Ezra was quite pleased with how the day was going. He had a check up with Mr. Nathan; he was quite emphatic over the use of his first name, where he was able to secret away his gun and rigging when Mr. Chris wasn’t looking. Now he was getting a tour of the town and meeting the many residents. He found a few that would be good marks for his games later. Mrs. Travis was a lovely woman and had her eyes set on Mr. Chris; and her son was equally enamored. Master Travis was his age and from the looks he was getting from the boy he had no doubts that he believed he had placed a claim on Mr. Chris. With the evil eye the boy was giving him he sent his own mischievous smirk and figured he’d let him make of that what he will. He certainly hoped that neither Mrs. Travis nor Mr. Chris had it in their minds to have us, God forbid, play with each other. Shuddering at the thought he moved on when they said their farewells. Finally they reached the jail after an afternoon of pleasantries. He had never been inside a jail before, mother said they were horrid places and should be avoided at all costs. He was surprised than to find that the jail was an interesting building. His curiosity got the better of him and soon found himself enthralled with the wanted posters.
Chris was surprised to see the boy act like a little boy for the first time. He was always so polite and mannerly. Nodding to Buck, he took a seat next to him as he watched Ezra explore.
“It’s nice to see him acting like a normal kid.” Buck smiled as he joined Chris in just watching the boy.
“I need to get out on patrol, you mind keeping an eye on him while I’m gone?”
“Course Partner, me an ol Ez here will have us a good time. JD should be here to take over shortly.”
Nodding his thanks to Buck, he turned to Ezra and let him know he was heading on patrol. Assured that Ezra would be kept watch on from Buck, he headed off to do his daily duty.
Ezra had seen enough of the jail by the time JD arrived. He and Buck left after that for lunch and to find some afternoon amusement. Buck he found quickly got side tracked by the barmaids and he found himself enthralled in a game of chance. He had gained quite a crowd to watch him play, and was doing quite lucrative at the table. Of course as is custom in poker playing, the abysmal player always believes he is being cheated and decides to announce his ire. Rolling his eyes inwardly with the loud exclamation of his cheating the man he calmly informed the man, “Sir I take umbrage to that remark. I have no need to cheat; you sir are not much of a challenge.” One day he would remember to ease that silver tongue of his, but he highly doubted that would happen before his demise. His eyes widened as the man jumped towards him; and he cursed himself for not having his derringer rigging on. Mother would be so disappointed; she will not want him traveling with her after this disaster. He scrunched his eyes and prepared himself for the pain that he was about to be experiencing. When after a moment he didn’t feel the fist fall he opened his eyes to see that Mr. Buck had the situation in control. He quickly gathered his winnings and put them in his hiding pocket. He caught a few of the quiet words that were being spoken to the bad poker player. He wasn’t sure what some of them meant but the man’s pale visage and knocking knees, had him sure he didn’t need to.
Buck released the man with a growl of warning before turning to the little gambler. He’d only taken his eyes off the kid for a few minutes and the next thing he knew the boy was embroiled in a poker game with a ticked off mark ready to attack the child. Giving a dark look to the remaining players and onlookers had the desired result of them leaving the table post haste.
“Thank you for your assistance Mr. Wilmington, but you hadn’t need to scare off the rest of the players. Could I interest you in a game of chance, sir?”
Buck couldn’t believe the audacity of the kid. Normally a tanning would be called for but with Ezra’s past he didn’t think that would be a good idea. The boy didn’t even look like he had done anything wrong. Coming to a decision he scooped up the boy and Ezra for the second time that day found himself slung over someone’s shoulder.
A few hours later Chris rode back into town. After settling his mount at the livery he made his way to the jail to check up on the town. He planned afterwards to clean up and spend the evening with Ezra. Seeing Buck sitting outside the jail he quickly joined him. “Anything happen while I was gone?”
“Yep a bit of a fuss at the saloon earlier had to look someone up.”
“Seems some guy didn’t take to losing at poker well and tried to take a hit at a gambler.”
“So he’s locked up?”
