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"Im sorry Rosco!" Chet said and gave the sheriff a push with his foot out into the street and his horse reared for the sky and touched back down.

Chet spun the horse around in the alley, there was know way that the two strangers hadnt seen him, the sheriff had blown his cover. An now he would have to make another run for it, for the second time that day.

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Thanks to the warning from Damascus, Brian was alert to the presence in the alley. The wild gaze of the black horse fixed steadily upon the lurking man in the alley, giving Brian all the direction needed.

And so it was that Brian had opportunity to witness Chet's greeting of the local town Sheriff. Seeing this, after having the mangy local stare at him and Alex for the entire day, convinced Brian that the tomcat-eyed hardcase had been sizing them up for nefarious purposes.

It was unfortunate that the man in the alley didn't realize he'd just started a feud. A feud with someone he could not afford to have for an enemy.

As Rosco fell back from Chet's shove, Brian's hand flashed to the holster beneath his long black coat. He drew and fired, fired, fired, into the dirt near the hooves of the high-strung thoroughbred, sending the animal into a panic. Dirt and gravel flew up to bite into the skinny legs of the frightened horse, and it bolted from the alley like a cannon shot, fleeing for it's life.

With some disappointment, Brian noted that the rider had stayed in the saddle as the thin horse went screaming out of town. In any case, it was likely that the over-stimulated beast would take several miles to calm down.

Which gave Brian plenty of time. He reloaded his gun, then returned it to the holster beneath his coat. He turned to Alex with a grim smile. "Ah've changed mah mind about leavin' town," Brian drawled in a low, quiet voice. "Seems to me, that marble-eyed tomcat is too damn curious about us. Either he's collectin' hides....or he has a secret of his own he's protectin' heah."

Brian walked towards Damascus, and fed the horse a cube of sugar, calming it. He sensed Alex behind him and continued speaking. "Once we find out what that potato-faced fool has got goin' on...."

At this, the black-clad Coltrane paused, inviting Alex to fill in the blank.

(cue Alex)

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Alex lifted his chin, accepting Brian's invitation. The blond man had taken out his gun the moment the two men had discovered they were being watched. His pistol still in his hand he raised it, the barrel pointing towards the sky. His gaze turned dark and deadly as his mouth tightened into a thin line.

"We have us a little fun, then plant that peeping varmint six feet under."

He tucked the gun into its holster then adjusted his coat over it, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, calming down a little.

"But...you're right, he wouldn't be bird dogging us for nothing. He thinks you and I are a threat to whatever he's got going on."

A grin then came to Alex's face.

"I say whatever he's hiding is big enough to fatten our wallets up nicely and I do think that's worth us having a look around."

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Rosco’s heart beat faster than the unfriendly Duke’s horse carried the rascal out of sight. He stood up a little shaky, but unhurt and wiped his hands over his shirt. All he had planned to do was ask the young man how Jesse was doing. He looked down to see Brian and another fella talking. He turned his head and saw another figure hurrying from the opposite of the alley.

With quick steps, he hurried around to the other side of the tavern. He blinked in surprise at the three horses that stopped the Sheriff in his tracks. He smiled at the woman who emerged from the shadows. “1,000 dollar bounty on Chet’s head?â€

She nodded. “Might be more if the townsfolk take up a collection after what he did to you…â€

“I’ve been scuffed worse,†Rosco replied. “Don’t worry.â€

She took a deep breath. “I’m glad you’re ok.â€

“Me too,†Rosco’s blue eyes gazed over the quiet horses again.

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It wasn’t difficult to get the tall Red horse under control once he came to water, he simply stopped to drink. Chet’s heart raced, he had been almost sure the black clad stranger and the blond stranger were going to cut him down right then and there. He dismounted an led his horse into the water and halted when it was up to his knees. Carefully he inspected his horses legs, he was lucky, the Thoroughbred had only sustained some minor scraps and scratches from the flying gravel.

He dumped the warm water out of his canteen and refilled it with the cool running water of the creek while Red drank thirstily. Chet took in as much water as he could as well and again refilled the canteen. Then he mounted his horse and rode deep into the GA pines an paused in the most dense part, to both ponder his next move an to rest while watching the trail he had ridden in on. Tiredly he lounged in the saddle, rolling a smoke an building a new plan.

“What we gonna do hoss? Those damned slicks back in town no doubt are gonna be back on our trail before sunset, how are we going to get back to town without being seen? The dark just aint enough to cover us.†Chet spoke to the horse an paused to lite a cigarette, an blew out his first drag.

