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A Deck of Cards and a Derringer
            By Sally Craggs

Disclaimer: The Magnificent 7 are owned by MGM, Trilogy and CBS.  The other characters created here are mine. Any comments or input about this story can be sent to marjes@xcelco.on.ca


 

“So much for some time away” he thought as he read the telegram that had been delivered to his hotel room. It said that he had to go to the town of Junction to assist the sheriff there in bringing a prisoner to Four Corners where Judge Travis would hold court. It seemed that the Sheriff had requested some assistance as his deputy was recovering from injury and he ideally didn’t want to bring the prisoner in on his own. As Ezra was visiting in the neighboring town he was close enough to Junction that Chris Larabee had volunteered his services as an escort.

“ No rest for the weary. And so nice of Mr. Larabee to offer the kind hearted services of my person” Ezra mumbled to himself as he saddled up his mount. His regular horse he had left in Four Corners as it had pulled a shoe and so was recovering from being lame.  Ezra had rented from the livery a dun gelding, that while a nice enough ride, still wasn’t the quality of horse he was used to. So he wasn’t looking forward to having to ride several miles out of his way and thus having to spend time on this horse.

Later that day Ezra arrived in Junction and headed for the jail where Mr. Douglas the town sheriff was sitting outside the building. Upon introducing himself, Ezra followed Douglas inside. The man in the jail cell looked up and sneered.

 “ What’s up with the fancy dudes”

“ I won’t hold to you that you don’t have the appreciation for fine haberdashery, kind Sir.  Now could we vacate this establishment to venture on our journey to your destination”

Douglas opened the cell door and after hauling the man to his feet put cuffs on the man’s wrists. With this they left the jail. As the sheriff already had horses waiting out front, the men mounted and started to ride out of town.  Douglas explained to Ezra that his deputy had been shot while arresting this man whose name was Blackshaw.  It seemed that Blackshaw and his friends had arrived at a neighboring farm that belonged to an elderly couple.  Saying that their horses and themselves were tired they had requested that they be allowed to rest a while. The couple had given them food and water, and then allowed them to stay in the barn for the night. The gang’s way of repaying this hospitality had been to beat the couple half to death and then steal what valuables they owned.

The sheriff and his deputy had followed the gang and upon catching up with them in a canyon some miles out of town had attempted to arrest them. In the gun battle that followed the gang had three dead members and Blackshaw, as the only one left alive, had been taken in to custody. The deputy’s wounds were minor and he would heal but the ride to Four Corners would have been just too strenuous and he won’t have been any good to the Sheriff in that state. The Sheriff had then telegraphed Four Corners asking if possibly one the seven men that protected the town could ride to Junction to help him.

“ I was very pleased when they replied back that you were only several hours away and that they would have you come and join me.  This guy shouldn’t be any problem but it is always nice to have some one watch your back.”

As they rode Ezra thought about that. How many times did he have to watch his own back when he did one con or another? It had only been recently that he had found out what it was like to have others watch out for you.  And now he had been sent by Mr. Larabee on behalf of the group to help another. This confidence from some one else was something he wasn’t use to but he was finding he really liked it.

The day was starting to become overcast as they proceeded along the dirt road and it appeared that a storm front was heading in. The wind was beginning to blow and this made the horses nervous. Ezra had hoped they would be able to reach Four Corners before the night but now it looked like they just might have to hold up and let the storm pass.  A few miles down the road, as it winded through a canyon, was a secluded area beside the river that would allow them to get out of the rain and wind. It was here that where they stopped to let the storm blow over

Douglas took Blackshaw off his horse and undoing one side of the cuffs, he then secured him to a small tree.  Blackshaw had been quiet the entire ride, having just sat on his horse with the sneering look on his face.  Now he seemed to becoming agitated glancing around him nervously but he still would not say anything. The other two men decided it was best to take turns on watch duty

Douglas took the first few hours during which the storm started to build in ferocity. By the time it was Ezra’s turn it was apparent they would not be moving for the rest of the night. This was something he was not happy about as firstly he preferred to spend cold stormy nights in the comfort of a saloon and secondly something about the way Blackshaw was acting was making him a little on edge. Maybe my comrades might see fit to ride out to accompany us the distance left, he thought. Of course they are probably warm and cozy in the saloon with a drink in hand. With the exception of Buck who was sure to be warm and cozy elsewhere in the company of a fine Mademoiselle.