“Threw him out of town”
“Then who’s in the jail?”
“Really, was he cheating?”
“Then why’s he in jail?”
“So he could learn a lesson”
“You’re kidding right? You know gamblers don’t stop gambling.”
“Well this one better if he knows what’s good for him”
“What’s so special about this gambler?”
“Well he’s kinda special to a good friend of mine.”
“No, don’t tell me it was a little green eyed gambler”
“Yep, about 8 years old and none too happy right about now.”
“Damn, fill me in.” Chris sat and listened to the afternoon’s adventure.
Ezra heard the door open, finally he thought now he could be let out of here. “Ah Mr. Larabee have you come to effect my emancipation?”
“Oh no Ezra I couldn’t do that.”
“Why ever not.”
“You’ve been a bad boy.”
“I assure you sir I have done nothing illegal to warrant my captive state.”
“Are you kidding me son, you almost got yourself beat over a card game!”
“Really Mr. Larabee there is no need for dramatics. I had the situation well in hand.”
“Is that right?”
“Of course sir I have gotten myself out of worse predicaments. I assure you that this has not been the first time I have been accused of cheating and likely not the last. After all I have been working the gaming tables since I could hold a deck of cards. Though mother does beat me every time, then I have a new lesson I need to learn before she picks me up for a new adventure. ” Okay so maybe he didn’t have the situation in hand, but he knew he could have gotten out without much damage.
Chris couldn’t believe what he was hearing. If he understood him correctly Ezra has been groomed by his mother to become a con artist. What the hell was she thinking, putting her son’s life in danger for a few extra dollars? It sounds like Ezra has been left with a lot of different people never living up to his mother’s expectations. “No more poker in the saloon.”
“But Mr. Larabee mother will be disappointed if I do not keep up on my lessons.”
Knowing he didn’t want to alienate the boy he agreed that he could play with the other peacekeepers only.
Ezra, feeling that he wasn’t going to get a better deal at that time agreed. He figured he would just have to figure another way to ply his trade while still following the rule laid out for him. As Mr. Larabee let him out of the jail he couldn’t help but agree with his mother, that place should be avoided at all costs.
The afternoon’s warm sun felt good on the small form lying on the roof of the saloon. It had been an interesting few days for young Ezra. Yesterday Mr. Nathan allowed him to remove the binding on his arm, but had given him a sling to use instead. Said sling was currently in his pocket. He would of course put it back on before any of his caretakers could see him. The smothering he was getting about how he was feeling was a bit much. He didn’t understand why they didn’t believe him when he said he was fine. These men were certainly confusing; they didn’t act like anyone he had met before. Over the course of the last few days he found himself in each of their company, which is why he now found himself relaxing for the first time in days. It wasn’t that he didn’t like the men, he did; but he had been used to being alone so much of the time that this constant companionship was starting to fluster him. Mother would not be pleased to see him such a state. He hadn’t realized how much he enjoyed the solitude until this moment. Sure he had longed for that ability to enjoy another’s company, but it was a lot of work to keep up appearances nonstop. When he was alone he was able to drop all the masks and just be Ezra, there was no worry of letting something slip. Now it seemed over the last few days he was eating, sleeping, and God forbid even using the privy with company. It was all just a bit too much. Thank goodness some outlaws tried to rob the bank. Of course he wasn’t happy the bank was almost robbed, but he couldn’t help but be thankful for the chase out of town that had the peacekeepers too occupied to worry about where he was at or doing at that moment.
The sounds of the afternoon stage had him scooting forward towards the roof’s edge. He enjoyed watching the people that arrived off the stage; you never knew what sucker would be coming in. He had been good the last few days about not playing poker the last few days. He had promised not to play in the saloon, and truthfully wouldn’t have been able to enjoy a game with a constant shadow. Noticing a couple of potential players from the stage, he looked out into the horizon for any signs the peacekeepers were on their way back. Seeing no dust clouds in the distance he decided he had enough time for a game or two. He smiled to himself and quickly made his way off the roof. Minutes later he had a few players sitting out front of the saloon embroiled in a game of chance.
