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Speechless by The Desperado's Daughter

Vin saw him first, even though for a split second, he wasn't positive it was JD. The kid walking down the street looked different somehow. It wasn't even how he looked. It was how he moved--too slowly, as though he were in a daze. Vin started toward him but JD didn't seem to notice. As he got closer, Vin could tell that the kid's eyes were strange.

"JD?" Vin tried to keep his voice calm, so he wouldn't startle his friend. JD stopped dead in his tracks. When Vin took a step toward him, he recoiled like a scared animal. The tracker realized that JD was terrified.

"JD, it's Vin . . . "

JD looked at him, eyes filling.

"You all right?" Vin tried to sound casual. JD didn't answer, but looked back over his shoulder. "Did something happen?" the tracker pressed. The kid either didn't hear him or just didn't want to answer. He looked at the ground.

"JD . . ." Still the boy didn't look at him. He just stood there and Vin realized he was trembling. "JD, are you hurt?"

Again, nothing. Vin reached out and rested his hand on JD's shoulder, only to have the boy jerk away. He didn't run away though. Finally, JD looked at Vin . . . tears now rolling down his cheeks. Vin didn't try to touch him again. He kept talking. JD was listening. "Can I take you to Nathan? I want him to check you out, kid."

JD shook his head, no.

"Will you tell me what happened?" Vin was almost whispering now. Again, JD looked back over his shoulder. His trembling became more violent. This time Vin grabbed both of JD's shoulders. The boy tried to resist, but after a moment, he gave up fighting.

"You gotta let me help you," Vin said. It wasn't a question this time. JD didn't even react. He just . . . gave up. The kid was shaking like he was about to come apart.

On impulse, Vin embraced him. He felt awkward, until he realized that JD had damn near collapsed against him. "It's gonna be ok, kid," Vin whispered, tightening his hold. "Whatever it is, we'll take care of it."


Chris Larabee paced as Nathan Jackson examined their youngest. Vin had taken a chair by the window. JD was awake, but he wasn't talking. Chris started thinking that maybe JD couldn't talk.

"He's not hurt anywhere," Nathan pronounced.

"Then why's he acting so strange?" Vin asked.

The healer shrugged. "I'm not sure. He probably saw something."

"Saw something?" Vin asked. "Like what?"

Chris stopped and sat across from JD. He was talking to Vin but studying the kid's eyes. "I've seen this before," he said softly. "After the war, boys who'd seen something too horrible to deal with would just . . . close themselves off from the rest of the world." Chris reached up and touched JD's chin. "Is that what happened? Did you see something?"

JD's eyes filled and, for a moment, Chris thought he was going to react. But then the boy just withdrew. The pain left his face and he seemed almost placid.

"Stay with me, son," Chris instructed. He wished JD would scream or holler or hit something.

But instead, the boy smiled. Chris felt his heart plummet. He let his hand slide up to the side of JD's face. JD's eyes connected with Chris', but it was as though JD weren't inside. Chris smiled sadly and removed his hand. This would be a long road.


"What do you mean he can't talk??" Buck Wilmington was yelling. "Nathan just said he wasn't hurt."

"He's not," Nathan echoed. "Leastways not physically."

"You mean he's gone crazy or something?"

Chris hated it when Buck got like this. He wasn't gonna try to understand. Chris was about to say something when Ezra chimed in.

"It's called 'hysterical muteness." Damn gambler could sound so condescending. "The lad has tried to protect himself by withdrawing from everyone around him."

Buck shook his head. "Well, I'm gonna go tell him to stop."

"That won't work, Buck," Nathan said.

"How do you know? Have you tried it?"

Vin spoke finally. "He ain't doing it on purpose. He can't help it."

"Well, it's the stupidest thing I ever heard of."

Chris had had just about enough of Buck. "If you go up there and tell him to snap out of it, he may withdraw further. We may lose him altogether."

Buck stopped pacing. "What do you mean?"

Nathan spoke more gently. "JD's hanging on the only way he knows how. If you push him, he may not be able to hang on."

Buck's voice became husky. "So what do we do?"

Nathan looked at all of them. "Be there for him. Treat him the same as always. Let him know he's safe here."

Buck was going to answer, but he just nodded instead.

"We'll do whatever we need to," Ezra said. Vin agreed.

Chris wished he felt peace about this, but he didn't . On top of everything, whatever JD saw . . . whoever JD saw . . . they may know he saw.