As Ezra sat there pondering a sudden shadow moving caught the corner of his eye. Staying very still he attempted to identify what it was. The blow to his head came without him knowing there was some one behind him and as he fell to the ground he saw the men that rose from behind the boulders and trees around him. He heard a shot followed by a scream and then he blacked out.

A very short time later he came to only to find himself lying on the ground beside Douglas’ body.  He moved slightly, feeling the rope tied around his wrists, and the large man who stood just a short distance away walked over to him.

“ I see we are awake now. Be happy we haven’t killed you yet.”

Ezra shook his head trying to clear it and think better.

“ And may I pray tell request the answer as to why you have permitted me to continue to reside in the land of the living”

“ I needed to find out if this scoundrel said anything to you” With that the man pointed to Blackshaw, who Ezra now noticed was sitting on a stump a short distance away. He had obviously sustained a beating to his face and didn’t look too good. “ You see he made off with some property of mine and I want it back. Seeing how he doesn’t have it on him and the good sheriff is now of no condition to talk with us you are right now my only source of information.”

“ The only conversation that we partook on entailed his interest in my attire, I assure you sir”

“Well he always had a strange taste for clothes. He was a member of my group but he decided to get greedy. And I think you are probably just as greedy. He must have told you something didn’t he? ”

By this time Ezra’s mind was starting to clear up a little more and he took a good look at the man before him. A faint recognition flickered in his memory. Where have I seen that face before, he thought.

“ Well! What do you know? I know he told Douglas where he stashed the money he took. I had men in Junction. That deputy of Douglas was spouting of about what Blackshaw had been saying. Deputy thought it was kind of comical that after stealing from me, Blackie boy now wouldn’t get a chance to do anything with it. Of course he didn’t think it was so comical when we killed him”

 What!” Ezra exclaimed.

“ Yeah. Douglas wanted the loot for himself. I guess after we killed his deputy he got a little nervous. That’s why he had telegraphed for one of you guys. We didn’t expect someone would be able to turn up so quickly. So you see, you are in a no win situation. We are going to kill you any ways. You might as well tell me what you know. For right now I’ll just let you think about it.”

 With that the man walked off to where his other gang members were going through the saddlebags of Ezra and Douglas. Ezra knew that right now with his head ringing from the blow that had knocked him unconscious he was in no immediate condition to move. Even if his hands hadn’t been tied.

Ezra then realized where he knew the man from. Just before he had ridden out of Four Corners J.D. had come into the saloon with a wanted poster with this guy’s picture on it. McCormack was his name. The gang he led was wanted for the robbery and murder of a small family that had been travelling through the area on a way to a small settlement where they had purchased a new homestead.  They had accidentally left one of the members of the family alive and this person had been able to identify the gang before he actually died of the injuries sustained. The whereabouts of the gang were not known, as the dead man had not been able to say what direction they had left in.

Ezra’s friends had tried to persuade him to hold off going out on his own but he had been planning to pick up some items he had ordered and he had felt that the gang wouldn’t have risked staying in the area. He just hadn’t planned on some of the gang running away with the loot and the rest remaining behind to find them.  When the sheriff of Junction had managed to arrest Blackshaw it was stroke of good luck for the gang and a stroke of bad luck for Ezra as he now found himself right in the middle of a big problem.

As Ezra sat on the ground with the wind blowing the sand around him and the others he contemplated what his chances were. He had been removed of his holster weapons and the small Remmington he kept under his arm but he could feel the little Derringer still up his sleeve and this gave him some comfort no matter how small it was. He wondered about Douglas’s actions.  The man probably had thought that even if once they were in Four Corners and Blackshaw began to talk no one would have believed him. And the good sheriff could just leave and retrieve the goods from where ever they were.

“ I guess his fortune gazed wrongly upon him” he mumbled.

