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Family Ties

Part 31:

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!
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Family Ties

Part 30:

Fire licked at the dark sky, reaching ever higher and attempting to spread to the nearby trees. Flames had engulfed the small wooded shack. There was an eerie silence as the six men rode quickly into the yard, each praying for the safety of the young boy that had entered their lives.

“EZRA,” Chris yelled as he flung himself from his horse, never pausing in his head long strides towards the burning structure.

Crackling wood and hissing gases were the only response to his frantic calls.

Chris felt himself tackled and held back from his destination. “Noo! Let me go! EZRA! Damn’t let me go. Oh God not Ezra too,” Chris continued to yelled and scream for the others to release him. His cries were in vain though, his friends held fast, refusing to let Chris sacrifice himself to the obviously destroyed building that had no possibility of survivors.

Anger, sadness, horror, and sympathy were just a few of the warring emotions the six men were feeling as they watched helplessly the shack continued to burn.

Josiah and Nathan had a strong hold on the grieving man, each wishing they could go charging into the flames, but knew the futility of the endeavor.

Vin sighed in deep sadness, “Let’s find something to put the fire out.” He didn’t wait for the others to join him and started searching for buckets to help in his task. He could hear the trudging steps of his friends as they too began to search for something to help put the flames out.


Buck and JD had made their way towards the small barn by the enflamed edifice expecting to find the much needed buckets. They quickly located a couple of buckets in the depilated structure, along with a wild-eyed horse nervous from the encroaching blaze.

They were jarred from their job by the loud shout from Vin. Wondering what had him so worked up the two men quickly left the barn and headed in the sharpshooter’s direction.

JD and Buck were barely out of the rickety building before they caught the sight of the other three peacekeepers rushing in their direction.

“What’s Vin yelling about?” Buck asked, still unclear of what had the Texan so excited.

“Don’t know Buck but we’re going to find out,” Josiah rumbled as they all hurried towards Vin’s location.


Vin’s search took him towards the back of the shack. He started looking around the area with disgust for its lack of supplies. “Damn’t,” he growled in frustration. An unlucky rock soon became the focus of his anger and frustration, finding itself airborne and just as quickly its progress halted by the solid structure it slammed into. The resulting thud had Vin’s head turning swiftly in that direction. When he had kicked the rock towards the bushes in frustration he expected a different sound from its landing, but there was something hidden in those bushes and he felt a smidgen of hope that there may be another way into the burning building. The backside of the shack wasn’t engulfed in flames like the front, but thick black smoke billowed all around the structure. As Vin searched the area he called out to the others in excitement of the cellar door he uncovered from beneath some strategically placed foliage. He started to remove the coverings when the others rounded the corner of the shack. “Come and help me with this,” he grunted as he removed more of the limbs covering the opening.

Buck ever eager to help jumped in and started tossing branches alongside Vin. “Whatcha got here pard?”

“Cellar, think maybe we can use it as a way inside. Fire’s not so bad on this side,” Vin responded.

The others quickly joined the effort and soon the covered cellar door was revealed. Chris growled at the sight of the lock keeping the door from opening and promptly drew his gun obliterating the object that was blocking their way. He swiftly opened the cellar doors and was through before the others could stop him.

“Chris!” Buck called out. “Chris damn’t would you wait up a minute! Shoot!”

He was ignored and Vin quickly followed behind the gunslinger into the dark pit. The others waited on the outside anxiously as thick black smoke rose out of the dark cavern.

“Someone find a ladder quick!” Vin yelled back out to the others finding himself too far down from the door to get out without assistance.


“EZRA!” Chris called repeatedly praying for an answering call. He had a moment of excitement when he heard his name called behind him, but knew it was Vin an instant later.

“Chris wait up a minute,” Vin coughed from the irritating smoke. The cellar was deep underground and in inky darkness. While the smoke was infesting much of the room, the damp conditions seemed to be blocking the flames for now. Vin knew that as the heat built the room would be consumed like the rest of the shack. “Damn’t,” he cursed when he was unable to find a match to brighten the area. He heard a soft moan and coughing coming from his right and looked in that direction trying to work out the exact location it originated from. “Chris, hold up I hear something. Do you have a match, can’t see a damn thing down here.”

Chris hearing the tracker’s words quickly located a match and had it lit in a moment. He sighed at the dreary enclosure and was instantly aware that there would be no entry into the shack from its location. He made his way closer to Vin and tried to see what had gotten the tracker’s attention. “You find anything?” He asked his friend.

“Thought I heard someone cough and moan.”

Chris and Vin started searching the area with more diligence. The flooring was covered with objects, each leading to false hope as they seemed to resemble the image of a small child. Chris grew frustrated and kicked at a box in discouragement. It was then he heard it, a small moan to his left. He quickly turned in the direction, somehow knowing it was his brother’s moan he was hearing. “EZRA!” he shouted in excitement and worry. He had quickly located the small form curled up in a far corner underneath a layer of debris. “Vin! I found him.”

Vin sighed in relief and sent up a silent prayer of thanks. “How is he?”

“Can’t see much, but he don’t look good. We need to get him out of here.”

“I need that ladder boys! We found Ezra, need to get him up to Nate quick,” Vin yelled up to the others.

A ladder was rapidly dropped into the pit and then Chris was rapidly making his way out with the precious bundle of his brother held tightly in his arms, while Vin quickly followed behind.


