Tide and Times part 2 

Part Three.


Blair took a seat on the sidewalk in front of the Potter’s General Store and watched the gathering.  By late afternoon, the news about the Regulators had circulated around the town and the “good” citizens had begun to arrive at the office of the Clarion.  He could already hear the raised voices as they expressed their dislike for the fact that common hired guns had been recruited to protect their town. Mary Travis could be heard reassuring them that she had contacted her father in law, and that Marshal Ellison would be taking over.


How wrong one woman could be, Blair mused. From his vantage point he watched JD and Vin finish their patrol and head back towards the jail. He had seen Ezra disappear into the bathhouse followed by Buck and Jim and Chris had arrived at the jail around the same time.


It was then that Blair saw another man moving towards the bathhouse.  The young academic frowned; he knew that face, even if it was marred by heavy bruising.  Slowly, he got to his feet and began to follow the man. Blair pulled back as the man came back out almost immediately. It was only as he stepped out from under the porch and his face was caught by the sunlight that Blair recognised him as one of the bounty hunters from Blue Creek. It was the one that had dragged Vin off his horse, and got a knee in the face for his troubles.


Damn, he was going to have to tell Jim straight away, there was no way they could risk the man making a move on Vin or, even worse, making his knowledge public. The news that one of the Regulators was a wanted man would blow their plans to hell and back.






JD was standing up, pointing at Vin and waving a poster when Blair came in.


“For God’s sake, Marshal, he’s a wanted killer!  I should arrest him, not work with him; I swore to uphold the law, I-”


“Can’t do that if you’re dead.” Chris put in levelly, as he lit one of his cheroots.


Jim looked up to the heavens for guidance; Larabee had become almost human that morning, hell he had even seen the man smile at something Vin had said, then the kid had to find the poster.  The gunman would protect what he saw as his pack and especially his younger soul mate.


“I am the Sheriff here,” JD snapped back. It was like seeing a kitten standing up to a mountain lion, and the outcome was going to be just as one sided.  But before JD could become a bloody smear on the floor, Jim’s fist came down hard on the table.  “Everyone shut the hell up; JD, take a seat, you’re not arresting Vin.”  He dug out the paper and handed it to the young Sheriff.  “The signature belongs to Judge Orin Travis.”


JD read through the paper, and then looked back at Vin.  “You’re innocent.”


There was a question in that simple statement. “I never killed Jess Kincaid, a man called Eli Joe framed me for that, to stop me tracking him down. The judge is going to help me, if I work for him.”


JD handed the paper back to Jim, then went over to Vin, and put his hand out.  They shook, then the young Sheriff threw the poster into the pot belly stove, watching for a moment as the flames consumed it.  As he turned back, JD saw the small nod he got from Larabee and allowed himself a smile as he saw that gesture of approval.


“Well, what are the good townspeople up to, Darwin?”


Blair smiled at one of the many nicknames his Sentinel had for him, then he became serious. “Mary Travis is holding a meeting with the Town Council about law and order, and,” Blair hesitated, and then shrugged.  Now that JD knew the truth he might as well come out and say it. “One of the bounty hunters from Blue Creek is here, so I would watch yourself, Vin.”


“Murphy.” Vin’s blue eyes became hard.


“The other guy.”


Vin Tanner started towards the door.


“Vin,” Chris put in sharply, his hand coming up to block his friend from leaving.


“You know what they did to me,” Vin spat.


Chris nodded; in the bond there was no secrets, and both he and Ezra had lived through the horror along with the young tracker when they had joined together in the bond.  “They will pay.”  The hatred in those three words made it not a promise but a vow. 


Vin accepted the word of his Alpha, that when the time came the pack would hunt.


“Where did you see him, Sandburg?” Jim asked.


“He went into the bathhouse, but he didn’t stay long, he came out almost straight away and he appeared to be in a hurry. 

“Did you see him leave town?” Chris asked.



“No, but why-” Blair kicked himself mentally.  He should have realised that the man had yet to be accounted for.


“Then he’s still here until we know different, and I want to know why.  You agree, Ellison?” Chris looked towards Jim.


