Myristica's Page

"To Soar Above The Clouds" (Gen) Part 4

What others are saying about Myristica's work...
"The Harp & Sword Chronicles"
"The Devil And Davy Jones" Monkees Slash Mike/Davy Part I By Myristica
"The Devil And Davy Jones" Monkees Slash Mike/Davy Part 2 (Conclusion) By Myristica
Magnificent Seven Fiction (Chris/Vin)
"Poet's Heart" (Gen)
"To Soar Above The Clouds" (Gen) Part 1
"To Soar Above The Coulds" (Gen) Part 2
"To Soar Above The Clouds" (Gen) Part 3
"To Soar Above The Clouds" (Gen) Part 4
"To Soar Above The Clouds" (Gen) Conclusion
"A Face To The Reason" Prologue (Slash - Chris/Vin, Buck/Ezra)
"A Face To The Reason" Parts 1-2 (Slash C/V and B/E)
"A Face To The Reason" Parts 3-4 (Slash C/V and B/E)
"A Face To The Reason" Parts 5-6 (Slash C/V and B/E)
"A Face To The Reason" Parts 7-8 (Slash C/V and B/E)
"A Face To The Reason" Parts 9-11 (Slash C/V and B/E)
"A Face To The Reason" Parts 12-13 (Slash C/V and B/E)
"A Face To The Reason" Parts 14-16 (Slash C/V and B/E)
"A Face To The Reason" Parts 17-19 (Slash C/V and B/E)
"A Face To The Reason" Parts 20-22 (Slash C/V and B/E)
"A Face To The Reason" Epilogue (Slash C/V and B/E)

Enter subhead content here

"To Soar Above The Clouds"

By: Myristica


Part 4


Vin sat in the front row chair, leaning forward, intent on catching every word from the player's mouths. 


Chris leaned back in his chair beside Vin and rested his arms on the backs of the chairs to his sides.  Ezra sat beside Vin and Nathan sat beside Chris.  They were engrossed as 'The Scottish Play' was performed in front of them.


When Marcus took center stage and performed the Dagger of the Mind speech, JD, Buck and Josiah watched from the side of the stage.  JD's eyes were wide with wonder.  Buck grinned down at him.  The youth was star struck; there was no denying it. 


At the end of the speech, Marcus bowed, signaling the end of the performance and those sitting stood with loud applause and cheers.  JD ran out and took Marcus' hand, shaking it enthusiastically.  "That was...that was"


"Spectacular?" Josiah assisted.


"Yes!" JD said.  "That was spectacular!"


"What the hell do you think you're doing?"  The enraged voice forced them all to stop their applause.  They turned to see Hathaway standing there in the aisle, his hands on his hips and a very angry scowl on his face.  "Teddy, you have no right to be on that stage doing what you're doing.  You were hired to set up the stage. I suggest you stop this farce and get on with your job!"


Marcus frowned.  His shoulders sagged.  He gestured to the men surrounding him.  "I'm sorry, Mister Hathaway.  These gentlemen just wanted to see me perform."


"Yes, sir," JD spoke up with determination.  "We did."


"Well, Gentlemen, I'm afraid I must ask you all to leave.  Teddy has work to do.  The stage cannot dress itself."  The look in Hathaway's eyes was none too pleased.


Vin approached him.  "Mister Hathaway, we're the ones who distracted Marcus.  If'n ya' permit, we can help him with the stage."


Hathaway glared at him with slit eyes.  "Mister Tanner, is it?"


Vin nodded.  "That's right."


Hathaway studied him, none too kindly.  "Ah, so you're the one who's been pulling my stage manager away from his duties.  I admire your poetic talent, Mister Tanner, but not enough to see you interfere with the duties of my people.  Marcus knows his responsibilities and performing is not part of his job."  He looked over at the actor, anger in his gaze.  "I suggest you get to work immediately, Teddy, or I will assign a new stage manager to this troupe."


"Now wait just a damn minute!"  Vin stepped up closer to Hathaway.  "Ya' can't speak to him like that.  He ain't done nothin' wrong fer ya' to treat him..."


"Vin," Marcus called out.  "Let it go.  He is, after all, my boss."


"Yes, Teddy.  I am your boss," Hathaway said, looking back to him, a forced smile on his face.  "You can perform all you want, but not on this stage, and not on my time.  Get to work."  Hathaway turned and headed back toward the exit.


Vin started to storm off after him.  "It's our fault!  Ya' want to yell at someone, yell at us!"


Chris reached out and took Vin's arm.  "Calm down, Vin."


Vin looked at Chris, anger filling his eyes.  "He can't treat Marcus like that."


"Yes, he can, Vin.  Unfortunately, being Marcus' boss allows him the right to reprimand."


"Maybe so, but intentionally humiliatin' him?  In front of us?"


Marcus had by this time left the stage and approached them.  "Vin, I appreciate your concern, but Mister Hathaway is right.  I need to be doing my job in preparing the stage for tonight's performance.  Now, I am ever grateful to you all for giving me another chance to perform on stage, but the curtain has fallen and it is time for me to get on with my life, such as it is."


"We'll help you, Marcus," JD said.  "Hathaway didn't exactly say we couldn't."


"That's right.  Most of us are pretty good with hammers and nails and such," Josiah said.  "Just tell us what to do."


"Right," Vin said.  "We'll have this stage lookin' so purty, Hathaway will have to give ya' a raise."


Marcus looked at each of the men with astonishment.  "I can't take you all away from your duties."


"Eight pairs of hands, Mister Marcus, as opposed to one...why, I believe we will have this stage set to rights within an hours time...two at the most," Ezra said.


"You're volunteering to help with physical labor, Ez?" Nathan asked with a snicker.  "Never thought I'd see the day."


"Mister Jackson, it's the least I can do after that wonderful performance Mister Marcus bestowed upon us."


"Man's got a point," Chris said to Marcus.  "Consider our help compensation for the entertainment."


"Well, now, I must say I never expected such generosity."  Marcus nodded with resolve.  "Very well, then.  Let's get to work.  JD, if you and Vin will go back stage, there are toolboxes that need to be brought forward.  Mister Sanchez, if you and Mister Wilmington will follow me I can show you what lumber needs to be carried out."  He turned to Chris, Ezra and Nathan.  "I can show you three what other supplies need to be brought out, paint, paint brushes, that type of thing."


"Let's get to it," Vin said, and they all set to work.




The work did in fact take only ninety minutes.  Harding had brought the supplies as promised and the craftsman and art skills of all involved were put to use.  The stage was ready by the time Hathaway returned.

The owner of the troupe inspected the stage with a bewildered expression.  "Everything is just the way it should be.  I must say, Teddy, I'm surprised."


"In all honesty, Mister Hathaway, it was these seven men who assisted me."


Hathaway looked at all of the men.  His smile was forced again.  Chris and Vin exchanged looks.  Watching people for as long as they had, they learned to read body language well.  Hathaway was furious and he was trying to hide it under false politeness.  "You did?"


"That's right," Buck said.  "Since we got him in trouble it was only fitting we get him out of it."


"I see.  Very...honorable of you men."  The tension did not ease from Hathaway's body.  His jaw was clenched.  Vin and Chris squared their shoulders.


JD watched the two and knew something wasn't right.  They only stood like that when trouble was going to come down.  He exchanged glances with Buck who nodded once to him.  The scoundrel had noticed the chill drop in the atmosphere as well. 


Josiah was all ready standing his ground, his arms crossed in front of him.  Ezra was leaning against the edge of the stage floor, casually flicking away lint from his red jacket with his right hand.  Nathan was standing beside him and shook his head with disbelief.  Hathaway, though being involved with actors, did not seem able to control his emotions to the point of believability. 


"Honor ain't got nothin' to do with it, Mister Hathaway," Vin said, in his quite and calm voice.  "It was pure gratitude for Marcus sharin' his talent with us."


"That's right," JD said, stepping forward.  "And if you ask me you should put Marcus back on stage."


Hathaway managed a strained smile at the youth.  "Mister Dunne, I assure you, you have not the slightest clue as to how the acting business works."


"Sure we do," Buck said, leaning back against the stage next to Ezra and folding his arms over his chest.  The look he gave Hathaway reminded JD of the look Buck had given him the day he had entered the Seminole village, the day he had first met the rest of the Seven.  A look of wisdom graced with a smile.  "You depend on appearances and physical beauty to bedazzle and mesmerize the audience so that they'll pay more money to see more shows.  After all, we all like to look at pretty things and handsome settings.  But when was the last time we all looked under the surface to find the diamond in a chunk of coal?"


