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The Essence Of Time
Chapter 14

Pain-filled green eyes worked their way through heavy lids to focus blandly on the silent figures that surrounded his bed. He laid as still as possible trying both to avoid aggravating the already increasing pain level and so as not to disturb the wondrous apparitions that had taken residence in his consciousness. He knew they couldn’t be real and he figured he had finally begun to lose his mind.

Deciding that he could care less at this time if he was going crazy, he took a moment to memorize ever feature on the first figure. The boy was slightly older than him, with long curly brown hair and features that were beginning to mature with age. Ezra felt a jolt of recognition, realizing he had met this young man before. He sighed in wonder as his usually sharp mind slowly put the missing pieces together and identified his childhood hero. Sure the boy was older now, but Ezra realized his mind would have created the changes too. It just made sense that his hero would be older than him. Feeling safer than he had in many years he absorbed all the small nuances he could of the slumbering figure.

Once he had his fill he focused on the next figure and his sharpening mind quickly identified his Uncle Buck. He smiled wistfully as he remembered the fun times he had with the gregarious man. Like with his hero, his mind had adjusted to the aging of the man. Ezra wondered why they were all sleeping in his newly created world, but figured he would learn how to adjust that in time. He ached to reach out for the comfort his Uncle would bring him but held back afraid he would disturb the carefully constructed illusion and leave his world emptier than before.

It was with great expectation that he turned towards the last figure and could barely contain the joy of finding his father sitting at his bedside. His jade eyes locked onto the figure as a silent tear tracked its way down the bruised and swollen face. He couldn’t contain the desire to reach out for that parental affection and prayed everything wouldn’t disappear as the whisper-soft word “Dad” filled the silent room. When the figures remained within his realm he slowly relaxed and let consciousness fade. He couldn’t help but pray that when he woke again that his apparitions would still be present.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

Chris woke slowly to the whispered word, wondering if he had imagined his son calling for him. As he looked at the small figure sleeping soundly in the oversized bed he figured it was just his mind playing tricks on him. Looking at his best friend and son still sleeping just confirmed that he was hearing things, but after five days of waiting for his son to regain consciousness it would be a surprise if he wasn’t hearing things.

He barely remembered the first day in the humid city, just the rush from the airport to the hospital where he had been hold up ever since. He sighed guiltily when he considered his actions of the last few days. He knew it wasn’t his friends fault, but he couldn’t seem to stop lashing out at them every time one of them would bring up the question of why they never knew about Ezra.

Taking a deep breath, he considered Vin and the hurt confusion he had seen in the boy since finding out about Ezra’s existence. He knew the boy was worried about his place in his life now that Ezra had been found and Chris knew he had done nothing to help alleviate those fears. He made a promise to himself to do that this morning when the boy woke up. They’d go out this morning, have a good breakfast and he spend some time reassuring Vin of his place in his life. He was a bit nervous about leaving Ezra’s side for the first time but he also had Vin to think about too. It wasn’t like he was abandoning his son, Buck or one of the others would be here and they could contact him if anything happened.

He had tried to get Josiah, Nathan and JD to return back home, but they seemed just about as stubborn about staying. They were really good men and wasn’t surprised by their behavior. They had been instrumental in helping to clean up the mess with the step-father and school system. He knew that by the time they left the city that town would never be the same again.

Chris frowned when he thought about the man that had put his son into the hospital. He had learned over the last few days that Ezra had been a visitor many times to different hospitals, clinics and private physicians in the years he had been missing. He wondered how it was that no one had considered his abuse before. He owed a great deal to the young Miss Tenant and her brother and his partner as well. From the report he had heard on Maude, it was a wonder that Ezra wasn’t killed.

Robert Bizworth was on his way to a psychiatric facility. Within an hour’s time of being in custody he had attacked another prisoner. Unfortunately for Mr. Bizworth he chose the wrong person to attack. By the time the guards were able to separate them Bizworth had sustained numerous injuries. When his lawyer found out he had suspected foul on the part of the law enforcement, after all prisoners had been known to be beaten by revengeful officers; it certainly wouldn’t be the first time it happened. However, when Bizworth tried attacking him as well he quickly changed his tune and proceeded to get paperwork together for the man to be evaluated by a psychiatrist.

Chris had not been pleased with the insanity card being played, but there was little he could do about once the doctor’s diagnosis was verified by an additional two psychiatrists. In all accounts the doctor’s agreed the man’s mind snapped when he discovered the swindle his wife was pulling on him. So it was the murder of Maude and the attack on her son would never be brought to trial. That however didn’t mean that those sane and knowing of the problems would be held unaccountable. The list was growing longer by the day and each where being charged as accessories to child abuse, assault and battery on a minor, and murder of Maude Bizworth. Chris had tried to throw everything he could at the individuals responsible, not caring that he was coming across as a vindictive bastard. In his book any one of those people could have prevented this tragedy from happening. From the staff that worked in the estate to the administration at the private school, the list was long on those being charged both criminally and professionally. Most of the staff at the private school would not only lose their jobs and face prison time, but would never be able to work in a school system again.

Seeing his friend rouse from another night of sleep brought him out of his contemplative mood. “Morning Buck.”
“Any change?” Buck asked as he stretched and tried to adjust his body from the cramped positions he had been in for the past few days.

Chris just shook his head negatively. “I need to talk with Vin, you mind staying with Ezra till we get back?”

“No problem, will ya bring back something decent to eat? If you weren’t a patient before you got here, just eating that stuff will be sure you’re one after.”

Chris cracked the first grin in nearly a week with his friend’s comment. “Yeah we’ll bring you back something. Let me get Vin up and going, I want to be back for when the doctor comes in for the morning check up.”

“Kay”

Chris went to wake Vin up but saw the two cerulean eyes watching his advance. He could see the worry that the boy tried to hide, but Chris felt his heart drop as he realized just how much he had left the boy in doubts.
Well he would take care of that this morning and help Vin see just how important he was to him. “Come on Vin, let’s go grab some breakfast.”

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

It was a few hours later that a relieved Vin found himself alone in the hospital room with his new brother. Breakfast with Chris and their subsequent talk had reaffirmed his place in Chris’ life. He hadn’t realized just how worried he was that Chris would no longer want him now that his real son had been found until Chris had started to alleviate his worries. Now feeling secure in his position within the family once again he began to think about his new role as big brother.

Sure he had stayed in foster homes with other kids, some younger and older, but this was the first time it would be permanent. He wanted to be the best big brother Ezra could ever have. He had seen a lot of abuse in his days, even experienced it himself, so he was prepared in some ways to help his brother deal with the trauma. Vin promised himself he would be the strong shoulder the kid could cry on when things would catch up with him.

So deep in his thoughts he didn’t realize he was being watched until a soft southern-tinted word traveled his way. “Hey your awake!”

Vin watched the eyes that returned his stare with equal parts wonder and curiosity. Seeing the smaller boy lick his lips he jumped from his chair to help him get a drink. “Here have some water.” He had to take it away when Ezra was on the verge of choking from drink too fast. “Sorry Ezra, but ya gotta slow down. Don’t want it to come right back up.”

He laughed a bit at the amazed expression on the kid’s face. He wondered why the kid was looking at him as if he was some rare jewel.

“Are you real?”

“Course I’m real,” Vin laughed at the silly question. He figured Ezra must have gotten knocked pretty hard on his head; kid just wasn’t making all that much sense.

“My hero, you always show up when I need you, and then disappear before anyone can see you,” the boy filled in painstakingly slow, trying to get the older boy to understand.

“We’ve met before?” Vin asked curiously, he didn’t remember meeting him before but couldn’t help but wonder if maybe he had.

Ezra shook his head affirmatively before replying, “first time was at school, I’s being bullied,” he finished tiredly, his words starting to slur together.

Vin’s eyes widened in enlightenment, remembering the small boy he had protected on the playground so many years before. “That was you?”

Ezra smiled but it was easy to see the boy’s energy levels were dropping fast. “Name?” he asked blinkingly trying to keep the sleep at bay.

“Vin,” he smiled at the younger boy. He watched as the kid tried out his name before falling into a deep slumber.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

When Chris had returned to the room after his meeting with the doctor he couldn’t believe he had missed the first moments of his son’s return to consciousness. He knew he should never have left the room. Vin had filled him in on the conversation he had with Ezra, short though it might be. He couldn’t help but be amazed by the story. He could barely remember Ezra’s story of the boy he dubbed his hero. At the time he and Sarah had believed it was only Ezra’s imaginary friend and the way for their son to deal with many of the changes in his life. Now though, to know that the boy was real and now his big brother really had Chris amazed.

Chris suddenly smiled as he caught the first glimpse of green eyes staring at him with gamut of emotions flickering through them. The final emotion was identified as a deep want to be held and loved; it was an expression he would never forget in his son’s eyes. He quickly gathered the boy into his fold, praying to never be separated from him again. He felt Ezra cling as tightly to him as humanly possibly with silent tears soaked his shoulder. “Oh God Ezra, I’ve missed you so much,” he felt his own tears travel down his chiseled jaw.

“I’m sorry Dad, so sorry,” he heard his son chant over and over. In return he offered words of comfort to the boy as they both released years of pain and emptiness. It wasn’t long before Chris felt his son’s body relax into his hold and slumber; but for Chris it was a long time before he released his hold on his son.
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In Wolf’s Clothing
Ch.6

Vin groaned softly as he awoke from his unconscious state. He could feel a heavy weight on his chest, but gasped in pain when he tried to lift his head and figure out its source.