Nathan hastily took charge as Chris made his way to the top of the ladder. “Bring him over here Chris; let me get a look at him.”

Chris reluctantly released Ezra into the healer’s capable hands. Many emotions ran through the man as he watched the healer work, relief at finding his brother, worry that he would be too injured to save and livid anger that his Aunt and Uncle placed him in this kind of danger to begin with.

Nathan grumbled quietly to himself as each new injury was revealed. Although he was concerned about their existence, he was gravely concerned with other matters. He was brought out of his private thoughts as the dark gunslinger could no longer hold his patience.

“How is he Nate? Is he going to be alright?” Chris asked in deep worry as he watched the multitude of emotions play out on the man’s face.

“He’s got a lot of bruising, shoulder’s out again, and some nasty looking wounds.”


“I won’t lie to ya Chris, he’s real sick. Got a fever, some infection in them cuts, and he’s really congested. Can’t tell though if it’s just from the smoke or if lung fever done taking over.”

“Damn,” Vin sighed out as he listened attentively with the others over Nathan’s news.

“We need to get him back to town quick. Being out in this weather ain’t doing him no good.”

Chris nodded as he numbly took in the poor prognosis. “Alright, Nathan and I will take Ezra back to Four Corners. The rest of you get this fire out before it spreads, and make sure the bodies are accounted for.”

With the orders given, the guys quickly went about their task, giving each of them a chance to work out some of their fear and anger in labor. They watched their leader and the healer head off into the night with Ezra carried securely in his brother’s arms. Each hoped that when they returned to town later that there would have good news regarding the young boy.

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Family Ties

Part 29:

Brett and his partner looked fearfully at the six men that surrounded them on the trial from Four Corners. They had figured with the evening hours that no one would be out tracking the child until morning giving them plenty of time for an escape. What they had failed to comprehend was the experience and determination of the men that protected the town.

They watched in concern as the savage-looking man dismounted and checked the hooves of their horses before giving a swift nod to the demon in black that was still seated on his horse. It was eerie to watch the silent communication of the group and Brett couldn’t help visualizing them as a pack of wolves ready to attack. He gave a nervous glance to his partner when the remaining five slid out of their saddles.

So far there had been no words spoken between the two groups but that was soon altered when the man in black narrowed his eyes at two men. “Where is he?”

Brett looked quickly at Eddie’s nervous features and cringed at what his friend did next. His eyes widened in alarm as Eddie reached for his gun and just as quickly grasped his bloody hand. Brett had heard the gunslinger in Four Corners was fast, but he didn’t believe the stories he had heard before now.

“You shot me; damn I can’t believe he shot me!” Eddie whined as he held onto his throbbing hand.

“What do you expect when you reach for a gun? Flowers?” Buck added sarcastically as he collected the man’s gun and kept watch over him as Nathan saw to his injury.

Brett didn’t think twice as the focus of the remaining men turned to him and quickly related the information the men sought.

“Bastard” Chris cursed as he laid the man out with a blow to his chin. He grasped the man by his shirt front and snarled into his face, “You’re going to take me to my brother now.”

Brett fearfully nodded to the intense man and breathed a sigh of relief when he was released. He rubbed his sore jaw as he made his way towards his horse and prayed Eddie wouldn’t try anything stupid that would get them both killed.


Olivia hummed to herself as she prepared the evening meal for herself and Matthew. They had talked for sometime about what they would do with the child and finally came to a decision to perpetuate his death and then sell him into slave labor. She smiled as she thought of the double funds the child would bring, first the money from his mother’s will would be diverted to them when his death was discovered and then they would receive an equally substantial payment for the child himself.

She wrinkled her nose in distaste of the place he would be sold to, how Matthew even knew of such places had surprised her. Strangely she felt a small bit of sorrow for the child and wondered if perhaps she could sway her husband into selling him to someone else.

Olivia shivered and brought her thoughts back to more pleasant dreams, like the latest in shoe fashion back east. She hummed to herself and left the stew to simmer before finding a book to curl up to while dinner finished cooking.


He didn’t know how long he was asleep but he awoke cold and in pain. It didn’t take long for the fog to lift from his mind and he cursed himself again for his lack of astuteness. He tried to curl into himself to keep warm, but the movement brought intense pain and he settled for the limited movement he had managed. Thankfully his mind was as sharp as ever and he wondered how he was going to get out of this predicament.

He knew for certain that his brother would be searching for him by now, but he was worried that he wouldn’t be found before his Uncle made good on his promise to sell him off into slave labor. Ezra shivered in revulsion as he remembered his Uncle’s vile threats about what his work would entail. If anyone other than his Uncle had made those threats he would have sworn they were bluffing, there was just no way a place like that could exist. However, he was certain his Uncle wouldn’t create such a fabrication to him about something so disturbing, especially knowing that he would have the images conjured up in his mind until nightmares became reality.

Ezra took a moment to look around the damp and dreary room. There were no windows or even a ladder to reach the cellar door to assist him in escaping. He closed his eyes in disappointment and decided to rest a bit more before thinking of a means for escape. He coughed and shivered as demented images took over his consciousness.


“How much farther?” Chris grumbled to the cowboy leading him to his brother.

“Not much farther, the turn off should be right around here. It’s pretty hard to see in the daylight, it’s near impossible to see in the dark.”

