mystdogs: (Default)

Family Ties

Part 22:

The stage arrived early the next morning with Matt and Olivia Standish onboard. The elegant couple had seemed to charm the town from the moment they stepped foot onto the dusty street. It wasn’t long before the town was abuzz with the virtues of the lovely couple and what a great influence they would be for the young boy in the gunslinger’s care.

And it was those numerous virtues Chris was hearing about from Mary. “Oh they are such a lovely couple. It is really a shame they are unable to have children of their own. I think Ezra would flourish in such a loving home, with two loving adults waiting to be the stable parents he has always needed. Don’t you agree?”

Chris just grunted in response before tipping his hat and making his way towards the saloon for a drink he so badly needed this early in the morning. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be when he was interrupted in his destination by the little weasel Smithers and the oh so lovely couple waiting to steal his little brother away from his life.

“Oh Mr. Larabee, um sir, um good morning Mr. Larabee. May I introduce to you Matthew and Olivia Standish, little Ethan’s, um sorry I mean Ezri’s aunt and uncle.”

“Ezra” Chris corrected for what seemed the hundredth time in the last day.

“Oh yes yes, I don’t know why I can’t keep that straight, my apologies Mr. Larabee.”

“Mr and Mrs. Standish, a pleasure to meet you.” Yeah right, he thought to himself.

“Oh please it’s just Matt and Olivia. No reason for family to be so formal around each other, right Chris.”

Chris quirked an eyebrow at the familiarity the man took with him, but he was lax to start any complaining as he wanted everything to go smoothly for his little brother. It would do no good to anger the couple if Ezra ended up in their custody and he wanted visits. “Matt, Olivia”

“Oh Chris dear, have you seen young Ezra around? Why we’ve just been bursting with excitement to see our nephew after so long.”

Chris felt like he wanted to throw up with all the sugary sweetness this couple was pouring out. He couldn’t find anything that solidified the protective feeling he was getting, but for some reason he just wasn’t sure this couple had the best interest in mind for Ezra. “I’m sure he’s helping one of the others right now.”

“Oh Ezra has always been such a hard worker, I’m pleased to hear he hasn’t lost that fine quality as he has grown.”

Chris frowned at that statement, something was tingling at his nerve endings warning him of danger, but he just couldn’t grasp it. “When I see him, I’ll let him know you’d like to see him. If you’ll excuse me I have a meeting to get to.” Yeah a meeting with the bottom of a whiskey bottle. Damn.


Ezra had stationed himself on the roof of the saloon once he spotted the demons dressed up as family. He snorted as he watched them play the proper southern couple. Well he knew for certain the only thing proper about then was that they were southern. Upstanding citizens though, he knew the truth. Neither had a lot of money just barely keeping their plantation running by using work starved ex-slaves. He would work them from sun up to sun down, and all for a measly pay. It was no wonder that his uncle seemed to get a gleam in his eyes whenever Maude would drop him off for weeks or months at a time. After all, having free labor meant one less ex-slave to pay.

Ezra shuddered as he thought of the last time he spent with his aunt and uncle. He patted his pocket and reassured himself with the extra weight of the derringer back in his pocket. He hadn’t had time to find his arm rigging but it was his top priority before he ran into his aunt or uncle. He smiled to himself as he thought about Chris reaction when found out the derringer was back in his possession. He had to admit it was a good idea to give the small gun to Josiah to hide, but really Josiah wasn’t as cleaver as one southern child that was raised by one Maude Standish.

Frowning he wondered if his mother had known about her brother’s aggressive tendencies. She never seemed surprised when he left with bruises or in some cases broken bones. Mother had also seemed oblivious about it and only seemed disappointed if his appearance was affected.

Ezra’s shoulders slumped as he watched the shrewd couple work the town and turn them onto their side. It was starting to look like they would have the town standing behind them before the judge ever arrived. He had seen Mary gushing over the couple with his brother and then when the couple of conversation struck up a conversation with Chris he felt the bile rise in his throat. He watched as Chris head towards the saloon and knew that his chance to search their room for the rigging had arrived. Marking the direction his aunt and uncle headed in he made sure his route would take him far away from any chance of them running into each other.


Buck sighed as he watched his old friend slam another shot of whiskey back before slamming the empty glass on the table. It was plan to see the man was hurting, and Buck figured his friend was fighting with himself over the potential loss of another child in his life.

“That’s not going to help old dog.”

Chris shot his friend an evil glare before he sighed. “Yeah I know”

“Wanna tell me what’s got your feathers in a dander?”

“Don’t like it”



“Who, Ezra’s aunt and uncle?” He watched Chris sharply nod his head. “Why? Everyone seems to like them that I’ve spoken to. Can’t speak for myself, haven’t meet them yet.”

“Don’t know just don’t trust them.”

“Why not?”

“I just don’t think they have Ezra’s happiness in mind. Can’t tell you any specifics, but I just don’t trust ‘em.”

“Want me and the boys to keep an eye on them?”

Chris nodded his head again. Yeah keeping an eye on them would make him feel a bit better.

“I need to find Ezra, he seems to be hiding out today” Chris grinned, it was that more than anything else that had got his protective streak on high alert.

“I just saw him heading towards your room before I came in here.”

“Thanks” Chris stood and tossed some coins on the table before heading off towards his room.

mystdogs: (Default)

The Essence Of Time

Chapter 6

Ezra was dismayed that no one seemed to believe him about the older boy that had helped him, but no one at the school knew of the boy he was speaking about. He, along with Timmy and Bob, found themselves in the principal’s office awaiting their parents’ arrival. Timmy’s nose had finally stopped bleeding, but his face was all puffy and he had two black eyes. He was supposed to go to the emergency room but his father insisted that he would take him on his own. Bob on the other hand still guarded his stomach, the waste basket beside him held what was left of his lunch from earlier that day. Ezra wrinkled his nose a bit that thought. School lunch was bad enough before it was even served, let alone brought back up after digestion had started to occur.

Looking up he spied his mom and dad making their way down the hall. His dad looked ready to shoot someone, but it was him mom that had the laser coming out of her eyes. Ezra was just glad her aim was on the two ruffians sitting in chairs beside him. Ezra schooled himself, he wasn’t sure what was going to happen. He felt his chin lifted and twisted gently.

“You alright son?”

He gave a quick nod, catching the strange jealous looks of the two boys awaiting their fathers. He didn’t know why they would feel jealous, it wasn’t like Chris was their father.

“Come on let’s go speak with the principal.”

Ezra found himself led into the forbearing office, from the giant desk to the giant man sitting behind it.

“Mr. and Mrs. Larabee, I’m sorry to have had to call you in about this today. Ezra and the two boys were fighting in the playground today. As I’m sure you could see Ezra inflected quite a bit of damage to the other boys. The boys said that Ezra attacked them for no reason. Ezra insisted that he was the one attacked and was helped by an older kid that nobody has ever seen before. I’m afraid we are going to have to suspend Ezra for fighting for a week.”

“Excuse me but one of those boys has been bullying my son for the past year and this school has done nothing to prevent this, and now he was attacked by two boys and you want to suspend him for defending himself. I don’t think so. If my son says that he was attacked and another boy helped him out than by all that is holy that is what happened!” Sarah was livid, how dare he try to pin this onto her son.

“Ezra” Chris got his son’s attention. “What did this boy look like?”

“He was older than me, a bit taller with longer curly brown hair and blue eyes. He talked with an accent too, but I can’t remember where I heard it before, just know I have heard it before.”

Ezra couldn’t believe it, his mom and dad believed him. Even though he still ended up on suspension, so did Timmy and Bob.


It wasn’t until Ezra tried out for the baseball team the next year that he saw his school yard hero again. Ezra was amazed at how much the boy had changed over the past year. The boy had grown in height and build, and his hair had grown even longer.

He watched as the boy threw fast ball after fast ball and struck out the boy at bat. Ezra had just started to make his way over to the field the other boy was playing on when he heard his name called out to one of the fields for try outs. Throwing one more look at his hero he smiled and ran off to try and make the team.

A couple of hours later he stood nervously with the other boys that were trying out for the team and waited to see if his was one of the names called on this year’s roster.

It felt like hours as he heard other names called until he finally heard his name called. “Ezra Larabee, first base” he heard and then felt a blossom of warmth engulf him as he saw his parents and little brother cheering in the stands. He listened on as some of his other friends also made the team, but soon found his eyes locked on with his blue-eyed hero. The boy had a smug smile on his face as he relaxed on the edge of the crowd by the stands. He felt a smidgen of pride that his making the team pleased his hero.

He heard the coach finish listing the new team and releasing the boys until the weekend when they would have their first practice. Ezra quickly congratulated the other boys and started to make his way over to his hero. He really wanted to know his name and to thank him for his help so long ago.

He had barely made it halfway across the field before he was nearly barreled over by one very enthusiastic little brother. “Ezra you did it, you made the team. Wow that is so awesome. Can you believe it Dad, he even gots first base! Oh man wait till I tell everyone tomorrow. I can’t wait till next year and I can try out. You think we’ll be on the same team? Oh man that is so great…”

Ezra smiled and gave a little laugh as his biggest fan expounded on the virtues of his future baseball career. Looking back towards the stands he noticed his hero had disappeared and sighed inwardly at the missed opportunity.

mystdogs: (Default)

Family Ties

Part 21:

It wasn’t long before everything quieted down in Four Corners following the hanging event. Judge Travis left on the stage a few days ago to proceed over a trial a few towns away. He would be back later in the week to finalize the paperwork on Ezra’s custody.

For the six protectors of the town it was a beautifully quiet morning as they watched the stage make its way towards town. The guys always made sure to watch the arrival in case of any undesirables coming into their town. They wanted to head off any trouble before it had a chance to develop. Today’s stage only held a single passenger. Though he was an unassuming quality the guys kept a watchful eye on him. They knew appearances could be deceiving, especially when they came packaged in expensive suits.

“Whatcha figure he’s here for?” asked the quiet tracker.

“Looks like we’re about to find out” Chris remarked as he watched the man head in their direction.

“Excuse me gentlemen but I am looking for a Mr. Chris Larabee” The man swallowed nervously as he felt the numerous eyes on him.

“I’m Chris Larabee.” Chris smirked inwardly as he watched the jittery man pull the constricting tie loose around his neck.

“Ah yes Mr. Larabee, a pleasure to meet you sir. Judge Travis’ suggested we meet here in regards to the late Maude Standish and her child Ethan…no no no that isn’t right….um it was something different…um Edward? No that still isn’t right…um”

“Ezra” six voices filled in for the man, making him jump from the combined noise.

“Oh right, right. Yes Ezra. I have a letter for the young lad that his mother wanted to give him upon her death. Do you know where the boy is so I may deliver the missive while we wait for Judge Travis and Mr. and Mrs. Standish to arrive?”

“Mister?” Chris drawled a bit harshly

“Oh Smithers. John Smithers. Maude Standish left our offices with the duty to fulfill her final wishes.”

“Mr. Smithers I think we best take a seat inside and start all over from the beginning.”


It was a few hours later that letter in hand, Chris made his way to the livery to find Ezra. Maude had left final instructions with a law firm in the case of her death. The paperwork was found in some of the possessions recovered from the grisly scene of her death. He was able to find out from Smithers that Ezra was left with a sizable fortune and two families vying for custody of the child. It seems the family that gains custody of Ezra also gains custody of the fortune. Not that Chris cared for the fortune, but he was worried that Maude’s brother and wife may only be after the money with no care for Ezra at all. The couple would arrive on the stage the next day, with Judge Travis arriving the following day.

He stopped at the entrance of the livery watching his little brother brushing down his favorite horse. Chris looked at the letter in his hand and wondered what reactions would come from Ezra reading it. While he still had nightmares, they were coming less frequently. He was worried about how the new events would wear on the child. Ezra had been through a lot lately, he just hoped that everything would work out okay.

“Morning Chris” Ezra’s bright voice broke him out of his thoughts.

“Morning Ezra? Why it’s nearly noon, I think you’re turning into a hibernating bear.” Chris teased before getting a serious look on his face. “Come on over a minute I have to talk with you.”

Ezra schooled himself, it was never a good omen when someone looked all serious and morose at once. Perhaps Chris changed his mind about Ezra staying with him after all.

“A gentleman arrived on the stage this morning. He was put in charge of seeing to your mother’s effects, as well as making sure you are provided for. Your mother left you a sizable fortune and a letter she wished for you to read. Maude’s brother and his wife will arrive tomorrow, and the Judge will follow the next day. Your aunt and uncle are petitioning for custody of you as am I.”

“I see.” Ezra was stunned at first but dread quickly filled him hearing that his aunt and uncle wanted to take custody of him. He willfully repressed the shudder that wanted to take life. He had no want or desire to ever see them again. His Uncle Matt had left him battered and bruised on many occasions, although Ezra had learned over the many visits how to avoid some of the harsher beatings. He could hear Chris talking in the background but his mind could not focus on what was being said. The only thing he knew was that there was no way he would ever live with his aunt and uncle, he’d runaway before that happened, fortune be damned!

He soon found the letter placed in his hand and a supportive hand on his shoulder. “I’ll let you read your letter from Maude now. You know where to find me if you need me.”

Chris watched as Ezra nodded his head before leaving him in the quiet livery.


Ezra wanted to find a quiet spot to read the letter from his mother. He knew he wasn’t allowed to go off riding yet. It seemed Chris was pretty adamant about his restriction and chores. So it was his town hiding spot on the roof of the saloon where he settled down to read the letter. Taking a deep breath, he opened the letter and began to read.

