Hi everyone, just a small update. I am in the process of writing chapter 11 of "The Larabee Girl" set around the time of "Man Hunt" but suffering a setback of writers block. So whilst trying to break it - and break the stalemate I got going on between me and Ezra in "Clever as the devil" - I ended up writing this. Hope you enjoy - set in the future and as usual the Magnificent 7 don't belong to me. Much to my own disappointment.


Prologue

"Going to a young ladies aid, why JD I never thought I'd say this but your animal magnetism is something to behold,"

"Shut up Buck."

Some things never changed, Chris Larabee thought amusedly as the seven rode over the brow of the hill. Not that the well practiced hardened ex-gunslinger turned somewhat respectable ranch owner let anybody know that he was happy at this thought.

In the years that had followed his unsuccessful chase of Ella Gaines, the cold had eventually gone cold and Chris had made the most difficult decision – to begin to live again. He'd near missed out on his daughter too often. He'd worked his plot of land, with his daughter at his side and best friends, Buck and Vin. In fact, the whole seven had a hand in the business, although only Vin now lived on the ranch with Chris and Evelyn. Ezra ran the saloon and was now a respected – if still grossly misjudged as he was fond of saying – businessman. He dealt with the ranches books on the quiet for Chris, and Chris marvelled at the thought that he trusted this ex con man with his books.

"It aien't my fault Inez and Maria have you whipped," teased JD as Vin huffed out a laugh. "Wouldn't have Casey doing that?"

"No, JD Casey'd just kick your ass all the way into town," said the familiar scratchy voice of the Texan from Chris's left. "And then get your young un's to kick you all the way back."

Chris and Buck laughed at that, especially at the familiar JD pout. The boy may have grown into a fine sheriff but the boy still lingered inside him when he was teased, especially by Buck or Vin. There was still a good family unit, much to Chris's amusement. Evelyn Larabee. Billy – unofficially adopted son of Chris and official son of his fiancee Mary Travis. Buck had Maria with Inez whom he lived in town with and every Friday was the weekly ritual of a lot of Spanish being yelled and Buck being kicked out. Ezra had married a young southerner who had all too briefly lived in the area, losing her in childbirth with their only son James P. Standish, who was the resident mischief maker and all of four years old. It was a three monthly ritual that the poor boy was locked in the cells by persons unknown (Evelyn) and the keys went missing for at least forty eight hours. Casey and JD had a bustle of kids, two girls and one boy, all under the age of four and with a fifth on the way. Vin was contently unmarried, reasoning when the right woman came along then it was right. Nathan and Raine were married with three strapping boys who's favourite sport was to create concoctions – the last concoction had nearly blown them to Kingdom come.

The biggest shock was that Josiah and Maude were married. Not that they had meant to but there was this poker match and Maude had won or lost? Nobody was quite sure but they'd been married and despite Maude not being in town very often (unless on the run in JD's opinion) the arrangement worked out well.

"Now, now, gentlemen," Ezra said, raising his hand and breaking. "I believe we are observing the finest of Sunday traditions and observing the sacred chicken dumpling feast."

"Amen," said Nathan, smiling. "Chris, I believe you have a welcoming committee."

Chris looked up ahead to see a familiar figure, dressed in mens clothing and sitting on the steps of the ranch house – now double storied and feeding a wild rabbit. On hearing the horses the figure stood and waved happily.

"Hey Paw!"

His sixteen year old daughter, Evelyn Christina Larabee, how six years flew.

Yes, things were supposed to change. But some things were looking good the same as they always were.


"You know Eve, you're chicken and dumplings taste better every Sunday," said Josiah, patting his stomach in utter contentment.

Evelyn chuckled as she collected the dishes together with the idle thought to wash the dishes and then shrugged it off, until her father cocked his eyebrows at her. She sighed and smiled at him, silently promising retribution as she began to clean them off.

"She's improved since last year Chris," Ezra said, clicking his tongue as he remembered the foul chicken that had made them all sick for three days. "Yes, indeed she has."