“For your sake, you better not miss it” Chris growled before smirking at the man’s obvious fear of him.

“Hold up a minute” Vin stopped the others before they could go any farther. “Do ya’ll smell smoke?”

“Yeah, I smell it too Vin” JD added.

Buck looked at his old friend whose jaw was clenched tightly.

“Where the hell is that shack and if you want to live to see another sunrise, you best find it NOW!” Chris just knew that smoke had something to do with his brother. He wouldn’t make it if something like this happened to Ezra too.

Brett quickly located the turn off, “it’s straight down this trail.” He had barely spoken before the other men were quickly off towards the faint red glow in the distance. He looked at his friend whom was also quickly forgotten in the peacekeepers departure and wondered if they should follow or take off for safety as far away from these men as possible.

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Family Ties

Part 28:

“Come on boy, get off that horse.”

Ezra cursed himself for a fool as the two men grinned evilly at him. He should have expected something like this from his uncle with that devious mind of his. He sighed inwardly as he dismounted and stood waiting for what was expected of him next. The men quickly dismounted and approached him and his horse. He snickered when his temperamental mount tried to bite the cowboy that reached for his bridle.

The man snapped his hand back towards his body with great speed avoiding the beast’s snapping jaws. He pointed an aggravated glance to the smirking boy before he once again reached toward the horse, only to watch the dang critter take off at a dead run back towards the town they had left earlier. With a look of disgust at the departing animal he brought his attention to the boy they had been hired to kidnap. The boy would just have to ride double with one of them. “You think this is funny son?”

Ezra grinned wider at the idiot before replying, “I’m afraid sir, my steed has exceptionally judicious tastes when it comes to the company he entertains.”

“You have a really smart mouth kid,” the cowboy glared at him in disgust.

“Yes sir, I have been informed a time or two about that.” Ezra hoped to waste enough time that his horse would make it back to town and alert his brother of his disappearance. He knew he would get an earful from his brother on his lack of sense in following two complete strangers out of town and away from the protection of the others. Anything that Chris would provide for punishment was preferred to spending even a few moments in his Uncle’s possession.

“Enough already Brett, we gotta get outta here for them town folk coming searching for this kid.”

Brett nodded at his partner before grasping the boy’s arm and moving him towards his own waiting horse. The boy naturally struggled in the hold and he landed a quick swat to his rear. “Now knock that off boy, we don’t want to hurt ya none. Just got us a job to do and get you to your Uncle.”

Ezra rubbed his bottom before glaring at the man that hit him. “I would suggest for your continual wellbeing that you return me back to my brother.” His words though fell on deaf ears as he was hoisted into the saddle and promptly ignored.


Chris lit the end of his cigarillo as he stepped down from the boardwalk after leaving the saloon. He looked around the small town full of strangers and hoped they and the herd they were driving would leave the area soon. He had kept his distance from Ezra most of the day as he felt his temper running short with his little brother. Now though he wanted to check up on the boy and wondered where to check first, Ezra had an interesting habit of disappearing and showing up just when he would start to get worried. He figured today’s location would be the livery with that damn horse he seemed so attached to. He knew it was a waste of time arguing with the boy over the horse, knowing in the end he would relent and accept Ezra’s choice of that cantankerous beast.

“Glaring at the livery ain’t gonna solve your problems pard.”

“Buck,” Chris acknowledged while continuing to stare at the aforementioned building.

“He still arguing for that crazy ole horse still?”

“Yep, you should hear some of the things he comes up with in his arguments.”

“Yea, he has the gift of gab alright.”

Their conversation was halted as the heard the fast approach of a horse through town. They both sighed in disgust thinking it was another of those damn cowboys coming in. They were both prepared to educate another of the idiots when they recognized the rider less horse and felt their hearts constrict.

“Shit” Buck cursed as he went to try and get the horse to settle down. He soon heard Vin by his side softly crooning to the horse that was so obviously apprehensive about trusting another person.

Once the animal was calmed, Chris quickly started to look him over and clenched his jaw when he saw one of Ezra’s playing cards strategically placed just under the back housing of the saddle. He glared at the two of diamonds before swiftly turning on his heel and heading towards the livery to prepare his own mount.

The others quickly followed, everyone thinking that Ezra was in the clutches of his evil Aunt and Uncle.


Ezra found his journey over sooner than he expected. He was a bit surprised to find his Uncle had stayed so close to Four Corners, but the man was often misjudged and used that to his advantage. He unconsciously leaned back into Brett’s hold as his Uncle made his way towards him.

“Well boy you certainly have caused more trouble than your worth.”

“I’m sorry sir,” he answered demurely and felt himself instantly ripped from the saddle and dropped to the ground by his Uncle’s strong grip.

The two men that had brought Ezra to his Uncle felt decidedly uncomfortable with the interaction between the man and his nephew. They shared a glance and quickly left with the payment for bringing the child to the man. Both felt a measure of remorse for what they had done, but did nothing to help the child as they rode out of view.

Ezra felt a chill run down his back as he focused on the maddening gleam in his Uncle’s eyes. He didn’t think he would go without injury before his brother found. He didn’t even want to consider that his brother wouldn’t be able to find him.