And that meant JD wasn't safe. He wasn't safe at all.


Josiah Sanchez had learned the art of ministry by presence. While Nathan was explaining the situation to the other men, he took JD to lunch. The big preacher didn't say much. He just asked JD if he were hungry and the boy nodded. Josiah didn't put his hand on JD's shoulder. He didn't even walk beside him. Instead, he walked down the street to the cafe, and let JD follow him.

Josiah waited while JD walked tentatively through the door to the cafe.

"Oh, hi there JD," the waitress, who was a few years younger than JD, almost smothered him, and he took a step back.

"What's the matter?" She asked.

The big man shrugged, leaving JD to his own devices. But the kid just stood there--almost paralyzed. He looked around the cafe and backed up toward the door.

Josiah raised a hand to keep the girl from following JD. "Fix us a couple of plates, would you?" The girl looked worriedly toward JD, then nodded and started back toward the kitchen. Josiah caught up with JD. "Why don't we go eat at the church?" JD's eyes were on the floor. Was Josiah imagining things or was JD withdrawing even more?


Buck didn't want to take this trip. He wanted to stay with JD. The others just didn't understand. JD would know him. JD would talk to him. Hell, Vin and Chris could retrace the kid's tracks. They didn't need him. They'd see. Once he got to sit down with JD, everything would be all right.


Sometimes the church looked like a church. Other times it looked like a barn. Now, full of sawdust, a big chunk of wall missing, it looked like the latter. It felt like being indoors and outdoors at the same time. Josiah and JD ate their lunch in silence.

At first the young man focused on his food without looking up. He ate ravenously and Josiah made a mental note. Maybe JD had not eaten for a few days. The kid cleaned his plate before Josiah made much of a dent in his own plate.

"You want more?" Josiah asked. JD looked at him, but it didn't seem to register. The preacher slid his plate over to JD. "Go ahead. I'll get a couple more plates." Before Josiah could even get the words out of his mouth, the boy started furiously on Josiah's lunch.

The preacher felt a sudden pang as he watched. What had happened? He turned away and went out into the street.

************************************************************************** "J'siah?" Buck trotted over to him. "Hey, is JD in there?"

The preacher looked back. "Yeah. Buck, he . . . ain't the same."

"I know. They told me. But I can get through to him. I know I can"

Josiah grabbed his arm and got right in his face. "Maybe you can, but you might also scare the hell out of him."

"Nobody cares more about that boy than me. I wouldn't do anything to hurt him."

"Don't push him, Buck. He's not ready to remember."

"Don't you tell me what to do, Preacher."

Josiah saw the fire in the gunfighter's eyes. He realized that this would be hardest on Buck, and he softened his tone. "Somewhere in his heart, he knows you. He knows you . . . care about him. Just . . ." Josiah paused a moment and thought. "Go see him and let him know you're there for him, but let him talk to you when he's ready."

Josiah's grip on Buck's arm eased. Buck's anger disappeared and he nodded sadly.


Buck approached the church and suddenly felt anxious. He paused outside to collect his thoughts. What if JD *were* scared of him? What if none of them could help?

All that was crazy talk. Buck took a deep breath and went into the church.

JD sat straddling one of the benches that served as a make-shift pew. He was crouched over a plate, shoveling food into his mouth. He didn't look up when Buck came in.

"JD?" Buck almost whispered and the kid looked up. "Hey . . ." Buck said. He stood still, not sure what to do. JD watched him. He didn't seem scared. He just . . . watched.

Buck gestured to another bench. "Can I sit here?"

JD just kept eating . . . and watching. Buck sat down, and began tapping his foot.

"Them biscuits are good today, aren't they?"

Very slowly, JD nodded . Then his brows knit together and he picked up a biscuit and held it out for Buck.

Why did Buck's eyes fill suddenly? Buck was shocked by his own rush of emotion. He stood up slowly and walked over to the kid. He reached out and took the biscuit. "Thanks," Buck said, when he could find his voice.

JD went back to his food. They ate together in silence for a while.


Chris and Vin were saddling their horses. They were gonna find out what happened. So far, they could only piece together the most basic facts. JD had been at Eagle Bend. He'd made that trip lots of times. He'd gotten back a couple of days early--without his horse.

Vin wasn't sure he should ask this, but he did anyway. "Chris--do you think somebody . . ." Vin had to stop a minute.

