and Ezra sank down on the bed.

 

“You know what they did to you.”

 

“Can guess,” Ezra groaned his head moving from side to side as he bit back the pain.”

 

 

Suddenly he yawned, and he had trouble focusing and his head rolled to one side, “Ez” Buck looked to Nathan.

 

“It’s the herbs, won’t keep him under long, best we do it quick.”

 

Nathan cleaned him, as best he could and then coated clean clothes with a healing salver and pressed them inside of Ezra’s body, the salver would help him heal but there was no way the next few weeks were going to be easy on the young gambler. Washing his hands clean Nathan said “It needs changing daily, the wounds have to be kept clean, and that’s the worse place for it, but he should heal given time.”  

 

The rasping Texan drawl, cut into Nathan’s thought, “They pissed on him didn’t they.” There was hatred in those softly said words, and the healer couldn’t hold back a shudder, as if someone had just walked across his grave.

 

“Yes, but he should make a full recovery, just have to watch for a fever,” then straightening up he met each of their eyes, “This stays with me, I don’t gossip about my patients.”

 

“Never thought you did” Vin answered. But his eyes were now on their leader, his lover.

 

The darkness of the night was split by jagged lightening ripping through the sky, then a clap of thunder that made the very building shudder. The lights in the Clinic flickered and Nathan took a deep shuddering breath and stepped back into Josiah, as in that flickering light, Chris Larabee changed, his face seemed to dissolve in those few seconds to that of a skull, and fire seemed to flicker around him. Nathan head snapped round as the man Vin got to his feet fire played round his body, long claws had erupted from his fingers and fangs dropped down.

 

Buck stepped towards Nathan, “You’re healing his body, but Ez, needs more you’re   going to leave us, to do what needs doing.”

 

“My patient.”

 

“Ez is a Carnac, Nathan” Chris put in his tone deadly.

 

“Carnac” Nathan looked down at the man he had treated, “What the hell are you people.”

 

It was Buck that answered there was pride in his voice, “We’re Ghost Riders” he made a motion between Chris and himself, “now Vin he’s a Phoenix.” He met Nathan’s eyes levelly and let the blue flame flicker around his hand to make his point. There was another loud crash of thunder, Buck shook his head Chris was pissed and beyond angry, if he carried on like this he could level the town with his power. He saw Vin laid a hand on Chris’s shoulder, he spoke softly and the last peel of thunder faded into the background.

 

Josiah’s big hand clamped on his friends shoulder, “Nothing to be afraid of Nath, come let’s leave them for the moment, Buck will come if Ezra needs you.”  Even so it took a firm grip to get the healer to leave.

 

When Ezra’s eyes opened, flickered and the pain hit him he gasped, but he pushed the cup of herbs away Buck offered him, not liking the way it made his mind cloudy.

 

It was then he realized he was lying on the floor, and that he wasn’t alone, the mattresses from three of the cots had been stripped off them, and covered with blankets and he was laid on it. Warm skin pressed against his back, and a strong arm as wrapped round his waist, mind full of his injured. He reached one hand back, only to have it caught and he looked into the green eyes of his leader, and Alpha Chris Larabee. With the light behind him, the blond hair shone like a halo, he was perhaps the furthest away from an angel you could get. But to Ezra he was everything he wanted strength and protection; his body relaxes, as he felt safe.  Chris’s lips brushed the palm of his hand to reassure him.  

 

As a Carnac Ezra could healer faster than a human, but he had lost blood. Chris whispered softly in his ear, and Ezra was gently moved so that he was lying in Vin’s arms.  Chris spooned up carefully of abused body behind him using one hand Chris lightly pushed Ezra’s head forward as Vin rolled his head to one side, exposing his throat. Chris’s other hand moved over Ezra’s and then Vin’s body, as the Carnac, bit down onto the Phoenix’s throat, taking his blood. Finally Ezra eased back his tongue swiping the skin that tasted uniquely of Vin, as he sealed the wound, then pressed a kiss to it, and nuzzled Vin’s neck.

 

Chris collected Ezra close to him, looking up puzzled when Vin covered them with blankets and began to pull on his clothes.

 

“Going to go and see what I can find, they must have left tracks.”

 

“Kid seems to think they’re all dead.”

 

Vin raised an eyebrow, “Shit, I wouldn’t trust that kid if he said the sun came up in the morning, he’s lying about something.”

 

“Just watch your back.”

 

“Always do cowboy,” Vin headed out of the clinic pausing only to look back, “I’ll be back before dawn so he can feed again.”

 

Ezra made a soft moan, and Chris pulled him tighter against him, so that he could feed from him. Buck took Vin’s place his large hands moving soothingly over Ezra’s back, as he fed, before Chris passed him across so the young gambler could feed from him as well.  Ezra finally settled sated with blood, his eyes red from the feeding, tomorrow he would tell his lovers the full story of what had happened but for the moment he would rest.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Vin went to the hut, he didn’t bother to check the bodies, he would fire it before he left, burn the garbage, they didn’t’ deserve a grave.

 

An experienced tracker he disregarded Josiah and Nathan’s footprints, so he turned his attention to another pair of tracks the large space between them showed that the man had taken off running from the hut. The man he called square toe had been in the hut at the time of the carnage because the first few prints had blood on them. Vin followed the tracks and found where the man had fallen down in his hurry to escape, and then pulled himself up and carried on running to where a string of horses stood patiently for riders that would never come.

 

Back at the hut another set of prints showing an upright walking wolf went in, and a timber wolf came out, he followed them back and a smile twitched his lips, as he found JD’s prints, the boy had a nick in the sole of his shoe and it showed up clearly in the dust. The kid was a shape shifter a werewolf that was his secret. He followed the wolf prints far enough to see they were heading toward the clinic. Then there was the final set, town shoes, and the man was walking at a slow pace so must have left before the attack. He cut through one of the alleyways and then up onto the boardwalk, Vin could only follow him along a bit further when his tracks disappeared, lost in the tracks of the baker and other early morning citizens of Four Corners. His gut feeling told the tracker that the man was still in town and unlike the other hadn’t fled the area.

 

The next morning the judge  had listened to what had happened while he waited for the early stage his face was grim as he said, “I want the attackers caught, Mr. Dunne, no one attacks one of my regulators and gets away with it. I am taking my daughter and grandson back east on a visit, Marshal Burns has business in Grand Rapids, he should be back in about two weeks’ time. Sheriff Dunne I will expect answers when I come back.”   

 

JD was convinced that the poster and the attack had to be connected; it seemed too much of a leap of faith that Standish had been assaulted just when he was accused of being a sodomite came to light. 

JD knocked on the door of William Jone’s house, he held the poster that Jones had given him clutched in one hand in his pocket. Mrs. Jones lead him in and asked him to wait in the study, her husband was just finishing his breakfast.

 

Jones arrived a few minutes later pulling his napkin from his shirtfront. “Sheriff Dunne, what can I do for you, please take a seat.”

 

“Sorry I interrupted your breakfast, but I think we need to talk.”

JD pulled out the bill, “You gave this to me yesterday, and did you show it to anyone else.”

 

“No why,” William leaned forward.

 

“Mr. Standish was attacked last night, he was violated by some men, and err injured. I wondered if you might have showed it to someone.”

 

Jones shook his head “Of course not Sheriff Dunne, more than likely knowing his perverse nature, Mr.  Standish likely plying his trade, and they decided not to pay him and things got out of hand. It happens with whores all the time; I can’t see it being any different because he’s male.” William saw the nod of agreement, as JD put a hand in his pocket and pulled out the brothel token “I found this on the floor of the hut”

William took the token from his hand and turned it over, he recognized it as one of Wickes’ tokens advertising the best screw in the west at $3 a night “that seems to confirm it, these men must have associated with Standish, and felt that he owed them for past services not rendered.”

JD nodded, and took the token back and nodded, “I don’t like to have to tell the judge this, but he’ll have to know.”

 

William  chuckled out loud, at the gullible younger man, he so desperately wanted to be accepted as the sheriff and be seen as his own man, but with a few kind words he would be lead, like a bull with a ring in its nose.

 

JD bit his lip, in his mind’s eye he saw the beaten and bloody southerner, and the laugh from Williams made him angry, “I told the Judge I would investigate the attack, and I will do that.”

 

“Innocent people could be hurt Sheriff” William’s voice became colder, when he saw the look on JD’s face.

 

JD met his eyes levelly “an innocent man has already been hurt.”

 

“I am sure that you will do what is right Sheriff,” Williams said as he gripped JD should reassuringly as he added “if you need to speak to me, please call into the bank.”

It was as JD was leaving by the backdoor, he didn’t merit the front door that he saw , by the side of the stone step, a partial smug of a blood footprint, nausea washed through him, Jones was guilty, but how could he prove it. He had to think it through, someone had to pay for raping Standish, he argued with himself that they had already paid the ultimate price therefore justice had been done, hadn’t It.?

 

William Jones was a good man, he had saved Four Comers, the local people owed him their ranches, and if he was brought to court would they convict him because of Standish, he didn’t think so. He had been at the hut, but there was no proof that he had done anything, maybe he had arranged a meeting with Standish and the other men had been their first. No that wouldn’t work, if he was going to fuck Standish a dirty hut wasn’t his style, the ideas whirled round his head,  one thing JD knew he was going to have to think very carefully about what he did next. 

 

 

“Kid.” The rasping drawl made him jump and he saw Vin Tanner stood there, the man was leant again the side of one of the stores.

“We need to talk,” it wasn’t a request.

 

 

“Sorry Vin, I am.”  JD trailed off, and hand began to drift towards his gun, something about the tracker, “shit” tracker, Tanner was a tracker. JD glanced back towards the banker’s house, and saw the smile that touched Vin’s lips; the scruffy Texan turned his back on him and walked away. Leaving JD to look at this retreating back with fear, he would have followed the blood trail and knew of Jone’s connection with Standish. “Vin wait,” he called after him but the tracker had already vanished.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

The Clinic

 

Ezra was pulling his shoes on the blood feeds he had taken from the Phoenix, and the Ghost Riders had boosted his healing ability tenfold, it had been painful when he had removed the wadding from his body and he was still aching and he felt light headed, but there was no way he was going to spend any longer in the clinic, he was going to find Jones and put a bullet right in the middle of his head the moment he saw him.

 

Just then the  door to the clinic arrived, and JD came in his mouth fell open as he looked at the gambler, there was no way that he could be in this good condition, he expected to see him laying huddled on the bed.

 

“Mr. Dunne,” Ezra smiled he had taken to the young boy sheriff, he reminded him of a over enthusiastic puppy, it was just how long it was going to be before his bouncing personality met a pissed off drunken Larabee and the man in black killed him when he got on his nerves.

 

“Mr. Standish.” JD dug his hand into his pocket and thrust the poster into the gambler’s hand. The younger man watched the older gambler as he carefully opened it, the color drained from his face, “where did you get this?”

 

“It’s not important is it true”?

 

The green eyes that burned into JD were cold and anger, Ezra’s hand dropped to the holstered Remington that was strapped to his hip. “Who give to you, and remember Mr. Dunne, I’ve seen your draw.” Then louder he repeated his question, “Who gave it you.” His voice was low and deadly his accent was thicker than normal

 

Buck came in behind JD, he liked the kid and knew that something had gone really wrong here; Ezra compared to Vin and Chris was pretty even tempered. The big man dropped his hand to cover his own gun.

 

“Easy Ez, what the kid do.”

 

“Look at the poster Buck.”

 

Buck read it and scrunched it up in his fist, “JD where did you get it, because if this made those men attack Ez we need to know, because next time it could get him killed.

 

JD, hesitated, “William Jones, he’s a banker here, he approached me because he found the poster, and was concerned that Mr. Standish was” he floundered to a halt.

 

Ezra laughed it was brittle and grated on JD’s nerves. “Mr. Jones was one of my customers at Wickes Town.”

 

“Customers, you mean like a whore,” the disgust in JD’s tone was too much for Buck.

 

“Ez was forced, JD, it was fuck or die.”  He snarled back.

 

“But Mr. Jones he.”

 

“Jones was in the hut JD,” Ezra spoke levelly, the bitterness fading for his voice, “he was there and he told me, that” Ezra faltered slightly “he said that when they were finished with me, I would have wished it was just his cock inside of me, but you already knew that didn’t you.”

 

JD hung his head down, “I went to speak to Mr. Jones this morning, I wanted to know if he had shown the poster to anyone, when I was leaving I saw part of a footprint near his back door, it was bloody 

 

“So when were you going to tell us.”  The voice behind them made them all turn, Chris Larabee stood there, his hand rested on his gun, and Buck could tell that the infamous Larabee temper was about to explode.

