Disclaimer: The characters in this story are not mine (no matter
how much I dream about them). No money is being made by me for
the use of them in this story. This is for pure fun and writing practice.
"There are two types of blindness;
One that prevents a person from
seeing what's in front of one's own face.
The other, from seeing what another
person is really like. Only one leaves
that person ignorant of what is really happening."
The two riders were enjoying the cool early morning air, or at
least one was. Ezra was never very cheery before nine. He had
stayed up late involved in a stimulating game of poker, stimulating
because he won most of the hands. JD, being anxious to get back to
Four Corners and risking life and limb woke the nocturnal gambler early.
Ezra sometimes envied JD's youthful exuberance; this wasn't one
of those times. He truly liked the boy. He was one of the few
who was probably as educated as he was, which wasn't saying a
whole lot, but it was better than most. It took awhile for JD to
be accepted by the other five men, he had to prove himself and in
that they both had a lot in common. JD had become everyone's kid
brother, much to his dismay, and everyone felt a duty to watch out
for him whether he liked it or not. Before they had left Four
Corners Buck had asked Ezra to keep an eye on him. Buck had grown
very fond of the youth and Ezra had promised to watch out for him.
JD slowed up his horse letting Ezra catch up with him. Ezra's
arms were draped casually on top of the saddle horn the reins
held loosely in his hand letting his horse pick its own way. He
was in no hurry to return to Four Corners; not that he disliked
the place he just enjoyed the peace and quiet. "Hey, Ezra I
really appreciate you helping me pick out this dress for Casey,"
JD said as he brought his horse up alongside Ezra's Chestnut
stallion. His smile still held the charm of innocence. Ezra
wondered how long that would last.
"Think nothing of it Mr. Dunne, anytime I can be of service in
the pursuit of love is my pleasure," Ezra replied with a smile.
He absently swiped at some dust on the sleeve of his new verdant
jacket, which he had purchased at great expense from the Cedar
They were making good time and by late morning they had reached
'devil's rocks', a collection of medium sized boulders seemingly
strewed about, looking like someone had tossed them like dice,
against a small sandy cliff. With JD leading they casually made
their way between the boulders their horse's hooves striking the
rocky ground sending echoes throughout the small canyon. The
coolness of the morning was giving way to the heat of the afternoon
which radiated off the rocky walls. Ezra removed his hat to wipe
the sweat from his brow he halted as he caught a glint of metal from
up above. He slowly placed his hat back on looking down at the ground.
His hand casually dropping on his pistol. A shot was fired kicking
dirt up at JD's horse's feet causing the animal to rear. JD hung on
and managed to turn the frightened horse around pulling out his own
revolver searching for the source of the shot. Ezra could see the
surprise on his face which quickly turned to terror as bullets
started flying and ricocheting off the nearby rocks.
JD managed to shoot one of the bandits, just as his horse was
shot bringing both to the ground. Ezra witnessed the young man's
descent and continued firing as he jumped from his own horse and
took cover behind a nearby rock. He could see JD's horse lying
motionless, but couldn't see JD. He only hoped that the boy was
playing possum. Ezra peered around the rock seeing a second
attacker trying to move in closer. Ezra waited for his chance and
fired, the bullet striking the man in the chest and hurling him
back several feet where he laid motionless. Ezra waited until he
heard the sound of a horse riding away and let out the breath he
had been holding. He holstered his gun and ran to JD's downed
"Mr. Dunne, are you injured?" He called out. Ezra came around
the horse and spotted the young man laying unconscious on the
ground his head bleeding where it had struck a rock when he fell.
Ezra kneeled down beside the young gunslinger and started
assessing his injuries. He carefully turned the young man over
onto his back, relieved to not find any bullet holes. He reached
into the saddlebag on JD's mount and pulled out a clean shirt,
which he ripped in half. He applied pressure to the wound until
it stopped bleeding then wet the cloth and cleaned it. JD began
to stir, Ezra propped him up against the rock and wrapped some
cloth around his head to protect the wound, he didn't think it
looked to serious. He then wet down some more of the cloth and
began moping the young lawman's face. JD moaned and his dark eyes
fluttered opened. Ezra looked down at the boyish face, which
suddenly turned into a face of terror.
