Return of the Remembered - Part Twelve

The telegraph clicked furiously and Ezra Standish paced just as furiously. This needed to be right. This needed to be it. He fought the urge to hurry the telegraph man, knowing it wouldn't make the incoming message come in any faster.

This Grayland Adams must be a popular fellow for this much information to be sent about him.

Well, Ezra really didn't care how much of a wanted man Adams was, he just wanted to be sure there was no way Adams had any claim on JD Dunne.

The gambler ran his hand through his hair. Maybe this much information was bad. Maybe there was some kind of mandate in Adams favor. . .

All Ezra knew was he was not letting that boy close to that man.

"Here you go," the telegraph officer said. He handed two pieces of paper to Ezra. "Unbelievable . . ." the man said under his breath, and he watched Ezra.

"Thank you, Sir . . ." Ezra took the messages out of the office. He didn't relish having his reactions studied by the officer who had precious little to do in the course of the day.

Ezra read as he walked--tripping on the step in front of the telegraph office. He caught himself, but his attention was never diverted from the message. He stood frozen on the side of the street.

He had to read it twice. Surely this wasn't true.

Then he shook his head. "Dear God. . ."


Even if Grayland Adams weren't an evil man, he would still get on Chris Larabee's last nerve. The man was a talker--a complainer--a self-serving high-falutin' Easterner and Chris was ready to arrest him right there for being annoying.

Instead, he nodded at Nathan and the healer found a bandage and gagged Grayland Adams with it.

"That's better." Chris grinned.

Adams kept yelling even though his words were unintelligible. The big man looked like he was about to explode. He turned beet red and the veins in his head raised as he grew angrier.

Nathan looked like he was going to laugh, but Chris noticed a decided change in his expression. Nathan was looking beyond Adams and back to the wagon. Chris followed his gaze and saw that Magda was shaking violently. Nathan ran to her.

"What's wrong with her?" Chris called.

Nathan was approaching her slowly and he didn't answer. It was as though he were trying to make contact with a frightened deer. Chris moved closer to them, but he was careful not to startle the woman.

"Miss Magda?" Nathan spoke gently. The woman was sobbing . . . although silently. It was very strange--like someone who had learned to hide the strongest of emotions.

"What is . . . " Chris' question was interrupted by Nathan's hand.

"I've seen this," Nathan said very softly. "She's having some kind of hysterical reaction, but she won't let herself make any noise."

"What causes it?"

Nathan looked back at Adams. "Can you imagine being having that anger directed at you and not being able to defend yourself?"

Chris felt his own anger rise. "He can't hurt you anymore, ma'am," Chris told the terrified woman.

She shook her head, no.

Chris leaned in closer, but still kept some distance. "I won't let him touch you."

Magda turned toward Chris and looked at him, then to Nathan. Nathan nodded. "He can protect you. We all will."

The woman looked back at Adams who was still fuming. Lips trembling, she spoke in broken English to Chris. "You have . . . angered him . . . too much." Her voice was scarcely more than a whisper. "He will kill you."

"No," Chris said, and he too looked at Adams. "He's a coward."

Magda cried out loud. "Then he will take his anger out on someone weaker . . . " She reached out and grabbed Chris' arm. "He will beat me for not keeping the boy in the wagon. He will beat me for letting you find us. . ."

Chris closed his gloved hand over her trembling one. "Look at me, Magda," he said. She was still watching Adams. "Magda . . ." He spoke a bit more harshly. She jerked back toward him.

"Trust me," Chris said simply. She studied his eyes, and for a brief moment, he could see relief in hers.

Chris gently squeezed her hand, then looked up at Nathan. "Ride with her for a while, would you?" Nathan nodded. Chris released her, but Magda grabbed his arm once more.

"Don't let your boy near him," she whispered again. "He will surely kill him."

"We'll take care of JD. Don't worry about anything."

Magda nodded, and Chris left to get Adams to shut the f*** up.


Vin frowned as his hand lingered on JD's face. Buck was asleep holding the kid against his chest. JD's sleep was fitful and the fever was beginning to overtake him. Maybe JD would sleep through Vin's examination of his arm.

Very gently, Vin began to work the bandage off of JD's hand. The kid groaned slightly, but didn't wake up. Good. Maybe Vin could do this without hurting him. He worked slowly and deliberately, moving even more slowly when he pulled back the cloth that directly covered the wound. It had drained some during the night, but didn't look infected in anyway. Thank God. This wound wouldn't kill him. Still he would need to see a doctor so he wouldn't lose any function in his hand.

Vin had boiled some cloth during the night so there would be clean bandages this morning. He replaced the old bandage on JD's hand with one of these new ones.

Now he'd have to check out the kid's arm. This fever was not good--not good at all, and Vin shuddered to think what it would look like. What if he undid the bandage and removed the makeshift splint only to have the arm . . . come apart.

He'd just have to try.

JD groaned again and the sleeping Buck murmured something that Vin figured would have been "easy there" if Buck's speech weren't so slurred with sleep.

"Buck . . ." Vin tried to wake Buck without waking JD.


"I need to check JD's arm and I need your help."

Buck squinted at him. "Oh, man." Buck reached up and felt the kid's forehead. "He's burning up."

"I know."

Buck moved slightly to get a better balance. "My shirt is soaked. He's been sweating."

"We'll have to change his clothes or he'll get chilled."

Buck nodded.

"His hand looks better," Vin said. "Don't look like infection has set in."

"Thank God." Buck frowned. "What about his arm?"

"Don't know yet."

"Something must be really wrong for him to have this fever."

Vin didn't say anything. What was the point?


Chris Larabee rode next to Grayland Adams for a couple of hours. He was trying to figure out what the man had to gain by coming back for JD. He could only suspect the evils the kid had suffered at that man's hands . . . the beatings alone would be enough to terrify him. Watching Magda's reaction to Adams' anger made Chris more certain than ever that Adams had to have some kind of racket going on somewhere.

And it made Chris Larabee sick to think that the victims were women and children.

He would find a way to put this man away forever.


An arsonist.

Ezra Standish couldn't . . . no, wouldn't believe it. JD was enthusiastic--to a fault, Ezra had thought on more than one occasion. But at heart, the boy was gentle. The boy was a good person.

So how could Adams come up with the charge of arson? And why, if JD had committed such a crime, would Adams keep him on.

Unless it was to blackmail him . . .

Or his mother . . .

As terrible as that message was, the other wire bore worse news.

And Ezra didn't know how to proceed with that information.

He needed help. But how could he even ask without further jeopardizing JD's situation, not to mention his reputation.

Maybe it was time to trust the judge.


The scream was bloodcurdling. Buck felt it reverberate from JD even as he held the boy tightly. Buck kept one big hand on JD's forehead, pressing the back of JD's head into his own shoulder. With his other arm, he held JD around the waist. The kid was trembling and bucking against the excruciating pain in his arm.

Vin was trying not to hurt him. Buck knew that. But JD's arm was overcome with infection--swollen, seeping and even bleeding some.

"Please, stop . . ." JD breathed.

"Almost done, kid," Vin said as he tried to wrap it up again.

"Buck . . ."

"He's gotta do this, son," Buck answered.

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO . . ." the boy screamed again, and then, thankfully, he lost consciousness.

"Jesus," Buck muttered and he looked up at Vin. Vin's eyes were red.

"We gotta tie it off, Buck. We can't let the poison get into his body."

Buck nodded and felt his own eyes sting. "I know. Let's do it."