 

Carefully Buck moved between his friend and the kid. “Chris, he made a mistake, he would have come to us, right JD.”

 

When he didn’t get a reply he repeated “Right JD.”

 

“Yes,” the voice was weak.

 

Ezra shook his head slowly, he gathered himself and walked over to JD, “In future ask me, and for your information, I might play cards but I am no card sharp, I am a professional gambler, I might have conned people with my darling mother, but not recently, and I am not a common thief.”

 

“Yeah JD he just uses a pack of cards, and Ez here is anything but common.” Buck put in with a grin at the pale-faced gambler.

 

“Some of that I will not dignify with a reply,” Ezra paused “and as for being a sodomite, I’ve fucked men if that’s what you’re asking.” He put a hand out and laid it on JD’s shoulder, pleased when the kid didn’t pull away. “We all have our own secrets. But that doesn’t mean we can’t trust each other, and if you’re going to be working with us you need to know the truth.” Ezra gave a theatrical shudder “dear god did I just say that.”

 

“JD here is a shifter,” Vin’s Texan drawl, slightly more pronounced than usual cut across the room, as he leaned against a door jab with his Winchester cradled in his arm.  “A werewolf.”

 

JD blushed, and was about to protest when he saw that none of them looked shocked.

 

Buck took pity, “a furry in the tribe, don’t that beat everything Vin.” He gave the young sheriff a pat on the back, “Don’t worry about it, Ez is a Carnac,” seeing the slightly puzzled look he added “think vampire.”

 

“A Carnac Mr. Dunne is a more social animal than the vampire, we don’t go round chewing on the neck of all and sundry, and we have more style than to do that.” Ezra put in indigently

 

“Err” JD started and then came to a halt spluttering.

 

Ez shook his head “you will have to learn to verbalize yourself more clearly Mr. Dunne or your risk become as mute as our good friend Mr. Tanner, as a Carnac I only need a small amount of blood, rather than drain people, and I give pleasure while I do it. Mr. Larabee and Mr. Wilmington are Ghost Riders, Josiah, is from the Brotherhood,” he cocked his head slightly at JD, “Believe me you don’t want to go there.”

 

“I’s  from the Phoenix Rising Tribe, JD.” Vin saw the look on the young man’s face, real fear, “I’s part demon, and Chris here might threaten to shoot you, and he will but that is nice clean and fast, but you cross us,  hold back what we need to know, and as the earth is my mother, the sky is my father, I will kill you and cut out your liver and beating heart for the hell hounds to eat.” His tone told them the Texan was dearly serious; this was no threat this was a promise.

 

JD was on his feet, he started to morph, and the change was feuledby fear, before he could even become half wolf he was pinned to the wall by Vin. A clawed hand round his throat, and he was looking into the fangs of the half demon, flame played round them both, and JD believed.

 

“A Phoenix Brother Dunne.” Josiah had seen the others heading towards the clinic and followed with Nathan. “Folklore tells us about phoenixes but there are never groups of them, only solitary ones, have you ever wondered why. Because they can’t stand others of their kind, they actively kill them; there is nothing more dangerous than a pissed off phoenix. Brother Dunne you might be a werewolf, but in a world where the supernatural roams the earth, there are a lot of things more powerful then you, and at the top of the tree is the Phoenix.” Josiah placed his hand on Vin’s shoulder, “easy Brother, the boy understands.”  He paused “Did you come here in good faith Brother.”

 

JD nodded, “I had to find out the truth from Mr. Standish, I was going to tell him about the footprints, I knew Vin had tracked them”

 

Chris’s voice was still lethal, “I think it’s time we go talk to Mr. Jones.”  Four had become five with Josiah, then six with Nathan, and finally when they left the clinic they had become seven and the Tribe of Seven was completed.

 

Mr. William Jones House

Mrs. Jones, stood in tears as two of the regulators and Sheriff Dunne had entered her house, she was almost hysterically as she had sobbed that she had no idea where her husband was, all the time her fingers had been touching the big black bruise on the side of her face where William had back handed her, when she had demanded to know where he was going.

 

The men had gone straight into her husband’s study, and she has seen the gambler close the door behind them.

 

Ezra smiled  as he saw the safe, a Booker 404, it was a good safe, or rather had been about ten years  ago, now it was as much use against him as a cracker box. Taking his hat off, Ezra, flexed his fingers and then pressed his ear to the front, and began to listen to the tumblers as he turned them, waiting for them to fall into place. In ten minutes the door to the safe was open, but the safe only contained the bank’s, account books, Ezra discarded them they would be above board. He straightened and looked round the room, and went over to a painting of the happy family. Reaching up he carefully lifted the painting down and handed it to Buck there was a second safe a smaller one. It only took minutes for him to crack this safe. Inside of it was what he was looking for, a second set of books, he froze as his hand rested on a switch it was covered in flakes of blood and skin, he could remember all too clearly Jones and his little toys. Ezra pushed the memory away, and collected the book, he had a feeling it was going to make interesting reading. He saw the look on Buck’s face “is there something puzzling you Mr. Wilmington?”

 

“Why did he leave the books?”

 

“He believed that we wouldn’t find them, the arrogance of the man. But I would guess also that he didn’t want to risk Mr. Wickes getting his hands on the books, I would not be surprised if Mr. Jones is not playing his own game.” 

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

The Saloon

Two hours later

Vin was sat in one of the chairs, his hat pulled down over his eyes, resting against the wall, tilting the chair on its back legs, he pushed the brim up slight as Ezra and Buck came in.

 

“Well.”  Chris asked, he had been drinking steadily, in most men it would have made them less of a force to be reckoned with, but Chris had a mean temper when sober, but when was drinking , he was as volatile as they came and only an idiot would keep him waiting. Well an idiot or Ezra Standish and Vin Tanner.

 

Ezra sank down onto a chair, “It seems that Mr. Jones is playing a long game here, the man has patience I’ll give him that.” Then seeing the forbidding looking on the man in black’s face he added. “The railway is coming through Four Corners, not now and maybe not for several years, but the route is planned, and Jones had been helping Wickes to acquire land.”

 

“Mr. Jones doesn’t own any land.”  JD put in then trailed off as he was pinned by a green eyed glare.

 

Ezra’s expression was as smug as a cat that had just eaten the canary. “Jones, had been working hard, and had nearly got all the land in a tight corridor, if we can believe his book work and like all good crooks he had two sets of books. Ezra tugged the book out from inside his jacket.

 

“Mr. Jones had been helping the local people, he’s the Savior of Four Corners if it hadn’t been for him the ranches and farms would have gone under.” JD colored as he saw the mocking looking on the gambler’s face, and JD looked down at the floor.  The hand that landed on his shoulder, made him jump and when he looked up it was into Buck’s eyes, the big man shook his head “Kid Jones took in everyone, you can’t take it personal.”

 

“The workmanship of the plan is very good, my dear mother would appreciate it,” Ezra paused “But not for anything as common as land.”

 

“SO” Chris drew the word out “how does it work,” his tone indicating he wanted an answer now.

 

“Mr. Larabee, the savior of this town, helps the locals in the corridor with their mortgages, every farmer and rancher has a bad time, dead cattle or a failed crop. Our average sodbuster, will take a man like Jones at face value, suspicious at first but he would have shown his worth to them, the caring banker. It’s all in the mathematics, Mr. Larabee, he holds the mortgage and they have to repay it every red cent, or they default. Only they haven’t repaid it, by manipulating the math, he has adjusted the interest,” he paused “and this is what is so clever, if it was a large amount they might notice, but its 50 cents. They had defaulted on their payment, by 50 cents, the full amount has not been repaid and the property becomes the bank’s, in reality Jones. Now the Bank is empowered to sale off the land, and there is only one buyer Wickes. My guess is that Wickes has come here to be the muscle when Jones tells the sodbusters that they don’t own their own homes.” The gambler tapped the book; “it’s all here is black and white Mr. Dunne, if you don’t.”

 

“I believe you Mr. Standish,” JD said it levelly, making sure that he held Ezra’s eyes, and when he saw the small nod.

 

“But there is something else isn’t there?” JD asked.

 

“Jones had held back a small parcel of land, only about three square acres, but it’s central to the plan he owns it out right, the railway will be stopped dead in its tracks, excuse the pun gentlemen. That one parcel of land holds the whole scheme to ransom. Mr. Jones is playing a dangerous game, but for every high stakes. If Mr. Wickes found this.” Ezra tapped the book, “he would not be pleased to say the least.”

 

“But we can give them their land back can’t we.” JD said.

 

“That would be up to Judge Travis, but a fraud has clearly been perpetrated here” Ezra said “So while I can’t presume to know what the judge will do, I believe that he would find for the original owners.”

 

JD nodded his expressive face showing his relief.

 

When Wickes came it was two hours later, the streets of Four Corners quickly emptied as the group of men rode into town, with Wickes at its center, to his left was Richard Turner. Wickes pulled his horse to a half in front of the man in black that blocked their way. If Wickes expected to intimate the man he was mistaken, the main black merely looked him up and down with a look of disgust, Wickes bristled he was someone, didn’t the man realize that.

 

Chris Larabee took a pull on his cheroot savoring it before tossing it down on the ground, his cold green eyes raking over the fat toad of horseman he recognized from the description as Wickes. “You’re not welcomed here Wickes.”

 

“You think you can stop me.” Wickes scoffed “one man on his own.”

 

There was the sound of a Winchester being cocked, and Wickes looked up, just above the top of the sign board reading Potters store was sharpshooter his grey slouched hat, and a Winchester was all he could see of the man, but that was enough the Winchester was aimed straight at him.  There was the distinct sound of another Winchester and a big man with a moustache was stood by the side of the Saloon.

 

“Three.”

 

Then he saw a kid with two guns, and a badge.

 

“Four.”

 

An older man bigger with salt and pepper hair, with a shotgun in his hands.

 

“Five.”

 

A black man with a rifle in his hand, and knives on his back.

 

“Six.”

 

“Seven,” the finally number was counted in a southern voice, and Ezra stepped out from the front of the saloon.

 

“Ezra Standish,” Wickes smiled, “It’s been a while boy,” he leered as he looked the trim figure up and down. “The boys have missed you haven’t you boys.”

 

A round of catcalls went up from his men.

 

Ezra ignored them, “Get out while you can Wickes, I don’t belong to you, and you don’t own me.”

 

“Keep telling yourself that Ezra, seemed to remember you changed your tune when you were leashed to that bed, and the boys fucked you. Seem to remember you, begged to belong to me then.” Wickes smirked evilly at Ezra. 

 

There was a click and a derringer shot out of Ezra’s cuff and into his hand, there was a sharp crack and Wickes’ hat was sent spinning from his head.“Get out of here now because next bullet is going straight through your head.”

 

Wickes’ eye twitched a sign for those that knew him that his anger was raising. He spoke his eyes never leaving Ezra. “You have 24 hours to ride out of here Standish and join me, or we come in and get you, and I don’t care who I kill to get to you. You’re my personal piece of ass.” He leered again.

 

 

“Get out, you heard him,” Chris said, putting weight behind Ezra’s words.

 

“Were be back, and don’t  try to use the telegraph the  lines have been cut.”

 

Wickes slowly turned in the saddle making sure that everyone could hear him, “You have twenty four hours to return my property to me or I’ll be back, and take it. Any one that gets in my way or harbors Standish will be killed. You’ve been warned.” Wickes tugged his horse round and kicked it into a canter, his men following him in tight formation.

 

Slowly the people from Four Corners came out from their homes, their eyes burning into Ezra, they had all heard what Wickes had said, and their voices began to rise in anger. Chris ignored them; the black clad gunman looked up, at Vin, as the tracker peered down from the rooftop, he said just one word “saloon.”

 

Mr. Conklin, was one of the most vocal in his condemnation of the Regulators, he had been going round to each and everyone in the town, a muttered word here an option there, but he had been too frightened to go head to head with Chris Larabee. He called out “Our lives shouldn’t be put at risk by a.”

 

He broke off as he suddenly found himself looking down the barrel of Josiah’s shotgun, “If you don’t have anything nice to say Brother doesn’t speak.”  Conklin lapsed into silence but it didn’t stop the muttering of the town’s folk.

Buck waited while Vin swung down from the rooftop, landing lightly on the dirt street, the tracker nodded towards Conklin “That polecat is going to cause trouble, you know that Bucklin,” Vin said.