My Dearest Ezra,

I’m afraid if you are reading this letter I am no longer among this world. Remember your training child and be sure to keep up appearances. Now then child I have a lot I must tell you. I’m sorry that I never told you about your father before but….

Ezra continued to read through the long explanation about his father and the unknown brother he had. He was happy to have his concerns about Chris really being his brother laid to rest. The rest of the letter explained to him about the money she had been putting away and the plans for his custody to either her brother Matt and his wife or Mr. Larabee and his wife.

Ezra was sure of one thing; he would not go back to his Uncle Matt. With that last thought he headed off on a search for his missing derringer, even if he had to engage in menial labor to find it. By the end of the day he would have a small piece of security to make it through the arrival of his uncle.

mystdogs: (Default)

The Essence Of Time

Chapter 5

With Maude’s absence the custody proceedings were completed quickly with full custody granted to Chris and Sarah. They allowed for visitation with Maude for Ezra’s sake, which was of course if she ever showed up again.

Ezra though had taken the change of custody in stride. He was saddened that his mother never showed up to fight for him but was at the same time happy to be staying somewhere permanent. He had come to care a great deal for his little brother and father; and felt closer to Sarah then he ever had his own mother.

Summer vacation was coming to an end and he was looking forward to starting second grade. After Sarah had talked with the school things had gotten better with Timmy, he just hoped that the new school year would stay that way.

With his thoughts wandering he never noticed the petite figure watching him from the doorway, and was startled when she spoke.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Sarah asked teasingly.

“I’m afraid it wouldn’t be a good return on your investment.” Ezra grinned at her.

“Oh I think I’ll take my chances with the market, after all it has been on a steady rise.”

Ezra enjoyed the banter and sat up on his bed to make room for her.

“Are you worried about school starting next week?”

“A little but mostly just my thoughts are wandering today.”

“Oh anything you want to discuss?”

Ezra thought for a moment before biting his bottom lip and giving a quick nod.

Sarah smiled at the nervous gesture, Ezra always seemed to bite his bottom lip when he had something serious to discuss. Now if he was up to mischief it was a quick wetting of the lips and the devilish smile. “Well out with it,” she encouraged.

Ezra gathered his nerves before asked the question he desperately wanted and affirmative response to. “Mrs. Sarah,….. um, would it be okay,…….. um, what I mean to say is, woulditbeokayifIcalledyoumom?” He finished off very quickly.

Sarah couldn’t contain the smile that lit up her face. “I would be honored Ezra. I love you as a son as much as I love Adam as a son. Nothing would make me prouder than for you to call me mom.”

Ezra released a slow breath of relief, he wasn’t sure how his question would be taken; but he was pleased with the response. “Thank you mom.” He quickly hugged her before taking off towards his brother’s room.

Sarah laughed as she heard Ezra’s voice calling down the hallway. “Adam you were right Mrs. Sarah said I could call her mom.”


Sarah was still glowing when Chris came home from work.

“What has you so happy this evening love?” Chris asked as he wrapped his arms around his wife.

“He asked if he could call me mom” she squealed with delight. Sarah was still feeling giddy from the morning’s event.

“That’s wonderful, I’m very pleased about that,” he said as he reached around her to snag a cookie from the sheet cooling on the counter.

“You’re going to spoil your dinner. You know I had to keep the boys outside to keep them from snatching the cookies and mmm” the rest of her sentence was cut off as she enjoyed a chocolate chip flavored kiss.

“You might want to hide those cookies; the big kid is here too. He’s out chasing the boys around. Got a big case coming up so figured we could get some work done tonight, which of course is if I can drag him away from his two nephews.”

Chris left after snagging another kiss and cookie to go save the boys from their exuberant uncle.


It wasn’t long before the boys were back in school. Adam was enjoying his first grade year, though he wasn’t taking too well with more structure in the classroom. Thankfully he had high scores on his reading levels and was able to enjoy a rotation of art, music and phys ed.

Ezra on the other hand was enjoying his class work but not some of the new students that had arrived for the school year. Timmy had quickly become friends with the new boy, Bob, and Ezra’s torment had begun. The two boys seemed to have a distinct dislike for Ezra and he couldn’t figure out why. All three had been left with their fathers by their mothers, but other than that he couldn’t figure out why they didn’t like him. He was thankful at least that neither boy was in his class, he just had to deal with them during phys ed and lunch time. He hadn’t said anything to his parents and the teacher’s never seemed to witness the harassment.

“Lookie here Bob’O, it’s little Ezwah”

“Sure is, say Ezwah that’s a nice looking deck o cards. I like em, think you should hand um over” Bob said as he moved over top Ezra to intimidate the smaller boy.

Ezra quickly pocketed his cards and stood to face the school yard bullies. “Yes well you’d like a new face too, guess you’re outta luck there too.”

Ezra wasn’t expecting the quick retort and found himself on his rear with his cheek stinging smartly from the blow. He quickly got up and barreled into the larger boy knocking them both into the dirt and they rolled around and traded blows. It would have been a fair fight but Timmy decided to join in and Ezra found himself on the losing end of the fight until Bob’s weight was torn off of him. Not considering the circumstances he quickly planted his fist into Timmy’s nose and cringed at the sickening crunch he heard. He stared a little wide eyed at Timmy’s bleeding nose. The boy was rolling on the ground screaming in pain. Ezra spotted Bob with an older boy trading barbs and blows.

“Afraid to take on someone your own size” he heard the other boy taunt. He felt an instant kinship to the older boy. The soft words in a familiar tone, though he couldn’t place it at the moment. Bob was quickly felled and held stomach as he moaned in pain.

Ezra found himself panting from the adrenalin rushing through his system. He looked up into cerulean eyes and smiled his thanks.

“Ya alright?”

“Yes thank you kind sir, you have impeccable timing.” He said as he brushed off the layers of dirt he found himself covered in. Looking up when he received no response he was surprised to find himself alone with the two moaning bullies and a small herd of teachers headed in his direction.

mystdogs: (Default)

The Essence Of Time

Chapter 4

Sarah smiled as she watched her two boys quickly make their way to the waiting car. She couldn’t believe it had been nearly six months since Maude had shown back up with Ezra. Of course she was less surprised that Maude hadn’t been in contact with them since that day. Ezra, to her surprise, didn’t seem to be affected by his mother’s absence. She couldn’t imagine ever being able to stay away from her son that long. She decided that tonight she and Chris would have a long discussion regarding Maude and her lack of maternal care.

“Mom, guess what I did at school today! It’s so cool, even Ezra says so. Right Ezra?”

“Certainly Adam.”

“Well darling why don’t you tell me all about it on the way home.” Sarah couldn’t help but notice Ezra’s rather subdued manner. Perhaps he was missing his mother after all. She decided that she would find some private time with him this afternoon so they could have a little talk. Settling the boys in the booster seats she couldn’t help but smile at their near identical looks. It had amazed her how many times she was asked if they were twins. Of course she could pull out the many differences between the boys, but understood at first glance just how much alike they both were. Coming out of her musings she quickly got into the car and headed home, all the while listening to the excited chatter of her little boy.


Buck relaxed back in the chair as he waited for Chris to come back downstairs. It wasn’t often that they could be relieved early from work and spend an afternoon off. He grinned when he heard the car pull into the drive. The grin quickly turned into a toothy smile as he heard the thumping footfalls racing up the steps. Any second now, he thought.

“UNCLE BUCK!” twin voices yelled out with excitement.

Buck felt his heart swell when he received a double hug. It was so great to feel that connection with Ezra. It had been a long road before Ezra would stop calling him Mister Buck and only in the last month he had been openly demonstrative with affection. Adam though he had no concerns about, the loving and happy child seemed to exemplify the feeling of being alive.

“Hey what about me?” The gruff voice called from the steps.



Chris quickly found himself with an armload of Adam, while Ezra slipped his arms around him for a hug. Chris didn’t think he could be much happier than he was now.

“Daddy you’re home! How come? Are we going to do something? Is Uncle Buck having dinner with us tonight? Guess what I did at school today.”

“Hold on there son, slow down and take a breath. You’re Uncle Buck and I got to leave work early today and thought we’d take you boys riding.”


“Sure thing Pard! Why your daddy and I have it all planned out, but first I need a little partner to help me saddle up some horses. What you say you and Uncle Buck go get them ponies ready?”

Adam quickly squirmed his way out of his father’s arms and raced off for the door. “Come on Uncle Buck we got’s work to do!”

Chris smiled after his best friend and youngest son went flying out of the house. Buck was always a pretty perceptive person and must have picked up on Ezra’s disquiet. Although he had moments of normal behavior, Ezra always seemed so quiet and reserved compared to his brother. He had come out of his shell with Adam’s influence, but Chris figured he may always be that much calmer.

“Well son, you want to tell me what’s wrong?”

Ezra bit his bottom lip before raising tear filled eyes to his father. “Is my mother dead?”

“No Ezra, why would you think that?” Chris watched as the tears fell over reddened rims. He had wondered when Ezra would ask about Maude, but never considered that he might think she was dead. His eyes sought out Sarah’s in worry as he gathered his son in his arms and joined her on the couch.

“She’s never left me this long before and Timmy said I was a bastard and that father’s only wanted their bastard sons when their mommy’s die. I looked up bastard in the dictionary and it said a bastard is someone born to unmarried parents. Mother is unmarried, but you are married so that makes me a bastard, and if Timmy was right about me being a bastard than maybe is right about mother dying.”

Chris and Sarah could hardly believe what they were hearing. They just couldn’t believe that another child in the class had said such nasty things to their son.

“Oh honey, Timmy is so wrong. You’re mother is alive, even though we don’t know where she is at the moment, we have no doubt she will be back when she can.” Sarah was quick to reassure him.

“Son, I have loved you from the moment I knew you were coming into my life. There is nothing that can change how much I love and want you in my life.”

“I love you too Dad.”

“How about you and I see what kind of trouble your little brother and Uncle Buck has gotten into?”


Sarah took advantage of the peace and quiet with all the boys out of the house. She immediately called the school regarding the incident between Ezra and Timmy. She had a teacher conference planned for tomorrow morning. It would mean leaving early to have enough time to talk with the teacher before the other kids started to arrive, but there was no way she would allow her son to be bullied.

Laying in bed next to her husband she finally decided to have the talk that has been bothering her for some time. “Chris?”


“We need to talk.”

Uh oh, Chris thought. It was never a good talk when it started out with those four dreaded words. “What’s wrong honey?”


“I know, but that woman disappears off the map like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s like she doesn’t exist. If it wasn’t for Ezra, I’d swear she was a figment of my imagination.”

“Yes well, regardless of her location, wherever that may be, what she is doing to Ezra is unforgivable. Chris I want us to petition for full custody of him. Maude can then visit him when she feels the need to be motherly. It’s just not fair to our son to not have a feeling of home, and he is my son too Chris. I may not have bore him, but he is every bit my child as Adam is. Those two boys should never be split apart. They are so happy together. God help me Chris, but I wish that woman would never come back. All she causes is chaos and pain.”

“You’re right honey, I’ll start the paperwork tomorrow.”

“Thank you Chris, I love you.”

mystdogs: (Default)

The Essence Of Time

Chapter 3

“Maude” Chris growled at the woman that had arrived on his doorstep before he noticed the small child by her side. “Ezra,” his eyes locked on the sea green pools staring at him with apprehension and a hint of fear. “My God, I’ve missed you son.” Chris quickly gathered the child into a bone crushing embrace. He couldn’t believe he was finally home, and he would be damned if Maude would be running off with him ever again.

Ezra was too shocked to respond until he started having trouble breathing and then began to struggle for his freedom. Finally the tight grip loosened but never let him go as he felt himself lifted into a pair of strong arms. “Mother?” He knew his voice quivered nervously and he would be later reprimanded, but he had never encountered such an off kilter moment before.

“Ezra darling, this is your father, Chris Larabee.”

Before anyone could respond a small russet headed child flew up the steps. “Daddy, Daddy, I got ice cream at school today. Ms. Mattson said I did all my work right and she gave me ice cream. We made a picture today, it’s in my bag. Can we put it on the refrigerator? Can we?” The little whirlwind barely took a breath before moving on to another question. “Who’s that?” he asked pointing to the child being held in his father’s arms.

“Adam, this is your older brother Ezra. Do you remember me telling you about him?”

“Uh huh, the evil witch took him away right before I was born. He’s back does that mean the witch was squished by a house?”

Chris fought hard to keep from laughing at Adam’s words and seeing Sarah barely containing her mirth he couldn’t help cracking a grin. Lowering himself down he place Ezra on his feet and made introductions. “Ezra, this is your little brother Adam. The lovely lady is my wife Sarah. Adam why don’t you and Ezra go up to your room. Your mother and I need to have an adult talk with Ezra’s mother.”

“Okay Daddy, Come on Ezra I got the coolest game. It’s got cowboys and Indians and horses and..” The voice drowned out as the two boys headed off to Adam’s room.

“Maude I believe we need to have a talk.” Chris turned coldly to the woman in front of him, before heading into the house leaving her to follow.


A few hours later, Maude took her leave without Ezra. He would be spending the next month with Chris and Sarah while she took care of some business. Her excuse of taking off with Ezra to give Chris and Sarah time with their new baby had felt hollow. Chris was sure there was another reason, but Maude was not forth coming.

Ezra and Adam seemed to settle in well for the first few days, but it wasn’t long before small fights would break out. Adam had never had another child in his life to compete with and it seemed now everything was a competition.