Ezra was quite happy with the winnings from the first two games he had played. He was preparing to start another when he noticed the arrival of Mr. Chris and his friends. “Thank you gentlemen for such a lucrative game; perhaps we can continue this another time.” Among the groans and light protests, Ezra quickly pocketed his winnings and disappeared from in front of the saloon.
He decided for the time being he would head back up to the roof and keep watch. Without his presence near the saloon he figured the players would break up and his game playing would be forgotten after awhile. No sense in looking for trouble. He knew when Mr. Chris said no playing in the saloon he meant no playing with others period; but he would never earn his keep playing the other peacekeepers. They simply had a lack of adequate funds. Would it be wrong to hope for future robbery attempts so he could play?
Ezra watched as Misters Buck and JD escorted two men towards the jail. He identified one of the men from the wanted posters in the jail; he was worth $200 for string of bank robberies. He guessed the other man must have a poster on him as well; just wasn’t in the jail when he was going through them. He had a great memory and was able to remember everything he saw. Mother loved this ability in him and encouraged him to use it often. He didn’t understand all the things she had him remember but she said that the details were not important just that he could reproduce what he had seen. He could honestly say he didn’t really care what they meant, he just enjoyed the few weeks he got to spend with mother as he perfected each replica.
He watched as Mr. Nathan and Mr. Josiah lead a couple of horses toward the undertakers. He guessed Mr. Nathan wouldn’t be treating anyone today. That left Mr. Chris and Mr. Vin heading into the livery. Everyone was accounted for and looked to be unharmed. Ezra was unaware that he was worried about the others until that moment. He hadn’t realized he was so anxious until he had assured himself of the others return. How very disconcerting, I haven’t felt that way for anyone before but mother. He decided to make himself visible before his hiding spot was discovered. Slipping the sling back on he made his way towards the livery where he last saw Mr. Chris.
As he made his way over he couldn’t help but notice that Mrs. Travis and her son were making their way towards the livery as well. He decided he wasn’t up to dealing with the gooey eyed woman; she was too pushy and always asking too many questions. It was much better to avoid that scene altogether. He swallowed the bitterness that bubbled in him as he saw the bright greeting Master Travis received and quickly detoured towards the jail. He wanted to have that bright welcome aimed at him. Goodness, where were these feelings coming from? Jealousy, dear lord mother would disown me if she ever found out. She was right though, he is too soft. No wonder he was left to work on his lessons.
Slipping into the jail he cursed himself for his inattention. Otherwise he would not have felt his body lifted into the air and a gun cocking beside his head.
Buck couldn’t understand what had happened. He and JD had brought the two men into the jail and were locking them up. Next thing he knows his prisoner is locked up, JD’s on the ground clutching his head and the damned robber had Ezra in his grasp. His eyes narrowed on the man with the ominous sound of the gun cocking. The hate boiled in him as that gun was aimed at the small boy’s head. He didn’t want to be in this position, with the others in different parts of the town and JD down it was up to him to fix this problem. His voice roughened when he tried to talk the man into putting the gun down. “You’ll never make it out of town alive. Just put the gun down and let the boy go.”
“You think I’m stupid, this boy here’s my guarantee out of this here town mister”
Ezra felt himself squeezed tighter as the man backed out of the jail and couldn’t help the moan that escaped his lips. There was no way for Mr. Buck to take a shot at the man and frankly that was frightening him quite a bit. He cringed as the gun pushed tighter against his temple. I should have just stayed on the roof. The sound of a woman screaming caused the curmudgeon to squeeze him even tighter releasing a cry of pain.
The scream got the attention of the fellow peacekeepers and had them moving into positions around the outlaw.
Chris felt his chest tighten as he saw the outlaw making his way out of the jail with a gun to Ezra’s head. Crap, what the hell happened? “Drop the gun and put the boy down.” He watched the man visibly shudder when he spoke to him. He gritted his teeth as Ezra was swung in his direction and a cry of pain was released from his lips. His glare turned deadly as he waited for an opening to shoot the man.