“Easy Vin, best you lie still. Got yer’self a heck of a graze there. Here drink some of this tea and it’ll help with the pain.”

“Nathan?” he rasped, confused as to what had happened.

“Shush now, drink this first.” Nathan watched as his charge drank the strong tea. He shook his head in exasperation when Vin made a funny face in regards to its taste.

“Damn Nate, this stuff tastes like boiled skunk.” Vin knew the taste was terrible, but knew from prior experiences that it would ease the pain quickly. “What happened?” Though the pain was easing his memory was a bit foggy. The last thing he could recall was being stuck in the saloon with Ezra.

“Don’t know all the particulars, but you got shot while playing cards with some big fella. Guess he didn’t like losing and figured he’d just shoot ya and take the money. Good thing your little shadow was with ya, tore into that guy with a vengeance.”

Vin looked down to the angular head that was resting on him, with a sudden anxiety he worried over the wolf’s health. “He alright?” he asked as he reached his hand down and began to pet the soft head rhythmically.

Nathan shrugged, “I guess so, been up here with you since they put that guy in jail, stubborn critter won’t budge an inch from that bed.” Nathan suddenly grinned in remembrance of Ezra and Chris having a glaring contest when the gunslinger insisted he get off the bed, so as not to disturb the hunter’s rest.

Vin caught Nathan’s good humor and wondered what had transpired that had the healer in such positive thoughts. What did ya do Ez? He thought to himself.

Absolutely nothing, Vin. It could hardly be my fault that Mister Larabee didn’t share my opinions on where I should reside for the night.

Vin was a bit startled, he had never been able to send his thoughts to the wolf before. Sure he could hear everything Ezra said or thought consciously, but this was a new twist to their interesting relationship. “Uh Ez, wanna fill me in on what exactly happened this afternoon?”

~~~~~~7~~~~~~

It was later that afternoon when Nathan finally let Vin out of the clinic, but for Ezra once he knew the tracker would be okay he decided it was time to check out the town for himself. Still wary of the way he was greeted on the first arrival into the town, he made sure one of the other peacekeepers was well within sight to discourage any nefarious thoughts by the locale. He tried to keep his body language as non-threatening as possible, so as to convince the residents that he meant them no harm.

The time he spent alone gave him a few moments to consider what he was going to do about his predicament. He spent enough time in the company of the healer to know that the man would have little tolerance for him if he knew of his background. Prior experience had taught him that ex-slaves took a direct dislike to white southerners, especially southerners with strong accents. He supposed there was at least one positive to the others not being able to hear him, Nathan wouldn’t look at him with that disgusted gaze for where he came from and stood for. Ezra sighed as he thought about how untrue it was, he loved the southern states, but never liked the business of keeping slaves. He wondered if things between the healer and him would change if he was one day able to return to his human form.

Ezra caught sight of the giant preacher; he was a bit of a mystery to Ezra. He seemed to be teaming with remorse, rage and compassion. All these feelings continually circulated around the man and he wondered what the cause was. He decided to get to know the man a bit better and padded his way to the church where Josiah was pounding away some nails attached to the porch.

~~~~~~7~~~~~~

Josiah caught sight of the young wolf making his way towards him and again wondered what had caused the transformation to occur. He knew all about bad spirits and evil witchcraft. In his travels he had meet many such individuals, none of which he found any good in whatsoever. As he continued to contemplate the different things he had seen the young wolf arrived at his door.

“Afternoon Ezra”

Hello Mister Sanchez.

Josiah sighed, “I sure wish I could understand you like Vin does. I guess we’ll just have to try and figure something out,” he grinned.

Ezra stared nervously at the gleam in the preacher’s eye and sharky smile. Uh oh Ezra, better watch out for this one. He spent a short time with the preacher before walking away, after all one could only listen to the man’s parables for so long. Okay so sometimes there are positives to not being able to be heard, he grinned to himself. Walking by the jail he decided to stop in and visit with the young sheriff.

~~~~~~7~~~~~~

JD watched the young wolf enter the town’s jail and laughed when the big man in the cell scooted back from the bars. “Hi Ezra, coming to visit?” JD didn’t expect an answer but figured it was just polite to talk with the canine. “You sure got that guy didn’t ya. Wow I ain’t never seen anything like that before. I sure wouldn’t wanna get you mad at me.”

Ezra rolled his eyes upwards as he continued to listen to the young man carry on. JD was a bright beacon in a world of storm clouds, he wondered if he was ever that naive to what happened in the world. He continued to listen as he padded closer to the cell that held the behemoth that had injured his friend. He was still unnerved by his actions against the man; it was particularly disconcerting that he was unable to release the man when he wanted to. Not liking where his thoughts were going, he quickly fled the jail and headed for the saloon.

~~~~~~7~~~~~~

Arriving into the saloon he was bombarded with the sounds of an active community. It was still disorienting the first few moments he stepped into the atmosphere because of his highly attuned hearing and the strong feelings that seemed to close in on him. Shaking his head he caught the scent of strong pheromones and grinned wickedly at the big charmer trying to turn his luck with the women. Seeing the dark clad gunslinger grinning at his friend’s antics he quickly padded over to the man and sat by his feet.

Again his thoughts returned to the circumstances that took place the last time he was in the saloon. He sighed in worry, Dear lord I hope this affliction doesn’t become permanent. I could become an endangerment to these people. Oh God I’d shoot myself if I could before I allow that to happen.

Chris sighed at the down-trodden wolf by his side, “We’ll get it figured out Ezra. Somehow we’ll get you back to normal.” He swallowed hard as those green eyes pierced him right down to his soul with their begging need.

Ezra looked pleadingly at the gunslinger, praying the man was right, before a sudden thought entered his mind. He looked shrewdly at the gunslinger, “and just how long have you been able to hear me Mister Larabee?”

Chris just grinned wolfishly at him.
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The Essence Of Time
Chapter 13

Jacob Tenant had listened as his sister told him about the young boy she was worried about in her class. The call had come in over an hour ago when he answered the call that was transferred to his desk by the department’s switchboard. Shelia had begun by telling him about the events that seemed too corresponded with injuries to the child. She explained about the school’s lack of concern where the child’s welfare was concerned. After promising his sister he would check on the child he finished his current paperwork before calling his partner over about checking out a possible child abuse case.

Ryan Hart was a long time veteran to the police profession but had only recently moved to the area like Jacob and his sister had. Ryan had a distinct dislike for adults that committed crimes against children and was ready to go before Jacob had made it past his desk. “Hurry up son I want to check this out.”

Jacob was his junior by at least fifteen years and was still in his early years of law enforcement. “Alright let’s go, I’ll fill you in on the way.”

The two men quickly reached their patrol car and Jacob drove them away from the station to the address his sister had given him.

“So where are we head son?”

“Robert Bizworth’s place, it’s his step-son that the call was about.”

Ryan thought about the name he had been hearing since the beginning of his stay in the town. He had heard the man had his hand in just about every business he could find, a supposed pillar of the community. He had the distinct feeling that the powers that be had a close attachment to the man’s business and the information he was supplied was to warn him away from checking into the man’s affairs. He was never one to be intimidated or warned off a potential perpetrator and would be damned if he would turn a blind eye to a child abuser. “So what’s the story?”

“The boy is a student in my sister’s class. She has tried going through the proper channels but has been unsuccessful in getting them to consider there is any problems within the home. She’s noticed a correlation that whenever he gets below an A he comes back the next day with at least one serious injury. Told her we would check in and see if there was anything going on.”

“Well there better not be or Bizworth will be spending a long time behind bars!”

They lapsed into silence as the journey continued, each with their own thoughts, hoping that the reports would have no foundation. When they reached the estate the sight of the wide open front door had them calling in their location with a request for backup before they cautiously made their way towards the home.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

Robert was too far lost in his frenzy to realize the damage he had wrought upon his wife and was currently bringing towards his step-son. He never heard the officers enter his home and requesting him to release and step back away from the child. All his aggression-crazed mind could recognize was two other beings to lash out at. As a result he dropped the child not even watching as he fell boneless and still towards the ground. His hand grabbed the first object within reach and took a swing at the nearest individual.

Jacob had been shocked as he and Ryan breached the home’s threshold. He was shocked by the destruction throughout the room and sighed sadly as he saw the body crumpled by the wall. What was once likely a highly attractive woman was now a broken and empty shell that would never to grace the world with her presence again. He was brought back from his musing as he heard his partner growling at the man holding the small child and adjusted his gun’s aim at the perpetrator.

Ryan was beyond livid; he was sickened by the images that flashed through his field of vision as he quickly spotted the monster that had created the hell that was still being wrought upon the child that was quickly losing his hold on reality. He called for the man to release the child and step back, but was only mildly responded to as the man dropped the child and took a swing at him with the crystal vase. Thankfully his anger worked against him and he missed slipping on the debris and shattering the vase against the floor and the side of his head. With the man down and stunned Ryan quickly cuffed him before yelling to his partner. ”Check the woman.” He quickly turned to the small boy and was in time to witness the child look at him with such hope and pleasure before he heard the hurt child call ‘Dad’ before losing consciousness.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

Chris stood in the doorway of the barn listening with pride as Vin expounded the adoption to his favorite horse, Sonny. He always thought he would have to sell the beast that wanted to bite and kick anyone in his path, everyone that is except Vin.