“Daddy Ezra won’t play with me.”

“Why don’t you find another game you could play by yourself?”

“He’s just being mean. All he ever wants to do is read. That’s boring, I want to play. Why doesn’t he ever want to play? He’s weird!”

“Adam that’s not very nice, your brother is not weird. Ezra is a bit older than you and when people get older they find enjoyment in different types of games. Your brother loves to read; maybe you can ask him to read you a story?”

“I did Dad,” he whined “but he said he did not like to read baby books. I’m not a baby and his books are boring, there’s no pictures.”

“I’ll have a talk with Ezra and see if he can find something the two of you can do together.”

“Thank you Daddy”

Chris sighed as he made his way up to the room the boys were sharing. He wondered how Sarah dealt with this every day. He had been watching the boys for the last four hours and had already spoken to them multiple times about getting along together. He hoped things would settle between the boys soon. When Maude returned in a few weeks they would be working out a regular visiting schedule for Ezra. Maude had left them with the responsibility of getting enrolled into school. Ezra had seemed relieved that he and Adam would be in different grade levels, but Adam was not. He had wanted to take his brother in for show and tell. Chris groaned as he considered the call he would receive from the school regarding the tale Adam would tell. It reminded him that he would be having a long talk with Buck about how he explained certain things to his son.


Ezra quickly brushed the dirt off his shirt and sighed in relief that no one noticed he had been dirty. He sighed as he readjusted the glove on his hand again. Baseball is what his father called the game they were trying to play. He wasn’t sure what all the rules were, but when the ball flew towards him he was supposed to try and catch it. He smiled at the ball that was resting in his glove.

“Great catch Ezra!” His father exclaimed.

A brilliant smile with full dimples took over the child’s face. Ezra decided that he loved this game and wanted to know everything he could about the game of baseball. His little brother even seemed to be enjoying himself. It was the first time Ezra could remember ever having such a pleasant day with other people. Normally he was left out and shunned by others when brought to a family activity. That was one reason why he tended to prefer reading. He was out of everyone’s way and could lose himself in the author’s story.

“Hey Ezra come on in son, it’s your turn at bat.”

Smiling even brighter, Ezra watched as the ball he hit went flying over the fence before it disappeared into the woods. He bit his lip nervously as he waited for the explosion that he lost the ball.

“WOW, did you see that Daddy? Ezra hit a home run! Wow can you show me how to do that Ezra? Man wait till I tell the kids at school!”

“Nice hit son, I think you’re a natural.”

An hour later Sarah smiled as she watched her three boys playing a game of ball. She was so happy to see all of them playing together. It seemed her little boy now had a hero worship with his big brother’s baseball playing. She knew the childhood fights would continue but had a feeling the two boys would become very close over the years. She was only saddened that Maude had cheated them out of so many years together.


mystdogs: (Default)

The Essence Of Time

Chapter 2

It felt like hours to the waiting couple as they held onto each other in anticipation for any news. It was, however, only an hour before the doctor walked into the waiting room.

“Mr. and Mrs. Larabee, Ms. Standish came through the surgery just fine, she’s on her way back to her room for recovery.”

“What about the child?” Sarah asked, interrupting the physician.

“As you know we had to do an emergency cesarean because of the presentation and the prolapsed umbilical cord.”

Chris squeezed his wife’s hand tightly; he feared the worst with the direction the conversation was headed. “The baby, is the baby alright?”

“Your son is in the neonatal intensive care unit.”

Chris felt the breath catch in his lungs, he had a son. A son, that was in an intensive care unit. He looked helplessly towards Sarah.

Sarah understood her husband’s fear; even though this child was not hers biologically she felt just as much anxiety as her husband. “Doctor, why is he in the intensive care unit?”

“The prolapsed cord was cutting off the blood circulation to the child. This caused him to become stressed within the womb, increasing his heart rate. After the birth he was hypoxic, meaning that he was not getting enough oxygen. Normally once the child is born and given oxygen they bounce back quickly. Unfortunately your son has not been able to come off the oxygen and his heart rate has not steadied out yet. I scheduled an echocardiogram and should have the results shortly. Once I have that information we can further treat your son.” The doctor paused seeing that the couple was feeling overwhelmed. “Why don’t I show you to the NICU so you can see your son? The NICU has strict guidelines before you can enter the area; I’ll have one of the nurses help you. Once I have the results I’ll be back to speak with you.”


Chris felt wrung out, the last seventy-four hours had been pure hell. He knew for certain that he never wanted to enter another NICU in his life. It was shocking to see his small son with wires and tubes coming from all directions, but even more was the blue tinge to his skin. The doctor had said the echocardiogram confirmed a diagnosis of persistent pulmonary hypertension. He explained that the vessels to his lungs were constricted and was not able to get the blood flow into his lungs to supply enough oxygen to his body. The oxygen tent soon turned into a ventilator as his oxygen levels dropped. The ventilator didn’t even seem to help as his son fought for every breath. Finally the doctor decided to try a small concentration of nitric oxide gas with the oxygen. He was worried that if the gas didn’t help he would have to start him on a machine that would cycle his blood to add oxygen and remove the carbon dioxide. Thankfully his son had responded to the added gas and was slowly improving. It seemed that finally the crisis was passing and he would be moved out of NICU in the next forty-eight hours if he continued to improve.

Sarah, Chris and Maude had each spent as much time as they could with little Ezra in the NICU. Maude had been adamant on his name and Chris was just too tired to fight her on his name, he was just so happy that his son was alive that he didn’t care what he called him. With only allowing one person in at a time and limiting the amount of time that a visitor could stay left each yearning for each extra moment they could get.

It was three happy parents that finally got to enjoy their son without the tubes and wires. Ezra Patrick Larabee was discharged from the hospital a few days after he was moved out of NICU and continued to breathe well on his own.


It was hard the first few weeks with Sarah and Chris wanting to be involved with Ezra as much as possible. They had invited Maude to stay with them for the first few months, but she had declined. The scheduling conflicts left them both feeling frustrated that they were unable to spend more time with Ezra.

After the first month things began to change. Ezra then seemed to spend the majority of his time with Sarah and Chris, where Maude just didn’t seem to have the time or energy to deal with a child. Sarah believed Maude was suffering from post partum depression, but whenever she tried to bring the subject up with Maude she would be quickly rebuffed. The problems continued to escalate until Maude took off for a few months with no word.

While dealing with Maude was frustrating, Sarah and Chris adored the uninterrupted time they were able to spend with Ezra. He was a happy baby that never seemed to cry. He had the most beautiful jade green eyes with a pair of dimples that made your heart melt. It was not long after that Chris and Sarah found out they would be having a child together. Sarah was thrilled, looking forward to having her child. Chris, though he was excited with the news, couldn’t help the fear that entered his heart when he thought of all the problems they had just gone through with Ezra.


Sarah’s pregnancy progressed normally and Maude had finally returned claiming she had felt overwhelmed being a single mother. Sarah again tried to encourage her to talk to someone about her depression, but even with the assurances she would do so, Maude never made an appointment. The visits with Ezra started evening out to a regular schedule until Sarah went into labor. As Sarah was bringing Chris’ second son, Adam Christopher Larabee, into the world, Maude Standish has disappeared with Ezra.

Chris, with the help of his long time friend Buck, had spent the following years trying to locate the sly woman. Maude, however, continued to remain elusive and untraceable. Chris despaired that he would never see his son Ezra again.

It was a shock then when the woman showed up on his doorstep, with his now six year old son in tow. “Ezra dear do desist in fidgeting, you must remember child that appearances are everything.”

“Yes Mother,” the soft southern voice quickly agreed to his mother before brushing any dirt that had managed to touch his immaculate clothing. The child wondered who his mother was dropping him off with this time.

mystdogs: (Default)

The Essence Of Time

Chapter 1

‘What the hell was I thinking?’ Chris thought to himself as he rolled over in bed. He groaned as he thought about the situation he found himself in. He never thought the party Buck talked him into attending seven months ago would affect the rest of his life.

‘Damn, it’s all Buck’s fault. I should have known better than to go to that party.’  Rolling out of bed he knew he couldn’t put off the talk with Sarah any longer. He only hoped his new bride would take the news well.


He trudged down the stairs like a man on his way to the gallows. Stopping on the last step he watched as Sarah bustled around the kitchen preparing the mornings meal, wondering if this would be the last morning they spent together.


Sarah had known something was bothering her new husband last night when he came home to bed. She usually found herself in a half awake state as she waited for the comforting presence to join her late into the night. It wasn’t easy being married to a cop, but she loved Chris with all her heart.

She was forever thankful to her friends for having set her up on a blind date. It was love at first sight for them, hard to believe they had only met six months ago, and had only been married for a little over a month. She knew her parents thought she jumped into the marriage too quickly, but she knew her heart and had no regrets.

Coming out of her thoughts she spied her husband making his way down the stairs. She frowned slightly, taking in her love’s heavy steps and down turned eyes. She wasn’t sure she was ready to hear any bad news and took a few minutes to flutter around the kitchen. Knowing she was only putting off the inevitable she lowered the burners and made her way towards Chris.


Chris swallowed hard before stepping into the kitchen, meeting Sarah as she made her way towards him.

“What’s wrong Chris?”

“I got some shocking news last night.” Shocking wasn’t the word for it. Sometimes he wished he wasn’t such an honest man, it would certainly be easier to pay off that woman than cause pain to the lady of his heart.

“Why don’t we sit down and then you can tell me all about it.”

Chris and Sarah made their way to the kitchen table where they both sat nervously. One with the news that had changed his life and the other worrying what had her husband so upset.


“I got a phone call last night at work from a Maude Standish.”

“Is she a family member? I don’t think I have ever heard of her name before.”

“No she’s not family, but someone I meet before I met you.”

“So she was an old girlfriend? I assume you informed her you were happily married.” She lightly teased, hoping it was just a case of an old girlfriend looking to restart an old romance. Of course that would never happen on her watch.

“No she was a girl I meet at a party one night.” Chris paused as he watched his wife’s brow raise in question.

“I didn’t think you were the type for one night stands.”

“Me either.”

“So why is she contacting you now?”

“That’s the problem, she’s pregnant.”

“Oh my, well I certainly hope she doesn’t think you’re going to marry her. You’re taken.”

“God I love you Sarah.”

“I love you too Chris, but we have much to do now. When is Maude due?”

“About two months.”

“Good, that gives us plenty of time.”

“Time for what?”

“Why setting up a nursery silly, where else would your child sleep when he is visiting.”

“What did I ever do to deserve you?”

Sarah just smiled as she went back to cooking breakfast. She could handle being a step-mother to Chris’ child. It would be silly for her to become angry and upset over something that happened before they ever met.


Over the next two months arrangements were made between Maude, Chris and Sarah regarding visitation and support payments. Maude had an amniocentesis earlier in her pregnancy that had ruled out any genetic disorders, as well as confirming paternity. Sarah had been feeling a bit under the weather the morning the call came from Chris that Maude was in labor. Her water had broken just an hour ago and the contractions were about seven minutes apart. Sarah hurriedly got ready and made her way towards the hospital.

The hospital was only a short drive from their home so she was able to get to her husband’s side quickly. She was never so glad to have been there when the nurse came out looking hurried and haggard.

“Mr. Larabee?”

“That’s me, what’s wrong?”

“I’m afraid Ms. Standish is on her way to surgery. If you’ll follow me to the surgical waiting room, the doctor will be with you shortly to explain what is happening.”

Chris and Sarah stared at each other, troubled by the unexpected complication during birth. They followed the nurse to the waiting room anxious to find out what had gone wrong. It was only a few minutes before the doctor came in.

“Mr. Larabee, I’m Doctor Killian, I don’t mean to sound rude but time is of the essence at this point. Ms. Standish is being prepped for an emergency c-section. We have two major problems right now. First and most serious is a prolapsed umbilical cord which has the baby in distress. Secondly the baby has a limb presentation, making vaginal birth impossible. I’m afraid time is of the essence and I will have to answer any questions you have after Ms. Standish’s surgery. I will have the nurse keep you updated.”

The doctor quickly left the couple standing in shock as they waited for news on the surgery. Both wondered how such a perfect pregnancy and normal labor had turned into an emergency so quickly.

mystdogs: (Default)

Family Ties

Part 20:




Ezra stood outside the livery watching as a group of men hammered the wood structure that would soon be the gallows down the street. Things seemed to have moved quickly once they arrived back in town with the prisoners. The trial was a blur, it seemed only minutes between the start of the proceedings and the final verdict was given, even though the trial lasted a few days.  Judge Travis had planned for the men to be hung at noon the next day. Ezra figured the rate the men were working; they could hold the hanging a lot earlier.

He’d never seen a hanging before and wasn’t sure if he even wanted to now. The town’s people seemed to be excited over the prospect, some going so far to have already claimed viewing spots for the next day. He wanted to see justice for his mother, but didn’t think he could garner the enthusiasm that everyone else seemed to have.

“Pretty neat, huh?”

“It is rather impressive Master Travis.” You’re slipping Ezra; you should have known he was coming before he started speaking. Mother would not be pleased, not pleased at all.

“I’ve never seen three people hung at one time before. Grandpa sure did earn his reputation as a hanging judge.”

“You’ve seen a hanging before?”

“Of course, what boy hasn’t?”

Ezra wasn’t about to admit to this little cretin that he had never seen a hanging before. “I’m surprised your mother would allow it, she doesn’t seem to be the sort to bring her darling little boy to such a crude affair.”

