M7 "Snowbound"
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Magnificent Seven
“Snowbound”

By Cindy Brewer

Snow.
The storm had come up so suddenly that JD hadn’t noticed the storm
clouds.

The young sheriff shook his head in amazement wondering how he hadn’t
seen the warning signs.
His horse whinnied and tugged at the reigns silently asking JD to pick up the pace.
JD complied hoping to make it back to Four Corners before the storm got any worse.

Two hours from later JD knew he was never going to make it home in time.
Being from Boston JD didn’t mind the snow, but his body had adjusted to the warmth of the southwest.
The wind felt like cold needles to his unprotected hands and skin. The
snow was starting to drift into piles making the road difficult to see.

With a sigh JD urged the horse forward his dark eyes scanning the
horizon. He had to find some kind of shelter.
Fast.
***********************************

The suddeness and fierceness of the winter storm had caused the small
town of Four Corners to shut down.
The tempature had dropped sharply as soon as the sun went down causing people to stay inside.

Buck Wilmington stood glaring out the front windows of the Saloon.
Why hadn’t anyone seen this storm coming?
If he had any inkling of this he would never had let the kid go to Blue Creek.
Not that any warning would have detered the kid. JD had been determined to find the perfect Christmas present for Casey.

Chris Larabee came to stand next to his old friend.
“He should’ve been back by now.”Buck stated softly his gaze never leaving the falling snow.
“He’ll be fine,Buck,”Chris assured him quietly,”JD has sense enough to
find cover.”
The words sounded hallow even to his ears.

Buck straightened his hat as he grabbed his heavy coat,”I’m goin’ after him.”
Chris caught his arm,”You won’t get more than ten feet in a storm like
this. We have to wait for first light.”
***********************************

Darkness had fallen and JD was no closer to finding shelter.
Hell he wasn’t even sure if he was still on the road.
A dark shape suddenly lumbered out of the snow.
JD blinked trying to determine if his eyes were playing tricks on him.
The snow stopped blowing for just long enough for the dark shape to come into focus.
A mountain ridge.

He must be in Cutter’s pass.
Relief washed over JD as he urged the tired horse forward. There was
shelter here, he was sure of it.
***********************************

With the large number of saloon patrons caught in the saloon by the
storm Ezra had organized a poker tournament as soon as word of JD’s
plight spread.
He had hoped the cards would distract his friends from their thoughts.
If only for a little while.
The wind hollered so loudly that it drowned out the saloon’s piano.
But as long as the liquor flowed most of the patrons didn’t pay any mind to the weather.
Except for the six men gathered around a back table.

The poker table had only been able to distract Buck for twenty minutes,
tops. Everytime the wind whipped around the building it reminded him of how helpless he was.
In pure frustration Buck slammed the hand of cards down onto the table sending them flying in all directions.
Without a word Buck stood and stormed out of the saloon.

Chris stood starting to follow his friend but Josiah placed a hand on
his shoulder.
“He’s not going anywhere.”The former preacher said quietly as he grabbed his coat and Buck’s and exited the building.
***********************************

The wind caused the snow to swirl around JD like a white tornado. He had no idea how close the mountain was but the shadow looked closer than it had a few minutes ago.
JD wrapped his arms around his torso in a futile effort to keep warm. He stopped his horse and slid one leg out of the saddle, nearly falling the rest of the way to the ground.

Once he regained his balance JD turned back to where he thought he had left his horse. But all he saw was a white wall of snow he strained to
hear. The horse had to be as cold as he was, it had to be making some
sound.
All he heard was the scream of the wind.
JD turned and started walking the snow was up past his knees now. He
blinked against the wind trying to get a clear picture of what was in
front of him, but he couldn’t even see the mountain any more.

JD swallowed the panic that threatened to overwhelm him. He had to keep a clear head.
If he found shelter the others would find him in the morning.
JD tugged his light coat tighter around his shoulders as he trugged
forward.
There had to be shelter near by, there just had to be.
***********************************

Buck ignored the cold wind that whipped around his exposed arms and
hands as he trugged through the now nearly knee deep snow toward the
livery.