"EZRA! EZRA! Where are you? I can't see!" JD grabbed for
as panic set in. He grabbed hold of Ezra's jacket his eyes
darting back and forth.
"Easy Mr. Dunne, take it easy," Ezra tried to soothe the
terror-stricken boy who was taking great gulps of air trying to
calm himself. Ezra was holding down his own panic and fear at
JD's condition. He truly liked the boy and hated to see anything
happen to him. Ezra waved his hand in front of JD's unseeing
eyes and bit his lip. JD began to shake. "Listen to me, JD,"
Ezra said trying to calm the youth, using his given name
immediately got JD's attention. "Mr. Jackson has told me that
sometimes head wounds can cause this affliction, and it's usually
"Head wound?" JD asked bewildered reaching up to gingerly touch
the bandage around his head.
"Yes, don't you remember? We were ambushed. Your horse was
and fell and you were thrown to the ground where you hit your
head," Ezra slowly explained.
JD shook his head immediately regretting the movement as a sharp
pain lanced through his head almost bringing him to tears. JD
brought his face up, his watery unseeing eyes staring at Ezra.
He forced himself to say it. "I'm blind?"
Ezra grabbed another piece of the clean shirt he had used to
bandage JD's head and began to wrap the youth's eyes. "We
probably should protect them until we get back to Four Corners
and have Mr. Jackson take a look."
JD was a little calmer, Ezra figured the shock of it was hitting
him and he was trying to deal with it. JD took a deep breath and
let it out slowly his whole body shuddered then he asked, "Are
you okay? What happened to the men that attacked us?"
"We disposed of two of them the third got smart and took off."
Ezra looked over his shoulder to confirm that the man had not
tried to return.
"Now what?" JD asked his lips pressed into a line of worry.
"Well, I believe we should withdraw from this area incase our
surviving friend decides to come back. We'll have to ride double
on my horse and take it slow," Ezra replied maintaining a steady
Ezra picked up JD's bowler and placed it on his head, he was
rewarded with a faint smile. Ezra took JD's hand and helped him
up grateful the boy could not see the pained expression on his
own face. JD wobbled slightly and Ezra leaned him up against a
"You stay here and I'll retrieve my horse and your saddlebags.
We'll have to come back for your saddle later."
JD sighed, "I'm glad that wasn't my horse, but he was still a
Ezra walked on over to his horse and started rummaging through
his own saddle bags pulling out the new white shirts he had
purchased and his flask of whiskey. He removed his jacket
noticing the bullet hole in the left side, the bottom half of the
shirt he was wearing was already soaked in blood. He unbuttoned
his shirt seeing where the bullet had entered his left side. He
opened his flask and took a long drawl, then closed his eyes and
poured the remaining liquor on the wound. He bit back a scream
and fell against his horse, grabbing the saddle to keep from
falling on the ground. As the pain subsided Ezra ripped his new
shirt, the act making him ill, and placed part of it on the wound
audibly inhaling as he applied pressure trying to stop the
bleeding. He knew the bullet was still in there. He ripped
another long strip and tied it around his waist to hold the
bandage in place, then removed another clean shirt and put it on.
He put his jacket back on and grabbed the reins of his horse and
returned to JD.
"Are you okay, Mr. Dunne," Ezra asked in a strained voice which
luckily JD did not notice.
"Yeah, I guess so, a little dizzy is all."
"Here drink some of this." Ezra placed the canteen in JD's groping
Ezra walked over and managed to pull the saddlebags from the dead
horse, which caused his side to rebel in pain. Ezra's world
started to swim, but he shook it off. He was JD's only hope, he
had to get them back to Four Corners. Buck would never forgive
him if he allowed anything to happen to the boy and he would
never forgive himself. Larabee would probably shoot him; Ezra
grinned to himself at the thought.
"Okay, Mr. Dunne I suggest we be on our way." Ezra had no doubt
that the man that escaped would return and probably with
reinforcements. They were still a day away from Four Corners and
would eventually have to find a place to camp, Ezra did not want
to be caught out in the open.
