Disclaimer is stated fully in Penance-Part One. Anything in this story that does not belong to those mentioned in the disclaimer belongs to C. Knox Binkley.

Penance-Part Two

The sun was trying to come up without a lot of success. It wouldn't even make an appearance. The clouds had formed a grey shell separating it from this strange world. In the middle of what would turn out to be nowhere, strong hands pulled a bound and blindfolded Chris Larabee from his horse. He landed roughly on the hard ground. Someone pulled the blindfold off and Chris found himself face to face with the tall, almost spectral figure of Jacob Chiles. Chris' mouth curled in a sarcastic grin.

"You're still alive? I thought you would have died of something by now."

"You're gonna die of something pretty soon, Larabee," Chiles was amused with what he perceived to be a witty retort. He had never been too bright. He wasn't too brave either. He was just. . .well, he was richer than God. And it wasn't anything he earned; he just happened to be the sole heir of an eccentric great-uncle who thought he was Lafayette. Chiles was able to surround himself with people who would do anything at all for a dollar, usually outlaws or nickel-and-dime criminals. If Chiles had been a criminal for the money, it would have been bad enough, but he was a bully. He looked for fights and thought nothing about killing someone who irritated him. Or, more accurately, he would have the person killed.

But Chris Larabee was a whole different story. Chris and the boys had not irritated him -- they had humiliated him. They exposed him for the coward that he was and put him away for the rest of his life. How the hell did he get out? Chris would have to figure that out later.

"What do you want, Chiles?"

The lanky man walked away for dramatic effect. "An eye for an eye. Blood for blood." Chiles turned his head slightly. "Brother for brother. . ."

Of all of Chris' skills he had honed over the hard years, none served him better than his ability to receive information with absolutely no visible reaction at all - no twitch of the jaw muscle, no flash in his eye. It was disarming. And it contributed to the mystique of the legendary gunslinger. It was almost menacing.

Chris maintained a steady eye contact with Chiles. "I forgot you can't speak in complete sentences."


Chiles kicked him in the stomach. "Don't have to."

Chris was not deterred. "So you have a problem with me and you're taking it out on a kid." He eyed Chiles as though assessing him in some way. "Well, that sounds about right."

Chiles grabbed Chris' collar and got in his face. "You have no idea what you're up against. You don't begin to know the extent of my power." Chris didn't respond, but kept glaring at him. Chiles' "power" obviously didn't impress him - and that unnerved the weaker man. Chris Larabee could be condescending in absolute silence. Chiles' men didn't need to witness that. Chiles kicked him again and walked away. "Get him out of here."


The big man squirmed. Being tied up was a damn nuisance and Josiah had quit asking his Maker for patience about ten minutes ago. He had not quit jerking around ever since. With a grim determination, he scratched one leg with the heel of his boot. Then he resumed scooting back and forth on the floor, bumping into a tired and equally frustrated Ezra. Finally he stopped.

For two seconds.

With a massive jerk, he shook fiercely.

"Please!!!!" Ezra cried.

Josiah was startled. For a moment, he froze. Then he looked away, suddenly embarrassed. Ezra almost felt guilty for saying anything. Josiah bit his lip.

"Sorry," he said, and in a softer voice. . .


"Excuse me?" Surely Ezra misunderstood him.

"I'm chafing, all right?" Josiah snapped at him. "Chafing, itching. Sweating in denim will do that to a man - no change of underwear since. . ."

"All right! All right!" Ezra interrupted him. "There is no need to paint such a vividly detailed portrait of your unfortunate condition." His voice grew intense. "I need no enlightenment."

Josiah never looked up. "You're chafing too."

"Oh god yes," Ezra lay his head back, sighing. "This . . ." he searched for a word.

"Stinks. . ." Josiah finished for him.

"Yes, decidedly."

"I know, brother, I know."


Buck was trying to figure out where he was. It didn't seem like the cabin had ever been a home. It was more like . . . a business of some kind or. . . hell, he didn't know. But it was precious little shelter against the fierce wind. There was a storm coming up.

Vin had slept fitfully for the last couple of hours. Buck woke him up regularly and talked to him. Somehow he remembered Nathan saying that that was important if someone had a head injury. Bound as he was, he couldn't do more for his friend . . . just like he couldn't do anything for JD.

God, where had they taken him?

Buck couldn't get the picture out of his head - the kid looking to him, scared and confused. And so young. Sometimes Buck forgot he was just nineteen. They had such fun cutting up and horsing around. JD seemed older to him at those times.

Buck had to smile at himself. It wasn't that the kid seemed older. Buck became younger around JD, and that was a good thing.

But there was more to it than that. Buck had lots of friends - even close friends like Chris. Friends he could stand by and stand up for, but they were always people who could take care of themselves. JD, though . . . well, there was a kid who needed somebody - a father, a brother, a friend. He had had none in his life. And somehow he had latched on to Buck.

Or maybe it was the other way around.

