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

Return of the Remembered - Part Six

After an all-night poker game, Grayland Adams had accrued substantial winnings. He would not know until much later that these winnings were acquired due to the gambling skill of Ezra Standish. Ezra was so gifted that he could bilk money from one party and deliver it to another. All this he could accomplish without anyone realizing what was happening--even those who benefitted by it.

As soon as morning broke, Adams gathered his winnings and started out. It was at this moment that the charade began in earnest.

"Mr. Adams." Ezra stood and walked to the door with the big man. "I trust that you will remember our conversation last night. My friends and I will not be so gracious on any subsequent visits you make to our little township. When our young friend wakes up this morning, I want to be able to assure him that he will never have to interact with you in the future. Do you understand?"

"I don't have to promise you anything."

Ezra's little derringer slid into his hand. "Well, sir, I would have to disagree with you on that matter. You will promise to leave Four Corners and never return, or I promise that I will shoot you where you stand."

Ezra smiled and Adams smiled back. "No need for that," Adams said. "Put your weapon away." With a mock flourish, he put his hand over his heart. "I *promise* that I will leave Four Corners and never return."

Adams took one more step toward the door, but Ezra blocked his path, his pistol still trained on the stranger. "Just remember that once I get documentation from the towns where you have institutions, the circuit judge will issue a 'shoot on sight' ordinance any time you set foot in this town. Six men in this town witnessed your threatening of a young man. And I daresay any of those six will carry out that order."

Ezra stepped out of the way and let the man pass. He called after him. "I will tell Mr. Dunne that you are gone and you will not return."

Adams kept walking. He didn't see the two riders who had positioned themselves just outside of town, waiting to follow him.


Voices. He couldn't make out what they were saying yet. It was frustrating, but he'd figure it out later.

JD felt a little better. His body did anyway. His heart didn't, though. He couldn't get the thought out of his mind--Grayland Adams couldn't be his father.

Where was Buck? Where were his friends? When would they come to "save the day"? He knew they would . . . eventually.

He glanced around. Something was different, but he didn't know what. He was still fuzzy. They were still moving.

Where was the woman--the one who'd helped him?

Oh God, what had they done to her? JD strained to hear the voices better. It was hard to hear them, especially because he was still so groggy. He couldn't move much because his hands were bound, and whatever they had drugged him with made it hard for him to think clearly. But he knew he had to help her. He'd promised her.

The sun was barely pinking the eastern sky. That could either help or hurt his efforts to make a move. He wouldn't have the safety of darkness if he waited much longer, but, on the other hand, if he had some sun, he could see where he was going.

The voices should give him some idea of what he was up against.

So he waited and he listened.


The silence between Buck and Vin was not the easy comfortable silence of two friends on a casual trip, nor was it an awkward silence. No, it was a safe silence. Speaking their horrible, fearful thoughts might reinforce the unacceptable possibility that they could be true.

So the two friends rode along, tracking. Their journey was punctuated by an occasional discovery of some discarded item, the most interesting of which being a scrap of cloth in which someone had become sick.

"If whatever they used to knock the kid out was poison, he'd have gotten sick from it." Vin tried to keep his voice matter-of-fact, but his anger was all too clear.

When the sun started to crest over the eastern horizon, they picked up their pace. They had to find the kid. And they had to find him fast.


Grayland Adams was pissed.

No, it was worse than that; he was infuriated.

Not only had the boy slipped through his fingers, but those g**damn gunslingers had wrecked a whole day. Well, at least the night was profitable. He rested a hand on the saddlebag. Not a total loss. He was glad he had waited until morning to leave. If they were gonna follow him, better to let Magda and his men get a head start with the boy. Magda better have that boy with her, because he'd be damned if he was ever going back to that hell hole.

He was oblivious to the riders shadowing him. He had looked for anyone following, but he had no idea how skilled his adversaries were. He'd never had anyone trail him before, so he didn't realize that they could stay out of sight and still chase him.

That kid better be worth the trouble. Stupid shit kid. Adams shook his head and spurred his horse on.


Did these people never stop? Or maybe he'd been unconscious when they stopped last. Well, they'd better stop soon. At least he was clearer than he'd been the last time he woke up. But he'd also been blindfolded.

