Disclaimer is stated fully in Part One of Return of the Remembered.

Return of the Remembered - Part Five

When he woke up, he was moving.

And he was tied up.

JD Dunne had never had a headache like this, in his life. He squeezed his eyes tightly closed and pressed his hands against his head, hoping to relieve some of the pressure.

His stomach rolled. He turned onto his side and vomited.

The woman with the accent. He remembered the accent. She spoke kindly to him, and dabbed a damp cloth at his mouth. She'd been there. She'd brought him lemonade and lunch. Whoever had kidnapped him must've gotten her, too. But why? What had happened? Something so bad had happened. Why was his mind so cloudy?

He wanted to ask the woman if she was all right, but he was so sick. He was too sick to talk. Oh God . . .

He threw up again.

"Easy, young man."

The sweet voice again. She lay a cold cloth on his forehead, and with another cloth, wiped his mouth.

"Thank you," he tried to say, but his head hurt so badly. Maybe he could ask her to rub circles on his head. His mother always did that when he was sick. Yea, he'd ask this nice lady for help.

But he passed out instead.


Progress would be slow. There was only so far they could go at night with just a lantern. But they had an advantage in that whoever had taken JD knew nothing about covering tracks.

"This ain't gonna be too bad . . . " Vin said. "The trackin' part, anyway."

Buck didn't say anything. For a long time. And oddly enough, that bothered Vin. Even though he himself wasn't talkative, Vin enjoyed with his talkative friends.

Especially Buck.

But when Buck was quiet . . . well, it was eerie. And it left too much room for thinking.

This was such a bizarre situation. Here was a man who could easily kill JD with his bare hands. For that matter, he could have killed him this afternoon.

And what did JD have that would be worth so much to a man like Grayland Adams? It obviously wasn't money. JD didn't have anything, and even if he did, Adams wouldn't need it. He clearly had plenty.

If he were JD's father, he certainly didn't have any affection for him. That pissed Vin off as much as anything. He was a heartless son of a bitch if he was his father - and just plain evil if he wasn't. Either way, Vin Tanner had no use for him.

Did he want to make JD work for him? Free labor, was that it? Surely not. He had other sources and means. It wasn't likely that he would travel so far just for that.

Maybe the kid knew something - something so horrible that Adams needed to shut him up. Or was it revenge? Maybe that was it. But what could JD possibly have done that would anger a man like that enough to track the kid all the way across the country? Maybe he had been tracking JD for a long time and finally caught up with him.

Maybe he would have killed JD if they hadn't been interrupted.


With every consideration, Vin became more and more angry.

But it was the other possibility - the as-of-yet unspoken one - that was unthinkable.


Grayland Adams wandered down the street. If that prissy gambler wouldn't let him spend the night in the boarding house, there was always the saloon.

It was lively. Adams had to give it to this piss-ant town - they knew how to drink. He slammed a meaty hand on the bar and ordered the strongest drink the establishment had. That would pass the time until he could catch up with the others. At least he knew they had the kid.

That was one thing that hadn't gotten totally messed up.

"Well, Mr. Adams, isn't it?"

The prissy gambler was sitting at a poker game with one open seat.

"Shit," the big man muttered.

"Would you care to join us in a game of chance?" Ezra acted as though nothing had passed between the two. "I'd be delighted to play opposite you. What is your game?"

"Is there no escaping you, Mr. Priss?"

Ezra chuckled, and Adams heard other voices chuckling at a table in the shadows in the back of the saloon.

"Mr. Priss?" Ezra repeated. "Next thing you'll do is call Mr. Larabee a 'cowboy.'"

"Hazardous to your health," Josiah emerged from the shadows. "Either way you call it."

"So what're you planning?" Chris' voice cut through the air.

"As in 'When the hell are you making your departure?'" Ezra continued, dealing the cards to the three regulars sitting at the poker table and to an empty space no one occupied as of yet. Josiah or Buck usually took that seat if it was still available. Sometimes Chris would.

Adams took a long swallow of his drink, patted his abdomen and pulled out an impressive roll of cash. He sat across from Ezra and looked over his cards. He could make easy work of these yokels.

Little did he know.


There was a treacherous bounce. The rickety wagon couldn't absorb the jerk, and JD was thrown hard into the wooden side.

He groaned and tried to sit up - but bound as he was, it was damn near impossible. He had to get his bearings. He had to open his eyes. But his head hurt. And the nausea.

He took a big breath. He could fight this. He could do it.