“Sir I would suggest you let me go before they kill you.”
“Shut up kid”
“Really sir there is one of you and six of them. Two of your compatriots will be pushing flowers and the other is locked in that heinous cage.”
“I said shut up boy”
He knew he was good at aggravating people, he was told it often. Mother did consider his ability to speak so well and confusing one of his God given talents. He hoped now he could irritate this man enough that he made a mistake, preferably without ending up with a hole in his body. “Really telling me to shut up is not going to get you out of your predicament. You sir are buffoon. Only an idiot of your proportion would attempt such a stupid escape. Really taking a child for hostage is a certain death sentence. Think about it sir, a barred cage or worm food.”
Chris couldn’t believe what he was watching. I’m going to kill him. What the hell does he think he is doing? He could only watch in dismay as Ezra continued to bait the man holding him. He couldn’t take his eyes off the scene, knowing he had to be ready to kill the bastard in a split second.
Ezra couldn’t help the grin that started to split his face as he felt the man holding him getting angrier and angrier, he knew any moment now the man would be unable to stop himself and seek a way to shut him up. Yes Ezra you certainly know how to piss people off. He felt himself flipped around and wasted no time engaging his derringer into the man’s face. “See I told you that you were an idiot.” He couldn’t take the smile off his face as the man dropped his gun and was roughly pulled away and off to jail, staring at him as if he couldn’t believe an eight year old would be the one to bring him down. Still smiling, he quickly reset his derringer and started to dust himself off. He rubbed his shoulder, it was a bit sore after the rough treatment but he had no new injuries, something to be thankful for. Looking up from dusting himself off he found himself enfolded against a man’s chest for the second time that afternoon. How very odd.
“You okay?” Chris had noticed Ezra rubbing his shoulder.
“I assure you Mr. Larabee that I am unharmed.”
“Good, I’ll have Nathan check you out to make sure.”
“I’m fine.” He noticed Mr. Chris glaring at him and took an involuntary step backwards. He was unsure why he was looking at him like that. In fact as he caught glimpses of the other peacekeepers they all held that same look.
“Well than, since you are fine. Why don’t you explain to me what the hell you think you were doing?”
“I was ending a stalemate sir”
“By pissing the man off? He could have killed you.”
“Yes I suppose he could have but he didn’t, it all worked out in the end.” That’s what mother always says, it doesn’t matter how bad the situation just as long as it all works out in the end it will be fine. “Mother says I have a talent of being able to talk myself out of any situation, I was using my God given talent to extract myself from a precarious position. It was after all my fault for not being more diligent with what was going on around me before entering into the jailhouse. I assure you that I have been looking out for myself for years, the odds were in my favor to end this spectacle and I hedged my bet. So you see it really did work out in the end.”
Ezra sighed heavily as he sat tossing small stones into the stream. It had been two days since the incident and he finally had some time to reflect. Mr. Chris had been pretty angry with him, but never tried to hit him. It was puzzling to him as most people that got angry with him never hesitated to inflict injury. These men were so confusing.
He lost his derringer again. Mr. Chris had taken it away from him again and he had yet been able to locate it in their room. He had a feeling one of the other peacekeepers had it in their position, but he had yet been able to search their rooms.
He spent the last two days under constant supervision, and it had really been grating on his nerves. The only consolation was that Mr. Nathan said he didn’t have to wear the sling all the time. Of course that ruined his argument about the menial labor he was being punished with. It seemed that everyone in town was more than happy to assist Mr. Chris with his punishment.
He spent the mornings at the livery helping to clean stalls. It wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy horses, he actually found them to be fascinating creature, but he really hated cleaning up after them. Mr. Yosemite had allowed him to use one of the livery horses to go for a short ride. Taking advantage of the solitude he quickly made it way out of town and found the stream he was currently reflecting into.
