Sometimes People Do Get Hurt
by Susan M. M.
Rating: T+, borderline M
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
Their first stop was a whorehouse. Chris politely greeted the madam and told her what he had in mind. She smiled enthusiastically and agreed instantly.
"My name's Jane Campbell," she whispered as she led them upstairs. She opened the door to room two.
A man and a woman were naked in the bed. The woman's face was covered with tears and bruises. The man looked up at the interruption and started swearing.
"Oughtn't use language like that in front of a lady," Chris admonished him. His pistol was drawn and pointed at the naked Johnson brother. So was Buck's. So was Ezra's.
"Ma'am, you might want to put some clothes on so's you don't catch a chill," Buck advised her.
"Ezra," Chris spoke his colleague's name. The gambler holstered his gun, pulled a silk handkerchief out of his pocket, and approached the naked man. As Chris and Buck kept him covered, Ezra first gagged Isaiah Johnson, then handcuffed his arms behind his back.
"Olivia, you got the rest of the day off," Jane told her.
"Thanks, Miss Jane." She glared at the man who'd been having his way with her mere moments before. She reached for the thin negligee she kept beside the bed, slipped it on, then punched him in his stomach as hard as she could.
"If this works with the other two," Jane promised, "you come back when it's all over and it's on the house."
"If all your ladies are as pretty as you and Miss Olivia here," Buck replied gallantly, "we'd be happy to take you up on the offer.
"Josiah, Nathan," Chris called softly. The two men who'd been waiting anxiously in the hall came in. "Keep an eye on him, and we'll go get the others."
Olivia shook her head. "Just leave me a gun and I'll guard him. That fellow in with Cindy Lou is mean. You might need everybody to take him down."
Chris thought a second, then nodded. "Ezra, give her your derringer."
Ezra removed the small pistol from his sleeve and handed it to Olivia. Josiah and Buck tore up the sheets and tied him to the chair.
Ten minutes later, they had the other two – a Johnson cousin and a henchman. Olivia gave Ezra his gun back. He thanked her for her patience in not shooting Isaiah Johnson until after they had captured the other two, lest the sound of the gunshot warn them. He tried not to think about where she'd shot Isaiah. Wounds to that area, even to an unrepentant villain, made any male queasy.
Three of the Johnson Gang were captured at Jane Campbell's brothel. Another was captured – without bloodshed – coming out of the outhouse behind the saloon. Getting the two at the blacksmith's was a little messier.
The blacksmith's ten-year-old son cradled his dying dog in his lap. Tears flowed down his cheek, but he knew better than to say anything to the man who'd shot his dog. He knew he could be next, or his father.
Dan'l Johnson took another slug of whiskey from the bottle he'd stolen from the saloon, then laughed. "A Black blacksmith! And named Smith! If that don't beat all."
"Funnier than a dog on ice skates on a pond with thin ice," his cousin Pete Johnson agreed.
Jacob Smith said nothing, but continued hammering new shoes onto the stolen horse. It hadn't been funny the first three times Dan'l had laughed over the synchronicity between his race, his name, and his occupation. It wasn't funny now. But with his son's dog whimpering in pain, he didn't dare say a word; better for the boy to bury his dog than for him to bury his son. On the plantation, his job had given him respect and status. It was only natural that he should take his job for his new name when he went west. That, and the fact he would rather have taken 'Stinkbug' for his surname than use his former owner's name.
"Ain't you done yet, blacksmith? Black Smith." Dan'l Johnson chortled at his own cleverness. He held the bottle in one hand, his pistol in the other. "I want my new horse ready to ride."
"Three hooves done, one left." Jacob forced himself to add, "Sir." He hadn't meant it on the plantation. He didn't mean it now. But if that single syllable would keep his son alive, he'd say it, no matter how much it soured his tongue.
A fourteen-year-old girl came into the smithy. "Pa, Ma wants to know—" She stopped short when she saw Dan'l and Pete Johnson.
"You ain't half bad looking, for a colored girl. Come here, darling," Dan'l gestured her closer, spilling some of the whiskey as he did so.
"Naomi, get to the house," Jacob ordered.
Dan'l shot his pistol once, missing the stolen horse by mere inches. It reared in terror, and Jacob tried to calm the gelding down. Naomi Smith didn't move. She was too scared to run.
"I told her to come here, blacksmith." Dan'l set his bottle down on the top of a barrel. "Always wondered if it was true what they said about colored girls." He reached out for her.
Naomi took a fearful step back.
"I give an order, I 'spect it to be obeyed," Dan'l said.
Pete grabbed a riding crop and stepped toward her. "He said c'mere, girly. You don't need to play hard to get, not unless you want a taste of this." He twirled the riding crop in his hand. "Or maybe you like it rough."
"No man's gonna whip my baby," Jacob whispered. He stepped forward, his tongs ready to do more than hold a horseshoe.