Ezra led JD to his horse and mounted placing JD's saddlebags in
front of him. He reached down for JD's hand and hoisted the boy
up behind him, grimacing as it pulled at his side.
Ezra kept his horse at an easy pace as much for himself as for
JD. JD had remained quiet for the past couple of hours, which
started to worry him. There were times when he wished the boy would
shut up; this was not one of them.
"Ah, Mr. Dunne I would greatly appreciate a retelling of one of
those many books you read, to help pass the time," Ezra asked.
It was a moment before JD replied, "What good am I now?"
Ezra's heart broke for the young lawman. He tried to think of
something to say. He didn't have much experience when it came
to knowing what to say in these situations. "Mr. Dunne I told
you this is probably only temporary."
"But what if it isn't? What if I'm blind for the rest of my
life? All I've ever wanted was to ride and shoot and have
adventure and..." JD choked back a sob. "Ezra, I love being
sheriff and part of something," he quietly admitted.
Ezra felt the small shiver that went through JD's body. He
raised his eyes to the cloudless sky and exhaled. He knew what
the young man meant, he too found belonging much better than being alone. He use to worry that he
would eventually be shot during a poker game and
forgotten. Now he had six men and a whole town that would miss him.
"What about Casey? What good am I to her this way?" JD said dejectedly.
"I'm sure Miss Casey will accept you in any condition, Mr.
Dunne," Ezra quietly remarked. "She is a wonderful girl and I
hope you give her more credit than that."
"I don't want to be a burden."
Ezra realized he had to get JD's mind off his affliction. "Mr.
Dunne I am the king of self pity and I would really hate to be
dethroned. Now, I doubt that Mr. Larabee or Mr. Wilmington
would tolerate this kind of talk and neither will I."
The mention of Buck seemed to strike a chord. JD looked up to
Buck and knew the cowboy would not like to see him wallowing in
They traveled for several more hours finally setting up camp near a
quiet stream. Ezra placed JD against a rock and prepared his
bedroll then collected firewood and started a fire. JD dozed off
and Ezra realized the boy probably had a slight concussion. His
own wound throbbed from the exertion and his face was bathed in
sweat. He took the time to check his own injury which had finally
stopped bleeding. He carefully unwrapped it grimacing as the wet
cloth pulled at the injury. He looked down to see an angry,
oozing wound. He tried to gently clean it and hissed as a sharp
pain went through him. His vision blurred and he fell to his
hands trying to stem off the encroaching darkness. He took
several deep breaths and leaned back on his knees. He looked
over at JD making sure the youth had not awaken. He washed out
the bandages as best he could since he had no more shirts to rip
up. Ezra heated up the last of the food they had purchased in
Cedar Ridge. He noticed that JD's sleep was a restless one as he
tossed and mumbled.
"Ezra, Ezra?" JD called out.
Ezra could hear the fear in his voice. "I'm right here Mr.
Dunne," Ezra replied kneeling down beside him and handing him a
plate of food. "Here you need to eat." JD took the plate the
smell making him realize how hungry he was as his mouth watered.
"I'm going to have to extinguish the fire soon."
"Do you really think they'll come after us?" JD voiced between
"Well, like our illustrious leader would say, 'best to not take
any chances'." JD grinned slightly, even though Chris and Ezra
had their differences he knew Ezra respected the dark-clad
leader. And in Chris' own way he respected Ezra. They just were both
to proud and stubborn to admit it.
Ezra removed the bandage from JD's head to check the wound making
sure it wasn't infected. It hadn't bled anymore, but there was
an ugly purple bruise forming.
Ezra extinguished the fire as the sun set. He hadn't unsaddle
his horse incase they had to make a quick break for it and he
wasn't sure he could anyway. His own wound had started to bleed
again slightly and while JD was asleep he attended to it the best
he could. Ezra propped himself up against a tree planning on
staying awake the whole night to watch over his charge.
The next morning Ezra collected all the gear then woke JD.
"C'mon Mr. Dunne rise and shine."
JD woke and pressed his hands to his head, which he thought was
splitting in two. "What time is it?"
"About seven, we need to get moving," Ezra replied in a weak voice
which got JD's attention.