He looked a few stalls down to the beautiful chestnut painted gelding that was kicking at his stall in obvious envy for the other horse’s good fortune. Copper had changed though since the tragedy, not nearly the wildly mischievous horse he was before. In the last year though he seemed to perk up with Vin’s arrival, but still the ornery cuss would allow no one to ride him.

He chuckled softly when he remembered JD’s failed attempt shortly after the team’s first successful case. The boy’s rump had barely settled before Copper had bucked him right off into the water trough. Buck of course had a grand time that weekend teasing his new protégé. JD was tenacious though and tried again and again, but damn if that horse didn’t always come out on top. JD finally gave up after being unceremoniously thrown again before the indignant horse backed up to the prone figure and left a pile of what he considered of JD’s attempts to ride him.

Vin finished caring for his beautiful palomino and took notice of his father’s arrival, wondering why he was looking at the pinto so pensively. He’d caught Chris on a number of occasions watching the stubborn critter sadly, but could never figure out why. Perhaps he was supposed to be a stud horse that was gelded for some reason, which would tend to make a horse breeder morose. He had tried to get on friendly terms with the flashy horse, but was rebuffed like everyone else. It was a wonder Chris hadn’t sold the gelding with how impersonal he was.

“Morning Dad,” Vin grinned with all the happiness he could muster.

“Morning son,” Chris reciprocated, “guys should be here soon, told them to come on out and we’d have a celebration today.”

Vin brightened at the idea, he enjoyed spending time with the other men.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

The others had arrived a short time later and spent the morning riding the trails with the newest member of their family. The noon hour was upon them and all agreed that lunch was the most important item on the agenda. Vin was joined by Nathan and JD in taking care of the horses while Chris, Buck and Josiah headed for the house and to start preparing the afternoon feast. The guys had arrived with all the fixings of a weekend grilling; everything from ground beef to potato salad littered the counters and refrigerator.

“Hey Buck, why don’t you get the grill started while I get the burgers put together.”

Buck waved and nodded as he snatched a cold beer on his way out of the kitchen.

Josiah shook his head fondly at his friend before following his example and downing his own cold beer. “What can I do to help brother?”

“Can you put the fixings together? Probably best to set everything up outside, we’ll have more room that way.”

The men quickly went to work; hunger was a motivator that no man could resist. Soon the sounds of meat sizzling on the grill were heard amongst good natured teasing. It was this atmosphere that the guys noticed the arrival of Orin Travis.

“Wonder why he’s here?” Buck mused aloud.

“Hopefully not a new case, we just finished the last one.” JD whined at the thought of hours upon hours of research work that would take place.

“Guess we’ll find out in a moment brothers.” Like the others Josiah was curious about their boss’ arrival.

Chris watched silently as the man in question made his way towards the group. He hoped it was nothing that would be a complication to the adoption he had just finalized. Orin had warned him that while it was official if a relative was found the adoption could be contested. “Judge,” he greeted, “what brings you out here when you should be enjoying your weekend off?”

“Chris can I speak with you alone for a few minutes?”

Chris nodded and turned into the house where they could talk in private. The others watched as the door closed behind the two men and wondered what was going on.

“Do you think the judge is going to make me go back into foster care?” Vin asked worriedly.

“No, no son, I’m sure this is just work business. Chris would move mountains before he would let his son be taken from him.” Josiah soothed the boy as best he could while still he had a niggling worry in the back of his mind about what the judge had to discuss so urgently.

Buck turned away from the scene during Josiah’s comforting words as his mind abidingly thought of Chris’ other son that couldn’t be found even after moving all the mountains and rivers in his path. He sighed and prayed that no more complications came to his friend’s life.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

Chris sat stunned after hearing what the judge had to say, even after he had him repeat it to be certain he had heard him right. Ezra, his son, had finally been found. A great weight of relief lifted off his chest and the smallest of grins soon came to a full-fledged smile or pure delight. “Where is he? When can I see him? Is he okay? What happened?”

“Whoa, slow down Chris. That’s what I need to talk to you about.” Orin took a deep breath before he began and shuddered as he watched the worried look take over the glee of moments ago. “Ezra has been living with Maude and her husband in a small Georgia community for the last two years.”

“Two years, damn it! Two years in one spot and we couldn’t find him. Shit!”

“Well Maude was a professional con artist Chris; she was very good at her schemes.”

Chris quickly picked up on the past tense Orin was using, “what do you mean was?”

“Maude’s dead Chris, she was killed yesterday afternoon.”

“Shit. Shit. What the hell happened? Is Ezra okay?”

“Her husband beat her to death. We’re not sure exactly what all happened as the husband isn’t talking. When the officers got there she was already dead.”

“What about Ezra? What the hell is going on with my son?” Chris had jumped up as the anger surged through him over hearing of Maude’s death. Sure he was pissed at the woman for taking their son and not contacting him but damn no woman deserved that kind of treatment.

“Sit down Chris and I’ll tell you everything I know.”

Chris reluctantly sat down, he felt like a stick of dynamite ready to explode. “Go on”

“Chris Ezra’s in the hospital, he was also a victim of the husband’s abuse.”

“Fucking hell..Son of bitch! I’ll kill the mother fucker! What the hell did he do? Is Ezra alright?”

Orin watched the explosion he knew would happen, especially after his reaction to Maude’s death. “He’s at the pediatric trauma center in Atlanta. They have him listed as critical but stable. I don’t have all the information on his injuries but they will be expecting your arrival this evening and have promised to have his attending physician available to answer your questions.”

“Fuck,” his temper was punctuated as he grabbed the closest item he could get his hands on and flung it with all his strength against the wall. Hearing the glass shatter did little to abate his anger and worry. “Who do I contact at the police department in regards to the mother fucker that did this? I want the son of a bitch to fry for this shit!”

Orin related all the information as well as supplying him with a note with all the contacts he would need in Atlanta. “Take all the time you need Chris, and please keep me updated. I’ll see myself out.”

“Orin, thank you. Can you send Buck in here please?”

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

A few hours later five silent men were cramped on a flight to Atlanta, while one young man fidgeted throughout the flight. Vin had been shocked to hear that Chris had a son that had been missing for nearly four years. He looked towards his dad, but the same stony façade hadn’t lost its hold since Judge Travis had stepped into the house to talk to him. He had tried to ask about the kid, Ezra, but it seemed since the Judge’s announcement no one could get more than a word or two out of the man. Vin was worried though, now that Chris would have his real son back would he still want to keep the son he adopted? Vin sighed as he tried to get comfortable in the close seating and watched as the scenery was quickly passed by.

Buck was pissed, no he was beyond pissed he was so livid he could rip the heart out of the cold-hearted bastard that had hurt his nephew. Finally, finally the moment he had been waiting for, for so long. Only it was tarnished with death and destruction. He just wanted five minutes with the son of a bitch. He looked over at his longtime friend and could see the blood lust seeping from him. He was given a wide berth through the airport, hell the six of them looked like a torpedo coming through, probably scared the heck out of a lot of people. He was worried about Ezra though, except for being told he was critical but stable there was no other information.

Jacob Tenant and Ryan Hart were the arresting officers and would be picking the group up at the airport. As the plane set down Buck could only hope the poor bastards had balls of steel to deal with the likes of Chris Larabee; cause he knew that anyone that had something to do with the condition his son was in would pay for their part.
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The Essence Of Time

Chapter 11

Looking out across the city roof tops the young man considered all that had happened in his life; but what was really lying heavy on his mind this night was the decision he would have to make soon. Vin Tanner was no stranger to hard times and rough living, but he never crossed the line into hurting others. He knew if he didn’t say something soon people would be hurt; after all isn’t that what happens with guns?

Vin had found himself in a new foster home a few weeks ago. He wasn’t sure why he was always changing foster homes but he certainly didn’t like the one he was in now. John and Megan Cross had brought him into his home as their two sons would reach eighteen in the next few months. Vin knew at his age of fifteen that even finding a foster home was considered lucky. Most of the homes wanted younger kids, especially those not raised by Indians. Vin thought it was funny even in this day and age that there was still so much prejudice in the world.

When he had first arrived at their home he was nervous as to what would be expected of him, but found it easy to acclimate into their household. It was about a week later when he started getting suspicious of the goings on in the home. There seemed to be visitors at all times of the night and the phone never seemed to stop ringing. John worked as a truck driver for a local shipping company and Megan was a stay at home mom. Vin though couldn’t help but feel there was something more going on. It was only a few days ago that he stumbled onto what the couple and their sons were into.

Three days ago Vin was home sick from school with one of those twenty-four hour stomach bugs. It was during one of his trips to the lavatory that he heard Megan yelling over the phone about John’s large shipment coming in for a special client. Being naturally curious he continued to listen as she discussed the day, time and location of the delivery. His eyes about bugged out when he heard Megan confirm the order of guns being purchased. Vin knew from the description that these were guns on the illegal trade list. He had an affinity for firearms and found their history to be fascinating, perhaps this was one of the reasons the Cross’ had decided to foster him. It was common in the home for the family to discuss different firearms and he found himself actively engaged in their conversations. It had made the transition into their home rather smooth, but all the previous conversations had focused only on hunting rifles and the typical hand guns people carried.

After overhearing the phone conversation Vin had found himself seeking out more information about what was going on in the household. What he found he had to admit scared him about his future in that home. He knew he was going to have to tell someone but was worried about being believed and what would happen to him once he disclosed the information.  