“Yeah, after all they collected on Vin at Blue Creek, and the Judge isn’t going to pay out for him twice, so it has to be personal.” Jim watched the interaction between the two friends, and then he remembered the sour scent on the younger man, and in that instant he knew. “When the time comes Vin, I’ll help you bury that filth.” It was more than the promise of a lawman; it was the promise of a Sentinel to another of his kind.




Late Evening


Josiah Sanchez had returned back to Four Corners and had gone for a drink.  He was the nearest thing the town had to a preacher. As a man of god he was strictly Old Testament; usually quite even tempered, but get him drunk and his own personal demons came out and he could tear the Saloon apart.

His gaze at the moment was fixed on a young man in a red coat, playing low stakes poker.  There was no mistaking that he was a professional gambler. Josiah’s gaze slid past him to a group of men at a far corner table. A couple of the men he recognised as cowhands from Guy Royal’s ranch; the others where new, but the one thing they had in common was that they were all drunk.


Josiah was beginning to get an uneasy feeling about the way they were watching the gambler, and it had nothing to do with the small poker game he was playing with the twin brothers that owned the Livery Stable, Tiny and Yosemite Howard.  One of the cowhands got up and walked over to the piano; the instrument was heavily scarred by cigarette burns and the odd bullet hole, but it still worked. Sitting down with a grin at the gambler, he began to hammer out an old marching song.

Bring the good old bugle, boys, we'll sing another song
Sing it with a spirit that will start the world along
Sing it as we used to sing it, 50,000 strong
While we were marching through Georgia.

Hurrah! Hurrah! we bring the jubilee!
Hurrah! Hurrah! the flag that makes you free!
So we sang the chorus from Atlanta to the sea
While we were marching through Georgia.


Josiah saw the tension in the young man’s body as the singer was now joined by the other men, as they banged their glasses on the table in time with the tune.


Yes and there were Union men who wept with joyful tears,
When they saw the honored flag they had not seen for years;
Hardly could they be restrained from breaking forth in cheers,
While we were marching through Georgia.

Hurrah! Hurrah! we bring the jubilee!
Hurrah! Hurrah! the flag that makes you free!
So we sang the chorus from Atlanta to the sea
While we were marching through Georgia.

"Sherman's dashing Yankee boys will never make the coast!"
So the saucy rebels said and 'twas a handsome boast
Had they not forgot, alas! to reckon with the Host
While we were marching through Georgia.


The gambler drained his drink, made his apologies to the brothers, raked in his money and then collected his cards.  He got to his feet, yet as he left found his way blocked. 


“You know the words, Johnny Reb, sing them.” Tom Cutler was right in Ezra’s face, as he sang the words of the chorus, in his loud, off-key voice.


Hurrah! Hurrah! we bring the jubilee!
Hurrah! Hurrah! the flag that makes you free!
So we sang the chorus from Atlanta to the sea
While we were marching through Georgia.


“What’s the matter, don’t you like the song, Johnny Reb?”


Cutler pushed Ezra back against his men. “Sing, Reb, sing.”


So we made a thoroughfare for freedom and her train,
Sixty miles of latitude, three hundred to the main;
Treason fled before us, for resistance was in vain
While we were marching through Georgia.


Ezra swung round fast before they got a chance to hold him and he lashed out, planting his fist into Cutler’s face, putting the man down hard. There was no way that Ezra was going to win, but he got in a couple of hard knocks before a hefty blow knocked him across one of the poker tables and he crashed down onto the floor.


As one of the men headed straight for the gambler even as he tried to pull himself up, Josiah stuck out a leg and the would-be attacker went sprawling onto the floor.

Whatever the man was going to say was forgotten when, from his position on his back, a big foot planted in the middle of his chest.  He found himself looking up as the Preacher casually cleaned his nails with a Bowie knife, looking down at him.  It was at the same time as he and the rest of the room heard the very distinct sound of a Winchester being cocked. Stood just inside the door was Vin Tanner. The look in those cold, blue eyes sobered the men up. Vin’s finger tightened on the trigger as he recognised Tom Cutler, even as Cutler escaped through the back of the saloon. Every fiber of his body was telling Vin to run, to track him down and kill him. But his first loyalty was to his guide. Ezra was getting unsteadily to his feet. Slowly he turned. “Thank you, Sir.”


“Josiah Sanchez.” 


