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Brian had taken off, kicking up a cloud of dust with his hasty exit. Alex watched him go and sighed as he studied the three horses in question.

“Great…what do I know about this town? I don’t even know anyone in it but him!†Alex grumbled as he climbed down from the horse.

“What do you think Showdown? Think I’m going to need some help?†He asked as he went over to the thoroughbreds, his steps slow and easy not wanting to spook the high strung beasts.

They backed up at his approach, snorting and the look in their big eyes answered the question for him.

“Never mind.â€

Taking off his hat, he ran his fingers through his long blond hair a moment before replacing it.

“Well, let’s see who’s around.â€

He went over to the double doors and cautiously opened them, peering out towards the direction of the saloon hoping to see someone, anyone.

“Wait here Show, I’ll be right back.â€

Closing the doors, he headed down the dimly lit street heading towards the saloon. There standing by his horse in front of it, he spotted a tall man in a brown duster. He appeared to be getting ready to leave and talking to his horse.

Alex looked around, approaching the man cautiously.

"Excuse me a moment."

The tall man turned around and he raised both his hands, showing they were empty.

"Take it easy Stranger, I mean you no harm just got a problem I'm hoping you can help me with."

(Cue Kristy!)

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Daney was on her way to the Sheriff’s Office to find MaryAnne or Rosco when the unmistakable sound of walnuts shattered the quietness of the night. Pistachio not filberts, she mused. Examiner stopped with the gentle nudge of his rider’s boots into his silky brown sides. Concerned that it might be Daisy in trouble, Daney urged him to go.

Hazel eyes widened at the sight of two unknown women on a gray mustang. A leather whip in pieces. A black clad figure with a gun atop a beautiful black horse. The young man from the paper she had given the Sheriff lay on the ground.

Quietly, Examiner made a wide path until he and his brunette rider were in back of the mustang and came to a stop on its left side. Daney took a deep breath. She looked at the two women. She glanced to the mustang’s rider injured hand.

(Note for Kristy: My apologizes, Jax's post changed after this one was made. )

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Chance was deceding whether to introduce Chet to a strand of cacti next to let him taste the nearest pile of horse dropping when she brushed by the blackclad man. But before she could consider slowing, the whip went slack, nearly startling her off the running horse.

Using her good hand, she pulled Gambit to a stop and tossed her now useless weapon away. She turned in her saddle to see Brian PROTECTING the man who kidnapped her friend.

Trotting Gambit to the outlaw, Chance spread her arms to show she was unarmed. She kept her body between the barrel of Brian's gun and Min seated behind her. For once, she also kept her temper in check. But there was a definite animosity in those blue eyes.

"I wasn't going to kill him, just teach him how to behave himself."

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The dark haired Duke lay on the ground chest down, his arms curved up around his head and his long lean body stretched out. The long chocolate covered duster cover all of him but his boots an his head. The black Stetson that he had been wearing lay upside down near his right hand, through being dragged he had not lost it, up until he came to the tremulous halt.

The Duke boy didn’t move, he just lay still with the side of his face in the dirt, his mismatched eyes shut. He lay there unconscious and unaware of the goings on around him, unaware of the black clad stranger, the gambling women and the approaching rider.

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Min saw the look in the darked haired man's face and she carefully climbed down from the horse. Standing on trembling knees she raised her hands in the air, swallowing hard. Chance looked at the barrel of the gun and then into the dark eyes and felt her stomach sink. Moving slow, she swung her legs off the mustang and lowered herself to the ground. Now was not the time to be cocky, or the game would really be over.

Despite the fact she was weaponless, Chance stayed between herself and Min. She had no idea what the blackclad outlaw had in store for either of them, but she would be damned if she would go or let her friend and partner be hurt without a fight.

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Keeping the gun trained on the gambling woman, Brian allowed the reins to rest over the saddlehorn for a moment. He reached into a saddlebag for a canteen, and tossed it left-handed to the hellmaid who faced him unflinchingly.

"See if you can wake up that rustler. If you've already done him in, you'll face the consequences for it. If he's still alive, then you'd better help him up on your horse."

The black-clad outlaw fell silent a moment, and his dark eyes held a chill message. "For ya'lls sake, you'd better hope he's alive. Seems to me like you girls have a sweet little setup. An' you would have had me strung behind him next, if ah'd been just a little slower on the uptake. Ah don't know how long you've been bushwackin' cowboys with this distress routine o' yers, but the party is over."

The hammer clicked back on the gun.

