Fire licked at the dark sky, reaching ever higher and attempting to spread to the nearby trees. Flames had engulfed the small wooded shack. There was an eerie silence as the six men rode quickly into the yard, each praying for the safety of the young boy that had entered their lives.
“EZRA,” Chris yelled as he flung himself from his horse, never pausing in his head long strides towards the burning structure.
Crackling wood and hissing gases were the only response to his frantic calls.
Chris felt himself tackled and held back from his destination. “Noo! Let me go! EZRA! Damn’t let me go. Oh God not Ezra too,” Chris continued to yelled and scream for the others to release him. His cries were in vain though, his friends held fast, refusing to let Chris sacrifice himself to the obviously destroyed building that had no possibility of survivors.
Anger, sadness, horror, and sympathy were just a few of the warring emotions the six men were feeling as they watched helplessly the shack continued to burn.
Josiah and Nathan had a strong hold on the grieving man, each wishing they could go charging into the flames, but knew the futility of the endeavor.
Vin sighed in deep sadness, “Let’s find something to put the fire out.” He didn’t wait for the others to join him and started searching for buckets to help in his task. He could hear the trudging steps of his friends as they too began to search for something to help put the flames out.
Buck and JD had made their way towards the small barn by the enflamed edifice expecting to find the much needed buckets. They quickly located a couple of buckets in the depilated structure, along with a wild-eyed horse nervous from the encroaching blaze.
They were jarred from their job by the loud shout from Vin. Wondering what had him so worked up the two men quickly left the barn and headed in the sharpshooter’s direction.
JD and Buck were barely out of the rickety building before they caught the sight of the other three peacekeepers rushing in their direction.
“What’s Vin yelling about?” Buck asked, still unclear of what had the Texan so excited.
“Don’t know Buck but we’re going to find out,” Josiah rumbled as they all hurried towards Vin’s location.
Vin’s search took him towards the back of the shack. He started looking around the area with disgust for its lack of supplies. “Damn’t,” he growled in frustration. An unlucky rock soon became the focus of his anger and frustration, finding itself airborne and just as quickly its progress halted by the solid structure it slammed into. The resulting thud had Vin’s head turning swiftly in that direction. When he had kicked the rock towards the bushes in frustration he expected a different sound from its landing, but there was something hidden in those bushes and he felt a smidgen of hope that there may be another way into the burning building. The backside of the shack wasn’t engulfed in flames like the front, but thick black smoke billowed all around the structure. As Vin searched the area he called out to the others in excitement of the cellar door he uncovered from beneath some strategically placed foliage. He started to remove the coverings when the others rounded the corner of the shack. “Come and help me with this,” he grunted as he removed more of the limbs covering the opening.
Buck ever eager to help jumped in and started tossing branches alongside Vin. “Whatcha got here pard?”
“Cellar, think maybe we can use it as a way inside. Fire’s not so bad on this side,” Vin responded.
The others quickly joined the effort and soon the covered cellar door was revealed. Chris growled at the sight of the lock keeping the door from opening and promptly drew his gun obliterating the object that was blocking their way. He swiftly opened the cellar doors and was through before the others could stop him.
“Chris!” Buck called out. “Chris damn’t would you wait up a minute! Shoot!”
He was ignored and Vin quickly followed behind the gunslinger into the dark pit. The others waited on the outside anxiously as thick black smoke rose out of the dark cavern.
“Someone find a ladder quick!” Vin yelled back out to the others finding himself too far down from the door to get out without assistance.
“EZRA!” Chris called repeatedly praying for an answering call. He had a moment of excitement when he heard his name called behind him, but knew it was Vin an instant later.
“Chris wait up a minute,” Vin coughed from the irritating smoke. The cellar was deep underground and in inky darkness. While the smoke was infesting much of the room, the damp conditions seemed to be blocking the flames for now. Vin knew that as the heat built the room would be consumed like the rest of the shack. “Damn’t,” he cursed when he was unable to find a match to brighten the area. He heard a soft moan and coughing coming from his right and looked in that direction trying to work out the exact location it originated from. “Chris, hold up I hear something. Do you have a match, can’t see a damn thing down here.”
Chris hearing the tracker’s words quickly located a match and had it lit in a moment. He sighed at the dreary enclosure and was instantly aware that there would be no entry into the shack from its location. He made his way closer to Vin and tried to see what had gotten the tracker’s attention. “You find anything?” He asked his friend.
“Thought I heard someone cough and moan.”
Chris and Vin started searching the area with more diligence. The flooring was covered with objects, each leading to false hope as they seemed to resemble the image of a small child. Chris grew frustrated and kicked at a box in discouragement. It was then he heard it, a small moan to his left. He quickly turned in the direction, somehow knowing it was his brother’s moan he was hearing. “EZRA!” he shouted in excitement and worry. He had quickly located the small form curled up in a far corner underneath a layer of debris. “Vin! I found him.”
Vin sighed in relief and sent up a silent prayer of thanks. “How is he?”
“Can’t see much, but he don’t look good. We need to get him out of here.”
“I need that ladder boys! We found Ezra, need to get him up to Nate quick,” Vin yelled up to the others.
A ladder was rapidly dropped into the pit and then Chris was rapidly making his way out with the precious bundle of his brother held tightly in his arms, while Vin quickly followed behind.
Nathan hastily took charge as Chris made his way to the top of the ladder. “Bring him over here Chris; let me get a look at him.”
Chris reluctantly released Ezra into the healer’s capable hands. Many emotions ran through the man as he watched the healer work, relief at finding his brother, worry that he would be too injured to save and livid anger that his Aunt and Uncle placed him in this kind of danger to begin with.
Nathan grumbled quietly to himself as each new injury was revealed. Although he was concerned about their existence, he was gravely concerned with other matters. He was brought out of his private thoughts as the dark gunslinger could no longer hold his patience.
“How is he Nate? Is he going to be alright?” Chris asked in deep worry as he watched the multitude of emotions play out on the man’s face.
“He’s got a lot of bruising, shoulder’s out again, and some nasty looking wounds.”
“I won’t lie to ya Chris, he’s real sick. Got a fever, some infection in them cuts, and he’s really congested. Can’t tell though if it’s just from the smoke or if lung fever done taking over.”
“Damn,” Vin sighed out as he listened attentively with the others over Nathan’s news.
“We need to get him back to town quick. Being out in this weather ain’t doing him no good.”
Chris nodded as he numbly took in the poor prognosis. “Alright, Nathan and I will take Ezra back to Four Corners. The rest of you get this fire out before it spreads, and make sure the bodies are accounted for.”
With the orders given, the guys quickly went about their task, giving each of them a chance to work out some of their fear and anger in labor. They watched their leader and the healer head off into the night with Ezra carried securely in his brother’s arms. Each hoped that when they returned to town later that there would have good news regarding the young boy.