Olivia heard her husband return into the shack they were currently taking refuge in. He had been gone for a longer time then she had expected him to be for settling the boy into the small cellar behind the place. She sighed as she figured Matt was just reminding the boy of the rules, she only hoped he hadn’t damaged the child too badly.

“Matt is our dear nephew settled in for the night?”

Matt grinned evilly, “oh he’s all settled for the night, went out like a light.”

“Have you thought about what we are going to do with the boy?”

“Figure we can sell him for a good price, little bastard deserves at least that for all the trouble he has caused.”

“But what about the money Matt? How are we going to get Maude’s money?”

“Figure he’s going to have to be considered dead, then as Maude’s only living relative they’ll have to release all her fortune to me.”

Olivia smiled at her husband as she thought of all the new dresses she would be able to order when they returned to their home.

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Part 7-12: ties#asset-mystdogs-1529 
Part 13: ties#asset-mystdogs-1632 
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Part 16: ties#asset-mystdogs-2393 
Part 17: ties#asset-mystdogs-2592 
Part 18: ties#asset-mystdogs-2865 
Part 19: ties#asset-mystdogs-3507 
Part 20: ties#asset-mystdogs-3874 
Part 21: ties#asset-mystdogs-5449 
Part 22: ties#asset-mystdogs-6095 
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Part 24: ties#asset-mystdogs-6828 
Part 25: ties#asset-mystdogs-7266 
Part 26: ties#asset-mystdogs-7705 
Part 27: ties#asset-mystdogs-8500 
Part 28:
Part 29:
Part 30:
Part 31:
art 32:
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Family Ties

Part 27:

Ezra sighed in relief as he thought back to the events of the day. He wasn’t certain if he was happy or sad that his aunt and uncle slithered out of town while the peacekeepers were busy being filled in on the events and then stopped by Judge Travis. Ezra was surprised by he judge’s behavior, he never thought that a judge would join in with the others behavior. So he was in a quandary about their escape. In one way he was happy, but that was only because he didn’t want to see his brother or their friends in trouble for disposing of the vial couple. He was also angry and a bit frightened because he knew that wouldn’t be the last he ever saw of his southern family. On a positive note Judge Travis quickly granted Chris custody of him and Ezra was unable to remove the smile from his face. He would be joining Chris and the others later for a celebratory dinner.

Vin and Josiah were still out trying to track his aunt and uncle, they left shortly after it was discovered the couple were not found within the town. Nathan had taken him back to his clinic to finish checking him over and later told Chris that he would be fine, just a tad sore for the next few days. He was then released from Nathan’s clutches and sent to spend time with JD in the sheriff’s office while Chris and Buck searched the town for a clue on the couple’s location.

“Give me two Ezra” JD tossed the cards down on the table and groaned when the new cards were revealed.

Ezra laughed inwardly, JD was a horrible poker player, it was too bad Chris forbid him from playing for money, he did however have a nice pile of candy courtesy of the young peacekeeper.


Vin and Josiah rode back into town just before dusk and quickly met up with the others at the jail.

“Where’s Ezra?” questioned Josiah when he noticed the boy’s absence.

“Back in our room getting ready for dinner” he answered Josiah and then turned towards their tracker, “any sign of those two out there?”

“Followed a trail heading towards Eagle Bend, but it disappeared not to far from town” Vin said in pure self-disgust. He was angry with himself that he had lost their trail. He thought that they would be easy to trail considering their lack of knowledge on the area and their seemingly more citified lifestyle. They just didn’t seem like the type of people that would be accustomed to hiding their trail so easily.

“Damn” Buck cursed as he slapped his hat against his leg in frustration.

“I know Buck, don’t think any of us would have ever considered what those two were capable of” Chris soothed. “We need to keep a close eye out incase they decide to come back into the area. Somehow I don’t think this is the last we see of them.”

The others nodded in agreement before breaking up and going in different directions before they met up for the celebration meal.


With the disappearance of Matthew and Olivia Standish nearly a week ago and the lack of any sightings the town of Four Corners seemed to finally release the tight knot of anxiety that had permeated it. It was in part to the relaxation of the six men that protected the town and the rest from the citizens coming to terms with the misjudgment they had made in regards to the couple. Some were entirely ignorant of the reason why the couple had seemed to be run out of the town, but many could not be kept in the dark from witnessing the behavior of the men and the bruises that had covered the child’s back.

Business had been booming in the town with an influx of visitors to the town from a nearby camp of cowboys traveling a herd of cattle by their town. The strained atmosphere around the town’s protectors kept any of the cowboys that were even considering mischief to be on their best behavior. Unfortunately for Ezra that also meant he was unable to ply his trade on the strangers and increase his sad monetary state. He may have inherited a fortune from his mother, but it would be weeks before he and Chris saw any of it. Chris believed he should keep the money in trust for Ezra until he was at an age to manage his money responsibly. Ezra however believed he should have access to the funds immediately and be housed in a location with all the amenities of comfort. Ezra was like a dog with a bone and would not give up his plans for the money easily. Leaving Chris getting short tempered with the constant scheming of his little brother.

It was after one of those irascible arguments that Ezra found himself muttering his woes to his favorite horse. That of course was another thing that they had argued over. Ezra wanted to purchase the fine animal and Chris was baulking at the thought of buying the cantankerous horse. He felt Ezra should have a more reliable horse, but Ezra knew what he wanted and some how he would convince his brother why this horse had to be the one.