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

“Larabee” Chris answered the phone ringing at his desk hoping it would be a new case for his team to work. They had been bored the last few weeks since their last case had cleared and started pulling practical jokes against one another. He listened attentively to the other speaker as he was filled in with the pertinent information. “I’ll be down in a few minutes sir.”

Chris made a few notations before heading into the outer office. He sighed and shook his head at what his crack pot team was up to. JD and Buck were involved in spit ball war, the evidence of their missed shots scattered around their feet. Rolling his eyes he wondered what the hell Josiah was building with the small stones on his desk. He didn’t even consider asking, knowing he was in no position to hear one of his many parables that only left him feeling more confused in the end. His eyes traveled to his most sensible agent and then wished he hadn’t. Somehow Nathan had in his position a life-like human head and chest. He was currently cutting into the dummy’s throat with a very sharp scalpel. He cringed at the thought of anyone having that procedure. From the looks of the dummy and all the paraphernalia poking out from its orifices he was considering having Josiah speak with the healer about things that may be bothering him. He cleared his throat to gain everyone’s attention and cringed again when his distraction had caused a disaster for Nathan.

“Damn it!” Nathan yelled in frustration as he severed the carotid artery in the mannequin’s neck.

“Problem brother?” Josiah chuckled at the man’s frustration before frowning when his own project fell apart.

“You have a new case for us stud?” Buck swung his seat around while he dislodged a modest amount of spitballs from his head and shoulders.

“Thank God!” JD exclaimed. He was seriously bored, he’d already run every virus scan and backup program he could think of..twice!

“Travis has a new case for us. I’m on my way to meet with him and bring back an informant. He’ll be under protective custody until the case is finished. I don’t have much more information right now. I’ll fill everyone in when I get back. Buck you’re with me, everyone else clean up this mess.” Chris didn’t wait as he continued out of office and into the elevator with Buck following quickly on his heels.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

Vin paced the room for the umpteenth time before settling by the window that offered a stunning view of the city of Denver. He’d been waiting in this room for what felt like hours while some guy named Travis arranged for his protection after he had been filled in on the information Vin possessed. He rubbed his stomach in appreciation of the fine meal he was treated to. McDonald’s big mac and fries was a special treat for him and his eyes had lit up when his requested food was brought in. Now though he was bored and anxious to meet the man he would be living with throughout the investigation.

According to Travis they had to work with the foster care system and set up a believable reason for Vin’s removal from their home and care. It was for this reason he was waiting so long. Sighing again he let his gaze angle towards the sky and wondered just where he would end up after all this was over.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

“You did WHAT?” Chris couldn’t believe what Travis had done.

“It’s for the best Chris, it will make everything safer this way.” Orin knew he would face Chris’ wraith over this but he felt he was the best suited for this situation.

“How long?” He gritted out between clenched teeth. He really didn’t want this but knew there was no getting out of it, the case was just too important.

“Until after the trial is over. Shouldn’t be but a few weeks, month or two tops.” At least Orin hoped for his sake it was only that long. He cringed as he watched Chris slam the door behind him as he left the office. He could hear Buck Wilmington cry out in disbelief as Chris filled him in on the plan.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

Chris had stormed from Travis’ office with Buck on his heels the whole way. He had quickly filled Buck in on the plans and found himself standing in front of the two way mirror silently observing the kid watching the sky on the other side. He could hear his friend snicker quietly every few minutes and could just imagine what pranks would become part of his life for the next year. He had to admit now that he had a few minutes to calm down that Travis’ plan was ideal for getting the kid out of the house, but he wasn’t sure he was ready for this. He felt like he was betraying Ezra by doing this, even temporarily. It would all take place in a few hours once all the paperwork was completed. First though he had to go in and explain to the kid what was going to happen.

“Wait here,” he instructed Buck while he made his way towards the room’s door. He took a deep breath before he breached the room’s barrier.

Vin heard the footfalls before the door opened and turned in anticipations. Finally, he thought after hours of boredom. He was surprised that Travis’ was not the person entering but instead a vaguely familiar man in dark clothing and there was something about him that Vin instantly took a liking to.

A thousand silent words passed between the two before either volunteered a word. It was Vin that broke the silence as he introduced himself. “Vin Tanner”

“Chris Larabee, your father.”

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

Ezra winced as he settled into his desk at school. Last night hadn’t gone very well when his step-father had lost a considerable sum to falling stock prices. Mother of course was out on the town as usual filling her bags with purchases and inflating her private bank account. Ezra though had been the sole recipient of last night’s tirade with the man.

Since the first time he was struck by the man nearly a year ago the man’s temper had escalated. He’d only recently had the cast removed from ‘accidently’ breaking his arm and dislocating his shoulder when he ‘slipped’ down the stairs. It seemed he was an accident prone child according to the adults surrounding him in his life.

He had considered saying something to one of the adults at school but was quickly swayed from that idea when he caught the administrator conversing about his abuse but had to turn a blind eye to it because of who was involved. It was then that Ezra knew he could never trust one of the adults with what was happening.

He had tried to get involved in afterschool activities but because of his clumsiness he was never able to make it to try outs, let alone play in any of the games. The other students didn’t like him either, he was considered too quiet and smart to want to have as a friend. He had even tried doing crazy stunts to earn him a place in their ranks but instead found himself left with the consequences.

It was not for the first time since the death of his brother that he wished he was the one that had been killed instead. He knew he was a burden to his mother; it was never her intention to take him with her, of that she was certain to remind him nearly every day. He often wondered why he had even been born; certainly there was no one that would mourn his loss.

Sighing he tried to focus on what the teacher was talking about but had far too many thoughts circulating that worry about what she was saying. He knew he would need to prepare himself for when he went home after this class and was confronted with his step-father again. He just hoped that tonight the man wouldn’t cause another serious injury but knew that any hope he had was in vain as he considered the heavy weight of the poor progress report he would be bringing home.

Less than an hour later the final bell of the day signaled his release from classes and he made his way to the waiting limousine located in the front of the school. Spotting the administrator talking with his step-father he felt a deep dread infuse him straight to his bones. He contemplated turning and running as far away as he could but knew it was futile; there was no help in this town for him. He put all his strength into his mask as he continued to walk up to the two men.

“Ah Ezra my boy!” He step-father greeted him with a sugary smile, insincere to the core. Ezra felt his shoulder, his recently healed shoulder, grasped in a punishing grip and tried to keep the wince off his face. “I believe dear boy that you and I must discuss your academic challenges.”

Ezra felt himself propelled into the back end of the vehicle and waited silently as his step-father finished his farewells. He flinched noticeably when the door slammed shut and cursed himself silently for providing such a tell to the man. He shivered as the cold eyes measured him and he heard the privacy window rise ominously. With its final click in place he knew he was trapped in silence with the unstable man. The first punch left his ears ringing while stars filled his visual field. By the time the limousine pulled into the mansion’s circular driveway he was oblivious to the world around him but he would swear he heard his step-father speak.

“James put this piece of trash in his room and lock it, I can’t believe he got blood on my favorite jacket.”


mystdogs: (Default)

In Wolf’s Clothing

Ch.5

Ezra grinned to himself as he watched Vin win the pot. He knew the man was bluffing and was happy for his friend to take the large pot. He only wished he was able to partake in a game of chance himself. He continued to watch as the behemoth’s eyes narrowed and anger permeated the area surrounding him. Ezra felt his hackles rise in warning that something was going to happen. He stood ready to defend his friend if the need arose never taking his gaze away from the man. He wondered why Vin had not become aware of the danger the man was presenting. To Ezra it was like flashing lightening, the air was so charged with the impending danger, and like the crash of thunder that followed he was instantly flying across the distance. “VIN” he screamed in warning before his teeth sunk into the tender flesh of the man’s skin. He heard the instant sound of a gunshot and prayed that no one was in the path of its bullet. He had never felt such fear or protection for someone before in his life, not even his mother. He felt the man fighting his hold and he tightened his holding ignoring the curses flying from his mouth.

“Get this damn critter offa me,” the man yelled as he tried to fight the vicious creature off his arm. He continued to curse and swing his free arm onto the animal that held onto him with more tenacity than badger protecting its home. He screamed as he felt the pressure increase until his bone snapped and the teeth sunk even deeper into his flesh. His wild movements only seemed to feed the escalating force.

~~~~~~7~~~~~~

“Mr. Larabee what are you thinking letting that creature into the town? He’s a hazard to our children and the safety of Four Corners. What are you going to do about it? It can’t stay in town, what if it bites someone?” Mary Travis continued her tirade of why the peacekeepers should get the wolf out of their town.

Chris should have known that Mary would be the town’s spokesperson regarding the status of Ezra. He often wondered why she always felt it was her duty to become involved in every little thing going on in town. “He’s staying and he ain’t going to hurt anyone that don’t deserve it.”

“He could be carrying diseases! He looks half starved and mangy, what if he is rabid?” She continued her argument trying to bring up anything to sway the gunslinger into doing what she wanted.

“He’s not rabid and ain’t carrying no diseases.” Chris was growing quickly tired of the conversation. “He’s staying!” He would have continued however the sound of a gun going off in the saloon quickly gained his attention and he left Mary standing alone on the street with her righteous indignation as he quickly made his way to the saloon.

~~~~~~7~~~~~~

Chris was quickly joined by the other peacekeepers as he made his way to the saloon. He was worried about the gun shot as it didn’t sound like the mare’s leg Vin carried, which he never heard a retort from. That in itself was even more worrying for the gunslinger.