Chris squinted at him, waiting.

Vin continued in a softer voice. "There's stuff that happens in back alleys, you know."

Chris paused for a long moment. "I reckon it could have." The gunfighter cinched the girth on the saddle hard. The horse whinnied in protest.

"I'd kill 'em, Chris. I swear to God . . ."

"I guess we'll know when he tells us." Chris looked around. "We may have to do this without Buck. He won't leave him."

Vin took a long drink of water. "Maybe he shouldn't. Maybe he is the one JD needs right now."

"I don't know. Buck's heart's in the right place, but he's not the most reasonable man sometimes."


Mary's hand shook violently as she read the wire. For a moment she felt like she couldn't breathe. Oh God, she had to find Chris . . .


Josiah stepped into the sanctuary. He found JD and Buck eating in silence.

"Here you go, son," the preacher said as he set the new plate in front of JD. JD nodded his thanks. Josiah smiled, then caught Buck's eye.

Buck's eyes were red. This was killing him. Josiah rested a heavy hand on Buck's shoulder. "I think I'm going to see what Nathan's up to. You boys ok?"

"Yeah," Buck answered. "We're fine."


Vin looked up to see a tearful Mary running toward them. He ran to meet her and Chris was right on his heels.

"Mary, what . . ."

"I got a wire," she said, breathlessly. "There was a massacre ten miles this side of Eagle Bend. A gang . . . attacked a wagon train. They're headed this way." Mary's breath hitched. "The wagons were . . . full of . . . children and old people. . ."

Chris put his arm around her, supporting her. She continued. "They were coming to be with their families at that new settlement. . . " She was crying now. "They took their money, their jewelry . . ." Her expression changed to fury. "They killed every man, woman and child in that party."

Chris held her and gave quiet instructions to Vin. "Get the boys together, and get everybody off the street. If they're headed this way, we're in for some serious trouble."


Everybody scrambled. For about fifteen minutes, Four Corners was in a state of utter chaos. Chris figured that if that gang--whoever they were--was coming to town, they'd have gotten here before JD did. So this mobilization might be unnecessary. The sheriff of Eagle Bend might be wrong.

On the other hand, maybe the gang had gone on in to Eagle Bend to rest up. Who'd know who was responsible anyway? They'd killed all the witnesses.

All but one.


JD was oblivious to the racket going on outside the church. He sat eating peacefully. Buck was on his feet, pacing, waiting for somebody to come tell him what the hell was going on. He'd go find out for himself, but if there was some kind of trouble in town, he wasn't about to leave the kid alone.

"Buck, it's Vin."

Good thing the tracker announced himself. Buck's hand was poised on his gun.

Buck ushered him in. Vin glanced at JD, then led Buck to the far side of the church. "I know what he saw," Vin whispered. Buck listened, sick at heart, while Vin told him about the massacre. "He had to have been there, Buck."

"And if anybody finds out he was, they'll come for him." Buck's voice was raspy.

Vin nodded. "Sheriff at Eagle Bend thinks they're headed this way."

Buck ran a hand through his hair. "We gotta hide him."

"Chris wants you on post."

"I'm not leaving him," Buck countered.

"Take him to the Clarion and let Mary stay with him in the basement."

Buck took hold of Vin's arm and leaned closer. "If they're looking for him, they'll find him. He needs one of us with him all the time."

"They may not even know he was there." Vin said.

"We can't take that chance." Buck was surprisingly level-headed about this.

Vin looked around. "So where you want to take him?"

Buck walked over to the door and looked up and down the street. The townspeople were closing up shop, shuttering windows, locking doors. Four Corners looked like a ghost town.

"Upstairs in the boarding house. Tell Chris I'll keep JD and watch from that upstairs window, too."

Vin nodded and slapped Buck's shoulder. On his way out, he spared a glance back. "How is he?" the tracker asked.

Buck bit his lip. Then he smiled sadly. "Lost."


Waiting was the worst thing in the world, especially at a time like this. Nathan Jackson had known people who had had no regard for human life. He remembered waiting on the plantation for someone to come during the night to beat one of them. He waited for them to come and sell him or someone in his family. He waited . . .

He at once anticipated and dreaded the arrival of this gang of murderers. He anticipated getting rid of them, to make it so that they could never take another life. He wanted to avenge those children.

And he dreaded becoming that vengeful man. He had dedicated his life to helping people, and here he was wanting to kill.