“Ezra Standish.”  The southerner put his hand out and it was engulfed in the large hand of the preacher.


“Let me help you with these music lovers, Brother Ezra,” the big man’s voice rumbled pleasantly. He had heard about the Regulators and was intrigued by them. His gaze moved from the tracker to the gambler and a knowing smile touched his lips; he had lived with the Indians and had seen Guardians and Shamans during his time with them. The gambler might not be a Shaman, but he had the touch of a protector, and the tracker?  A Guardian if he had ever seen one. He reached out and hauled Standish’s would-be attacker to his feet and frog marched him behind the others with a tight grip on the man’s jacket.




“Fine, Mr Tanner, there is no need for our-” Ezra didn’t get chance to finish what he was going to say when he saw Buck appear throught the front door of the boarding house, in just his union suit and gunbelt, just as Chris  was already halfway across the street, heading for the saloon. 


“Oh, hell and damnations,” Ez breathed.


“EZ?” Chris’s voice was icy, but the young gambler knew that it was concern that fueled the anger. The older Sentinel’s eyes were stripping him as the senses wrapped around him, hunting for injuries.


“I am alright, Mr Larabee.”


“Later, Ezra.”  The words sent a shiver down the gambler’s back.


Looking towards Vin, Ezra knew that he had no escape there; he could see the same concern in the blue eyes of the younger Sentinel and he knew what that meant. It was going to be one hell of a night. Then the green eyes lit with pure devilment, and the cocky smile was back on the face of Ezra Standish.


Josiah had seen the exchange and the breath had caught in his throat; this was more than he could ever have expected.  The town was truly blessed to have its security placed in the hands of two sentienls and a guide. Those drunk cowboys had no idea how lucky they had been; if Standish had been hurt, then he was sure that they would not have walked out of the saloon in one piece.


Tiny and Yosemite Hughes had watched the fight in the saloon, but before they could get to their feet, Josiah had stepped in and taken charge.


Yosemite suddenly caught his brother’s arm and tugged him back, his eyes resting on Vin Tanner.  This was the first time that they had seen the tracker; when he had come to the Livery, Old Larry had taken care of his horse. Seeing the Texan was focused on what was going on, they quickly left the Saloon. Once outside, Tiny, the youngest of the twins by some three minutes, blurted out:

“Do you think he remembered us?”

“We’re still alive, Tiny, so I take it he didn’t.”

“But for how long, you know what he’s like, and he’s one of those damn regulators so it’s not like he’s going to be leaving town any time soon.”

“We’re just going to have to to make sure he does.”

“Can’t we just make our peace with him?”

Yosemite’s laugh was hard and bitter.  “Tanner? You have got to be joking.”

“I, err, thought we could make our peace with him.” When he saw the look on his brother’s face, Tiny’s anger grew.  “We didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Yeah, you’re half right, we didn’t nothing until it was too late.”

Together they walked towards their homes, each lost in the past.

Only to be suddenly pulled back to the present by a voice from behind them.

“I think, gentlemen, that we should talk.” Murphy stepped out of the dark.


The Jail

Blair had to muffle a laugh as he watched the gambler turn towards Jim, asking if he could check him over because of the fight.  The logic behind the request was that the Jim had some medical knowledge, and had treated Vin.

Blair had seen the two men lock eyes, and Blair had seen the green eyes of the gambler seem to ignite with a fire. Blair swore suddenly’ and caught Jim’s hand even as it was raised. Whatever he was about to say was interrupted by the sound of a Colt being cocked, and then a Winchester. Vin and Chris where bristling; Blair could feel an energy igniting in the jail making the hair on the back of his neck rise. The need to bond was vibrating through the air, and whereas Blair has been taught to defuse it, the Southerner had fanned the flames of it, using Jim to increase it.  Blair’s own anger built at that. He would have words with his fellow guide.  Ezra had edged round the side of the desk and was weighing up his options; the front door of the jail was closest, but more public, and for what was going to happen he didn’t want an audience. Ezra went for the back door, Blair stuck a foot out.  Payback time.  The gambler went flying straight into Josiah; the preacher caught him, and gave him a push back the way he had come, straight into the arms of his sentinels.  Ezra was caught and he frog marched out of the Jail.