Hathaway looked as if he was trying hard to control his temper.  "Mister Wilmington, the stage is a place of beauty because the world is in a perpetual state of ugliness.  People come here to escape that ugliness and to feast their eyes on what is desired in their lives.  On the stage that desire becomes tangible."


"Tangible?" Chris said.  "You see a false display and call it tangible?"


"Well maybe not in a literal sense, Mister Larabee, but the effect is enough to see people through another day of mundane tasks and reality."


"And what about the beauty of the heart?" Vin asked.  "That to me sounds a more real substance than your false and ugly tangible one."


"And what would you know of ugliness, Mister Tanner?  You with the face of Adonis."


Vin tensed.  He clenched his hands into fists.  Chris stepped forward, knowing exactly what was going through his friend's mind.  He touched Vin's arm to calm him, but Vin jerked away.  He glared at Hathaway and snarled through his teeth.  "No words can reach you, Hathaway, 'cause ya' don't know how to listen."  He turned and stormed off to the back of the stage.  The sound of a door opening and closing with a crash caused Marcus to close his eyes in sorrow.   


Chris turned on Hathaway his eyes glaring with rage.  "Now I know why I don't like you, Hathaway.  For your information that man has lived through more ugliness than you will ever allow yourself to see.  Yet he still can see the beauty of a sunset.  He can breathe in the air around him and savor every scent of the flowers and trees.  He can look at a man with scars," he pointed to Marcus, "and see beyond the surface to the heart beneath.  He is more an expert on beauty than you will ever be.  Not because his face is beautiful, but because he can see past what you call ugly.  Marcus may have a disfigured face, but your heart is withered and dried up, while his is still pure and alive!"  Chris jabbed his finger into Hathaway's shoulder and pushed him out of the way as he turned and headed after Vin. 


Everyone just stared after him, their mouths dropping to the floor.  "I have never heard Chris speak so much in one sitting in the entire time I've known him," Buck said with awe. 


"That's because he had something to say," Josiah said.




When Chris reached the outside he found Vin leaning his shoulder against the corner of the building gazing out past the alley into the main street of town.  The blond man approached him and rested a hand on his shoulder.  "You all right?"


Vin sighed, shaking his head.  "I just don't understand people, sometimes, Chris."


"Oh, I don't know about that.  Seems to me you have Hathaway pretty much pegged."


Vin allowed a snicker.  "Yeah, but what I don't understand...why can't people just accept people for who they are?  Seems to me lots of people turn mean to each other because no one bothers to take the time to accept ' get to know 'em."


Chris squeezed his shoulder.  "And it seems to me it'll be people like you and Marcus to teach us how to do that, Vin."


Vin looked down for a moment, kicking the ground with the toe of his boot.  "Maybe.  But why do people have to be taught that at all?"


Chris shrugged.  "Because...they're ignorant and prideful, Vin.  That's what it all boils down to."


Vin allowed a shrug himself.  "Reckon."


A silence formed between the two friends and Vin looked down.  "I want to apologize fer what happened on the street earlier."


Chris kept his hand on Vin's shoulder, knowing the physical contact was necessary at that moment.  "You were thinking of Calder, weren't you?" he asked, softly.


Vin nodded.  "I saw that guy whippin' Marcus and I just had to stop him."


Chris sighed.  "I kinda figured that was the reason.  You couldn't stop Calder from whipping you, but you could stop Marcus from being hurt."


Vin shut his eyes.  "I don't know why I went off so violently, though."


"Bad memories come at us in different ways, Vin.  I've gone off a time or two, myself.  I don't have to tell you that.  You've seen it."


Vin lifted his gaze, but did not look at Chris.  He nodded.  "If ya' hadn't been there today..." he let the thought trail off.


Chris squeezed his shoulder one more time and then removed it.  "Don't think about it anymore, Pard.  Try to let it go."


Vin did not reply.  Chris knew, though, that the advice would go unheeded.  Vin wasn't the type to react violently like that and not be haunted by his actions.  The blond man just hoped that Vin would know he had friends who understood.  "Why don't you take the day off?  Take Marcus and leave town for awhile.  His work's done for the day, and the rest of us can cover for you on patrol."


Vin nodded.  "I could stand to get away for a few hours."


Chris clapped Vin on the back and headed on down the alley toward the street.  Vin sighed, then wondered...did Marcus have a horse?  Or even still...did the man know how to ride?




Hathaway straightened his tie after Chris had left and had the decency to look mollified.  "Well, if you all will excuse me...I have tickets to sell."  He turned and started heading down the isle toward the front of the meeting hall, when JD stopped him. 


The youth reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of money.  "Here's your damn contest money, Mister Hathaway, minus the money I used to buy drinks last night.  I don't care anymore that you chose me to win.  And I won't be there at the play tonight to perform the piece that helped me win.  If acting is this cold and ruthless and empty...then it's nothing I want to be a part of."  JD turned and headed back to the others. 


Buck wrapped an arm around JD's shoulders and pulled him tightly to his side.  A smile of pride beamed from his face.  "Well done, Kid.  Well done."


"I concur, Mister Dunne.  A most excellent speech," Ezra said.


Hathaway gazed at all of them with bewilderment.  Shaking his head in disgust he pocketed the crumpled wad of bills and headed out of the auditorium.


Marcus sighed heavily.  "I can't help but feel responsible for all this.  I'm terribly sorry for any hostility that..."


"Mister Marcus," Josiah said.  "You have nothing to apologize for.  The truth, once spoken, can sometimes be hard to look at, for many times it does's ugliness."


"If anyone's at fault it's me," JD said.  "I shouldn't have butted my nose in where it didn't belong, telling Hathaway to put you back on stage.  I apologize, Mister Marcus."


"JD, did you speak those words from your heart?" Marcus asked.


"Yes, sir.  I did."


"Then as far as I'm concerned I thank you from the bottom of mine and there is nothing to apologize for.  I thank you all for everything you have done for me today."  Marcus lowered his head and walked backstage.


The rest of the seven looked at each other.  "Gentlemen, I believe we have duties of our own to perform.  Mister Tanner and Mister Marcus will work this out between themselves.  With some assistance from Mister Larabee, I presume."


"Perhaps I can assist as well, Ezra," Josiah said as he headed to the back of the meeting hall, following after Chris and Vin.


JD looked at Buck.  "Where's he goin'?"


"Never you mind.  I think Judge Travis has some paper work for you to do, doesn't he?"


"Yeah, but..." JD pointed back stage.


"But, but, but, but nothing.  Come on, Kid.  Let's get on with the... 'UGLINESS OF LIFE OUTSIDE THE STAGE'!" Buck spoke out loud, hoping Hathaway would hear the mocking tone.


"Mister Wilmington, really, how uncouth.  We are treading on the sacred ground of act-tors," Ezra dramatized as they passed Hathaway in the foyer. 


Nathan and JD snickered as they passed the troupe leader.  Then JD straightened and slugged Buck in the arm.  "Sometimes, Buck, I swear you're just an over grown kid."


"Takes one to know one," Buck said swiping his hand over JD's head, stealing his hat and running down the street.


"Buck!  Buck!  You give that back!"


Ezra and Nathan laughed as JD ran down the street after Buck.




Josiah met Vin coming in through the back door of the hall and the preacher looked at him with worry.  "Are you all right, Brother Vin?"


"Yeah, Josiah.  Chris suggested Marcus and I take a ride out of town, sort of get away and all.  I was on my way to ask Marcus if he owned a horse."


Josiah put his arm around Vin's shoulders.  "Let's ask him together, and if he doesn't he is more than welcome to borrow mine."


Vin shot him a small smile.  "Ya' sure ya' won't be needin' yours today?"


"With all the work on the church I have yet to do, Vin, I'll be lucky if that horse will make it out of his stall before Christmas."


Vin's smile grew.  "Much obliged, Josiah."


"Consider it my way of showing support for the arts."




As it turned out, Marcus did not own a horse and was very grateful for the opportunity to leave town for the day.  He put on his scarf and hat and followed Vin and Josiah out the back way toward the livery.  Vin took the lead with Josiah bringing up the rear in order to make sure Marcus would not be seen. 


