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In Wolf’s Clothing
Ch.6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Afternoon Ezra”

Hello Mister Sanchez.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris just grinned wolfishly at him.
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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.

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

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.”

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

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.

~~~~~~~7~~~~~~
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.

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

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.

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

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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In Wolf’s Clothing

Ch.5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ya done good Ezra.”

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

“Come on Ezra let’s go check on Vin.”

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

“Forget about it Ezra.”

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

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

Ezra sighed in relief. Thank you Mister Larabee.

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

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

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

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

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

 


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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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

“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.

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

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.”

“But?”

“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.



mystdogs: (Default)

In Wolf’s Clothing

Ch.4

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

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


mystdogs: (Default)

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.

~~~~~7~~~~~

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.

~~~~~7~~~~~

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.

~~~~~7~~~~~

“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.


mystdogs: (Default)

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.

~~~~~7~~~~~

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.

~~~~~7~~~~~

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.

~~~~~7~~~~~

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.


mystdogs: (Default)
Part 1-6: http://mystdogs.livejournal.com/tag/family ties#asset-mystdogs-1277 
Part 7-12: http://mystdogs.livejournal.com/tag/family ties#asset-mystdogs-1529 
Part 13: http://mystdogs.livejournal.com/tag/family ties#asset-mystdogs-1632 
Part 14: http://mystdogs.livejournal.com/tag/family%20ties#asset-mystdogs-1848 
Part 15: http://mystdogs.livejournal.com/tag/family ties#asset-mystdogs-2122 
Part 16: http://mystdogs.livejournal.com/tag/family ties#asset-mystdogs-2393 
Part 17: http://mystdogs.livejournal.com/tag/family ties#asset-mystdogs-2592 
Part 18: http://mystdogs.livejournal.com/tag/family ties#asset-mystdogs-2865 
Part 19: http://mystdogs.livejournal.com/tag/family ties#asset-mystdogs-3507 
Part 20: http://mystdogs.livejournal.com/tag/family ties#asset-mystdogs-3874 
Part 21: http://mystdogs.livejournal.com/tag/family ties#asset-mystdogs-5449 
Part 22: http://mystdogs.livejournal.com/tag/family ties#asset-mystdogs-6095 
Part 23: http://mystdogs.livejournal.com/tag/family%20ties#asset-mystdogs-6328 
Part 24: http://mystdogs.livejournal.com/tag/family ties#asset-mystdogs-6828 
Part 25: http://mystdogs.livejournal.com/tag/family ties#asset-mystdogs-7266 
Part 26: http://mystdogs.livejournal.com/tag/family ties#asset-mystdogs-7705 
Part 27: http://mystdogs.livejournal.com/tag/family ties#asset-mystdogs-8500 
Part 28: http://mystdogs.livejournal.com/10425.html
Part 29: http://mystdogs.livejournal.com/10642.html
Part 30: http://mystdogs.livejournal.com/11486.html
Part 31: http://mystdogs.livejournal.com/12046.html
P
art 32:
 
mystdogs: (Default)

In Wolf’s Clothing

Ch.3

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

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

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

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

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

~~~~~7~~~~~

“You think he’s okay Buck?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~~~7~~~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mister Tanner are you alright?”

“Fine Ezra, why ya asking?”

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

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

“Really?”

“That’s what I said didn’t I?”

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

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

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

~~~~~7~~~~~

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

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

“Just twisted my ankle.”

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

“So what happened?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You know from that evil serpent.

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

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

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

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

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


mystdogs: (Default)

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.

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

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.

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

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)

In Wolf’s Clothing

Ch.2

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

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

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

“I’ll do that.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Shuddup Ezra”

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

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

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

“A serpent Mister Tanner.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Interesting, what are the others like?”

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

Crows? Why on earth would he seek out crows?

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

“Interesting, please continue.”

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

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

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

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

“Why do you say that?”

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

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

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

 


mystdogs: (Default)

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.

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

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)

In Wolf’s Clothing

Ch.1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do I look like a dog doing parlor tricks?

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

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

Vin quickly snapped his jaws together. “Amazing”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

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

“Easy there pal.”

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

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

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

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

Thank you kind sir.

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

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


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.

“Orin”

“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.”

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

“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.”

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

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.”

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

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.

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

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.

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

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”

“What?”

“Them”

“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.”

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

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.

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

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.

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