Sometimes People Do Get Hurt
by Susan M. M.
Rating: T+, borderline M
WARNING: DEATH FIC
Standard Fanfic Disclaimer that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law: These aren't my characters. I'm just borrowing them for, um, er, typing practice. Yeah, that's it, typing practice. Based on characters and situations from the TV show Magnificent Seven, which was loosely based on the movie Magnificent Seven, which was loosely based on the movie Seven Samurai. Also a slight borrowing from (or at least allusions to) Blazing Saddles and Evil Roy Slade. No financial profit has been made, nor will be made, from this amateur work of fiction. Originally published in the fanzine I Ain't No Doctor #4, from Neon RainBow Press.
Warning: this story focuses on racial attitudes in the 19th century, and uses vocabulary that I would not use in everyday conversation in the 21st century.
Warning: Death Fic
Sometimes People Do Get Hurt
by Susan M. M.
Huck Finn discussing a steamboat accident with Sally Phelps:
HF: "It warn't the grounding – that didn't keep us back but a little. We blowed out a cylinder head."
SP: "Good gracious! anyone hurt?"
HF: "No'm. Killed a nigger."
SP: Well, it's lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt."
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, chapter 32, Mark Twain
The seven men who guarded the town of Four Corners gathered together in the sheriff's office. It made the room a little crowded, but guaranteed their privacy.
"What's up, Chris?" JD Dunne asked. The town's sheriff was the youngest of the group, not yet shaving more than once or twice a week.
"Indeed, O Fearless Leader, I believe we are unanimous in our curiosity as to why you have summoned us so precipitously," agreed Ezra Standish.
Chris Larabee glared at the southerner. "Got a telegram from Judge Travis. There's trouble in Red Rock. He wants us to go up there and handle it."
"Red Rock? That's two or three days' hard ride from here," Buck Wilmington said.
Simultaneously, ex-slave Nathan Jackson asked, "What happened? What's wrong?"
Noting the worried tone in Nathan's voice, Josiah Sanchez asked gently, "Red Rock? Ain't that where your friend lives?"
Nathan nodded. "Ain't exactly a friend, but that's where Dr. Pierce lives, yeah."
"Johnson Gang came in to hooraw the town. Shot the sheriff, scared off his deputy, and stayed to rape and pillage," Chris explained.
"Long ride," Vin Tanner predicted. "They got any sense, they'll be long gone afore we can get there."
"From what I've heard of the Johnsons, they ain't long on sense." Buck frowned. He had a strong appreciation for the fairer sex: their soft curves, their silky hair, their sweet voices. He loved the horizontal dance between male and female, and indulged in it as often as possible. Blonde or brunette, redhead or raven-tressed, he had seldom met a woman he wasn't prepared to adore. But he'd been brought up to respect womenfolk, and he regarded rapists as the scum of the earth.
"Don't like leaving the town unguarded. Vin, JD, think you can handle things here?" Chris asked.
JD's face mirrored his confusion and mixed feelings: proud he was chosen to protect Four Corners, disappointed he couldn't ride with the others.
Vin merely raised an eyebrow. He was the group's best tracker, and would normally be expected to join a mission like this.
"Druther you stayed close to home, where folks know you and trust you," Chris told the ex-bounty hunter. "At least until we get that problem in Tascosa taken care of."
"One of these days, in our copious free time, we really must deal with that little matter, lest it grow from a minor inconvenience to a major imposition."
Vin turned and looked at Ezra. "Copious? Is that even a word, or did ya just make it up?"
Before Ezra could start an argument just for the pleasure of hearing his own melodious voice with its sesquipedalian vocabulary, Chris interrupted. "Nathan, Ez, Buck, Josiah, go pack what you need. I want to leave in half an hour, less if we can manage it."
Ezra touched two fingers to his hat in silent salute. The others nodded or murmured agreement.
When they stopped to water the horses, Buck asked, "Who's this friend of yours in Red Rock?"
"Not a friend, ain't never met him." Nathan knelt beside the brook, scooped up a handful of water, and drank. "His name's Dr. Pierce."
"Our Mr. Jackson has been corresponding with Dr. Pierce on medical matters," Ezra explained. He had assisted the healer with his spelling.
"I been asking him questions, and he's been kind enough to answer me." Nathan added, "Of course, sometimes I gotta write back and ask him to explain his explanations. But he's been teaching me a lot."
"Might mean pushing on past dark, but you boys up to riding all the way to San Felipe?" Chris asked.
"I knew it!" Ezra slapped his knee. "When Mr. Tanner is not present to set an example for roughing it, you are just as desirous of a soft bed and a roof overhead as anyone else."
Chris lifted one corn-yellow eyebrow. Hazel-green eyes shot a look that could have opened an oyster at twenty paces.
"He means if Vin ain't here, then—" Buck began.