This waiting was unbearable.


Buck sighed and went over to where JD sat. JD looked up and held out another biscuit to Buck.

Sweet kid.

Buck took it, then knelt down in front of his friend. "Thank you, JD, but it'll have to wait. We gotta go now, son." JD watched him closely, but didn't move. "Come with me?" Buck asked, and he gently touched the boy's arm. JD started to get up. "Come on," Buck urged, and JD followed him.

Like some kind of damn puppy. God, Buck hated seeing him like that.

They got to the door of the church, and Buck peered outside. It was dead quiet now. Buck turned back around to face JD. "Stay with me, kid, ok?" JD was listening, but was he hearing him? Buck grabbed the boy's shoulders. "Right beside me, JD, ok?"

JD trembled at the touch and looked away. Buck reached up and turned JD's face back toward him. He put gentle hands on either side of his friend's face.

"JD, I'm gonna take care of you. I'm not letting anything happen to you, but you've gotta do exactly what I say. You understand?"

A tear rolled down the kid's face . . . but he didn't answer.

Buck's eyes stung, and he pulled JD into a hug. While JD didn't hug back, he didn't fight the embrace. Buck held him until the boy quit trembling. "You're gonna be all right, son."


Chris heard the gunshot before he saw anything. He looked across at Vin, who had taken a position on the roof of the livery. Vin shrugged.

Nobody screamed. There were no other shots. No thundering of horses hooves.

Chris didn't see anything out of the ordinary.

Until he saw one of his men stumble out into the middle of the street.

Dressed to the nines.



Dropping to his knees.

Lying very still in the street.


JD heard it. He jerked in Buck's arms at the sound. Buck pushed the kid into the shadows. "Wait here," he commanded, and he drew his weapon. Instead of looking out the front door, Buck ran to the window--just in time to see Ezra emerge from the boarding house.

"Oh God . . ." Buck said under his breath, and he watched the gambler stagger. Ezra was hurt badly.


Ezra was the bait. Chris knew it. They all knew it. And as soon as one of them broke cover to go help him, all hell would break loose.

But Chris Larabee would be damned if he's let one of his men lie helpless in the street.

He looked up at Vin and indicated his intention to go get Ezra. Vin nodded. Chris knew if anybody could cover him, it'd be Vin. Chris nodded in return, then bolted toward Ezra.


"Damn," Josiah breathed when he saw Ezra stumble out. From his vantage point on the roof of the Clarion, he could see the red spreading across the front of the gambler's vest. God, he'd been shot in the abdomen.

Josiah glanced at Nathan then back into the street. Ezra had dropped to his knees. Somebody had to help him. He was gonna die out there. But Josiah was too far away to do any good.

Nathan wasn't, though. The healer was checking his ammunition, about to run out. He had to know this would be suicide. He had to know it was a set-up. Josiah felt sick. If the gang was big enough to take out a wagon train, there would surely be more guns than he could cover. Even with Chris and Vin there wouldn't be any way to really protect Nathan and Ezra.



Nathan took a moment to plot his course. He'd have to bring Ezra right back here, because there was no way to know where the enemy was. Judging from the way Ezra had fallen, he'd need help right away.

If he were still alive.

The healer's heart pounded. It was like jumping into the pickle barrel. Everybody would have a clear shot.

But if there were any chance of getting Ezra to safety, he had to try.


Josiah was ready to cover Nathan, when he saw Chris Larabee running into the street like the devil was after him. The gunfighter had his weapon drawn and was running very close to the ground. Josiah could see the guns of his friends ready to cover at the first sound of gunfire.

But there was none.

Chris slid to the ground beside Ezra, then hoisted him onto his shoulder. Chris ran on to Nathan.

There were no gunshots--no sign of the gang anywhere.


Buck waited, ready to cover whoever ran out to help. He wasn't surprised that it turned out to be Chris Larabee. Chris had never left one of his men to die.

"Come on, Chris." Buck had to talk to him even though he knew his friend couldn't hear him. "Just get him and get out of there."

Buck watched and waited for the gunfight to begin.

But it didn't.

Chris was able to get Ezra out without incident.

In fact, the whole town was deathly quiet again.

Except for the low sound of unfamiliar voices

Coming into the church.


Chris carried Ezra just inside the Potter's store. Nathan helped to ease Ezra down to the floor. If only Ezra could tell him who shot him. . . how many men he saw. Chris went to the window to keep lookout. Why the hell was nothing happening?