“Um well, ma don’t know I’ve seen them, she’s always too busy getting the story for the paper to worry about where I’m at.”

“Ah my dear Master Travis, you do have a clever bone in your body. I’m dutifully impressed.” Well perhaps the boy has potential yet.

“Well um, some of the guys are getting together to throw rocks and stuff at the prisoners tomorrow on the way to hang um, wanna come?”

“I’m afraid I will have to decline. I want to have a front row view of these men put to death, so must arrive early to garner a suitable viewing position.”

How strange, Ezra thought as he watched the boy walk away. We actually seemed to get along for a short time. Perhaps I should withhold judgment on him for now. Ezra gave one last look to the men working on the gallows before heading back into the barn and finishing his chores. His thoughts focused on the inner struggle of watching the hang the next day.

Chris smiled as he watched the boys talking by the livery. He hoped that they would become friends; it would certainly make things easier if things continued to progress further with Mary.

“Don’t think it’s going to be that easy pard,” grinned the scruffy tracker. He could easily read the expression in his friend’s face.

“Yeah well, one could hope they would get along. Sure would make things easier.”

“Whatcha doing about Ezra tomorrow?”

“Not something I want him to see.”

“Yeah, too young to see something like that. He’s gonna fight you on it I bet.”

“Yeah suppose he will, but I he’s got enough to fill his nightmares already.”

“Still having them?”

“Yup, every night, sometimes they come every time he falls back asleep.”



­­­­Josiah stood in the doorway of the livery and watched the young boy brush down his favorite horse. He figured the child had a lot on his mind, not having noticed his arrival in his usual uncanny way. He could see Ezra talking softly to the horse, but wasn’t close enough to hear what he was saying. He had a pretty good idea on what was on the child’s mind, likely the same thing as everyone else in town, tomorrow’s hanging. Clearing his throat he made some noise to get Ezra’s attention as he journeyed further into the stable.

“Hello Mr. Sanchez, do you need me to saddle your horse for you?”

“No thank you son just came to see you.”

“Oh was there something I could do for you sir?”

“I just wanted to make sure you were okay and maybe answer any questions you may have on the upcoming hanging.”

“No I’m fine Mr. Josiah but thank you for your concern.”

“Are you sure son? Nothing that you may want to know about?”

Ezra drew his bottom lip between his teeth while he considered asking the questions that had been burning inside. “Not at this time Mr. Josiah.”

“Alright son, but remember you can come to me at anytime.”

“I’ll remember that sir.”

Ezra watched as the large man left before turning back to his favorite horse. He soon lost himself in the repetitive motion of brushing the smooth coat. He wasn’t sure how much time passed, so lost in his thoughts, until he was again brought out of his reverie when he felt the strong hand encircle his.

“Doing some hard thinking there little brother.”

Ezra didn’t feel composed enough to speak aloud but managed to nod his head in agreement. That was three times today he had been caught unawares. It was obvious to him that he would need to get some answers and felt comfortable enough with his brother to ask them freely.

“Whatcha thinking on Ezra?”

“What is a hanging like?”

Chris sighed; he figured that was what was on the boy’s mind. He was glad that Ezra had so far been spared the gruesome sight of seeing a man hung; and if he had anything to say about it, it would be a long time before he ever did. “It’s the ending of a life.”

Ezra looked at him as if he had lost his mind. Of course it’s an ending of a life.

“Ezra it’s not a pleasant experience to watch a man hang. If the man is lucky he dies instantly when his neck breaks. More often though a man suffocates and it can be harrowing to watch him struggle for life. A hanging should be treated with respect.”

“Thank you for explaining that to me. I’m confused though, one part of me has no desire to watch the hanging, but the other side wants to see final justice brought to the miscreants that stole my mother’s life away.”

“I can understand that, but watching the hanging is only going to bring you more nightmares.”

“Chris, would you mind watching in my place the men tomorrow meet their final judgment?”

“I’d be proud to stand in your place tomorrow and see justice done.”

“Chris, do you think it weak of me to not want to see the hanging?”

“No, why would you think that?”

“Well Billy Travis has seen hangings before and he doesn’t seem to be affected by them at all.”

“Well Billy just forgets that he spent a few weeks having nightmares when he snuck off to watch the last hanging.”

It was late the next evening when Ezra heard the scream from the Travis’ that he knew he made the right decision. He had enough with the current nightmares keeping him awake to deal with any new ones. 
mystdogs: (Default)

Family Ties

Part 19:

The trip back to town was interesting for Ezra, after the terrorizing experience with his mortality it seemed the peacekeepers took great pleasure in making their prisoners as uncomfortable as possible. He was placing bets silently in his head over how long it would take one of the men to foul themselves. In the end he considered the tidy profit he could have had when two of the three prisoners had wet themselves, if only he had someone to have placed those bets with. He was still nervous around the man called Red; he just had something wrong with him. Chris was a great buffer though. Whenever the malicious man looked towards him with that evil glint, his brother would get this deep guttural sound and death glare that would put him back in line. Ezra tried to keep the other men between him and the prisoners, a feat that was easily done with the others making sure they were buffering the men from getting anywhere near him.

As they rode along Ezra threw glances towards his brother’s back. His head lowered as he remembered the long talk they had last night. He knew he was a disappointment to his brother, but he couldn’t help feeling that he had been treated unfairly. Maude was his mother and a son had the right to avenge his mother’s murder. Of course he reluctantly agreed that perhaps he shouldn’t have gone it alone, but since he was banned from going along he had no choice but to set on his course. Chris sure wasn’t pleased with that response. It was surprising though that he still wasn’t beaten. He wasn’t sure though if he didn’t prefer the physical punishment over this new feeling of remorse and guilt. When he was beaten it was over and he was being ignored again. However with Chris he seemed to be reflecting on his behavior for long periods of time. He wondered if Chris was just waiting until they returned to town to inflict a beating on him or worse he was going to be sent away for being so much trouble. With that depressing though he hung his head low and his shoulders drooped with his growing depression.

“Why the long face Pard?”

Ezra sucked in a breath as the voice startled him from his inner thoughts. He hadn’t even noticed Buck ride up beside him, and he had to wonder how long the tall cowboy had ridden beside him. He sure wasn’t going to voice his worries over being sent away. “Just wondering how much longer we will be ridding in this dreadful locale.”

Buck had to smile as the boy tried to side step what was bothering him. “Uh huh Ezra, something’s got your knickers in a twist boy, so out with it.”

“Mr. Buck, you’ve known my brother for a long time right?”

“Known your brother since I was ‘bout your age. We grew up together, watched him get married and was an uncle to that little boy of his. So yeah suppose you could say I known him a long time. Why?”

“What about relatives? Do you know of any aunts or uncles or even cousins?”

“Got himself a few uncles, though I don’t recall where their living.”

“Oh. Did you ever meet any of them?”

“Sure met his Uncle David once, man was built like a bear, acted like one too. Last I remember he was running some farm land. Hard work farming is.”

Farming, okay I can do that. I worked on Uncle Matt’s farm for a summer. The first weeks were rough working on Uncle Matt’s farm when he couldn’t do anything right, but soon he learned by self preservation how to do farm work. Mother of course was livid with him for the damage he had done to his hands and told him he was useless to her in his current state. He found himself shipped off to another distant family member. Ezra glanced down at his hands noting that he again had started to put calluses upon them, Mother would not be pleased. Thinking about Maude had him feeling even more depressed, he would never be able to join her on any more cons. He didn’t really even care about the con; he just wanted to spend time with his mother.

“Ezra? You alright boy?”

“Sorry Mr. Buck, I’m afraid I was wool-gathering. “

“So you going to tell ol Buck what’s really bugging you?”

“Do you think Uncle David will like me?”

“I’m sure he would, but it’s been near on ten years since we last heard from him, so you may be full grown by the time you meet the man.”

“Oh.” So maybe he wouldn’t be going to that uncle, but there was at least one more. “What about the other uncle?”

“That would be Tomas, he was a likeable fella, but sure was strict. I guess being the oldest of three brothers gave him too much responsibility in his youth. Chris was usually pretty quiet when he came back from visiting that man. Saw him a few years ago, if anything the man is even craggier than I remembered him.”

Ezra sighed, he sounded like the many uncles he had stayed with before. He was sure that was where Chris would be sending him once they got back to town. He didn’t even bother to ask if this uncle would like him, just hearing the description left him with the knowledge that he would not be received well.


Buck had to smile when Ezra dropped the mister from his name. Finally, he thought, now the boy will tell me what’s got him so bothered.

“Yes Ezra.”

“When do you think Chris will be sending me to live with my uncle?”

Chris had been listening to the quiet conversation behind him. He knew Buck would be able to get the boy to open up more about what was bothering him. He found himself reminiscing about the times he spent with his uncles. He shared a knowing smile with the tracker when they heard mister dropped from Buck’s name. Slowly they were getting through that wall Ezra had erected around himself. However his good feelings stopped when he heard the next sentence out of the boy’s mouth. He pulled his horse to a stop and turned towards his little brother.

“Where did you get the notion I was sending you to your uncle?”

Ezra dropped his head; maybe he was going to an orphanage. It wouldn’t be the first time he found himself dropped off at a group home. “Sorry Mr. Chris.”

Oh for the..we’re back to the misters. Damn it! “Don’t start back up with that mistering kid, tell me what you’re thinking.”

“You said I was a disappointment to you.”

“No Ezra, I said I was disappointed in you.”

“That’s what I said.”

“There’s a big difference between the two Ezra. You could never be a disappointment to me; but you did some things that made me very disappointed in you. You’re behavior and actions are what have me so upset. I would never send you to live with someone else.”

With a smile growing on his face his eyes brightened as he addressed his brother. “So I get to stay with you? You’re not sending me to an orphanage?”

“No Ezra I’m afraid you’re stuck with me for the long haul.”

Chris was answered by the biggest grin he had ever seen on his little brother. He turned his horse back around as they continued on their way to Four Corners.

“Oh, and Ezra.” Chris started with a smirk.

“Yes Chris.”

“This doesn’t mean you’re getting out of any extra chores.”

Laughter grew from the fellow men upon hearing that and only increased in volume as the little boy stuck his tongue out at his brother’s back.


mystdogs: (Default)

Family Ties

Part 18:

Ezra was surprised it was as quiet as it was when he woke the next morning. He decided to let the others sleep as long as possible, after all he was always willing to postpone any punishment he would receive. Opening his eyes, he was surprised that the sun was well over head. However he was dismayed to see he was alone in the camp, not even the horses were about. Perhaps he had dreamed of being rescued? He moaned as he sat up remembering too late the wound on his side. It wasn’t as sharp as it had been, but it was still sore. Standing up he took he started to look around and saw nothing. No seven men and no seven horses. He noticed the campfire was still burning and a couple of saddles where placed nearby. Maybe the horses ran off and the gentlemen went off to retrieve them. It sounded plausible but he thought he would have heard a ruckus if the horses had taken off. Perhaps the others decided he was too much trouble to keep around. It wouldn’t be the first time he found himself dropped off far from where his mother left him to stay. He stared into the fire and worked hard to ward off the growing tears. He had really liked it here with the other men.

“Hey you’re awake”

Ezra felt himself jump from surprise and relief. He hadn’t heard Mr. JD come up behind him. “Hello Mr. JD, where is everyone?” He couldn’t help look behind the young man to catch a glimpse of the others heading into the camp.

“Oh they left early this morning to catch up to those killers. They left me here to watch out for you. Sure wish I could have gone with them but someone had to stay and the others thought it best if I stayed. Sometimes they treat me like a kid. You were sleeping pretty sound so I took the horses down to the creek to cool off. You must be hungry I have some food I can heat up for you.”

Wow can he talk. I thought I talked a lot. Feeling a little shocked from the amount of words he was able to produce in such a short period of time Ezra was only able to nod his head in agreement.

“Great give me a few minutes and it’ll be ready. How’s your side doing today?” Reaching over JD quickly put his hand against Ezra’s forehead as he had often seen Nathan do. “No fever, that’s great. When the others get back we can head back to Four Corners.”

Ezra quickly stepped back from the prodding hand. “My side is much improved this morning, thank you.”

“Morning? Ezra it’s a few hours passed noon. You sure can sleep through anything. Why the others made such a racket when they were leaving I couldn’t believe it when you slept through it completely.”

Ezra relaxed as he listened to JD carry on from one topic to another. He sure was a happy fellow. He wished he was still able to see life with so much optimism and enthusiasm. He was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, as the old saying went. He had to admit though it was difficult to hold onto his cynicism with so much exuberance being displayed. “Mr.JD?”



“Call me JD, I’m too young to keep calling me mister.”

Relenting, “Okay, JD. Why don’t we join up with the others?”

“Oh no, no way, Chris’ll kill me.”

“But you are the sheriff, isn’t it your responsibility to bring in those murderous cretins?”

“Not going to happen. Your brother would skin me alive if anything happened to you.”

“It was worth a try.”

“Yes well, what would you like to do while we wait for the others to get back?”

“Perhaps you would indulge me with a game of chance?”

“Sure Ez, why don’t you pull out the cards while I clean up this mess.”

Ezra smiled to himself, if he couldn’t help capture the miscreants he could at least keep up with his mother’s lessons. Thinking of her he felt his good mood start to slip. How could he play cards while the men who murdered her were running free? Knowing there wasn’t anything else he could do he headed for his saddlebag to retrieve one of his decks of cards. Lost in his thoughts he never heard the men make their way into camp until he felt himself spun around.