Oh, God, he thought.

Grayland Adams. Grayland Adams was behind it.

And he remembered. Everything. Yesterday. Years ago. He remembered. His heart pounded and he began to tremble. This can't be happening. This can't be happening.

Please Buck, please. Please come get me. Come find me. Chris. You've gotta come after me. Somebody.

Grayland Adams. He was probably on the wagon with them. JD felt a panic rise in his throat. It was one thing to stand up to the man when his friends were in town, and another thing entirely to be drugged and bound and now blindfolded. He could not be at that man's mercy.

He hated that his eyes filled. . . that that man could still make him wake up in a cold sweat.

Don't lose your head, JD told himself. Keep it together. If you don't . . .

He tried to slow his breathing and he made himself listen to the voices in the front of the wagon.

And none of them belonged to Grayland Adams. He was almost afraid to feel relieved.

But they mentioned Grayland Adams - catching up with him, "delivering the boy". And worst of all. . .

She was part of it. The sweet woman with the accent. She had drugged him.

He had to get away.

And he had to get away now.


As the sun opened the sky and revealed all of the secrets of the nightworld, Buck began to feel sick. He'd been concerned, but now he was a panicked. He'd seen guys like Adams hanging around when he was a kid. His mother had protected him from them, but what if JD's hadn't.

Oh, God.

"How old do you think JD is?" Vin asked. "Really?"

Buck was lost in his own thoughts.

"HEY!" Vin said.

"HUH?" Buck stopped cold. Vin put his hand on Buck's arm. "Easy. I just asked a question."

They started moving again.

"Sorry," Buck muttered.

"You were 'bout a million miles away."

"And I said I was sorry!"

Vin didn't let Buck's tone of voice faze him. "It wasn't an attack. I'm worried about him, too."

Buck looked over at his friend. "I know." The big gunslinger shook his head. "I just can't imagine what his life must have been like . . . "

"I know. How old do you think JD is?"

Buck shrugged. "No older than nineteen - if he was he'd say so - no younger than . . .sixteen?"

"That's what I was figuring, too."

"Either way, he's just a kid. And he's had a tough time of it."

"I'm glad he's riding with us. I think he's learned a lot." Vin took a swallow of water and handed the flask to Buck. "And he's happy. I reckon he hadn't been for a long time."

"Hurts to lose your mama no matter how old you are."

Vin pulled up short.


Vin slid off his horse and knelt in the path. "They stopped here. Footprints . . . two men, one woman. JD's aren't here so either he's not with them . .."

"Or he couldn't get out of the wagon." Buck hissed. Vin looked up at him and nodded.

"We gotta find him." Buck's voice was charged with anxiety.

Vin hopped back up on his horse. "We will."


From this distance, Grayland Adams didn't look nearly as formidable as he did up close. Chris Larabee watched him . . .

And Nathan watched Chris Larabee.

"Nathan." Chris said, chewing absently at a bit of cherroot. "Does it look like Mr. Adams is heading toward Yuma Pass?"

Nathan let his gaze follow Chris' and he nodded. "Looks that way."

"Why don't you ride on ahead and . . . prepare the way for him?"

"Why, I think that would be a fine idea," Nathan answered and Chris nodded. "I'll stay on him, and we'll meet . . ."

"I'll wait for him, then I'll find you."

A grin tugged at Chris' mouth. "That'll work."

And Nathan rode on to sabotage the trail.


It was taking him forever to make any progress at all. JD was scooting ever so slowly to edge of the wagon. He didn't know how far off the ground he was. And, except for rough or smooth, he couldn't tell what the topography of the land was. He could be getting ready to plummet off a cliff for all he could tell. But even that was better than one more minute in the presence of that man. He felt the wagon wheel shimmy, and he realized that that could be the very impetus he needed.

God help me, he prayed as he silently hoisted himself on the back railing of the wagon. He worked his head through the canvas. Boy, they didn't know about traveling through this part of the country, not to even have a rear senty posted. Well, that was a break for him.