All this time Ezra had been moving his wrists around working at the ropes and he now started to feel them loosening.  With a little more twisting his hands were now free. The gang members stood a distance away from him by the fire that had been built. There was only the one guard that Ezra knew was somewhere behind him. He quietly sat and listened until he could accurately judge where that person stood.

With a flick of his wrist the Derringer was in his hand. He knew it was suicidal to try and get away especially as the horses were over the other side of the fire. But he didn’t plan to die just sitting there. So he had nothing to lose and as a gambling man he knew when to at least try the odds.

Turning around suddenly while at the same time bolting to his feet Ezra shot the cowboy behind him. He then started to run toward the tree line that seemed like an eternity away. He heard the angry shouting behind him and felt the bullets as they flew by his body. Then his odds ran out and when the bullet struck his head he collapsed in a heap only a short distance away from the trees.

McCormack walked up to the body on the ground and stood there looking at the crumbled heap. With a snarl he kicked the lifeless body.

“Shit”



 Four Corners
 

The five men sat relaxed around the table in the saloon. They each had either a drink in front of them or a hand of cards. The winning of each game was pretty well spread around between the men. This had them in a good mood as normally when Ezra was playing they were lucky to not lose their shirts when he saw fit.

JD stood by the open door looking out on the dirty street before him. The wind was picking up and creating little dirty devils which swirled around like they had a life all their own.

“ I wonder if Ezra managed to get out of the weather. It looks like it is going to get nasty out there”

“God seems to be angry at something” Josiah pondered as he lay the cards down on the table. “ I fold.”

At that time Mary came in holding a piece of paper. Seeing Chris at the table she walked over with a concerned look on her face.

“ Chris I just received this telegram for you from Junction. It seems that the body of their deputy was just found in a canyon outside of town. And they wanted to know if the sheriff had gotten here yet so he could be informed. Didn’t you tell me that you had Mr. Standish join up with that sheriff to ride down here.”

“ Let me see that” Chris put up his hand and Mary handed over the telegram. After reading it himself Chris informed the others of what it said.

“ Seems the deputy was shot recently. The telegram the sheriff sent me said that while his deputy had been shot he was only wounded.  This doesn’t make sense. We had better ride out to see if we can meet up with Ezra and the sheriff in case there are any problems.”

“ Do you think the weather will hold until we get to Ezra” JD asked of the more experienced men. Chris looked at Vin.

“ We should have at least a few hours before it gets bad. We will just have to ride until it is not possible to go further or we meet up with them.

With that the six men strode out of the building to the barn to get their horses.  Each had thoughts going through their minds but all the minds were on the same thing. Hoping that nothing had happened to their companion.



 
 

The sound the old man made while stoking the wood stove was the first thing he noticed.  The next was the pounding of his head and the nausea that threatened to take over.  He attempted to open his eyes but that in itself proved to painful at the time.

“ Steady there.” he heard. “ You got a nasty wound on your head and you shouldn’t move too much.”

“Where am I”

“ In my cabin. I found you out by the river. Personally I thought you were dead. You sure looked it. Of course that other fellow you were with is definitely not of this world any more.”

The old man bent down beside the cot and raised a cup of something vile to his mouth. Feeling as bad as he did, he still couldn’t help grimacing at the smell.

“ This is good for you. Drink some of it and then rest”

Ezra sipped some of the liquid and then placed his head back on the pillow.  As the blackness overcame him again he suddenly realized that he couldn’t remember anything, that everything was a blur. But before he could worry about it he was unconscious


Charlie whistled softly to himself as he changed the bandages on the younger man's head.

He had been travelling home when he had come upon the two bodies lying off to the side of the trail. Charlie had been in a hurry trying to beat the storm.  He probably wouldn't have even seen anything if it hadn't been for the wind picking up the ends of the bright red coat on the body a distance from him.  His eyes weren't what they used to be but this had stood out. As he walked his mule over to the man he had almost stumbled over the other one

Turning the man over he realized the bullet wound to the chest left no doubt the man was dead.  Charlie continued to the second man expecting the same.  The blood around the man's head did nothing to change this idea. So he was very surprised at the small groan he received when he attempted to move him.