“Well lookie here boys, it’s our little jackrabbit. Boy you sure do ride fast.”

Ezra swallowed in disgust as the very men the others were after found their way into their camp, although their numbers has been greatly decreased to three. Looking around he saw JD lying unconscious by the dishes he was picking up. At least he hoped he was only unconscious. “Unhand me you repulsive hooligan.”

The resounding slap of flesh had him spinning around and falling to the ground. He could feel the blood running down his face from the now split lip and cut on his check from hitting the ground. He groaned in pain as he felt his side complain from the rough treatment of landing on it. He scooted further away from the monstrous man to avoid any further painful afflictions, but the man followed his movements.

“Here little jackrabbit, come on boy let’s see if you can run as fast as you can ride. Think you can out run a bullet?”

Ezra watched in morbid fascination as the man brought the gun up towards him. He squeezed his eyes tightly as he waited for the bullet that would send him on to meet up with his mother. He really wanted to see his mother again, but he really didn’t want to die. His breathing was ragged as he awaited his fate. He didn’t want to look, but couldn’t stop himself from opening his eyes when it seemed like ages and no bullet had arrived. He hadn’t realized that he blocked out any sound until he heard the words being growled by the harbinger of death.

“.. you’ll pray for that hanging.”

When had his brother arrived? When had the others come and saved them? So many questions, but as his eyes locked on his brothers he only wanted one thing. “Chris” he half whispered, half sobbed as he flung himself into his brother’s arms when he came within grabbing distance. He couldn’t stop the shaking and tears as he clung to the safety his older brother.

“Easy Ez, I’ve got you.”

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Family Ties

Part 17:

It was a somber group that left the clearing a few hours later. With plenty enough light to see, Chris was eager to catch up to Vin and bring retribution onto the men that cut a boy down in his youth. It was a true waste of life; the boy was just a bit older than Ezra, no more than twelve if even that. No child ever deserves to be killed, but what upset Chris the most was the manner in which the child had to suffer. It was well known that a gut shot was a slow painful death, to leave a child in that much suffering was eating away at the rough gunslinger. He knew the others were just as disgusted as he found himself. The tense and dismal mood of the others would foretell what awaited the gang. Seeing JD dismount his horse to check the trail left for them brought him out of his thoughts. “Problem JD?”

“Looks like one of the gang split off here. Vin followed the single rider. Think it’s an ambush?”

“Could be.”

“Well Vin left a clear indentation to head this direction. Should we split up or follow Vin?”

“Follow Vin”

JD nodded before jumping back on his horse and following the easy trial Vin left for him. He was glad the tracker left such an easy trail; he found his thoughts going back the child they had tried to save. If the trail was as difficult as Vin had been teaching him lately, he didn’t think he would be able to concentrate on it. He needed to get back on task; it wouldn’t do him any good loosing an easy trail.

Vin didn’t think he was as happy to see the group of riders as much as he was at that moment. Ezra hadn’t regained consciousness during the ride and he was feeling warmer. Pulling his horse to a stop he waited for the others to meet up with him.

Chris felt his heart lurch and throat dry up as he saw the slumped figure within Vin’s embrace. Oh God no, not Ezra. “Vin?”

Vin heard a thousand questions in that one word. “Been shot and running a fever.” He barely had the words out before Chris was reaching for his brother.

“Easy boy, I’ve got you” Chris heard the small moan as he pulled his brother to him.

Vin smiled as he watched Ezra mold himself into his brother’s arms. Small legs wrapped around his waist as small arms encircled his neck. His head lay on the gunslinger’s shoulder.

Nathan quickly made his way over to Ezra. “Let me take a look at him Chris.”

Chris had no intentions of releasing Ezra to anyone and it seemed Ezra had no intention of giving up his hold on Chris. Nathan had to work around the hold the brother’s had on each other. Taking a look at the gunshot wound, he noticed it was clean without infection. He decided to put a poultice on it to help it heal and keep infection at bay. “He’ll be okay Chris, just lost some blood and exhausted. Fever should come down shortly. He just needs some fluid and rest.” Satisfied that Ezra would be fine he left the two brothers and helped set up around camp.

The other’s watched as Chris paced back and forth with Ezra asleep in his arms until he finally came back towards the others.

Josiah saw his eyes search for the bedroll set up for Ezra and he spoke up. “Over here Chris, we have a spot set up for him.”

Chris grunted his thanks as he laid the now limp boy down. Once he was settled Chris joined the others by the fire and accepted the hot coffee Buck handed him. “Thanks”

It could have been the warmth that finally woke the small figure, or it could have been the lack of motion, but more than likely it was the sounds of voices that pulled him from his deep sleep. The voices were familiar but his muddled mind was having a hard time understanding what was being said. He felt himself start to go into a light doze when he heard the angry words drift towards him.

“I’m going to kill him!” Boy does Chris sound mad, Ezra thought to himself. He couldn’t pick up the quiet tones of whoever was speaking to him, but sure hoped they got him calmed down before he got to him. He wasn’t feeling to great and didn’t think he would be able to handle a beating at this moment. He thought about playing possum but knew from prior beatings that it only made it worse. Pulling himself up he was unprepared for the pain that flowed into his side. He yelped as his grabbed his side and tried to ease his breathing as the pain eased. He then felt the warm hand on his back moving in slow circles and the warm voice telling him to take it easy. Before he could do anything a cup was put to his lips and the voice encouraged him to take a drink. As he finished the noxious brew he felt himself lifted into a warm embrace.

“Feeling better?”

Ezra nodded into the warm chest. As vile as the concoction he drank was its pain numbing qualities were well worth the indigestion. He felt the pull of sleep seeping into him as he curled closer to the body holding him.

Chris felt Ezra curl up closer to him and made himself more comfortable on the ground. The anger he had felt just moments before had seeped away as he helped ease his brother’s pain. He decided to make himself comfortable for the night seeing as Ezra was fast asleep on his chest. “What am I going to do with you little brother? You scared the life out of me today.”

“I’m sorry Chris”

Chris smiled he thought the boy was fast asleep. “It’s alright son, we’ll talk about it later. You need to get some sleep.” Chris’ words were lost on the small boy that had fallen into a healing slumber. It was then that Chris realized it was the first time Ezra didn’t call him mister. Feeling his heart lighten he followed his younger brother into sleep.

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Family Ties

Part 16:

“Well?” Chris didn’t mean to be so gruff but he was impatient for a response on how the boy was doing. He knew the black healer was doing everything he could, but Chris had long lost the ability to reign in his patience.

Nathan shook his head slowly as he tried to get the wound to stop bleeding. “Lost a lot of blood, it don’t look good.” His warm brown eyes turned sadly towards the dark gunslinger, “He don’t got no fight left in him Chris, don’t think he’s going to make it much longer.”

“Dammit” Chris felt the vein in his temple throb as he felt the sting in his foot from his boot connecting to a downed log.

“Easy big dog” Buck’s words were lost on his old friend as he watched the man storm away trying to gain control of his turbulent emotions.


Buck turned his worried gaze onto the young man he had taken under his wing. The kid had a soft heart and needed his reassurance while everyone waited to see if the boy would live. “It’ll be alright JD.”

Josiah softly prayed for the boy. Glancing at his healer friend’s expression, he knew that the boy wouldn’t be able to win his fight against death. He prayed for Vin’s safe keeping as well. The ex-bounty hunter’s face had hardened before he rode off to scout ahead, trying to get a bead on the gang that had been responsible for the boy’s injury. He hoped the young man wouldn’t try to take the gang on himself; he had refused any help with tracking ahead. Said he figured we’d only slow him down. Coming out of his musings he caught Nathan’s sad expression as his friend shook his head in the negative. Things had just gotten direr.

Vin had kept a steady pace. His keen tracking ability easily followed the deep impressions the hooves of the gang’s horses made. The easy trail that they left didn’t require such intense scrutiny, but Vin was taking no chances on loosing the gang. He couldn’t help replaying the scene the guys rode up on, the poor boy was ready to fall out of his saddle, his blood pouring from him. Vin knew there was no way the boy would make it. He may not have had Nathan’s training in healing, but he knew enough that the boy’s wound was fatal. He wanted the men responsible for killing the boy and took off from the others with single-mindedness intent to catch the men responsible. He wasn’t stupid though, he knew he would need the others to capture the gang. From the tracks it was easy to discern there were at least six men, hopefully there would be no others for them to meet up with. He just hoped to find where they hid out and keep watch till the others joined him. He was leaving an easy enough trail for the others to follow. He had been spending a lot of time with JD lately honing the young man’s tracking skills. JD had been quick to pick up the hidden signs and Vin had no doubts he would be able to follow his trail he was leaving him.

Pulling to a stop, Vin saw the signs that one of the gang had separated from the others. He decided to follow the trail that the single rider took. As he rode along he had the feeling that the gang had laid a trap for someone. A short time later he came upon the tell tale signs that a seventh rider had come in contact with the others. He climbed down from his horse to get a better look and felt his heart start to pound when he got a closer look at the new horse’s track. It was one of the horses from Four Corner’s livery and not just any horse, it was that dang blasted chestnut monster that Chris’ litter brother had taken a shine to. He had a bad feeling that the rider of said horse was none other than that little brother and he felt his heart skip with the thought of the boy in the clutches of the gang that had so recently taken the life of another child not much older than Ezra. He spotted where the horse had backed up into a position of escape before taking off. “Dammit” he cursed as he saw where the gang gave chase.

Vin thought back to the running gambit of emotions he felt as he had followed the trial. First there had been fear when he saw the spot where the horse had stumbled; he just knew that the signs were going to point towards the rider’s capture. Then there was hope as he read the distance that grew between the gelding and the pursuing horses; maybe, just maybe the rider would escape. Finally he felt elation as the gang’s horses stopped their chase and turned in a different direction than the escapee.

Now Vin was tracking the single rider, having decided that the gang would have to wait. If it was Ezra that was traveling alone out here, he had no doubt the boy would have no idea how to survive. Stopping at the stream they had stopped and watered at, Vin saw the small boot prints that confirmed his suspicions that it was indeed Ezra out. “Chris is going to be furious.”

“Aw Hell!” Vin cried out when he spotted the tell tale sign of fresh blood. “Dammit.” Knowing time was working against him, he quickly mounted up to hurry along in his search. Visions of the boy from earlier in the day were melding into flashes of the southern charmer he had grown so quickly attached to. His heart constricted with the mental picture of Ezra bleeding to death. Clenching his jaw he swiftly moved along the trail, thankful that it was relatively fresh; and prayed that the boy would be alright.

The sky was just turning to dusk when Vin breathed in relief. Just at the edge of his vision he spotted his quarry. Kneeing his mount into a run he quickly caught up to the horse and rider. It was easy to see that both the horse and rider were exhausted; Ezra himself was sleeping in the saddle. Vin sidled up beside the chestnut gelding and brought the horse to a halt before he pulled Ezra out of the saddle.

“Easy Pard, I’ve got ya” Vin tried to soothe the gasp of pain he heard from Ezra with the movement, but the words were lost on the boy who had quickly slid into unconsciousness. Vin felt his heart lurch as his hand encountered the wet sticky blood. Cursing to himself; he took in the slightly pale pallor and increased heat of the small body. He needed to get the bleeding stopped and find shelter for the night.

Once he cleaned out the wound, thankful that the bullet had only cut a deep groove into the boy’s side, he tried to bring Ezra around. “Ezra, come pard. It’s Vin” However the boy was not ready to join the waking world yet. Even though the wound was considered minor, Ezra had lost a lot of blood and was getting hotter. He really needed Nathan. Deciding the stream where he had stopped earlier would be the best spot for setting up camp. It was also in the direction of the other men and he was hopeful that the others were already heading this way. He tied the gelding to his saddle horn before settling Ezra in front of him, than he started back towards the stream. Hearing the boy moan, Vin tried to comfort him. “Easy Ez, your safe now. I’ve got you.”

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Family Ties

Part 15:

With no pursuit from town, Ezra slowed his mount to search the ground for tracks from the other’s horses. He knew he wasn’t a tracker, but following six horses shouldn’t be too difficult. At least that was what he was hoping. Spying tracks heading in the direction he remembered the six men heading towards, he turned his mount onto their trail. Taking a last look behind him towards the town he had just left, he wondered if he would be welcomed back once Mr. Chris discovered his subterfuge.

It was over an hour later when Ezra began to doubt his tracking skills. The ground had turned rocky and spotting the previously easy to see tracks had become very difficult. Sighing to himself he pulled his horse to a stop. “Okay think Ezra. You took the stage from Ridge City to Four Corners not that long ago, something in this wilderness should look familiar.” However, as hard as he looked nothing seemed to reach out to his memory. Deciding that he had no choice to but to continue on, he hoped he was heading in the correct direction.

Ezra was definitely feeling uneasy. “Maybe I should have turned back, but mother deserves to be avenged.” The trail he was own seemed to be getting denser with forest and he just knew he had gone the wrong way. There was no way that a stage could travel through this pass. He debated with himself again about turning back, but in the end decided to go forward. He assumed this trail lead somewhere. Once he reached civilization again he could ascertain better directions to Ridge City and continue on with his plans of retribution.

It was nearly a half hour later that Ezra sighed with relief; he could hear the distinct sounds of horses in the distance. He hadn’t realized how frightened he had become since he had lost the tracks and continued on regardless. Even the fear of Mr. Chris’ anger was preferable to being lost out in the wilderness. Thank goodness no one had be present to see him in such an undignified state, his mother would have been aghast at his emotional upheaval. Taking a deep breath to settle his nerves some he encouraged his horse in the direction the sounds were coming from.