“Now, Mr Larabee, Mr Tanner, there is no need to take this course of action.  I assure you that I would not have let Marshal Ellison touch me. It was done in jest.”


“Shut up, Ezra.”  Chris and Vin spoke together, two Sentinels, one mind, one need, and one guide.


Ezra seemed to stumble, throwing Chris off balance, and the gambler pulled free and took to his heels into the darkness.


Chris shook his head, and he slapped Vin on the shoulder, “go hunt brother.”

The feral Vin Tanner took off at a run.


“Aren’t you going after him?” Blair asked, surprised to see that although Larabee’s signature Sentinel Karma was vibrating with energy, the man himself was cool and collected as he lit one of his cheroots he answered Blair.

 “No, I’ll catch up with them later, let Vin work the edge off him first.”  He glanced across, and with his Sentinel eyesight saw what the darkness was masking to Blair. The young tracker heaved himself up onto the roof of the Potters’ store, and began moving swiftly across the roof top, jumping onto the next roof, hunting like the wild, feral creature he was, and that was so barely hidden in his every day form.


Chris’s head snapped round as he heard the low, deep rumble of Josiah Sanchez’s laugh; “Brother Larabee, I believe that Four Corners has just gotten really interesting.”




Ezra slowed down.  A gentleman didn’t run, but he did make exceptions to that rule; when his two Sentinels were chasing him, no way were they going to hunt him down like prey.   Looking over his shoulder, he didn’t see anyone chasing him, but even so he cut down the alleyway. With a sigh he slowed to a walk and then gave his cuffs a tug to bring them back into place. It was then that he heard the thud of something landing on the roof above him.  Before he could react, a pair of booted feet swung into view and then Vin dropped down in front of him. Ezra backed off.  “Mr Tanner, I don’t know what you have in mind, err Mr Larabee,” the gambler looked round, then pitched his voice louder, “Mr Larabee, this is beyond a joke.” A deep-throated growl vibrated from the feral sentinel as he stalked forward. “Mr Larabee?” Ezra was calling out for his Alpha, his voice beginning to have a desperate edge to it.


At the jail, Jim heard the cry and looked across at Chris Larabee. “Vin won’t hurt him, Ellison,” the gunman drawled, but his hand tightened on the cup of coffee he was holding, “just get rid of the itch that’s riding him.” Then, slowly, he drained the coffee, and waved the cup at Blair for a refill.


Mary Travis looked out of her bedroom window on to the alleyway, and then pulled back.  The light from the night fire burning on the street threw a little light into the alleyway, and she saw a man thrust someone against the wall, leaning into them. Disgusted that he was taking a whore near her house, she was about to turn away, when the whore pushed away and was dragged into the street, the light painting them for a moment.  The breath caught in her throat; that renegade, Tanner, and Standish.  At the same time, she caught their voices. “Not the livery, Mr Tanner.”


“What’s wrong with it, Ez, warm straw and the horses won’t mind the company.”

“But I do, let go.” Standish twisted in the tracker’s grip, only to be pushed back hard against the side of the building, resulting in a gasp of breath as it was jarred from the gambler.  He stopped struggling, and lifted one hand.  The tracker flinched back, but the gambler reached out and stroked. Mary spluttered he stroked that filthy tracker’s face. “My room, soft bed.”


“Too late for that, have you now,” and as Tanner began to drag him away, the last words she heard were the gambler complaining,  “last time I was picking splinters out of my ass for a week,” then a laugh that made the hair on the back of her neck stand up. 


Quickly she pulled her dress on and then with a quick look in on Billy, stepped out of her house.  She lived along from the newspaper office, with only an empty house between her and the livery.  She put her head round the corner of the door to the livery and saw the black hat of the gambler being thrown over the front of one of the stalls, landing in the straw near her feet. Disgusted, she turned on her heel and headed back to her home.  She didn’t have to see more.


Vin looked up, twisting towards the door, only to be caught and pulled down.  Ezra batted away the horse’s inquisitive nose as it nuzzled at his shoulder.

He had got splinters in his ass last time the feral went for him, he sure as hell wasn’t going to let that snapping turtle of a horse take a lump out of him this time. 