Knowing the man was seriously hurt and also knowing he couldn't just leave him there Charlie had a decision to make. He was a real loner and had no need for other human contact. He was an old man and was perfectly happy finishing off his years on his own. He had built a small cabin in a secluded area and nobody ever bothered him. The only time he needed to go to any type of civilization was when he had to replenish some of his supplies. This was what he had been doing before he had found himself with a wounded man on his hands.

Now he realized he would have to take another to his home. The injured man would never survive a ride to the nearest town and besides the weather was starting to get bad enough he wasn't going to risk the distance himself. It would be a tough going just getting to his own place. He proceeded to take all the items of Digger the mule that he could carry himself. With some effort he managed to get the smaller man up on the mule’s back. Luckily Digger was used to a lot of strange things and hadn’t moved around too much. Once up the man had been tied to prevent him from falling off. Charlie then picked up all his other items and, with a quick glance around, proceeded home as fast as he dared.

It had taken about two hours through the woods before the cabin was reached.  Charlie had been surprised the other man had been able to survive the trip.

“ Luck must be your middle name Mister,” he said as he got him off the mule and into the building where he lay him on the only bed. He quickly got some clean clothes and bandaged up the head wound. With this done Charlie took the time to unpack Digger and get him stabled. The mule didn’t like rain and the storm starting to get bad had been guaranteed to bother the animal.  As the creature was the only friend Charlie had or wanted he looked after him the best he could.

It wasn’t until the next morning that Charlie started wondering about who this man was and what was his origin. The night had been spent just caring for him so Charlie hadn’t pondered over these questions, being more concerned with saving his life. His curiosity was aroused though by the arrival of the two men who appeared on his property asking questions.



 

It had been a long night for the others. The bad weather had impeded their search and so they had had to take shelter for a valuable part of the night.  Not much conversation had gone on as each man had just sat quietly by the warming fire.

Once the sun had finally begun to rise they were able to start again.  Vin had led the way looking for any signs that would give them hope. While he didn’t voice his thoughts even the others knew that the night’s rains had diminished any tracks. Their worse thoughts appeared possible when they had found the sheriff’s body. An area search for Ezra had been futile. All that had been found of his was the extra coat he had taken with him and the parcel he had originally left Four Corners to pick up. This parcel had been torn apart and whatever the strong winds hadn’t picked up were strewn around the campsite.

The night’s heavy rains had resulted in a surge of the river’s strength and size. Vin had stood at the water’s banks and had realized the possibility that if Ezra had been hurt and caught in its path he wouldn’t have survived.

“What do we do now?”  JD asked.

“ Josiah. You and JD go to Junction and find out what happened there.” Chris responded. “  They also need to know what happened to their sheriff. Buck. You and Nathan start searching to the south. Check any farms or talk to any people you come across.  See if you can get any information. Vin and I will do the same to the north.  Ezra is not here and I won’t believe anything has happened to him until we have proof.”

With that he turned his back on the others and walked to his horse. Even though he was normally a quiet man this coldness was unusually even for him. It was Buck who finally spoke up for the rest.

“ It’s not your fault, Chris.  You didn’t know that whatever has become of Ezra could have happened. You thought like the rest of us that it was a simple escort. Besides Ezra has to take some of the blame. It was him that decided to go pick up the parcels and not stay in town.”

“ I know but I still feel like we let him down”

The six men all mounted and went on their separate ways to search for any sign their missing companion was still alive.



 

After checking out several other settlements and farms it was now about midafternoon when Chris and Vin rode up to the small cabin. They hadn’t gotten any information yet to any of their questions and didn’t think they would get much more from the “ crazy old mountain man” one of the farmers had told them about.

After much riding and so little success they were already in a bad mood and this didn’t improve when they were met by the muzzle of a rifle pointed at them.

“ What do you want?” was their welcome.

“ We are looking for a man” Chris replied having a hard time keeping his temper.         “Maybe you have seen him. A really snappy dresser.”

“ I ain’t seen no one and now I want you off my land.” The man empathized this by waving the rifle at them. Chris started to put his hand on his gun but Vin’s hand on his arm caused him to pause. Gathering his thought he realized the old man was only responding to them being on his property.  He turned his black gelding around and trotted off. Vin tipped his hat to the old man and followed his friend. Both thought that this was obviously a dead end.