"Ezra, are you alright?" JD asked his voice laced with concern.
"Yes, it's just that staying up all night makes one tired," he
lied. His side felt like it was on fire.
JD seem to accept this, thinking that Ezra was just concerned for him.
They quickly broke camp, again Ezra mounted his horse and gave a
hand up to JD. The pain almost causing him to scream out.
They made good time during the coolness of the morning, but the
mid-day heat started wrapping around them, Ezra slowed his horse.
He couldn't afford to lose the animal, they'd never make it on
foot. Hoping to past the time JD finally decided to talk about
the many adventures he had read about in one of his many dime
store novels. Ezra tried to listen, but his world was starting
to melt away.
"Hey, Ezra did I ever tell you..."
JD's voice seemed to fade and Ezra's head started to swim.
thought he heard someone calling his name with some urgency, but
by then he was falling from his horse. Ezra choked off a scream
as his wounded side hit the ground the pain spread from his wound
throughout his body.
JD grabbed the reins and pulled up sliding off the horse panic in
his voice. "Ezra! Where are you?" He heard a groan and holding
onto the horse's reins made his way towards the sound. His boot
nudged something soft and JD knelt down to find Ezra's inert
form. "Ezra, what's wrong?" He could feel the heat emanating
from Ezra's weakened body. His hand brushed Ezra's wounded side
causing him to moan and try an curl up. JD felt the wetness
through the bandage. "You were shot! Why didn't' you tell me?"
His anger was only tempered by his concern.
"I believed you had enough to worry about, Mr. Dunne," Ezra
"What can I do?" JD asked, his fingers curled into fists of
Ezra raised his head and looked around. "There is a grove of
trees over to your right, help me there," Ezra urgently gasped.
JD got his shoulder under Ezra's arm and helped him rise, he
grabbed the reins of the horse and together they stumbled towards
the shade of several large trees. JD set Ezra against a tree; he
felt so helpless what could he do? He grabbed the canteen and
handed it to Ezra. "Is the bullet still in there?"
"I'm afraid so," Ezra winced placing his head against the tree
and closing his eyes. "Now, Listen to me we're only an hour or
so away from town I want you to get on my horse, give him his
head and he'll take you back to town."
JD couldn't believe what Ezra was asking. "Ezra I can't leave
you, not like this!"
"Sir, we have little choice. I can not ride." His eyes were
already getting heavy and it was a chore just to stay conscious.
JD stood up, and stepped back his heart pounding. What would the
others do? Ezra was a good friend; he cared about him. JD
reached over to Ezra's horse grabbing the loose reins. He heard
Ezra groan as a bolt of pain shot through him. JD took the
reins tying them to the horn leaving the horse plenty of slack.
He then moved behind the horse slapping its rump and sending him
on its way. JD turned and cautiously made his way back to Ezra's
"Wha...What?" Ezra mumbled as JD startled him. "Mr. Dunne I
thought I told you to leave."
"Ah, sorry the horse got away from me," JD lied.
Ezra had to suppress a chuckle. "Mr. Dunne you cannot con a
JD sat down next to the injured gambler, he removed the bandage
from his head and used the canteen to soak it placing it on
the gambler's fevered forehead. "Ezra why did you want me to leave
you?" JD quietly asked.
Ezra grimaced slightly. "Because Mr. Dunne some people's lives
our of more importance than others." Ezra cut JD off as he was
about to object to this. "It is a fact of life, one that I
learned early on." JD heard the sadness in Ezra's voice.
Vin stepped out of the saloon just as Ezra's horse came barreling
down the street. Vin raced out in front of the
emancipated steed grabbing the reins and bringing him to a stop.
"CHRIS! BUCK!" Vin yelled back at the saloon. Chris and Buck
came out and saw Ezra's horse lathered and blowing hard. Buck's
stomach clenched in fear.
"What happened?" Buck asked, as he and Chris approached Vin.
"I don't know Ezra's horse just came galloping in," Vin replied.
His hand came up with blood on his fingers. "There's blood on
"Get everyone together now, we'll backtrack the trail and hope it
leads to them," Chris ordered. Vin took the horse by the reins
and led him to the stables, Chris headed for the church. Buck
stood alone in the middle of the street. Please let JD be
alright he thought. He cast a worried gaze skyward, please.
