Behind him, Turkey Creek Jack Johnson could hear the endless coughs of the young dying tubercular, John Henry Holliday. The posse known as the Vendetta Ride was led by Wyatt Earp. Sherman McMasters, "Turkey Creek" Jack Johnson, "Texas" Jack Vermillion and "Doc" Holliday accompanied him. The quest of the posse was to hunt down the killers of Morgan Earp, Wyatt's younger brother. This was a search for reckoning.
Although the air was dry and hot, Holliday's ravaged lungs had gotten worse over the last few days. This was due to his lack of rest -something he utterly needed at that stage of his disease. The pain in his chest was now constant and strong. But rest was something he couldn't afford if they wanted to catch their preys.
Riding behind another horse was the last thing to do for Doc's health, for the road was all sand and dust. In front of him, Creek's horse was sending dust at the poor Doc who couldn't stop coughing, even though he was holding his hanky in front of his mouth and nose to cover them. Creek, noticing Doc's unending fit, turned around to face him. "Everything alright, there, Doc?"
Unable to speak because of the coughing, Doc simply waved his hand to reassure him. However, his strength suddenly left him and he began fainting, falling down his horse. The fall was hard, for the horses were riding fast. Doc fell on his back and the sound of it caught Creek's attention. "Doc!" he shouted as he brutally stopped his horse and dismounted at once. He kneeled next to the lying Holliday and touched his burning forehead. "Damn!" he mumbled, mad at the stubborn young man who, despite all advices, had refused to leave the posse to get some proper rest.
"Doc!" another man shouted from a short distance. Doc, barely conscious, recognized his friend Wyatt's voice, full of concern. "Doc!" Wyatt repeated as, he too, kneeled next to Doc and held the latter's head to keep it off the hard ground. "What happened?" he asked to Creek.
"He couldn't stop coughin'. And then he just fell. Reckon he must've collapsed."
"Good Christ..." Wyatt whispered.
The other members of the posse had all regrouped around Doc, observing the scene with some concern. "Is he gonna be alright, Wyatt?" Texas Jack asked.
"How the hell should I know?" was all Wyatt could answer, more worried for Doc than any other. "But I sure hope so," he added softly, looking at Doc. The sick man's face was paler than ever and his eyes were bloodshot. Some deep crimson saliva was running down his lips and Wyatt wiped it with Doc's bloodstained hanky. Don't think I've ever seen him lookin' that bad, he thought with melancholy. He put his coat under Doc's head, so the latter would have something soft to lay on. After what, he stood up and looked at the others. "I guess we'll camp here tonight, fellas. Gotta give Doc some rest. Can't move him just now." The others nodded in agreement and prepared the camp. Once they were all gathered around the camp fire, Wyatt could feel Creek's gaze on him.
"You shouldn't have made us ride that much with barely no rest, Wyatt," Creek said, his voice full of reproach.
"I knew you'd say something like that, Creek," Wyatt said, even, staring at the fire. "But I couldn't afford any delay either, now, could I? If we wanna catch them cowboys, we gotta be fast. Hell, I told Doc to go get some rest. We all did. He wouldn't let go. Too damn stubborn, that's what he is. So don't you blame me for his foolhardiness, Creek! The boy knew what he was gettin' by joinin' us." Even though Wyatt was speaking to Creek, he was more trying to convince himself. He didn't want to feel responsible for the terrible shape Doc was in.
"Yes, Wyatt, you proposed him to leave us, but did you really expect he would? Don't you understand Doc would follow you anywhere? Even in hell! And that's where he's headin' right now..."
Wyatt didn't respond, listening to the soft sound of the fire. The words of Creek had been harsh on him. "Doc ain't dyin'." Again, he was more trying to convince himself of that fact than speaking to others.
"Maybe he ain't. Not right now, but if we keep ridin' that fast with no rest, he will. Doc's always been reckless. And this time, he's here for you. It's maybe sign of affection, but the way I see it, it's suicide." Creek's voice was sad and full of reproach for the two men: he disapproved of Doc riding with such a poor health and of Wyatt so badly taking care of the very friend who had followed him and was indeed scarifying his own life for him.
Creek Johnson's way of seeing gave Wyatt a new way of looking at the situation. Was Doc scarifying the remaining days he had for Wyatt? It appeared he did, yes. Suddenly, Wyatt felt deeply disgraceful. How could he have been so oblivious of Doc?
"His my dearest friend," Wyatt said aloud, looking at the unconscious Doc Holliday. "Hell, I'd die for him..." he said softly, repressing a tear.
"Just as he will die for you," stated Creek, also staring at the sick man.
This time, Wyatt had more trouble holding back the tears. Deep inside he knew that Creek was right: Doc was there for him. After all, hadn't Doc always been there for him? The night in Dodge, where Doc had saved his life, then at the OK Corral, and at Morgan's death... Doc had always been there to back up Wyatt. In any situation. Doc would have easily given his life for Wyatt. And Wyatt would have done the same for his friend. But had he shown his gratitude enough to the young Southerner? Maybe not... And he instantly found himself regretting he hadn't had the chance to thank Holliday for being there whenever he needed him. He would remediate this, however, he thought. As soon as Doc would get better, Wyatt would thank him for everything. He even deserves to be thanked for makin' me laugh so often, Wyatt thought. Hell, he's made my life so much easier... What'd I do if he died? And then, Wyatt realized he had to correct himself. Hell, what will I do when he will die?