He squinted until his eyes got used to the dark. It took a minute. And now that it was nighttime, it was even harder to see inside the canvas cover.

Finally, JD could make out a face. A woman's face. A sweet face.

"Are you all right, ma'am?" he asked.

"Yes sir . . ."

"Sir?" he questioned. Poor woman. She was mixed up. "Oh, I'm not a 'sir' yet," he said. Something had to relieve this excruciating pressure. Where were his friends? He needed to get out of here. He couldn't exactly remember the really bad thing that happened. Buck would know. He needed to get out - and he needed to get the woman out, too.

"I'll find a way to get us out of here, ma'am." He looked at her more closely. "They didn't hurt you, did they?"

She shook her head quickly. Satisfied, JD closed his eyes again. "Well, be ready to move with me, ok?"

She didn't answer.

"Ma'am?" His voice was soft and kind.

She was sobbing quietly.

"It'll be all right," JD said. "I promise."


How long had they been traveling? A couple of hours? She ached where she had been thrown against the side of the wagon. How long ago had they hit that crater in the road?

thank God, the boy had fallen asleep again. This was wrong. What Grayland Adams wanted to do was wrong. Taking this boy away from the people who obviously loved him - that was wrong. Even if this boy were his son; no, especially if he were Grayland Adams son, this was wrong.

But what could she do? How could she win her freedom back without working off her debt? And there was her own daughter to consider. She couldn't jeopardize her chance at a better life. Even if she had to hurt this young man to do it.

Oh, if she could only explain it to the boy - maybe she could make him understand.

But she couldn't betray Grayland Adams. She had a debt to pay.

He was a good and kind soul. He wanted to help her - even as he suffered from that god-forsaken concoction they'd put in his lemonade. He'd fought to stay conscious - for her sake. But the poison was too strong and the best he could do was fade in and fade out.

She studied the young man - the pale skin, the boy's beard that was trying so hard to grow, the shock of black hair. Even unconscious, she knew he hurt. His face was lined with the pain. And the fever was starting to rise. He was an innocent. And Adams would do whatever he could to take that from him.

She had liked the young man from the moment he entered the cafe. He had seemed distracted somehow, then he quickly had apologized to her for being rude - for not paying attention to her when she came by to take his order. She had watched him drink the lemonade. He had realized in only a moment that it wasn't right. She had cringed when the two muscle men jerked the boy out of the chair and took him out to the wagon, tying him up and roughly throwing him into the bed of the canvas-covered transport.

But he didn't know she was an accomplice. He didn't know she had poisoned him. And now, anytime he woke up, he was trying to find a way to rescue her. The hard sobs that racked her body were for him. And for the guilt she knew would accompany her for the rest of her life.

She couldn't think of what would happen to the boy. He looked so fragile somehow. Oh God, save him. And save me. Mea culpa.


"We never should have let him out of our sight."

It was the first thing Buck Wilmington had said since leaving Four Corners.

"Well, we never let the man who posed a threat to him out of our sight." Vin made sure his answer was very calm. "There was no way to know anyone else was looking for him."

"There was something in JD's reaction to that man. I've seen the kid when he's afraid - when he's trying to hide that he's afraid. But this . . . It was something completely different." Buck's voice became huskier. "That man had gotten to his core somehow. He'd . . . hurt him . . . deep. And his hatred for the man,"

"Is a scary thing to see in a kid that young." Vin finished.

"When I think of that man . . hurting a child . . ." Buck had to stop talking for a moment. His throat was aching. "I can't stand it. And JD? Who would want to hurt him?"

They rode on in silence, then Buck continued. "JD has such a good heart."

"His mama must've been something."

"Have you seen his pictures of her?" Buck smiled as he remembered.


Buck sighed. "She really was beautiful."

"What did she die of?" Vin asked.

"JD never said, but I think she got sick."

Suddenly Vin pulled up short.

"What?" Buck asked.

The tracker was off his horse in less than a second, scouting the trail and the great gaping hole in the path ahead. The wagon had traveled through here, and had left some debris on the trail.


The gunslinger squatted beside his friend and examined the items on the ground.

They found splintering wood, a couple of sacks of meal, and a couple of pieces of torn cloth.

"Someone's been sick," Vin explained.

Buck felt a weight on his chest. God help him - if they'd done anything to the kid, he would kill every last one of them. It was bad enough that this Adams fellow had wrecked JD's childhood, if he hurt him again, he would kill him

And he would make it hurt.

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