The old man held them in his rifle sights until they were a distance away. Finally lowering the gun and breathing a sigh of relief that there had been no sound from inside the cabin, Charlie quietly said to himself “ I wonder what kind of trouble you are in young man to have people like that after you. They look like a real problem”

With that he went inside to check on his guest.


About Two Weeks Later

Four Corners
 

The six had managed to each keep busy over the last few weeks since they had met back up in Four Corners with no good news to pass on. Josiah had taken it upon himself top collect all of Ezra’s belongings from the hotel room and store them away. He had also been trying to contact Maude but had not been successful yet in finding her.  Nathan had been spending time in the Indian village helping wherever he could. The others had similarly kept themselves occupied. They spent a lot of time apart as whenever all six had reason to meet the blank seventh spot was achingly apparent.

One of the things that did manage to keep them preoccupied was the growing number of raids on farms around the neighboring towns.


Small Camp in the Wilderness
 

McCormack was not a happy man. He knew he should have left this area a while ago but he wasn’t going anywhere until he found what was his.

Blackshaw had been a disappointment. Nothing had been gained from him.  And then only three days after getting him from the sheriff and the fancy man, the coward had tried to escape. This time in the gun battle that had followed not only Blackshaw but another of McCormack’s men were dead. This had left McCormack with only two other members left of his original gang with which to find his money.

So it was to his amazement and glee that one of his men came back from scouting the next person they were going to raid with some information he knew his boss would want. At the cabin he had checked out he had seen a person that McCormack had been sure was dead. McCormack couldn’t believe that the man he had shot was alive but since as it was apparent he was, McCormack became determined he would gather the information he required about his missing cash from him. The information he was sure the fancy man had.


Charlie's Cabin
 

Charlie chuckled to himself as he watched the younger man trying to use the axe to split the slab of wood. This was definitely something he was not used to doing. But then again Charlie was pretty sure manual labour itself was and unfamiliar to his guest.

The last few weeks had been interesting to Charlie. The man had made a reasonable recovery from his injuries even though he still physically needed to gain more strength. Not being able to remember anything was the only major drawback of his recuperation.  They had spent hours attempting to find things that might trigger a memory. While some items resulted in a flickering of familiarity, nothing made a breakthrough.

Charlie had not told the man about the two who had been looking for him. He felt that until the young man could properly defend himself physically and mentally mentioning this would be detrimental. Instead he had talked about himself and the land he loved around him.

Charlie had left civilization when his son and family had been killed and the town where they had lived had rallied around the murderer. This had only been because the killer had been the son of the most prominent man in the area. Charlie had turned his back on people and gone into the mountains with disgust and a lonely hurt in his heart.

Now the interesting young man had been helping easy some of the old pain.  The fancy clothes he had been wearing when injured had been ruined. The only clothes Charlie had that would fit him had been some of his son’s which he had kept stored in a wooden chest.  His friend was very soft-spoken and well versed. He used large words that could confuse Charlie at times. But it was apparent that this was his natural way of talking so Charlie did nothing to discourage it hoping this might spur some memories.

Last night they had had a breakthrough of some type. Charlie had been showing his companion some mementos that he kept to remember his old life. These items all had special meaning to him, which he passed on as he brought each keepsake out of the cabinet he had kept them in.

The bible his wife had given him on their wedding day. A small leather pouch his grandson had made for him just before he died. A pack of cards he had used to keep his family preoccupied during long winter months……

It was these cards that had brought the first real glimmer of recognition he had seen. His comrade had picked up the deck and just sat there holding them in his hands. Then slowly, his fingers had begun to do their work. At first he began just shuffling the deck. This proceeded into moving one card deftly around to another spot. A smile had crept onto his face.  He hadn’t quite remembered the details but the memory of sitting at a table working a deck like this, while several others amazingly watched him, had begun to firmly plant itself in his mind. He had been starting to remember.

