Ezra stretched his legs trying to get some of the kinks out so he
was ready to make his escape. His shoulders ached from having
his arms tied behind him for so long. He had been given plenty
of water by his captors, but no food so he was a little weak. He
wasn't worried about Hank he didn't think the man's heart was in
this, but Mac Tilly was another matter, he was desperate and that
made a person dangerous. Ezra watched as Hank and Mac gathered
up their belongings, Hank would occasionally glance over at him
and he recognized the face of regret. He knew he had to make
his move quick he was running out of time. He was almost through
his bounds, one more rub and suddenly they snapped apart. Ezra
kept his hands behind his back flexing his fingers to circulate
the blood. He didn't know how to get down off the butte since he
had been brought up in less than a coherent state. Ezra watched
as Hank and Mac turned their backs going to their horses. He
felt this was going to be his last opportunity. He stood up
hearing his knees crack and winced at the sound. He skirted the
edge of the butte hoping to find a way down.
Hank turned to pick up his saddle, he saw Ezra, and paused a
moment, secretly hoping the man would escape. He knew Mac was
about to spot him so he yelled, "Hey, Stop!" For a moment Ezra
thought this was funny, did they really think he would stop then
he felt the bullet tear through his shoulder throwing him back.
He seemed to hang in mid air for several moments then where he
should of landed on firm hard ground his body cut through open
thin air as he fell off the cliff. The two men looked at each
other as Ezra vanished from sight. They ran to the cliff edge
and cautiously peered over, but all they could see was the rocky,
winding river which ran in the center of the ravine about a
hundred feet below.
"WHY DID YOU DO THAT?" Hank yelled at Mac who still held his gun
loosely in his hand.
"Shut up!" Mac yelled in return his eyes darting around the
campsite. He ran his hand through his thinning dark hair. This
was not going as planned. An idea suddenly came to him, it was a
weak one, but the only one he could think of. "Take the bed rolls
and make it look like someone is under them, I'm going to meet
Mrs. Standish and get the statue." Mac glared at Hank who for a
moment held his ground. "Be prepared to make a break for it.
When you hear a gun shot take off and meet me at Devil's Rock."
Hank looked back at the place that the gambler was last, he bit
his lower lip sadden at the fact that he was partially
responsible. He bowed his head and turned to comply with Mac's
The six gunmen and Maude rode silently towards the rendezvous
point. Maude, Josiah and Nathan rode ahead of the others. Maude
gave a sidelong glance trying to catch Josiah's eye but he kept
his head down allowing his horse to pick it's own way. He stared
down at the ground not seeing anything. He listened to the rhythmic
four beat of his horse's hooves striking the hard packed dirt.
He knew he shouldn't of been surprised by Maude's behavior, but he was.
Everyone was told that Maude had lied and did in fact steal the
statue and was going to keep it even at the risk of Ezra's life.
Nathan looked over at Josiah whose face seemed to have aged ten
years. His eyes could not hide the pain he felt their normal
brightness replaced with an abiding sadness. Nathan still could
not believe that Ezra's own mother would do such a thing. He now
better understood why Ezra was the way he was and he was sorry.
Ezra had no idea how long he laid on the hard rocky surface. The
rock was warm under his cheek. He tried to move but it brought
instant pain to every part of his body. His right hand clenched
grabbing a handful of dirt. He decided the more prudent avenue
would be to just stay still. His shoulder and arm throbbed, but
he wasn't sure why. His head was the worse it felt like he had been
kicked by a horse. He slowly managed to open his eyes and looked
out over a beautiful vista. He could see the next butte and actually
found himself admiring the many layered colors that it held.
seemed so vivid even the sky appeared bluer than he had ever seen it.
He heard the melodious call of an eagle enjoying the currents of
warm air which rose and fell
between the mesas. He was never much of a nature lover, but he
had to admit, this was a good place to die. His eyes slowly
As they neared the rendezvous point Chris, Vin, JD and Buck held
back as Josiah and Nathan followed Maude forward. Josiah shook
off his despair he knew he had to be alert for Ezra's sake.
Maude might not care about her son but he and the others did.
Ezra was a part of them, a part they did not want to lose.
Mr. Tilly stepped out from behind several scrub trees pointing a
gun at the threesome. He saw the four gunslingers who held back.
What's goin' on?" He demanded looking straight at Maude. Josiah
and Nathan carefully dismounted and Nathan helped Maude down.
She clutched the wrapped statue to her chest. Josiah and Nathan
both opened their coats showing that neither was armed. Mac was
nervous he kept slapping his left hand against his leg. He
regarded the two men through narrow eyes.
"You didn't expect me to come out here alone," Maude explained.
Josiah saw fear come to Mac's face and knew he had to reassure
"Listen, we have your statue, we just want Ezra and no one has to
get hurt," Josiah stated.
Mac stood still for awhile contemplating this, he also just
wanted this over with and for some reason he believed the big
man. He looked back at the four other men who hadn't moved, then
let out a tense breath.