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A bold streak of unease washes through Garrett's exhausted body as he stares harshly at the stranger with his cold gray eyes. Unconcsiously his right arm moves up from his defensive stance to his neck where he begins to trace the thick scar that travels from behind his right ear and down to the tip of his chin.

After a long moment filled with an eery silence, Garrett slowly becomes aware of his hand to slowly force it onto his horse. Glancing back over to the stranger that had approached him, Garrett finally breaks the silence, "What sort of problem?" Garrett's piercingly cold gray eyes continue to follow the stranger's movements with his own untrust and weariness of the confrontation.

(Cue Alex)

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Alex looked around again and moved closer, he kept his hands up so the stranger would see them. For now the street was clear, though the hustle and bustle within the saloon raged on.

"I've got myself into a predicament and I need someone with a strong back to help me move three very valuable horses." He spoke in a low voice, guaranteeing that only the stranger would hear.

"If you're willing to help I'll pay you handsomely for your trouble and your silence. What do you say? Will you help me?"

Alex stepped back and waited for the stranger to reply, hoping this man would help or he would have to move those race horses alone.

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Chance sighed as she walked towards the unconscious man, kneeling next to him and uncapping the canteen. The young man was breathing and his pulse was strong, which was lucky for both of them but completely passed out from his ordeal.

"You want to know our scheme. Fine! I'm a pickpocket and gambler" Chance nodded towards Min. "She's buys my lifts from me. That's all. Only reason this varmint got involved is he swiped me off the street and tried to convince me to gang up against you and your blonde buddy back at the saloon, or to help with those blasted racehorses he stole. And when I politly refused, I guess he'd figure he'd bait you with something a little closer to you."

She wanted for that to sink it, hoping the outlaw saw she had nothing to lose by lying with his gun pointed at her. Although Chance did decided right then and there that in her next life she was going to be about as far away from being an outlaw as she could.

Turning her back to Brian, she rather unceremoniously dumped the contents of the canteen on Chet's face, hoping the shock would awaken the horse thief.

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The cold water hit the young Dukes face immediately mixing with the dirt an running to the ground. Chet coughed an gaged for a moment, his head spinning and feeling extremely light. He rubbed his eyes with his hands, his right hand still dripping blood from the gash the whip had made and caked with dirt.

“Red....?†He coughed again an opened his mismatched eyes, blinking them a few times waiting for them to clear of there blurriness.

His eyes widened suddenly realizing that he was looking into the face that had just whipped and dragged him. Quickly he sat up and scooted away on his rear, his steal spurs clanging as he dragged them across the dirt an looked up at to see the black clad slick sitting on his horse with a gun pointed at the gambling women.

“Don’t shoot!†Chet said a little shakily, feeling light headed and terribly confused.

He looked from the gambling women an to the black clad figure, what was he doing here? An when had the gambling women released him from the clasp of her whip. Chet reached out an grabbed his hat from on the ground an batted it against his leg, his mismatched eyes darting from person to person. His slate grey eye dull and eerie as it darted back an forth blindly.

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A hint of tinted excitement rushes through Garrett's exhausted body at the thought of lending a helping hand towards something unlawful. Watching the strager with watchful, Garrett attempts to remember the last time had been invited or been involved in something fun and outside of the law. It has been awhile.

"That must be some pridictament you got yourself in if you are willing to pay that well and to want me to be silent," Garrett whispers back to the stranger as he slowly begins to intently take in the stranger within his hardened eyes. Silently, his mind continues to run wildly within him of all the times he had been wronged by strangers approaching him with deeds outside of the law or by his own friends for that matter.

After a long eery silence of taking in the stranger and fighting whether or not to trust him a broad smile spreads across Garrett's handsome face. "Hell why not," Garrett interrupts the silence as he pats the stranger on the back of his shoulder while extracting the other for a handshake, "Name's Garrett Duke."

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"Alex Jackson--"

The two men shook hands and with a sigh of relief that he had found some help, Alex motioned down the street towards the livery.

"Bring your house and come on, we have to get those horses relocated and fast."

Leading the way, Alex and Garrett made their way towards the livery stable, using the darkness in between the buildings as a cover. Yanking back the set of double doors, Alex motioned Garrett inside.

"Heard some talk in the saloon, I've got an idea of where we can hide the horses."

With Garrett and his horse inside, Alex took one last look around to make sure the coast was clear as he closed the double doors behind him.

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Garrett remains silent as he runs a muscular hand through his horse's mane while he takes in the stable along with the horses. After a long while he glances back at the guy who had introduced himself as Alex, taking in his actions. "So," he finally speaks up a little over a whisper, "do you have any plans of what you want to do with the horses...or where to take them to?"