Vin’s eyes were burning with a blue flame that flickered, hot and wild.  His need was growing, and he was holding onto his control only by his fingertips. He had tracked and caught his guide, and looked ready to claim what was rightfully his. “You know, Mr Tanner, Mr Larabee would not be happy if you started without him,” Ezra’s eyes widened as the bowie knife appeared in Vin’s hand, a mischievous grin on the feral's face as he saw the look of shock and disbelief on Ezra’s. “You wouldn’t dare, Mr Tanner.”


“Want to bet on that, Ez? Only caught you with a knife that once, wouldn’t have done that if you’d kept still.” His Texan accent was heavier than normal, a clear indicator to the southerner of his younger Sentinel’s state of mind.


“Once was enough, Mr Tanner, with that pig sticker that you carry.”


“You mean this little tooth pick, Ez?” Vin leaned further over him, the knife only inches from Ezra’s face, then it dropped lower.  The razor-sharp tip was hooked under the button of the fancy shirt he was wearing. 


“Don’t even think of it, Mr Tanner, I have shot people for less.  This coat came all the way from San Francisco, and the shirt from Chicago.” Backing up another step, his back collided with the wall of the stall.


The grin on Vin’s face changed and now echoed the one he had worn earlier in the jail when the Ezra had started the game.  Now the feral was going to end it.


Back at the jail, Jim and Chris exchanged a look, a smile twisting the gunman’s lips as he finished his last cup of coffee and got slowly to his feet.

He had a guide to bond with.






The next morning, Blair found Buck wolfing down a breakfast that made the healthy-eating guide’s arteries ache; give him a bowl muesli any day.


“What’s on your mind, Doc?”


“Two sentinels, one guide, unusual to say the least, Buck.”


“Well Doc, not usual, but it works for them,” he waved a piece of biscuit, “why don’t you tell old Buck what you really want to know.”


“What was it like when Chris and Vin first got together?  I’ve heard the story, but an Alpha and a Wild Sentinel together, the fur must have flown.”


“You could say that, but Chris don’t give up easily, and he can out do Junior on pure pig-headed stubbornness any day of the week,” he paused thoughtfully.  “Well, it can be close run.” For a moment, Buck remembered back to the early days, then he realised that Blair was waiting for him. “Vin was wild like an untamed mustang.” Buck grinned.  “Hell, he’s not much different now, but he sensed that Chris was his Alpha.  But Junior is too bull headed to accept it, been running wild and alone for too long. Chris had to take him down hard the first time, had to protect the pup from himself. Man oh man, that boy can cuss in English, Spanish and a couple of the Indian languages, when he has a mind, not that you would know it, boy’s not exactly a chatterbox, that’s for sure.”


“Take him down?”


“Yeah, you know, rope him up to a tree.”


Blair leaned forward.  “How did he take it?”


“Doc, he threaten to gut me and Chris, but old Chris he just laughed, and cuffed him across the head, and went back to sitting by the fire. Well, by evening Vin was getting good case of cold balls.” He looked at Blair’s expression.  “Didn’t I tell you Chris stripped him off?  Well, he did, and Vin was as cold as ice, but still wouldn’t give in. He’s as stubborn as a mule. We were both keeping an eye on him, had to make him accept Chris as his Alpha. I saw enough of what can happen if these wild pups don’t accept an Alpha during the war, didn’t want it happening to Vin.”


“He gave in.”


“Hell no, we ended up having to untie him and brought him to the fire.” Buck rubbed his jaw as he remembered the way Vin had fought tooth and nail until Chris had him face down, a knee in his back, one hand in that long hair, pulling him back so that his neck was arched back, forcing him to submit to him. “Well, let’s say that Chris marked him good and proper.” Buck shook his head.  “I can still hear that scream, never thought a human could sound like that.  After that Vin was skittish with us for a while, I was worried he was going to run.  But Chris, he knew better, gave Vin his head, and he came back, knew who his Alpha was.  He still kicks his heels up, makes Chris work for it.  Vin will never be one to roll on his belly like your tame Sentinels. But it puts fire in Chris and that’s a good thing. And old Buck here keeps the peace. That what you wanted to hear, Doc?”


“Curious, that’s all.  I am looking into Sentinel behaviour, seeing how I can help Jim. People don’t understand the needs of Sentinels and what they don’t know, they fear.”