 

“And he won’t be the only one; half of them would prefer Ez to be thrown to the wolves, than risk a gun fight.” Buck agreed.

 

“Don’t seem right,” Vin scratched his chin, the fingernails of his right hand scrapping on his stubble.

 

“Ez” Buck started but Vin cut across him.

 

“You know Wickes, for the piece of shit he is right Buck”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Well a good bit of ass is a good bit of ass, but to travel all this way to get Ez back, don’t smell right.”

 

Buck nodded, “So there is something else here and old Ez is the way in.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

The saloon

 

The regulators were gathered round one of the tables, the locals were keeping their distance from them, but Ezra could hear the mumbling in the background and could feel their eyes on him. There was no use pretending Ezra knew that everyone had heard what Wickes had said, and from the look on the town’s people’s faces, they were ready to believe every word of it.

Chris turned and glared at them, and the town’s people slipped out of the saloon not wanting to give the volatile gunman an excuse to single them out.

 

Ezra turned the shot glass round in his hand, examining it as if it was the fines cut glass crystal, “I think gentlemen it might be prudent if I was to leave Four Corners, as soon as possible to avoid.” Ezra never got to finish.

 

“You running out on me Standish,” Chris pushed away from the bar, his eyes burning into the southerner. “I told you what would happen if you ever ran out on me again.”

 

“This is different Mr. Larabee, this is a planned withdraw.”

 

“Running is running, no matter what fancy words you use, and remember that’s what got you in trouble in the first place.” Chris closed the distance between them, his eyes never leaving Ezra’s. His hand suddenly lashed out, and caught the gambler by the front of his fancy jacket and pulled him over the table so that they were face to face, “I didn’t stake that master vamp, just for you to take off. No one takes what is mine.”

 

Buck cut in “Come on old dog; let him go, he’s not going anywhere.”

 

“Maybe he should,” Vin put in and he smiled across Ezra’s to Chris.

Chris turned on the tracker, like a striking rattlesnake, letting Ezra fall back into his chair. “Don’t even think of it, otherwise you won’t have Wickes to worry about, I’ll shoot your scrawny Texan ass myself.” The gunman snarled.

 

“Chris”

 

“Vin,” the one word was said with a tone that had most sensible men hunting for the storm shelter to get out of the way of the Larabee temper. But Vin Tanner wasn’t just anyone.

 

“I can’t shoot the fuckers from here, Chris, I am good but no rifles been built that will shoot that far, I have to get them to follow me or rather Ezra,” then almost thoughtfully he said “that’s a real pretty coat you’ve got there Ez.” He said eyeing the red coat with interest.

 

“Mr. Tanner, I would rather burn in hell.”

 

“You saying I’ve got vermin, Ez.” This tone had dropped lower only slightly but it made the hair on the back of Ezra’s neck stand straight.

 

“Just that given your mode of dress Mr. Tanner, my clothes would not fit your natural style since you given to wearing a coat made of the skins of dead animals.” He waved a hand towards one of Vin’s most treasured possessions his buckskin coat.

 

Vin was just about to retaliate, when strong fingers clamped round the back of his neck, the Texan froze, he didn’t turn, he knew that touch, and he saw the look on Ezra’s face, the lips quirking into a grin.

 

“Ez, you don’t do anything until I tell you.” The gambler nodded, “Oh and Ez, later.” Chris said voice dropping to a deadly purr.

 

JD colored at the look he saw pass between them, he didn’t fully understand it, but the air in the saloon suddenly seemed to be charged like a summer lightening storm.

 

Buck shook his head, and then caught Chris’s eye, and moved in on Vin, the young tracker tried to step back, but was still caught by Chris’s hand to the back of his neck.

 

Vin batted his hand away. “Don’t know why he takes on about his clothes, can only put his pants on one pair at a time.” Then he added “Ain’t dirty Bucklin, had me a bath two months ago.”

 

“Hate to tell you this Junior but falling fully clothed into the river don’t count, what you say Josiah.”

 

“Have to agree with you there Buck,” Josiah put in openly amused at the exchange between the three men.

 

Buck smile “and Vin here cleans up real well,” the smile becoming wider and sexier as he remembered the last time he had had Vin alone in a bathhouse. He saw the way Vin, licked his lips, the hitch of his breathing and knew he wasn’t the only one reliving the past, if the tented britches the tracker was wearing was anything to go by.

 

“Later” Chris breathed, close to Vin’s ear. His hand dropped and squeezed Vin’s thigh to make his point.

 

 

JD bit his lip, not sure how to ask what he needed to know.

 

“Ask it boy,” Ezra drawled “before you do yourself a mischief.

 

“Why did Wickes put so much importance on wanting you back.”?

 

“Why do you think,” Ezra asked, Buck bit back a smile, as he saw the glint in the southerner’s eye.

 

“Err well, I am sure he, err you,” JD spluttered to a halt.

 

“What the kid is trying to say” Buck drawled, “is that you’re one fine bit of ass, but not that good that he would hunt you down.”  The gunman’s lips quirked he saw the younger JD turn bright red.

 

“Wickes wants to get his hands on me, because it never pays when the hired help escape, especially owing money. But as Mr. Larabee so charmingly put it, he didn’t come for me, but for us. You see, and I think that Mr. Larabee agrees” he saw the nod as the gunfighter poured himself a whiskey.  He paused and accepted the drink from Chris, “we have to be got rid of, because we wouldn’t stand by and let him and Wickes take the town. So we have to be removed, so I am a handy excuse. But short of catching him and making Jones talk we don’t know who else is in Wickes pocket.”

 

JD shook his head “Mr. Jones won’t talk so we’re stuck.”

 

Ezra cocked an eyebrow at Vin.

 

“You can always make people talk JD.” Vin drawled, his bowie knife in his hand, and that dark look in this eyes that did little to hide that fact that at times he was pure Phoenix, “you just have to know how to ask em.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

The tension in the town was an almost physical presence, the streets were empty, and those men that were out, made it clear that they wanted the regulators gone. Wickes would come it was just a matter of when he did they didn’t want to get caught in the crossfire.

 

The day dragged out, long and hot. Mr. Conklin had been doing the rounds of the people, what he said never varied, why should they risk their lives for a bunch of gunman, when someone raised their voice protesting the JD and Nathan were one of their own. Conklin brow beat them down; Standish had brought this down on them he was nothing more than a whore. Look at the others a gunman, a white renegade, a fornicating ladies man; a whiskey priest, JD and Jackson had been corrupted by them. Standish needed to be given back to Wickes, give the man what he wanted, and then he would go.” Gradually as the day wore on more people began to listen to him.

 

Preacher Sanchez” Conklin called out to Josiah, when he saw him approaching the Saloon, that the gunmen were using as there headquarters, he stabbed a fingers at Buck stood just inside the doorway “Those men are the devil’s spawn, Sodomy is a crime, Standish is lying down like a whore” in his hand he waved a poster. As he crowed “and here is the proof.”

 

Josiah grabbed the poster from his hand, his face hardening as he saw it. This, the big man tapped Conklin’s chest, two fingers, punctuating the words, “this is a lie, and you’re a fool to believe it.”

 

“It’s a”

 

“It is nothing,” Josiah tore it up and threw it back into Conklin’s face. Now get off the street and let us do our job.” The anger was plain in his face; “You really think this is all about Ezra, if you do then you’re more stupid than you look.” Then turning on his heels he stalked back into the Saloon.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

All the seven could do was sit and wait, Ezra flipped the cards over on the table, as he worked on the solitaire game in front of him. “Mr. Sanchez, there is nothing more dangerous than honest citizens, I should know, they once beat me so hard, and I couldn’t ride for four days.” 

 

“Cheating at cards Ez,” Buck put in.

 

“A gentleman doesn’t cheat Mr. Wilmington; I just had a good run of luck.”

 

“Yeah right,” Buck drawled, but there was no malice in his expression, JD got the feeling as he watched them that this was a standing joke. But one which if an outsider tried would get him dead really quickly.

 

Ezra scooped up his cards and pocketed them, “if you gentlemen will excuse me, I think I will take a nap, a gentleman has to be fresh and alert at all time.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Dusk

 

JD was walking the evening patrol it was dusk, the sky looked as if it as on fire, when he saw movement from the corner of his eye and he saw a flash of a red jacket heading into the livery stable. Anger flashed through JD, Mr. Larabee had told Standish he had to stay, and it looked like the gambler was making a run for it.

 

When JD rushed, into the stable, Standish was just tightening the girth on one of Mr. Howard’s horses, a fast bay mare, “Standish,” his hand dropped on the gambler’s shoulder as he tried to spin him round, the blow to his guts was hard, and JD’s knees buckled and he found himself on his back, looking up into the barrel of Vin’s mares Leg, and past it into the blue eyes of Vin Tanner, his long hair swept up and tucked under the black Mississippi river boat hat of the gambler, hell he was wearing Standish’s clothes.

 

“What” JD spluttered?

 

“Wickes needs something to chase, and we need to buy some time, and I can’t draw out Wickes men by sitting on top of the roof of the hotel.”

 

“Mr. Larabee.”

 

“What Chris don’t know, don’t hurt him,” Vin grinned; there was a mischievous glint in those blue eyes that had just now burned so cold.

 

Minutes later JD was watching as Vin rode out of town, rubbing his stomach trying to ease the pain the young Sheriff hesitated and then went to get his own horse, and set off after Vin Tanner.

 

0-0-0-0-0-0

 

Vin knew where he would find some of Wickes’ men, they were trying to bottle neck the town,  he kept his head down and kicked his horse on, so that went he went through them fast, in the morning light, they couldn’t see him clearly, just the black hat and red jacket. Bullets flew in his direction, and he rode low in the saddle, and the chase was on. With a wolfish grin that was all teeth, the look of a predator, Vin led them away, to their deaths.

 

0-0-0-0

Four Corners

Chris came out of the livery stable; he tossed his cheroot down and ground it out angrily into the dirt. “That little shit did it.”

 

“Admit it stud.” Buck paused and threw his hands up as if warding off and attack, “he did start to tell you what he was doing.”

 

“You heard what I told him,” Chris put in his voice low and deadly.

 

“Yeah, but when did Vin ever, listen when he had his mind made up,” he grinned broadly, “Junior is a pain in the ass at times but you wouldn’t have him any other way.”

 

Chris hauled himself into the saddle, “he’s a pain alright Buck, remember Timber Falls.”

 

“Err Chris,”

 

“Well that is going to be a holiday compared with what I am going to do with him.”

 

“We did get Ezra out of Timber Falls.”

 

“And your point” Chris drawled, his glare halting Buck in mid-stride, “all I got was two pains in the ass instead of one.”

 

Buck decided that it was best to humor Chris, so he quickly saddled his own horse and took off with him after their wayward tracker.

 

The gunfire showed that Vin had already found trouble; the two men kicked their horses into a gallop.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Swearing violently, Vin looked down at the men below his position on the rocks, his Winchester had already, accounted for three of the men, until JD had arrived, the stupid brat had tried to help him, and ended getting caught.

 

“Standish, throw down your rife and come down or else pretty boy here gets cut.” The man holding JD, held him close, a knife at this throat. JD tried to pull himself free, but stilled as the knife nicked at his throat and blood ran down his neck the man licked down his throat. “Or perhaps pretty boy here can take your place, Standish.”

 

Vin leaned back against the rock, and knocked his head against it in frustration and closed his eyes he couldn’t let the kid get killed, but if he got out of here intact he was going to ring the kid’s neck. Vin laid his Winchester down, there was no way he was going to let them get their hands on it, and it was one of the few things that he treasured.

 

Slowly he got to his feet, and then made his way down, keeping his hands to his sides, it was still dark enough not for them to see his face clearly.

 

“Standish, remember what Wickes said, the boys and me are going to fuck you, and let the kid watch,” the man called up to him.  The man’s face was twisted into an ugly snarl, “or maybe we let the kid go if he fucks you, give the kid something to remember you by Standish.” He paused “No wait, seem to remember you like them older, “Maybe old Frank should have first fuck.”  The graying haired man, flashed a mouth of rotting teeth, and grabbed his own crotch, which got a laugh from the other three.

 

There was no way this was going to end well, he had killed some of them, and when they found out he wasn’t Standish, they would kill him, but not after they had made him suffer.

 

Old Frank, moved fast, swinging his rife round, Vin saw it coming and managed to duck, but not quite quick enough, and it clipped him enough to put him down on his knees and the lost his hat, his long hairs falling down round his shoulder.

 

“Fuck,” Frank swore, “It’s not Standish.” He took another step and this time Vin couldn’t avoid the rifle butt and he pitched forward unconscious onto the ground.