Suddenly Red perked his ears an tossed his head to one side an listened to a gay melody somewhere in the distance. It was the sound of music, a happy kind of the music, the kind of music that you heard at a.....circus. Red tossed his head again an reared, he began to jog in the direction of the music with out Chet’s signal.

“Hey! Hey! Where we goin?†Chet asked his horse an the horse responded by taking up a high stepped canter, the music quickly growing closer an closer.

“Red! What are you doin? We cant go out there, someone will see us!†Chet drew back on the reins hard but the horse tossed its head and refused to stop.

The Thoroughbred laid its ears back on its neck and galloped fast in the direction of the music, an Chet could do nothing but ride along.

“If I go back to jail because of you horse, I swear I’ll....†In the middle of Chet’s words the horse burst through the heavy forest an bounded into a road an skidded to a sudden stop on it hind quarters.

An there just down the road leading back towards town was a huge circus rig, trudging along an being pulled by two pure white horses with large purple feathers on there bridles. Red reared again and tossed his head to the sky, trying to tell his rider his answer to the question he had asked.

“Awe be.....†The idea that his horse had suddenly dawned on Chet, an there, trudging down that very road was his ticket back to town without being seen.

Quickly Chet urged his horse on in pursuit of the circus rig an rode up beside the stage master. “Hey ya’ll need some extra help?â€

The driver drew back on the teams reins hard and the huge horses came to a stop an the rig halted.

“That depends kid, you got any talent?†The old stage master asked.

“Sure.†Chet drew his .45 and tossed it up in the air and spun it around in his hand an gave it another toss, rolling the gun over his shoulder and catching it in his opposite hand.

“Alright, alright. So your good with a gun. But what about your nag? What can it do?†For the first time since Chet had ridden up to the rig he noticed a women sitting next to the driver, a young beautiful green eyed, red haired women.

“Plenty.†Chet replied removing his Stetson from his head. “Mam. “ He raised his reins to chest height an spoke in a clear voice to the fiery red horse.

“Red, have you no manners? Bow for the beautiful lady.†The horse turned its ears back an knelt down on one front knee and arched his this neck in a proper bow. “Good boy, now... wheres the clouds.†On cue the horse reared for the sky an pawed its mighty hooves in the air. “Sit, you mangy dog you.†Just as the horses front feet touched down he sat his hind quarters down on the ground like a dog would.

“Alright kid, you got talent an one magnificent horse. Lead him around to the back an my daughter here will get you both fitted for the parade, be sure to be ready, your leading us down the main street.â€

Chet smiled and nodded his head and got his horse back on its feet an turned him towards the rear of the rig. The stage master called out to his team an then moved on, the sun had begun to set in the distance, they would make it to town just before dark.

As promised, the masters beautiful daughter prepared Chet for the parade. First she fitted him to a fancy coat, an replaced the old dull silver buckle on his chaps for a brand new one an pinned silver rhinestones down both sides. She took his old gun belts an rubbed some oil on them an pinned some silver buttons on it. She also filled the bullet leathers with silver bullets, the kind of bullets that Chet had only herd stories of when he was a boy.

An finally she went to an old trunk in the rig an opened the top an carried something large to the rear of the rig where Chet sat in his new attire waiting for her. Red followed close behind the rig, his long sleek body bare and now clean of mud, his fiery red coat shined an his long mane below in the wind free of knots. The old saddle and bridle that had once rested on his back now gone, an only a new halter an lead decorated the horse.

“So what’s your name? My name is Brandy.†She said and set what she had been carrying at his feet.

Chet stared at her for a moment, dumb founded. She was beautiful an about his age, her strawberry red hair draped over her shoulders an her form, thin and perfectly shaped.

“My name is....†He paused, what if she had seen him in a wanted poster or herd his name, she might recognize him, quickly he came up with a faults name. “Todd. Todd Watson.†He said tearing his eyes from her.

She smiled and pulled the cover off the heavy object at his feet to reveal a brand new western saddle, covered in shimmering silver. The silver covered 80% of the pure black leather, an it shined like nothing Chet had ever seen before and a silver covered bridle hung on the saddles horn.

“Whats this for?†He asked in amazement.

“Your horse. Silly.†She said as she slipped the bridle over Red’s ears an the bit into his mouth.

Chet said nothing, with these clothes, an the different tack on his horse, sliding into town an past the two slicks was gonna be like handing a child a piece of candy.