"Aw, Ezra . . ." he heard Nathan say softly.

"How bad is it?"

"Bad . . ." Nathan said. "I gotta get the bleeding stopped and I've gotta get that bullet out."

"Can you do it here?" Chris asked, his eyes still combing the familiar street.

Nathan didn't answer. Chris looked over his shoulder and saw Nathan running to the back for supplies. Ezra lay groaning on the floor. Chris, his gun trained on the door, eased over to the gambler. One of Ezra's hands was reaching for the wound. Chris intercepted that hand.

"Don't . . ." Chris said softly. "Leave it alone, Ezra. Nathan is gonna take care of it."

Ezra gripped Chris' hand with surprising strength. "You must . . . find . . . JD."

Nathan came in and sat on the floor on Ezra's other side.

"Buck's with him," Chris said. "How many did you see?"

"One . . ." Ezra said, then he seemed to fade.

Chris started to get up, to go back to his post, but Ezra wouldn't let go of his hand. He was getting agitated.

"It's ok . . . " Chris said.

"No," Ezra insisted. "I was merely . . ." He took a gasping breath and Nathan tried to make him be quiet. Chris leaned closer to hear the gambler.

"A . . . diversion . . ."

Chris nodded his understanding. "Don't worry about that now, Ezra. The boys and I'll get JD."

Ezra seemed to settle a bit. He released Chris' hand. Nathan was working feverishly. He looked at Chris and shook his head.

This didn't look good.

With heavy heart, Chris made his way out the side door so he could go find Josiah. If Ezra was not bait--if he was in fact a distraction, they had mobilized for a gun battle that wasn't going to happen.

While Chris and his men were waiting, the gang was going to ambush JD.

Chris shook his head.

Like hell they would.


What was going on? Vin Tanner was getting nervous. Why'd they shoot Ezra and leave him in the street if it wasn't a trap? Where was everybody?

Vin looked around from the perimeter of the livery. There wasn't a sign of life anywhere.

No, that wasn't true. There were the every day signs of life in Four Corners--footprints, hoofprints, discarded remnants of lunch . . . normal stuff.

There was nothing out of the ordinary except . . .

Wait a minute. He crept over to the side of the roof, and eased down to his belly. He needed to get a better look at the area around the church. It wasn't the tracks that were there. It was the tracks that *weren't* there. There was an area around the side of the church that had been deliberately cleared.

Oh, God . . . had Buck and JD gotten out of the church?

Vin took a deep breath.

He had to get Chris . . .

Damn fast.


At the sound of voices, Buck crouched in the shadows and started to make his way back to where he'd left JD. The distance from the window to JD seemed much farther now. Did the kid even realize what was happening?

Four . . . no, five men were clustering together half in the light, half out. There was no way Buck could take them all out. And if he started shooting, there was a good chance JD would get caught in the crossfire.

Buck's only hope was getting JD out of there and getting help.

Damn. There were at least three more voices coming in. Buck realized that the Four Corners peacekeepers were two guns short . . . three if Nathan had to stay with Ezra.

Buck started scoping out an exit. He wasn't sure he could get JD out without making any noise. It was tough enough not tipping them off just trying to get to the kid.

All his plans went up in smoke when JD started gasping for breath. The boy's breathing became shallow. God, they'd hear him. Buck was about to try to whisper to JD when he saw one of the gang members walk over to where the kid was.

Shit. Buck's heart pounded. The guy jerked JD violently to the center of the church. It was all Buck could do not to blow the guy's head off right there.

But Buck might be the kid's only chance. He had to sit tight.


Vin scrambled down from the roof and made his way toward where he'd last seen Chris. He met Chris and Josiah behind the Clarion.

"They're at the church," Vin said breathlessly. "Did Buck get JD over to the boarding house?"

"I don't think he had a chance," Chris said.

"Ezra?" Vin asked, as he led them the back way to the church.

"Alive. Barely."

Vin shook his head, then stopped behind the livery. "They went in through the side," he explained. "I don't know how many. I don't know where their horses are."

"Well, we'd better assume there are at least six or seven," Josiah said. "More than that, it won't make much difference."

The preacher was right. Vin addressed Chris. "How do you want to play this?"

Chris frowned. "Scout it out. Find JD and Buck. Then either storm it or get 'em coming out. That's all we can do."