Inside the livery, Marcus took the time to approach Josiah's horse and acquaint himself with the animal.  "Solomon has taken to you, Marcus," Josiah said as he placed the saddle over his horse's back.


"I seem to have a way with animals," Marcus said as he placed one hand under Solomon's chin and gently caressed the top of his muzzle.


Josiah looked over to see Vin hard at work saddling and bridling Peso.  He stepped up closer to Marcus and whispered, "As well as quiet trackers."


Marcus looked over at Vin and nodded.  "Believe me, Josiah, Vin has touched my heart as well.  You all have.  I can't thank you enough for giving me your horse to use today."


Josiah continued to cinch up the saddle.  "My pleasure, Marcus.  He's big, but he's gentle."


"Like his master?"


"Well, in that respect he's big, but the gentle part comes easy to him.  I have to nurture mine."


"Seems to me ya' do all right, Josiah," Vin said as he wrapped his saddle cinch into a knot.


Josiah grinned.  "And you are an optimist, Vin.   Where do you think you'll be heading out to on this fine day?"


"If there's trouble y'all can find us at Shepherd's Rock.  Ya' don't mind, do ya'?"


Josiah jerked his head to one side indicating a negative response.  "Not at all, Vin."


"Why would you mind, Josiah?" Marcus asked.


"Josiah named the place we're goin' to.  Said it reminded him of a paintin' he saw of Christ with a flock of sheep."


"I go out there when the pressure of responsibility gets too much.  It's peaceful, it's beautiful, and it's a perfect spot to think of what's



"Sounds to me like it was aptly named.  I am anxious to see it."


"You'll like it, Marcus.  I know it," Vin said as he took Peso by the reins and started leading him out of the livery.  "We'll head out the back of town, so no one will see us."


Marcus nodded as Josiah placed a canteen of water over the saddle horn and handed Marcus the reins.  "He's bit trained so you shouldn't have any problems."


The three men left the livery out the back way and mounted.  Vin held out his hand to Josiah and the preacher clasped it.  "Vin, Marcus, may the wind be at your backs today."


Marcus held out his hand and Josiah shook it.  "Thank you for the horse, Josiah.  He truly is a magnificent animal."


"That he is.  Enjoy the day, both of you."


Vin turned Peso and headed off out of town toward the nearest hill.  Marcus followed.  Josiah watched and judging from the way Marcus sat a saddle, he was a skilled horseman.  He couldn't help the smile and turned to head back to the church.


On his way there he met Chris.  "They take off?"


"Indeed they did.  Shepherd's Rock if we find we need Vin's help."


"I think the only trouble brewing is with Mary.  Seems JD left Hathaway high and dry for tonight."


"That he did, Brother Chris, that he did," Josiah said, a little gloating mixed in as he hooked his thumbs into his vest pockets. 


Chris nodded.  "Uh-huh, care to tell me what else happened?"


Josiah slowed his pace down until he stopped, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.  "Let's see now.  I believe he gave the money back as well.  Said he didn't want to be associated with the likes of Hathaway and his way of business."


Chris nodded again.  "And?"


Josiah grinned, a mischievous gleam in his eye.  "Seems you're not the only one who can make a speech when the need arises."


Chris forced himself to stifle the chuckle that threatened to spill out of him.


Josiah filled the need for him, which caused Chris to give up the fight.  "Wish I could have seen that one, Josiah."


"As the Bible says, out of the mouths of babes."


"Oh, don't let JD hear you say that."


"Never.  I value my sanity as well as my life.  Now, then, what of the lovely Mrs. Travis?  Hathaway is a friend of hers, after all, and so is JD."


Chris shrugged.  "Let them work it out.  I never wanted the actors here to begin with."


"True, but if they hadn't come, Vin never would have met the great Theodore Marcus."


Chris stopped walking and bit his lower lip in thought.  "You know

something, Josiah?  I hate it when you're right."


Josiah chuckled again.




"JD, please reconsider.  The people are turning their tickets back in simply because most of them wanted to hear your recital tonight," Mary pleaded from inside her Clarion newspaper office.


Ezra, Nathan and Buck were standing by the door their hats in their hands, listening to Mary try to smooth things over with the youth.  JD stood in front of her desk, his face set.  "I'm sorry, Mary, I mean no disrespect to you, but after seeing the way he treated Mister Marcus just goes against my grain to be party to such'am," he quickly added, knowing he was close to losing his temper.


"Well what if Mister Hathaway apologized for his...apparent...blunder, JD, would that suffice enough for you to change your mind?"


"It ain't me he has to apologize to, Mary."


The door opened and Chris and Josiah walked in.  Chris nodded to Mary as he removed his hat.  "Came to talk to JD for a minute."


"Please do, Mister Larabee.  I can't seem to be getting through to him."


"Oh, don't misunderstand me," Chris spoke out softly.  "I'm not doing this for Hathaway or his troupe.  I'm doing this for JD, Marcus...and for Vin."


"For Vin?  Mister Larabee, I thought you would be explaining to Vin the danger of..."


"If there's any danger, Mary, I believe it would be in bearing false witness.  That would be Hathaway's mistake, not Marcus'."


"With all due respect, Mister Larabee, James has known Marcus a lot longer than either you or Vin."


"And Marcus is the one responsible for starting that fire that killed Hathaway's son.  Even though it was an accident, he still blames Marcus.  Wouldn't that constitute a degree of prejudice on his part?"


Mary crossed her arms in front of her chest.  "I suppose if anyone would know it would be you, Mister Larabee."


Buck lowered his head, shutting his eyes in sorrow.  That was the wrong thing to say to the gunslinger.


Chris glared at the woman. 


Mary suddenly realized what she said and she paled.  "Mister Larabee, I'm sorry.  Please, I didn't mean that..."


Chris turned away from her and took JD by the shoulder, leading him out of the Clarion and onto the porch.


Mary lowered her head.  "I honestly didn't mean to say that."


"Mrs. Travis, I admire your desire to have faith in your friends," Josiah said softly.  "But you must practice that faith wisely, or it will blind

you."  He tipped his hat to her and started for the door.




They all stopped and turned to her.  "I must you all believe that strongly that Vin is safe with Mister Marcus?"


"As safe as he would be with Chris or any of us, Ma'am," Buck replied.


"Can you be sure, though?" she asked, truly desiring assurance from them.


"We've met him, Mrs. Travis," Nathan said.  "Have you?"


Mary sighed.  It was clear she was ashamed.  "It seems if you all think that highly of him and what he's doing for Vin, then I must meet the man as well.  And that I must look more closely in the mirror to see what other faults lay within."


Josiah walked up to her and held out his hand.  She reached out and he grasped hers, squeezing it gently.  He leaned down and kissed it, giving her a wink. 


Buck, Ezra and Nathan tipped their hats to her and smiled.  She had gained their forgiveness for her rude comment, but the one she really needed to ask it from was the man standing outside talking with JD.




"JD, I want you to reconsider reciting tonight."


"Chris!  You can't mean that!  After the way that man degraded Mister Marcus in front of us?  After the way he talked down to Vin?"


"I know what he did, JD, but like I told Mary, I'm not asking you to do this for Hathaway, not even for me...but for Vin's sake as well as your own.  And for Marcus' sake."


"How can my reciting tonight help Vin and Marcus?"


"You'll be doing what Marcus is unable to do because of his appearance.  You'll be bringing words alive on stage.  Vin can't do it because like he said once, he gets all nervous.  But you, JD," Chris put a hand to the youth's shoulder and squeezed it, looking him square in the eyes.  "You can make them both proud as well as the rest of us."


"Us?  You won't be there, you hate performers."


"I'll be there, JD, if only to hear you recite."


JD's eyes went wide.  "You will?  Honestly?"


Chris nodded.  "I'll be back stage with Vin and Marcus, but I'll be there.  It may not change anything with Hathaway and the way he views the business, but..."


"It'll sure feel good knowing someone on that stage is doing it for the right reasons," JD finished for him.


Chris smiled and nodded.  "Exactly."


JD turned to Buck who was just walking out the door, followed by the others.  The mustached man nodded to him in encouragement to follow whatever it was Chris was telling him to do.  He turned to see Mary through the window looking back at him with sorrow in her eyes.  He squared his shoulders.  "All right, Chris, but only because it's for us and Marcus."


Chris held out his hand and JD shook it.  The gunslinger turned and headed for the jailhouse. 