Bringing his thoughts back to his punishment, with five more days of it go he sighed again. When he finished with the livery he was then sent over to help Miss Inez with cleaning in the saloon. He couldn’t help the disappointment at not being able to play poker all week, even if it was just one of the other seven playing. He didn’t mind so much the work in the saloon, he felt at home in there. Saloons were a constant in his life; it was something he could count on to not change. After helping out at the saloon he was allowed to hang around the other peacekeepers.
Deciding he spent enough time in his thoughts and should get back before Mr. Chris came looking for him. He had no desire for his punishment to extend for anymore length of time.
Spotting Vin sitting outside the saloon, Chris made his way over and joined him. “Anything happening?”
“Nope, stage should be here soon though.”
Nodding his head slightly he peered into the saloon and frowned. “Ezra still at the livery?”
“Haven’t seen him here”
“He’s usually helping Inez by now. Think I’ll go and check on him.”
Vin watched Chris leave thinking that having Ezra around was doing a lot for his friend. Chris has been happier than he has seen him since they first met. There was a joy that surrounded the gun slinger that had never been there before. Vin though Chris must have been a very loving and devoted father. Having a little boy to dolt on was good for the man. Vin snorted thinking about how Ezra was taking the attention, poor kid has no idea what he’s in for. Glancing down the road he could see cloud dust announcing the stage coming closer.
Chris entered the livery and could see Ezra brushing down a dun gelding. He smiled when he caught a glimpse of the dimpled grin on the boy when the horse nudged him. Chris thought it was time to start looking for a suitable horse for the boy. Even though he was staying only for little over a week more, Chris couldn’t help but hope they would have many more times together. He frowned when he thought about the talk he would be having with Maude. He was hesitant about Ezra going back to his mother with the abuse he had seen on the boy. He had contacted the Judge about taking custody of the boy, but there was nothing that he had the power to do at this point. The judge had said he would try to get out here as soon as possible, but wasn’t sure if it would be before Maude returned for Ezra. Shaking the thoughts off the troubles to come he focused back on Ezra leaving the horse’s stall. “All finished up here son?”
“Yes sir, I’m on my way over to help Miss Inez now.”
“Good, I’ll walk with you.”
Chris laid a hand on Ezra’s shoulder and felt him tense before relaxing into the hold. They paused when the saw the stage arrive to see what passengers would be getting off. Grinning when he saw the Judge stepping down he said a silent prayer of thanks for his arrival. “Come on Ezra there’s someone I’d like you to meet.”
Ezra followed Mr. Chris towards the stage and awaited the introductions. He was a bit worried Mr. Chris was upset with him when he came into the livery, but relaxed when he caught him lost in his thoughts. Mr. Chris stopped in front of an older gentleman with a stern look in his face.
“Howdy Judge, I’d like you to meet my little brother Ezra.”
“Good afternoon Ezra, it’s a pleasure to meet you.
“Ezra, this is Judge Travis. He’s Billy’s grandfather.”
“How do you do Judge Travis, it is a pleasure to make you acquaintance.”
“Chris I need to speak with you in private.”
“Of course Judge. Ezra why don’t you go and help Inez.”
“Yes sir. Good afternoon Judge.”
Chris watched as Ezra made his way into the saloon before bringing his attention back to the Judge.
“Let’s head over to the jail so we have some privacy.”
An hour later Chris was still reeling at what the Judge had told him. He was worried about how Ezra was going to take the news.
Buck grinned; Ezra was literally bouncing on his feet in excitement. He had watched the little boy rush through cleaning the glasses and whipping the tables down. Now it looked like a strange dance as he was quickly sweeping the floor. Buck wondered why Ezra was acting in such a, dare he say it, childish manner. “Hey Ez, what’s got you so excited?”
“Just have to attend to other business Mr. Buck”
“Is that so; ain’t nothing that’s going to get you in trouble now is it?”
“Of course not.”
“So whatcha have to do?”
“That is my business Mr. Wilmington”
Uh oh, back to Mr. Wilmington. I must have pushed too hard. Buck settled back and decided to keep an eye on the boy to be sure he stayed out of mischief.