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"As I said, I know of a place we can hide them."

Alex approached the three stalls where the race horses were. The first out housed a big Chestnut and he reached out and gently touched the big brown horse's head.

"Hey Big Boy...its all right I'm not going to hurt you." His voice low and calm, he glanced behind his shoulder at Garrett.

"Help me, we need to get these three tied together so we can move them. Our own horses should help keep these guys calm."

Opening the stall door, Alex gently grasped the bridle and led the first racehorse out.

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Garrett nods in understanding as he quickly approaches Alex where he stands in front of the stalls. For a long moment Garrett glances around, feeling lost and confused of what to do. "Yeah OK," Garrett slowly answers as he takes in the powerful body of the horse Alex leads out of the first stall.

Quickly the exhaustion that had filled Garrett disappears into alertness and excitement of the moment. Opening the stall door next to Alex's, Garrett takes in the slick black race horse that glares up at him with alert dark eyes. "Whoa, " Garrett says stepping back to show the horse his hands for a short moment before stepping in slowly until he reaches up and gently rubs the horses velvety nose. "See? It'll be ok."

After a short moment of gaining the horse's trust, Garrett runs his hands down the horse's muscular neck to grab a hold of the black leather bridle. "Here we go," he speaks up to the horse once again as he leads the horse back to where Alex stands with the race horse he had lead out of it's stall.

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“Last one.†Alex opened the third stall, there a light grey horse back up at his approach and he reached up and gently took a hold of his bridle.

“Hey Pal, don’t worry, you’re other buddies trusted me and Garrett here, so just take it easy.â€

He led the horse out and handed him to Garrett then looked around.

“Well, some rope would be nice.â€

He spotted a bundle on the far side of the barn and tossed it to Garrett.

“Think you can tie these boys together? There’s enough rope here to tie a lead rope from each one, then tie them all together into a main rope.â€

"Yeah no problem," Garrett answers as he catches the rope that was tossed to him. Turning to the three muscular animals that stand testily in front of him, he begins to measure out the rope in order to get them ready to be moved.

“Thanks.†Alex went back over by the doors and opened one; he poked his head out and checked to make sure no one had taken a sudden interest in the livery.

“So far so good--†He drew back and then pushed both doors wide open then rejoined Garrett, who had finished tying the horses together and handed Alex a thick main rope, it split off three ways one for each horse.

“Good job Garrett, thank you.†A smile then came to his face.

“Mount up, time to go.â€

Alex then swung up on Showdown, the main rope held tight in his hands. He then nudged Showdown in the sides.

“Come on Show, let’s get out of here.â€

The horse walked to the doors, with everything still quiet and serene Alex nudged the buckskin again; this time the horse began to jog; the three race horses following behind along with Garrett.

With the horses safely tucked away and Garrett paid nicely for his help, the two men parted ways and Alex returned to town. He climbed down from Showdown, tying the buckskin to the hitching post right outside the saloon.

“Well Show, that seemed to work out all right after all.†He gave his horse’s thick neck a pat, then headed inside to wait for Brian’s return.

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Back in the outskirts of town, Brian heard the lady gambler's admissions and gave a low chuckle.

"A gambler and a pickpocket, eh? Can't say ah'm surprised. I'm just glad that you and your friend each chose the right career for yerselves." Brian added a leering wink in Min's direction.

He then turned to watch Chet stagger around. "You there," he snapped to Chet. "Git up on that horse. You n' me are takin' a ride back to town. An' you'd better keep both hands on the reins where ah can see them...if you make a wrong move, it'll be your last."

Brian glanced back at the two women who were staring up at him. "And you fine ladies of the Apocalypse can use your hind legs and walk."

(Cue Chet, or Min, or Chance)

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Min watched the dark haired stranger ride away and put her hands on her hips. Despite the fact both women were now stranded, a smile came to her lips as she thought about the wink he had given her.

"He's quite a man...even when he leaves us out in the middle of nowhere horseless." She sighed wistfully shaking her head wondering to herself if she and the stranger would ever meet up again. That smile grew wider at the prospect that they might.

"Well, I appreciate the rescue Chance, even if we both need the rescuing now. We best get started back to town, that is...unless you got any ideas?"

She then turned to Chance waiting to for her answer.

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Meanwhile, Chance was absolutely fuming. She made a low growling sound of feminine rage.

"Lookie there, Min. Something you don't see every day..." She raised her voice loud enough for the departing outlaws to hear her. "TWO horses with FOUR rear ends."