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Val sat on the wagon with her mind in worry. The shock that someone could steal something that fast from her was on her mind. She then felt her left ear where the pieces of jewelry use to be. The ear lob felt a little swore then as she put her hand back down her sleeve caught on something in the lace of her dress. It was one of the sliver clasp pieces. She clutched it tightly in her palm. Now she had even more proof of her stolen jewelry.

Soon they were approaching home Val looked to Enos, "Let's get the wagon unloaded then head back to town with Whisper and Justice."

Enos looked oddly at his sister, "Why do you want to go to town with them? We were just in town."

"Well, we need to talk to the sheriff about those earrings." Val replied as the wagon came to a stop.

"Yeah but..."

"Yeah but what?"

"Well, ok... I suppose we can go for a ride. Whisper does miss ya."

"I know... I miss her too." The dark haired woman smiled then got off the wagon without help from her brother.

Soon they took her baggage inside the country home. She greeted her family while her brother readied the horses. In no time the gelding and mare were ready for travel. Val came out with two blanket rolls and tucked one behind the saddle of each horse. She was careful to make sure the right roll went to the right horse. Enos looked oddly at his sister after she done this.

"What's the blanket rolls for? We're just goin' into town to talk to the Sheriff." Enos replied.

Val smirked as she mounted the dark chocolate Cleveland Bay, "Insurance!"

Enos didn't like how she spoke the word, 'insurance'. 'Insurance' sometimes got people into more trouble than the 'insurance' was worth. He shook his head but some how, she might be right. 'Insurance' maybe needed, especially if the same folks that were in the Boar's Nest were still around. He hoisted himself up on top of the dapple-gray Tennessee Walking horse he called, 'Justice'.

"Val whatever ya do in town, sugar, leave it to me and the Sheriff. I don't want you gettin' hurt." Enos replied as the gray horse came up along side the bay.

"Yes, brother dearest." she slightly rolled her eyes, "You know I spent a year or two as a bare back rider in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. I can handle a horse and a gun Enos."

"Yer a lady now, Val. That stuff is just parlor tricks. Leave the real deal to the Sheriff and me. Kay? We'll get that cur that stole from ya. Sides ya got that clasp?"

"In my pocket."

"Good. Now let's pay Sheriff Rosco a visit." Enos smiled to his sister.

With that the two horses moved across farmland back toward town with a smooth even but heavy gate.

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Feeling much different in his new attire, Chet stepped into his new saddle and spun his horse around. The traveling circus had come to the edge of town an it was time to parade on in, the team master struck up the music an waved Chet on to the front.

“Alright boy, get that horse to dance real nice. Lets go!†He called to the team and the white horses pulled the wagon forward, the classy music playing loudly as they started down the main street.

Chet put a big smile on his face and tightened his grip on the reins, Red tucked his head and began to prance. Not a hint of nervousness in his attitude Chet waved to the people beginning to multiply in the streets to see the circus wagon. Children cheered, yelling out there happiness as Chet rode by, he grabbed a handful of candy out of the sack tied to the horn of his saddle and threw a handful of candy into the street.

The traveling circus passed down the main street at a steady but leisure pace. He took time to ask Red to bow and rear a couple of times, the new buckles an silver on the saddle jingling. The Red Thoroughbred truly knew how to parade and put on a show, Chet just prayed that it would be enough to get him past the slicks.....where ever they were.

He couldn’t help but take a brief gaze out into the growing crowd of people down both sides of the main street as he rode by. The only way someone could recognize him was if they made eye contact and say the mismatched eyes. But It was so perfect, Red danced, Chet waved with a big smile and through candy.

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In that crowd, Bo and Luke nodded to each other. The star on Chet’s horse’s nose and the marking on it’s left back leg gave the young man’s disguise away. The two smiled and reached for their rope lariats laying coiled over their boots. They were not pleased that Chet had pushed the Sheriff like he was some outlaw wanna be. Rosco deserved a lot more respect than he had been given.

Rosco had told Bo and Luke not to worry about it. But they were, what if Chet decided to disrespect more folks?

(cue Kristy or Garrett Duke!!!)

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Garrett Duke took a large drink from the old beer mug before slowly setting it back down upon the wobbly wooden table. His mind slowly rushes through the past events that had gotten him kicked out of his own home town and ran into a small and unfamiliar town. Feeling the cold beer slowly melting down his throat he slowly glances around the small bar room, taking in the many unfamiliar faces that surrounds him. Taking in his surroundings he silently wonders what his future may hold for him, now that he is out on his own in an unfamiliar town.