 

Frank cocked the rife and pressed the barrel against the back of Vin’s head.

 

“No” JD began to struggle, “Don’t kill him, Tanner’s worth £500 alive, I can get the bounty for you.”

 

Frank looked across at him, “How could you do that kid.”

 

JD moved his hand slowly, pulling his jacket back to show them the sheriffs badge, “I am the law at Four Corners.”

 

He waited out the laughter, “I saw Tanner, leaving, and figured that if they were replacing me with Larabee, I was going to get something out of it, cash Tanner in at Eagle Bend.”

 

“You backed him,” the man hissed in his ear, but the knife had moved away from his neck slightly.

 

“Would you go up against Larabee, hell the man nearly made me piss myself, no way could I go against him, I am young but not stupid.” JD looked earnest, then added quickly “I need Tanner alive,” as Old Frank pulled his knife and split the red coat down the back. “No reason we can’t have a few dances with him,” Frank said, as he reached out with his free hand and fondled Vin’s ass, “nice and firm, gonna like splitting that peach,” he laughed and the others joined in. Looking up at JD he said, “Don’t worry kid, there be enough of him left to get the bounty.”   Then he sliced open the white shirt and took a step back, “Fucking hell,” he was staring at the tattoo that covered Vin’s back, then quickly knelt down and pulled the ruined shirt and coat back, and looked up at JD, the young Sheriffs mouth had dropped open. “He’s from the Phoenix Rising Tribe.”

 

“You sure,” the man holding JD released him, and gave him a push forward towards where Vin was lying.

 

“Shit, Jake, I was in the Army, we fought the bastards, their demons, and all of them had had this.”

 

“Vin’s no demon,” JD put in, he added lamely “He’s white.”

 

“Worse,” Frank spat, “He’s a fucking white renegade, a white man gone demon.”

 

JD started to talk fast he could see that events were getting out of control and that could end badly for him and Vin. “Look you guys can’t take him in, I guess you don’t like the law, but I can, help me get him to Eagle Bend and we split the money,” he looked to the dead bodies, “Larabee’s going to be pissed when he finds Tanner gone, I wouldn’t want to be standing around when he catches up.” JD was desperate to get their attention away from Vin.

 

“First sensible thing you said all night,” the voice came from the side of them, Frank and Jake turned towards it, and they didn’t go for their guns. Stood there was Chris Larabee, the low brimmed hat shielded his eyes, his face was impassive, his right hand rested on his gun. Buck  stood to his side, ready to back his play, but looking at the fallen body of Larabee’s lover he knew that none of the men would walk away from here.

 

“Tanner still alive?” Chris said a slight nod of his head in the direction of the fallen man.

 

Yeah,” Frank said as he carefully got up, keeping his hands clear of his weapon.

 

Buck moved slowly sideways so that he was near to Vin, ready to protect the Phoenix.

 

“JD” the name was a warning, the young Sheriff threw himself down and all hell was let loose, and there was the snap and crack of bullets flying. Dunne buried his head into the arm, it suddenly went quiet and a non-too gentle boot kicked his foot. Looking up from the dirt, he saw black boots, then black pants and duster, he rolled over slightly and his gaze tracked up the lean body of Chris Larabee, and right into the barrel of his colt.

 

“Buck, Vin?” Chris made the name of his lover a question.

 

“Junior is alive, going to have one hell of a headache, but he’s alive.”

 

“You’re lucky Dunne,” Chris eased the hammer down, and the gun whirled and went back into the holster. Dismissing him Larabee went over to where Buck was helping Vin into a sitting position, and pulling of the ruined shirt and coat. Chris nudged Vin’s leg and the younger man looked up at him, a dark bruise was forming on the side of his face, and blood was running from his lip. For a moment Chris glared at his lover, as Buck helped the Vin to his feet, supporting him as he swayed, with an arm round his waist. Then Chris slipped off his duster and helped Vin on with it.

 

“Were getting out of here.” Chris told him

 

Vin caught his arm “My rifle.”

 

“JD gets it.” Dunne didn’t question the order from Larabee and scrambled up, grabbed it, misstep and slide the rest of the way down on his ass. Getting up he brushed at the seat of his pants. Buck was stood waiting for him, his foot resting on one of the rocks as he rolled a cigarette; Chris was already walking Vin to the horses, the younger man forgotten.

 

“How the hell he does it so easy.” JD grumbled motioning to the steep rocks.

 

“Ole Vin is part mountain goat, kid.” And he gave JD a pat on the back, “and by the way we heard you back there.”

 

JD stopped, “I wasn’t going to.”

 

“Appreciate you stepping in like that for Vin, won’t forget that.”

 

“Why did Chris” JD broke off.

 

“Hell where Vin’s concerned, Chris is as mean as a ma bear with a new cub, your get use to it.” JD saw that Buck’s usual jovial grin was missing, he was deadly serious. “If anything had happened to Vin what you saw back there would have been nothing compared to the hell he would have visited on Wickes.” A smile twisted his lip, “Course it’s not the end of the day yet.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

 Four Corners

 

The Saloon

JD drank the whiskey down and dissolved into a fit of coughing, the helpful bang on the back between his shoulders nearly floored him.

 

“Josiah”

 

“So you know about Vin, Brother JD.”

 

“Yeah” he looked up meeting the preacher’s eyes, “I don’t care about that, those men they were, they were honestly going to rape him, they wanted me to do it,” he shuddered and then made a mad dash out to the privy behind the saloon, and threw up.

 

As he came out he saw Josiah leaning against the open door waiting for him, nervously JD wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

 

“The evils of men, Brother JD, we revile the demons for their true nature, but we in turn are just as evil, thought we dress it up with words, who is the more honest.”

 

“Vin could have stayed up there, and let them kill me, but he came down, he could have been killed, those men, or worse. His voice trailed off, Josiah just nodded understandingly. This young man needed him, in the last few days he had been faced by the most base and brutal nature of man, and he would face more before this was over.  But JD was not alone now none of them would ever be alone again.

 

The ex-preacher was sure that he was possible the only one that knew what was coming; the reason the Brotherhood had sent him to Wickes Town. Chris Larabee was a Senior Ghost Rider able to create more of his kind to form his own tribe, Buck Wilmington had been the first, and he was pretty sure that had been a mistake, but destiny was a slippery son of a bitch, the chronicles of the Brotherhood spoke of seven now they were seven, their future was written in flames. But in the meantime he had this young one to look after.

 

0-0-0-0-0

The Hotel

Nathan had checked Vin over and then left, the tension in the room was building up, he had received a muttered thank you from Vin, and a nod of the head from Larabee, and Buck had guided him from the room, before closing the door behind him.

 

“Well” one word, Chris drawled it out, his eyes never leaving those of his young lover.

 

“I got three of them would have got the others if that kid hadn’t got in the way.” Vin spat the words back at him. “I should skin him for that, the little shit nearly got me killed.”

 

“That little shit, tried to save your life Vin, so don’t forget that. You go after him and you go through me.” Buck put in.

 

Vin pushed himself off the bed, “What’s the matter Buck, you got a taste for young meat.” Vin snarled at him.

 

Buck gave Vin a hard shove that sent him stumbling backward onto the bed; he came off it like a scolded cat, ploughed into the bigger man so they crashed into the wall with a heavy thud. Buck’s concern for the two younger men turned to anger, as his head rocked back by a punch from Vin. The big man managed to get a in a few heavy hits to the lighter man’s body, mainly just trying to keep him back, unwilling to hurt him more than he had too. But Vin didn’t seem to have the same concerns, and Buck found himself in a fight, he swung one haymaker at Vin which if it had landed would have put the younger man out cold, but somehow Vin managed to duck under it, and Buck  had his hands full. Vin was lighter, smaller, but he didn’t fight fair, hell he fought downright dirty. Somehow finally Buck managed to pin him face down onto the bed his greater weight holding the lithe tracker in place as he struggled to free himself.

 

Sarcastically, Buck said as he shot a withering look at this oldest friend. “Thanks for the help Chris.” Buck broke off in mid-sentence as he narrowly missed having teeth sank into his arm, he lightly slapped Vin round the head, more an attention getter that any attempt to punish him.

 

Bending down Chris pulled the knife from Vin’s boot, and waved it under Buck’s nose. “If Vin had meant business, he would have gutted you with it.”

 

Leaning over Vin, and avoiding an attempted head butt, as Vin threw his head back, Buck swatted him across ass, “manners Junior.”

 

Vin, his breath constricted by Buck’s weight, made an indigent squawk, laced with some of the vilest curses that either man had heard.  "Cut the cursing Junior, before I take a switch to your naked ass.” With a smirk that bore the tracker no good, Buck hauled back a hand and gave Vin a hard slap across his rump. “Now keep that foul mouth shut.”

 

Buck and Chris exchanged a look as the gun man began to unbuckle his gun belt, and move towards the bed.

 

Just then there was a loud hammer on the door, and JD was calling out “Mr. Larabee, we’ve got riders coming.” JD slightly out of breath hammered on the door.

 

The young man hesitated when he didn’t hear a reply and was about to knock again when snarled words from inside the room, had him racing back down the stairs.

 

 JD saw Ezra watching him with a mocking smile on his face. “I see at last Mr. Dunne that you are beginning to show some sense in your dealing with our illustrious leader Mr. Larabee.” Then just for the hell of it Ezra allowed his fangs to slide down. JD jumped back, “you see you’re not the only one with a duel nature Mr. Dunne, the key is how you purport yourself. Vampire or werewolf a gentleman is a gentleman, otherwise sir you are nothing more than an over sized dog with a bad attitude.” 

 

Back in the room, Buck cursed Chris Larabee, and released Vin, and jumped back from him, as the younger man came up swinging.

Holding his hands out, Buck tried to appease the pissed off younger man, “Easy Junior, it’s Chris you want to gut not me.”

 

“Good place to start,” Vin snarled and started forward, Buck scooped the bottle of whiskey off the table and threw it to Vin, and it was caught one handed, then with his teeth he pulled and spat out the cork, and took a long drink. His blue eyes never leaving Buck’s face, making the bigger man shift uncomfortably as Vin suddenly closed the distance between them and with a free hand, grabbed Buck’s cock through his pants. “You want to keep this, you keep your fucking hands off me Bucklin, until I tell you different,” Vin snarled showing the fangs. Abruptly he thrust the bottle into Buck’s hand, turned and stalked off and started to get dressed, Buck admired the view of that tight ass for a minute, and then with an appreciative sigh went over to the window to watch the street. He sensed Vin come up on his shoulder, as the tracker looked past him to the street below, he said “I’ll be on the roof.”

 

Buck nodded, Vin always took the high ground given a chance, from there he could watch their back, and it was reassuring to know when heading into a gunfight that you had the high ground.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

The three men entered the town their horses at a slow walk, as they passed the towns people started to come out onto the sidewalk. To the men that stood in front of the Saloon only one of the three men were known to them. And that was the professional gambler and whore keeper, Richard Turner, his manner of dress mirroring that of Ezra, both men were professional gamblers, but that was were the similarity ended.

 

Turner looked from Chris to Ezra, then ignored the gambler, “Larabee, Mr. Wickes, doesn’t want to kill you.”

 

Buck snorted, a big grin on his face, as if it was the funniest thing he had ever heard, as he said “that’s might good of him Turner” but Turner ignored him, “talking to the engine driver, not the oil rag.”

 

Buck’s hand dropped to rest on his gun, and he stepped off the boardwalk, as he faced off withTurner.

 

But before anything could happen Ezra cut in “Tell Wickes to get out while he can Turner, next time he comes into town, all he’s going to be buying into is death.”

 

“You allow a whore to speak for you Larabee.” Turner scoffed.

 

“Ez is no whore, Turner, and he speaks for all of us.” Chris stated.

 

“You’ll back him with your gun?” Turner, knew he was playing to the gallery of towns people.

 

“Don’t need to Turner, Ez is fast enough to take you.” Chris said his finger tips grazing the butt of his gun; it was said with utter conviction.