Oh, man, this could be suicide. But he had to try. He waited for the right moment, but when it came, he wasn't ready at all. He couldn't have prepared for the boulder that caught the back wheel and threw him out of the wagon. The wagon almost lost the wheel. At least he had the presence of mind not to cry out when he fell.

He landed hard and prayed that the people in the front of the wagon wouldn't stop--that they hadn't heard him. His momentary fear distracted him from how much he hurt.

The wagon kept rolling. The people kept talking. The horses kept clopping. JD listened as it rolled away. Thank God.

So he lay there--bound and blindfolded--with no idea where he was. He had to get away from the road. But how?

He'd hit his head. On a rock? Probably. It throbbed, but he didn't think it was serious. It was bleeding, but hadn't Nathan said that head wounds bled a lot? Even when they weren't serious?

He moved a bit.

And cried out. With his hands bound so tightly behind his back, and considering that he landed on his arm while it was bent at an awkward angle, he was certain that he'd broken it.

What did he think he was doing? He lay there. He could feel the sun starting to beat down on him. He couldn't see it for the thick blindfold that had been tied tightly over his eyes. So he lay there. And he laughed.


Ezra Standish was waiting at the telegraph office before it opened. Going to bed for an hour didn't seem worth it. Besides, he was worried about the young man, too. He paced in front of the office, his temper shorter for his lack of sleep, and for the fact that he'd forgotten to eat supper the night before. He frowned and pulled his watch out of his pocket. He sighed. Ten minutes before time for it to open. Leave it to Nolan to wait until the last minute to open up.


The gambler turned to face Mary. "I thought you could use some breakfast," she said, holding out a plate with a cover over it.

Ezra smiled. "That is so thoughtful of you, Mrs. Travis." He looked at the hearty meal she had brought. "I confess that I missed last evening's repast in the midst of all of the . . . excitement."

"I know you did." A grin crossed her face. "The 'owner' of a boarding house can find himself at the center of quite a bit of activity."

"The liberty I took with the truth was most satisfying, I can assure you."

"I only wish I'd been there to see you oust him." Mary's look sobered. "When did he leave town?"

"About an hour and a half ago. With full enough pockets to give him reason to stay and play all night. At least Vin and Buck got a good head start. And I am certain that Chris and Nathan will find ways to . . . hinder Mr. Adams' progress."

Mary looked at the plate in Ezra's hand. "That's gonna get cold."

Ezra nodded and sat on the bench outside the telegraph office.

"I'm not going to run the story yet," Mary said.

"That's best." Ezra looked at his watch again and looked down the street.

Mary smiled. "It's still a little early." She was used to seeing the telegraph operator puttering down the street about ten minutes late every morning. "He won't get here on time, but he is so good about staying late with people." Ezra nodded. She was right and it diffused his impatience at having to wait. He pulled the top off of the breakfast plate and tasted a biscuit. "Oh, Mrs. Travis, this is delectable." Mary chuckled. "I'll pass that along to Mrs. Parker. She fixed your breakfast."

"I'll be sure to find her and thank her myself."

Mary pointed down the street. Nolan was ambling down the street. He waved and sped up a little when he noticed that they were waiting for him.

"Thank you," Ezra said. Mary nodded and turned to open the Clarion office.


Nathan Jackson rode hard toward Yuma Pass. He was glad to be able to do something to slow this man down. It was strange. He didn't think very often of white people being in a position of "servitude". In conversations with JD, he had gotten the impression that his life had not been easy. But he had never entertained the idea that he had been abused in any way. What was wrong with people?


They were making much better time, now that the sun was high. Vin and Buck had shared little conversation in the last hour or so. They should be overtaking the wagon any minute now. They would too, were it not for the boulder with blood on it. Both riders dismounted to check it out. Buck fingered the blood. "Fresh . . ." Instinctively he checked out the sky.

Vin checked the ground for tracks. "Whoever it is, he's not on foot."

"How the hell is he gettin' around then?" Buck couldn't keep the irritation out of his voice.

Vin bowed his head for a moment, then looked up at Buck, handing him a scrap of material. "It's JD. He's bound hand and foot." He looked out toward the spread of rocky land around them. "And he's out there."

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