His pride kept him from going back inside the saloon for his heavy
jacket. Hopefully the jacket he had in his room would be enough
protection. He knew Chris was only looking out for him but he just
didn’t need to hear an ‘I told you so’ right now.
What he needed was to turn his head and see the kid riding into town
atop the familar black horse.
But Buck knew that wasn’t going to happen tonight and probably wouldn’t happen tomorrow if this storm kept up the way it was.
The gunslinger reached the livery and grabbed hold of the iron handle.
He ignored the coldness of the metal as he got a firm grip and tugged.
The door didn’t move.
Figuring it was just frozen shut Buck grasped the handle with both hands and pulled.
The only result was Buck finding himself flying backwards into a snow pile.

A hand appeared before him offering a hand up. Buck glanced up at Josiah but ignored the preacher’s helping hand. His feet slipped slightly in the snow but he managed to keep his balance as he once again headed for the stubborn door.
Josiah started to speak but Buck angerily cut him off,”Don’t give me the paitence is a virtue crap because I’m in no mood Josiah. I can’t just sit on my hands and do nothin’!”
The peacekeeper handed Buck his coat which the gunslinger reluncantly took.

“We don’t like sitting around any more than you,Buck.”Josiah replied
quietly his voice barely audible over the wind,”But when Mother Nature gets angry there’s no talking her down.”
Buck frowned he saw where Josiah was going and knew there was no getting around the preacher, at least not at that moment. He flipped the collar up on his jacket and pulled it tighter against him as he turned away from his friend.

Buck glared at the gray sky,”Tell Chris to be ready at first light or
I’m leavin’ without him.”
“We’ll be ready.”Josiah replied as he watched Buck head back toward his room.
***********************************

The next morning dawned gray and bleak as Chris stepped out of the
livery to where his horse was waiting by the fence.
“Let me guess,”Vin began as he walked over to Chris,”His horse is gone?”
Chris nodded as he flipped his jacket collar up against the light snow that was still falling,”No tellin’ how long he’s been gone.”
Ezra shook his head as he joined them,”Even Mr. Wilmington would not be foolish enough to go against Mother Nature’s wrath.”
“Buck doesn’t always think things through,Ezra.”Chris replied as Nathan and Josiah joined them.

“We better head out while we can.”Vin suggested as he got onto his horse,”Storms like this sometimes come in waves.”
Chris nodded as he mounted his horse watching as the others did the same,”I know we have to cover as much ground as possible but stay near each other. I don’t want anyone else gettin’ separated.”
***********************************

Buck was about an hour from Four Corners when he began to wonder if he should start to circle back. Frowning he pulled his coat tighter around him as he studied the sky.
The snow had finally stopped, well not stopped completely but the light snow was easier to see through than the heavy stuff he had started out in.

Buck sighed if he circled back toward town instead of going the whole way to Blue Creek like he had planned he might miss a clue as to where the kid was. But if he went all the way to Blue Creek and turned around
and searched that way it would take twice as long.
Time JD didn’t have.
Time that may have run out already.

Buck shook his head as he turned the horse around. He refused to believe that after all the kid had been through since coming out west that a snow storm would take JD away.
***********************************

Vin Tanner ducked his head against the strong wind as he urged his horse forward.
He had moved a few feet ahead of the others in hope of being able to
pick up Buck or JD’s trail.
Tracking was difficult on a good day.
The bad weather was making any tracking tricks he could use extremely difficult if not impossible.
Vin shook his head slightly, he could only hope that Ezra brought Lady Luck along for the ride.
Right now luck was the only thing working for them.
***********************************

JD huddled in the corner of the small shack he had found. It had been pure luck that he had even known the shack was there.
If he hadn’t literally walked into the small building JD probably would have missed it in the swirling snow.

Not that the shack was much shelter. The building was no bigger than a closet. The wood had nearly rotted through in a few places.
The cold brutal wind seemed to move through the building like the walls
weren’t even there.

As he drew his knees to his chest JD shifted to a more comfortable
position. As he moved something sharp dug into his upper leg.
With shaking hands JD removed the square metal object and held it in
front of him.
It was the music box he had purchased in Blue Creek.
Instantly Casey’s pretty face sprang in front of his mind’s eye as the soft music began to play.
Somehow he had to find a way back to her.
To all of them.

___________
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