 

Richard Turner paused, “The only thing I’ve seen in your hand is another man’s cock, Standish, these good people,” and he made sure that he raised his voice on the word good, gloating on it.” He could see the shock on the towns peoples face, the way some of the women had turned away, at his crude words. “They have a right to know what you ARE.” From his pocket he pulled out a grubby bill. “You want I should read this out Standish.” He waited for Ezra to back down only he didn’t casually Ezra removed a black note book from his pocket; a slight tightening of the lips was the only thing that showed what he thought of Turner’s words. “I am sure they would be more interested in this,” he showed Turner the book, “Wickes partner William Jones was a little remiss when he left town this morning, he left this behind him. I am sure they’re more interested in this; it shows that Jones had been cooking the books. The loans he had been given, he had been miscalculating the interest, so that they actually have paid back 50 cents less than they owed. This ways they default on their loans, because according to the agreement they have to pay back every red scent that they owe. The deeds of the properties have been taken over by the bank, and then sold onto Wickes, according to this book; Wickes had ownership of four of the ranches and farms in a direct corridor through the center of the basin. He also owns the saloon, Potter’s Store, and three of the other businesses in Four Corners, including the blacksmiths and livery. Seems he’s building another Hell Town.”

 

“Give me that book.” Turner’s head snapped round as he heard the towns people coming out of their homes, Mr. Potter holding a shotgun, the saloon keeper still clad in his dirty apron with a Winchester, and the Howard brothers with Spencer Carbines.

 

“No, I think I’ll keep hold of this.”

 

“Give it to me,” Turner’s hand dropped to rest near his gun, if he expected Ezra to back down, he was mistaken, the other gambler just slide the black book into his pocket.

 

Turner glanced at Larabee, you keep out of this.”

 

As if in answer, the somber gunman dug out one of his habitual cheroots and lit it, publicity showing that he was leaving it to Ezra.

 

Turner went for his gun, he had only just started to lift it from the holster when a bullet took him in the chest, lifting him off the saddle, and he was dead when he hit the ground. The other two men, had made no effort, to draw, they looked shocked, as if they had never thought that Turner could be out drawn. Ezra stood there with a smoking Remington in his hand. He holstered his gun, and then to the other men, “It seems that the book stays with me gentlemen.” 

 

Suddenly they seemed to snap out of it, but before they could do anything Chris, Buck, JD stepped forward flanking Ezra, “Tell Wickes this town isn’t his, he rides away or where bury him here” Chris warned.

 

The men pulled their horses round and galloped out of town.

JD’ mouth had dropped open, as he looked at Ezra in disbelief, the man was fast, nearly as fast as Chris Larabee, and not for the first time he wondered what he had gotten himself in.

Potter, Ed Bishop, and the Howard brothers came over.

 

“We heard what you said Mr. Standish, was that true,” Tiny said, Ezra met his eyes holding his stare, and nodded slightly.

 

“It was the truth, pure and simple; Mr. Jones had been playing you for the last two years.” Ezra explained.

 

“And you expect us to believe a whore,” Conklin walked up, “I can’t believe you people, this thing, comes into town, and you believe him over a good man like William Jones. Jake, you had a loan from him.” Conklin picked out one of other men, a small sheepish man, and “well.”

 

“Yeah,” the man almost stuttered. “I checked the figures everything was okay.”

 

“See, Conklin crowed.

 

Yosemite, said, “Now I believe black and white, you got the book Mr. Standish, you willing to share it.”

 

Ezra nodded and crossed the distance to the two brothers, both men towered over him, Tiny took the book, and Ezra leaned in and spoke softly to them. There was a long moment and then Tiny nodded, and handed the book to his brother.

 

“Mr. Standish, we’re in your debt for this,” and Tiny paused, “any man that calls you a whore deserves everything that’s coming to them.” He put out a hand the size of a ham, Ezra accepted and shook hands knowing that Tiny was making a point. The brothers  were well liked war veterans, Union through and through, the fact they were both backing a southern gambler, come regulator and accused whore, convinced a lot of the other towns people.

 

Conklin spat out, “for god’s sake the man is a whore, a reb whore and.” It was as far as he got, Tiny turned fast, much faster than any man his size should have been able to move, his hand shot out and he caught Conklin by the front of his jacket and hauled him up off the side walk and up in the air. Slowly he pulled him close so that he was nose to nose with the much smaller Conklin, the man’s feet dangling off the ground.

 

“Listen Conklin, I am for one is sick and tired of your name calling, keep your mouth off Mr. Standish. My livery stable was swindled away from me by that asshole Jones, that there book of his shows it was stolen, and I’ll kill anyone that tries to take it away from me’. I owe Standish, and so do a lot of other people.”

 

Tiny released his hold and Conklin stumbled backwards and landed on his rump in the middle of the road. Scrambling to his feet the townsman, tried to keep his dignity, “Your putting your trust in whore, a savage and a gunman.” He pointed his finger stabling the air “They will corrupt this town, make it a den of whores and gamblers, you just wait.”

 

That night the seven patrolled the town, they knew that killing Turner would sting Wickes into action, he was running out of time, soon the Army would be sending someone to see what has happening since the town had been cut off the stage was due to arrive on Thursday, if it didn’t then someone would be out looking for it. Wickes could only isolate the town until there; this was pressing him to take action and fast. . By now those men would have told Wickes about the note book, and he would have to get that back if he was to stand any chance of saving his investments. The towns people could be bullied, intimidated or killed to keep their tongues still, but the regulators in town had to be killed in such a way that no one would ever think of going against him again. 

 

0-0-0-0-0

When his massagers’ came back, Wickes was furious so much so that he took his anger out on the whore that was sharing his bed.  He has taken his anger out on the whore that was sharing his bed; she was huddled up on his bed, sporting a black eye, and broken fingers. She was huddled on the bed, totally ignored for the present as Wickes ranted and raged, “I want them caught and then I am personally going to kill them one by one.”

 

“Standish, and Tanner,” Marshal Burns stepped out of the darkness to take his place at the fire near Wickes.

 

The boys can enjoy Standish and Tanner, when they’re finished I want that tattoo skinned off his back, and the rest of him can go to Tascosa. The rest of them I want dead, and I want the citizens of Four Corners to see Larabee’s body rotting in the street, as a warning.

 

Burns swallowed hard, “No one can know that I am involved,” he paused “that wasn’t part of the deal.”

 

“Your deal is whatever I say it is,” he smiled all rotting teeth, and bad breath, “you picked your side Burns, it’s too late to change your mind now, now fuck off and do what I told you.” Wickes took a cigar out, bit off the end of it and spat it into the fire and lit it savoring the sweet smoke as he watched the light on the horizon that was Four Corners, he rubbed his groin.  He had heard about the long haired tracker, maybe before he let the boys have them he would watch while Ezra fucked the tracker, and then he would take them both, now that was a thought to keep a man hard and warm in his bed.

 

0-0-0-0-0

Four Corners

The town was quite, the people were keeping themselves off the street for the second day running.

 

Chris was sat outside of the jail, sipping his coffee, he knew without turning round that Vin had joined him, leaning against the post, he passed the coffee up, and Vin took an appreciative sip of the steaming strong coffee.

“Wickes will make his move soon; he’s running out of time.” Chris said.

 

Vin tossed the dregs of the coffee into the street, “He can’t back down, got his rep to protect.”

It was then Ben Potter with his older sister Millie   came running from their house; he tripped over his long night shirt in his hurry, and landed on his knees, bawling loudly, as his sister pulled him to his feet, the tears running down her pale face. 

 

The Regulators were the first ones there, but the little boy and his sister backed away from them, scared of the gunmen until he saw JD and ran to him, throwing himself in the sheriffs arms, burying his faces against JD’s waist coat as his sister clung to JD’s arm, the young sheriff was a regular feature in their pa’s store buying his dime novels and he was more a friend than a customer.

 

“Mom is gone JD.” The boy repeated those words over and over again, sobbing, as if his very heart as he clung to him.

 

Millie nodded “Pa’s hurt, hurt real bad there’s blood everywhere.”

 

“JD stays with the kid, Vin, Nathan you’re with me,” Chris ordered.

 

Chris and Vin entered the store with Nathan coming up behind them, they took the stairs to the living area above the store quickly, the small living room was wreaked, and the bedroom door was open, and Mr. Potter was laid across the bed, blood staining the bed spread.  Nathan quickly knelt on the bed and checked his throat, the grayness of the skin already told its sad tale the man was dead, he had been clubbed. It was then Chris saw the blood stain piece of paper, and tugged it free from the knife that pinned it in place. His face hardened as he read it.

 

Vin had gone out the back, once the body was found he came back a few minutes’ later “Four horses, but only three were ridden one carried two people.”

 

Chris nodded, but his attention was one piece of paper in his hand, Vin came up, and Chris didn’t offer it to him, his young lover was learning to read, and treasured his two books, that Ezra had brought him. But this note was beyond him, hell the hand writing was so bad that Chris had to puzzle the words out.  But finally he had it.

 

“Looks like Wickes has Mrs. Potter, says that Mr. Potter had to pay for standing up and being counted, poor bastard.” Chris shook his head, “Says he wants the book, and you and Ez to deliver it.”

 

“How long we’ve got Chris.” Vin drawled

 

“Noon at Eagle Rock, if we don’t give him the book, he’s going to kill her” for a moment green eyes met blue, “I don’t aim to lose you or Ez.” The promise was there under the words, if it came between Mrs. Potter and them, there was no choice. Chris would rather risk the wrath of Judge Travis than lose either of them.  

 

Vin’s lips twisted in to a fleeting smile. “Then we better have a good plan.”

 

0-0-0-0-0-0

 

From his position, on the hills Marshal Burns was able to watch Tanner and Standish, ride from town, he didn’t want to think about that was going to happen to them, his daughter would hate him when she found out his part in what was going to happen next but he was making sure that she and his grandson had a future. Wickes was going to take over Four Corners, and had wanted it since the moment his lackeys had heard about the railway line, it might come in two years or ten, but when it came he would be a rich man.

 

A marshal’s life could be short and the money bad; there was no way he was going to end up in a dirt water town, as a down and out has been. Wickes paid good money, and it was times like this that he earned it.

He watched as the two men came closer, pity there wouldn’t get out of here alive, but someone had to pay, and by the time Wickes and his men were finished with them, it would be a mercy to put a bullet in their head, in fact they would be begging for that release.

 

0-0-0-0-0-0

Chris was just about to pull himself into the saddle, when he saw the look on Buck’s face, and he turned slowly, stood there was Mr. Conklin, and a group of the town’s people, the shot gun pointed at them told their own story.

“Don’t try it Mr. Larabee, you might be fast, but even you can’t out draw a shotgun.” JD said, holding both his guns trained on the man in black, it was only by an effort of will that JD didn’t take a step back from the glare aimed at him.

 

“Kid, JD, you.”

 

“Shut up Buck, it had to be this way, I am the sheriff here, and I work for them not you or Larabee,” JD swallowed, “this is for the best, Tiny, get their guns.”

 

JD waited for Tiny to disarm them and then motioned for them to start walking towards the jail.

 

When the barred door of the cell was swung shut, Chris threw himself at it, “Dunne, you better prey nothing happens to Vin, and Ezra, because if it does, you’re dead.”

 

Buck stood back from him, he had seen this rage before, and the people that died under Chris’s hand, even he wouldn’t be able to save JD if Ezra and Vin died.

 

0-0-0-0-0-0

Wickes watched the two men ride into his tented camp, if Ezra heard the cat calls and obscene yells, then he ignored them, both men pulled up in front of him.

 

“Nice of you to come Ezra, aint it boys,” the catcall from the men increased.

 

“Mrs. Potter, where is she.” Ezra focused just on Wickes.

 

Wickes clicked his fingers and the woman was brought out, she looked alright, but still struggled to get free of the man holding her. But a quick hard shake and stood still, her nightdress was tore at the shoulder, and there was dry blood stains on it.

 

“Mrs. Potter, we are here to facilitate your release, are you all right ma’am.”

 

She held her head up, “I am alright Mr. Standish,” as she went to take a step forward, she was pulled back harshly, and she had to suppress a cry of pain.

“You have the book,” Wickes put his hand out, “What’s the matter don’t you trust me.”

 

“I would sooner trust a poxes rattlesnake Mr. Wickes, but,” Ezra reached into his pocket and took out the black book, and tossed it to Wickes; the big man caught it, and then swore, the middle of the book was missing.

 

“What the fuck are you playing at Ezra”? His anger was building, as his florid face began to get red as his blood pressure went up.

 

“Just keeping a bargaining chip, you give us Mrs. Potter, and we make sure you get the book.”

 

“And I am to trust you, what do you think boys, you think I should trust a lying whore of a gambler.” The reply was deafening. Wickes held a hand up to silence them.

 

“Joe get Mrs. Potter a horse,” the woman was boosted up its back she kicked it forward to join the two regulators, Ezra began to back his horse, as Vin turned his borrowed horse and escorted  Mrs. Potter   out, all the time watching the men in front of him.

