Chapter 1Four Corners, Arizona. October 31, before sundown.
The Standish Tavern was full of customers, including seven men who were sitting in a corner table having a high-old-time, but not necessarily a good-old-time. Somebody was supposed to be on patrol, but nobody was moving tonight. They were all bored with cards and swapping stories. They didn't know why, but they were all BORED about everything... except for Chris.
"BORING! Let me tell you, boys, it's as boring as a sack full of beans around here." Buck Wilmington took a small sip of beer.
Chris Larabee, their leader and best shooter, was actually in a great mood, sitting there nice and easy, sipping coffee for a change, smiling, and laughing with his friends. "Not THAT bad, Buck. Can't tell you when I've had time to just sit and enjoy a quiet evening, sip a little beer, a little coffee, play a little cards, even win a round for once. To me, ain't nothing boring about quiet. Quiet, peaceful, nobody shooting at anybody... just fine by me."
By far the most restive of the bunch was Vin Tanner, and the restlessness of the young hunter and tracker had the older gunslinger, Chris, watching out for what was coming.
"Alright, Vin, what got you all hot and bothered tonight? You're never this fidgety. Anybody says boo around you tonight, they're liable to get shot." It was said with a wide-open smile... an unusual thing for the man.
"Hell, Chris. It's Halloween. Always was my favorite holiday, but I ain't got nothing to do. Never seen this place so damn boring. Even Buck's boring, Josiah's boring, Nathan's boring. Hell, I got to have something to do on Halloween to have a good time."
"Never did know you to pay much mind to holidays, Vin."
"Never stayed around here long enough at Halloween to let any of you pay much mind to what I's up to. Ez, that barkeep ever gonna bring me my gutwarmer?"
"George...paying customer over here!" Ezra Standish, tavern owner and gambler, loved it when the boys in his group actually spent money for more than one beer.
Buck Wilmington, a much too well-known ladies' man, was watching too. It wasn't often Tanner got in this mood, but when he did, things tended to get lively. Buck did like lively, especially when they all cut loose for a spell.
"Halloween, Vin? Not Christmas? My favorite holiday was always Christmas!"
"Buck, you try going it alone every year for more than ten, see if you like Christmas at all!"
"That's the damn truth!" Chris joined in, "and I wasn't ever really alone... did manage to have at least one friend around most times. Only year I was totally by myself, I wound up in jail for Christmas, but I still wasn't alone. The sheriff's wife at least brought me a big turkey dinner and two pieces of pie... mince meat and pumpkin"
"Was she a pretty young thing, Stud?"
"Don't remember." Chris got silent, his face just a touch red.
"You don't remember what a woman looked like?" Buck couldn't believe it... he wasn't the only one known for carousing. Chris had had his days, too.
"No... she was married, Buck."
"And that matters how?"
"You certainly wouldn't understand."
"And sometimes neither did you, Stud. I got too long a memory for you to go getting sanctimonious on me!"
"Sancti-what? Who, me?" Chris grinned and laughed.
"Were you maybe just a modicum drunk about that time, Mr. Larabee?"
"No, not that year, Ezra. That was one time I was really bored! So hell, I just sort of threw myself my own party."
"What kind of party would that perchance have been, Mr. Larabee?"
"I'm not telling nothing, Ezra."
"Now, Mr. Larabee. You brought the subject up yourself. You cannot conceive of leaving us hanging for the rest of the story, now can you? It would neither be friendly, nor fair."
"Shoot. I just had me a one-man quick draw contest. Managed to shoot out all the candles on the little town Christmas tree! Only had to reload about ten times before I hit 'em all."
"Thought you said you weren't drunk."
"And I could shoot better than that!" J.D. Dunne, the kid, the youngest of the lot, snickered.
"Wasn't drunk yet... just working on it. Managed to set off every woman in town for messing up their decorations. They threatened the sheriff's wife with all kinds of society ostracism if the man didn't lock me up."
