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Chris Larabee pulled his coat tighter around him and frowned. He glanced at Josiah and Nathan and saw the worried looks on their faces that mirrored his own.
Vin and Ezra were over ten minutes late for the rendezvous.

Chris didn’t want to head for town without them. But the storm had
kicked up with the force of a white tornado. Larabee knew that if he
didn’t make a decision soon they would be forced to find shelter.
And with the wind blowing the way it was Chris didn’t like the odds that they would find adequate shelter before nightfall.

“Here they come!”
Sanchez’s shout startled Chris as he turned in the direction the former preacher was pointing.
As the familiar pair neared them Chris recognized the bundle in Vin’s arms.
JD.
The relief quickly turned to dread as Larabee saw the youth’s pale face and slightly blue tint to his skin.
Before Chris could open his mouth to ask Nathan quickly pulled his horse alongside the tracker’s.
“He has hypothermia.”The former slave called over the roaring wind,”How severe a case I can’t tell out here. Its a miracle he’s still alive at all. We need to get him back to town.”
Chris nodded as Josiah took the boy from Vin and the tracker moved along side Larabee.
“You ever been in a storm like this?”Larabee asked as they urged the horses forward.
Vin glanced at the knee high drifts of snow and nodded,”Once or twice
but the wind wasn’t as bad.”
Tanner knew Chris was concerned about the group getting back at all.

“Maybe we should find shelter and head back in the morning.”Larabee
suggested glancing back at JD’s still form.
Vin shook his head,”No tellin’ if the storm will let up by then. I know its a risk but it’ll be easier to try to find our way back now than in a few hours.”
Chris nodded and turned back to the others,”Ride two by two. I don’t
want anyone else gettin’ separated.”
***********************************

Buck was torn.
Should he try to continue the search without his sight or go back to town?
The cold wind was literally smacking his skin as it whirled around him.
Buck couldn’t even imagine what the kid was feeling out here without any protection.
It took a lot for a man like Buck to swallow his pride but that’s
exactly what he did.
Because that was the only way he could help the kid now.
Was by helping himself.
That ment getting back to Four Corners and Nathan.
The question was how.

The horse whinnied startling the gunslinger. Buck realized the tired
animal was his only hope.
After fumbling a moment Buck leaned forward in the saddle so he was
close to the horses’s ear.
“JD and I need your help Shamrock.”Wilmington said softly,”I know the weather’s bad but I need you to get us home. I know you can do it.”
For a long moment Buck didn’t think the horse had heard him. Then the
animal lurched forward and started out at an awkward gallop through the snow.
***********************************

An hour later Casey Wells hugged her coat tighter around her shoulders
as she closed the door of the Clarion.
The young brown haired woman fought back tears as she looked at the four blankets she was holding.
When the five peacekeepers had ridden back into town twenty minutes before Casey thought for sure JD was dead.
He had been so pale and cold that Casey had been afraid to ask the
question she was dreading the answer to.

But despite his urgency to get JD up to his clinic Nathan had taken the time to give her a reassuring smile.
It had brought her relief then but as Casey looked back on the moment
now she realized that the reassuring smile Nathan had used had never quite reached his brown eyes.

Shaking herself back to the present Casey turned and quickly headed back toward Nathan’s clinic.
Halfway there something out of the corner of her eye caught her
attention. The young girl turned and squinted into the snow.
At the far end of the street Casey saw a solitary horse and rider making their way through the snow.
Even from that distance Casey recognized the familiar hat and mustache of JD’s closest friend.
As she started to move toward them Casey realized that Buck wasn’t
leading the horse,it was leading him.
Or more accurately carrying him.

Dumping the blankets on a snow covered chair Casey picked up the bottom of her skirt and started to run.
“Buck!”The teen called but the fierce wind ripped her words away before they reached their target.
The closer she got the more Casey’s concern grew. She was close enough
now that Buck would have greeted her if he was able.
The horse had stopped on its own half way between the blacksmith and the saloon.

Casey reached up and gently touched the gunslinger’s shoulder,”Buck? Its Casey,can you hear me?”
Please let him be alright.Casey thought anxiously as she continued to try to get the older man’s attention. She didn’t know what JD would do without his friend.
Now more than ever JD needed Buck and Casey was determined to bring JD what he needed.
At her fourth call Buck jerked awake. He looked down at her but to Casey it seemed like his eyes never really focused on her.
“Casey,darlin’...that you?”Buck asked weakly as he struggled to get off the horse.
“Yeah,Buck its me.”The young woman replied as she tried to help
him,”Where are you hurt?”
After several minutes Buck’s feet finally hit solid ground. He nearly
fell as the strong wind hit him but Casey grabbed his arm keeping him on his feet.

“Just my eyes,darlin.”Wilmington replied wearily,”I can’t see a damn
thing.”
Buck knew it was a long shot that the others would have found the kid
but he had to ask,”Casey,do you know? Did they find JD?”
Even though she knew he couldn’t see her Casey adverted her gaze as she placed Buck’s left arm around her shoulders,”They found him.”
As the teen led Buck toward Nathan’s clinic Wilmington turned her last statement over and over in his mind.
He didn’t like the tone of her voice,not one little bit.
Something was wrong with the kid,very wrong.



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