 

They  were on the edge of the camp when Vin gave a rebel yell, hit Mrs. Potter’s horse hard on the rump, the yell was the signal, Ezra threw up a handful of loose papers, and then whirled his horse round and kicked  his horse forward into a gallop.

Wickes grabbed for the pages, blank pages, and yelled for the men to open fire, but the three horses were too far away.

 

0-0-0-0-0-0-0

 

Four Corners Jail.

Buck stepped back, Chris stood perfectly still his hands by his sides, fingers stretching out, his head went down, in a clear sky there was a crack of thunder, then the sky was getting darker. Chris was for the first time ever was summoning up the power of the Ghost Rider. Slowly he raised his hands, flames began to run down them, and up his arms, when he lifted his head, his face was a skull, flames engulfed him. The Ghost Rider turn to Buck, the bigger man, was now burning with a cold blue flame, as the lightening hit the jail; the two men vanished in the release of energy.

 

JD was shaken, when he looked round Josiah stood there, in two strides the preacher was by his side, a broad grin on his face, and he pounded his back, “Well done JD, we have unleashed the Ghost Riders.”

 

“Josiah, Chris is going to kill me,” he was still shocked by what he had seen.

“No, he won’t, but I suggest you go to the Church, you can keep watch from the bell tower.”

 

“Did we have too”?

 

“Wickes has over forty men, it’s the only way to defeat them, is for Brother Chris to unleash his power have faith Brother JD, have faith.”

 

0-0-0-0-0-0

Marshal Burns from his position saw Mrs. Potter’s   horse go by, and then he fired, his bullet brought Vin Tanner’s horse crashing down, the tracker hit the ground hard, rolling, he felt his shoulder dislocate, pain washed through him, but he still tried to pull himself up, his head was spinning and blood was dripping from a deep cut to his temple.  Ezra, pulled his horse round yelling at Mrs. Potter to keep going, and went at the gallop back to Vin.

 

Vin managed to struggle to his feet, he looked at Wickes’ men heading towards him, and yelled at Ezra to keep going, but the gambler ignored him, and turned his horse in a tight circle around Vin, and reached down and dragged him up behind him. But both men knew it was already too late, Wickes’ men would be on them in a heartbeat, riding double they would never outdistance them. But even so Ezra was not going to give up.

 

The sky suddenly went dark, and thunder rolled in and then right in front of them, Chris and Buck appeared, a wall of flames stretched out, either side of them, blue and yellow flames merging fused with blue. There wasn’t time to swerve and Ezra rode straight through the wall of flame. At the same time as the Ghost Riders channeled the flames, into a red hot fire ball that engulfed and decimated Wickes’ men, horse and men vanished in a heartbeat, only ash remaining. 

 

The Ghost Riders turned into the flames and vanished as well, leaving only scorched ground behind them.

 

Wickes pulled his horse to a halt “What the hell.” He looked towards the hills as Marshal Burns made his way down towards him.

 

“Why didn’t you stop them, Burns”?

 

“I shot Tanner’s horse out from under him, that other, shit, I‘ve got no idea what all that is,” the Marshal looked towards the rolling thunder, that seemed retreat and hover over the town. The last time I saw something like that was when Larabee was in Hell Town, you tell me.

 

0-0-0-0-0-0

One minute they hit the fire wall and the next they appeared in town, the gambler was shocked to hear Vin’s laugh softly. “Chris is sure pissed Ez, you best get us to,” he paused and looked round him, seeing the smoke coming from the jail, he added “the jail, looks like old Chris went Ghost Rider on it.”

 

Stood in front of the jail was Josiah, he went over to them, and helped Vin down, slipping a strong arm round the trackers waist as he dismounted, helping the injured man to the ground, and supporting him.

 

Vin tired to pull away from him, “what the hell did you do.” He demanded, “Chris, and Buck,” he made their names a question.

 

“There was too many of them, so I,” there was the dry click of a Colt being cocked, and Josiah felt the cold bite of the metal against the back of his neck.

“If I let go of Vin he’s going to fall, you wouldn’t want that Larabee.” 

 

“Buck,”

 

“I am alright Bucklin,” Vin started to protest, but he was caught hold of firm and taken out of Josiah’s arms, and pulled protectively against Buck.

 

“Don’t fight itJunior.” Buck said sternly.

 

Josiah turned slowly, so that the barrel of the Colt as pressed against his throat, and he was looking into the coldest emotional dead eyes he had ever seen, in the shadow of the low brimmed hat, Chris Larabee’s face seemed to be over laid by a white skull, he suppressed a shudder.

 

“Your plan wouldn’t have worked Brother Larabee, the only thing I could do was force you to change, to bring forth the Ghost Rider. Now the odds are more on our side,” the gun was a lowered, the next minute Josiah was on the ground looking up at Chris Larabee, and the gun man was flexing his left hand.

 

Josiah, sat up, rubbing his jaw, the man has a mean left hook. He looked up at the hand reaching down to him, looked like he was going to survive this after all.

 

“The kid in on it.”

 

“Took a lot of guts to do what he did, JD trust me to know what was for the best, even though he argued against it.”

 

“You can’t shoot him for doing the right thing Chris,” Buck put in hopefully, knowing all too well how volatile his old friend was.  But he didn’t get a reply.

 

“Buck get Vin to Nathan, Ezra go with him, he’s going to need you, in the

Meantime, show me what defenses you have in place Josiah”

 

“My pleasure Brother.” Josiah said, then added “Mrs. Potter made it back just before you appeared, she was worried about Brothers Vin and Ezra, I told her they would be alright and to have faith.” He grinned “Nice to be proved right about some of the people that live here.” Then his face became solemn, “I had to tell her about her husband, she is with Mrs. Reed, it’s a sad business, it is always the innocent that suffer.”

 

0-0-0-0-0-0

The towns people were moved into the church, for the battle that was coming, Tiny and Yosemite, and a handful of the other men decided to make a stand with the Regulators; they had been placed near the church to protect their own.

 

JD stood near Vin Tanner, the tracker was grey faced from the pain in his shoulder, even though it had been manipulated  back in place, it had taken his toll on him. Vin was a sharpshooter, he would take Wickes’ men out at long range, and JD’s job was to protect him when they had to withdrawal back into the town. JD knew the trust that Larabee had put in him, and he was determined to die if needs be to keep Vin safe, he wouldn’t fail Chris Larabee.

 

When Wickes’ men came in all hell was let loose, where Ezra got the dynamite from no one knew but it could be heard going off at intervals.

Some of the riders didn’t even get a chance to get into the town, as Vin Tanner was picking them off, but soon it got too hot on the roof, as Wickes’ men started to rake the hotel roof with withering fire.

 

Vin dropped onto the roof of the lean too adjacent to the building he was on, and then down onto the ground, as he straightened up, one of Wickes Men came up behind him, JD yelled his name and the tracker hit the ground as JD gunned the man down. Then the two of them were fighting their way back to the Church.

 

Ezra took a bullet in the leg and the side, and went down hard, Wickes men were closing in on him, all he could do was cut the fuse on the last stick of dynamite, and then lit it, and threw the stick as he rolled under the Potters Store, the explosion brought part of the wall down, but when he looked up, his ears ringing, Wickes men were down. He was struggling to his feet when Vin and JD came on him. JD swore, and pulled the gambler to his feet, and thrust him at Vin, as he started to lay down fire, so the two injured men could get too safely.

 

But even as the fell through the door of the block house, he saw bullets slam into the back of the tracker and into the gambler, there was no way JD suddenly knew that he could get there alive, he was cut off, but he had done his best to save the other men.

 

Just then Chris and Buck exploded out of the block house, laying down fire, and he risked it, a bullet to the leg made him, stumble but Buck caught him by the scruff and pulled him inside the door as Chris, emptied his gun, and then dived back through the door.

 

The sound of shotguns was heard in the background, but soon that stopped as Wickes drew his remaining men away from the church and to the block house. Laid on the floor Chris was cradling Vin Tanner, in his arms, the Phoenix had taken two bullets in the back, he was pressing a rag to the wounds. Ezra was being held by Josiah, the preacher looked at the Phoenix, the blood that bubbled at his mouth showed that a lung had been hit he was dying, even as Nathan knelt by Chris trying to save his life.  Josiah, was the first to smell the lamp oil, as Buck and the wounded JD, tried to keep the attackers back, the whoosh of a fire igniting the oil was unmistakable. The blockhouse was on fire, and the seven were trapped inside of it.

 

Nathan began to cough as the smoke began to fill it. Chris looked up at Buck, and then he bent his head and spoke softly to Vin, the critically wounded Phoenix, raised his blood stained hand and squeezed Chris’s.

 

“Buck,”

 

“Hell yes,” the big man said, and helped JD over to Chris.

As Josiah hugging the wounded gambler close to him, brought him over so that he was cradled next to Vin, only then did Chris hold out a hand to Nathan?

 

“There is no need to die, Nathan, join with us.” Chris’s green eyes burned into the black healer.

 

“My soul.”

 

Josiah shook his head, “your soul is your own, you are a healer, and will remain who and what you are, but it’s not your time to die yet.”

 

Nathan saw that the flames now had hold on the block house, the roof beams were being licked by flames, and he began coughing on the smoke.  For a long second his warm compassionate eyes, held the glacier green eyes of Chris Larabee and he put his hand out, and was pulled close. Buck saw the nod from JD.

 

Buck, joined hands with JD and Josiah, linking the seven of them together, it had been Chris that had made him a Ghost Rider, only a powerful Ghost Rider like Chris Larabee could create others of his kind. In this defining moment, Chris was creating his Ghost Riders; he was giving them his life energy in the cold green flames, creating immortals. Chris had refused to complete the ritual, the three years since the death of his family had been an eternity for him, so why should he live forever only each day to live through the pain of loss again and again. But now the young man laying in his arms, a man who’s blood was covering his hands had taken his heart and given him a reason to live each day. He would not lose him now, when it was in his ability to save him, to save all of them. Bending over his dying lover, Chris kissed him sealing his mouth over Vin’s, Vin suddenly arched backwards in Chris’ tight hold, his head thrown back, but Chris didn’t  break the kiss, as he poured his life force into his lover. Only then did he break the kiss, the cold green fire erupted from Vin’s mouth, and eyes, as it tore through his body his wounds healing in a heartbeat. The flame jumped to Ezra, the Carnac screamed as it ripped through his body, as it flowed into JD, Josiah and Nathan, a vital healing force with the power of life and immortality. The green flame hit the blue flame life force of Buck Wilmington, the blue and green flames mixing, turning back onto Chris, engulfing the seven men in a pulsing light, were once there were mortals it created ghost riders. The cold heat of the flame hit the red hot flames of the fire, and the block house exploded into a fireball, blowing the roof from the block house, and turning it into an inferno.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Wickes flinched as the block house exploded.  Pity about Standish and Tanner; he started to turn away, when one of his men suddenly cried out, his voice cracking with fear.

 

For out of the flames, walked the seven, as they came towards him the green flames that engulfed their bodies died away and there stood the seven gunmen.  By now Wickes men were running those that had laughed at the men that survived the wall of fire, now fought each other to get to their horses and out of the cursed town.

 

Wickes hand went for his gun, he didn’t even get a chance to clear leather as a bullet took him in the chest, he staggered back, looking down at the blood, then looked up at the man in black, there was another crack, and the second bullet took him in the leg sending him crashing down onto the ground on his knees, he looked up into the glacier green eyes of Chris Larabee, and saw only his death, he watched as the hammer was thumbed back, and saw only the flash of white as the  bullet exploded from the barrel, it hit him between the eyes, and his lifeless body crashed backward onto the ground.

Jones backed away from them, his hands coming up in surrender. He had only accompanied Wickes on this attack because he knew the man would have killed him if he refused. He saw Larabee nod towards the gambler, and Standish was suddenly in front of him in a heartbeat; he looked from Larabee to Standish. “How the hell did you do that?”

 

“That is the least of your problems Mr. Jones.” Ezra spoke softly.

 

He turned to JD, “Mr. Dunne, give Mr. Jones one of your colts.”

 

“I am no gunman,” Jones said, taking a step back.

 

“You can shoot?” Ezra asked.

 

Jones nodded.

 

JD looked towards the gambler as Ezra said. “Check the gun and make sure that it is fully loaded.”

 

The young man did as he was told, Josiah exchanged a look with Buck and Chris, and realized that Ezra didn’t yet realize what had happened in the block house, all he knew was he had been healed; the young gambler didn’t realize that he was now an immortal. 