JD did everything he could to make Ezra comfortable his fever was
still rising and his breathing was becoming more and more
JD's eyes began to twitch and tingle slightly, he shook his head,
and quickly removed the bandage. The light caused some
discomfort and he couldn't make out anything, but he did see
light and some dark forms that he thought might be boulders or
bushes. He rubbed his eyes. "Ezra, Ezra, I think my sight is
coming back." But Ezra was far from hearing.
JD checked Ezra's pulse and let out a breath when he finally
found it. "Hang on Ezra, please hang on," JD quietly voiced. He
wanted the opportunity to prove to Ezra that his life was just as
Vin was examining the tracks in the hard packed dirt as four
others watched, concern etched on each of their faces.
"Don't worry, Buck," Josiah said. "Ezra wouldn't let anything
happen to JD."
Buck gave Josiah a thankful smile, but his gut still hurt with
fear. He was fearful for JD, but he also worried for Ezra.
He knew the gambler would risk his own life to protect the boy.
Chris, who had pushed his black hat back upon his head was staring
out upon the desolated landscape. He too was having similar thoughts.
He knew at times the gambler was self-absorbed, but when one of them
was in trouble Ezra always showed his true nature.
"The tracks are still leading towards the east," Vin said to Chris
breaking him out of his reverie. The five rode on.
JD felt before he heard the hoof beats. His first thought was
that it was the others, but then he realized they were coming
from the wrong direction and dread settled into his heart. He
squinted trying to make out anything upon the blurry landscape.
He could just make out four indistinct dark shapes moving towards
them. He quickly got under Ezra's arms and dragged him behind
the tree. JD then slowly made his way to what he hoped was a
rocky outcrop where he could get protection and hopefully keep
them away from Ezra. He stumbled and fell several times, but
finally reached a huge boulder, which he got behind. He removed
his colts, trying to calm his shaking hands. He had to feel to
be sure that they were loaded. He peered around the boulder and
could still see the shapes milling about, trying to decipher the
tracks. He hoped they would ride on, but if they headed towards
Ezra, he would have to shoot. He wiped his sweating palms down his
jacket. One of the shapes started moving towards the trees, JD
raised his gun and pointed at what he hoped was a vital area. He
shot and was rewarded with the dark shape dropping to the ground.
The other three scattered in various directions and JD was not
able to follow all their moves.
Ezra regained consciousness to the sound of gunfire. He pulled
his gun and leaned over peering out from behind the tree. He saw
JD who had taken cover behind a large rock and was firing at
several men who were slowing moving up on him. Ezra could tell
JD's shots were scattered and random and soon the bandits would
see that too. Ezra brought his gun up, his vision blurred and he
had to wipe the sweat that was streaming down into his eyes. He
fired knocking one man off his feet. Ezra tried to focus on JD,
but his eyes grew heavy, he passed out still holding his gun and
thinking he had failed to save his friend's life.
All five men heard the shots; Buck raised in his saddle. "That
sounded like JD's gun." Buck spurred his horse and raced ahead
followed by the others.
JD fired several more shots at what he hoped was one of the
attackers. But the last two men had realized something was very
wrong with the young gunslinger.
Chris, Vin, Buck, Nathan and Josiah jumped from their horses guns
drawn grabbing cover where ever they could find it. They were on
a slight rise and looked down to see JD who had taken cover and
was trying to fend off two men who were closing in. Vin brought
his Winchester rifle up and fired, instantly killing one of the
men. The other turned towards the shot and aimed his gun. Vin
fired again. JD heard the shots and saw the men fall, at first
he thought it was Ezra doing the shooting.
After the last man was killed Buck stood up and JD promptly shot
off his hat. Buck dropped to the ground then stood up holding his
hat and fingering the hole. "God dang it JD, what the hell are
you doing?" Buck swore.
"Buck, is that you?" JD yelled coming out from behind the
boulder the five gunslingers could tell that something was not
right. They ran up to him, Vin separating to check on the dead
men. "Did we get them all?" JD asked staring blankly passed
"Yeah kid we did. What's wrong with you?" Buck asked the
concern evident in his voice and on his furrowed brow. Nathan
pushed forward and looked into JD's eyes noticing the head
wound that he sported.