JD started to go back inside the Clarion when Josiah pulled him away.  "I'd like to say something to you, JD, if that would be all right?"


"Sure, Josiah, what is it?"


The preacher put a hand on the youth's shoulder and sighed heavily.  "If Buck came to you and said something, and you trusted that he was

telling you the truth...and if someone else, say a brand new friend you'd come to know, came to you later and said the exact opposite of what Buck had told you.  Would you not stand in defense of Buck?"


JD looked appalled.  "Of course I would."




"Why?  Because he's my friend.  How could I not trust him?"


Josiah grinned.  'JD,' he thought, 'God love ya'.'  He continued.  "When you go in and talk to Mary, carry that information with you.  She wants to trust us, but she also wishes to trust Mister Hathaway because he is also her friend.  Right now she is torn, confused."


JD sighed.  "Maybe so, Josiah, but she didn't have to say what she said to Chris."


"No, son, she didn't.  And she's regretting that slip of the tongue greatly.  She and Chris will work it out when the time is right, but for right now, just focus on what you need to do and remember where Mary is coming from.  All right?"


JD was thoughtful for a moment then he nodded.  "I understand, Josiah.  I will."


Josiah patted his shoulder once.  "Good man."


JD smiled at him and continued on into the Clarion.


Buck went up to Josiah.  "What did you tell him?"


"Helped him put the shoe on the other foot, Buck.  That's all."




When the door opened Mary looked up.  "JD?"


"Mary," he pulled his hat from his head and walked in, closing the door behind him.  "I apologize if I came off angry a few minutes ago."


"That's all right, JD.  I understand why."


"I wanted you to know that I'll go ahead and do the recital tonight, but only for Marcus and Vin and us.  I can't do it for Hathaway.  I just won't."


Mary nodded.  "I understand, JD.  Thank you."


JD nodded and walked out of the Clarion.


Mary watched him go and felt a sadness creep into her.  Was Josiah right?  Had her faith in James blinded her to the truth?




Outside the Clarion, unseen due to being hid by the building, James listened as Chris and the young JD Dunne spoke.  His anger welled up inside of him.  Marcus had made friends of these men and they would inspire the actor to rebel against him.  This whole year he had kept Marcus on a short leash, keeping him under control.  Now with these men in his life and especially that Vin Tanner, Marcus would think he could do anything again, have a life again.  That was something that Hathaway simply could not stomach.  He would put an end to this once and for all.  He would find a way.




Josiah and Buck walked into the jailhouse to see Chris sitting at the desk reading the newspaper articles again.  "Chris?" Buck said as he walked in.


"What is it now?"


"It's Mary," Josiah said.  "She truly regrets what she said to you back there."


"Yeah, Chris, she does," Buck chimed in.  "She wants to meet Marcus.  She knows she spoke brashly."


"Spoke," Chris smirked.  "It seems we're all getting lessons on the use of words these past few days, ain't we?"


"Can you find it in your heart to forgive her, Chris?" Josiah asked. 


Chris sighed as he leaned back in his chair.  "She really wants to meet Marcus?"


"Yes, she said so herself," the preacher replied.


"Then as soon as he and Vin get back from Shepherd's Rock, she'll have the opportunity.  I'll introduce her to him myself."


"Is that...a type of forgiveness?" Buck asked, cautiously.


Chris looked at him and his expression revealed nothing.  "It's all I'm willing to give at this moment."


Josiah nodded.  "It's a start, Chris."


The two men left the jailhouse and Chris watched them leave.  Then he saw Hathaway come his way.  "Now what?" he muttered.  He really didn't want to deal with that man right now.


He leaned back in his chair and propped his feet on the desk.  Then he pulled out his pocketknife and picked up the piece of wood on the desk he used for whittling.  He began to carve and braced himself for what was to come.


Sure enough Hathaway stormed in, flustered and his face was red from anger.  "You cannot allow this farce to continue, Mister Larabee.  I'm telling you, Teddy Marcus is a dangerous man.  I've seen how you all have taken a shine to him.  Please, believe me, I know how he is.  He gains your trust one moment, then the next he is capable of killing.  You wouldn't want anything to happen to your friend would you, Mister Larabee?  Marcus is unpredictable.  Your friend could look at Marcus wrong and he could fly into a murderous rage causing your friend severe bodily injury."


Mary came in before Chris could answer this accusation on Marcus' behalf.  "James, what are you doing here?"


"I'm trying to stop these men from blindly putting their faith in a man who could kill one of them with his bare hands!"  The desperation in Hathaway's face pierced Mary's heart and she turned to Chris, all thoughts of seeing both sides of the story driven from her mind.  If James was so determined to get his point of view across, there had to be some truth to his claims.  "Mister Larabee, can't you see how James is only trying to help us?"


"He's trying to turn us against Marcus!" Chris almost shouted and he stood up in anger, slamming the piece of wood down on his desk.  He glared at Hathaway and pointed his finger at him.  "If you have a problem with Vin seeing Marcus then you talk to him!  Don't go sneaking behind a man's back, spreading two-faced rumors about a man that none of us believe would hurt a fly, let alone a human being.  And from what I've seen...all we have is your word on the way Marcus is.  And right now, that is not good enough."


Hathaway took a moment to regain his composure.  "I'm trying to help you see..."


"Help me see, Hathaway?" Chris sneered.  "If you had seen what I saw this morning you would know you have no leg to stand on."


"What are you talking about?"


"I'm surprised you haven't heard about it.  Five cowhands roughed up Marcus pretty good this morning right outside the hardware store.  And if he was as dangerous as you say he is, then he would have fought back, but he didn't.  He just took it from them.  We managed to stop him from being hurt bad, but he didn't raise a finger against them.  That's your dangerous man for you, Hathaway."  Chris took his hat and walked around the desk heading out the door.


Mary was torn.  She looked at Hathaway then she headed after Chris.  "Mister Larabee, please...wait."


"Not now, Mary!" Chris seethed and he kept on walking.  Damn, but he needed a drink.  And fast.


Mary stopped following him and watched him head off further and further away.  She lowered her head.  "Well, Mary Travis, you've certainly messed up things between the two of you.  Aren't you proud of yourself?"


"Mary?"  Hathaway's voice came to her and she turned to see him walking toward her with concern.  "Are you all right?"


"Please, James.  Just leave me alone."


"You do believe me...don't you?" he asked with trepidation. 


She shook her head.  "All I believe right now is that I should never have invited you and your actors to this town.  I'm sorry, James."  She turned and headed back to her office, leaving Hathaway staring after her with sorrow.  He clenched his fists and stormed back to the meeting hall.  He knew what he had to do.  Marcus had succeeded in destroying his life once.  He would not succeed again.




The two men pulled their horses to a stop near a green field with a huge boulder sitting in the middle of it.  "Here it is," Vin said, leaning his arm against his saddle horn and taking in the beauty of the area.


Marcus looked all around him and slowly dismounted.  He led Solomon over to a tree and tied the reins to a branch.  Vin followed suit.  "It''s glorious, Vin!  I can see what Josiah means by calling it Shepherd's Rock."


Vin grinned with knowing.  "It is a wonder, that's fer certain."


Marcus took a few steps toward the clearing and gazed at the trees that surrounded it.  There was the knee high green grass that waved in the breeze like ocean waves.  He saw the flowers that filled the air with scents.  He closed his eyes and breathed it all in.  "Ahhh, it has been a long time since I have been able to just partake of God's handiwork."


Vin clapped him on the arm.  "Come on, the rock is a nice place to sit and just...look."


He started down into the clearing and Marcus followed him.  "Do you come out here often, Vin?"


"Often as I can, Marcus.  I have other places to go to, but this is one of my favorites."


"I can see why.  Do the others come out here?"


"I ain't sure.  I think Chris knows it's here, maybe he comes out here from time to time.  He don't say.  I think the others feel it's Josiah's special place and leave it alone, lettin' him stake claim to it.  Josiah shared it with me, 'cause...well, I guess 'cause we 'preciate it in a diff'rent way."


"Do you all have special places of refuge to retreat to?"


Vin laughed a bit at that.  "Chris has his shack, Buck has a woman's bedroom, and Ezra has his poker table.  JD, well, he just goes where the mood strikes.  Nathan?  Well, Nathan has a special place amongst the Seminole Village not too far from here.  He has himself a gal and all.  I think that's where he goes."


