A Familiar Face
Disclaimer: The characters of The Magnificent Seven belong to MGM, Trilogy, etc. and are used here without permission.
No infringement of copyrights is intended.
Notes: Just a little idea that came to me one night a while ago. The story is a flashback starting at the moment in “Ghosts Of The Confederacy” when Vin is approaching Chris and Buck.
Characters: Buck, Vin, a little Chris
Feedback: To MMW
A Familiar Face
His initial excitement over seeing his old friend was beginning to fade as Chris started talking about a job paying $5. Yet, Buck knew he would never allow Larabee to ride into a fight, especially one with such awful odds without him as backup.
As they were talking, a man walked out behind Chris and began approaching them. While he spoke with Chris, Buck's eyes watched the young man approaching and his mind wandered back through time.
In the Past
Buck sighed as he spotted the small town up ahead. It was hard to miss the buildings creating the only break in the flat land. Reaching up and mopping his brow, Buck tucked his bandana back in his pocket and smiled at the thought of Miss Suzanne waiting for him.
He shook his head as he tried to figure out how he’d gotten himself into the job as deputy in this small town. The answer came down to the fact he was flat broke and needed a job. Of course, how he’d managed to end up in the Texas panhandle was another story entirely; a story that involved the death of a woman he thought of as his sister, a boy who was like a nephew and the destruction of the soul of a man he thought of as a brother. He’d been acting as deputy in the little town of Elk Ridge when he picked up on a rumor about a man who knew something about the death of Chris Larabee’s family.
Giving his notice he’d followed the lead as far as his money would carry him. That had landed him here in Tascosa where his money had run out.
The sheriff had been looking for a deputy and Buck had the background needed. Of course, the longer he’d been there, the less he liked the situation. He didn’t have any proof, but things were not as they should be. The sheriff lived quite a bit better than his salary would allow. The other deputy did whatever the sheriff wanted without questioning it. Buck seemed to be constantly left out of the loop and just before he’d been sent off on a prisoner delivery, he’d seen the sheriff talking to a gang of men who had ridden into town. If he wasn’t mistaken, there were papers on some of them. Given the friendly way they’d been talking, Buck’s suspicions about the Sheriff only increased.
He hadn’t been in Tascosa long enough to get the complete lay of the land, but he knew that some of the local farmers were causing problems for the sheriff. The main landowner causing problems was Jess Kincaid. Kincaid was a good man, one who Buck respected which only leant weight to the man’s arguments.
Still, he was only there to pick up a little money. Once he had that all set, he’d be on his way, heading West. It just wasn’t worth it getting involved in the town’s affairs when he would be pulling up stakes so soon.
And then there was Miss Suzanne. Buck felt a smile curve his lips at the thought of the lovely honey-blonde who was waiting his return. Certainly not all of his time in Tascosa had been bad.
As he pulled into town, he felt a chill race down his spine, his good mood evaporating instantly. Things were ugly and he hated ugly.
His eyes scanned the angry faces on the groups of people lining the street. The discontent of the people was palpable as he made his way toward the livery. His eyes made their way over toward the jail and he could only frown at what he saw. The sheriff was standing at the corner of the building speaking to someone in the shadows who Buck couldn’t quite see.
Changing directions, he headed toward the sheriff’s office; he needed to check in anyway.
As he approached, he saw the sheriff reach out and shake the shadow’s hand before heading over toward the door to the building. As Buck finished pushing his way through the crowd, he dismounted and tied his horse to the hitching post, hoping the irate mob wouldn't hurt the gray. Stepping onto the boardwalk, he turned to face the crowd as he stopped next to the sheriff. "Sir," he greeted. He hated calling the man 'Sir' but the sheriff insisted. "Just lettin' you know the prisoner's been delivered."
"Good," the man snapped. "We've got a situation here that's gettin' real ugly, real fast."
"What happened," Deputy Wilmington asked, not liking the way the sheriff was talking. There was a smug satisfaction in his manner that didn't sit well.
"Bounty hunter name o' Vin Tanner killed Jess Kincaid and brought the body in claiming it was Eli Joe. We've got him in the jail now. Man keeps insisting he's innocent and that Kincaid was already dead when he found him. Reckon it's got the town a mite riled up what with one of the leadin' citizens dead and all," Sheriff Cotter informed, his air smug and confident.
Buck scanned the mob before him and could easily identify several of the sheriff's cronies in the crowd encouraging things along. "There any witnesses?" Things were definitely not right with this situation and Buck almost felt sorry for this Tanner person if he was innocent. Maybe he'd be able to get a few minutes to talk to the prisoner himself. Of all his skills, Buck's ability to read people had served him perhaps the best over the years. That's not to say he hadn't made mistakes and misjudged people, but he was right most of the time.