"Damn it," he silently cusses at himself as he finishes the rest of his drink while his mind remains fixated in angered thoughts of the past couple of weeks.

"What was that honey?" a soft voice brings him back into reality and he slowly looks up to find his attractively young waitress standing next to his table.

"Oh nothing," Garrett gives her an embarrassed grin as he silently shoves the past to the side as he realizes he needs to embrace the future if he were to go anywhere, "just thinkin' out loud I spose. I should watch myself eh?Could get myself into some trouble doin' that."

She gives the rugged stranger a friendly smile before asking, "You want a refill?"

"No ma'am," Garrett smiles up at her as he grabs his old worn leather hat from the table, "I'm about up here." Standing up he grabs a bundle of cash out of the pocket of his brown leather duster before counting it out to hand to her. "Here's for the beer...keep the change."

She smiles her thanks at him before he slowly nods his head before walking towards the door. Garrett takes a long look around the bar before he silently exits the small bar and out into the darkening night. Approaching his white horse that stands nicely tied to the post, Garrett slowly takes a long look around his surrounding. The small town seems quiet and still except for a couple people up the road a bit and a solo horse and rider making it's way towards Garrett.

(Cue anyone)

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As the circus parade hit the outskirts of Hazzard, Brian and Alex were leaving the Sheriff's office. Chet's behavior had made them suspicous enough, that Brian felt it was worth having Rosco telegram a few other lawmen.

When the news was wired back about stolen racehorses from Atlanta, Brian was convinced that there was a connection to the tomcat-eyed Duke. He knew that the thoroughbred Chet rode wasn't the kind of horse the average cowboy could afford.

Brian and Alex left Rosco at the Sheriff's office and started combing the town. Those stolen horses had to be in Hazzard. And when they were found....that would be proof enough to take all practical measures from there.

Yep, Brian thought to himself, if that potato-faced Duke had any smarts, he'd be running a fast trail towards Mexico by now. There was nothing like offending the town Sheriff, and his kin, to really shorten a man's life expectancy.

At the same time, Brian was slightly concerned about the agenda of the blonde drifter who had befriended him. Natural paranoia had kept Brian alive though his outlaw career, and it nagged at him now.

And there was also the matter of the gambling woman, scorned and carrying a mean whip. If it wasn't for her, Brian would contemplate returning to the saloon later, for another serving of hospitality by that buxom saloon girl. But at this rate, he'd be safer ordering a carryout.

These thoughts tumbled around Brian's mind as he and Alex headed for the livery stables. They went inside the long barn and checked the rows of stalls....and when they discovered the racehorses, Brian looked at them with a grim nod.

"That answers that," he said to Alex. On impluse, he eyed the blonde drifter and asked a sudden question. "You reckon any bounty hunter might have followed these horses to Hazzard? "

Brian looked directly at Alex, the insinuation clear. If his criminal instinct about Alex was correct, then the friendship between the two men could be short-lived, indeed.....

(cue Alex)

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Alex sat atop Showdown, looking around the big barn at the horses. No wonder that gawking kid had kept such a close eye on him and Brian all the time they were in the saloon and had waited for them outside of it. A pack of horse flesh this valuable would make any man suspicious enough to keep tabs on anyone seen as having the fortitude to seek the stolen animals.

The horses had been surprisingly easy to find...TOO easy to find and that fact gnawed at him. Was that Kid setting up some sort of trap for them? Would he be coming back for these horses with help that would swing the odds in his favor?

Brian's question broke this chain of thoughts and Alex started to answer it, turning his gaze towards the dark haired man in black.

"I think if there was we would have known it by now--" He stopped talking when he saw the pair of suspicious eyes boring a hole in him and his own widened.

"I'm no bounty hunter Brian. I found out about these horses the same time you did."

He kept his eyes locked on the questioning man's face and his grip firm on Showdown's reigns, not wanting any sudden moves to turn into a big misunderstanding between him and Brian. The question still hung in the air and Alex waited to see if his words were believed or if Brian's reply would be given from the barrel of his pistol...

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The circus drove to the end of town, past the livery stable and all the other buildings and they finally parked in an open field an began to open up more to the town. It was dark already, which was convenient for Chet’s next move. He dismounted out behind the circus rig an began to take the fancy saddle and equipment off of his horse an replace it with his well worn saddle an other tack.