"So he locked you up?"
"Yeah... he WAS a married man. She was a social gad-about. She wasn't about to get excluded... he wasn't gonna make her mad. I didn't count for much of nothing, so to make them all happy, he gave me ten days. Enough to keep me from raising hell anywhere in his town before the new year started."
"He was truly one gutless wonder, now wasn't he."
"Buck, he just wanted to have a Merry Christmas with his very merry wife. Wasn't too bad for me... at least I got a free bed, something to keep it warm, and she was a damn good cook, too." He tilted his head, smiled a lopsided grin, and dropped the subject.
"Hell, I didn't ever waste time on Christmas. But I always had a damn fine time at Halloween!"
"What'd ya do, Vin? Tell us about it!"
"Kid, why'd I want to sit here telling you about it when I could be out there showing you boys how to have a little fun?"
"Sounds like something I might have done on the plantation. Master thought it was a real hoot for me to set up tricks for the young ones himself. He didn't never mind."
J.D. was instantly interested. "Now that sounds good!"
"No, tricks sounds like trouble, J.D." Chris knew Vin could be a hell-raiser, but Vin being a hell-raiser often led Chris straight into trouble. It didn't matter what he did... whether he joined in or protected Vin from the aftermath, he usually wound up paying for the whole thing.
"Shoot, Pard. Now would I lead you into temptation?"
"You'd lead me into purgatory or just straight on into hell, Vin."
"Awh, Chris... you're gonna like it, I promise ya!"
"Now, Brother Chris, you know the last time he came up with a plan, Brother Vin left you with black hair, a black mustache, and a bullet in your back from Johnny Ringo. You want to maybe try for something redemptive, not disadvantageous for a change?"
Buck just couldn't help laughing. "Come on, Josiah... you know that won't be no fun at all. Not a single one of us is known for trying our luck with true redemption. Not even you!"
"Brother Chris... you could try to avoid the powers of darkness for once."
Buck roared with laughter that time. "Hell, Josiah! Chris IS our power of darkness... rain or shine, thick and thin, high water or hell itself. This time, he's just gonna let Vin have a turn and give us all a chance to have one hell of a good time."
"I think I'm going to regret this!" .
"Sure you are, Stud. That just ain't never stopped you before."
Chris had begun to think about ramifications. He already had a more than slightly tarnished reputation.
"Come on Chris. Won't take that long. We just need to get started so we're all finished by midnight and the town'll have a great surprise come tomorrow morning."
"Surprise the town?"
"Sure... that's what makes it fun."
"Come on, Chris... this is going to be good!" J.D. stood up, put on his bowler hat, and got ready to move.
"Alright, Tanner, how much trouble can you find for us to get into in one night?"
"Probably a whole heap, Pard."
"Now I know I'm going to regret it!" Chris stood up, swept his blonde hair off his forehead, pushing it under his wide-brim black hat. Then he waved Vin toward the swinging doors. "Okay, you gonna lead this, lead it... just don't blame me if it all goes to hell."
"Now would I do that, Pard."
"Yeah, Vin... I think you would."
Nathan was ready and waiting. "Come on, Vin. Somebody's got to get this going. Where are we starting."
"Livery ought to do. You boys get there and we'll set up teams."
"Okay... here's the way it goes." Vin was standing there in the middle of the street, just outside the livery. To Chris Larabee's eyes he looked like a little kid playing the fool. "We're going scavenging for bounty, boys. You're going to break into two teams and look for anything that ain't tied down."
"What kind of things, Vin?" Buck was getting worked up, fast.
"Anything we can spirit away and put in piles in front of the church."
"Hold on, you mangy sinners! Why are you gathering your loot in front of the church?" Josiah didn't like it.
"Cause when we're through collecting, we're gonna get us some rope and hoist it all up on the church roof before midnight tonight!"
"Vin... I don't think the locals are gonna take too kindly to this!"