"Plenty of people saw him bringing in Kincaid's body," the sheriff said, eyeing his deputy suspiciously. He'd never really liked Wilmington, the man was too smart and asked too many questions. Still, he was good and kept the people in the town happy. He was also good in a fight. "Go take your horse to the livery and get something to eat at the saloon. I want you standing guard outside the jail tonight."
Buck sighed and nodded. He'd wait this through and then leave town. Tascosa was not the place he wanted to be. Walking up to his horse, he untied the reins and then wove his way through the throng of people toward the livery. Making it there safely, he was startled by the sounds of a discontented horse in the stall next to his. Leaving his gray where he was, he peeked around the corner and found himself facing a black gelding with a white blaze.
"Well, hey there, boy," Buck greeted, holding out his hand.
The horse in question sniffed it and then turned away, having no use for this particular human.
"You settle down, I'll see if I can find something to sweeten that temper of yours," Buck soothed, reaching out and patting the horse's neck.
Then turning his attention back to his own mount, he carefully tended the faithful animal and showered love and attention upon him. Finishing up, he drew a sugar cube from his saddlebag to feed to the animal. Retrieving another sugar cube, Buck stepped over to the stall next to his and greeted the blaze-faced black again. "Hey boy," he intoned. "I brought you a little something." Then holding out his hand, he offered the sugar cube.
After the horse took it from his hand, he rubbed the white patch on the horse's nose and let him know, "Gotta go now. Miss Suzanne is waiting for me over at the saloon and it just wouldn't do to keep a lady waiting." The response to his explanation was a snort. Smiling, he turned, grabbed his saddlebags and headed toward the saloon to spend some quality time with the lovely lady who had been occupying his thoughts.
Once he reached the saloon, Buck took a moment to straighten his clothes and smooth his mustache before entering into the building. As he scanned the room, he felt his smile fade slightly. There were a lot of people in this place and not all of them looked like they should be roaming around free. In fact, he was fairly certain that some of these men were the same ones who had ridden into town just before he'd been sent out.
Catching sight of Suzanne, all his concerns faded momentarily. Walking over to the honey-blond, he greeted her with his most charming words and was rewarded with a smile and a warm hug. The two made their way upstairs to her room.
Several hours later after their greetings were finished, they lay in bed together, Suzanne resting her head on Buck's shoulder. "Town seems a mite lively tonight," Buck observed, knowing that, working in the saloon, Suzanne would be privy to almost all the goings on in town, public and private.
A sigh escaped the sated woman. "That would be 'cause of that poor man the sheriff framed."
Buck's eyebrows rose at that, stunned by the accusation. "And just how would you know that?" he asked, knowing that her word would mean next to nothing in a court of law, but also knowing her information was almost always accurate.
"Misty overheard him talking with that other fella, the one with two first names Jim or John or Joe or someone. The other fella said that he knew how to take care of the sheriff's problem provided the sheriff helped him with a little problem of his own. Seems this fella was wanted for robbin' banks or some such and had a bounty on his head and the fella they got in jail was trackin' him. This John, or Jim or whoever said that if Sheriff Cotter arrested this bounty hunter for him, he would handle the sheriff's problem. And you know the sheriff only had one real problem," Suzanne informed.
"Kincaid," Buck said softly.
The honey-blond head nodded the affirmative on Buck's shoulder. "But the sheriff wasn't counting on the town getting so riled up. I reckon that poor man in the jail is going to be lynched 'fore the night's through."
"Not on my watch," Buck said, his voice grim. He'd seen some low things, but setting up a man to be lynched for something he didn't do was among the lowest. Tilting his head down, he kissed the top of Suzanne's head and shifted out from under her. "Sheriff's expecting me back at the jail to watch over the prisoner tonight."
Concern washed over Suzanne's face. "You take care of yourself. Those people won't really care which side you're on once they get going. You keep yourself safe," she admonished.
"Sure thing, darlin'," he promised, grabbing his hat and fitting it to his head before heading out.
As he made his way back toward the jail, he could see the crowd only seemed to be getting larger, angrier and more vocal. He'd seen mobs before and this had the makings of being a really nasty one.
Forgoing the front door of the jail, Buck headed around back. No one was back there and he was able to slip in without a problem. Making his way forward, he glanced into the loan cell and almost wished he hadn't.
