Read an Exerpt of Unfinished Business

Chris Larabee rarely made a hasty decision; he had discovered one tended to live longer that way but, as he looked thoughtfully across the street to the boarding house, he could not shake the feeling that something was seriously amiss; indeed he had a strong sense of impending disaster for which he could find no logical basis. It was this gut feeling that prompted, what was for Larabee, an uncharacteristically impetuous act. Rising quickly he strode across the dusty width of main street to Standish’s lodgings, knowing full well that the gambler was by now well on his way to Bitter Springs. He had no clear idea of what he was going to do once he got there but he was convinced that the key, or even a clue, to Ezra’s -- and Mary’s -- decidedly odd behaviour might be uncovered in the Southerner’s quarters.

Chris glanced quickly around the well-furnished room, a direct contrast to his own spartan cell, but then Ezra often made more in one night at the poker table than Chris was likely to see in a month. Moving slowly around the room Chris paused, his nose twitching as he caught a faint whiff of bay rum tainted by another, stronger, underlying odour which, while not unpleasant, was definitely out of place. On the night stand he found the answer in a small jar of salve -- a herbal concoction Nathan often used on cuts and bruises. He moved to open the closet and shook his head at the racks of jackets and shirts displayed there; Standish had more clothes than anyone he had ever known. And who needed more than one pair of boots? He was about to close the door when he noticed something white in the corner of the closet; what seemed to be a crumpled shirt and oddly out of place in the otherwise pristine neatness of the gambler’s wardrobe. A moment later he held in his hand the torn garment, a hand-stitched linen shirt once-white but now stiff with dried blood and his stomach performed a gymnastic manoeuvre that left him feeling slightly sickened.

“Find somethin’?”

Somehow he was not surprised to find Vin Tanner at the open door.

“See for yourself.”

He tossed the gory evidence towards Tanner and sat down on the edge of the bed, aware that he was looking at a piece of the puzzle but not certain where it fitted in the bigger picture. The bounty-hunter turned the shirt over in his hands, checking for damage but he found only that several of the pearl buttons had been torn off. He made a slow, thoughtful circuit of the room, pausing to look out of the window.

“He looked fine when he drove out of town a coupla hours ago, Chris.”

Larabee could not argue with Tanner’s observation but his instincts were telling him an entirely different story.

“Somethin’s wrong, Vin. I don’t know what it is but I’ve got a bad feeling.” The gunslinger stood up abruptly and began to pace restlessly. “I don’t like this. We know that’s Ezra’s shirt - he’s the only man in town who wears a shirt like that for God’s sake! He’s hiding something and somewhere along the line he’s involved Mary. Why?”

“Just because it’s Ezra’s shirt doesn’t mean it’s Ezra’s blood,” answered Tanner reasonably, then seeing the anxiety in Larabee’s usually frosty eyes quickly continued, “Do you want me to go after them?”

Larabee’s first inclination was to do just that but instead he slowly shook his head as he considered the reactions of both the gambler and Mary to being followed by any one of the town’s peace-keepers, least of all him.

“Hell, Vin. If I thought it would do any good I’d be on my horse and after that buggy right now but I get the feeling that neither of them would take too kindly to a chaperone.” Vin leaned easily against the window frame and looked keenly at the gunfighter.

“Is this about Ezra...or Mary?”

Larabee looked pensive for a moment and picked up the small jar of herbal salve from the night stand.

“It’s about trust, Vin.”