"Nor our Lord either!"
"Hell, Chris, Josiah. We'll just let 'em have a look real early tomorrow morning... a little laugh... then we'll put it all back. We'll decide who wins by how much stuff the teams collect. Nobody and nothing gets hurt."
"But they'll know who did it."
"We ain't gonna hide it, Stud. Shouldn't cause a ruckus. People ought to think it's a real good joke."
"Buck, you've lost your mind."
"Awh, Chris. Come on! It'll be fun! Never seen you be this big a chicken!" J.D., always a scamp, grinned at the man he generally tried so hard to emulate.
"You're gonna think chicken, J.D."
"As a businessman myself, if you damage any of my furnishings, gentlemen, I will most assuredly let it be known that you were the culprits who did this! And you will surely pay for any damage and destruction. As for myself, I could in no means participate in such a foolish endeavor. Mr. Larabee, I feel you have now totally lost control of this situation, so if you gentlemen will excuse me... I am returning to my tavern to see to my customers."
Vin tried to change his mind. "Come on Ez... have a little fun!"
"This, gentlemen is NOT my idea of fun. And it smacks of menial labor, which no doubt you realize I abhor!" Ezra turned and determinedly returned to his tavern.
"Boys, you know it's got to be a bad idea if Ezra won't join in! I tell ya, I've got a bad feeling about this. Don't you think... ."
"I think you're getting old, Stud."
"Hell, Buck. I AM NOT OLD!"
"Can't prove it by me, Chris."
"You want me to put YOU up on that roof! That ought to prove it."
"Now, Chris. You gonna be a good boy and join in, aren't ya?"
"That's the spirit, Stud!"
Vin was ready. "Okay, who's on what team, boys?"
Buck slapped the youngest member of the gang on the shoulder, "Come on, kid! You're with me, J.D. We'll show these boys how it's done."
"Well, then. Nathan, how bout us two going for it together."
"Sure, Vin. Sounds like a twosome that can't be beat."
"Okay, Chris... you've got Josiah!"
"No he doesn't!" Josiah still didn't like it.
"No problem, Vin. I'll just be the judge." Chris did like it this way... it meant he didn't have to DO anything stupid at all.
The two groups left to do their mischief.
"You'd think you could put a stop to this, Chris!" Josiah gave him a stern look.
"Me? You stop it! I'm not a preacher... you're the preacher, Josiah!"
"You know you're their leader. They would stop if you put your foot down and just told them to stop!"
"Hell, mood Vin's in, nobody's gonna stop him. Remember, I'm the one that got shot last time he took a notion to have a little fun. Let somebody else try to reign him in. Come on, they're not going to get into too much mischief. We'll just go in, make us some coffee, sit out there on the steps all nice and comfortable, and wait for em to wring it all out of their systems. It's a plan."
"Come on, Josiah. At least neither of us will get in trouble... right?"
"I guess you're right. At least you did TRY to set a good example."
"Yeah, for once I guess I did."
Chris finally started laughing, and Josiah did too, when the old dilapidated wagon showed up.
"Vin! You and Nathan are just loco. How do you expect to get that on the roof?"
"We expect for you and Josiah to help us hoist it up there."
"Buck and J.D. are gonna call that cheating, my brothers."
"Not if we let you help them hoist something up there, too!"
"What could be worse than hoisting a wagon up there, Nathan?"
Buck and J.D. showed up as if on cue. "Well, if we're gonna pick, I'd say Mrs. Potter's chandelier... Think this ought to be a winner, don't you Chris!"
"How the hell did you get that, Buck?! You had to break into the store to get hold of something like that!"
"Now, Chris. It's not took, at least we asked!"
"If you asked, it don't count!"
"Vin, you didn't say we couldn't ask. You said it just had to be something we could get here and hoist up on the roof! Right J.D.?"
"That's right! She said we could have it, especially since Chris would look after it!"