"Sounds to me like you all are capable of keeping your balance."


Vin started climbing the boulder and Marcus followed up after him.  The two sat down on the edge and let their legs dangle.  The boulder was big enough for them both to lay flat on their backs and look at the sky.  Silence filled the air for a few moments.  Marcus basked in the peace of the area.  Finally Vin asked, "What do you do, Marcus?  To find your balance I mean?"


"Well, Vin, it's been a long time.  I suppose because we travel so much and so often it's hard for me to find just a special spot to call my own.  I guess that's why I have so many books.  Books are what take me away and center me."


"Books," Vin said, reflectively.  "One day I'm gonna be able to read books from cover to cover and know what every single word means."


The two fell into a peaceful quiet.  They looked around them and then Vin pointed to the sky.  "Sometimes the birds fly over and circle above this spot.  I like to watch 'em fly, see what tricks they do."


The two laid back and clasped their hands over their stomach.  "Will you ever write about this place, Vin?" Marcus asked with all sincerity.


"Write?  About this place?"  Vin was taken aback by the question.  "I reckon I never gave it much thought."


"Perhaps you should, my young poet.  To share your experiences with others...that would be a great and wonderful legacy to leave when you depart this world."


Vin took a moment to ponder the suggestion.  Then he said; "Well, if'n I do decide to write about Four Corners, I'd most likely write about the Seven of us, and then I would write a whole chapter or even a book about you."


"Why me, Vin?"


Vin cast him a surprised look.  "'Cause of what ya' done fer me since I met ya'."


Marcus sat up.  "And what have I done for you?"


Vin sat up and looked at him with all sincerity.  "I ain't never known words in the manner of which ya' show them to me.  Chris knew this would happen.  That's why he encouraged me to seek ya' out.  He told me ya' could take me places in my mind I ain't never been before.  And ya' have, Marcus.  I'm in your debt."


Marcus closed his eyes.  Vin noticed how quickly his friend had gotten quiet.  He studied Marcus and saw that he was fighting to hold the tears back. 


"Marcus?  Ya' all right?  I didn't mean to stir up your emotions like a tornado."


Marcus raised a hand, cutting Vin off.  "I need to know something, Vin."


"What's that?"


"What was it, really, that caused your anger with Mister Hathaway this morning?"


"What do ya' mean?"


"The anger that was inside you when you confronted him.  I thought you were going to tear into him the way you did that man who whipped me this morning."


Vin lowered his gaze.  "I just ain't got no respect for the man."


"Why not?"


"'Cause he's been spreadin' lies about ya', that's why."


Marcus looked at Vin with a furrowed brow.  "Lies?  What sort of lies?"


Vin sighed heavily.  He took a moment to put his words together.  There was really no easy way to say it.  "He're dangerous.  That you're insane and all o' us should just steer clear of ya'."


Marcus felt as if he had been hit in the chest with a severe blow.  He looked away from Vin, shock filling him.  "I knew...I knew he was controlling, but I never thought he would go so far as that."


"None of us believe him, Marcus."


Marcus shook his head and slowly climbed down off the boulder.  He walked away a few feet, his back to Vin.


Vin watched him sadly then scooted over to the edge of the boulder and jumped down.  "Marcus?  Ya' all right?"


Marcus turned to him and there was a sadness in his face that cut deep into the tracker's heart.  "He hates ya' that bad, Marcus?"


Marcus slowly shook his head.  "Hate doesn't begin to cover what he feels towards me, Vin."


Vin walked up to Marcus and locked eyes with him.  "Tell me 'bout the

fire, Marcus.  Tell me what really happened."


Marcus nodded.  "I need to tell you, Vin.  But it won't be easy to hear."


"I reckon it won't be.  But it's gotta be harder fer ya' to keep it inside like ya' been doin'."


Marcus chuckled, but it was a laughter that was filled with remorse.  "I've wanted to speak about it for a long time, ever since it happened, really.  But I never had a chance to.  I was too ashamed to come out of hiding, to form outside friendships.  Hathaway wanted me locked away.  Not in jail, not that type of lock up, but he wanted to punish me for what I did.  I suppose I let him control me for so long because I felt I deserved it.  He used my scars as bars and built a cage around me.  A cage I feared stepping out of."  He looked at Vin.  "Until I met you."


Vin rested a hand on Marcus' upper arm.  "Then I reckon it's time ya' walk in your freedom, Marcus.  Come on."  He started off towards a clump of trees and Marcus followed. 


Vin led him to a nice spot by a flowing stream and the tracker sat underneath a weeping willow.  "Sit here beside me.  Talk all ya' want."


Marcus took a seat beside Vin and the two gazed out over the flowing water that passed by.  "I told you that the fire was God's way of judging me for my pride.  I still believe that.  I was such an arrogant bastard, Vin.  The praise I received from the people went to my head.  I felt I could do no wrong. 

"Hathaway's son, Robert, was so young.  All he had ever known was the stage.  Like you, he had a desire for learning.  Unlike you, he was not acquainted with hardship.  His soul was pliable, a mound of clay ready to be molded by a master sculptor.  But sculpting souls is God's job.  I took that job upon myself where Robert was concerned.  I didn't care about him, though.  I cared about what I could make of him.  He worshipped me and I allowed that worship to feed my ego.  He followed in my footsteps like a shadow, and like a shadow he was impossible to get rid of.  At times he tried my patience, always under foot, never giving me any time to myself.  I grew tired of having him around, so I began to treat him like a dog, hoping that he'd leave me alone on his own accord.  But the more badly I treated him, the more he hung around.  It was then that I realized he had no relationship with his father.  That Hathaway had no time for him, except to treat him as a director treats an actor.  All business.  The stage was and is Hathaway's life.  Family means nothing to him.  He basically pushed Robert away and Robert found in me a source of refuge.  I may have treated him badly, but it was, to him, better than not being paid attention to at all."


Marcus' gaze focused on the water as it flowed, and he lost himself in the memories of a youth that would never really know what being wanted was all about.


"How old was he?" Vin asked.


"Seventeen at the time of his death."


Vin shut his eyes.  JD could be no more than a few years older than that.  JD had family back east but none that seemed to care what happened to him.  In reality the six men he now shared his life with were his family, and Vin hoped that they made the youth feel wanted and needed.  He would be doubly aware in the future to make sure that was so.


Marcus took in a shaky breath and continued his story.  "When I realized what type of relationship he had with his father, something pricked at my heart and I began to feel a sympathy for Robert.  I took him under my wing and began to introduce him to my world.  He needed to gain a harder edge to survive.  I knew that Hathaway would never teach him about the real world, so I did.  Granted my world was full of booze and gambling and women, so it was not a great education I was giving him, but it was something outside of the stage.  And Robert needed to know the real world.  He seemed to crave it, to eat up every single minute.  He got into a few fist fights and I then began to teach him how to defend himself. 


"We became...close, Vin.  Very close.  I suddenly saw a youth I would give my life to save.  I became so protective of him.  Hathaway could not stand the idea of us being friends.  Dear God," Marcus shut his good eye as tears began to form.  "He even accused us of deviant behavior.  Having relations of the sexual nature."  Marcus took in a deep, shaky breath and the tears fell down his cheeks. "I never...never even entertained the thoughts of such a thing.  Not with any man, let alone Robert.  But that accusation ripped Robert's soul apart.  I couldn't help myself.  I slugged Hathaway for saying such a thing and defended Robert and myself in a very violent way.  I can be violent, Vin.  I can allow rage to fill me and I can strike out like a viper. 


"Hathaway hated me even more after that.  He began to only tolerate me being around because he knew my performances brought the audiences in.  And because he knew if I left, Robert would go with me.  He must always be in control.  It's his nature.  When he saw he was losing control over Robert, he blamed me.  One night his hatred of me consumed him."


Marcus stopped and lowered his head.  Vin put a hand to his shoulder.  "The night of the fire," he said as if to confirm.