Ezra didn’t pay much attention to the cowboys that were constantly coming in and out of the livery, but his ears perked up when he overheard a conversation between two men and plans for a poker game outside of town. Ezra grinned to himself and quickly prepared the horse to follow the men when they headed out of town.

He followed the men for about twenty minutes before he lost sight of them. He looked around for the trail but couldn’t seem to make out any tracks. Sighing at the thought of the funds he could have won from the evening’s game he turned his horse back towards town. He hadn’t gone far before his horse’s path was blocked in both directions. He felt like a boulder had settled deep in his gut he should have seen something like this coming and like the simple minded lemming he followed with no thought of the consequences.


mystdogs: (Default)

Family Ties

Part 26:

“What the hell happened to your back?” Chris asked when he noticed his first outburst caused Ezra to cringe and pull back in fear. He was taken by surprise when he walked into their room to find Ezra already awake, but his surprise was quickly changed to anger when he got the first glimpse of the bruising covering Ezra’s back.

He watched the changing emotions cross quickly through Ezra’s eyes before resignation finally took hold of the child’s features.

Ezra sighed to himself, he no longer was able to keep up the front that there was nothing wrong in the wake of his brother’s anger and concern. “I, um, I could no longer avoid the inevitable confrontation with my uncle.”

“What happened? Did your uncle cause this?” Chris was seething inside but he worked hard to contain the anger so he could get everything out of Ezra.

Ezra quickly nodded his head, “Uncle informed me that it would be in everyone’s best interest if I were to expound upon the virtues of living with my ever loving aunt and uncle.”

“When did this happen?” Chris unconsciously opened and closed his fists to try and contain the mounting rage.

“Yesterday, after you left to take care of the robbers, Uncle found me in the livery. I was unable to avoid the meeting though as I never heard him arrive, otherwise I would have been out of there post haste.”

“How did you end up with the bruising all over your back?”

“The livery wall was not very forgiving.”

“He threw you into the wall?”

“Well no, he never actually let go, more like tested it’s soundness a couple of times.” Ezra was amazed how easy it was to tell his brother about what happened. He was listening to him and he had yet to see any expressions of disgust or anger towards himself.

“What about your side, how did that happen?” Chris had quickly noticed the deep bruising to the boy’s side and was curious how that had occurred.

“Oh that wasn’t by Uncle Matt. That happened later with Aunt Olivia.”

Chris narrowed his eyes as he realized that Olivia Standish wasn’t innocent at all in this abuse. What had Maude been thinking to consider leaving her child with these vial people? “What did she do?”

“Oh when I got back with Vin, Aunt Olivia caught me unawares on the street and pinched me. I don’t know why they were able to catch me so unawares twice in one day.” Ezra continued on thinking aloud, “usually I’m pretty good at avoiding them I’ve had plenty of practice, though the last time mother left me with them Uncle was able to practice his whip skills but I blame that darn shoulder my inability to find higher ground.”

Chris listened in growing fury and disgust. When he realized the injuries that Ezra had come to town with were caused by the same people vying for his permanent custody he was just unable to keep the vehemence from bursting out. “Finish getting dressed Ezra, than I’m going to take you over for Nathan to check out before I go have a nice little conversation with your Aunt and Uncle.” A nice little conversation that starts with my fists and ends with a well placed bullet in the son of a bitch.


Nathan was surprised to find Chris and Ezra knocking on his door. “Hey Chris, Ezra, what’s going on?”

“Need you to take a look at Ezra for me.”

“Sure thing Chris, what’s the problem?”

“Ezra’s got some bruising over his back.”

“Come on over here Ezra and take off that shirt so I can get a look at it.” Nathan whistled in surprise at the massive bruising on the boy’s back. “How’d this happen?”

“Matthew Standish.”

That had Nathan’s head up in a flash. “He cause that pinch mark on the side too?”

“No that was courtesy of Olivia Standish,” Chris snarled, “and they were the home that Ezra stayed at prior to coming to Four Corners.”

Nathan instantly put the meaning together and his countenance darkened on the thoughts of what those people had done to the child sitting on the bed watching their byplay with deep interest.

Ezra finally caught the anger seeping from his brother and had a feeling that talking was not on his brother’s priority list for his aunt and uncle. Of course he would have no problems with the couple getting their just rewards but he didn’t want any legal consequences to befall his brother.

“I’ll be back, watch Ezra for me.”

“Sure thing Chris, you going to find those people?” The quick nod and sardonic smile was enough to convince Nathan that the couple better pray that he never found them.

Ezra watched with growing concern the lust for vengeance grow in his brother’s expression before he strode out of the room. “Nathan, you don’t think Chris will kill them do you?”

“Now don’t you worry none about those people Ezra, they’s gonna get what they deserve coming to ‘em.”

Ezra thought about that before his eyes widened and he quickly took off out the door to stop his brother from murdering his aunt and uncle. His voice called loudly in the street to catch his brother’s attention, oblivious to his shirtless appearance. “CHRIS…CHRIS WAIT. DON’T KILL THEM. CHRIS.”

His loud calls quickly caught the attention of the other peacekeepers and they all converged on the gunfighter and his little brother.

Buck easily identified the murderous expression on his oldest friend and wondered what had put that on his face. “Easy there big dog, now what’s all the fuss about?”