He entered through the swinging doors taking care not to be shot upon entering. He quickly scanned the interior and couldn’t help but notice the large man on the floor swearing and screaming in pain. Ezra had a vicious grip on the man’s arm and there was a steady stream of blood coming from the limb. His gaze swept the rest of the area and promptly located the tracker unanimated on the other side of the table. He clenched his jaw tightly in anger and worry that his friend had been shot. “Nathan,” he called for the healer to check on Vin while he continued to watch as Ezra shook the arm encased in his mouth with vengeance. He had little ambition to tear the wolf away from his victim until he heard from Nathan regarding the status of Vin’s health.

Nathan quickly made his way towards Vin worried by the lack of movement from his friend. He placed clammy fingers onto the tracker’s neck and sighed in relief to feel the strong ‘thump thump’ of his heart beating. Releasing the tension in his body he looked closer at the bloody wound across the side of his friend’s head. “He’s alive,” he informed the waiting men. “Josiah, help me get him up to the clinic so I can check this would better, it’s bleeding too heavily for me to get a good look at it.”

The others watched dispassionately as the young wolf continued to exact his vengeance on the scum that had shot their friend as Nathan and Josiah carried their friend out of the saloon.

“JD, give them a hand getting into the clinic,” Chris told the young sheriff before focusing on the man squirming in pain on the dusty floor. 

“Suppose we should get Ez to let him go now?” Buck questioned as he wondered just how to accomplish that task.

“Ezra let him go,” Chris ordered the young wolf.

Ezra could feel the strong emotions that filled the saloon a few moments ago. He could even identify the men that had arrived even though their natural emotions were clouded with anger and worry, each still bleed their normal auras. He knew it would be safe to let go of the vile creature that was within his grasp, but he couldn’t seem to get himself to release. Every time he was ready to relinquish his hold the man would start fighting harder and he would instinctively adjust his grip tighter. The wave of relief that rolled over him belayed his deep fear for Vin when he was unable to get a response from him. He had been calling out to his friend but only other voices intruded, none of which had the wanted Texas accent he was craving. He finally heard the demand of Chris but still couldn’t seem to release his prey. I’m trying Mister Larabee, but I just cannot seem to release him. He had no idea how to convey his message to the tall gunslinger. He heard the hammer of a gun being pulled back and wondered if he was going to be killed by the man. He remembered the threat the man had made when they had found Vin that he would shoot him if he ever attacked. Oh God please don’t shoot me! Damn it, stop moving. Stop moving! He continued to chant nervously as he waited for the bullet to sink into his hide.

Chris sighed as he waited for the wolf to respond to his order. When the request didn’t produce the action he wanted cocked his gun and placed it against the stranger’s head. “If you don’t stop moving he won’t let go and if I have to shoot you get you to stop moving I will.” Chris watched in satisfaction as the man went as still as stone. His eyes were wide and tiny tremors could be seen as he held as still as possible.

Ezra felt the fight leave the man and found he was able to control his actions again. He quickly released the man and backed out of the way as he searched for a place to run off to. He was contemplating running past Buck to the freedom the saloon doors offered but was stopped in his tracks by the words that left the gunslinger’s lips.

“Ya done good Ezra.”

Ezra found himself in a state of shock, someone was proud of him. He found he couldn’t hold himself on his feet any longer and quickly sat down. He watched the two gunslingers gather the man that had caused all the problems for the day. He was still in a state of shock as JD and Josiah returned to help take the villain off of Chris’ hands. He was finally pulled out of his thoughts when the man knelt in front of him.

“Come on Ezra let’s go check on Vin.”

Ezra’s wonder disappeared as worry took over again for his friend. He had started to follow the gunslinger out until he caught sight of the table with Vin’s winnings on it. Wait Mister Larabee, what about Mister Tanner’s winnings? He stopped and whined to get the man’s attention. Oh the indignities!

“Forget about it Ezra.”

But it’s his, he earned it. Wouldn’t he be disappointed if it were to be taken? He couldn’t just leave his winnings behind. Ezra tried to figure out how to collect the winnings. He’d be able to carry the bills in his mouth but the coins he would never be able to carry.

Chris rolled his eyes in exasperation but finally collected Vin’s money. “Let’s go Ezra.”