Well, you know Stud, she thinks you set this whole thing off... you're always being sort of a ring leader, you know."
"And I suspect you didn't persuade her of the truth."
"Well... we just sort of let it stand."
"Anything happens to this stuff, you break one thing, you're dead! You do understand, boys! Right?"
"You know it, Stud."
"Chris, we'll be mighty careful."
"Ah, hell... why don't I believe even one of you. And how do I just KNOW I'm gonna get stuck with the blame?"
"Well, Chris, you make us do this on our own, you know, we could maybe drop something, or a rope could break, or we could just lose it... "
"Hell, Vin... come on. He's a damn lost cause tonight. Where's the rope! And somebody go find us a mule to pull."
"Brother Buck, if you partake of this, you are most certainly heading for a fall! Brother Chris, I would expect a little righteous intervention on your part."
Buck knew the preacher wasn't a saint. "Shoot, Josiah, you ain't getting out of this. You know this ain't no sin, and we ain't sinning alone... get over here. Ain't no way to stop us, might as well protect what we've taken."
"Good Lord above, I will not be a party to... "
"We don't have your back to help, we just might put something through the roof of that church, Josiah. We don't want to hurt the church." J.D. just smiled.
"That's right, Josiah... and we put a lot of work into repairing that thing. Hate to have to do it again." Nathan had helped to repair the building, so he could contribute guilt to push Josiah into doing what they wanted.
"Well, that much IS true."
The barber chair rose first for Buck and J.D., followed by the fine oak benches from in front of Virginia's Hotel, courtesy of Vin and Nathan.. Digger Dave's piano, Tiny's personally fashioned table-sized checker board, and a finely carved chess set went up next. J.D. added a frog gigger, Vin a long fishing pole. Nathan came up with one of Tiny's silver studded saddles, and somebody found some kind of metal conveyance that Chris didn't recognize. A small anvil from the blacksmith showed up somewhere in the hunt. There was Inez' cast iron pot, a fine pine casket from the Undertaker, a huge sack of flour from Bucklin's grocery, and finally, Buck added a keg of beer that he proudly snuck from under Ezra's nose
"You boys are in for serious trouble from Ezra. He's liable to break that keg over your heads."
"We'll put it all back, Chris."
"Sure you will, J.D., you little weasel! If you don't drink it all first!"
"Now, that's an idea, Chris. You'll spring for it won't ya."
"Like hell I will, J.D., and don't talk to me about what Tiny's gonna do! Have you taken a look at how big he is? Hell! Have all of you done your do now. Can we just take this stuff and put it back?"
"Hell, no, Stud. We're not through yet!"
"The wagon," Vin offered with a nod from Nathan.
"And then we've got the chandelier! I think J.D. and me's won." .
"Naw, you ain't. A big ole wagon's got to beat a little ole chandelier! Right, Chris?" Vin figured he had won fair and square.
"They're not on the roof yet... either of em. And don't look at me for ideas."
"Then let's get at it... come on Nathan. Tie on to that doubletree, and let's start pulling!"
"Vin... I'm telling ya, that things not gonna hold... it's old, it's battered... why don't we just count it and forget it?"
"I ain't gonna give up on it... it's the best loot we got, Pard."
"You're just wanting to win, Vin. And ya just ain't gonna get by with it. We've got the chandelier. You hoist that wagon, and that chandelier's heading up top too."
"Leave em both down... one each... that's fair, isn't it?" Chris hoped they would decide that the game was getting a little out of hand. "And Buck, if I can't talk some sense into you and get you to forget about hoisting that chandelier, you set it over by the steps where it ain't gonna get hurt before you tie on to it!"
"No! I want to see em both hanging high. That's what the games about, Chris!"
"Ah, hell, Buck! I said put it by the steps! Put the thing by the steps!!"
"Josiah? I've tried all I know how. You want 'em convinced, YOU lay on the fire and brimstone! Hell, nothing short of your divine intervention's gonna bring em to heel."