It was a mixture of relief and sorrow he felt when the horses he had narrowed in on were not those of the Four Corner’s peacekeepers. Instead he saw five men on horses headed in his direction. He flinched when he heard the distinctive sound of a gun cocking behind him. The rough voice behind him made his skin crawl.

“Hey boy whatcha doing out here alls alone?”

Deciding it was in his best interest to be nonchalant; after all it wouldn’t do to insult the curmudgeon holding a loaded and cocked gun towards him. “Good day sir, I am on my way to Ridge City. I do seem to have gotten turned around. Would you be so kind as to point me in the right direction?”

“Well hell boy you sure are lost. Ridge City ain’t this direction.”

Ezra tried not to cringe at the tobacco stained teeth grinning in his direction, but he felt relief when the gun was uncocked and reholstered.

“Hey boy’s this here boy is looking for Ridge City.”

“Red you sure find the strangest things on the trial. Whatcha plan on doing with him?”

Red sneered at the others as they cackled at him.

Ezra was feeling decidedly uneasy and slowly started backing his horse away from the strange group. He gathered his reins tighter and without a second thought turned his horse quickly around and gave a hard kick. He had a lot of faith in his horse’s running ability. He knew he was going to need every ounce of the animal’s speed to escape the gang’s clutches. He heard the pursuit behind him but didn’t dare look back. He heard the cursing and then the report of bullets. He barely felt the searing pain in his side, but didn’t lose his seat nor any speed. As his horse outran his pursuers he felt satisfaction when he heard the men shout that at least now he was heading in the right direction.

It wasn’t until much later that he slowed his horse down. The poor beast had stumbled and Ezra knew he was spent. Both of them were breathing hard from the long run and Ezra started looking for a safe place for the two of them to rest up before moving off again. He reached for the canteen but sighed in frustration when he felt it was empty, courtesy of a bullet hole. He was feeling decidedly parched and assumed his mount was feeling the same. His heart had finally stopped pounding and he realized just how tired he was. He knew finding water was now his first priority, than he could find a place for them to rest. He felt himself dozing off and on. When he heard water splashing, he smiled figuring the horse must have founds it’s way to the live giving liquid. Sliding off the horse’s back his legs felt like rubber. Even though he had been riding a lot lately his body was obviously not used to being in the saddle for so long. He joined the horse in drinking the cool refreshment before climbing back onto the beast. They headed off to find a nice shady place to rest for a few hours before they continued on their journey to Ridge City. He hoped the strange men were correct in that he was no heading towards Ridge City. Ezra felt himself dozing again, he tried to keep awake but he felt himself drifting off deeper.

He didn’t know how long he had rode when he gasped awake to the feel of being hoisted out of his saddle. He gasped in pain before blackness enveloped his vision. His last conscious thought was that the gang had caught up to him and Mr. Chris was going to be sorely disappointed in him.

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Family Ties

Part 14:

Ezra sighed as he watched the six peacekeepers head out of town. He wasn’t surprised Mr. Chris wouldn’t allow him to join in the capture of those vile miscreants. He was just going to have to give them no choice in the matter. He knew he would need to gather some supplies before he could trail after the men. How hard can it be to track six horses? His first order of business was going to be locating a firearm. He hadn’t found yet where Mr. Chris had hid his sleeve gun, but he knew that he could acquire a firearm or two without much fuss. He kept an eye on the dust leaving town so he would know which direction to head in a few hours. He figured that would be enough time for them to not be able to send him back to town. With an internal nod he turned on his heel to start gathering supplies, only to find his way blocked by Mrs. Travis.

“Come along Ezra, let’s get you settled in and then I’ll make you some food.” Mary tried to grab hold of the hand but the small boy moved discreetly out of her reach.

“Thank you Mrs. Travis, however I must decline. I have many chores I must accomplish this morning before I can engage in trivial matters.” Ezra didn’t want to seem rude, but he had to get out from the overbearing woman. She had a tendency to act motherly towards him and that was the last thing he wanted from anyone at this moment.

“Oh okay, alright Ezra. Why don’t you stop by when you finish your chores and I’ll make you something to eat.” Mary was a bit flustered; she was prepared for the small boy to be upset about his mother’s death and subsequently the worry for his brother out trying to capture the men whom killed her. What she had though, was a small boy that was radiating hostility and distrust. She decided to give him his space and be there for him later when the emotions caught up to him.

“Yes Mrs. Travis.” Of course he thought to himself that he wouldn’t be able to take her up on the offer, but he wasn’t going to tip his hand. He knew in a few hours he would be departing the dusty town.

Ezra’s first stop was back to his and Mr. Chris’ room. He gathered a few supplies and rolled it into the blanket. He really needed to invest in some saddlebags, but he had other items that required purchase first. He peeked out the door making sure no one was keeping watch on him before he ventured out. He made his way to the livery by a most convoluted direction. He wanted to make sure there was no chance of anyone stopping him getting out of town.

He had successfully stowed his supplies and decided that Mrs. Potter’s store was next on his list. He needed some traveling food.

“Why hello Ezra, what can I help you with today?”

“Good morning Mrs. Potter, I need to pick up some dry foods madam.”

“Of course young man, was there anything special that you needed?”

Ezra gave her a list that she quickly pulled together for him. While she was busy he looked through the gun display. Most were too big for him but he would make do with any firearm he could get. “Mrs. Potter how much is this beautiful firearm?”

“Oh Ezra I couldn’t sell you a gun without your brother’s permission.”

“Oh it’s not for me Mrs. Potter, Mr. Chris told me our father was a collector or side arms. I thought it would be a lovely gift for the kindness he has shown me.”

“Oh yes it would make a lovely gift.”

Ezra smiled inwardly; sometimes it was just too easy to get what he wanted. Leaving Mrs. Potter’s store with supplies, gun and ammunition he headed back to the livery to stash his growing supplies. He pulled out his pocket watch and checked the time. It had been less than an hour since the six rode out, knowing he couldn’t head out quite yet he went over to the saloon next to help Ms. Inez prepare the saloon for the afternoon crowd.

Ms. Inez had him sweep and clean glasses. She had made some food from her home country and Ezra eagerly dug into the meal. He felt a little guilty about snubbing Mrs. Travis on her food offer, but Ms. Inez was easier to be around. She didn’t try to mother him.

Ezra spent the next hour in the livery cleaning stalls and brushing horses. He decided he would borrow the chestnut gelding he had grown attached to. The horse had a fun sense of humor and loved to run. Mr. Yosemite said to be careful around the horse as he had a bad temper, but Ezra had always found him to be a perfect gentleman. He had just started to saddle the horse when he heard footsteps coming towards him.

“What are you doing?”

Great just what he needed, Billy Travis. He turned around to address the boy. “I am doing my chores Master Travis.”

“Looks like you’re going for a ride to me.”

“Your powers of observation are astounding.”


“Yes Master Travis I am going for a ride.”

“You can’t do that, you need Ma’s permission.”

“I have permission from Mr. Chris and Mr. Yosemite, I do not need your mother’s permission to finish my chores.”

“I’m going to tell Ma you said that. She’s already mad at you for missing breakfast.”

“Then run along Master Travis and expound on the tale as you will.”

“Fine but you’re going to be in big trouble.”

“You have no idea” Ezra muttered under his breath, but it was lost on the little boy that fled from the livery yelling for his mother.

Ezra quickly finished saddling the gelding and led him behind the livery before swinging into the seat. He heard Mrs. Travis and the Judge calling for him. He knew he chose his horse correctly when he felt him jolt to a run when he gave a small kick to the sides. There wasn’t another horse in town that could catch the gelding, especially with him caring such a light load. He turned in the direction he saw the peacekeepers head off to and headed on a route that would meet up with them.


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Family Ties

Part 13:

It was a long night for Chris as he helped sooth his little brother during the night’s grieving. Ezra had clung to him until he exhausted himself out from crying; even then the boy had tight grasp onto him during his sleep. Chris was finally able to lay him down when the tight fists uncurled in pleasant dreams. They didn’t last long before Ezra screamed awake to one nightmare or another. It wasn’t until Chris joined him in bed and held onto him that the nightmares were held at bay and they were both able to get some sleep. With the first rays of light reaching into the room he quietly got out of bed so as to not wake the sleeping child.

Today he and the town’s other peacekeepers would be heading out to search for the bandits that attacked and killed Ezra’s mother, her fiancé, and the other men from the ranch that were slain. The Judge had asked for their assistance in capturing the bandits, he of course accepted when he heard of Maude’s death. He owed it to his little brother to capture the men responsible for tearing his mother away from him.

He was worried though about leaving Ezra though with the news of her death being so fresh. The Judge had assured him that he and Mary would watch over him until their return. He didn’t figure it would be more than a few days, especially with the news of the gang heading in their direction. With his growing relationship with Mary, he figured it would be a good idea for Ezra to spend time with her and Billy; especially now that Chris would be keeping custody of Ezra with his mother’s death.  Billy was a good kid and right around Ezra’s age. It would do them both some good to have someone their own age to play with. Deciding to let Ezra sleep as much as he could he headed out of the room and would arrange for Mary to sit with him while he meet the other men and made plans for their departure.

Making his way towards the saloon after getting Mary’s acceptance to sit with Ezra, he spotted Buck and JD over at the jail and called for them to get the others and meet him in the saloon. Vin was sitting outside with the chair kicked up on two legs for all the world looking fast asleep.

“Morning Cowboy”


“Long night?”

“Yeah, I’ll tell you all about it once the others arrive.”

That got Vin’s attention. He wasn’t sure what went on after Chris and Ezra headed off for their talk, but neither was heard from for the rest of the night. He wondered about the somber mood Chris seemed to be in and didn’t think there was good news attached to it. Nodding he stood up and followed Chris inside and awaited the other guys.

Chris felt a bit of déjà vu when all the peacekeepers were sitting around the table once again. It felt just like the time when he broke the news to them about Ezra.

“We’re heading out in an hour. We have a gang to track down.”

“What these hombres do?” Buck sat forward a bit; it’s been so quite lately he could do with some fighting.

“Attacked a ranch and killed everyone there, including Maude.” Chris bowed his head a little at. Granted Maude was not one of his favorite people since he had found the abuse on Ezra, but he never really stood for women being killed.

“Damn” the sentiment was shared by all the men around the table.

“How’d Ezra take the news?” Buck couldn’t help but feel bad for the little boy, so many changes in his life and now to lose his mother. 

“Not too good, he had nightmares throughout the night. Mary is sitting with him right now. I need to wake him up and let him know where we’re headed and that he will be staying with Mary while we are gone. Get your gear, we leave in an hour.” With that Chris got up and left the saloon.

When he entered the room he saw Mary sitting quietly next to the bed reading while Ezra was still asleep. Motioning her to the door he thanked her for sitting with him and that he would bring him to her home after he explained what was happening.

“She gone?”

Chris was a bit surprised to hear the question, he thought Ezra was sleeping. “Yes Ezra I asked Mary to sit with you while I spoke with the guys. How are you doing?”

“I’m Fine”

“Okay. I’m heading out in a little bit to track down the men responsible for your mother’s death.”

“I will be joining you gentlemen in your endeavor.”

“Not going to happen. You’re staying here with Mary and Billy. Chasing after bandits is my job and not a place for a boy.”

“She was my mother; I have the right to retribution.”

“Ezra I understand you wanting to see justice done, but it is too dangerous for you to go riding into a shootout. I promise I will get these men Ezra.”

He watched the tight nod of agreement from Ezra, he knew the boy was angry with him, but he was not going to change his mind in this. It was too dangerous.

Chris watched in silence as Ezra got dressed for the day. “Ready for some breakfast before you head over to Mary’s?”

“Not hungry sir”

Chris nodded; he wasn’t surprised the boy didn’t have much of an appetite this morning. He decided not to push the issue of eating; he figured Mary would have made plenty of treats for the boys today. “Alright then let’s get you settled over at Mary’s before I take off.”

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Part 7:

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.”

“What happened?”

“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?”


“Why not?”

“Threw him out of town”

“Then who’s in the jail?”

“The gambler”

“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.

Part 8:

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.

Part 9:

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.”

Part 10:

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.

Part 11:

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.

Part 12:

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?”

“Yes sir”

“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.


mystdogs: (Default)

Family Ties

Part 1:

The stage coach rocked on the dusty road, jarring the two passengers aboard. The regal lady fanned herself with hopes of blocking the dust from reaching her immaculate makeup and hair. She sighed as she looked at her young son pouting across from her. “Now Ezra darling, don’t be so melodramatic. I have the perfect person for you to stay with while I work on our finances. I promise baby boy this will be the last time. After I become the next Mrs.Edward Shillings we will want for nothing.” Edward Shillings was a wealthy cattle baron she had met in Ridge City and he was charmed by the southern lady.  They had plans to head back to his ranch in preparation for the upcoming nuptials, but first she needed to drop her son off in another home as Mr.Shillings has no idea she has a son. She was traveling to Four Corners now to meet with a man she hadn’t seen in nine years. She wasn’t sure how it would go but had no doubts he would take responsibility of Ezra for a short time, after all he was family and as honorable as his father. “You’ll like it there Ezra, they have a boy just a little older than you are. I’m sure you will enjoy yourself.”