"Next thing you know she'll be cooking for Sunday Lunch for a husband with a baby in that belly," Vin said, immediately scooting when Chris shot him the deadliest look he could. As usual the tracker merely laughed. "It's coming fast, Chris."

"She's not going to get married. I'm going to built an eight foot wall around this place-"

"And Evelyn will teach the horse to jump the fence," laughed Nathan.

"Talking of horse rustlers," interrupted JD, thanking Evelyn quickly when she handed him a cup of coffee in passing. "There's a bunch of them in the next valley."

"The Overton gang?" Evelyn asked, looking at Chris who raised an eyebrow. "Heard James Potter talking about them? Seems they steal horses, don't know what they do with them though."

"Evelyn I was saying the story –"

"And taking too long," teased Evelyn, kissing her father's cheek. "I'm going to sit on the porch for a bit."

Chris smiled at her and watched her go, whistling to herself as she walked through only pausing to wind up the grandfather clock in the hallway. Once reassured she'd truly exited, he looked at JD with that famous intense stare. "How long before they cross the mountain?"

"According to Mr Adams who I've been wiring, only a matter of days. They raped one ranch owners daughter, Chris, she was the only one home." Chris looked up at JD sharply, followed by both Buck and Josiah – the former uttering a small curse. "Your house is the first in line and I'd like it nipped in the bud before they get here. Mr Adams has suggested we meet at his cabin."

"We? An unenviable we?" groaned Ezra, frowning. "You don't mean to think we should all go?"

"Ezra, last week you complained all the week about having nothing to do. Now you have plenty," JD pointed out not unkindly.

"Let alone, that your mother is due to visit in a few days time," Josiah said, picking his nails and looking at Ezra disinterestedly.

"Now when do we leave?" Ezra said, earning amused chuckles around the table.

Just like old and present times.


"We're within a mile, think I can see a smoke stack," JD called from the front of the pack.

"You know JD, I'm gonna kick you in the ass," Chris called from the back, earning a chuckle from in between. "You been saying that the last five miles."

Chris chuckled as he listened to the kid grumble. He'd always be the kid to Chris, no matter how big a sheriff he was, or that Chris had hung up his guns and only reholstered for JD. He was reminded why when he thought of his daughters sad expression when he'd left.

"Be careful," Chris whispered, kissing his daughters head. "I'll be back in three days."

"Remember to telegraph when the jobs done," said the young woman, smiling up at him. "I'll be safe, I promise."

"See you soon little one."

Chris shook off his concerns as the group rode up to the cabin. The house looked well lived in and a piano could be heard playing outside. But something was off and he could feel it and didn't know what it was. The ride had had an edge to it. He carefully tied his horse to the hitching post, following JD up the stairs to the property.

"Mr. Adams is a sure big fan of you, Chris," said JD, as they walked up. "Said he remembered you from the battle of Vickersburg. Never mentioned that you fought there?"

"Everybody who fought that battle forgets it, JD," Chris said, with a heavy sigh. He was about to continue as he stepped through the door when JD yelped and as Chris realized he'd been punched, the feel of ice cold steel against the back of his neck and a hand dragged the gun from his holster.

"I wouldn't mister. We got the jump on you," said a grim voice from behind Chris. "And your friends out there." There were shouts but no gunshots and Chris growled. "You've gotten fat and old Larabee."

"I don't know what you think you're doing but you're making a huge mistake," Chris snapped as the one man tied his hands behind his back, gun directly beneath his ear.

"We know you don't know who we are Mr Larabee, but that aien't important… you and your little girl sure is," said the man in his ear.

Any rational thought at the mention of hurting his only living daughter went flying out of Christopher Adam Larabee's head. He span to the gunman and head butted him, sending the man to the floor. He didn't feel anyone pile on top of him or start hitting him so enraged was he.

His last conscious thought as he slid into welcome oblivion was that he really should think JD was still the naive idiot – and next chance he got he was going to kick him in the ass.