Of course it didn't help their situation any, but the insults made Chance feel a whole lot better. She rolled her eyes at Min's dreamy sigh. Lord, the girl had it bad.

"I swear...If I ever get my hands on that man..." Her lips curled with wicked smile as she imagined the kinds of torments she's impose on one blackclad Coltrane. "..Let's just say it would make what happened in your room look like a !@#$%ed tea party."

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The Strate twins traveled along the main dirt road that travels toward town. A was a litte ways from their farmstead where they both grew up.

"So have you gotten the gumsion to ask Miss Daisy to court you yet?" Val asked as she rode along on the back of Whisper.

Enos's face became flushed as his sister asked that subject, "Um, not yet."

"What are you waiting for Christmas?" Val chuckled.

"Ya know you can't rush those kind of things Val. Plus, I want to buy some land first. Build myself a little cabin, get a few milk cows, dig a well..." Enos answered day dreaming about his perfect life with Daisy.

Val rolled her eyes, "You can still ask to court her. Sheesh. By the time you're both ready for marriage you'll have a log palace at the rate you're going."

Enos looked at his sister a little deflatted.

"I'm sorry 'E'. Look, maybe we should focus more about the task at hand than your love life." She apoligized.

"Yes we should."

In the distance the two riders could see two forms walking side by side as they were approaching the outskirts of the town.

"Hey look there's some folks walking up ahead. Maybe we can get some information or maybe they need some help." Val pointed to the pair in the distance.

The twins spead there horses up to the two women. Val then realized it was the two girls she seen at the bar, the trouble causing gambler and the 'working' bar maiden. She suddenly felt a warriness in her stomach as she approached.

"Hi, um... need some help?" Val asked dryly from atop of her dark bay mount.

(cue Chance or Min)

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“No.†Chet said coldly an jammed his black Stetson back down on his head and crossed his arms over his chest.

He stared at the black clad stranger on the big horse, his mismatched eyes burning with stubbornness. His booted feet planted firmly on the ground and his chaps laying naturally over his legs, well worn and perfect.

“I ain’t going anywhere without my horse.†Chet paused. “He’s worth four times more then any of your nags an I ain’t going anywhere without him. Shoot me if ya want, but I ain’t moving until its on the back of my Red horse.†Chet spat the words this time an made know move towards the mustang.

(I know I wasnt cued and I'm sorry for cutting in but ya'll are getting ahead of yourself. Cue Brian.)

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( Chet, I'll shoot you if I have to. Now, if you know as much about horses as you claim to, you'd know that Red is gonna instinctively look for more horses, rather than roam around by himself. I reckon he'll amble along and follow us, and I'm happy to work that in. I want him for evidence anyway. So, make yer choice now, and I'll ree-act accordin'ly.)

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(Fine, as long as he shows up in town. Fair enough.)

With a little hesitance Chet hoisted himself into the mustangs saddle and gathered the reins. He was carefull, all awhile making sure the black clad stranger could see his hands.

"Alright......take it easy.....Im going." Low surrendering voice.

Chet sighed and kicked his heals to the horses sides.

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"Good decision." Brian nudged Damascus into a walk. He kept the reins in his left hand, and the gun ready in his right, resting it on his thigh as he rode. If Chet so much as sneezed in the wrong direction, Brian could fire a shot with an upward snap of the wrist.

They rode no more than a half a mile when Chet's wandering thoroghbred gave a high-pitched call, off in the distance. It was alone and unhappy about it. Damascus answered the whinny, as did the borrowed horse that Chet was seated upon. Thus encouraged, the thoroghbred came out into the open and broke into a canter, squealing the horse equivilent of wait-for-me.

Brian allowed Chet's horse to walk alongside of them. A wave of the gun in warning kept Chet from trying any fancy leapfrogging into Red's saddle. Other than the occassional nicker and snort from the horses, the trip to town was made in an uneasy silence.

Once they were within town and riding towards the saloon, Brian broke the silence. "You know what kind of trouble you're in," he told Chet ominously. "You know the price tag it comes with. But before ah hand you over to the law, we're gonna stop for a drink and talk things over."

Brian reined in at the saloon and made sure Chet did the same. He gestured with the gun to make sure Chet dismounted first, and then continued speaking. "Ya see, I found me a few stray racehorses that just might be worth somethin' to the right buyer. Ah figure you might know of a buyer that's interested in them. So, we're gonna have us a friendly drink an' talk a little business."

Brian paused, and his dark eyes held a sharp expression. "What happens to you after that.....depends on how good our talk goes. Dig?"

(cue Chet)

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