"I can't see, I hit my head yesterday when me and Ezra..." Fear
came to JD's face. JD grabbed the front of Buck's shirt.
"Ohmygod, Ezra! He was shot, he's over by the tree." The six
men all went to the nearby tree where they found Ezra
unconscious, still clutching his gun. Nathan knelt down at his
side checking his pulse and breathing.
"Nathan is he...?" JD was afraid to say it.
"No, JD he's still with us, but he's in a bad way. When did this
"Yesterday, we were ambushed by three men, we killed two of them,
but the third got away. I would guess he came back with friends
to finish the job. I didn't find out he was shot until this
morning. He didn't want me to worry because of my eyes," JD
Buck placed a comforting arm around the young man. "Don't worry
Buck I'm already beginning to see shapes and light, I think it's
Buck let out a sigh of relief.
"How could Ezra risk his own life for me," JD murmured.
"I need to remove the bullet," Nathan said. Buck guided JD over
to a stump and sat him down. Then went off to get some water.
Vin and Josiah held onto Ezra as Nathan used a knife to open the
wound on his side. Ezra stirred, but remained unconscious.
Nathan was able to quickly remove the bullet and then cleaned the
wound. He placed a cool cloth on Ezra's heated brow then sat
"Is he going to be alright," Chris asked. Nathan stared
concerned eyes down at Ezra then looked up at Chris' worried frown.
"I don't know, we have to wait for his fever to break the wound
is infected and he's lost a lot of blood. I can't believe how
long he held on, he had to of been in tremendous pain."
A guilty expression flashed across JD's face which Buck caught.
He knew the young man would blame himself. "JD, it wasn't your
fault, you know how stubborn Ezra can be," Buck told the
kind-hearted young man.
"Yeah, but he was trying to protect me. He wanted me to leave
him," JD said.
"But you didn't," Chris cut in. "And he's probably alive because
JD gave Chris a grateful smile, anything coming from Chris meant
a lot to the young man.
Ezra's eyes opened slowly and were met with Nathan's wide grin
and dark face. "How you feelin'?"
Ezra swallowed and replied in a pain-filled voice, "Like hell..."
panic gripped him and he tried to rise up on his elbows, "JD?"
"Right here, Ezra," JD called out. Ezra let out a breath and
settled back down at the sight of the young lawman. Ezra gave
him a faint smile.
"You all would have been proud of young Mr. Dunne's performance
and courage..." Ezra slowly drifted off without finishing the
sentence. Concern jumped onto everyone's face.
They managed to get Ezra back to Four Corners where he remained
unconscious for two days enduring bouts of violent delirium and
restless slumber. He had yelled out numerous times for JD and
even once apologized to Buck for not protecting him.
A groan from the gambler brought Nathan immediately to his side.
Ezra's eyes flickered open. At first everything was dark then he
turned to see the low glow of a lantern which Nathan brought closer.
"How long?" Ezra asked his voice harsh and sore.
"You've been out of it for two days. It's just after midnight,"
Nathan replied, placing his hand on Standish's forehead relieved
to find the fever had finally broke. He helped Ezra up and gave
him some water then laid him back down.
"He's fine, his sight is slowly improving. Buck's been hovering
over him like a mother hen, I think JD's ready to shoot him."
Nathan paused. "He owes you his life. He told us how you
ignored your own injuries and kept him going. We might never
had got to you two in time if you were any farther away."
Ezra chuckled slightly and swallowed, "I had a personal stake in
Mr. Dunne's well being. I highly doubt Mr. Larabee would have
been pleased with my survival over his."
This sadden and shocked Nathan wondering why the gambler thought
so little of himself or thought that everyone thought so little
of him. Before he could correct this assumption Ezra fell back to
Nathan opened the door to leave allowing the faint glow of light
from the hallway to enter. He nodded towards the dark-clad
figure, who had been sitting in the corner of the room watching
over Ezra all night.
The End (June 1999)
Back to Dust Trails