Marcus nodded.  "Hathaway wanted me gone...permanently.  If I died, then Robert would be his once more.  Of course he couldn't come right out and shoot me, so he needed to make it look like an accident.  So, after the closing of a run in Kansas City, while we were all busy getting drunk with celebration, Hathaway decided it was time.  He waited for just the right moment to strike, when all the other actors left to go to their hotel rooms.  I was instructed to see to it the hall was locked up for the night.  Each of us was assigned duties.  Someone each night was to check the hall and strike the stage, to pack up and get ready to set out the next morning.  It was my turn and Robert decided to stay and help me.  That was his mistake.  The doors were locked, unbeknownst to us, and Hathaway came out onstage holding a bottle of whiskey.  Robert was not on stage at that time.  He was in the back packing up some props.  Hathaway must have thought it was just the two of us in that theater.  He held two glasses in his hand and seemed to want to bury the hatchet between us.  We talked for a few minutes.  He expressed his apologies and asked for my forgiveness.  We drank a toast, the two of us.  Then Hathaway clubbed me with the bottle and I was covered in whiskey.  He set a match on fire and threw it on me.  I was covered in flames.


"Robert heard the commotion and came running onto the stage.  He screamed and tried to help me, but I threw him off.  I was in a panic and in that panic I set the stage on fire.  Robert tried to pull the stage curtain down to extinguish the flames, but his clothes caught on fire.  Hathaway saw his son covered in flames and realized his plan had all gone wrong.  He panicked and ran. 


"By this time the entire stage was engulfed.  I tried to get to Robert, to help him in some way, but it was no use."  Marcus was choking on his words now and Vin tightened his hold on the man's shoulder.  Taking in a shaky breath, Marcus continued.  "He fell off the stage and I can only hope that a merciful God intervened, killing him in the fall before the flames tortured him to death.  More flames surrounded me and, though I was in pain, I had no choice but to survive for Robert's sake.  He died trying to save me.  I ran out of the theater following after Hathaway.  He had no idea I would survive the inferno. 


"I remember the flames eating at my flesh and when I reached outside I rolled and rolled until the flames went out.  By this time the townspeople were gathered and trying to put out the fire.  I lost consciousness after that.  When I awoke I was in the town's clinic covered with bandages and dosed so much with laudanum that I couldn't think.
"Hathaway was there and I vaguely remember what he said.  He told me that the fire was my fault and that if I tried to tell anyone the truth no one would believe me.  He wanted me dead, but he only succeeded in stealing my livelihood. I would suffer the rest of my life and that was good enough for him."  Marcus bowed his head.  "I believed him, Vin.  He had control over me.  I said nothing to anyone about the real cause of the fire, because I knew no one would believe me.  Hathaway had his control back and that was all that mattered to him.  He mourned over Robert, yes, but in his mind, I'm the one responsible for the fire.  In a way, he's right."


"How can ya' say that?" Vin asked with disgust.  "How can ya' be responsible when ya' tried to save his son?"


"Because I formed a friendship with Robert.  If I had not done that, if I had not grown to love Robert as my own brother, none of this would have happened and Robert would still be alive."  Marcus was shaking and the tears streamed down from his one good eye. 


"That's second-guessin', Marcus.  Ya' had no idea Hathaway would lose his mind and try t' kill ya'."


Marcus lowered his head.  "Perhaps not, my young friend.  But I should have seen it coming.  Hathaway, however, did not develop his reputation as a fine actor for nothing.  He had me fooled that night.  With Robert's death any thread of sanity he held onto was cut at that moment.  He truly believes I'm the one responsible for Robert's death, that I started the fire.  And it is only his word against mine."


"Not anymore, Marcus.  Ya' don't have to live under that cloud anymore.  Ya' got friends here, now.  We can make a home fer ya' here."


Marcus looked at Vin curiously.  "What are you saying, Vin?"


"Listen, I've been thinkin' about it all day.  You're good with yer hands, ain't ya'?"


Marcus nodded.  "Yes."


"I know Josiah could sure use some help with his church.  And Harding has taken a likin' to ya'.  Ya' could get a job with him, helpin' people fix their places up.  Ya' all ready won Dan and Harding over.  I know ya' have a way with people.  Stay here, Marcus.  Stay in Four Corners.  Ya' can have a home here."


Marcus gazed at Vin with a pondering look.  "A home?  Here?"


Vin nodded.  "I know it'll be hard to adjust, but you'll win everyone over.  Sure there'll be a few bad eggs to deal with, but ya' won't be alone.  The seven of us will watch out fer ya'.  Ya' can continue to teach me and anyone else that's got a notion to learn words."


Marcus turned away and stood.  He walked off a few feet.  "I...I never even considered leaving the troupe before."


Vin stood and walked over to him.  "Ya' can study on it some if ya'd like."


"I don't have to, Vin."  Marcus turned to him.  "I accept."


Vin smiled and held out his hand.  Marcus shook it and smiled back. 


"Thank you, Vin, but Hathaway will not like it that I'm staying behind."


Vin's voice was low and determined.  "Ya' let us worry 'bout Hathaway.  He ain't gonna bother ya' no more."


"I can't believe it," Marcus shook his head, but his smile only grew

wider.  "A new chance at life.  I never even considered the possibility."


"It's the least I can do, Marcus.  Ya' showed me so much these last two days.  I owe ya'."


"Vin, you do not owe me anything, my friend."  Marcus took in a deep and shaky breath as he gazed out over the clearing.  "It has been so long since I've believed in God.  Oh, I speak the Word, I quote it, yes, but to actually believe it in my heart..." he shook his head.  "And then I meet you, Vin Tanner, and suddenly...I know, again, that God does exist.  I meet your friends who have accepted me despite what I look like.  I see your JD standing up for me with the fervor and conviction of a zealot.  I see Josiah look at me with respect.  And I see Chris Larabee...who sees in me a teacher for the man he calls 'brother'."  He looked at Vin with those words.  "And he does, Vin.  Maybe not with words, but with his actions.  You are so like a brother to him.   Doubt it not, my young poet.  The friendship you both share is valuable, more precious than all the gold in the world.  And for you both to allow me to intrude on that friendship, for Chris to step aside and let me into your world, because of what he knows I can do for you..." Marcus shook his head.  "The enormity of it all has overwhelmed me. 


"You say I take you places in your mind that you've never been before.  Vin, may I say to you that you have taken my spirit to places I have not been to in a very long time, not since the fire robbed me of my appearance.  It is I that owes you and your friends a debt of thanks."


Vin gazed at Marcus and was surprised to see that the actor now stood straighter, almost taller, as if a burden had been lifted from his shoulders.  "I..." he choked back, clearing his throat.  "I never knew that's what we were doin' fer ya', Marcus.  If that's so...then I'm glad fer ya'.  Ya' deserve some happiness in this life."


Marcus placed a hand on Vin's shoulder and squeezed it.  "My friend, your friendship and respect and that of your friends...has instilled inside me hope for my future."


A flock of birds called out above them.  Marcus looked up at the sky.  "There are your birds, Vin."


The two men looked up and allowed the sounds of nature to communicate to them.  No more words needed to be said.  Not for those few hours at least.




When it was going on dusk, the two men decided it was time to head back to town.  "Like it as not I still have a job to do in preparing the actors for the performance tonight," Marcus said.  "I will then tell Hathaway my decision to stay here."


Vin nodded to him.  "Then we best head on back."


Marcus reached into his pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper.  "Vin, this is the poem you wrote for Chris.  The one you recited to me before you showed me the scars on your back.  I meant to give it to you when we were finished, but when Chris entered the room you left so quickly, I decided to give it to you later."


"It wasn't fer Chris, Marcus," Vin said.


Marcus looked at him questioningly.  "It wasn't?"


"I, uh, I wrote it fer you," Vin almost whispered as if embarrassed.

Marcus gazed at the paper.  He opened it and read the words again, then looked up at Vin.  "I thought for certain it was for Chris."


"Oh, don't ya' worry.  I got one workin' in my brain fer him.  I just ain't figured out what I mean to say in it.  That one's fer you, though.  I didn't say anythin' about it then, 'cause I wasn't sure how ya'd take it."


Marcus gazed at the paper with a new sense of wonder.  "I'm...I'm honored, Vin.  Thank you."


"Would...would you like to read the one Chris wrote fer me?  When he encouraged me to keep learnin' how to read?"


"Indeed I would.  Do you have it on you?"


Vin reached inside his coat to the pocket where he kept his wallet.  "I keep it close.  Mary did me the favor of printin' it up all nice and pretty like so's I can keep it longer. This one's in Chris' own hand.  Now that I have the printed copy I'll be puttin' this one in a glass frame so's the handwritin' will last."  He unfolded the paper and gently handed it to Marcus who silently read the words.  He looked up at Vin when he was finished.  The joy in his eyes told Vin what he wanted to hear.  "Ya' like it, then?"