In a few short moments he tightened his cinch an buckled the throat latch of Red's old bridle an tied his old bed roll behind his saddle. Just as he began to pluck the fancy silver buckles from his chaps an slip his broad shoulders into his long duster the team masters daughter rounded the rear of the rig an stopped in her tracks as she saw what he was doing.

“Where are you going Todd?†Brandy asked a little stunned that he was leaving so soon.

“I have some business to take care of, thank your father for letting me ride with the rig.†He pulled the last of the silver off his chaps and gun belt an tied the leather strap around his thigh.

“Your not coming back?†She asked her voice pinched with hurt.

Chet shook his head no in reply and stepped up to her so that they stood face to face, an she looked him in the eyes. Her eyes brimmed with tears, she had liked him, an liked him a lot. With out a word Chet took her chin in one hand an pressed his lips to her an gave her a deep kiss then turned away and stepped into his saddle.

“Goodbye Brandy.â€

Red spun around an with Chet’s signal began to jog towards the back alley of the town, an towards the back of the Boars Nest Saloon. Chet veered away from the livery, he had seen the big black horse hitched to the post there, an he recognized it as the black clad slicks horse. An it was obvious that him and the blond fellow had found his three horses that he had stashed there.

So without any interest in ridding right past them again he rode around them, crossed the main street in the dark and again parked his horse in the alley beside the Boars Nest Saloon. Chet knew of the stairwell going up the side of the building to the upper floor, an he knew that’s where he would find the painted saloon girl that the black clad slick had showed interest in.

He left Red at the bottom of the stairwell, an climbed the stairs until he came to a window, there he gracefully climbed through the open window an entered the dark room. The girl was not there, yet, but she would be an she would probably not be coming alone. Chet drew his red bandanna up over his nose as he ducked behind the door an waited patiently for her to return to her room. He raised a gun in each hand, ready for the company that she would bring with her.

(Cue Min.)

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Down in the saloon below, the sounds of piano music, flinging poker chips and rowdiness stirred in the smoke filled room. With the setting sun came all sorts of night creatures, cowboys, outlaws and ranch hands from all over that had come for the cheap beer and friendly company.

Min had dressed in her best, a green dress, the petticoats and ruffles black beneath the flared skirt. She had lent a hand behind the bar, passing out drinks to the cowboys that came in.

Despite the men that filled the bar, the pickings seemed a little slim and still a little tired from her earlier encounter with the stranger in black, Min decided to call it a night. Saying her goodbyes to the men, most of them expressed disappointment that she had decided to call it an early evening.

Climbing up the steps to her room, she rubbed the back of her neck looking forward to a nice hot bath and her clean sheets.

Grasping the knob, she pushed the door open and stepped into the dimly lit room...

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Chet lowered his guns and placed them both back into there holsters seeing that she was alone, amazing enough. The treated leather of his holsters squeaked but did not give away his position behind the door, he watched her carefully, waiting for just the right moment. He let her take a few steps into the room, her fancy shoes tapping across the floor as she came through the doorway an into the room.

Suddenly he slammed the door shut and grabbed her from behind putting his right arm all the way around her an his left leather gloved hand over her mouth. Chet held her tight as she struggled, he had know intention of getting punched in the nose again, or anywhere else for that matter. He hugged his arm around her tightly pressing her arms down to her sides so that she could not strike him.

“Easy now, I ain’t interested in being one of your clients.†Chet’s Yankee voice deep an near a whisper as he lifted her feet off the floor and carried her over to the bed an pinned her down on its soft top comforter.

“But your going to come with me, an ya ain’t going to hit, bite, kick me, or anything of the sorts.†He paused to tie a piece of rope around her wrists tightly behind her back. “You’re a fine lady but I got business in this town, an its going sour.â€

He took his bandanna from his neck an stuffed it in her mouth an tied it behind her head, after that was done he picked her up in his arms an carried her to the window. There he set her down on the floor by the window. He climbed back out the window an stood on the stairwell a moment, then reached in and pulled her through the window as gently as he possibly could. When he had her through the window he slung her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes an carried her to his horse, who waited patiently.

Chet sat her on his horse and stepped into his saddle, one arm around her to hold her securely. He turned the fiery Red gelding towards the end of town, the way he had rode in with the circus, an he batted his heals to the horses sides an the tired horse jogged down the main street. Chet rode out, Min grasped securely in his arms an ridding in front of him in the saddle.

(Cue anyone. Please Note this post was edited.)