"I know what he means," Chris growled. "I've slept 'neath the stars more times than you've drawn to an inside straight. I want to spend the night in San Felipe so I can telegraph the judge, see if he's got any more news for us."
Josiah nodded approvingly. "Makes sense."
"Eminently practical." Ezra's green eyes twinkled mischievously. "And far more comfortable."
"Red Rock." Mounted atop his big black gelding, Chris pointed to the town in the distance. "You boys know what to do?"
"Split up. Ride into town one by one," Josiah answered for them all. "Meet at the white house with the green shutters. Ask for a man named Caldwell."
"Avoid trouble," Chris ordered them, "leastwise 'til we're ready to give them trouble. Let's ride."
One by one, they urged their horses forward.
Josiah tapped gently on the back door, then opened it and slipped inside. A woman in her mid-thirties stood at the sink, washing dishes. She turned at the sight of him, startled, and dropped a china plate. It shattered on the floor.
"Pl-please, please, don't hurt me," she begged.
"Sorry to startle you, ma'am," Josiah apologized. "I did knock."
A blond man limped into the kitchen, leaning heavily on a cane. "Hannah, are you all right?"
"Oh, Clarence," she whimpered.
"Your name Caldwell?" Josiah asked.
"O Lord God, to Whom vengeance belongs, how long shall the wicked triumph?" Josiah misquoted. "My name's Josiah Sanchez. Judge Travis sent me and my friends to do the Lord's work."
"Thank Heaven!" He extended his hand. "Clarence Caldwell, but just call me Gimpy, everyone does."
"You're— you're not one of them?" Hannah Caldwell asked.
"No, ma'am," the ex-preacher assured her.
When Chris and Buck arrived an hour later, Gimpy Caldwell began again the story he'd told, or tried to tell, three times already. "They came five days ago. They were wild, but we thought that's all it was – wildness. Figured they'd get drunk, shoot off their pistols just to hear 'em go bang, go, um…" He glanced at his wife. "…tom-catting, then ride off once they recovered from the hangovers."
"But they didn't?" Buck asked.
"That's all they did the first day. The second day, we hoped they'd ride on, but it was more of the same, and some petty vandalism – windows broken and such – a barroom brawl or two. Except when the, uh, 'soiled doves' asked to be paid, the Johnsons just laughed at them and had their way with them anyway." Caldwell lowered his voice. "And then they passed 'em around, like a kid sharing a bag of lemon drops with his friends. Betty Carpenter, she complained to the sheriff. He went to see 'em, him and his deputy, and the Johnsons shot 'em both. Killed the sheriff, wounded the deputy."
"Hurt bad?" Nathan asked.
Caldwell shook his head. "Just a graze, but they scared him so bad he wet his pants, mounted up, and rode out of town without waiting to change into dry trousers."
"Clarence!" Hannah protested.
"Sorry, dear," he apologized to his wife for speaking of such unseemly things in her presence. He waved his hand at his cane, leaning against the wall. "They didn't think I was a threat to them, me being lame and all, so they didn't pay much attention to me. I managed to get a telegram out to the circuit judge."
"How many Johnsons?" Chris asked.
"An even dozen," Caldwell replied.
"Outnumbered two to one, plus a fraction," Ezra observed.
"Yeah, but that's man to man. Brain to brain, we got them outnumbered," Buck countered.
Ezra nodded; he was a firm believer in brains over brawn.
"What've they been up to in the past day or two?" Chris asked.
"They haven't paid one red cent for anything they've taken, not food or booze or, uh, companionship. And they've started leaving the working girls alone and started going after the decent women in town."
Buck frowned. Chris glanced at his old friend, waiting to see if he'd react to the implication that the rape of a prostitute was a less serious offence than the rape of "decent women."
"They shoot buildings and animals just because they can, and no one dares stop them," Caldwell continued.
"Why not?" Nathan asked. He remembered the day, a year and a half ago, when no one in Four Corners had dared to step forward, but had watched him be dragged off to be lynched by the friend of a patient he'd lost. The shopkeepers he'd bought from, the townspeople he'd healed, just stood there and watched. If Chris and Vin hadn't decided to stop the bastard, he'd be dead and buried now.
"A few tried. They got shot up, too. Two dead, three wounded," Caldwell explained. "No one else has dared lift a hand or say anything since then."
"You dared," Josiah reminded him.
Caldwell shook his head. "I was too scared. Afraid if I said or did anything to them, that they'd hurt Hannah."
"You sent Judge Travis three telegrams, and risked your life sending each one," Ezra acknowledged. "That is hardly the mark of a coward. And, trust me, I know a thing or two about cowardice. Without your actions, we would have been unaware of the Johnsons' activities."
"But I didn't—"
"You did more than you're giving yourself credit for, Brother Caldwell," Josiah told him. He quoted Joshua 1:9. "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed, for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."
"Two to one odds," Chris thought a moment. "Let's go whittle 'em down to size."