" is a wonderful piece of expression, Vin.  You can tell Chris poured his heart out into it."


"Yeah.  I reckon that's why it means so much to me.  And why I want to write one fer him, but I want the feelin' to be right.  Fer my heart to write it I guess.  Does that sound too, I don't know," he shrugged, "girlie?"


"A poet writes from the heart, Vin.  Otherwise the words he puts on paper are stale and lifeless.  That poem is indeed inside you.  You'll create a masterpiece and touch Chris' heart with it.  And the glass frame for this one is a good idea." 


"I'm glad you got to see it like that, though."  He gestured to the paper.


Marcus handed the paper back to him.  "Me, too.  Let's head back, shall we?"


Vin carefully folded the paper and placed it back into his wallet.  He put the wallet back into his jacket and the two mounted their horses.  "It's going to be a wonderful night, Vin, Hathaway notwithstanding."


Vin chuckled.  "If'n ya' like, Marcus, I can be back there with ya'.  Help out as much as I can."


"The moral support would be greatly appreciated, Vin.  Thank you."




By the time they made it back to town, the sun had all ready set and the bonfires that served to light the street were blazing.  The two men entered the livery from the front.  The darkness would keep them in hiding.


People were surrounding the meeting hall.  Vin dismounted Peso and looked over to where the people were gathered.  "Looks like another full house."


Marcus dismounted and gazed over at the hall.  "I should be over there."


"Go on.  I'll take care of Solomon fer ya'."


"Thank you, Vin."  Marcus handed the reins to Vin and started over to the hall. 


Chris was standing outside the jailhouse when he saw Vin and Marcus ride in.  He walked over to the actor.  "Marcus, there's someone I'd like you to meet.  Can you take a few minutes and come inside?"


"Well, I do need to get to the hall, Mister Larabee.  I have a job to do."


"This won't take but a few minutes."


Vin saw the two talking from the livery doors.  He tied both horses up and headed over to them.  "Chris?  Somethin' up?"


"Yeah, Mary has requested meeting Marcus.  I think it would be wise, considering something that happened after the two of you left this



Vin looked over to see Mary approaching them.  "You two go on in, then," Vin said as he walked out to meet Mary. 


Chris gestured to inside the jailhouse and Marcus followed him in.


Mary walked over to Vin and nodded to him in greeting.  "Vin," she said.


"Mary, I hear ya' want to meet Marcus."


"That's right.  I feel I need to, I'm rather confused at the moment.  James is a good friend of mine, but I don't know what to believe anymore."


Vin reached out and took her arm.  "His scars are pretty frightful, if'n ya' aren't prepared for 'em."


She looked at Vin in the glow of the street fires and saw the look of concern in his eyes.  "I understand, Vin.  I can handle it."


"All right, then.  Come on."


He fell into step beside her and they headed for the jailhouse.


Outside, in the shadow of the alley darkness, Hathaway watched this scene with anger.  He clutched the pistol tightly in his hand. 




When Mary and Vin entered, Chris turned from where he and Marcus were standing in front of the desk.  "Mary?  This is Theodore Marcus.  Marcus?  This is Mary Travis, a good friend to James Hathaway."


Marcus slowly turned--his hat and scarf still covering his face and head.  "Mrs. Travis.  It is a pleasure to meet you."  He held out his left hand so that she could see the scars. 


She looked down at his hand and swallowed back a gasp.  Slowly she reached out and took the hand in her own.  "Mister Marcus, thank you for agreeing to meet with me."


"I must say I am at a loss as to the urgency of this meeting, though," Marcus said.


"Something Hathaway said," Chris informed.


"Yes.  Vin told me what he's been telling you all."


Vin nodded.  "I told 'im this afternoon, Chris.  Marcus knows that Hathaway thinks he's insane."


"All right," Chris nodded.  "Marcus, would you be willing to tell us your side of the story regarding the fire in Kansas City?"


Marcus looked to Mary and saw the need to know imbedded in her eyes.  He gestured for Mary to take a seat in the chair in front of the desk.  "I feel I should tell you what happened, but if you are a friend of Mister Hathaway's, you will find this news hard to bear."


"I'm finding all of this confusing, Mister Marcus.  James tells me one thing, but Mister Larabee and the others insist he's lying.  I need to hear it from you."


Marcus nodded.  "Very well.  I've all ready told Vin this afternoon."


"Go on, Marcus.  It ain't gonna hurt me to hear it twice," the tracker urged.


Marcus sighed heavily.  "The question will still remain...which one of us is to be believed, Mrs. Travis.  I understand that nothing will change that.  It will be his word against mine.  There are no other witnesses to the event, and I may easily have damaged my credibility by not voicing my story long before this."


"I understand.  Please, go on."


Marcus began his story and Mary listened.


By the time he was done, Mary could not stop the tears from escaping her eyes.  "I simply cannot believe that James is capable of murder.  It's so...unbelievable."


"I'm sorry, Mrs. Travis.  I am doing what these fine men are accusing Mister Hathaway of doing to me.  Tainting his reputation.  My only reason for coming forward like this, aside from your desiring to know, is because Vin and Chris believe in me.  And I do not want to do anything to threaten that precious gift they've given so freely.  I have not spoken of the events of that night since it happened, not until today, with Vin.  What you have heard, both from Mister Hathaway, and now from myself is for you to deal with the best way you see fit.  I understand your desire to be loyal to a friend and you do not know me.  It is a predicament I would not wish on anyone.  Whom to trust, whom not to trust.  I understand your fear for Vin's safety, but to be truthful, if I had wanted to harm him I had many opportunities to do so these last few days.  Vin is a poet after my own heart.  I could not do anymore to him than I could do to Robert when he was alive and meant the world to me.  That is the only defense I can give to come against the slanderous lies Hathaway has spread."


Mary gazed at Marcus for a long moment.  "Mister Marcus, would you show yourself to me?"


Marcus lowered his head.  "I do not wish to frighten you."


"Please.  I need to see for myself the damage that was done to you."


Marcus slowly reached up and removed his hat, then he removed the

scarf and turned to Mary, his good eye closed.


Mary did not flinch away from the sight.  She stood and stepped closer to him.  He opened his eye and saw the acceptance in hers.  She laid a hand on his upper arm.  "I am sorry this happened to you."


Outside, unseen by the occupants of the jailhouse, Hathaway saw through the corner of the window what Mary was doing.  She was accepting Marcus without hesitation.  'How dare he!' he thought.  'How dare he take Mary's friendship from me as well!'  Gripping the pistol, he moved out into the street, facing the jailhouse.  When Marcus stepped out, he would never steal from James Hathaway again.




Marcus reached out and took Mary's hand in his own.  "My dear lady, if I've caused any unrest between you and the seven men..."


"No, please.  What ever has happened I've allowed it to happen.  That's not your fault."  She looked at Chris.  "It's mine.  And I need to talk to James one more time.  Confront him myself with what I've now been told."


"He will not listen to you, I'm afraid.  His mind is set on his interpretation of what went down that night."


"I have to try, Mister Marcus.  For my own sake."


Marcus nodded with understanding.  "I thank you for taking the time to listen to me.  For meeting with me, Mrs. Travis."


"Thank you, Mister Marcus, for giving me your time."


Chris looked out the window.  "What the hell is he doing out there?"


They all looked to see Hathaway standing out in the street, obviously waiting for them to come out.


"Please, let me talk to him," Marcus said.  He headed for the door, but


Vin intercepted him.  "Marcus, please.  Let me go first."


Marcus smiled at him.  "Vin, don't worry yourself."  He reached up and put a hand to Vin's face and neck.  "Trust me."


"I do.  It's Hathaway I don't trust."


Marcus gently moved Vin aside.  "Let me talk to him.  I know what I'm doing."  He reached for the door handle, when Vin put a hand to his arm.  "Marcus," he said, his eyes pleading.


Marcus smiled at him again.  "Trust me," he said again and opened the door.  "Mister Hathaway?  Is something wrong, sir?"


"Teddy, I was wondering where you were.  The show is due to start in another hour.  We need you over at the meeting hall."


"I was just on my way there now, sir."  Marcus stepped off the porch into the street.


"You forgot your hat and scarf, Teddy.  We wouldn't want the people of the town to see you, now, would we?"


