walked slowly to his wagon, his saddlebags over his shoulder and his
hat tipped back on his head. It had been a long trip to Vulture's
Gulch and back, and all he wanted to do was stow his stuff and then
head over to the saloon and sit back and relax. The mid-afternoon sun
warmed his skin and his mind drifted back to his night in the Red
Angel Saloon. Vulture Gulch's one and onl-
head bounced off the end of the wagon. White lights danced in his
vision. Someone behind him grabbed his right arm and wrenched it as
far up his back it would go without breaking. Vin grunted, clenching
his teeth in pain.
a menacing voice hissed in his ear. "You're wanted in Tascosa
and I plan to bring you in."
grunted again when the bounty hunter hit him hard in the ribs and
then between his shoulder blades. While he was still reeling from the
quick jabs, the bounty hunter grabbed his arms and quickly tied his
wrists behind his back.
shook his head. Damn
it. This is getting really old. How many damn bounty hunters can
there be in this territory?
He turned around. I
mean, every other day anoth- "Agghh!"
got his first good look at the man who held him by his upper arm.
he wasn't sure. He stared at the thing, his mouth open, his eyes
huge, his heart thumping wildly in his chest.
ah..." Vin stammered. "Ah...?"
The thing spoke softly. "Jango Fett. At your service."
couldn't place the accent. But, more importantly, he couldn't place
the clothing the man wore either.
thing almost looked like one of the Knights in the book that Ezra
had loaned him. It wore armor, of some kind. And a shiny helmet with
long rectangular boxes where his eyes and mouth would be. And his
clothes... purple and silver and some shiny thing that looked like...
who knew? The gun he held loosely in his hand was like nothing Vin
had ever seen before.
was... he was... Vin just stared.
man started walking down the middle of the street towards the
livery, holding Vin by his upper arm. Vin followed along, staring all
the while at the thing's head.
couldn't keep himself from being drug behind the bounty hunter. He
looked all around, hoping he would see one of his friends.
Nathan walked out of one of the buildings and Vin almost wilted with relief.
he called out loudly, a desperate tone in his voice.
tall healer looked up at him, his eyes going wide. He gaped for a
moment, and then, spinning on his heel, he started walking quickly
away from him.
Vin called, sniffing loudly.
bounty hunter pulled him along. Vin could have sworn he heard quiet
chuckling coming from beside him.
moved down the street and Vin still frantically looked around for help.
saw JD coming their way.
Vin hissed as the young bowler-wearing sheriff passed them on the street.
swallowed hard as he slowly turned to look at Vin. "Yeah?"
he asked innocently.
hunter." Vin cocked his head towards the large man holding him
and widened his eyes as he raised his eyebrows. "Little help
would be nice."
uh..." JD shrugged as he smiled sheepishly. His eyes darted to
the bounty hunter and then back. "I got stuff to do."
eyebrows rose high on his forehead. "Last time I got took you
came after that marshal with a shotgun," he accused.
hee hee," JD chuckled nervously. "I know." He slapped
himself on the forehead. "*What* was I thinking?" He
swallowed hard, keeping his eyes on Vin. "I mean...I mean... I
know I was being... brave... and all, but..." He glanced up at
the bounty hunter, his mouth open and his eyes wide. "But... ha
ha... you know... this... this is..." he suddenly brought his
wrist up to his face. "Oh, would you look at that time!"
his voice squeaked. "I got stuff to do," he said as he
slowly backed away from Vin and his bounty hunter. "Stuff to do,
places to go, outlaws to jail, fevers to catch..." He swallowed
hard as he quickly glanced up at the bounty hunter and then back to
Vin. "I'll uh...I'll uh... Bye, Vin!" He dashed off and in
his haste actually ran over two old ladies who were walking down the boardwalk.
glared at the young man's back. Some
help he was. See if I ever try to teach him trackin' skills. See if
I ever- A
booming voice interrupted his thoughts and his face brightened when
he saw the tall man walking towards him.