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Chance also decided to make an early night of it. Her encounter before had scared away most of her potential gambling victims, so she consoled herself with a drink.

Before leaving, she decided to bid goodnight to Min, who had left the saloon floor a few minutes ago. Maybe just a few more details about her favorite customer...

But entering the room, Chance grin turned sour. Min was gone, but there was no other way out of the bedroom, except the window and Min rarely used that method.

She poked her head out the window just in time to see her friend being carried off by a very familiar outline.

Chet Duke, the guy must have a habit of kidnapping. Now Chance's frown turned into a snarl. Kidnappin her was bad enough, but nobody messed with her friend.

Alright, All bets were off.

Chance whirled and ran out of the saloon and into the stables, where her own grey horse, Gambit, was waiting.

But he wasn't the only one waiting in the stables. Chance also found the two men from the saloon standing here. Ignoring them, threw Gambit's reins on, forgoing the saddle in her haste and climbed on the grey's back.

She was just about to give the prancing horse his rein when she turned him around. If Chet was half as dangerous, or stupid as Chance figured, she would need help, like it or not. She interuppted their conversation with the news.

"Your buddy, Chet Duke, just kidnapped your sweetheart and my friend, handsome. "

There was no time for an arguement so Chance didnt wait for one. She nudged Gambit's side hard, causing the horse to rear slightly before bolting out into the night.

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A thick cloud of coal smoke wavered in the direction of a figure standing on the depot’s platform. Daney lifted a hand and picked the bridge of her nose with her index finger and thumb from the pungent smell. Her other hand still held the Morgan’s reins. Click Clank Whoo… Whoo… A freight train pulled away from the station. The whistle sounded louder than the engine’s steam hissing and the cars moving along the narrow gauge rails.

She had been passing gas when the sight of work men loading a horse into one of boxes caught her attention. Having already taken three similar Thoroughbreds back to the livery stables at the Sheriff’s request, the detective messenger had a feeling that Chet Duke had been sold out by his own gang.

The train’s noise became just an echo in Daney’s ears. Clink Clank… She used the platform to her advantage in getting back on Examiner.

Clip Clop… Examiner walked around the building. Daney leaned forward and hugged his neck gently, whispered instructions. She straightened in the saddle and Examiner skipped trotting and cantered into the darkness backwards toward town. She wondered how everyone else was doing.

(edited to take a dupilcate line out.)

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The young dark haired Duke rode deep into the darkness, the painted saloon girl sitting in his saddle with him. As soon as he was out of town he slowed his horse to a comfortable jog an gave the tired Red gelding his head. The poor Thoroughbred hadn’t had a good rest since that morning and the wear was showing on the tall an thinly built animal.

“I know Red....I know your tired. When we get to camp you can rest awhile before we move out again.†He spoke to the horse patting his neck. The tall horse bobbed his head in response and continued on through the night, guided by the bright moonlight.

“Im going to take this gag off of you now, ain’t know point in yelling and screaming. There’s not many people that pass through these parts at this hour. Nothing but wild animals an....hard up rebels like myself.â€

Chet untied the bandanna from the back of the her head with one hand and stuffed the bandanna into the pocket of his duster.

“Im sorry I had to do that to you but.....getting caught for kidnaping isn’t on my list of things to do today.â€

After almost an hour of ridding Chet turned off the main trail an began on a deer trail deep into the GA pines. An soon they came upon a small opening where the sound of running water came to there ears, gurgling and bubbling as it flowed down the near by stream. Chet looked around not saying anything, something was wrong, they should have been called to now, by one of Jericho’s night guards, or seen a came fire burning. But there was nothing, not the sound of men talking, not the scuff of horses hoofs.

They rode into the camp, Chet sat at full caution only to find the camp empty and completely abandoned. He stopped in the creek to let his horse drink, then rode up onto the other bank an the moon light flickered off a shinny knife blade stuck into a tree.

He stepped his horse up to the tree and pulled the knife from it, a piece of paper stuck to the blade. Chet transferred the paper to his hand that was around the women an he dove his hand into his inside pocket for a moment an produced a match. He struck the match an held it close to the paper, his mismatched eyes darted back an forth as he read the words on the paper.

A small breeze blew the match out an he shook his head angrily cussing under his breath. Jericho, the leader of the gang he had been ridding with had left the note saying that him and the rest of the gang had taken the remaining 6 horses an ridden out without him. Chet turned his horse in the direction that they had ridden in an started for town again.