He had continued to work the deck but once the ace of spades had come up he had paused. He had a vision of him sitting with a young Indian boy showing him this same card. This had been a strange thought and he had puzzled over it.  Long after Charlie had gone to bed on the blankets where he had been sleeping on the cabin floor, his friend had just sat on the porch looking up at the night sky. Other memories were beginning to build up but they still hung hazily in the background of his consciousness.

But now, the next morning, he found himself trying to cut firewood without axing himself.
“ A gentleman does not indulge himself with menial labor.” He muttered, not really thinking.  He was just starting to gain enough strength to exert himself like this. But without knowing why he already knew that physical work was not an activity he normally partook of. Laying the axe down he stretched his back and glanced over to Charlie. He appreciated all the old man had done for him although he knew he would have to leave shortly. He wasn’t learning much about himself here and he felt that getting around other people was what he needed.

The sun glinting off the rifle barrel was the first indication of trouble.

“ Charlie. Get down.” He yelled.

Charlie spun around to see what the alarm was about. This movement was what saved his life. The bullet that had been aimed at his heart instead slammed into his upper arm. He stumbled back onto the porch and into the cabin.  Dropping the axe and swerving as he ran, his friend also bolted into the cabin.

“ Guns! Where are they” he gasped. The only weapon he actually knew about was the rifle that Charlie had now grabbed and held tucked under his uninjured arm.

“ Lower drawer of the cabinet. Bullets in there too.” was the reply he received.

Keeping his head lower then the windows, he crept over to the cabinet. His heart pounding he started pulling out the guns. Maybe it was the adrenaline pumping through his system or maybe it was the small Derringer he now held in his hand but suddenly the walls blocking his memories came down. Ezra felt like he had been punched. The faces of his friends, his mother, the saloon, and other reminders almost made his eyes tear up. It all came back in a rush including the last few minutes before he had been shot. A gut feeling he now had said that it was McCormack who was shooting at them. Charlie had been watching him as well as keeping an eye outside. He saw the change over his friend face and knew he remembered who he was.

“ We can do the introductions later.” he called over to Ezra.

Gathering the guns Ezra returned to where Charlie had opened one of the cabin windows and had been trying to see their attackers. Handing Charlie one of the guns Ezra proceeded over to the other window. Through this he glanced out and saw movement along the tree line. Without even thinking he took aim and fired. The figure fell to the ground.

It became very quiet inside the cabin and out. Movement was now nil. Ezra knew he had to do something. While not seriously hurt Charlie still definitely needed help and they couldn’t stay here.  Indicating to Charlie to be prepared to start shooting, Ezra moved to the door. Throwing it open and bolting outside he ran to the side of the building. Starting to shoot continuously, and with Charlie now shooting also, he rushed to the nearby trees. He paused to catch his breath and try to figure out how many individuals there were.

Ezra progressed through the trees keeping an eye out for any movement around him. He continued until he came upon the saddled horses. Finding only three he knew that he only had two opponents as he had already shot the one.

The swishing of the bush behind him caused him to swirl around shooting. Flinging himself to the ground to avoid being shot, he turned his head just enough to see the second gang member stagger out and fall. Ezra’s bullet had hit its mark again.

“ Hey Fancy man.” He heard being yelled. “ Get out here or your friend is dead.” With a sickening feeling Ezra realized the third man must have somehow got to Charlie. Getting up from where he had fallen, he slowly walked out of the trees into the cabin’s clearing.  There he saw Charlie standing weakly within the neck grasp of the larger man. With most of his memory restored Ezra had no problem recognizing McCormack.

“ Walk up here slowly” McCormack ordered Ezra who proceeded as requested. “ Now stop and put your guns on the ground.”  Ezra did this.  McCormack thrust the old man away from him. Charlie promptly collapsed to the ground. McCromack, with his gun drawn, walked towards Ezra, What he didn’t see was Charlie reach over and grab the piece of wood Ezra earlier had been trying to split.  Struggling to his feet he managed quietly to come up behind McCormack. Mustering up his last ounce of strength he brought the wood down against the man’s head.