“Yes mother” Ezra swallowed the sigh that was ready to come out. This wasn’t the first marriage his mother had and he had no disillusions that it would be the last. He wondered how he would fare in this home. He didn’t expect any different treatment than he had previously in other places his mother had dumped him in. He only hoped that he wouldn’t receive any physical discipline this time. He sighed and dutifully added the customary responses as his mother went on about the family he was to stay with and how it was only for a couple of weeks. He would miss the wedding, but that wasn’t any different than the last three he knew about previously. When his mother drifted off to silence he looked out the coach’s window to the town that was just coming into view. It didn’t look very big, he wondered looking at the town what the place he would be staying at looked like. As they pulled through town and stopped outside the stage stop he took a deep breath in as he followed his mother out of the stage. Courage Ezra, courage.

“Now that brother’s is a vision of beauty.” The words from the large man had his fellow peacekeepers turning to stare at the lovely woman that had just exited the stage coach.

“Wouldn’t get my hopes up pard, she got a lil’un with her. Likely got herself a rich husband to go with it.” The lanky Texan leaned back in his seat shaking his head as he watched Josiah smile a big grin and head over to the lady and her son.

Ezra snorted quietly to himself as he watched the large man with the silly grin on his face make his way over to the stage. Good Lord another sucker lined up already. He was amazed how often men tried to win favors with his mother. He listened quietly as introductions were made and added a “How do you do sir” when he was introduced. He followed behind as Mr.Sanchez escorted his mother to the hotel. Now that he was sitting alone in the hotel room he wondered about the family he would be with. His mother was leaving on the stage tomorrow back to Ridge City. He had only arrived in Ridge City a day before they headed off to Four Corners. He was supposed to be meeting up with his mother and they would spend some time together but instead he found himself being sent off to another home. He rubbed his sore shoulder before he carefully leaned back onto the bed. He had tried to broach the subject of his latest abuse but his mother always changed the subject before he could get started. He could only hope he had enough time to heal up before this home started to beat him as well. He was exhausted; the rough ride on the stage did little for his healing body. He decided he had enough time for a short nap before his mother would return and they made their way out to the homestead.

Maude made her way to the sheriff’s office; she figured that was the best place to start for directions. As she walked in she was taken aback by the young man sitting behind the desk. Either they are getting younger or I’m getting older. “Good afternoon young man I’m trying to find Mr.Larabee’s home. Would you be so kind as to provide directions please?”

JD jumped quickly to his feet with the entrance of the beautiful lady. “Yes ma’am, but he don’t stay there. He’ll be at the saloon though.”

“Thank you young man” Maude headed out the door and made her way to the saloon. As she entered the smoky room she took a quick look around. Spotting the man she was searching for at a table in the corner she made her way over. “Mr.Larabee how good to see you again.”

The last person Chris expected to see was the beautiful lady that almost became his step mother. “Maude, been awhile, thought you headed back to the South?” He had to admit she was just as lovely now as she was back then, hasn’t seemed to age at all.

“Yes it’s been near on nine years, I heard you and your family lived out here and decided it was a good time to visit.” She was an expert on reading people and the hard look and despair she read in his eyes showed the wealth of emotions he was going through.

“My family was murdered five years ago.” His voice was rough hardened with emotion.

“Oh dear I am so sorry to hear that Chris. You have my deepest condolences. Sarah was a lovely young lady and your boy such a delightful child.”

“So why after all this time is now such a good time to visit Maude?” He knew there had to be a reason for her visit; Maude wasn’t the type to do anything without a reason.

“I’m getting married. I wanted Ezra to get to know his family” Bluntness was always the best way to deal with Chris.

That quickly got his attention. Who the hell was Ezra? “Who’s Ezra?” He looked at her sharply.

“He’s your little brother Chris.”

Part 2:

Chris was sitting in the saloon hours later trying to processing the fact that he had a little brother. To say he was shocked was an understatement. He had agreed with Maude to take the boy on for a week or two while she was preparing for her wedding. He had yet to meet Ezra; the boy was sleeping when he had walked Maude to her hotel room. They had plans to meet for dinner later where he would finally meet the boy. Now he was waiting for the rest of the peacekeepers to arrive so he could tell them about Ezra and that he would be staying with him for awhile. Maude had told him her fiancé lived close buy, just outside of Ridge City. He was happy that he would be close enough to keep in contact when he did go back to his mother.

“Hey cowboy” Vin had noticed his friend was in deep thoughts and decided to join him. With a small grin at the glare Chris sent him he took a seat beside him. He nodded to Inez at the bar and was soon sipping the beer she brought him. “What’s on your mind?”

“I’ll fill you in when the others gets here.” He watched his friend settle back in his seat as they waited for the others to arrive. Free to dive back into his own thoughts, he barely noticed as the others filtered in over the next half hour. Coming out of his thoughts he took a deep breath before he began. “Had a visitor today.” He didn’t get much farther before he was interrupted.

“Was that the beautiful woman that asked me for directions to your place this morning?” JD couldn’t help but blurt out the little information he had this morning and was trying to figure out all day.

“A beautiful lady with the voice of an angel.” Josiah was still besotted with the southern belle.

Nathan had heard about this lady all day while he helped Josiah at the church, he couldn’t help but smile at his old friend.

“What do you mean? A beautiful woman arrived in town and nobody informed me? JD you’re supposed to be my friend, why didn’t you say anything kid?” Buck pouted on his lost chance at romancing the lady.

Finally when a moment of silence interrupted the conversation Chris got back onto the subject. “You know her Buck, remember Maude?”

“Maude, ain’t that the lady your father was going to marry?”

“One and the same.”

“Well I take it from the others she hasn’t lost any of her feminine charms?”

“Nope, still as striking as she was back then.”

“What’s it been, almost nine years since she headed south? What brought her out here?”

“She’s getting married to some rancher outside of Ridge City.”

“Well that’s a nice and all, but what has that got to do with you?”

“She needs me to watch her son for a week or two while she’s getting ready for the wedding.”

“Why would she need you to watch her kid, ain’t she got kin for that kind of thing?”

“She does, me. Her son is my little brother.”

“WHAT!” That was the last thing Buck expected to hear.

“Yup, I have a little brother, a little eight year old brother to be exact. His name is Ezra. Seems when Maude left she didn’t realize she was with child. She found out when she arrived back in Georgia.”

“Well I’ll be damned. When do we get to meet the little guy?”

“Oh I met him this morning, a polite but quiet child.” Josiah remembered the child from this morning. “Chestnut hair and the biggest green eyes I have ever seen.”

“I haven’t met him yet, supposed to meet him and Maude for dinner tonight.” Now that he had some time to become accustomed to having a younger sibling, he could admit he was looking forward to getting to know his little brother. He was heartened when his friends offered to help him watch over Ezra when he was needed in a legal capacity.

Ezra woke to a silent hotel room. Taking a quick look at his pocket watch he was surprised he had slept so long. Mother should be back soon for them to head for dinner. He knew she was leaving tomorrow on the morning stage and decided to enjoy as much time as he could get with her. He knew her promises of one or two weeks generally ran into one or two months, sometimes even as many as six or more. He supposed she was either plying her trade in the saloon or was with his new benefactor. Getting out of bed he took a few minutes to work the soreness out of his body before he prepared himself to join her. As he headed towards the dresser to wash his face, he felt his stomach drop with the white linen paper that sat beside the bowl. As he glanced around the room his shoulders slumped, he knew his mother was gone. Aw Hell! He cursed inwardly as he reached for the paper before reading it.

                My Dearest Ezra,

I’m sorry to have left before you awoke, but I felt it would be easier on you without one of those dreadful long goodbyes. Anyhow dear you are staying with Mr.Chris Larabee for the next week or two. You shall be meeting him for dinner tonight, please be a dear and send my regrets for not being able to attend.

He really shouldn’t be surprised; this was typical of his mother, she was never good with goodbyes. He only wished he was able to have spent the little time she was here with her before she disappeared again. Nothing to do about it now, he had to get ready and find Mr.Larabee so he could learn what his fate would be for the foreseeable future. As he prepared for dinner he couldn’t help but remember his mother’s advice. Now remember son you should always present yourself as a young gentleman, appearances are everything my dear. Making sure he looked presentable enough he took a deep breath and headed out the hotel. Mother had told him he was likely to meet Mr.Larabee in the saloon, so with a quick look around he spotted the locale and headed off to meet him. 

Part 3:

Ezra peered through the window of the saloon checking the set up and to see if he could spot the man in black his mother had described. He wished he was taller so he could look over the swinging doors, he would never lower himself to bend down and look under them, much undignified for a gentleman. Spotting six men sitting together, he noticed the one in black. Mother certainly described him well, he definitely looked formidable. The man slouched beside him looked like some wild ruffian, desperately in need of a bathhouse not to mention a barber. He saw Mr. Sanchez, the man that was enamored with his mother this morning and beside him a large black man. He hoped he was different from the other black people he had encountered before; most just saw him as another southern slave owner in training. Moving on he looked at the big man next to Mr. Larabee with that atrocious mustache. Goodness it looks like he stuck a caterpillar under his nose. He giggled a little to himself before he looked to the last man at the table, but he was young just barely into manhood. His clothing spoke of an eastern descent, but then he saw that awful hat, what was he thinking? Oh mother why must you torture me so? Whatever possessed her to send him to this backwater town? Stepping away from the window he took another look around the town and wondered again about the family he was staying with. Mother said there was a boy just a little older than him, he didn’t hold out much hope they would get along. Past situations have proven that enough, but he couldn’t help that small bubble that was there just hoping this time will be different. Brushing the dust that from his jacket he pushed open the swinging doors and entered the saloon.

Never being unaware of his surroundings, Vin had noticed the small boy peering into the saloon. He nodded his head slightly in appreciation that he took the time to check out the lay of the land before venturing forth. He wondered what was going through his head; he imagined it would be a bit frightening to be staying with someone he’d never met before. He figured he would do his best to help Chris and Ezra ease into their relationship. Seeing the boy move towards the swinging doors he nudged Chris, “Hey cowboy, got company.”

Chris’ breath caught as he got the first look of his little brother. He couldn’t believe how much he looked like his son and couldn’t help the audible Adam that slipped past his lips. He was small for an eight year old boy, looking no more than six. There were some differences from his son, but only slight. His hair had a slight reddish tint and those powerfully green eyes contrasted to his sons hazel ones. Any doubts he had that this boy was related to him vanished in that moment. .

Buck was equally shocked; there was no denying that boy as a Larabee. It was uncanny the resemblance that he had towards Adam. He looked towards Chris and could see the open wonder that engulfed his face. His voice was deep with emotion, “amazing, just amazing.”

Ezra cursed himself for the slight hesitation when six set of eyes locked in his direction. If mother would have caught him he knew he would have another lesson on appearances. As he made his way over to the table his eyes locked with Mr. Larabee’s, interesting he thought, the man looks as though he has seen a ghost. He watched as the shock changed into open wonderment. An odd reaction indeed. Usually he was greeted with hostility and contempt or he was simply ignored. His eyes widen a fraction when his gaze quickly took in the men sitting around the table; all had smiles on their faces ranging from the small smirk on the ruffian and the huge toothy smile of Mr. Sanchez. He stopped what he considered an appropriate distance from Mr. Larabee and his friends, just out of arms length and enough room to bolt, if need. “Mr.Larabee” he put just a hint of question to the name to verify he had the right man. With the lack of a negative and the slight nod he continued, “How do you do, Ezra P. Standish at your service sir.”

“You can call me Chris, Ezra. Pull up a chair and join us while we wait for your mother.”

He should have known mother wouldn’t have told his new guardian of her departure either, better wait on that chair until I let him know first. You just never know how they are going to react. “Sorry sir, but mother will not be joining us this evening.”

Chris had a sinking feeling where this was heading; he remembered how Maude had taken off on flights of fancy when she was with his father. “She left, didn’t she?”

“Yes sir, mother felt it was prudent for her to return to Ridge City as soon as possible.” He knew he shouldn’t have fallen asleep in the hotel; mother always used any advantage she could. He’ll remember his lesson for the next time and not make it so easy for her to leave without at least saying goodbye.

“It’s alright son, come join us and meet everyone here.” Maude certainly has changed much at all. He didn’t think if his father had lived he would have been able to keep that woman around long. She was certainly a free spirited woman, like trying to catch a whirlwind.

Ezra was feeling a bit overwhelmed, the group quite gregarious towards him, he wasn’t used to such treatment. After introductions were made he had learned the ruffian was Vin Tanner, an ex-bounty hunter from Texas, which also hunted buffalo. The man with the caterpillar on his lip was Buck Wilmington, he knew Maude from long ago too. He couldn’t help notice how often his attention would swing to one of the ladies to wink or smile. He supposed that Mr. Wilmington considered himself a lady’s man. Mr. Sanchez he had met earlier in the day. The black man was Nathan Jackson; he was a healer for the town. He didn’t notice the normal frown from the man, but wondered if he was just being polite because of the company of the others. The young man he learned was JD, he was surprised that he was so naive and the towns sheriff at that. He found he liked the men around the table; it was an odd sensation as he didn’t find many adults he did like. Most wanted nothing to do with him, and the others wanted to use him for his abilities.

Chris could see Ezra was feeling a bit uneasy and decided it was time that he got to know his little brother without all the other men overwhelming him anymore than he was. Chris stood and called to Ezra, “Come on son let’s go pick up your things from the hotel, show you where you’ll be staying and get something to eat.”