“I might as well take you back to town, an turn myself over to the law an that black clad slick an his blond side kick. Im finished.†His words were curled with disgust an his body language spelt his surrender.

(Cue anyone. :-? )

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Chance was quickly closing the gap. Chet's red had speed and a head start but he had stopped. The grey mustang had stamina and had started fully rested. She had uncoiled her whip, and let it hit the air, although at no point she let it strike the horse, the quicking snapping sound of leather urged it faster. She had lost her hat a while back, not noticing her loose blonde hair flying free behind her.

The fresh hoofprints left an easy track to follow and soon Chance was coming up to the abandoned hideout. She entered it just as Chet was leaving, bringing up Gambit into a rearing halt. The near collision of the two horses startled two riders, but Chance was a hair faster, already having her whip out as Chet was drawing his pistol. A quick flash of leather deprived Chet of his gun, falling well out of reach into a rocky crevice, a second knocked the hat off his head. That was his warning.

He would not get another.

"Let her go or the next thing I crack off will be your head, or something equally imporant a couple feet lower."

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“Ouch!†Chet snarled as the whip struck his hand, the leather immediately drawing blood across his knuckles.

“You....†He gritted his teeth. “Alright chill, you can have her.â€

He stepped down from his saddle, purposely getting off on the opposite side that the women with the whip was on. Chet slipped his knife from under his right chap and sliced the rope from Min’s wrist and released her. He sheathed the knife an stood next to his horse, his bleeding hand holding the reins as he stared at the gambling women with mismatched eyes from the ground.

“There ya happy?!†Chet grabbed his hat off the ground an glanced around looking for his gun.

His mismatched eyes took a quick glance at his second pistol that still rested in his left holster, had she seen it hidden under his duster.

“You got what you want.†He stepped back into his saddle an backed Red away a few feet awaiting the gamblers next request.

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The blonde gambler offered a hand down to her friend to help her on the mustang's back behind her.

Min rubbed her wrists glaring at Chet as she took the outstretched hand and swung up behind the lady gambler.

"Thanks Chance… Looks like I owe you one."

"Put it on my tab." Now convinced the saloon girl was out of harm's way and unharmful herself, she turned back to the outlaw with blazing blue eyes.

"What I want, is for you to stop godblasted snatching women off the street! Is this a hobby or something? Talk about getting carried away!"

Chance wasn't stupid. Any outlaw worth two bits carried more than one weapon. She was watching Chet carefully, any unfavorable movements would leave him bleeding from other, more painful locations. The whip dangled low by the ground, ready to be used again at the second's notice.

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“Not for you lady and not for anyone else!†Chet snarled, his patients were thinning, it had been a long day an he had gone nonstop.

“I will do what ever I please....aint no gun whipping gambling women going to tell me what to do.†He spat the words at her an rested his hands on the horn of his saddle, his reins laced through one hand.

Chet looked at Red, he knew the horse was tired but he also knew that he had taken in a good amount of refreshment from the water not long ago. If he timed his move just right he get Red to help him, he needed those horses so that he could leave town.

“Now you going to let me go or are you....†His move was sudden an quick, he drew back hard on Red’s reins an cross drew his other pistol as the horses feet touched back down.

Chet fired one shot at the gambling womans hand, but his aim was off because of the jolt of the horses feet touching down on the hard ground. The bullet grazed the top of her hand and he quickly levered back the hammer for another shot.

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The chilly breeze brushes gently against Garrett's face as he tiredly steps out from under the porch to his off white horse. For a silent moment Garrett watches his muscular horse eating quietly upon the tall grass that surrounds the wooden posts, his brown eyes wide and alart as it eats.

"Here I am, Buddy," Garrett softly says as he places a comforting hand upon the horse's coarse neck while he uncomfortably glances around the quiet town. Taking in the long dusty dirt road with hardened smokey gray eyes his mind slowly wonders through the minimal choices he faces. Choices of where to go now, now that he is on his own. "What now, Buddy? Do we stay or move on?"

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Chance hissed in pain, clutching her injured hand, but the grip on the whip remained tight. Fury boiled over like hell fire, a gambler's hands were their lively hood, their tools

"Alright, have it your way, I'm DONE being gentle."

Chance only uttered a silent aplogy to the horse, the red bay had done nothing wrong, execept having an idiot for an rider.