Just as Ezra had collapsed when he had been shot, McCormack now fell. Before Ezra could get to him, Charlie also sank exhausted to the ground. But he still managed to grin at Ezra

“ I guess that is two you owe me”

Ezra decided not to tell him that when he had collected the guns in the cabin he had taken a brief moment to strap the Derringer to his arm. When McCormack had ordered him to drop his guns he had done so knowing he still had the concealed weapon.

After tying up the dazed McCromack Ezra helped Charlie bandage up his arm wound. It wasn’t a bad injury but Ezra knew it should be looked after. While doing this Ezra explained to Charlie who he was and why McCormack was after him. Retrieving the three horses of McCormack’s, Ezra helped Charlie mount one of them. He then got McCormack on another and tied him to the saddle. The third he mounted himself, after getting Digger the mule so he wouldn’t be left behind.

Now Ezra was torn between decisions. He figured there was probably a closer town then Four Corners and he really should get Charlie there but he also had a deep ache to get back to his own town.  Charlie made the decision for him sensing the younger man thoughts.

“I’m a tough old geezer. I can handle a few extra hours riding with this little scratch. Let’s get you home”


About Seven Hours Later
 

Dusk saw stillness in Four Corners. Chris, Vin, Josiah, and Nathan were in the saloon. JD and Buck were about due back from riding patrol of the surrounding area. No one saw the three figures riding up the dirt street and stop in front of the jail.

Ezra dismounted and then untied McCormack’s hands from the saddle. Standing back he motioned, with gun drawn, for the man to get off the horse. They proceeded into the jail where Ezra secured the dejected man in one of the cells. Looking over the jail desk he found the wanted poster for McCormack. This he stuck on the wood beam by the cell using the nail already hammered into the wood.

Going outside he took the reins of Charlie’s horse and walked him over to the store above which Nathan had his room. Helping Charlie down Ezra then got him up the stairs. A knock on the door brought no response.  After finding the door unlocked Ezra got Charlie into the room and onto the bed. Charlie had handled the long ride well but it had still been exhausting for the injured old man. Ezra then left to find what he expected would be some men in for a surprise.

Nathan was at the table sharpening one of his knives. Chris and Vin both just sat with a drink in their hands watching Josiah write a letter to Maude. This was the second letter he had written. He didn’t know whether the first one had reached her but he was determined she be informed of Ezra’s most likely death.

He had just dipped the pen nib in the ink and was putting it to the paper when the arrival of someone through the saloon door caused him to glance up. He didn’t know why he did this as plenty of other people had been coming and going all evening and the four men had ignored them all. The first thing he acknowledged was the brushing off of the dirt from his coat arm that this person was doing. His eyes then went to the man’s face and his jaw dropped.  Vin was about to make a comment about the mess that Josiah’s immobile pen was making on the paper when he noticed the astonished look. Chris and Nathan also saw the look. As a group they all turned to see what had frozen the normally unflappable man.

There standing in the doorway and now turning their direction was Ezra Standish. Vin moved towards Ezra so quickly the chair he had been sitting in crashed to the floor. The other three were equally fast. Questions poured out of their mouths.  The other saloon patrons couldn’t believe how much the usually reserved men were saying. But they all acknowledged the huge smiles that lit up each of their faces.

“ Before I can converse on my misfortunes which I most assure I will, I must insist on requesting the expertise of Mr. Jackson. My travelling companion requires his immediate attention.”

Before they could turn and leave JD and Buck burst through the saloon doors. JD, not noticing who actually stood in front of him, exciting exclaimed to Chris.

“ We just got back and went to the jail first. How did that guy McCormack get there. He wouldn’t say any thing.  Would he, Buck?

JD turned to Buck and caught the big grin that was going from ear to ear. It was then that JD saw the man in front of him. He couldn’t believe his eyes.

“Ezra?”

“ Good evening Mr. Dunne. I hear by your virtuous comments you have come across the conniving varmint I caused to reside in the fine establishment of a jail.”

“ Boy you must really have one hell of a story for us” Vin chuckled. “ But maybe Nathan had better look after your friend first”

“ I will look forward to orating my adventures believe you. It is extremely rewarding and welcoming to be able to remember it all."

The other men all felt there was some underlining meaning to their friends words but all they thought of now was the seventh had returned and they were whole again.
 

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