Disclaimer - I did not invent these characters nor do I profit from them. I just like to make up stories.

This takes place about 6 months after Gold Train: The Bullet

Dodge City 8:00 AM

Matt Dillon rode into town feeling hot and feverish. His head was pounding so hard that he vision was blurred. His back was throbbing. He gratefully turned his horse over to Moss at the stable and was about to go home to bed, but his headache was so bad that he decided to see if Doc could give him something for it. He walked heavily up the stairs, and before he had even knocked he heard Doc's voice.

"Come in Matt. Moving a little slow today, aren't you?"

Matt walked in, gave Doc a somewhat sour look and sat on the examination bed.

Doc got out his stethoscope, "You sure don't look so good."

Matt sighed, "That's why I'm here Doc."

Doc examined Matt and walked over to his medicine cabinet.

"Matt you have quite the case of fever and ague – fever, chills, headache, muscle aches. Since your back is still vulnerable, it must be throbbing pretty good right now.

"Doc, I don't need a description. Can you give me something for this headache so I can get to sleep?"

"Of course Matt, here. I want you to drink this quinine now. Then I want you to go home, drink some water and sleep for 10 or 12 hours. When you wake up mix these powders with water and drink it all."

Matt downed the bitter drink and took the envelope with the powders, "Thanks Doc." He rose and moved to the door rubbing his forehead a little.

Doc looked at him with concern, "Matt, I'll look in on you tonight."

Matt nodded, "Thanks."

He walked down the stairs and saw Kitty hurrying towards him.

Matt forced himself to straighten up, and to greet her with more vigor than he felt, "Hello Kitty."

"Matt, I need your help. It's Bess Ronniger's oldest boy, Luke. He's run away."

"Isn't Luke 18 years old, or almost?"

"Matt, he's turning 18 in a couple of days, so running away might not be the right way to say it. He left home to join up with Gideon Barker."

"Gideon Barker - Kitty that man is trouble. I've already arrested him twice for crimes I'm sure he committed. Unfortunately he was acquitted both times on technicalities. Even when he's not breaking the law he is always skirting around the edges. It's only a matter of time before he'll be in jail or maybe even hung."

"I know Matt, that's why Bess is frantic. Luke seems to look up to that Barker man for some reason. Bess says when he talks about Barker, Luke seems almost feverish with admiration. Anyway, Barker has been hanging around the Ronniger place and Bess thought she overheard Luke say he'd meet him over near Beaver Pond. She didn't know what to make of it really, but this morning Luke was gone with a horse, some of his clothes and the money he had been saving. Bess didn't say, but I have a feeling he might have taken some of her money too. Matt you've got to find him before he gets into trouble. In Barker's company he could get in a real big mess."

"All right Kitty, I'll try. I'll head out to Beaver Pond and see if I can find him or pick up his trail."

Kitty smiled appreciatively, "Thank you Matt. I'll go tell Bess."

Matt walked back to the stable and Moss was surprised to see him, "Marshal I didn't expect to see you back so soon. You don't look too good you know."

"I'm feeling better. Doc gave me something. I have to ride out, but I don't want to take Buck out again so soon. Will you get my other horse for me?"

"Sure thing Marshal."

Matt saddled up and rode out, feeling a little better as the quinine started taking effect.

After riding for a couple of hours he reached Beaver Creek. Luke and Gideon Barker were nowhere to be seen. Matt dismounted and looked around. There were a lot of tracks leading this way and that. Luckily Luke had taken the Ronniger's best saddle horse, a big roan that Matt was familiar with. It was a good mount but had a slight abnormality in one hoof so the horseshoe track was distinctive. Matt mounted once again and followed.

TBC