"Alright, but if my partner hears any shooting or I don't come
back the gambler is a dead man," he lied saying this loud enough
for the others to hear. Josiah nodded his understanding. "Okay
let's get this over with, lay the statue down then back up," Mac
growled at Maude.
"What about Ezra?" Nathan queried as he secretly palmed a knife,
the blade running alongside his wrist.
"I'll tell you where he is, you give me a head start than you can
go get him."
Josiah noticed that Mac's eyes shifted down as he said this and
fear gripped his insides.
Maude took a couple steps forward then bent down keeping her eyes
on Mac Tilly. She gave the man a wary smile as she laid the
cloth wrapped statue down and backed away, but not too far.
Nathan casually edged up behind her, he had to get close enough
to catch the man's gun arm. He would only get one chance and if
he missed it could mean Ezra's life.
Chris had planned this he didn't like being at the mercy of
anyone and hoped to get the upper hand. Mac kept his gun trained
on Maude assuming that the gunslingers wouldn't risk a woman's
life. He slowly bent down and unwrapped the statue. His grin
turned askew as he looked upon a plain rock. "What the hell is
this!" Mac yelled. Josiah's eyes widen in disbelief and he
turned to Maude showing the betrayal he felt. Nathan let his
knife fly striking Mac in the forearm causing him to drop his
gun. Josiah lunged at him knocking him over. He held him down
as Chris, JD, Vin and Buck raced over.
Chris approached Mac who Josiah pulled roughly up to his feet.
Nathan came over and quickly tied off the wound on his arm.
Chris felt little animosity towards this man, he realized he only
wanted his property, but he wanted Ezra. Chris looked down
at the rock which Maude had used in place of the statue. He
glared angrily at the gray-haired woman the disgust not hidden
on his harden face, he could not understand how she could risk Ezra's
Maude stood quietly off to the side ignoring the men's obvious
disgust towards her. Her face showed none of the emotions
that raced inside her. Everything was going according to plan.
She'd be able to keep the statue, her son would be rescued and
Gil Brok would think twice about pulling anything again.
Chris grabbed Mac Tilly by the shirt. "Listen to me, we'll give
you back the statue we just want Ezra."
Mac laughed, "Yeah right, another trick."
Chris' anger was rising he was not in the mood to debate with
this man, he drew his gun and pointed it directly into Mac's
"Now, are you going to show us?" Chris menacingly asked.
"If you shoot me my man will kill him," Mac sneered. Buck
casually picked up Nathan's knife.
"Here Chris try this," Buck stated with a malicious smile,
handing Chris the knife.
Fear suddenly came to Mac's face as Chris placed the point into
his throat. The cocky grin evaporated as he looked into Chris'
icy blue eyes. Mac swallowed hard he didn't know what to do he
was afraid if he told this man that Ezra was dead he'd kill him
right here and now. So he did the only thing he could, he lied,
hoping to at least buy a few more minutes of life and a possible
Hank turned to the sound of several cocking guns all pointed
directly at him. He slowly put his hands up as he looked at the
six angry men standing before him. He recognized the black
dressed man as the one from the saloon and felt a lump in his
throat. JD came over and removed his guns. Hank noticed that
the young man was a sheriff and was somewhat relieved, hoping
that the young man would protect them. Because right now he was
deathly afraid of the black-dressed gunslinger.
Vin went over to the unmoving lump covered with blankets.
"Ezra," he quietly spoke, fear clutching his insides. He threw
off the blankets only to look down at an empty bed roll. He
called over to Chris. "He's not here!"
Chris turned to Mac shoving his pistol into his face. "Where is
A cold chill went through Maude and fear finally came to her
eyes. He must of got away, Maude thought and tried to hold on to
that thought as the fear built in her.
Mac figured either way he was a dead man so he kept silent.
Hank, fearing his own life and feeling guilty about what had
happened decided that this had gone to far and declared somewhat
reluctantly, "He's dead."
Maude gasped bringing her hand to her mouth, her legs buckled
and Buck grabbed her just in time. Hank bowed his head. "I'm
sorry it wasn't suppose to happen this way."
"What happened?" Vin approached the young man his own anger
reaching the boiling point. He grabbed the young man by the shirt
almost holding him up off the ground. Josiah came up behind the
buck-skin clad tracker and placed a calming hand on Vin's
"Son, I suggest you tell us, as we've been lied to enough today,"
Josiah said then turned to glare at Maude whose face was streaked
with tears. Josiah wondered if they were real, but gave her the
benefit of the doubt.
Hank looked over at JD who only stood and glared at him grasping
the butt of his guns his knuckles turning white. Hank looked up
at the tall ex-preacher and he replied quickly, "He tried to
escape, Mac shot him and he fell off the cliff over there."
Hank pointed to the place where Ezra fell. Vin and Josiah raced
over followed by JD. Buck maintained a steadying arm on Maude
and helped her towards the cliff's edge.
She felt that her world was falling apart, it was not suppose to
happen this way. She loved Ezra she just didn't know how to show
it. She raised him like she herself was raised and never thought
anything was wrong with it.
Vin laid flat on his stomach and inched his way over the edge to
peer down. He pushed back some of his long loose hair. "I see
him! He's about twenty feet down caught on a ledge."