“Outta my way Buck, I’m gonna rid the world of some vermin.”

“Well now that sounds right nice, but what’d this vermin do?”

“Seems the loving Matthew and Olivia Standish like to hurt little children,” Nathan added to enlighten the other men.

Ezra squawked in outrage, “I’m not a little child!” However the others ignored his exclamation and listened in rapt attention as Chris quickly filled them in about the events from yesterday and the connection to their first meeting with him. His eyes widened in alarm as Vin pulled his mares leg and met the predatory gleam in Chris, Buck and Josiah’s eyes. He looked quickly to Nathan but was dismayed to see him wiping his long knife against his pants leg. He flinched a bit when he felt JD’s hand lay across his shoulder but caught his eyes with growing concern. He looked back to the other five but they had already started to spread out across the street in search of his aunt and uncle. Uh Oh I think I just made things a whole lot worse, now I have five of them ready to commit murder.

mystdogs: (Default)

Family Ties

Part 25:

The next morning the stage arrived early for once. The lone passenger, Judge Travis, had barely stepped onto the dusty street before small tornado ran into him.

“Grandpa!” Shouted Billy Travis as he happily hugged his older relative.


“Good morning Mary, how have things been going?”

“Oh the Standish’s arrived on the stage yesterday, a lovely couple. I think they will be a wonderful influence on young Ezra. It’s such a shame they couldn’t have children of their own.”

“I look forward to meeting the couple. I better go meet up with Chris and see about any town business.”


“Morning Judge” Several voices announced upon seeing the judge enter the town jail.

“Morning Boys. I see I have another trial coming up, what’s the charge on these boys?”

“Fools thought they’d try and rob the bank.”

“Wasn’t very smart now was it boys.” The judge shook his head at the pure stupidity of trying to rob the town’s bank. Turning back to Chris and the reason he was here he continued, “I’d like to meet at three o’clock for Ezra’s custody hearing. I’ll inform Mr. Smithers and the Standish’s of the time and location.”

“Sounds good judge, I better go wake up Ezra and get him started for the day.”

The judge tipped his hat before leaving to inform the other parties of the upcoming hearing.

Chris watched the judge leave before addressing the rest of the peacekeepers. “Three o’clock boys, I expect all of you there.”

“Nowhere else I’d wanna be old dog.” Buck was quick to point out.

“We’ll be there Chris.” Vin’s comment brought instant agreements from Josiah, Nathan and JD.

“Alright I better get Ezra up and moving.”


Ezra had woken early that morning, but stayed in bed as long as possible. He knew the judge was arriving in town this morning and that his future was going to be decided soon. He thought about the events from yesterday. He still couldn’t believe that he didn’t activate his gun and shoot the bastard yesterday. He figured it was because he was caught so off guard that he never thought about using the small weapon. His back was still sore from the abuse it took yesterday and he was certain it had a lovely array of colors as well. His hand moved to his side and he remembered the meeting with dear aunt Olivia from yesterday afternoon when he came back to town.

                “Oh my darling Ezra, how I have missed you my sweet child.”

Ezra barely had a chance to react before he was encased in a vice grip and felt a sharp twinge in his side.

“Hug your dear aunt Olivia you little brat and you better make it look good.” Was hissed in his ear along with another sharp twist of the pinched skin in his side.

Ezra was careful to school his features but couldn’t help the tear that dripped from his eye between the pain in his back and the pinch in his side. “I’ve mis..sed you too aunt Olivia.”

He was released shortly after that and was quick to move away from his vile relative. He sighed in resignation as he heard the townspeople comment on what a lovely aunt he had and how sad it was that he had been torn from their loving home. He picked up his pace when he heard more people comment on what a wonderful thing it will be for the Standish’s to gain custody of the boy.

Ezra sighed at the memory. It seemed the whole town was bamboozled by his aunt and uncle; everyone that is except his brother and the peacekeepers. He knew he was going to have to say something soon to Chris about his aunt and uncle, but he was worried about the reaction. Would Chris believe him about what his aunt and uncle did? Would he consider it justified punishment? He was just so confused; sometimes adults were just too strange about their behaviors. Oh he learnt early on in life that adults showed one version of themselves to the world and another to those they considered family. Often times the adults in his life where kind and pleasant in the company of strangers, but when they left it seemed the pleasantries went along with them.

Ezra decided to end his thoughts and the path they were taking him. He’d just have to speak with Chris about it later and hope for the best. He was a lot happier in this dusty little town than he had been anywhere else Maude had dumped him. He’d be sad to have to leave here and his brother, but there was just no way he would ever live with those people again.

Sighing he stretched and cringed at the pain it elicited before rising from the bed. He had a lot of chores to get done before he would meet his fate. He decided he would stash as portion of his things in the livery incase he had to sneak away if the verdict didn’t lean in his favor.

He slowly removed his shirt so as to not aggravate his back too much before he walked over to the dresser and the washing bowl to clean up before putting on clean clothes. The cool water helped to wake him up and in short order he deemed himself clean enough to get ready for the day. He soon became lost in his thoughts again for the day and was therefore surprised at the raised voice that bellowed behind him.

“What the HELL?”