With a wild yell, Chance spurred her horse and cracked her whip, this time wrapping the leather around the animal's front legs. She turned the mustang quicky, yanking the whip hard to the side, among with the horse's long legs. The hard sudden pull sent the horse onto the ground and Chet with it. Shaken and frightened, it got up and bolted for parts unknown.

Chance didn't even give Chet the time to stand up. Snapping leather again, this time the leather coiled around Chet's upper body, pining his arms at his sides while he was still on his knees from the fall.

"I think its time for a you to eat your words, Chet Duke, and some dust!."

No sooner did Chance spit those words then she gripped the whip hard and kicked the mustang's sides, commanding a run. And run the horse did, dragging the outlaw behind them, letting him sample some of the local dirt kicked up by Gambit's hooves.

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“No!†Chet yelled as Red crashed to the ground and Chet rolled off.

He didn’t care what happened to himself as long as the Red gelding was unharmed, he had done nothing wrong.

“Red!†He shouted after the horse as it took flight.

By looks of the animal as it galloped into the dark it appeared to be unharmed, the whip clasped around him and he crumbled to the ground as the horse began to drag him.

“Stop! NO! What the hell do you want from me?!†Chet spit the dirt from his mouth as his body scuffed roughly over the hard ground.

“Let me go!†He snarled and spat again.

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When the lady gambler had burst into the livery stable, spoke of kidnapping and addressed one of the two men as "handsome," it gave Brian and Alex pause.

As the lady gambler had ridden off to wreak havoc, Brian turned to Alex. "Awright, she called one of us "handsome", so she musta been talkin' to me. 'Specially as ah know that saloon girl quite well." Brian sat back in Damascus's saddle and turned the Percheron-Arabian towards the doors. "We'll settle the questions between us later, Alex. For now, why don't you take those stolen horses n' hide 'em somewhere. Get somebody in town to help ya. I'd rather not have that two-bit rustler findin' 'em again."

Without waiting for answer, Brian nudged Damascus into a run and called back over a shoulder. "Meet ya back at the saloon!" The great black horse thundered away, building speed through it's gallop like a living locomotive.

And that's what it often felt like, in the saddle. Damascus had a belly full of grain and a few sugar cubes in him, and he'd enjoyed a nice rest eariler in the day. Now, the big horse was giving pursuit in earnest, and as he flew through town, the percussion of his hooves sent spitoons tipping over and lanterns falling from pegs.

If only the dang horse was easier to steer at this speed. Full of energy and spirit, Damascus did his best to try and tug the reins out of Brian's hands. Deviltry was in the beasts' mind, and just about when Damascus and Brian were caught up to the lady gambler, Damascus would veer off in another direction and cut a wide circle. The black horse took the chase as a game, and gave Brian hell.

"@#%&* horse!" Brian yelled, sawing at the bit with the reins. Damascus tossed his head and gave a bellowing whinny, swearing back. Only when they lost sight of the lady gambler and her horse, did Damascus realize his goofing around was likely to get him in big trouble. That could mean no sugar....or...

"I'll give you back to the Union army, ya plugged plowhorse!" Brian threatened.

Damascus flattened his ears back and dropped his head, and this time, didn't fight the tug of the riens as Brian guided him back towards the lady gambler's trail.

Then she suddenly burst back into sight, her horse running and something being dragged behind it. Damascus reared and screamed in surprise, which allowed the lady gambler and her mount to go flying by.

As Damscus put all four on the earth again, Brian squinted his dark eyes from beneath his low-brimmed hat. It looked like someone was getting surfing lessons, western-style.

Brian cursed and muttered under his breath. "Damsel in distress, mah posterior." He quickly drew his gun, sighted along the barrel, and turned Damascus to face them with a squeeze of his legs. If he missed, he'd either shoot the hapless victim in the head....or the gambler's horse in the rear. Both possibilities would mean a problem he did.

*BLAM!* Brian's first shot frayed the length of whip that stretched from the horse to the captive. *BLAM!* The second shot split it in two.

"HYAAAH!" Brian yelled to Damascus, kicking the horse into motion to ride up to the now-still form that lay in the dust. He stopped Damascus in front of the prone man, shielding the victim from further assault by the whip-wielding hellmaid.

Keeping his gun in his right hand, and holding the riens in his left, Brian waited for the confrontation. He owed the horse-theiving Duke nothing, and the law owed any rustler a stout rope....but there was nothing he trusted in this lady gambler. And Brian remembered how she'd rewarded his earlier courtesy by cracking his shotglass apart. Well, she was about to be repaid for that.

In spades.

( cue anyone )

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