Dunne!" Buck Wilmington bellowed as he watched his best friend
running away. "What have I told you about treatin' yer elders
with respect? Then you go and run them down?"
cleared his throat.
Hi Vin." Buck casually looked Vin up and down. "How ya
cocked his head towards the bounty hunter standing at his shoulder,
helmet gleaming in the bright sunlight.
Buck asked as he brushed his mustache with his thumb and index finger.
just stared at him.
Buck clapped the tracker on the back. "Well," his eyes
twinkled. "I've got to get on to Blossom's now. Don't want to
keep her waitin' none. Be seein' you later."
gaped at the tall gunslinger's back as he quickly walked away from
him, a spring in his step.
bounty hunter started him walking again.
a few minutes, Ezra Standish walked up to them, blocking their path.
Tanner, you owe me money from last night's poker game. And I would
appreciate remuneration before this," he glanced up at the
bounty hunter's head and then back at Vin, "behemoth takes you
from this municipality."
stared at the gambler.
stood, one hip cocked, eyebrow raised, hand held out, palm up.
opened his mouth and shook his head slightly while making a small
narrowed his eyes as he huffed. "I should have known." He
spun on his heels and stalked off towards the saloon.
friends like these, you don't need enemies, Tanner," the bounty
hunter's gruff voice came from beside and slightly above him.
sighed as he shook his head sadly. "Don't I know it."
started moving again.
watched Josiah walk out of his church. The big man spotted them and
immediately started walking their way.
Vin sighed, some help.
walked up to the bounty hunter.
Josiah pumped the bounty hunter's hand with both of his own.
"God, how long's it been?" He put his hand on his shoulder
as he stood next to him. "How's the bounty huntin' business been
going? You're looking good. Been keepin' yer head about ya?" He
winked and grinned as he nudged Jango with his elbow. "Well,
gotta go. Got a sermon to write. Good to see ya." He shook hands
with him again. Josiah looked over, seeming to see Vin for the first
time. "Oh, Hi, Vin." He patted him on the back. "Well,
see ya later." He turned and walked away, whistling Mr. Bo Jangles.
were almost to the livery when Chris walked up to them, black duster
billowing in the wind, hat pulled down low on his forehead, green
eyes blazing fire.
when he reached them, instead of stopping, he just tipped his hat
and walked on by.
Vin called out, his voice desperate. "Ain't ya gonna help me,
Chris?" he begged.
turned and looked at Vin. The tall gunfighter bit his lower lip as
he looked sideways. "Ummm..."
Larabee? Chris!" Vin intoned. "I thought we was friends?!"
scuffed the toe of his boot in the dirt. His hands were behind his
back and he looked slightly abashed as he answered, "We
are." He shrugged. "I mean..." he glanced up at the
helmeted bounty hunter and then quickly back down. He cleared his
throat loudly. "I mean... ah... we... *were*." He looked up
at the bounty hunter, a fake smile on his face.
bounty hunter pulled Vin towards the livery door. Vin turned in his
tight grasp, his eyes pleading. "I thought we was soul mates.
Brothers bound not by blood, but by love..."
raised his eyebrows as he looked at the tracker with a cocked head
and a disbelieving expression.
maybe not *that*, but... but..." Vin's voice rose in octaves as
the bounty hunter pulled him away, into the livery and out of sight.
sat on his horse, dejected. The bounty hunter ponied Peso behind his
own horse and Vin now had his hands tied to the saddle horn.
sighed. They were almost out of town.
they stopped. Vin gasped.
in the middle of the street, Spencer carbine resting on her
shoulder, Nettie Welles blocked the bounty hunter's way.
Nettie loved him, she thought of him like a son. Nettie would help him!
frowned as she looked from the bounty hunter to Vin. She was silent
for a moment and then she sighed. Raising her eyebrows, she finally
spoke. "All I can say is... I love ya, boy." She cocked her
head as she turned. "And yer on your own."
Vin breathed out.
cried as Jango led him out of town.
end (January 2003)