Marcus turned to see Vin standing in the doorway, with Mary behind him.  Chris was at the window, observing like a cat.


"I...don't need the scarf and hat anymore, Mister Hathaway.  People here it seems, accept me for who I am, not what I look like."


Hathaway smiled.  "And that is so noble of them, isn't it, Teddy?"


"Mister Hathaway, is there a problem?  You seem rather distressed about something."


Hathaway shook his head and chuckled.  "Just you, Teddy."  He pulled out his gun and fired.


Vin flinched back as the gun went off.  His legs felt like rubber as he flew forward.  "MAAARRRRCCCUUUUUUSS!" he shouted, reaching out as he saw Marcus' body jerk back.  Vin's arms wrapped around Marcus' waist as the actor fell.  When the two hit the ground, Vin shielded

Marcus' body from further attack.


Chris felt his heart drop into his stomach at the sight.  'Dear God,' he thought as he pulled his gun and pushed Mary aside.


Hathaway aimed his gun at Vin.  "Now you will never interfere again."


Chris yelled out as he aimed his gun.  "NNNOOOOOO!"


A moment in time, when the world seemed to slow to a snails pace, forced thoughts to whirl within Chris' mind.  A reasoning he had never focused on before pointed him in a direction other than the one he would have normally took.  He aimed for Hathaway's hand and fired.  The gun flew and Hathaway went down with a scream.


Chris ran to him and kicked his gun out of reach, keeping his gun on Hathaway. 


Mary ran out and stopped--her hands to her mouth.  What was she seeing?  What had she witnessed?  A man she thought she had known, a man she trusted...had turned into a cold-blooded killer right before her eyes.  The man she thought was a killer...decided not to take a life.  And a man who Mary had thought she would never see weep, was cradling a bleeding man in his arms with tears streaming unabashedly down his face.


"My God," was all she could say as she took in all these images at once.
Chris turned to see Vin pushing Marcus up from behind and cradling the wounded man in his arms.  "Marcus?" Vin's voiced sounded like a child who was lost and afraid.  Chris' blood ran cold as he saw the blood that covered the actor's chest.  "Marcus!  Marcus!"  Vin was shouting as he held the man in his arms pulling him tight against his chest. 


Chris turned toward the clinic where he saw a light on in the window.  "NATHAN!" he called out.  "NATHAN!  WE NEED YOU!"


The gunshots brought a crowd of people from the meeting hall, including Buck, Josiah and JD.  Ezra came running behind them. 


Nathan came hurrying out of the clinic carrying his medical bag.  He ran toward the direction of Chris' shout.


Vin felt the blood seeping from the wound.  He looked up at the crowd gathering around them.  Many of them saw Marcus' face and cringed away with disgust and fear.  Vin did not notice their reaction.  He lifted horror filled eyes.  "Get Nathan!  Someone, please get Nathan!" he shouted.  Lost in shock, Vin had not registered Chris' desperate cries for the healer.


Buck and JD broke through along with Josiah and Ezra.  JD looked down and froze for a second when he saw that it was Marcus who had been shot.  Buck ran to the bonfire and grabbed a burning log, bringing it back he held it up to give better light.


Nathan came running through.  He saw the image of Vin holding Marcus' bleeding body against him and Vin looked up at him, his eyes pleading and terrified.  "Help him, Nathan, he's bleedin' bad."


Nathan knelt beside Marcus and began to examine the wound. 


Hathaway was on his knees holding his wrist as the blood dripped from the wound Chris had inflicted him with.  He began to chuckle as Chris walked up to him and placed the gun to his neck.  "He won't hurt anyone anymore, Mister Larabee.  I've done what you could not bring yourself to do."


Chris could tell that Hathaway's mind was completely gone.   


Josiah turned and stormed up to Hathaway, large and imposing.  "Marcus would never hurt anyone," he said in a tone of voice that forced the man to only chuckle more.


"Take him, Josiah," Chris spoke out and his voice was low and full of strain.


Josiah took a hold of Hathaway who continued to laugh. 
Chris holstered his gun and knelt on the other side of Marcus.  He rested a hand on his arm.  "Marcus?"


"Forgive me, Chris.  I was always...famous...for my grand...death scenes," Marcus tried to laugh. 


Vin was unconsciously rocking Marcus as he looked up at Nathan.  The healer locked eyes with Vin and slowly shook his head.  "An artery's been hit, Vin.  He's loosing too much blood too fast.  I can't save him."


Vin gazed at him with fearful eyes.  He reached up and grabbed Nathan by the shirt collar.  The blood on his hand stained the healer's shirt.  "Don't say that to me, Nathan!  Don't say that to me!"


Chris rested a hand on Vin's shoulder.  "Vin," he softly said.


"No!  I won't accept that!  I won't!"  Vin's eyes were wide with shock and pleading as he looked from Chris to Nathan and back again.  "I won't!"


"Vin, my...young poet."  Marcus reached up and touched Vin's face with his fingers.  "Do not...worry.  These last few days have been the most glorious of my life.  I have you to thank for that."


"No!  Marcus!  Don't ya' quit on me!  Not now!  Not now!"


Chris looked up at Buck with desperation.  Buck returned his gaze with a clenched jaw.  He shook his head in sorrow.   


Marcus rested his fingers to Vin's cheek and gazed up at him from where he lay.  "Vin, listen to me.  There's not much time...and...I have one last request to ask of you."


Vin's hands were covered in Marcus' blood by now.  He clung to his friend tightly.  The tears fell from his eyes, but he paid them no mind.  "Anything, Marcus."


"Chris, if you would...the book in my jacket pocket.  I would like read sonnet Twenty-nine for me."


Chris hurried to retrieve the book and opened it to the page.  Buck stood behind Vin to hold the burning log in order to give Vin light to read by.

JD went to stand by Nathan, tears filling his own eyes.  He looked over at Buck who reached out and rested a comforting hand on his young friend's shoulder.  JD stepped closer and allowed Buck to pull him to his side.


Ezra stood on Nathan's other side, and gazed down with him to Vin who was shaking mightily under the strain of repressed grief.


Josiah kept a firm hold on Hathaway, discouraging any attempts for the man to escape.  "You will listen, and you will listen well," the preacher spoke with contempt.  Hathaway only laughed.  Josiah wanted to ram a fist into the man's face, but held back his temper.  Vin's time with Marcus was going to be short.  There would not be any distractions, not if the preacher could help it. 


"I'll hold the book for you, Vin.  Read to him," Chris urged gently.


Vin blinked away the tears, wiping his eyes with his buckskin covered arm.  He focused on the words and suddenly was able to read them, to put meaning to the words.  He cradled Marcus closely to him, the man's blood seeping over his hands and arm, and he began to read. 


"When in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state."  Vin looked down at Marcus, clutching him tightly.  "Marcus..." he pleaded.


"Go on, my young poet.  Read for me."  Marcus smiled up at him with reassurance. 


Vin choked back the tears as he continued.  "And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, and look upon myself and curse my fate."  Vin's voice began to shake.  He could not look at Chris, even though his friend held the book for him.  He kept his eyes on the page as the tears streamed down, flowing like a river of pain.  He forced himself to finish.  "Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, featured like him, like him with friend's possessed."  At this Vin lifted his eyes only to see Chris do the same.   The meaning was clear to them both.  Vin tightened his hold on Marcus as he went on.  "Desiring this man's art...or that man's scope, with what I most enjoy contented least.  Yet in these thoughts, myself almost despising, Haply I think on thee," Vin felt Marcus' hand lay on his neck and there was a gentle squeeze with those words.


"And then my state, like to the lark at break of day arising from sullen earth sings hymns at heaven's gate."  Marcus' hand started to slide from Vin's neck.  Vin reached up quickly and grabbed it in his own, holding it there.  "For thy sweet love remembered, such wealth brings."  Vin felt Marcus' chest fall and the last breath the actor released brushed over his student's face.  Vin lowered his head to Marcus'.  Knowing the actor could not hear him anymore; he still spoke the last words.  "That then I scorn..." Vin's voice completely broke.  "To change my state with kings."


Vin broke down in tears as he held Marcus' lifeless body close to him.  All the rest stood silent.  No sounds but the breeze whispering in the air and the silent weeping of a student as tears fell onto the scarred but beautiful face of a teacher who had filled a young poet's heart.


(Please go to the Conclusion)

Click here for the Conclusion of "To Soar..."

Enter supporting content here