Chris relaxed as much as he could into the hardback chair that sat beside Ezra. He was weary from the events of the past hours, but now was finally able to have some modicum of rest. Tiredness filled him but he knew that no sleep would be in his near future. He watched the slow rise and fall of his little brother’s chest and found himself thanking a God he hadn’t had much faith in for a long time. They had arrived in town a few hours ago full of worry for Ezra’s life; but after a thorough exam Nathan relieved his tension when he announced that Ezra didn’t have lung fever. It was one small victory for the young boy’s recovery. Nathan had reduced his shoulder, cleaned his infected wounds, and coated the various cuts and bruises with a healing salve.
“Shhh…., you’re safe now, everything is fine, you’re okay.” Chris crooned to Ezra as he became restless and began to moan in his sleep. Soon his comforting words had Ezra back in the holds of a healing sleep. As much as he desired to see his brother’s green eyes open with recognition he knew Nathan was right that the boy needed all the sleep he could to fight off the slight fever and allow his body to begin healing.
Nathan had left once he was assured Ezra was in no danger with instructions for Chris to let him sleep as much as possible and if he woke up to get him to drink some water and the healing tea he had made up for him. Chris was sure Nathan was checking on things in town, trying to keep busy as he waited for the others to arrive back in town in good health. Once again bad dreams started to interrupt Ezra’s sleep and he found himself running his hand through Ezra’s hair while he began to softly talk to him. There was nothing of great substance to his monologue but his quiet tones helped to ease Ezra’s nightmare and settle him back into sleep. As the night progressed Chris continued to tell Ezra story after story.
Vin breathed a sigh of relief when he spotted Nathan patrolling the dark town as they finally made their way towards the dark livery.
“I’ll take care of the body,” Josiah announced as he split off from the group with a lone horse and blanket wrapped body trailing behind. He caught Nathan’s eye as he made his way towards the undertaker’s and the man responded with a quick nod while he made quick strides towards the exhausted ex-preacher.
With Nathan’s help it took no time for the two of them to get the body situated inside the office. Josiah asked about Ezra and was reassured by Nathan’s prognosis. Nathan went to unfold the wrappings to exam the body but the strong grip on his wrist stopped him and he turned an inquisitive look to his giant friend.
“Nothing to see my friend, body’s nothing but a burnt shell. Can’t even determine who it is, could be the husband or wife, or even some stranger.”
“Damn!” Nathan cursed in frustration, nothing was ever easy and now they would need to be on their guard until they knew what happened to Ezra’s kinfolk. “Who’s gonna tell Chris?”
“I believe Vin and Buck have that honor.”
Ezra could feel himself coming out of the dark void where no pain infused throughout his system. He feared going back into the waking world, knowing his body would soon feel the pain that had been inflected onto him. Anxiety took hold as he feared the reemergence of his Uncle’s cruel intentions and physical brutality. Worse of all was the knowledge that he was trapped and alone in a dark pit because of his own stupidity. The darkness was fading fast and he reached for it with all his strength, but alas he was unsuccessful.
Ezra lay perfectly still trying to keep any movement from aggravating his many injuries. Puzzlement filled him as instead of the cold hard-packed earth he expected to be resting on he found himself in the comforts of a feather bed. Warmth incased him and couldn’t help the escaped sigh that announced his comfort. He next became aware of the strapping that enfolded his commonly injured shoulder. It took a moment for it to sink in that he was safe. He gasped with the recognition and his eyes popped open in anticipation of seeing his brother and friends. His movement jarred his many injuries and a deep moaning gasp escaped him before he was overcome with a fit of coughing. Pain wracked through him and bright flashes engulfed his vision. It felt like hours as he succumbed to the pain and fear, but only minutes passed before he felt the warm hand that was softly rubbing his back. As the coughing subsided he could hear the familiar rumble of his brother’s voice and couldn’t help reaching out for him blindly. He felt himself gently enfolded into his brother’s arms and couldn’t prevent himself from sinking into the safety he provided. He held on as tightly as he could while tears of pain, relief and terror overcame him. He could barely make out what his brother was saying, he only knew he was finally safe and would hold onto that safety for dear life.
It was during this time that Vin and Buck walked into the heart-wrenching scene of Chris trying to comfort an obviously tormented Ezra. Seeing their friend had enough on his shoulders for the moment they quietly retreated outside of the clinic to wait for the brothers to reassure themselves. It was less than an hour later when Nathan made his way into the clinic to check on his young patient and an obviously shaken Chris escaped from the emotional turmoil enclosed in the room.
Vin looked at Buck his eyes silently urging him to take the lead in informing Chris of the events that took place at the burned out shack. All he received though was the same look in kind from Buck pleading with him to take the lead. Josiah had caught the look on their faces as he made his way up the stairs to check for himself how Ezra was doing. He considered high-tailing it back down them when the two men gave him the same pleading look they had recently bestowed on each other.
“Ah hell,” Vin cursed as it seemed no one else was going to get this started. “Only one body cowboy, not even sure who it is.”
Chris growled in frustration that one of the bastards had gotten away. “Any tracks?” He asked already know the answer would be no and cursed when Vin shook his head negatively.
“We’ll have to keep a watch; I don’t want Ezra left alone until whichever one is found.”
“How’s he doing?” Vin asked.
Chris sighed, “Doesn’t have lung fever.”
“But?” Buck questioned knowing there was something worrying his brother.
“He’s been beat up pretty badly, got a slight fever, bruises, cuts, dislocated shoulder and some cracked ribs. He’s having bad nightmares, get him to settle and they start back up moments later.”
They all lapsed into silence as they worried over the new nightmares that would afflict the child for weeks to come.
The following days saw much improvement in Ezra’s health, but the nightmares continued to invade his dreams leaving him tired and cranky. Nathan let him out of the clinic after the first day as the fever abated and nothing but time would see to his wounds.
Chris had tried numerous times to have Ezra talk about his ordeal but he continued to keep silent replying that he didn’t want to talk about it and just wanted to forget everything that had happened.
Chris had found keeping Ezra under watch simple as the boy was never far from one of the others, but he noticed that Ezra tried to avoid spending much time with Josiah, Nathan and JD. He understood that the two older men as they kept pushing him to talk about what happened; at least until Chris finally told them to stop pushing him so much. JD though he wondered why the boy seemed to avoid him but suspected it was JD’s habit of questioning everything that happened and what could happen that was building the wall between them. Mostly though Ezra was found in the shadow of his brother or Vin. Buck was a substitute when his preferred guardians were unavailable.
Chris knew though as time went on Ezra would return to that brash kid that had a will of his own. He only hoped that they would be able to catch the danger that was lurking in their midst before the boy began bucking at the forced companionship.
The area around Four Corners was thoroughly checked for any signs of who made it out of the cabin alive and where that person may have disappeared to. It was unfortunate though that nothing had been garnered from the lengthy search.
Far outside of town a lone figure waited anxiously for the day they would be able to exact revenge upon the small boy they held responsible for the loss of their spouse. The mount followed the rider’s directions as they rode off towards Purgatory in search of assistance in their plans of revenge. They would wait until the others were filled with a false sense of safety and then strike. Whether it would be days, weeks or months Ezra Standish would pay!