Ezra sighed in relief. Thank you Mister Larabee.

~~~~~~7~~~~~~

Chris and Ezra found the others gathered outside of Nathan’s clinic when they finally arrived. Nathan had assured Josiah and JD that Vin would be fine before they went back to help the others. This however didn’t stop the others from waiting outside the clinic doors for their chance to check on the tracker once Nathan was done with him.

Ezra had quickly found a spot outside the door where he could keep an eye on everything that was going on around him. He was anxious to see Vin and would have been mortified if he realized that he was whining quietly as he waited. His sharp hearing alerted him to the healer approaching the door and he quickly rose to attention as he waited for the Nathan to impart news on Vin. Please let him be okay.

The others noted Ezra’s attention on the door and anticipated Nathan’s arrival. They didn’t wait long before the door opened and Nathan stepped out onto the balcony. “He’s going to be fine, bullet just glanced his head. Probably have a bad headache for awhile but he was lucky. He ain’t woke up yet so we’ll need to watch out for a concussion.”

Once Nathan had announced that Vin would be fine Ezra snuck passed the healer through the slightly opened door. He could hear the others asking questions but getting his first look at Vin since the incident in the saloon he felt a great weight removed from his shoulders. His keen senses told him his friend was in no distress, just sleeping. Vin, Vin can you hear me? He wasn’t answered and couldn’t help the slight worry from sinking in again. He couldn’t believe how much he had missed the tracker’s presence already. He had spent so long not being able to communicate with anyone that he didn’t think he could handle reliving that silent existence again. It was a scary thought for him to feel so dependent on another person. His mother had drilled into him his need to keep a distance and never form relationships with anyone, but maybe she was wrong. The companionship he felt with the scruffy man was like nothing he had ever felt before. He also thought about the pride he felt with the dark clad gunslinger praising him for a good deed. He still wasn’t sure how to process that feeling. Ezra wanted to hold onto these feelings as much as he could, but first Vin really needed to wake up. Vin? Mister Tanner would you please wake up? You’re really scaring me with your silence. Nathan said you’re going to be fine but I would feel much better if you would wake up. His pleading though had no response. Sighing in disappointment he looked towards the door that lead outside before carefully making his way onto the bed with the tracker. He laid his head on Vin’s chest, his ear cocked towards his heart to hear the steady beat of his heart. A single tear leaked from his eye as he prayed the healer was right and Vin would be okay. He had lost too much in his young life already to give up the close connection with this man. He soon feel asleep to the steady rise and fall of the tracker’s breathing.

 


mystdogs: (Default)

The Essence Of Time

Chapter 10

He really hated this place. Mother had arrived a few weeks ago all aglow with her new husband and turned his world upside down again. He had finally begun to settle into the boarding school after months of putting up with the other privileged students, but now he found himself in another new situation that he was unprepared for. He moved into the massive house just over three week ago and already the number of rules were grating on him. Don’t go in this room, don’t go in that room, and don’t touch this or that. Then there were the time schedules and strict manners with which he was to present himself with during meals and social meetings. He had no outlet for pleasure; the television was only allowed to be on news or information channels, music outside of classical or opera was vetoed, and left him only with books to lose himself with. Mother had made sure the only clothing he had was designer and fitting of a child in the upper society. His jeans, shorts, and tee shirts were all thrown out.

The worst thing was that he had no one to talk to. The staff was polite, but none of them were interested in conversing with a twelve year old boy beyond what was expected from them in their position. He was to start in a new school next week, where Mother’s new husband was one of the largest contributors. Robert J. Bizworth III was a rich and influential man within the community. He was one of the richest men in the town, and spread his wealth throughout the community. This made him a popular member of society and highly sought out for his financial banking. Unfortunately the man had an alternate personality outside of the public eye. In the short time Ezra had been in the home he had experienced enough of the man’s cutting remarks and threatening stances. His mother seemed oblivious to the man’s short temper and often explained that he was just stressed because of his work.

Mother was enjoying the new lifestyle of endless money. She was always out squandering the money she had gained access to through her marriage. Ezra was certain she was skimming off the top of every purchase into her private account while her husband was ignorant of her actions. He didn’t think his step father would be too happy if he ever found out.

Ezra heard the front door open and close with his step-father’s entrance. He sighed and wondered what terrible transgression he will have done today. It seemed over the past week he could do nothing right in the eyes of the man, and his mother eager to keep her husband happy backed the man in anything he was reprimanded on.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

It had been nearly five months since he last found himself in an intoxicated stage. The letters he continued to write his son slowly tapered off until he was writing only once a month. It was still painful when they would be returned undeliverable but he was finding it wasn’t that all encompassing pain. He had little hope he would ever see Ezra again and felt as if he had lost two sons in that dreadful accident.

Judge Orin Travis contacted him a few weeks ago about heading a new team for the Denver branch of the ATF. He had given his acceptance of the position with the provision that he would choose the members of his team.

Buck had been the first to fill one of the positions on the new team. His oldest friend was a good choice not only for his ability to work with him, but the man was the top in his field. Buck had eagerly accepted the new position as the team’s second in command and communications expert.

Josiah Sanchez was his next agent to join the team. The man had been a bit reluctant at first but said something about fate later that changed his mind. Josiah was an excellent profiler, granted he was considered old by most for a field agent, but Chris wanted the experience the man would bring with him.

He lucked into his next agent; Nathan Jackson had an extensive education in the services industry. The man had graduated with top honors with a triple degree in emergency medicine, law enforcement and forensic science. The man had come highly recommended but with a warning that he could be difficult to work with due to his bull-headedness.

He wondered though if he was making a mistake with the hiring of his last agent, JD Dunne. The young man barely met the twenty-one year old age requirement and had very little field experience, but he was considered the best computer expert out there. He had been consulting with the government since he was sixteen and his mother found out about his hacking into a government agency’s computer systems. She had hoped that letting him use the skills he had developed in boredom for good would keep him from getting in trouble with his life. JD was a smart kid, a member of MENSA and graduated high school at seventeen. The government covered the boy’s schooling through MIT with the stipulation that he would work for a government agency upon his graduation. Chris had really thought that computer crimes would have snagged the kid, but somehow he was finagled by the ATF.

Tomorrow would be the first day the men would all met and begin their work as a team. He hoped the men would mesh together well, he had a strong feeling Buck would latch onto JD like a dog with a bone. They man was missing his status of favorite uncle and the time nursing Chris was a poor substitute.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~~

Ezra sighed in dismay over the grade on his report card, wondering how he could have been so stupid to have gotten a ‘B’ in his computer programming class for the semester. Robert had told him he had high expectations and would accept nothing but the best from his step-son. Maude he knew wouldn’t even bother reading the grade report. She always thought of his drive for good grades to be a waste of time, after all that extra studying time could have been put to better uses in honing his conning trade. He worried his bottom lip as their limo driver pulled up to the mansion’s entrance. Ezra hoped that Robert hadn’t heard about his grade yet, the man seemed to know every little thing that he did wrong. Knowing there was no way to put off the imminent confrontation he thanked the driver and quickly made his way inside. He paused in the doorway of the silent house and let the breath he had been holding out slowly in relief. The relief was hover short lived as he heard the ominous voice from the living room.

“Ezra, join me. I believe we need to discuss the grade report you received today.”

Ezra’s shoulders slumped in defeat before he made his way to the living room. Before entering he straightened his posture and fixed a polite expression on his face. It was at times like these that he appreciated his mother’s tutelage in hiding his emotions. “Yes sir, I was dismayed myself by the slight mark upon my dossier.”

“That may be my boy but you know I expect the best.”

“Yes sir.”

“Do you know I had the head master of the school call to tell me that my step-son was performing below par?”

Ezra cringed inwardly but his expression gave nothing away. “I’m sorry sir I will do better next time.”

“Next time? Yes, yes you will do better next time; however my boy what are we going to do about this time?”

Ezra looked down for a moment and was taken by surprise with the swift upper cut to the jaw that had him falling to the floor seconds later.

“Don’t you ever embarrass me like that again! Until you bring that grade back up to an ‘A’ you’ll have no privileges. You are to come home from school, do your homework and study until lights out. Do you understand me my boy?”

“Yes sir,” a stunned Ezra was able to get out. He watched as his step-father left the room and reached up to his sore jaw. He looked at the blood that tinged his fingers in mild fascination. Robert had never raised a hand at anyone before, sure he would yell and throw things, but this was the first time Ezra saw him become physical. He sighed with disappointment with himself for causing the man to lash out like that. If he had only gotten that ‘A’ Robert wouldn’t have had to become physical. He would have to come up with a reasonable explanation for the bruise that was sure to be there by tomorrow morning. He would do his best to keep from shaming his step-father again.


mystdogs: (Default)

In Wolf’s Clothing

Ch.4

The trip back to town was anticlimactic for the peacekeepers of Four Corners. They arrived back to the small dusty town with no major events unfolding. However there was quite a stir when they made their way into the town with a young rangy wolf following in their tracks.

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

“Ezra would you shud’dup already!” Vin had been growing more and more terse on the trip back with Nathan’s near constant attention. The healer just wouldn’t let up with his worry about Vin hitting his head. He had kept his horse closer to the tracker, much to the black clad leader’s mirth.

“Vin I think you should at least spend the night up in the clinic. I know I didn’t find no bump on your head, but you expecting that mangy wolf to answer you back has me real worried bout ya.”

Mangy! I’ll admit I may not be in my best fashion at the moment, but I don’t think you can call me mangy! Ezra was in an awful mood, the quick pace of the horses had left his paws tender and sore. He was certain the pads on his feet would be cut up and streams of blood would be oozing from them. He even found himself looking back over the ground he had covered for any sign of blood he may have lost. Now Vin was mad at him because the worry wart healer wouldn’t leave him alone. OOOWWWWWW!

“Damn’t Nathan I’m fine and now you hurt Ezra’s feelings with your mangy comment. If anyone needs to be up in your clinic it’s him, ain’t shut up about his feet since we started heading back to town.”

Chris listened with growing amusement the argument just behind him. He was about to interrupt when the sound of a shot gun blast brought his attentions quickly to the sight of one of the townspeople taking aim at the wolf that followed them back to town. Shit! “Damn it put that gun away before I break it over your head!” Chris had quickly dismounted and snatched the gun from the man’s hands.

“But, but Mister Larabee that’s a wild wolf, it needs to be destroyed before it harms anyone” the nervous man pleaded his case to the dark gunslinger.

“He’s harmless,” he raised his voice so the rest of the town could hear “and anyone even thinks of taking a shot at him will have to go through me first.” With that he shoved the shot gun back into the man’s hands and made his way over to the others that encircled the young wolf at the sound of the gun blast. Seeing a small pool of blood he grew concerned, “he alright?”

Ezra could feel the concern pouring off the dark clothed man. It was such a novel feeling that he felt decidedly drawn to the man. His attention was quickly pulled away when he felt a sharp pain and yelped before instinctively lashing out towards the source. His near bite was stopped before he could grasp the healer’s probing hand. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to, he whined to the tracker that had kept him from making a dire mistake.

“Shh, it’s okay Ezra I know you didn’t mean no harm,” he crooned to the young wolf before turning his attention to Chris’ question. “Ez just got a bit of glass in his paw.”

“Now just hold still a minute Ezra and I’ll have this piece of glass out.” Nathan carefully pulled the piece of glass from his paw and tried to ignore the small whimper of pain from the wolf. “Hmm may need to put a couple of stitches in that. Help me get him up to the clinic and someone help Vin up there too.”

“Aw Nate, I’m fine,” but the tracker was ignored as he felt himself helped along behind the others.

~~~~~~7~~~~~~

“Leave it alone Ez,” the tracker grumbled for the umpteenth time for the day at the wolf trying to remove the bandage from his paw.

But it itches. Ezra sighed and returned his attention to the tracker and his current game of cards in the saloon. The two of them had been told to stay off their feet and Ezra thought it was quite ironic that they both had injured their feet. He had heard of sympathy pains before, but really this was a bit ridiculous. He looked at the other three players, all strangers to the small town from what Vin had said earlier. They had all arrived in town together and seemed a rough sort. The largest of the three could rival Josiah in size but Ezra could feel a strange darkness in the man’s spirit that would warn others away quickly if they were privy to its existence. He felt decidedly uncomfortable in the man’s presence especially when his cold eyes focus greedily onto him. He wondered if Vin had picked up on his unease with the man’s presence. The other two men had arrived on the stage earlier that day to stay in the town for the night before leaving on the stage in the morning. They reminded him very much of JD, both full of energy and a zest for life. He watched as the two quickly bowed out of the game good naturally, and with good sense he thought. Neither of them were good poker players and it seemed they were both well aware of their lack of skills. He watched the two men leave the saloon and shivered as he felt a greater disturbance in the strange man’s gleam on him. Vin didn’t seem aware of his growing unease of the man he was playing poker with, focused instead on the game that continued between them. Ezra eased himself closer to the tracker and kept a closer eye on the man across from them.

Vin focused on his cards thankful that Ezra had stopped trying to pull the bandage off his paw for awhile. He was uneasy of the man left playing cards against him. The man had arrived earlier in the day and quickly arrived in the saloon. He had started up a poker game with the three fellas traveling through town when the boredom of sitting in the saloon all day had left him itchy for escape. Now a few hours later the other two men had bowed out of the game and he was left with the mountainous man across from him playing cards. The other peacekeepers had been scarce for most of the day due to his scathing remarks with the cajoling that they had done at his expense. Ezra though had stuck close to him, still unsure about his safety loose on his own in the town, but more so because of his own injury keeping him confined or ensuring the healer’s wraith. Vin looked back at his cards again wondering if he should play the hand out of fold and end the game.

He’s bluffing but has something up his sleeve, of that I’m certain.

Vin looked sharply wolf sitting by his side with his gaze watching the man warily from his position next to him, much closer than he had been before. Vin looked at the king high full house in his hand and decided to play it out. If Ezra was wrong then he would be out some money, but if not than he would take the substantial pot between them. He smiled when he called the other man, his hand easily beating the pair of tens the other man held. He decided he had played enough for the day and reached to collect his winnings never noticing the eyes darken. The next moment was a blur as he heard Ezra shout out his name before seeing the red blur cross in front of him and the sound of a gunshot was heard.


mystdogs: (Default)

In Wolf’s Clothing

Ch.3

Ezra had to admit the snake wasn’t as bad as he figured it would be. Sure it was no fare for the fine dining establishments he frequented when with his mother, but it was better than the gruel he was reluctantly accustomed to in some of the relative’s homes he frequented.