It was noon before Ezra Standish appeared.  He paused for a moment, looking round.  He could feel his sentinels’ eyes on him.  Chris was sat in front of the jail, and Vin was leant against the post next to him, a mug of coffee in his hand and an infuriatingly smug look on his face.  The young gambler heard the tune being whistled, Marching through Georgia, as he walked, then John Brown’s Body. The cowboys laughed, wanting to get him to react, but he refused to give them the satisfaction. A large man mountain came out of the Potters’ store dressed in filthy buckskin and collided with Ezra, sending the smaller man flying into the hitching post. “You should look where you’re going, Reb,” and he stalked off, whistling the Battle Hymn of the Republic. A snarled comment from Ezra made the man mountain turn, “any time you want your ass kicking, Reb, and you can try.”


Ezra reined himself back.  “A gentleman doesn’t brawl in public.” His eyes flashed, even as his poker face slid into place, as he added, “But then, a Yankee pig like you wouldn’t know that, would you.”


The man mountain, Big Bill Connor, turned back fast onto Ezra, looming over him. Then suddenly, he grinned broadly, showing his uneven teeth.   “You’re all right, Reb, buy you a drink.” Then, he leaned right into Ezra and took a deep breath, and the grin got even broader. Even as the southerner spluttered indignantly.  Then, in the same low tone, Big Bill added, “You joining us, Vin, this pretty little thing belongs to you.”


Vin’s hand slackened on Chris’ shoulder, and released it from where he had clamped it to keep the man in black in his seat. 


The tracker crossed the street, looking the other Buffalo hunter up and down. Big Bill turned to face him, “Vin, you horse stealing son of a bitch.”

“At least I don’t fuck them, Bill.”

The big man closed the distance between them in two big strides and caught the smaller tracker up into a large bear hug, swinging him up and off his feet before putting him back down. “Only when it’s a cold hard winter boy, and there’s nothing warmer and softer.” He added, “Just taking the Reb for a drink, you coming?”


“Can always use a drink, and the Reb’s name is Ezra and he’s ours.”


“Ours?” Bill said.


Vin just jerked a thumb over his shoulder back at the black dressed figure now stood against the post of the jail porch, his hand resting on the butt of his gun.


“Shit Vin, you never do things by half, do you boy?” Then the penny dropped.  The black clothing, the silver and black gun belt... “That’s-”


“Chris Larabee, my Alpha.”


Big Bill whooped and hit Vin on the back, nearly sending the younger man flying. “A mean son of a bitch, but he’s good for you by the look of it.” The Buffalo hunter threw an arm round each of the younger men and steered them to the saloon.  “He going to join us?”




Big Bill gave a relieved sigh, “Know I’m going to sup with devil when I am dead, just don’t want to do it while I am still alive.”





Later, from the window in their hotel room, Jim watched the street.  He didn’t turn around as Blair entered. “Found out what you wanted, Chief?”


“You’re right, Buck’s the best one to talk to, gave me a good insight into their first bonding.”


“Well, we have more important things going on, come over here.” Jim stood to one side and pulled Blair so that he could see what was going on.


“Ezra’s been getting it all day, someone is trying to push him. Fuck.”


Jim took to his heels, slamming out of the room, and taking the steps two at a time. When he got to the reception counter, the Clarion broadsheet was already there. He grabbed one and flipped the clerk a coin.  The front page read:






Reading through quickly, Jim read about the incident at Clear Ridge, how Ezra has been caught cheating and the decent citizens had tarred and feathered him and run him out of town. The disgrace to the town and the disgust of the good people when they heard what one of their new regulators was.

The venom increased with each paragraph. Jim shook his head; Mary Travis had gone to work with a hatchet on the young gambler’s reputation.


Through the front door of the hotel he saw a white-faced Chris Larabee clutching the paper in his hand, striding towards the Clarion Office, the townspeople scattering in front of him. He almost jerked the door off its hinges, and then the glass rattled as it was slammed shut behind him. When he appeared again a few minutes later, he paused and looked back into the office, growling, “lady, I am the bad element”, and then Chris was gone, heading back towards the saloon.


To be continued.



 Tide and Time part 4