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Blackjack
        By Sally Craggs

 Disclaimer: The Magnificent 7 characters belong to Trilogy Entertainment, The Mirisch Group and MGM Worldwide.  The following is a story of fan fiction.

Note from the author:
This is my first fanfiction and I would appreciate any comments.
Please e-mail me at Marjes@xcelco.on.ca


 

In his mind he faintly remembered the family that looked after him. The man, the woman and especially the little boy. He remembered the warm area in the building where he used to lay beside his mother. He had had other siblings  (not that he remembered them) but they had all died and so he had grown big and healthy on the mother’s milk that was meant for five but was only there for him now.

His was a fun life that seemed to be all play but that was before the time of the loud bangs and screams. He had been unable to help as he had been tied up in the barn. He had not liked the smell of the men that had appeared that day on the farm and had growled at them. Thus all he could do that night after chewing through the rope on his neck was to frantically scratch at the barn door whimpering.

By the time he had dug a spot under the door big enough for him to go through his paws were bleeding and there was now no life at all at the house. The blood had smelled strong on his sensitive nose and he had been confused. The people who had petted him and fed him now lay on the floor of the home and he hadn’t known what to do.

The black dog had remained around the home until the new strangers had appeared. These men had removed the bodies of the only family he had known. And so now with nothing familiar to keep him there he had started travelling into the wilderness. The people of the community for a while saw him now and then until the winter when he disappeared. They figured he probably hadn’t survived the weather that had come down from the hills. They were wrong. He had just moved on.


Several Day Ride Out of Four Corners
 

Ezra sat comfortable on his horse as he rode along. It had been a good couple of days he had recently had.  Chris Larabee had sent him as an escort for the stagecoach when it had left Four Corners. The only passengers had been the young children of one of the local homesteaders who were off to visit relatives. And as it had been a fairly busy time for the parents they had been unable to go with the children.

Chris had thought the family might appreciate the extra protection that one of the men could give and thus Ezra had gone along.  He hadn’t minded as it meant he would be able to stay over in the town they were travelling to and parley his expertise into some cash. He had also found he enjoyed the company of the children. Something that, apart from Chris himself, only he could possibly do as none of the other really had an experience around kids.

Now, with the children safely in the hands of the relatives and himself with a nice healthy sum of money in his boot, he was on his way back home. He was in no hurry, as he was not expected back in Four Corners for at least another few days.

The sun was bright and hot in the clear sky when Ezra decided to take a break by the small watering hole. His horse needed a drink and a short rest and he, himself, was getting hungry. Though, after several days of eating the cuisine at the local restaurants, he did not look forward to the beef jerky and other dried foods he had in his saddlebag.  So when he saw the small rabbit appear by the water edge he thought that it would make a nice lunch.  Moving quietly away from his horse and around to the back of the rabbit he unholstered his gun. With one shot the rabbit fell to the ground.

As Ezra walked towards the animal he was suddenly stopped by the sound of growling coming from the batch of stumps and logs to the right of him. Slowly he turned and without making any sudden moves glanced around to see the animal that had made the noise. His gun was still held in his hand and he knew he could probably use it quick enough to protect himself.

What he saw was a large dark shape in the shadow of the trees. He heard the faint rumbling that the animal was making. Strange, he thought, that it hadn’t taken off when I shot. Most animals would have been afraid.  Keeping his distance he moved around to the side to the trees to get a better view. It was then that he saw the chain running from one of the largest trees to under the animal. He realized that the creature had been caught in a trap that had obviously been laid there to catch anything coming to the water. His first thought when he took a better look at the animal was that it was a wolf but then a second and closer glance made him realize it was a large dog.

“Poor creature. I wonder how long you have been out here.”  The dog continued to watch him although the growling had stopped.  “ I bet you’re thirsty” With that Ezra returned to his horse and removed his tin coffee cup from his saddlebag.

“ This is all I have to put water in,” Ezra said as he filled the cup from the watering hole. Very carefully he approached the dog holding the cup at a low position in front of him. The dog didn’t move, watching him come closer but as he also didn’t growl Ezra took that as a good sign.  Putting the cup on the ground close to the dog, Ezra then stepped away. The dog didn’t move until he was a distance away and then started to lap up the water, quickly emptying the cup.

“ I guess I am proper in assuming  you had a thirst upon you sir.” Ezra commented as he slowly removed the cup. After refilling it several more times and giving it to the dog the animal was finally satisfied.

Ezra stood looking at the dog wondering just how he could see what harm the dog was in. Obviously it was trapped but would it let him close enough to help?

“ Well there is only one way to find out.”