A knife flew. It struck Dan'l in the right shoulder. He fell back, and his finger tightened on his pistol's trigger as he fell. The bullet ricocheted against an iron skillet that hung on the wall, and crisscrossed the smithy. Naomi dropped to the floor, covering her head with her hands. Her brother threw himself over his dog, trying to protect it.
Pete whirled to see who had thrown the knife. He started to draw his pistol, but a bullet pierced his arm before the gun cleared the holster.
Another knife flew. This one landed in Dan'l's throat. Blood gurgled out of his mouth as he breathed his last.
"Keep quiet, and you just might avoid the Lord's judgment on your miserable soul for another day or two," Josiah told him. His left hand held his own pistol, and his aim was steady – pointed right at Pete's face.
"Y'all all right?" Nathan asked.
Naomi scrambled to her feet and ran to her father's arms.
"You all right, baby?" Jacob asked. He hugged her, then looked up to see two strangers standing there. "Who are you?"
"If a man find a damsel, and force her, that man shall die," Josiah quoted Deuteronomy. "Glad we got here before that feller had a chance to do more than scare you, miss."
"We're friends," Nathan told him. He glanced down at the dog. "Sorry we couldn't get here sooner."
Chris and Buck hurried up to the smithy. "Thought I told you to be quiet, whole town prob'ly heard that."
"Didn't have a choice." Nathan gestured at the Smiths.
Buck glanced at Naomi and guessed what had happened. He touched his hat. "You hurt, young lady?"
Naomi shook her head.
Pete swore. "You don't know who you're dealing with."
"Mind your language in front of the young'uns," Josiah admonished. "Or I'll shoot you again."
"Blacksmith, you got any chains we can use on this bas— uh, fellow?" Chris corrected himself.
Jacob smiled for the first time since the Johnsons had ridden into town. "Reckon I can fix something up."
Chris looked Jacob in the eye. "You and your family best get inside, and stay there. This is bound to attract attention. Josiah, Nathan, get the body out of here. We don't need trouble coming back to these folks."
"Nope," Buck agreed. "Trouble is our job."
"Where the Hell are they?" Mike Johnson demanded. Three of his cousins, one of his brothers, and two hired hands were missing. The others assured him that they were either out tom-catting, or else sleeping off the whiskey they'd drunk, but Mike knew it was more than that.
He had sent four of his men out to look for their missing kinfolk and henchmen. An hour later, only two of them had come back.
"All right, somebody's got a serious case of stupid," Mike Johnson shouted. He stood in the middle of Main Street. He had one hand on Elvira Littleton's shoulder and his gun pointed at her head. "If you don't come out here, right now, I'm gonna shoot this woman."
Two of his cousins stood behind him. The other two remaining members of his gang were nearby, but out of sight.
"What's he expect us to do, line up on one side of the street while they line up on the other side, like in some dime novel?" Chris asked. He had too much integrity to shoot anyone in the back, but he wasn't stupid enough to stand in the street and trade bullets with an opponent, either. When he fought, he made sure he had decent cover.
"Perhaps Mr. Johnson is a devoté of Jock Steele," Ezra suggested.
"Doubt he can read," Buck replied. "How we gonna get her out of the way, Chris? Don't want her hurt, but I ain't in a surrendering mood."
"I ain't kidding. You come out here and face me right now, or the pretty lady gets it," Mike roared.
"There's one way to get a hostage away, but it ain't pretty. Ezra, your aim sure enough to make the shot?" Chris asked.
The southerner thought a moment, then nodded.
"Nathan, 'Siah, Ez, you back us up, but stay under cover. Buck, you're with me." Chris removed his gun from the holster and stepped forward.
"Lucky me," Buck muttered. He rose and followed Chris into the street.
"Let the woman go, Johnson," Chris ordered.
Mike just jabbed the gun in her face harder. "Just who do you think you are? Don't you know who I am?"
"Yep, you're a coward who hides behind a woman's skirts."
"Coward?! Why, you lily-livered son of a bitch, I'll—" Mike began.
Buck interrupted. "There's a lady present. You ought to watch your language." His gun was out and ready. His hands and eyes were steady.
"Let her go, Johnson," Chris repeated.
"Been eating meat, have you? Who the Hell do you think you are?"
"Name's Chris Larabee. Maybe you've heard of me."
The gun in Johnson's hand quivered just a little. Mike Johnson had heard of Chris Larabee, and he knew the blond gunslinger wasn't a man to trifle with.
"We ain't scared of you," Lemuel Johnson called out from behind his brother.
"That's a mistake," Chris told him. "You ought to be."
A shot rang out. Mrs. Littleton screamed as the bullet pierced her leg. Unable to put all her weight on the injured limb, she wobbled. Mike was so surprised he loosened his hold on her.