 

Ezra took the gun and handed it to Jones, “You sir think that you’re a gentleman then prove it.  Mr. Larabee, count the paces, at ten I will turn and draw, you sir only have to lift your hand and fire.”

 

“If I win,” Jones licked his lips nervously and looked at the six other man ranged round him.

 

“Then you walk” Chris drawled, but he didn’t say how far the man would get. “Ez, Jones, 1 – 2 – 3” Chris counted out.

 

Turning his back on Jones and paced out the ten strides.  As Chris said 10, Ezra turned in that second Jones hand snapped out, his gun coming up level with Ezra’s heart, as the gambler’s hand dipped and his gun was in his hand, the discharge of the bullets were like a role of thunder, Jones was spun round by the impact of the bullet hitting him in the head, his own bullet went wide of Ezra.

 

JD’s mouth had dropped open, he knew how fast Chris was, suddenly he realized how fast Ezra was, and that he wasn’t even in their league. He jumped as the body was suddenly incinerated in a ball of fire, Ezra turned to see Vin stood there, the flames playing round the phoenixes’ hand, he nodded to Ezra and then waited for him as they went to Chris, and started the cleanup of Four Corners, hunting down any of Wickes’ men stupid enough not to have left the town when they had a chance.

 

For the next hours there was the crack of gunfire as the seven cleaned the town, when finally it went quiet the towns people emerged from the church. The people gave the regulators a wide berth, not sure what had happened, only that these men had saved them. The women were gathered at Jones house and the Potters store, supporting them through this time of mourning. Mrs. Potter came out of the store waving the other women back and went over to Chris; he took his hat off as she stopped in front of him.

 

“Mrs. Potter, I am sorry for your loss,” Chris said.

 

Mrs. Potter nodded “Mr. Larabee, I would like to thank you and your men,” she paused nodding towards Vin, Ezra who was stood behind their leader. “The man that killed Frank is dead, and I have my justice.” She took a deep breath, “you have my support and that of my family” she put her hand out; Chris took it, shaking her hand.

 

“Thank you.” Chris acknowledged her support, knowing the woman was sincere.

 

Mrs. Potter took a steadying breath and walked back to the store and the group of waiting women and was gathered close. 

 

 

Wickes flinched as the block house exploded.  Pity about Standish and Tanner; he started to turn away, when one of his men suddenly cried out, his voice cracking with fear.

 

For out of the flames, walked the seven, as they came towards him the green flames that engulfed their bodies died away and there stood the seven gunmen.  By now Wickes’ men were running those that had laughed at the men that survived the wall of fire, now fought each other to get to their horses and out of the cursed town.

 

Wickes hand went for his gun, he didn’t even get a chance to clear leather as a bullet took him in the chest, he staggered back, looking down at the blood, then looked up at the man in black, there was another crack, and the second bullet took him in the leg sending him crashing down onto the ground on his knees, he looked up into the glacier green eyes of Chris Larabee, and saw only his death, he watched as the hammer was thumbed back, and saw only the flash of white as the  bullet exploded from the barrel, it hit him between the eyes, and his lifeless body crashed backward onto the ground.

Jones backed away from them, his hands coming up in surrender. He had only accompanied Wickes on this attack because he knew the man would have killed him if he refused. He saw Larabee nod towards the gambler, and Standish was suddenly in front of him in a heartbeat; he looked from Larabee to Standish. “How the hell did you do that?”

 

“That is the least of your problems Mr. Jones.” Ezra spoke softly.

 

He turned to JD, “Mr. Dunne, give Mr. Jones one of your colts.”

 

“I am no gunman,” Jones said, taking a step back.

 

“You can shoot?” Ezra asked.

 

Jones nodded.

 

JD looked towards the gambler as Ezra said. “Check the gun and make sure that it is fully loaded.”

 

The young man did as he was told, Josiah exchanged a look with Buck and Chris, and realized that Ezra didn’t yet realize what had happened in the block house, all he knew was he had been healed; the young gambler didn’t realize that he was now an immortal. 

 

Ezra took the gun and handed it to Jones, “You sir think that you’re a gentleman then prove it.  Mr. Larabee, count the paces, at ten I will turn and draw, you sir only have to lift your hand and fire.”

 

“If I win,” Jones licked is lips nervously and looked at the six other man ranged round him.

 

“Then you walk” Chris drawled, but he didn’t say how far the man would get. “Ez, Jones, 1 – 2 – 3” Chris counted out.

 

Turning his back on Jones and paced out the ten strides.  As Chris said 10, Ezra turned in that second Jones hand snapped out, his gun coming up level with Ezra’s heart, as the gambler’s hand dipped and his gun was in his hand, the discharge of the bullets were like a role of thunder, Jones was spun round by the impact of the bullet hitting him in the head, his own bullet went wide of Ezra.

 

JD’s mouth had dropped open, he knew how fast Chris was, suddenly he realized how fast Ezra was, and that he wasn’t even in their league. He jumped as the body was suddenly incinerated in a ball of fire, Ezra turned to see Vin stood there, the flames playing round the phoenixes’ hand, he nodded to Ezra and then waited for him as they went to Chris, and started the cleanup of Four Corners, hunting down any of Wickes’ men stupid enough not to have left the town when they had a chance.

 

For the next hours there was the crack of gunfire as the seven cleaned the town, when finally it went quiet the towns people emerged from the church. The people gave the regulators a wide berth, not sure what had happened, only that these men had saved them. The women were gathered at Jones house and the Potters store, supporting them through this time of mourning. Mrs. Potter came out of the store waving the other women back and went over to Chris; he took his hat off as she stopped in front of him.

 

“Mrs. Potter, I am sorry for your loss,” Chris said.

 

Mrs. Potter nodded “Mr. Larabee, I would like to thank you and your men,” she paused nodding towards Vin, Ezra who was ranged behind their leader. “The man that killed Frank is dead, and I have my justice.” She took a deep breath, “you have my support and that of my family” she put her hand out; Chris took it, shaking her hand.

 

“Thank you.” Chris acknowledged her support, knowing the woman was sincere.

 

Mrs. Potter took a steadying breath and walked back to the store and the group of waiting women and was gathered close. 

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Chris came up to his room, and found Ezra leaning against the door jamb he wasn’t surprised, “been waiting long Ez.”

 

“As long as it took Mr. Larabee.”

 

Chris unlocked the door and pushed it open, and Ezra entered first, walking over and lighting the lamps.

 

The gunfighter removed his hat and hung it on the bed post, and then his habitual duster, “help yourself to a drink Ez.”

 

The gambler poured two shots of whiskey, and took a sip his face screwing up slightly, “your usual rot gut Mr. Larabee, one day I must introduce you to a blended scotch, that sir is the nectar of the gods.”

 

“You’re here for a reason Ez and it’s not to criticize my drink.”

 

Ezra a wry smile took out a hand chief shook it and then flicked it across the seat of the chair before he took it. But Chris recognized it for what it; the gambler was killing time, to gathering his thoughts.  “I’ve killed with a sword during the war and with a gun then and since, but so god helps me Mr. Larabee, I wanted to kill Jones, by fang, make him suffer, to feel real terror as I drained his life away.”

 

“But you didn’t Ezra,” Chris put in.

 

Because it would have made me no different, than him, I would have taken pleasure from his death, as he took pleasure from my violation.” There was a long pause, as Ezra took a steadying breath.

 

But Chris had heard the catch in his voice, and in the light Chris saw the glint of tears in his eyes.  “I don’t want to slip into the darkness Mr. Larabee,” Ezra looked up “you understand what I am saying don’t you.”

 

“Only what that master vamp told us, that a Carnac turns into a vampire, if they drain a victim to death, they take on board that person’s death.”

 

“If I fall, I would lose my soul Mr. Larabee.”

 

“Never going to happen Ez, trust me on that.” Chris said, his conviction made Ezra sit up straighter.

 

“You believe in me that much.”

 

Green eyes bore into him, “Yes remember you’re not alone any more, and we won’t let that happen.”

 

Ezra shivered, and Chris knew it wasn’t coldness of the body but of the soul. He knew the feeling; he had lost himself to that coldness before Vin had come in his life. Chris watched as Ezra pulled in on himself, his breath coming out in a shudder. “I fear that I have taken up to much of your time Mr. Larabee.”  Ezra put the shot glass down, only to have his hand caught. He looked up slowly into Chris’s face, and saw the green eyes soften, and it caused the breath to catch in his throat, and warmth to spread through his body. He allowed himself to be drawn down onto the bed, and into Chris’s arms, if he thought about it he should be scared of Chris Larabee. The gunman had a reputation that chilled the blood. But in his arms he had only ever found love and acceptance. Then Chris rolled him under him, and Ezra gave himself over to the feel of his lover, those hands that could deal death so quickly stripping and spreading him out of the bed. The feather light brush of lips against his throat, the brush of skin on skin, then the spike of pain  turning to pleasure as he was filled and taken.  Afterwards the feeling of being held, in those arms, to be kept close, and treasured, and finally sleep claiming him, knowing that when the morning  came he would not be deserted, discarded because his bed partner was ashamed of him.

 

Ezra woke rubbing his nose something was tickling it, he registered Chris Larabee’s warm body spooned up behind him knee pushed between his legs and an arm holding him round his waist. Opening his eyes, Ezra found himself with his nose buried in the long hair of Vin Tanner, a firm naked lithe body molded to his, a tight ass pressed against his groin. 

 

It didn’t surprise Ezra, the Texan had a way of walking really softly, and the fact that he had gotten into the room and into their bed without disturbing them was to be expected in fact Ezra mused he would have been more surprised if he had been woken by Vin coming in.

 

Ezra reached a hand out and lightly brushed the long hair from Vin’s face and stroked a finger down his cheek, his skin was warm to the touch, it was rare that he got the opportunity to explore the phoenix, but he had seen the looks that Vin had given him, and was sure  that he had interpreted them correctly.  He pressed a soft kiss to side of his neck as he caressed his jaw, and throat, then his chest, a smile of pure mischief, and Ezra trailed his fingers down Vin’s belly, until he found his goal. Gently he circled the phoenixes lax cock in his hand his thumb stroking across the sensitive head. Vin’s head snapped round and he found himself pinned by a pain of blue eyes. Ezra held his breath without realizing it. This could go two ways one of them involving losing his most cherished body parts. He swallowed, his tongue flicking over his suddenly dry lips.  “I see you're awake Mr. Tanner, why don’t you join us.”  

 

“Chris made his choice Ez” Vin pushed his hand away from him, and pulled the blankets up over him, and pointly turned his back on Ezra.  Who shook his head and looked towards the heaven, as if for guidance why couldn’t anything be easy. “Mr. Tanner, Mr. Larabee might be sleeping with me, but it is you that he will seek out to welcome the dawn with.”

 

Vin looked over his shoulder at the gambler. “Ain’t my call Ez, Chris wants you and.”

 

“Can’t a man getting any fucking sleep in his own bed,” Chris growled, this was never good, in the morning the gunfighter was grouchy at best, homicidal a worse. Blond hair sticking up in all directions a lock hanging down in his eyes, Chris propped himself up so that he could glare at his young lover over Ezra’s shoulder.  “There’s one of us here that wants to get some sleep.”

 

“Heard it takes a lot of rest for an old guy to get it up more than once a night.” Vin snapped back at him.

 

“He just call me old Ezra,” Chris drawled.

 

“Yes I believe he did, OUCH” the last was said with feeling as Chris came over him to get to Vin.

 

Vin wasn’t going to give in easy and Chris had his hands full, until he finally pinned his young lover down on the bed , his face hovering only inches above the trackers as his  body pressed and grinded  against Vin,  making  the younger man was just as hard and hot as he was. 

 

Ezra eased off the bed on the other side and was reaching for his pants when Chris demanded “You going somewhere Standish, told you once before what I would do if you ran out on me.”

 

The gambler turned to find he was pinned by twin glares.  Ezra with long practice managed to keep the disappointment from his voice. “I thought that I would remove myself since I am superfluous to the equation, Mr. Larabee.”

 

“What,” Vin asked, looking up at his older lover clearly puzzled.

 

“Ezra thinks that we don’t want him Vin” Chris answered.

 

“You know for someone with book smarts, your real dumb Ez” Vin drawled, and the next thing Ezra knew he was laying on his back on the bed he threw his head backwards and yelled as a hot mouth swallowed his aching cock in one fail swoop, but the yell was muffled by Chris’s mouth covering his in a deep hot searing kiss, that threatened to rob the breath from his lungs as the two men worked to turning that razor sharp mind of his to mush, as they teased and over loaded his body with their hands and mouths, until all he could do was come in an earth shattering climax, and then sink down onto the bed, fighting for breath, unable to put together a coherent thought together.