In the cell was a young man, a kid really, who had been beaten pretty badly. One of his eyes was swollen shut, his nose was also swollen and there was still blood from where it had bled on his shirt. He was holding his arm close to his side which meant either it was hurt or his ribs were, possibly both. After a moment the battered face rose to meet his own, and Buck nearly gasped at the condition of the kid. From the look in the one eye he could see, he felt every word Suzanne spoke had been confirmed. He had little use for Bounty Hunters and even less for killers, but there was something about this kid that cried out to him to offer protection even as the fire and fight in the single blue eye screamed at him to approach at his own risk.
"Wilmington! That you?" Cotter bellowed at the front of the jail.
Tearing his eyes way from the beaten and bruised form before him, Buck called back, "Yeah! Just on my way up." Glancing back in the cell, he found the one good eye still trained on him. Trying not to think about the man in the cell, Buck made his way to the front of the building and the waiting sheriff.
It was later that night after the sheriff, Buck and the other deputy had managed to thin out the crowd that Buck found himself alone at the jail. He could hear the ruckus as it echoed out into the night from the saloon. He still wasn't at ease with the situation, but really didn't have much to say about it at the moment.
He had been standing guard outside the jail for several hours when he heard the swish of skirts from the ally. Heading toward the side of the building, he found himself face to face with Suzanne.
"Oh, Buck!" she cried softly, her voice little more than a whisper. "You've got to get him out of here," she pleaded. "They're getting the townfolk together to make a lynching party. He don't deserve to die like that."
Buck felt his stomach clench. He wanted no part of being a lynching party and knew he wouldn't be able to hold them all off. "OK," he said, his voice far more calm and in control than he felt. "You get back before you're missed and I'll take care of the rest." Seeing Suzanne nod and turn, another thought struck him. "Oh. Hey!" The woman turned around at the call. "Does he have a horse?" Seeing Suzanne nod, Buck ordered, "Get Pedro and have him saddle up the man's horse."
As Suzanne disappeared into the night, Buck scanned the road. Not seeing anybody, he entered the jail.
Resting his shotgun against the wall, he drew his revolver and grabbed the keys to the cell. Making his way back he stood at the door of the cell waiting for the man to acknowledge him. When that blue eye turned toward him, Buck nodded his head. "Come to get you out of town," he said hurriedly, slipping the key into the lock and turning. "Don't want no other trouble from you. The townfolk aren't real happy with you just now and are aiming to give you a necktie party tonight. From what I hear, you're not guilty, so I reckon you don't need to have your neck stretched."
The kid in the cell stared up at him, distrust evident in the blue eye and the tense posture. Even injured as he was and being smaller then Buck, the mustached man was still fairly certain that this kid would be a handful and then some in a fight.
Backing up a step or two, Buck found himself almost sighing with relief when the kid left the confines. Indicating the front of the building, Buck informed, "Think some of your stuff's up front there if you want to get it. His only response was a nod.
Making his way slowly and painfully to the front of the office, Vin took in the surroundings. He had been evaluating the man who was helping him now. In his life Vin had learned to read people quickly and accurately. He had seen this afternoon when the deputy came in the back door that he was kind and fun-loving. It was a relief to see him here tonight. He hadn't expected a release, but had been hoping for a chance to tell someone his side of the story.
Right now he was gathering the few things he'd had on him when he'd been arrested. Turning he found himself face to face with the tall deputy. Staring him straight in the eye, Vin declared, "I didn't kill Kincaid."
Tense silence reigned for several minutes before Buck nodded his head and replied, "I know." He watched as relief seemed to blow through the young man like a summer shower. That more than anything else convinced Wilmington that he was doing the right thing. "Your horse should be ready and saddled at the livery," he informed.
"Thanks," the soft Texas drawl sounded.
A noise sounded behind them and Buck instinctively half-turned before realizing his mistake in turning his back, even partially, to this man. Before he could correct his error, he heard a soft, "Real sorry," followed by a brief sensation of pain and then nothing.
It was sometime the next morning that he woke up, finding himself in the open cell. He blinked his eyes opened and wished he hadn't. Trying to focus on anything was difficult, but the light was just blinding and the throbbing on the back of his head almost unbearable. Still, he didn't want to waste time lying in the cell if he could avoid it.
Struggling to his feet, he stumbled into the outer office only to find himself faced with an irate sheriff and several upset towns people.
That had been one of the most unpleasant days of his life and he had found himself leaving town as soon as he could sit his horse. He'd shaken the dust of Tascosa off his boots and never looked back.
Now here was the man he'd helped walking up and joining them. Walking right up to his oldest friend like he belonged there. Tanner still looked like a kid to Wilmington, but not nearly as young as he had back then.
"He with us?" Tanner asked.
Buck noticed a slight flicker of recognition in the blue eyes as they looked at him. Maybe he would go along with Chris, just to make sure Tanner was as innocent as Suzanne had thought.
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