Nathan and Josiah dashed into the street. Josiah didn't bother to aim, just shot quick bursts of covering fire. Nathan grabbed Mrs. Littleton and half-pulled, half-dragged her across the street. The Johnsons began firing: at Nathan, at Chris, at Buck. Once Mrs. Littleton was out of the way, Chris and Buck opened fire.
Josiah and Nathan pulled her behind a rain barrel. "You're gonna be all right, ma'am. Just let me get that leg bandaged."
"Maybe we'd best bandage you first, Brother Nathan." Josiah looked at the flow of blood staining Nathan's sleeve.
"Ladies first." Nathan tore a strip of cloth off her petticoat. "Don't mean to get fresh, ma'am, but I gotta bandage that leg of yours."
Elvira Littleton was too scared to say yes or no. Wide-eyed, she watched as he laid his dark hand where only her husband's hand had dared touch her before.
"Josiah, if you c-could help me with my bandaging, I'd be grateful. Don't feel s-so good," Nathan confessed.
"Don't look so good, Brother." The ex-preacher laid down his pistol so he could tend Nathan's wound. "Think it's time you got to meet your friend, Dr. Pierce."
The scent of gunpowder lay heavy on the air. The noise, like rainless thunder, stopped. By the time Josiah had finished putting a homemade tourniquet around Nathan's arm, the gunfire had stopped.
Ezra commandeered several of the townsfolk into carrying the bodies to the undertaker's. Chris and Buck, along with a few more townspeople, helped the wounded to Dr. Pierce's home. Ezra joined them there presently, to have a minor flesh wound tended to.
Then they waited. And waited.
"What's taking so long?" Chris growled.
"Nathan and that lady ain't the only ones hurt," Buck reminded him. "The doc's got to patch up the Johnsons we didn't kill, too."
"Not much point in fixing 'em up. They're headed for the gallows." Chris paced another moment or two, then announced, "I'm going outside for a smoke."
Buck nodded. Maybe the tobacco would calm Chris down.
Chris stepped into the backyard. He lit a cheroot. Mrs. Pierce had made it very clear that she would have no smoking in her home, thank you very much. He drew in a puff, then choked. It wasn't the tobacco. It was what he saw laying next to the woodpile.
Or rather, who he saw.
Chris knelt down beside his friend. He held his hand above Nathan's face, but he already knew he wouldn't feel any breath. He'd killed enough men that he knew a dead body when he saw it.
He tossed his cheroot to the ground and stormed back into the house, swearing to make a sailor blush.
"What's wrong?" Buck asked, seeing the fury in Chris' hazel-green eyes.
"Is he all right?" Buck asked.
"He's dead. Lying next to the woodpile, like trash to be thrown out," Chris snarled.
Ezra and Dr. Pierce came out of the doctor's surgery just then. Ezra had his left arm in a sling.
"What's all this ruckus? I have patients resting; they need quiet," Dr. Pierce began.
"Wasn't the man out back one of your patients?" Chris demanded.
"What man out back?" the doctor asked.
"The one lying dead in your backyard. Doesn't look like he was even tended to, or didn't they teach you in medical school that a tourniquet got to be loosened in fifteen minutes?"
Josiah came in from the kitchen, a cup of coffee in his hand.
"Oh, the darky. I was afraid he might not make it."
Josiah's coffee cup fell to the floor. It shattered to pieces, spilling hot coffee all over Mrs. Pierce's clean floor.
"Did you even try?" Chris demanded.
"I was going to check on him, once I had attended to the white patients. Naturally, Mrs. Pierce wouldn't let him wait in the house," the doctor explained.
"Naturally," Ezra echoed softly.
"Mr. Laramie, the day I—"
"Larabee," he corrected.
"Mr. Larabee, the day I left home to attend medical school, my grandfather gave me two rules which I have never forgotten. Rule One is that you can't save every patient. And Rule Two is that you can't change Rule One." Dr. Pierce sighed. "Probably better in the long run. Bleeding to death is an easier end than hanging, and his sort don't do well in prison."
"He weren't one of the Johnsons," Buck informed the doctor.
"He was one of us," Ezra said, his voice barely above a whisper. His southern accent was stronger than usual.
Dr. Pierce glanced at Ezra. "I didn't realize you'd brought your manservant with you. Amazing loyalty some of these darkies have, even after the war."
"Indeed, sir, loyalty was his most sterling character, surpassed only by the size of his heart," Ezra confirmed. "But he was no man's servant."
"No one's servant but Christ's," Josiah added.
"I'm sorry for your loss, but I only have two hands." Dr. Pierce shrugged. "Did you say the circuit judge had sent you from Four Corners to deal with these ruffians? I have an acquaintance in Four Corners, a young man attempting to learn medicine. Perhaps you know him? Nathan Jackson."
"We know him, all right," Chris replied. "He's the man lying dead in your backyard."
Author's Note: Dedicated to the memory of Dr. Charles Drew, 1904 - 1950. May he be remembered in the other eleven months, and not just in February.