Ezra patted his pocket to be sure the letter was still in his possession. Mr. Dunne had brought him the letter when he retrieved the mail from the stage. He had taken one look at the curvy letters and knew it was from his mother. Perhaps she is ready for me to join her? He was surprised to have a letter from her so soon; he didn’t expect to hear from her for weeks. He was starting to enjoy this little town and the six men that seemed to always be in his vicinity. He quickly put his mind back onto task to complete his daily punishment.
When Ezra finished he took a quick look around to be sure he wasn’t seen leaving. He wanted to read his letter in private; you just never knew what Maude would put in there. Seeing Mr. Vin was sitting out front of the saloon and Mr. Buck was engaged in conversation with one of the working ladies, Ezra took off out the back of the saloon.
Buck had meant to keep an eye on Ezra but got side tracked when the lovely saloon girl caught his eye. As he looked around he couldn’t see the boy in sight. Sighing to himself and with regret he left the lady’s company and made his way outside. Seeing Vin snoozing outside the saloon he thought he would know where the boy went.
“Hey Vin you see which way Ezra headed?”
“Nope, didn’t come out this way.”
“Damn” Now he was worried, when a kid purposefully avoids being seen they’re usually up to no good. He wondered just what Ezra was up to and what kind of trouble it was going to cause. Catching sight of Chris headed in their direction gave him pause; he looked upset.
“What’s going on old dog?”
“Ezra still inside?”
“Nope the boy slipped out of here. Trying to figure out which way he went.”
“You see him tell him I need to see him.”
“I’ll do that.”
Ezra could hear the voices of the other peacekeepers below him. He knew Mr. Chris was looking for him, but he wanted to be by himself right now. After he read his letter he would let himself be found and go see what Mr. Chris wanted. Settling away from the edge and so he couldn’t be spotted, he pulled out the letter his mother wrote and began to read.
My Dearest Ezra,
I hope this missive finds you in good spirits. I wanted to let you know that I love you dearly and everything I have ever done was for you baby boy. There is so much I want to say but I just cannot find the words. I’m sorry I never told you about your father before. I’m sure your brother Chris will be able to help you learn about who the man was. Yes Ezra, Chris Larabee is your brother. I know you probably thought it was part of a con to get him to watch you, but he is your brother. He was a fine young man when I met him years ago and having the chance to meet him again assures me that he will have your best interests in mind. I’m so sorry Ezra but I will not be able to come back for you. Remember that I will always love you and take care of yourself.
You will always be in my heart. Love Mother
Ezra was in shock. Mother was not coming back for him. She had never told him that before. She also said that Mr. Chris was his brother. It wasn’t a con. There was just too much to process and he felt adrift. He was experiencing so many different emotions; he knew he would be too easy to read. Mother would be disappointed that he wasn’t able to keep up his mask. Pulling everything back into himself he decided to process one thing at a time. First he would deal with him having a brother and then leave the fact that his mother wasn’t coming back for him at another time. He doubted that she would keep away from him, she always came back. Maybe she was going to leave him here for a longer time than she normally did. Didn’t he just decide to wait on contemplating what was happening with his mother for another time?
Thinking on his brother, he couldn’t say he was disappointed to find out that they were truly related. He had always wanted an older brother that would protect him from harm and keep him safe. He really could have used one for some of the many places he had stayed in. With a brilliant smile he decided that having Mr. Chris for a brother was definitely a good thing. Figuring he spent enough time with his thoughts he made his way off the roof and to be ‘found’ by one of the other peacekeepers.
Being found by one of the other peacekeepers was going to be quite simple, especially with Mr. Buck tearing up the town for him. He thought about playing some mischief with the man, but knew Mr. Chris was eager for his presence. He had wondered what was so important; maybe mother sent him a note as well? Deciding that the only way to find out was to make his presence known; he grinned as after all he couldn’t keep himself from playing a bit of mischief. Seeing Mr. Buck getting flustered at being unable to find him, he waited for the perfect opportunity to sneak up to him.