Vin silently watched the young wolf across from him devour the meal in front of him. The meat would only take the edge off the hunger he was certain Ezra was feeling. The wolf was too thin and would need many good meals before he started to resemble the beautiful creature he was. He still wondered about the Ezra’s age but there was no telling for certain until he decided to share that information.

“Come on Ezra let’s get this fire put out and get on our way. It’s a long walk back to Four Corners. Though I suspect we’ll run into the others somewhere along the trail.”

Ezra joined Vin on his trek after the fire was completely out and the campsite picked up. At least there is one benefit of this lupine form, no clean up.

Vin snorted at that comment and shook his head as he headed them in the direction of Four Corners.

~~~~~7~~~~~

“You think he’s okay Buck?”

“Sure he is kid, you know Vin’s about as sharp as they come.” Buck gave a nervous look to his old friend whom was also saddling his horse with quick efficiency.

“But his horse came back without him, why’d he do that? And Vin’s really late he shoulda been back hours ago. You don’t think bounty hunters caught him do ya?”

Buck winced at the low growl Chris gave before heading out of the livery with his horse in tow. “Nah just think that ornery ole horse ah his just decided it’d rather be in the barn than scouting around. Why I bet Vin’s cursing that dang horse ah his from here to Mexico.”

“Yeah you’re probably right, hope we find him soon.”

Buck clapped the kid on the shoulder before he followed Chris out of the livery with his own horse to join the others and begin the search for their friend. “Let’s go JD, Chris is antsy to get a move on.”

A few minutes later the town watched the dust clear as the five peacekeepers disappeared in the horizon.

~~~~~7~~~~~

“Dang it” Vin cursed his bad luck again. What a day this had been so far. It wasn’t enough he spent the morning burying a wolf, dumped on his rear when his horse spooked cause of a rattler, and he spent the afternoon walking back to town long after his patrol should have ended. Nope all that didn’t seem to be enough for his day it seemed now he had a twisted ankle to deal with. Of all the luck, now it seemed inevitable that he would just have to wait for the others to find him.

Ezra winced in sympathy for the man; he seemed to be quite in tune with the others pain. It seemed every time Vin tried to place weight on the appendage that a jolt of pain would hit Ezra as well. Finally the tracker had decided to stop and rest, but even sitting down he could feel the pain radiating off the man.

“Perhaps Mr. Tanner we should wait here for your friends to arrive?”

“Sure Ez,” Vin sighed as he removed the boot from the rapidly swelling limb, “don’t think we got much of a choice anyway.” Vin glared at his ankles swollen appearance and knew there was no way that boot was going back on anytime soon. He couldn’t believe they were only an hour’s walk from town when he felt the sand shift under his foot causing him to misstep.

“I believe I hear something Mister Tanner.” Ezra cocked his head in the direction of the low rumbling noise.

“Sure hope it ain’t another rattler, had my fill of those today.”

Ezra gave him a disgusted look, well as disgusted as a wolf could create. “I believe it is a group of riders, do you think it could be your associates?”

“Could be, which ways it coming from?” Vin nodded as Ezra looked off in the direction. “Could be them, that’s the right direction.”

Ezra padded away from the injured man to get a better view of the encroaching group. He moved farther away from Vin until he was out of the tracker’s sight. He could just barely see the five riders headed in their direction with the missing horse tied behind one of them. Finding a spot that provided him with some notion of protection he took a moment to observe the five riders. The man in the lead was dressed all in black and had an ominous air about him. Ezra was sure he was the leader that Vin had spoken about. He was sure of one thing; he didn’t want to get on the wrong side of the man. Next to him was a large man that was quite intimidating, but Ezra could also feel a gentle nature about him. He was surprised by the dark man that was included with the group; the man rode with such comfort and self-assuredness which was such a contrast to the slaves of the south that he had met that rarely showed any type of pride that had long been beaten out of them. He could feel a deep compassion about the man and looked forward to being around such a caring soul. He could literally smell the sex appeal of the man who rode next to the young man lagging behind the others. This man had a gentle soul and so much passion that Ezra felt drawn to him over the pleasant feelings. The young man that rounded out the group had an atmosphere of boundless energy. He felt a child-like innocence in the man and wondered just how he had managed to hold onto that incorruptibility for so long. A truly unique collection of individuals. He was a bit surprised that he didn’t hear Vin respond to him after spending nearly the entire day trying to block his thoughts from the man. A bit worried by the lack of response he quickly turned back to the man he had left behind.

“Mister Tanner are you alright?”

“Fine Ezra, why ya asking?”

“I was disturbed when you didn’t respond to my thoughts a few moments ago.”

“Never heard ya.” Vin looked at the wolf like he had lost his mind.

“Really?”

“That’s what I said didn’t I?”

“Yes, yes. This is marvelous somehow I have managed to block my thoughts from you.” Finally some privacy.

Vin grinned evilly at Ezra, “I would wouldn’t be so certain of that Ez, I can still hear ya.”