Carefully he approached the dog holding his hands out in front of him. As he got close he dropped one hand to his side and the other hand he moved toward the dog’s muzzle.  The dog brought his head up to Ezra’s fingers and both paused there. After what seemed like an eternity to Ezra, the dog started sniffing his fingers and then with a noticeable sigh gave them a small lick.

Ezra moved his hand to the dog’s head and gently stroked the fine black hairs.  He continued this for the moment and once the dog started to relax more he moved his hand down the body slowly, all the while watching for any indication that the dog would attack.  But the dog seemed to have accepted him and allowed him to finally move to the back leg.  It was here that Ezra found the wire that surrounded the dog’s lower leg.

“ If you were human I would give you some of my fine whiskey to ease the pain but as you are not, I do hope you will kindly have the insight not to bite me if this hurts” Ezra mumbled under his breath as he ran his hand down the leg to the wire. While all the time watching out of the corner of his eye to judge the reaction of the dog, he slowly used his fingers to loosen the wire and then carefully lowered it down off the leg. Once it was off he smiled realizing the dog hadn’t moved all the time this was happening and it had allowed him to help.

Suddenly, realizing it was free, the dog staggered to his feet and bolted away, dragging the injured leg behind him. Ezra watched the animal leave and silently wished him well. He didn’t think the wound to the leg looked all that bad and figured the dog would survive.

“ Of course in this area it wouldn’t be unlikely that he gets killed by a rancher thinking he was a wolf or something. Which would be too bad as he obviously belonged to someone. He seemed tame enough”

Ezra then turned to the rabbit he had caught reminding himself that he still hadn’t eaten.  Making a small fire and cleaning the animal (which was not his favorite part) he proceeded to cook it. As he sat in the shade of a waterbank tree he saw a movement out of the corner of his eye. Turning his head he viewed the dog standing several feet away watching him. Ezra realized the dog was probably hungry and threw the remainder of the rabbit carcass to him.  The dog slunk to the ground and crawled up to the carcass and then with a swift lunge grabbed it and trotted away

“ If the others could see me now. This would definitely having them believing the story about Elsie and the skirt my mother told them I put on her.”

Several hours later after have a short nap and with the day now getting a little more comfortable to travel in, Ezra continued on his way.  He still had about five hours of daylight hours before the sun set and he planned to make the most of them.  He hadn’t seen the dog since it took the rabbit and he bid it good bye in his mind.


The dog watched as the man got on the horse and started off. Its mind was confused. The last year had been hard on him. Physically he had grown into a fine animal and he had been able to survive the winter out in the wild. He had crossed paths occasionally with the other wildlife including the pack of wolves that roamed this area but he found himself a loner. In his heart he found he longed for something but he hadn’t know what it was.

When this man had put his hand out to him he had had conflicting senses. He had been wild long enough to be scared of him (and he had had some experiences being shot at) but he also remembered deep inside of him the feeling of a hand petting him and a kind voice talking.

His deep down feelings had won and he had allowed the man to help him even when the thing that had been holding him there by the trees had been removed. He had been there for about four days and so initially had not had the energy to run when he could. It was the water that had help revive him and so once most of his senses had returned he had immediately taken off. But he hadn’t run far.  The leg hurt him a little although he was able to put weight on it but this wasn’t what kept him there. It was the touch on the head.  Something had happened with that touch and the dog somehow knew he had to stay by the man. Then the man had given him the food as if knowing what the dog was think at that time.

Not knowing what he was really feeling the dog started after the man and horse at a pace that his injured leg would allow. It wasn’t very hard to follow, as the man wasn’t in a hurry, keeping his horse to an easy walk.

Over the next couple of days whenever Ezra stopped on the trail he kept thinking he was seeing the dog he had helped but never actually caught a good view so he just made himself realize he was imagining it. He thought he probably just had too much time on his hands riding and was letting his mind wander back.
 


One Week Later
 

Vin, Josiah and Ezra sat in the saloon. The other two watched as Ezra dealt the cards out to each of them. Of course after looking at the cards they got both placed them down on the table and looked at Ezra with disgust.

“ The least you can do is give us good cards to start with, Ezra” Vin said.  “You don’t have to deal us a losing hand immediately”

“ After my time on the lonely trail I find the need to parley my skills on to whoever ventures into my circle of luck. It was most difficult to practice ones expertise when one does not have a formable opponent.”

At that time Chris and Buck entered into the saloon. Chris had the stern look on his face that said he had something to do.

“ We need to ride out”

“ Might I pray tell ask why and where we will be so quickly forthcoming,” Ezra asked as he picked up the cards his partners had put down and placed them in the coat pocket.

“ Rider came in and said that the Rander farm is having some problems with a bunch of drifters they had hired to help with the planting. It seemed they want more money then what was agreed to be paid to them for their work and there is the chance of them getting mean to get it. Rander has managed to keep them calm so far but he needs our assistance to get them off his property and away from here.”