Buck was standing on the edge of the boardwalk with his hands on his hips muttering to himself. He had looked everywhere and was unable to find the boy. Peering up and down the town he hoped to spot Ezra, so it was a surprise when the said child loudly announced his presence behind him. Turning quickly to meet the child behind his back he lost his balance and found himself drenched in the water trough in front of the board walk.
Ezra couldn’t suppress the giggles that escaped seeing Mr. Buck fighting his way out of the water trough. He took a step back to avoid any stray drops of water and any possible retribution incase Mr. Buck got angry.
“Wooo weee son you sure did sneak up on ole Buck here.” Buck couldn’t help the grin that split his face, with the sound of giggles coming from Ezra he didn’t think there was a more pleasant sound in the world.
“Sorry about that Mr. Buck didn’t mean to startle you.” Yeah right that was exactly what I was aiming for!
“No harm son, been looking for you all over town. Chris is looking for you. What’s say you and I find the ole dog?”
“Lead on Mr. Buck.”
Chris sat thinking in the saloon how he was going to break the news to Ezra when he saw him and Buck enter. He couldn’t smother the amusement and grin at Buck’s drenched attire. Catching Ezra’s smirk of satisfaction he knew the boy was behind his friend’s current state. Winking to the boy he decided to tease his long time friend. “Take a bath with your clothes on Buck?”
Buck had a feeling he was going to hear a lot of ribbing over the next few days.
“Mr. Buck decided it was prudent to wash both himself and his clothing to save time and energy.”
Chris wished he could continue to bask in the day’s pleasant mood, but he had to speak with Ezra and didn’t expect there to be a good outcome from the talk. “Thanks for finding Ezra Buck.”
“No problem, think I’ll just go get dry and changed.”
Chris watched Buck leave and turned to his little brother. “Come on Ezra let’s go somewhere quiet, we have a lot to talk about.”
Ezra wondered again what the talk was about as he silently followed Mr. Chris towards the boarding house. He didn’t seem angry, more serious and concerned he would say. Ezra went back through his day and couldn’t think about anything he may have done that would bring about a talking to. Mr. Chris was amiable until he went to speak with Judge Travis in private. Nodding to himself he would gamble that the Judge brought news about his mother. It couldn’t just be coincidence that mother wrote him just as the Judge arrived. He wondered what kind of trouble she got into. Was she in jail and that was why she had sent him the note? Maybe the man mother was to marry caught onto her scheme and had her arrested. Could be she found out the con was up and took off for other parts; maybe it was too dangerous for her to be in this area. She would send for him when it was safe, of that he was certain. He just had to be ready so he could stay with her this time. Of course that could be a problem when his brother and friends never let him work on his skills. He’d have to find more time to work on his lessons.
Chris watched as Ezra settled himself on the bed in their room. Taking a deep breath he prepared for a most unpleasant conversation.
“Ezra, you remember earlier today when you meet Judge Travis?”
“The Judge wanted to speak with me privately when he arrived because it concerned Maude.”
“Did he tell you that mother completed her matrimonial vows?” Maybe the marriage was complete and they decided to travel abroad, that would explain mother’s letter.
“I’m afraid not Ezra.”
“Oh, then what news did he bring about mother?” Please don’t let her have been sent to prison. Mother would never be able to cope in prison.
“The Judge said there was an attack on Mr. Shillings’ ranch a few days ago.” Chris saw the slight rounding of Ezra’s eyes as he started to put the events together.
“Mother is alright isn’t she?” Oh Lord, Oh Lord, Mother please be alright.
“I’m so sorry Ezra but Maude didn’t make it.”
No no no no. Ezra shook he head in denial, mother couldn’t be gone. He felt his control slipping and felt the tears building up and leak out. He had thought he had felt pain before, but nothing he had felt physically could compare to the stab that was tearing him apart on the inside. He squeezed his eyes tightly but that couldn’t prevent the moisture from making its way down his cheeks. He held himself stiffly when a pair of arms encircled him but quickly clung to the solid form, giving into the strength that it provided. He couldn’t understand the words that were being said but took comfort in the deep voice that tried to penetrate the fog he had slipped into.