"Come on, Brother Chris. Let 'em have at it. Step back here with me." He pulled Chris by the arm, back across the street. "It is real interesting now, ain't it."
When he saw the roof of the church, Chris just stood there mouth open. "I'll be damned!! Hell... not you, too, Josiah. I thought I'd have one of you with a little sense left."
Josiah began to smile... a great, big Josiah Sanchez smile... a smile ripe for mischief. "Well, now, Chris... you know I'm not always known for sense. And shoot, it is Halloween!"
"Ah, hell... Josiah. I didn't think you believed in that either!"
"All hallows eve, my friend? A tradition with an ancient history, my son. Shoot, it was a day of merriment, regalement, debauchery, and much, much wine! I'd think you'd be one of the first to join the devilment, my brother. I do believe the good Lord does have a sense of humor."
"Well, Mr. Larabee. I see you've encouraged our diverse little band to participate gloriously in a night of singularly strange frivolity!" Ezra was just standing there, looking up at the church, truly admiring the insanity of it all.
"Ezra... you were the one threatening em with bodily harm... now you're in on this?"
"May as well have a bit of entertainment before the night is totally gone. Right boys?"
"Well, alright, Ez! Okay, boys. Let's get this wagon top side!"
"Ah, hell, Vin! Buck... why don't you say whoa for a change?"
"J.D. and me's been working hard, Chris. We ain't giving up now!"
"Hell, I can't fight all of you! Look, if you're gonna do this, you do it one at a time. Otherwise, something's gonna get busted. You boys bust either one of these things, I'm liable to bust you all!"
"Look at him, Vin. You'd think he was our old man."
"Ah, Chris. You know I'm just funning ya." But he winked at J.D. and Vin.
"Okay, my brothers! Let's get her done!
"Way to go, Josiah! Knew we could count on you!"
"I do believe we should begin with the wagon, gentlemen. The chandelier would appear to be a more risky endeavor. Mr. Wilmington, tie on if you will." Ezra doffed his coat, and began to roll up his sleeves.
"Ah, hell! Now I've seen everything!" Chris walked to the steps of the church, sat down, and watched.
The first indication of trouble was a small groan from the wagon. Hadn't he told them it was old? He had told them, but had they listened? Hell, no!
It wasn't that it was that old, it was just that all the wood popping made the mule balk and back up. That scraped the rope... the last piece of rope the boys could find... that old ragged piece of rope . . . across the wench they were trying to use. Old as it was, frayed as it was, the rope couldn't begin to hold the weight of that wagon.
"HOLD IT! IT'S GONNA GO!"
"Awh, Chris. Would you give it a rest? You know it ain't gonna get busted, Stud! Have yourself just a little... "
The doubletree rent almost perfectly, and the wagon began to roll down the slanted roof of the church, directly toward--
"Ah, hell!" Chris could only watch.
The little anvil went second and helped the wagon gather speed. The piano was in the way, and the anvil crashed through the wood, snaring the pedal. The barber chair joined in and hurtled through the lovely hotel benches. In themselves they weren't that heavy, but the cast iron pot was heavy enough, hung on a thin piece of rope, and, it all began to travel together. The casket was no match for the cast iron pot that plowed through the lid and out the bottom, then hit the saddle and shoved it off the thin wire J.D. had used to hold it in place, then continued on to snap the fishing pole like a chicken's neck.
It would have all stopped there, but the hand carved checker table and neatly boxed chess set, hanging on the very peak of the roof, got jostled by the first bounce of the wagon into the fancy little bicycle. How the bicycle managed to hug the pinnacle of the roof, and how the frog gigger got in the middle of it all, Chris never knew, but pushed by the table, it impaled the sack of flour, snagged the keg of beer, careened off the very front of the bell tower, and flew out over the peak of the roof.
Chris understood it was coming for him for about two seconds. He couldn't do a thing about it... . except try to move out of the way. They told him he was fast... He was NOT that fast.