Ezra cringed and turned quickly towards the angry voice his eyes as wide as saucers. Oh hell what do I do now?

mystdogs: (Default)

Family Ties

Part 24:

“Damn idiots, who the hell tries to rob a bank in broad daylight,” Buck complained. He had been enjoying the company of one of his lady friends when the gun shots were fired. It had only taken them a few minutes to subdue the two young men and deliver them into the waiting jail cell.

“Gesh you’d think they would know better by now and avoid this town,” JD whined to his friend.

“Well I’m just glad none of you idjits got a hole in ya. Tired of having to patch you up so much.”

“Amen brother”

“Hey Buck why’s Chris in such a bad mood? He barely said two words ‘fore he strode out of here.” JD had been surprised by the gunslingers behavior.

“Ah you know Chris; he’s just got a bee in his bonnet over this custody business. He don’t like that aunt and uncle of Ezra’s, wants us all to keep an eye on them.”

“Oh okay, so who’s supposed to be watching them now?”

“I am.”

“Uh Buck if you’re supposed to be watching them why’d you come out of saloon when the firing started?”

“Ah well um, ya see Miss Molly sorta…well..ah damn, I better go find that uncle ‘fore Chris takes my head off.”

Silent until now, Vin added to the conversation, “Ya might want ta take off quick cause Chris is coming back and he sure don’t look happy.”

“Ya’ll haven’t seen me.” Buck tried to get away before his old friend could recognize his error but Chris yelling his name stopped him dead in his tracks. “I’m dead” he muttered under his breath as he hung his head, but it was still loud enough for Vin to hear and find amusing.

“Hey Cowboy, what’s going on?” The wily tracker asked.

“Ezra’s missing and I told that boy to stay in the room and wait for me.”

“You check the livery? You know he can’t stay away from that horse for long.”

“Horse is gone. Buck who you got watching that uncle?”

“Um well Chris ya see Miss Molly was”

“Save it Buck just find where he is quick and make sure he ain’t anywhere near Ezra.”

“Right pard, come on JD let’s go find us a snake.”

“Vin you wanna go follow that horse, the rest of us will look around town just in case the horse was rented out.”

“On my way.”

“Thanks, everyone else split up and see if you can find him.”


Vin easily followed the well known horse tracks to the pond near town. He was pretty certain that it was Ezra on the horse, the light foot falls meant a lightweight rider; but if the tracks hadn’t told him the direction cinched it. The guys knew of Ezra’s favorite thinking spot by the small water hole. Vin just wondered what Ezra had to think about so badly that he didn’t stay in town like he was told.

Coming up on the pond he sighed in relief seeing Ezra sitting by the ponds edge tossing rocks into the still water. He took a few moments to study the young boy. Ezra was sitting stiffly and looking like he had the whole world on his shoulders. Vin figured he would be mighty concerned too if he had family pulling him in two different directions. He wondered what Ezra thought about the whole custody business.

“Hey pard, whatcha doing out here?”

Ezra sighed to himself, he figured Chris would be mad when he found no one waiting in their room for him; but he needed to get away, especially after the run in he had with his uncle. Beg to go back with them, never!

“Hello Mr. Vin, I’m afraid I was a tad preoccupied and forgot to inform someone of my intended departure.”

Uh oh someone’s put his walls up, just gonna have to tear them down right quick. “Well you certainly got Chris’ feathers in a dander. He’s tearing the town apart trying to find you.”

Ezra physically winced with the thought of Chris’ talk with him later when he got back to town. “I did not mean to cause any concern for Chris. Is he mad at me?”

“Reckon he might be a bit upset, but I think that is more worry than anything else. Fraid this custody issue has him a bit concerned.”

“Me too”

Vin settled next to Ezra hoping the boy would open up about what was bothering him. “You wanna talk about it?”

Ezra bit his lower lip in consideration; perhaps talking things out with Vin would help him come to a decision regarding his aunt and uncle. He knew just how vindictive and dangerous a man his uncle was. He had seen enough in the many visits he had with the man to know just how cruel he was and the vial things he was able to get away with from the local law in his town. He had no illusions what his life would be like if he were to go back with his aunt and uncle. Looking into Vin’s deep caring eyes he made the decision to talk with the scruffy tracker.

“I don’t want to live with my aunt and uncle. I want to stay with Chris.”

“Well Chris wants that too.”

Ezra nodded his head, yes he know Chris wanted him to stay as well. “Of that I have no doubts.”

“So what’s got you so worried?”

“You must know that judges prefer to place children with married couples.”

“Yeah, I imagine they do; but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen this time.”

“Perhaps, but I prefer to leave nothing to chance; and going to live with my aunt and uncle is a chance I do not want to take. My uncle is a powerful man in his locale.”

“Power can turn even the best person bad.”

“Yes sir it does.”

“So what bothers you so much about living with your aunt and uncle?”

“He has no want for me, just the money that Maude has in trust for me.”

“Yeah that’s what we figure. Any other reason, maybe if we had some good reason for you not staying with your aunt and uncle than the judge will not grant them custody.”

Oh I have a good reason, but if the judge doesn’t go in favor of Chris than my uncle’s wraith is going to be tenfold. “Perhaps we should return to town, I’m sure Chris would appreciate knowing of my return.”