“Ah hell, I’ll figure it out Mr. Tanner, be assured of that good sir. Now there are five riders headed in this direction and I believe they are your associates.”

~~~~~7~~~~~

It wasn’t long before the five peacekeepers caught sight of their missing tracker sitting against the trunk of a tree. Chris literally sagged with relief seeing the man in apparent health and quickly encouraged his horse into a faster gait to reach the tracker’s side. The others followed suit and soon were pulling up to Vin’s position. They watched as Chris and Vin did their silent passing of thoughts and soon both men had a small smile crack their facades.

“Vin you hurt?” The gentle healer asked as he dismounted and started in his direction.

“Just twisted my ankle.”

“Let me take a look at it.” Nathan gently manipulated the joint and hmm’d to himself. “You’ll live but you won’t be walking on it for a while. I’ll just wrap it up for now and we’ll make sure you stay off it til it’s healed.”

“So what happened?”

Ezra watched from the safety of the shrubbery he had hidden in as Vin retold his story. Well an edited story that somehow left some important facts out of it, like his being able to understand a wolf when he spoke and heard it’s thoughts as well. Ezra shifted position to get more comfortable on the unforgiving ground and heard the click of five hammers drawn in his direction. His eyes widened in alarm and a small whimper escaped before he could stop himself. Oh God! Oh God! He chanted in fear he was about to be plastered with multiple gunshot wounds.

“Nooo don’t shot!” Vin yelled in panic as he quickly tried to gain his feet and found himself falling to the ground in pain. “Damn’t don’t shot ‘em cowboy.”

Chris looked back at his friend as if he had lost his mind that was a wolf hiding in the bushes, not some damn dog. Seeing his friend’s determination and fear for the animal he relented for the moment, but if it even looked like the animal was going to attack it would be dead in an instant. “Fine” he nodded “but he even thinks of attacking I’ll fill him with lead.”

Vin sighed with thanks that he had gotten the others to listen, though he could still see they were a bit nervous with the wolf so close. “You can come out now Ezra.”

You must be kidding Mister Tanner, I move and they will fill me with holes, and I’m rather attached to this hide at the moment.

“They ain’t going to shot ya, now come on out and meet everyone.”

Vin missed the looks the others were giving him, but Ezra’s sharp eyes caught their distressed look. I believe your compatriots are a bit worried about your conversation with a wolf. Why the healer has completely forgotten about me and looking at you as if you started sprouting something out of your head.

“Vin you okay?” Nathan asked a bit worried that Vin may have hurt his head when he fell.

“I’m fine, damn it Ezra get out here before I shoot ya” Vin grumbled out in frustration when he caught the looks of his friends.

Fine, fine Mister Tanner, but if any of these men shoot me I will exact my revenge upon you. Ezra slowly emerged from his hiding spot and tried to look as non-threatening as possible.

“Dang Buck he looks about half-starved” JD shouted out causing the others to jump a bit.

Ezra quickly found a position next to Vin and eyed the other men with trepidation. He had to get the focus off of him and had the perfect plan to do so. Did you tell the others how I saved you from certain death?

“What the hell are you talking about Ezra? What certain death?”

You know from that evil serpent.

“It would have been more help if you had told me sooner not wait until the dang horse had spooked already.”

Point taken but really I tried to warn you about the soft sand before you fell. Ezra noticed that much of the focus was off of him, all really except the dark presence that looked on with a growing smirk on his face. Ezra had a big grin on his face as his plan worked.

Nathan bent down and started to check Vin’s head for lumps and bumps. “Now hold still a moment and let me check your head, you may have hit it Vin.”

“I didn’t hit my damn head” Vin protested but to no avail, once Nathan was determined there was no stopping the worrywart. He looked over and caught the grin on his best friend’s face before giving the wolf an evil look.

Chris laughed at the two of them; life was going to be interesting with the mischievous wolf around. Turning his attention to the wolf he gave a quick nod, “Ezra” he acknowledged before walking off to get ready for their trip back to town.


mystdogs: (Default)

In Wolf’s Clothing

Ch.2

Vin snorted in amusement as his mind was again touched by Ezra’s thoughts. “Sorry Pard, can still hear ya.”

“This is entirely unfair Mister Tanner. A man should have some privacy of his thoughts. There must be some way for me to block my thoughts.”

“Ain’t worked yet Ezra, you just keep working on it.”

“I’ll do that.”

Vin smiled as the wolf settled into silence. They had spent most of the time travelling with Ezra trying to figure out a way to keep his thoughts to himself. So far it had proven unsuccessful. They were still a couple of hours away from town and Vin expected to see some of the other peacekeepers before too long. He knew he was long overdue from his patrol and couldn’t help but wonder just how he was going to explain Ezra.

“Mister Tanner would you hold up a moment please.”

Vin slowed up his horse but didn’t stop moving altogether. “What is it Ezra?”

“I hear something sir, if you would stop for a moment I may be able to discern what it is.”

Ezra had just finished his request when Vin’s horse decided to rear, unseat his rider and take off in a dead run for home. He watched in bemusement as Vin landed on the dusty ground quickly cursing his horse.

“Dang blasted, mule-headed idiot.” Vin quickly jumped to his feet and continued to yell obstinacies towards the distant speck that was his horse.

“Well Mister Tanner, you certainly can fly,” Ezra laughed.

“Shuddup Ezra”

Vin could still hear Ezra’s amusement and scowled at the young wolf. “Did ya ever figure out whatcha heard?”

“Oh certainly Mister Tanner, but it’s of no consequence now. Your trusty steed managed to dispatch the evil doer with post haste while unseating his master.”

“What?” Vin shook his head at the wordy response.

“A serpent Mister Tanner.”

“Why didn’t ya just say it was a rattler than?”

Ezra snorted at Vin before turning his back and heading in the direction Vin’s horse had taken. Why didn’t ya just say it was a rattler than? He mimicked to himself as he walked on.

“I heard that Ezra” Vin laughed loudly at Ezra’s silent curse. “Hey Ezra, hold up a minute. We might as well hold up and eat something.”

Ezra quickly turned back to his companion, “What a novel idea Mister Tanner, I find myself famished.”

“Great let me get a fire started and I can cook us up some grub.”

Ezra watched in fascination as Vin quickly had a fire started and a camp set up. With Vin’s saddlebag halfway home by now Ezra was curious as to what the meal would entail. His eyes widened in alarm as he saw the creature held in Vin’s hands and the slow evil smirk on the man’s face. “You cannot be serious!”

“Food’s food Ez and no reason to let it go to waste.”

Ezra watched with trepidation as Vin quickly removed the head. Wonder why one would bother with a dead snake?

“Seen dead snakes strike before, you take the head off and there’s no danger from the venom.”

“Oh, that is interesting. Why’s the body still moving?”

“Should probably have waited a few hours before doing this then it wouldn’t wiggle so much. Don’t know why it does it though.”

Ezra continued to watch as the snake was skinned completely and the meat was cut up and skewered on some sticks to cook over the flames. Well it smells good, wonder what it will taste like?

“Tastes a bit like chicken or fish. It’s good, you’ll like it.”

 Ezra laid down to await the meal and decided he needed to get more information about the town they were headed to. “ Vin, what’s this place we’re going to like?”

“Well it’s a small place, but it’s growing bigger every day. I’m one of six that protect the place.”

“Interesting, what are the others like?”

“Well there is JD, he’s the youngest of us. He’s a brash kid from Boston got a bad habit of boasting but he’s quick with a gun and has a good heart. Then there’s Buck, he’s taken the role as big brother to JD. He’s full of life and loves the women. Nathan’s the town healer, quick with a knife though he sees life pretty cut and dry. Josiah is our spiritual man, man’s always looking for his crows.”

Crows? Why on earth would he seek out crows?

“I think Josiah is expecting death to come for him. Always going on about some past sins.”

“Interesting, please continue.”

“Then there’s Chris, he’s quick with a gun, drinks a bit too much on occasion, but there ain’t no one I’d rather have beside me in a fight.”

“Sounds like a unique collection of personalities, and what about yourself Mister Tanner?”

“Ah well I’m a good sharpshooter and pretty fair tracker. What about you Ezra? What happened?”

Ezra shifted nervously, “I’m really not certain how I came to this predicament, I believe though that mother was the cause for our transformation though.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Well it all began about a month ago when mother finally requested my presence to join her in New Orleans. Mother required my assistance on her newest business venture and I was finally at the appropriate age to render my support. Well anyhow I had barely met up with mother, dressed for a private dinner and off to a locale I had never seen before. Mother never discussed whom her business was with. I remember walking in with mother and after that it was a blank until I woke up beside mother in a swampy area in my present form.”

“Damn pard. Well we’ll try and figure out what to do.” Something else was bothering Vin about the retelling. “Just how old are you Ezra?”

“Old enough to know better than to answer that. Now about that food?”

 


mystdogs: (Default)

In Wolf’s Clothing

Ch.1

Vin sighed in contentment as he continued along the eastern border of the Four Corners territory. He was still a bit amazed that he had stayed in the town for as long as he had. It had been a long time since he had stayed in one place longer than a few weeks. With the price on his head it was never a good idea to stay in one place too long and he believed that whole heartedly at least until the day he meet Chris and helped him save the life of Nathan. He never realized that one act would change his life so drastically. Now here he was one of the peacekeepers for the small dusty town and still content to remain so after nearly six months.

Looking out into the vast desert he quickly spotted a large number of buzzards circling. Even though it was beyond their territory he quickly turned his horse in the bird’s direction to investigate what sad fate had taken a life just a few miles from their town.

It was a sad sight that greeted him a half hour later when he spotted the two coyotes lying dead together with a few buzzards hanging on the outskirts like they were just waiting for the dinner bell to ring before feasting on the meal laid out before them.

Vin quickly tethered his horse before he walked over to the depressing scene. There were no ranches out this far for the canines to have been shot for attacking livestock; as well they both still had their skin so fur traders were discounted. He knelt down to take a closer look at the larger of the two and froze when he heard the deep growl coming from the smaller one he thought was dead. Oh crap he thought slowly turning his head to turn his attention to the danger he now found himself in. He would never be able to pull his mares leg before he was torn apart by the critter.

“Easy there fella I don’t mean ya no harm.” He kept his voice soft and his movements slow as he moved ever so slowly away from the downed creature. “I’s just wanted to see what happened is all.” Finally getting a chance to look at the smaller canine he was a bit surprised that it wasn’t really a coyote he was seeing. “Well I’ll be you’re a red wolf, I haven’t seen the likes of you this far west before.”

The wolf seemed to quiet down when he noticed the man didn’t seem intent on harming him. He lowered his lips and quieted his growl while his ears pricked to attention as he listened to the man speak.

“Can I check your pack mate?” Vin slowly reached down to check the other wolf again and was surprised when he was allowed to without any impediment from the once protective creature. “Sorry pal she’s dead, looks like she starved to death.”

Sad green eyes stared back at him and he couldn’t help but think the wolf expected something from him. He noticed the wolf staring at him was also on the thin side, though not nearly as emancipated as the older female was. He figured she gave everything she was able to hunt up to the younger wolf. “Well pal looks like you’re on your own now.”

The wolf snorted at him. Like that’s something new.

Blue eyes widened in surprise when he heard the voice. He quickly turned around but was unable to find the source of the voice. “Did you just speak?”

Do I look like a dog doing parlor tricks?

Vin quickly fell on his rear and stared in wonder at the wolf that had somehow spoke into his head. “Oh my God you do speak.”

The wolf quickly turned his attention to the man. You can understand me? He watched the man nod slack jawed. Good lord close your mouth before you start catching flies.

Vin quickly snapped his jaws together. “Amazing”

Not exactly what I would call it. Would you mind helping me bury my mother so these disgusting creatures do not desecrate her body?

“Yeah I think I can manage that.” Vin shook his head, he had to be dreaming. There was just no way possible that he could be hearing a wolf talk. He could just imagine that Nathan would lock him up in his room forever if he told them he could hear a wolf talk.

The wolf watched as the man seemed to dig the hole for his mother dazedly. I suppose I would be a bit shocked as well if I came across a talking beast.

“No joking, I must be hallucinating. That’s it the sun is affecting me. I can’t believe I’m burying a wolf and its offspring is talking to me. Maybe I should have Nathan check me out when I get back to town.”

Mother was an amazing woman, course it’s all her fault we are in the predicament we were in. Although there seems to be no changing that now that mother is gone. I still can’t believe she would rather have starved to death than eat the wild creatures around us. The young wolf seemed to shake his head in a mixture of sorrow and exasperation.

Vin smiled as he heard the wolf prattle on about the virtues and difficulties of his mother. He had dug a hole deep enough to keep any critters from digging her up and consuming her. “You ah wanna say any words before I cover her up?”

The wolf quickly padded over to the deep hole and laid down looking over the edge. I’m going to miss you mother. He felt his eyes water and looked up forlornly at the only person that had been able to understand him in so long. Thank you for your kindness. He watched only for a moment as the rough looking man filled in the hole before he had to move away. A deep feeling of loss and regret filled him. He felt terribly alone in the world now.

Vin quickly filled the hole in and turned his attention to the mourning wolf. “All finished pal. Nothin’ will get to her that deep.”

Thank you.

“I gotta get back to town before they send out a search party. You going to be alright?”

Wide green eyes quickly looked up towards the man. Alone. Oh God he was going to leave him on his own.

“Easy there pal.”

Dear lord you can even hear my private thoughts. How disconcerting.

“Yea I suppose that would be a might disturbing not having anything private.”

You have no idea, although it is quite pleasant to finally hold a conversation again. I couldn’t even talk with mother.

“Well I suppose you can come back with me. You’re gonna have to be careful though, most people will be more likely to shoot ya til they know ya ain’t gonna hurt um.”

Thank you kind sir.

“Ain’t no sir, name’s Vin, Vin Tanner.”

A pleasure to make your acquaintance. Ezra P. Standish at your service.


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