“Yes sir. Gentleman it was a pleasure to meet you.” He stood up and started to join Mr. Larabee; “Mr. Larabee would your wife and son be joining us for the evening repast?” It was at that point that his panic began. Mr. Larabee went still and his compatriots looked a bit wary. Ezra started backing away from the others, his eyes getting wider as the atmosphere grew even tenser. When he felt a hand settle onto his sore left shoulder he couldn’t help the cry of surprise and pain. He felt the hand release as fast as it had grabbed him and wasted no time in moving out of arms reach. He pulled his sore arm close to his body and engaged his derringer, thanking his mother silently for his newly acquired gift.

Part 4:

To say Chris was angry would have been an understatement; livid was probably a more apt description. He had a sinking feeling that more has gone on with Ezra than his mother was telling. It was obvious to anyone watching the scene happening in the saloon that this boy had been hurt and from his body language it had happened more than once. His stomach acid boiled with the sicken sensation that someone had dared to lay a hand on his little brother. Hell would be paid to those responsible if he ever had the opportunity to be in their vicinity. He took a deep breath to reign in the anger so he could calm Ezra down and have Nathan get a look at him. He slowly lowered himself down on his haunches to put him at Ezra’s level, “Easy Ezra no one is going to hurt you. Put down the gun son, I promise no harm will come to you.” He watched the wide dilated eyes as they turned towards him as he spoke; fine tremors shook the small figure as he felt the intense scrutiny he was being subjected to. He released a small breath as he watched the boy relax his hold on the small gun after a few moments and lower his arm so the gun was pointed towards the floor. “Can I have the gun Ezra?” He watched the boy quickly shake his head in the negative. He was calming down but wasn’t ready to give up his small bit of protection. “Ok you hold onto it, how about you putting it away so there are no accidents.” He felt like he was working with a skittish colt, one wrong move and he would be back where he started. He relaxed as he watched him reengaged his trick gun up his sleeve without ever taking his eyes off the six men. “I’m sorry we frightened you when you asked such a polite question, but we were just surprised. I thought Maude would have told you that my son and wife were murdered five years ago.”

Ezra could still feel the adrenalin flowing through him but watched Mr. Larabee closely, ready at any moment to run as fast as he could or engage his gun once more. As he listened to him speak he watched his eyes carefully for any type of deceit. He listened as he was told about the loss of Mr. Larabee’s family, how could mother have neglected to inform me of these changes. He realized he had likely over reacted and no had to work on the damage he had caused. It was just the pain was still too fresh from his last overseer and mother’s prompt departure he was feeling out of sorts. “I’m sorry Mr. Larabee, mother must have left that out of her note. I do apologize for my rash behavior, I will be certain to conduct myself with more decorum in the future.”

“Ezra, did your mother tell you who I am?” Chris had a feeling she didn’t. The more time he spent with Ezra the more he was starting to despise the woman who borne him.

“Yes sir, she said you were an old friend I would be staying with while she prepared for her upcoming nuptials.” Ezra’s trembling had finally stopped and he kept his nervous hands busy brushing the dust that had newly attached to his clothing.

“Your mother was engaged to my father about nine years ago before he died.” Chris watched to nervous hands stop their motion and the fear and panic once more take residence in his emerald eyes.

Oh dear lord mother what were you thinking. You left me with a dead mark’s son. Aw hell, he’s going to get his retribution on you through me. What’s he saying? Oh God it can’t be good. Run. Run fast now.

Vin had begun to relax when Ezra seemed to have gathered his emotions back in, however he could easily read the growing terror in the boy when Chris continued on with the history of Maude and his family. So it was with quick reaction that he caught the young boy before he could get past them and out the door. He held on as the boy screamed and kicked before passing out in his arms, surprising him and the other peacekeepers. “Pard we best have Nate check him out before he wakes up. Poor kid is plum terrified. Feels a bit warm, got himself a fever I suspect.” With that he led the other men towards Nathan’s clinic.

Chris was seething, no longer trying to hold onto his anger. “I’m going to kill her for this.”

Buck was just as angry, no child should ever have to know such terror. The other men following were in like agreement. Children should be cherished and loved. Josiah was feeling disgusted that he ever found that woman attractive. What she had done to that child was an abomination.

Nathan had to kick all but Chris and Vin out of the clinic. He knew everyone meant well, but he needed the room to move. He had Vin lie the boy on the bed and had them remove his jacket and shirt. As he left them to their task he pulled out a few supplies.

With Ezra’s jacket removed Chris removed the gun and rigging before moving onto the shirt. Vin helped hold him as he worked on the numerous buttons. Hearing the sharpshooter’s sharp intake of breath he looked into the cold blue eyes that promised slow and painful death.

Vin never felt such rage before in his life. Someone would pay for this; no child should have had to suffer this type of pain. “Nate”

The seriousness in Vin’s voice brought his attention quickly to the boy he held. Getting his first look at the damage made him sick. “Damn.”

Part 5:

Nathan was exhausted, not like that after a hard day working, but the emotional kind that ate at your soul relentlessly. He had spent the last hour scrubbing the infected wounds on Ezra’s back. He woke before Nathan started and was given a healing tea to help him sleep and fight off infection. Except for the small grunts of disgust and slight swears, the room was in silence while he worked. “He’ll be alright, come outside and I’ll fill everyone in at one time.” He didn’t think he could get through the explanation more than once this night. He watched as Vin and Chris reluctantly left the boy’s side and stepped out to join the other. With a last look at his patient he headed out to join them.

The tension outside the clinic was like a powder keg ready to explode. It was a good thing Maude had snuck out of town post haste; otherwise her safety and life would have been greatly compromised. After what felt like hours to the men waiting outside the clinic door opened.

Chris held his hand up to stall off any questions, he was so angry he didn’t think he could even speak at this moment. He watched as Vin silently seethed, alternately reaching for his mare’s leg and squeezing his fist tight. He could only imagine how everyone else would be handling the news that Nathan would tell them. He watched the black healer join the rest of the group leaving the door slightly ajar to keep an ear open for his patient.

“That boy’s been beat, got himself a lot of bruising. His shoulder had been dislocated, it’s still swollen and likely quite tender. His back is a mess of being whipped; some of the cuts were infected. There’s old marks on him from previous whippings; probably been going on for at least a few years. He’ll be alright though, got the infection cleaned up and the shoulder wrapped. After a good night’s rest, he should feel better in the morning.”

Chris slipped back inside and closed the door to the loud shouting and angry tones. There was no outlet for his anger at this point and he needed to be with Ezra more than he needed to vent his pain for the small boy’s pain. Pulling the chair close to the bed he settled himself for the night to keep vigil over his little brother. A few moments later he heard the door open and close as Vin returned to the other side of the bed. He gave him a questioning look about the silence he heard from when Vin entered.

“Sent them away from here, didn’t think Ezra needed to hear angry voices.”

It was uncanny sometimes just how easily he and Vin could communicate. He sent a nod of thanks and both men settled in silently for the night; each lost in their own thoughts.

When he woke the next morning, Ezra was feeling less pain and more rested than he had in a long time. The bed wasn’t the most comfortable he had slept in but much better than some of the places he has had to lay his head. He took stock of his body’s injuries, his bruises were a bit duller and his back felt much less on fire than it had. He felt a mild anxiety when he felt the restriction put on his shoulder, but relaxed as the shoulder wasn’t as tender in its bandaged position. Opening his eyes he got his first look at the room he was in. Heaving a sigh it was obviously a doctor’s room; likely belonging to Mr. Jackson. He noticed Mr. Larabee and Mr. Tanner sitting in chairs sleeping on either side of him. So much for sneaking my way out of here, now what do I do? He knew one thing for certain, he was going to need the chamber pot soon, but he figured he could hold off for a little longer. He thought back to yesterday’s events thinking that perhaps he had over reacted a bit. How embarrassing, Mother would not be pleased. Squirming he gave a tiny gasp of pain; he would have to wake someone up soon to do his morning abulations. He knew with his shoulder strapped he would never be able to get dressed on his own. It was all very disconcerting for him; he was always so independent not to mention he was still concerned about Mr. Larabee and any retribution for his mother’s cons. Sensing that he was being watched, he turned his gaze to each of the men noticing them watching him in silence. He licked his lips with a feeling of nervousness knowing that it was time to pay the piper. “Good morning Misters Larabee and Tanner, I am dreadfully sorry for my behavior last evening. Mr. Larabee I am sorry for any inconvenience my mother may have placed you in. I will wire her right away so that she can make new arrangement for my stay.” He would have continued on but the look on Mr. Larabee’s face had him cringing back farther into the bed.

Vin couldn’t help the small snort of amusement that rose out of him. That boy sure could talk. He wondered who would out talk whom, Ezra or JD. Just thinking of all that talking had him lose the humor that had bubbled out of him; or was it the dark glare he was getting from Chris. “Think I’ll go let Nate he’s awake. Watch the glare cowboy, your scaring him.”

Chris watched his friend leave as he softened his expression. “How you feeling?”

“Fine sir.” The quirked eyebrow and earnest look in Mr. Larabee’s eye had him rethinking his answer. What was it about this man that made him wanting to tell the truth? “A bit sore, but much better.”

Chris nodded when he saw the truth in the words. “Let’s get you dressed and fed. After that you and I need to have us a talk; and this time with no guns or trying to run off. Ok?”

“Yes sir, Mr. Larabee”

“It’s Chris, remember?”

“Yes sir.”

Part 6:

In all the gun fights he had been in, he never thought he would have been having that kind of stare down with an eight year old boy. The morning had been going pleasantly enough, until Ezra wanted his derringer and rigging back. Now they were locked in a battle of wills, with neither showing any ambition to backing off. Finally realizing that there would be no chance of either changing their decision, and that Ezra was equally stubborn, he allowed a slight grin before quickly sweeping the little boy up and over his shoulder before he walked out the door. His grin grew to a bold smile as he heard the loud indignation in his little brother’s voice over the indignities of being carried around like a sack.

“Mr. Larabee I can certainly assure you I know how to walk, I have been ambulatory for many years.”

“Faster this way and its Chris, remember?”

“Of course sir, now would you please return my person back to my own two feet.”


Nope? What is it with these people; they are so strange and a bit overwhelming. Ezra resigned himself to this very embarrassing position for the remainder of their trip for their morning meal. He had to admit it wasn’t so bad once he got used to it. I’ll have to remember this so I am not caught unawares again. Now he had to figure out a way to get his gun and rigging back. That was the last gift his mother had given him. Anytime he got a gift from her he cherished it, they were so far and few between. He could count the number of gifts his mother had given him on one hand. He had a deck of cards; he had to admit he cherished that special deck. Mother had given it to him when he was four before being left at his Uncle’s house for eight months. He became quite proficient during that time as it was his only source of entertainment. Mother was quite pleased with the progress he had made, but when she dropped him off nearly two weeks later with a friend of hers she told him he wasn’t good enough yet and needed to practice more. He was still practicing as much as possible, but now with his arm bound he would have to work one handed. His first and most prized possession though was the small brown bear he has had for as long as he could remember. Mother had taught him how he could hide money and valuables inside and then how to restitch the bear. That was right before they took off late at night from Mr. Franklin’s home where they had stayed a few weeks. He was left two days later with another cousin and the torn stitching to fix. He had his special cards and bear secreted away in the false bottom of his valise. He decided he would have to find a time to slip away and retrieve his gun and rigging, mother would be disappointed if he didn’t keep up on his lessons. Finally he felt himself lowered to his feet, “thank you Mr. Larabee.” He couldn’t help the sarcasm that entered his voice; he was certainly old enough to walk. He ignored the hand that was held out to hold his. Are you kidding me! Brushing his shirt down, he turned on his heel and made his way into the restaurant.

Chris let the boy move ahead of him before following him in and joining him at the table. He ordered two breakfasts and thought about how he would start. He was still lost in his thoughts after their food arrived and they had eaten most of it. Knowing he shouldn’t put it off any longer, he began to tell Ezra about his father and Maude’s relationship.

Ezra listened as Mr. Larabee filled him in about the relationship between his father and Maude. He felt a bit sorry for him as he seemed to have good memories of that time. The poor sap was being conned and had no clue, or just didn’t care. He was surprised that there was no ill will towards that relationship, especially considering that his father had died before mother had taken off. Perhaps that is why they were on amicable terms; mother must not have been able to finish her con. Maybe he wouldn’t have to worry about any retribution on his person. It would certainly be a new experience for him. He was nothing but adaptable. Wait a minute, what did he just say? “Could you please repeat that Mr. Larabee, I’m afraid I must have misheard you?” I must have certainly misheard, no wait he just repeated that. Oh mother, what have you done now? He’s going to kill us when he finds out you lied to him. “Mr. Larabee, you must be mistaken, mother has never mentioned the possibilities of siblings to me.”

“I’m sorry Ezra; I don’t know why your mother never told you. I only found out yesterday myself, but there is no denying the family resemblance, you are my little brother.”

“You’ll have to excuse me for my reservations Mr. Larabee, but since mother had neglected to inform me of these circumstances you will have to realize I cannot just accept this for fact.” Although having you for an older brother could certainly have its advantages.

“Alright, how about we straighten out the brother business when your mother returns. For now though I would like to get to know my little brother better and enjoy the next couple of weeks together.”

“That would be agreeable Mr. Larabee.” Ezra smiled even though he knew this was one of mother’s cons he wouldn’t mind pretending for awhile that he had a big brother. He’ll probably be a great asset at the gaming tables, it would be nice to have someone to back him up when the losers decided he had to have cheated.

“Just one thing Ezra.”

“What would that be Mr. Larabee?”

“You can call me Chris.”

“Oh course Mr. Chris.”

Close enough for now he thought with a smile. Small steps he cautioned himself.


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