Later, Chris decided it was the ghouls. It was just past midnight, and he figured all the spooks that had been watching all of this monkey business, had decided it was time to join in. Maybe it was a bunch of poltergeists... he'd read a book about them once and the sense of unrestrained depravity seemed about right. But why? Why him, when he was just sitting there, as far away from it all as he could get, minding his own business, trying so hard to be the voice of maturity and reason.
He figured fast that he was going to be flatter than a beaver hat. The wagon and all its accompanying rubbish landed with a horrendous crash in the middle of the street just to his right. At least the chandelier was still in one piece... even when the sack of flour landed just at Chris's feet and exploded in every conceivable direction. But then there was... the beer...
"Dang, Pard. How you gonna explain this?"
"ME!!! HELL, VIN!"
The street was beginning to fill. There wasn't a single, solitary laugh.
"Hell, Chris. Don't seem nobody thinks THIS is funny, Stud."
"No shit, Buck!"
"MR. LARABEE!!!!!!!!!! WHAT IN THE HELL IS ALL OF THIS?!" Orrin Travis, his boss, the champion of order and justice for the entire territory, had arrived... in his long-johns... without his hat... or boots.
"Ah, hell, Judge. Honest! I didn't have nothing to do with this!"
"MY OFFICE, MR. LARABEE!!! NOW!!!!!!"
"Hell, Stud... you've been in there all morning!" Buck stood at least two posts down from Chris Larabee, knowing if he got any closer there was going to be a early-morning dust up to beat all dust ups. His friend's face and clothes were still pasty with flour, but the heat of his temper was quickly melting it. He was facing Buck, but he was checking the saddle on the black gelding he rode. His hat was pulled tight down on his brow.
"Thousand wonders I've still got a damn job. Where's Vin snuck off to?"
Vin was sheepish, but at least he was there, with enough guts to face him. "Now, Chris. It was just fun... you're not going to do nothing stupid are you?"
"Who, ME?! I'm not the one who does stupid. I'm not the one who thought this up. I'm not the one who got my seat..." he shut up, quick.
"Hey, Pard. Chris, I'm sorry... nothing was supposed to get... " Vin started to laugh, looking a Chris's face covered with beer-and-flour batter.
"Think it's funny, do you?"
"Think I deserve this?"
"Next time you boys think anything about pulling a stupid Halloween prank, I'm gonna pay you back for last night. Hell, I'm maybe pay you back now, too. I promise... every last one of you. But for now, Tanner, I'm giving you about a two minute head start, and then I'm coming for ya! I suggest you move, Pard."
"Now, Chris... you ain't gonna do nothing stupid are ya?"
"ME? No, I'm just gonna do to you what the Judge did to me. That's all. Fair don't ya think? After all, it was your thinking that got me into this!"
Buck began to consider the situation. "I know you was in there half the morning, Stud... what did Travis say to you?"
"Come on... had to be something... you came out of there mad as a rattler, with your face red as fire. What did he say?"
"He said I was acting like a damn kid. ME! Said I put all of you up to this, that YOU'D never think of something so stupid. Like HELL!"
"Shoot, Chris. Hell, you did sorta notice he's out there in the street wearing his underwear? He's just mad." Vin started laughing again.
"Yeah, Vin... mad as hell at ME! Said I ought to act like a grown man once in a while. Said it was a damn shame I always got drunk and started something like this. Said I was way more stupid than Billy ever gets. Said there wasn't a kid in this town that'd try nothing like it... cause that much damage! Said he was a good mind to lock me up until Christmas. Hell, he's gonna make ME pay for all of it. Don't you boys bet on it! He called me A KID!! And then he said he was a good mind to make the punishment fit the crime." He'd said way too much.
"Punishment? What punishment?!"
"None of your damn business, Buck." Chris's face turned crimson.