JD had become the pet of the group - a kid brother to the seasoned gunmen. He had brought with him an enthusiasm which they had long ago lost, a remnant of their own lost boyhoods. He reminded them of everything they used to dream about, and in his admiration of them, they reclaimed something of themselves.

For the first time in his young life, the boy belonged. He had friends who would die for him - and a brother who would love him . . .

But was it worth it? God only knew what was happening to him. The friendships he cherished could have cost JD his life . . .

Buck's thoughts were interrupted when Vin stirred.

"Take it easy," Buck said. "You're ok."

Vin started to lift his head, but then thought better of it.

"Don't try to move." He sniffed.

"Has anything happened?"

"You mean something other than getting dragged out of bed, beat up, tied up and brought out to this god-forsaken hellhole? No, nothing much . . ."

Hoofbeats . . . galloping closer. Vin groaned. "Our ride is here."


This was sickeningly familiar. Nathan felt a revulsion at having lost his freedom - freedom so precious to him now. Well, he wouldn't let things stay this way. He'd rather be dead. . .

Voices. . .

"Mr. Sanchez, I think we may have been moved to higher quality accommodations. . ."

"It's a tent."

Ezra appeared in the tent opening. "But it is a clean one." His captor shoved him into the space and he tripped a bit. Josiah walked in unaided. "With a friendly face, no less."

"Would you shut up?" the lanky guard said as he walked away.

Nathan peered up at his friends.

"God, Nathan, are you hurt?" With difficulty, Josiah knelt beside him.

"What?" He realized after a moment that Josiah and Ezra were both looking at his shirt. He looked down at it himself. "Oh, yea," his hand went to the bloody stain. "I took a bullet out of one of 'em."

Ezra was trying to sit on the ground with the least disturbance to his person. Nathan eyed them both closely. "Are you all right?"

Ezra and Josiah glanced at each other uncomfortably.

"Yes." Both answered at once.


Buck and Vin waited with bated breath as footsteps approached the cabin. Then the door burst open and a figure all in black was thrown in with them. And just as quickly, the door was locked behind him.

Chris pulled himself up - his eyes flashing. The look changed to concern when he saw Vin.

"Is he ok?" Chris asked Buck.

Vin answered, "He's ok."

Buck shook his slightly, indicating to Chris that Vin was not entirely ok.

"How 'bout you?" Chris asked his old friend.

"They got JD. . ."

Chris nodded. "I know."

"You saw him?"

"More like he saw me. He warned me before they jumped me," Chris' eyes became hard. "And I'm sure he paid for it."


Chris nodded toward Vin. "What happened to him?"

Buck shook his head. "He doesn't remember. He must've got hit on the head. Do you know what the hell is going on?"

"Whatever it is, Jacob Chiles is involved."

Vin looked up. "Jacob Chiles? He couldn't pull off something like this. Not alone anyway."

Vin struggled to sit up.

"Easy, pard. . ." Buck's voice had become a comfort.

Chris frowned. "He seems unusually sure of himself, but I haven't seen anybody around except for his hired muscle."

"The guys who jumped me were wearing bandanas-I couldn't tell anything. But the guy who worked JD over," Buck's eyes burned, "I knew his voice. . .But I couldn't place him."

Chris spoke softly. "How bad did he hurt him?"

"I don't know. The kid is tougher than he looks. But he shot one of them and that's gonna cost him."

"Why didn't they kill him?"

Buck knit his brows. "It didn't register with me at the time. But the guy he shot said, 'Boss wants 'em alive.'"

"They must have all of us," Vin said, finally sitting up a bit.

"What do you think they want?" Buck asked.

"We'll know soon enough," Chris answered soberly.


His feet wouldn't work. They wanted him to walk, but he couldn't quite make his feet work. His face hurt. His ribs hurt. His throat hurt. His head hurt. His ankle hurt. And his heart hurt.

A heavy hand shoved him forward and someone cussed at him. He landed on his knees. Maybe he could just stay down - rest for a minute. But then hands pulled him back up and made him walk again.

It would be easier if he could see where he was going, but this damn blindfold . . .

What he didn't know hurt the most.

What had they done to Buck? Where had they taken him? Why had they taken him somewhere else?

And Chris? Even the mighty Chris Larabee hadn't seen it coming.

"Move!!" a harsh voice repeated.

I'm trying. I swear, I'm trying. And he'd have said it too . . .but nothing worked quite right. He managed to keep walking haltingly for a few more steps.

"Sir," that was a new voice. A young voice. "Don't you think he needs to rest?"

"I don't give a shit what he needs," a voice he remembered . . .

"Sir, he's had enough . . ."

SMACK . . . "I decide what happens in this camp, private. Get back to your post." A long moment passed before the older voice yelled, "And don't you EVER cross me again."

In the long run, it didn't matter that they wanted him to walk, that he needed to rest, that he'd had enough.

He fell.

Welcome unconsciousness. . .

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