They split up with the intent of checking the layout, but knowing they may have to fly blind on this one. ***************************************************************************

"Lookie here, boys." The guy who had grabbed JD threw him to the ground. "Look who I found." Another got a handful of the kid's hair and jerked his head back. Before Buck even realized it had happened, there was a knife at JD's throat.

"Scared, kid?"

JD could hardly breathe.

A new voice answered. "He says 'yes'."

Buck was shaking with anger. He kept his gun aimed at the guy with the knife . . .

God, what he'd give to kill 'em all right now.

"How 'bout it, boy?" A couple more joined them in the middle, and somebody kicked the boy . . . hard.

Bastards!! Buck couldn't see much of what was going on. But he could hear . . .

"You miss your horse, don't you?"

THUD! They were hitting him.

Buck gripped the gun so tightly that his knuckles turned white.

THUD! JD groaned.

"Don't worry, son. He's right where you left him."

Another added. "Part of him is, anyway." Several of them laughed.

And JD . . . growled.


Buck would have to make a move soon. If only he could without getting the kid killed.

"Maybe he's scared we'll carve him up like we did that little gal he was hanging on to . . "

And JD screamed.


There was no time for a plan. Chris Larabee caught Buck's eye and they nodded at each other. Vin had climbed up on the outside and swung silently onto a beam just in the shadows under the unfinished roof. He nodded at Chris. He was in position. And Josiah was around the corner from the open side of the church.

JD's scream gave them the diversion they needed.

And they opened fire.


JD dove into the evil in front of him. The evil that had slaughtered all those children. And the old men and women.

The evil would kill him. But he'd get in a couple of licks first.

JD was in a blind fury. He didn't feel the blade that cut into his shoulder. He didn't feel the bullet that grazed his cheek. He only felt his fist connect with the face of the murderer in front of him.

He didn't even hear himself screaming.


Chris held his hand up and counted down. Three . . . two . . . one . . .

Then four of the men surrounding JD fell to the ground . . . dead. One got an awkward shot off, though, and Vin felt the bullet hit his little finger.

Not on his shooting hand, though. And Vin took out another one.


Buck couldn't get a clear shot at the man JD was pummeling. His only hope might be to literally pull the boy off. Hell, the guy had a gun and JD was unarmed.

"Cover me!" Buck cried and he made a mad dash for JD.

In one swift move, Buck put both arms around the kid and hurled him to the side. Then he shot the man JD had been fighting.

Vin got the last one.

Or so he thought.


While the smoke cleared, Chris helped Vin down from his perch. Josiah came over to help.

"Everybody ok?" Chris yelled as he tended to Vin's hand.

No answer.

"Buck? You ok?"

Again, there was no answer. Chris looked up to see Buck backing into the center of the church, his hands up.

"Just . . . don't hurt him any more," Buck was saying calmly. Then they all saw the man holding JD, a gun pressed under the boy's chin.

"I can't let him live," the man said, a wild look in his eyes. "I can't let . . . any of you live. You know that, don't you."

JD was barely able to stand. His shoulder was bleeding. His face looked like it had after his run-in with the Nichols boys. But his voice was the most frightening. It was raw and menacing.

And it sounded almost crazy.

"Leave . . . my friends . . . alone . . ."

JD's captor tightened his grip on the boy and pressed the gun against his ear. "You're in no position to make demands, boy."

"I don't . . . give a f*** . . . what you do to me," JD said, and his knees started to give a little. The man had to work just to hold him up.

Buck spoke gently. "Look, we ain't seen you do anything. You let him him go, you can just . . . ride out of here."

The guy didn't say anything. He just laughed, and suddenly turned his gun on Buck.


"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" JD cried as the man shot Buck. He staggered forward toward his friend, tears streaming down his face.

*************************************************************************** Buck caught JD and eased him to the ground. He looked up in time to see JD's captor fall to the ground . . .

And Nathan standing there, his gun in his hand. Buck nodded his gratitude to the healer.

"It's over," Buck whispered to the young man lying in his arms, but JD pulled away and turned back to the man who lay dead behind him.

"YOU KILLED HIM!!!!!" JD screamed, pulling at the man's collar. "YOU KILLED HIM. YOU KILLED ALL OF THEM."

Buck crawled over and pulled JD away from the body. "Look at me, son," Buck said, but JD didn't hear him.

"IT'S OVER!" Buck yelled.