Vin sighed inwardly knowing that Ezra was done talking for now. He wondered what was spooking the boy so much that he was reluctant to talk about it. “Alright pard, let’s get back and settle down that big brother of yours.”

mystdogs: (Default)

Family Ties

Part 23:

Ezra had managed to make it back to his room without running into his Uncle and Aunt. He sighed as he looked around the room and tried to think about where his brother would have hidden his rigging. Taking a deep breath he set himself to the task of searching in every nook and cranny. The monotonous work soon lead his mind to drifting; unfortunately it was drifting towards the last stay with his Aunt and Uncle before moving to Four Corners.

“Damn it boy, haven’t you learned nothing in all the years you’ve been here?” His Uncle punctuated his statement with another viscous strike against his back.

Ezra hissed as quietly as possible, knowing that any noise would only cause further pain. He didn’t even know what he had done to earn his Uncle’s rage this time. Mother had only left him with his Aunt and Uncle the night before. He hadn’t even made it out of his room this morning before his Uncle had stormed in like a rabid dog.

“Dang you boy, are you listening to me?” Another strike fell across his back and he felt the sting as a warm stream of blood slithered down his rib cage.

“No sir. I’m sorry sir. I’m sorry I forgot sir.” Ezra knew that any lax in ending a response to his Uncle without sir would lead to further discipline.

“Boy you’re nothing but a stupid little bastard, gotta knock some sense into that head of yours. No wonder your mother can’t stand to be around you. Get outta here and get them chores done; and don’t you dare think about asking for food till all the work is done, you useless piece of…

“Ezra, whatcha doing?”

“I’m sorry sir, I wasn’t thinking sir, I’ll get to my chores right now sir”

Chris was curious when he first walked into the room seeing Ezra staring into the mirror on the dresser; but curiousness quickly turned to concern when wide green eyes looked at him with deep fear in his eyes. He could literally see Ezra try to suppress the tremors flowing through his small frame. “Easy Ezra, it’s just your brother Chris. What’s got you so jumpy son?”

Ezra heard his brother’s soothing voice and the past vision shed from his mind. He quickly put his veneer back together and smiled shyly at his brother. “Sorry Chris must have been wool-gathering. I need to get back to my chores.”

Chris figured there was a lot more to Ezra’s fear then just some daydreaming, but he could see from his brother’s glint that he would get nothing from him at this moment. Recalling why he was seeking out the youngster Chris called a halt to Ezra’s progress to head out the door. “Hold up there a minute Ezra, I need to speak with you a few moments.”

Uh oh, I hope he isn’t going to interrogate me about my behavior. He would think of me as weak or a coward for my behavior. Feeling a slight heaviness in his pocket he was startled to feel the familiar weight of his derringer rigging. When did I find that? He figured he must have automatically placed it in a hiding spot when he located the sought after article. Feeling steady again with the two objects that would keep his Uncle from harming him again he turned back towards his brother. “Of course Chris, what would you like to talk about?”

“Seems your Aunt and Uncle have been seeking you out, but haven’t been able to talk with you yet.” Chris smirked a little at that.

“Oh really?” Considering I’m avoiding them at all costs that is no surprise.

“Yup. Can you think of any reason they haven’t been able to meet up with you?” Come on Ezra talk to me damn it.

Oh I can think of many reasons….roof, clearing, hayloft. “No sir, can’t think of any reason they wouldn’t be able to find me.”

Chris sighed inwardly knowing he was getting nowhere with his little brother and decided to just be blunt with him. “Can’t avoid them forever.”

“I sure can try!” Ooops did I yell that aloud. Yep and boy did I get Chris’ attention! Ah hell!

Finally success. “and why would you being trying?”

“I don’t want to live with them, I want to stay with you.”

“I want you to stay with me also, but if there is a reason I should know about why you don’t want to live with your Aunt and Uncle then you need to let me know.”

Ezra bit his bottom lip while he fought internally with himself over coming clean with his brother about the abuse. His mother never cared to know, would his brother be any different? Before he had the chance to consider it any longer shots could be heard outside.

“Stay here, we’ll finish this up later.”

Ezra watched Chris fly out the door to honor his peacekeeping duty. When the coast was clear he quickly attached his arm rigging and set his derringer in place. He was feeling more secure now that he had a measure of protection. Not hearing any shooting outside he decided to venture out and see if he could secure his favorite steed for the afternoon. Nothing like hiding out for the rest of the day to avoid uncomfortable conversations.

Seeing the street free of gunplay Ezra made his way over to the livery. He was glad to see the building empty and quickly made his way to his favorite horse. He really needed to work on getting Chris to agree to his purchase when this Aunt and Uncle matter was finished.

“You avoiding me boy?”

Ezra found himself swung around and slammed hard into the stable wall. Fear built up in him as he saw his Uncle’s crazy gleam pierce him.

“You sure ain’t learned nothing have you, you little bastard? If you weren’t worth so much money I’d happily put you down like the unwanted pup you are. You listen and listen good boy, when that judge gets here tomorrow you better be pleading to go back with me and missus. You understand me boy?”

“Yes sir.” Ezra mumbled with just a hint of a stutter before he felt himself lifted and slammed into the wall again.

“Don’t you forget now boy.”

Ezra watched his Uncle walk away before he picked himself up off the floor and quickly saddled his horse and left the town as quickly as possible.

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)

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)

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.

mystdogs: (Default)

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.”

mystdogs: (Default)

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.

mystdogs: (Default)

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.


mystdogs: (Default)

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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