 

Later curled up in the bed, warm and sated Ezra watched as Chris pushed into Vin, the younger man began to suddenly thrash and struggle, his hands pushing at Chris. Ezra sat up quickly “Mr. Larabee.”

 

“Keep out of it Ez, easy Vin,” Chris was talking quickly, as he looked down at his  young lover seeing the very real distress on his face, the near panic there was so alien to Vin Tanner. But Vin wasn’t listening; Chris caught his hands, and then understood. Quickly he pulled out and released Vin, the tracker scrambled over onto his stomach, pushing up onto his hands and knees, legs wide apart offering his ass up to Chris. Chris pushed back inside of him, and began to move, Ezra heard the sobbed cry of relief from Vin and the tension melted from the lean body, and Vin began to move with Chris in counter point to his thrusts, as Chris drove him towards completion as the sun climbed into the sky.

 

Slowly  Chris eased  out moving onto his side and pulled Vin into his arms, tucking Vin’s head against his throat under his chin, as his hands moved over the lithe body in soothing  strokes as Vin rode out the after tremors of his climax, as he nuzzled at Chris’s throat his hand clutching at the gunman’s arm in need.

 

Then Chris reached out to him, and Ezra took his hand and was pulled close to them, Ezra nodded and wrapped himself round Vin, he felt the tracker flinch, at his touch, and then slowly Vin had settled between them. Ezra has seen the fleeting look of sadness on Chris’s face when he had had to allow Vin to change position and had understood. Vin had been unable to allow Chris to take him on his back when the sun had risen because, he knew only that he had to submit himself to Chris’s sexual domination, even down to needing to feel the weight of Chris’s body pressing down on him afterwards. Ezra knew with sickening certainty that to have forced Vin to continue on his back would have been a disaster, the younger man would have fought it every inch of the way and pleasure would have become mental and physical pain for him, and that it would have been akin to Chris raping him.  But Ezra knew with all his heart that were Vin was concerned Chris had the patience of the ages and that if anyone could help the younger man it would be Chris Larabee, but to help them Ezra knew he needed to know the full story, and only one man could give him that.

 

 

Five days later

 

Chris had called together the other five gun men, waiting while Vin was out on patrol. Tomorrow was a hunter’s  moon, and there was something they had to understand first.

 

Pouring out the whiskey he had sure that everyone had a glass, “tomorrow is a hunter’s  moon or what the Phoenix Rising tribe called a blood moon, which is very important to Vin. The three of us” he nodded to Ezra, Buck, “have joined with Vin before to enforce his need for a tribe. It might be easier for you if you understand a few things first.  Chris made no move to drink his whiskey just turned the shot glass in his hands, as he began to explain.

 

“To become a member of the Phoenix tribe, Vin would have been made to stand, it’s a brutal ritual. As the sun sets Vin would have ritually died, he would then have been a non person, dead to the tribe, nether a slave or a warrior.  He would have been beaten by the warriors, then he would  have to   offered himself up to them, on his knees. Each warrior would have forced his face in the dirt and taken him brutally. Until he carried  the seed of each of them in his body, finally when dawn came he would offer himself up to the shaman. The harder he had been taken by the shaman the greater the honor of the stand. A white phoenix, I don’t have to tell you that they would have wanted him to fail, but Vin got to his feet, and greeted the rising sun and was reborn into their tribe.

 

“And if he had failed,” Ezra asked sickened by what he was hearing.

 

“Then they would have cut his stomach open and fed his inners to the hell hounds then cut his beating heart from his chest as an offering. Vin was taken in by one of the demons, and they nursed him so that the next day he could stand before the shaman and receive the phoenix tattoo. Still hurt and sick from fever  he was unable to hunt, and had to live off the scraps of the  others, and each had a price.  In the camp an unmarried senor warrior takes on a young warrior who had survived the stand as his mate, to teach and protect him.  Each dawn the senior takes his young mate burying his seed deep in the junior’s body, and so together they are reborn. Vin was on his own, which meant that he was on the edges of their camp, weak and starving and he would have been challenged to give up his ass to the warriors.

 

Buck took a drink of his whiskey “I imagine that a man as fine as Vin would have been made to submit, most nights,” the anger was burning in his brown eyes.

 

Ezra nodded “From what I know of our young phoenix, Mr. Tanner would have fought, submitting to no man that he didn’t think was worthy of his respect.”

 

Buck’s hand tightened on his shot glass, “Yeah but he would have been forced in the end, because he had no one to watch over him.”

 

Chris’s face was hard and unyielding, “the seniors let the younger warriors go after him, beating him down when he fought back then taking him as

Punishment for daring to defy the laws of their camp which said that no white man could become a phoenix. Vin told me that if he was lucky and they deemed him worthy that night he was taken into their tents by the seniors who would drive off the younger warriors, and the senior would take him, before passing him to his junior to practice on as the warrior over saw it. But always at dawn he was kicked out of their tent so that they could mate at the rising sun.

 

“If Mr. Tanner wasn’t worthy,” Ezra asked the horror in his voice was plain.

 

“They would let the young warriors have him in the dirt outside the tent in front of the whole tribe, when one finished another would take their place.”

 

“But he was a Phoenix, he proved himself.” Ezra said.

 

“Vin was a white phoenix, politics within the tribe and prejudices, every culture has them, would have been leveled against him. Josiah looked at each of the other five men one at a time meeting their eyes levelly, each man knowing how lucky they were that Vin was still alive today.

 

Chris knocked back his whiskey, “Vin was took in finally by a couple of seniors that had lost their juniors, he gave himself to them, two instead of ten, he healed and hunted with them, and carved out a bloody reputation as a white phoenix. But still even they would not claim him when the sun rose in the sky, preferring to pleasure each other.”

 

“So that is why he places so much important,” Ezra started to say and then trailed off, seeing the slight nod of Chris’s head.

 

“I am determined to give Vin, new memories, break the past and give him a new future.” Chris said looking at each of them in turn, and seeing them nod in agreement.

 

Josiah said “Chris had been talking to me about this and how we must give Vin a new ritual, to replace that.  I have looked at other tribal cultures and center to each is the fact that we all must make a commitment to the tribe.” He looked towards JD, “Our young friend here just came up with an idea, and I believe that it will serve our purpose.” Quickly Josiah sketched out his proposal, when he had finished talking he looked at Chris, who nodded and held up his drink, each of the five men followed his lead, and their glasses clinked together, a promise made and a promise they would keep.

 

0-0-0-0-0

Outside of town.

 

Full Moon

It was early morning the sun hadn’t yet climb up into the sky Tiny and Yosemite had  agreed to look after the town, leaving the seven free to ride out, they didn’t ask where they were going or when they would be back, but the brothers  had taken the watch until they returned.

 

Vin had dismounted in the clearing, taking in camp fire that was already burning, and Buck Wilmington who was seated by the fire, a bottle of whiskey on the ground near him. “Welcome boys, wondered when you would get here.” 

 

“Made yourself at home Bucklin,” Vin said as he looked round the camp, the bigger man just grinned at him.

 

“All I need is a hot woman and warm bed Junior and I could die happy” and he handed him up the whiskey.

 

Buck added some more wood to the fire, and got slowly to his feet, Chris had moved to face Vin as the younger man removed his buckskin jacket dropping it to the ground his hat followed, and he began to unbuckle his mare’s leg. His eyes on the far hills.

 

“Vin,” Chris put a hand out and caught his hand. “This is not why you’re here Vin.”

 

“The stand.” Vin sounded puzzled.

 

“A new tribe and a new ritual.”  Chris removed his black shirt, as he reached out and took Vin’s hand, and tugged him to the fire, then down onto the blankets. Kneeling Chris looked to Josiah, the big man nodded and opened up the box he had laid next to the fire, from it he removed a needle and ink, JD knelt by Chris and took the with the charcoal quickly drew on his skin a stylized phoenix. Josiah raised his hand and his wrist was caught, Vin’s grip had hard, but he wasn’t looking at the ex-preacher he was looking at Chris, blue eyes, burning into green.

 

“Why.” There was a world of puzzlement in that one word.

 

“Because we are all one tribe, your tribe Vin.” The look on Vin’s face was heart breaking.

 

“No one ever thought enough of me to.” He broke off in mid sentence.

Chris smiled as he gentle ran a hand soothingly over his young lover’s arm, “It was JD’s idea, a way of uniting us all, he will do the drawing and Josiah will do the tattooing, he was in the Union navy before he came west.”

 

Vin didn’t trust himself to speak he just nodded, he felt Chris’s arm circle his waist and he was pulled close, “this is a new tribe Vin, and you are the heart of this tribe, our heart and our phoenix, we will all wear this tattoo with pride” he breathed the words against Vin’s ear, and he felt him shiver, not with cold but with emotion.  Chris had given him not only his love, but a home within his arms, and now he was giving him a tribal family.

 

 

Josiah worked quickly etching the red and black phoenix into Chris’s pale skin, it was the size of the palm of his hand, once it was competed, Chris settled close to Vin as they watched each of the other five men take their turn. While Josiah worked the sky was beginning to lighten, the time was quickly coming for the sun to rise and a new day to dawn. All the time Chris continued stroking Vin, his long tapered fingers moving slowly over Vin lightly stroking, his shoulders and face. Vin pressed into his touch, his eyes nearly closed a low breathless moan coming from his lips. Chris’s smile was one that few people ever saw, and for Buck Wilmington it brought back memories of Chris’s happiness with his family. This side of the stoic gunman only came out with Vin; with the young tracker he had all the patience in the world. Vin didn’t like to be touched, and he tended to pull away from it, having been hurt too many times in the past, but with Chris there were no boundaries.

 

Josiah had agreed that Chris had to still take Vin as the sun climbed high in the sky, this was the touch stone of the phoenix’s belief, in time they might be able to make Vin understand that it was not needed, but until then, it would reassure him. So they watched without censure as Chris kissed Vin. Drawing him into a deep and lingering kiss, as his hands pushed the leather braces down from his shoulders and then pushed his pants down so they pooled round his knees. Naked and glorious in the morning light, Chris eased Vin down onto the blankets and in front of his phoenix tribe he entered his lover, his phoenix as the sun began its climb up into the lighting sky. The moment that the sun appeared between the notch in the hills, Chris came he buried his seed deep inside his lover.  He pulled Vin back from his submissive position on all fours so that he was knelt over his lap still impaled on him, and was for the first time his face was bathed in the early morning light as Chris’s arm wrapped round his waist keep him in place one hand stroking his flat stomach.

 

The gunman talked softly to his young lover, his breath warm against his ear, his tongue flicked across Vin’s sweat slick neck, then nipped at an ear lobe. The moan broke from Vin’s mouth and he tried to writhe on the thick column of flesh that filled him, burrowed deep into his body, and touched his very heart and soul. Vin’s twisted his head to one side frantically so that Chris could claim his mouth in a lingering kiss. The fire ignited from the kiss and slowly wrapped round them caressing and holding them in lovers embrace.

 

Buck, Ezra, Nathan and Josiah had moved closer, to the two lovers, JD stood back, until he was tugged close by Buck. The fire round the lovers turned white hot at the moment that Chris came deep inside of Vin, and the trackers body arched and he came hard in Chris’s hand, the fire   exploded outwards like the rays of a star, the flames ignited the tattoos each of the five wore, they glowed red with a cold fire, the pain drove them to their knees, the tattoo changed. The simple sketch of the phoenix became as Vin’s tattoo, extending now from shoulder to wrist, and the colors vibrant, throbbing with the life force of the phoenix, tying the seven men together as a tribe, as it had earlier bound them together as ghost riders. 

 

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Mr. Todd was driving his wagon towards Four Corners he had started on his way to town early before the break of dawn that was when he first saw the white light low in the sky,  he pulled his horses to a stop, and looked up into  the night sky as the clouds began to  boil, roll and churned. He took another pull on his bottle, then across the sky he saw the Ghost Riders flames clung to their clothes, their faces were living skulls, flames kicked up from the hooves of their horses as they galloped across the sky, the animal’s eyes burned red in the morning light. The riders seemed to be coming lower and lower, the horse’s hooves touch the dirt track and the scrub grass ignited into flames and they disappeared into the swirling smoke. Todd rubbed his eyes and glared at his bottle, shook his head and threw the bottle away. Pink coyotes were one thing but flying horses and living skeletons were another, he shuddered and pulled his coat round him. One thing was certain if he hadn’t imagined them, those hell riders were headed for Four Corners things were never going to be the same again .

The end.