Buck was thinking again. The more he thought, the more he grinned. "Punishment, huh?... Kid!... Kid's punishment... .you don't mean... turn around, Chris!"
"Vin, I ain't fooling... you best get on your horse, and I suggest you ride!"
"Turn around, Chris."
"Buck... leave me alone."
"Vin... let's just have a little look-see. I think the kid got his comeuppance real, real good!"
The two began to circle him. The only thing he could do was put his back to the black... and then he got the bite to his rump the horse was happy to deliver. Chris jumped, turning away from the beast, showing the now flour-missing blotches on his tight black pants. There were all too many patterns right there, right on the seat of his pants, including some neat, round holes.
"HE DUSTED YOUR BRITCHES! YOU TOOK A WHIPPING FROM ORRIN TRAVIS?!!! AND YOU TOOK IT?!! Hell, Stud. How many licks, kid?"
"BUCK! I AIN'T NO KID!!!"
"Compared to him, Pard, you're just about five."
"How many licks, Chris? Britches or plain buck naked?"
"Well, I expect there was plenty of 'em anyway. He was some mad..." Both of them began to laugh. Larabee's temper continued to boil.
"Judge still alive, there, Pard?"
"Yeah, damn lucky he didn't make me drop my drawers right in the middle of the street. Biggest damn paddle I've ever seen. You'd think that son-of-a--"
"Howdy boys... Chris... " Orrin Travis walked past them, "I believe you've got dust on your seat, Mr. Larabee. Might want to watch what kind of mess you get into, young man!"
Chris stayed extremely quiet until the man was out of earshot. "You'd think that Judge was my old man come back to haunt me."
"I asked if he was still alive, Chris. Seems he ain't in no danger from the kid."
"Judge is alive, Tanner... but you ain't for long." Chris started to mount his horse. "Awh, damn! Tanner, your britches are about to be mine!"
"Chris, Pard, I'm sorry. Now that's what I call embarrassing!" He started to laugh again.
"Not half as embarrassing as you're gonna think. Tanner, your two minutes are moving... why aren't you?"
"Now, Chris... come on..."
"Two minutes... pard." There wasn't a joke in any move the man made.
"Shoot, Chris... Now, Chris! Whoa, Chris... I wasn't trying to--"
"Ride!" The look on his face promised the hunter one hell of a payback.
"Vin... I think he's serious!"
"Sure looks like a demon from hell to me!" Vin found his horse and was gone.
"Now, Chris. You're not gonna really--"
Chris sat his horse, sitting well to the back of the saddle, protecting his much warmed cheeks. He watched Vin disappearing and grinned a grin that held pure sneakiness. He looked down at Buck, straight and hard into his eyes. "Yeah, Buck, I am... and when I get back... you're next!"
"Now, Chris... You are kidding now aren't you? I'm your friend. You know we was just having a real good time. Just a little Halloween prank there, Stud. Right? We was just bored!"
Chris just smiled, letting his eyebrows rise to mock his friend. He shifted in the saddle, tenderly adjusting his offended butt. He urged the black forward, then stopped and looked down at his friend. "See you tonight, there Buck! Then we'll just have to see, won't we." He rode a few paces forward, rubbed his cheeks again, and then he turned and smiled that hell raising smile, right at Buck. "Maybe it's a trick. Maybe it's a treat. Maybe it's just YOUR own damn seat! And Buck... you do know I've been called the gunslinger from hell more than once."
"Now, Stud. I never said nothing like that!"
"Maybe not... my FRIEND," Chris leaned down into his face and smiled his evil smile, the smile that made many a desperados leave town fast, "don't you doubt that one little bit. It's me all right! Ain't you been told? Don't you know that's why I dress in black. I'm the Devil himself, incarnate! I may be hell bent on Vin for now, but you can tell all the boys I said I'd be coming. And tell 'em all for me, they can run, but they can't hide! And one more thing... Halloween will be a whole lot better from now on if you boys just learn to enjoy being bored."