About one hour later the seven arrived at the Rander farm to find that the situation had risen to the point their assistance was immediately needed. Several rough looking men were standing outside the farmhouse with one that seemed to be the leader shouting at the man on the porch.

“ I told you what you would be paid when you agreed to take the work. Now I have paid you and I want you gone.”

“ Hell after the work we did in the hot sun we deserve more that the meager amount you gave us”

Chris rode his horse right up to the porch in front of the arguing men. The rest of the seven, dismounting, placed themselves in easy positions to the side and back of the others.

As Chris got off his horse he was saying to the man, “ If you agreed to work for one amount you can’t expect a person to give you more just because you ask for it”

“ Who the hell are you”

“ We are the ones who are going to see you gone” Chris replied.

“ Oh yeah” And with that comment the man took a swing at Chris knocking him backwards on his heels. The other men behind the guy started looking at the rest of the seven and being the men they were they entered right in to the medley. Soon fists were flying.

Ezra found himself between two men that seemed to have only the senses that could be knocked into them and he was handling himself fine even though he normally resented having to get physical in a fight. He had almost always managed to talk his way out of things and when he couldn’t do that he had managed to shoot his way out. (Of course this always meant a change of town location). He didn’t realize, although, that the fighting he was having was moving him away from the rest of the group and closer to the barn.

Buck was busy punching the lights out of a man that was starting to look like he was ready to just get out of there with his head on straight rather then with the extra money that had started this.  Chris had his opponent also well under way to the same idea. The others were holding their own too. It was Josiah that noticed in the distance the third man stepping up behind Ezra with a board in his hand. It was too far away for any one to shoot the man and before he could yell Ezra was struck on the back of the head and fell to his feet.

The man with the board raised it to again hit Ezra, this time with enough force to seriously hurt him. But as the board was starting to descend it was knocked out of his hand as a large black shape flew out of the shadow of the barn and hurtled itself onto the man. The man staggered back but he was no match for the demon that strove to get to his throat. Screaming, it was all he could do to hold the dog off.  It was his screams that stopped the fighting that was going on in the farmyard.

Ezra shook his head to clear it of the haze and he then heard the same screams. Rising to his feet he looked to see the black dog he had helped hell bent on attacking the man who had struck him. Behind him he could hear his comrades coming up behind him. Knowing that their first response would be to shoot the dog and, suddenly realizing that this dog had followed him over a week to arrive here, he started to softly talk to the creature. The dog paused in his attack but still stood over the man on the ground.

Ezra put up his hand to stop the others from approaching too closely. Slowly walking up to and still talking softly he managed to get close enough to put his hand on the dog’s shoulder. Under his breath he mumbled to the man below the dog.

“ Just don’t make a move or a sound”

Ezra slowly started stroking the dog’s shoulder just as he had done when he found him, finally getting close to his head and started moving his hand around his ears just playing with him. The tenseness in the dog was visible through his quivering muscles but Ezra just continued with what he was doing. Slowly the dog began to stop quivering and began to lean in to Ezra’s hand. After a moment of doing this Ezra took a step back. The dog paused, the indecision apparent and then stepped away from the man and followed Ezra. Ezra kept taking steps backwards until they were enough of a distance away that the others were able to get to the man.

 Helping him to his feet Nathan checked his throat and found that the dog had only broken the surface of the skin. The man had managed to get his arms up quick enough to save his life.

Taking advantage of the moment Chris turned to the leader of the group and recommended that they leave now.

“ If not we might just turn the dog loose again” He smirked.

It didn’t take much for the men to get on their waiting horses and leave. Once they were gone Chris walked slowly over to where Erza was crouched next to the dog.  He stopped several feet away as the dog arose from sitting and looked at him.  With his hand in front he took one step at a time closer. Ezra continued to pet the dog’s head as he been doing for the last few minutes. The dog allowed Chris to get close enough to smell his hand and then Chris backed off. The rest of the group followed Chris’s lead and also presented themselves to the dog. By the time all six had introduced themselves the dog lay comfortably at Ezra’s side

“ It looks like you have a new friend, Ezra. I didn’t figure you for a dog person though. I just hope you can get him to allow any one near you otherwise you might have a problem finding people to get your winnings from” Buck commented with a smirk

“ I guess I’ll have to work on him.” Ezra said smiling.

“What are you going to call him, Ezra” JD asked, keeping a good distance from them. He was clearly impressed with the dog.

“ Well as he seems to now instigated himself into my life an appropriate name will make itself known in time. Although how about this simple personification, Jack as in “Blackjack?”

As he said this he looked down at the dog at his feet and smiled. I wonder how my mother would try to make a story about this dog and a little dancing dress.
 

End.

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