Chris kept his gun on Mac and Hank his eyes never leaving the two
men. "Can you tell if he's alive?" Chris called to the bounty
"No, he's on his stomach, it looks like he might of hit a bush
going down, maybe it broke his fall," Vin explained.
"Okay, rig a line, Nathan you'll have to go down and see how he
is," Chris ordered. Nathan acknowledged this with a nod.
Chris grabbed Mac by his injured arm taking pleasure at the pain
he caused him, he forced him closer to the edge.
"Hey, what are you doing?" Mac shouted without realizing it.
Panic was finding its way into his soul and trying to take over.
He looked into Larabee's ice blue eyes and fear gripped his
insides twisting them in knots.
Chris pushed him until his left foot started over the edge
sending pebbles and dirt sprinkling down. Mac grabbed Chris'
arm to keep his balance. "If he's dead, I'm throwing you off,"
Chris replied in a curiously flat voice. For a moment Mac
thought he couldn't be serious, but when he looked into those
eyes there was little doubt. He looked towards the others
pleadingly, but was rewarded with unconcerned looks.
"Please, I was just following orders. I had to get that statue
back," Mac pleaded, almost babbling. He knew he was close to
hysterics, but didn't care, for the first time he feared for his
Chris realized he was taking all his anger out on Mr. Tilly when
there was someone else to blame, but he was taught never to
strike a woman.
Josiah, Buck, JD and Vin manned the ropes, slowly lowering the
healer down the vertical face, sand and rock crumbled under each
step. Ezra had landed on a ledge which was only about five feet
wide by seven feet long. When Nathan reached the ledge he
straddled the gambler and paused, afraid to check for something
he might not find. He noticed the pool of blood, which had
soaked into the rock under his shoulder. He took a deep breath
and knelt down placing two fingers against Ezra's neck. It was a
moment, but Nathan felt a very faint pulse. He looked up the
cliff face to see Vin's worried gaze. "He's alive!"
Everyone let out a breath including Mac Tilly who almost
collapsed with relief. "That man has more lives than a cat," Buck
voiced bringing a slight chuckle from JD and Vin.
Chris motioned for Mac and Hank to move back. "Buck, get some
rope and tie them up."
Nathan did a cursory once over on the gambler, the ledge was to
narrow to turn him over. It looked like his left side took the
brunt of the fall, including his head which seriously worried the
dark healer. He carefully fixed the noose over Ezra's head and
under his arms. "Okay take him up, slowly," Nathan yelled up to
the top. The rope grew taut and Ezra was slowly lifted up.
Nathan guided him as far as he could. He looked at Ezra's pale,
slack face. His left side was soaked in blood. He watched as
Vin and Josiah reached over the rim and grabbed him by his
jacket hoisting him the rest of the way up. The rope was thrown
back down and Nathan was then pulled up. When he reached the top
he immediately went to Ezra's side. Maude was cradling Ezra's
head in her lap her face no longer hiding the emotions she felt
as she looked down at her injured son. She looked up
momentarily, seeing the six gunslingers surrounding them and
understood for the first time why Ezra stayed. Nathan ran his
experienced hands over Ezra's body he then opened his vest and
"Buck help me take off his jacket and shirt."
Buck knelt down, carefully lifting Ezra up so Nathan could remove
his jacket and blood soaked shirt. Everyone's eyes widen and
Maude had to stifle a gasp. Luckily the bullet had gone clean
through, but Ezra's whole left side was nothing but one huge
bruise. His smooth muscular chest was covered in blood.
Nathan worried because Ezra hadn't made a sound throughout the
whole examination. He felt three broken ribs and knew he had
lost a lot of blood. He had a wicked gash on the side of his
head and a broken left arm. What really worried Nathan was the
possibility of internal injuries, but he didn't voice his
concern, if there was internal damage Ezra would die and there
was nothing anyone could do. "How long was he down there,"
Nathan shouted to the two tied men.
Buck aimed his revolver at them to hurry their response. "Ah,
about three hours," Hank nervously muttered.
"Nathan." Nathan looked over into Maude's watery eyes. "Is he
going to be alright?"
Nathan looked up at the others and replied, "I don't know, we
have to get him back to town, but we need to make a travois to
carry him in."
"Vin, JD go and find something we can use for poles," Chris
ordered. The two raced off without question.
Ezra moaned slightly bringing everyone to his side. Maude looked
up at Josiah, Buck and Chris who seemed to show genuine concern
for her son.
"Ezra, come on open your eyes," Josiah plaintively asked. Ezra's
eyes opened slowly, blinked, then remained open trying to focus
on the faces that swam above him. Maude caressed his fevered
"Ezra, how do you feel?" Nathan asked in a strong slow voice
trying to cut through the fog of Ezra's mind.
"Hurt," he replied in a hoarse whisper. Ezra began coughing and
choked back a scream as pain racked his body. He tried to curl
up, but Buck and Nathan held him still. Chris knelt down at his
side to help he still wanted to throw the men responsible off the
cliff and decided he better do something or he would. The spasm
stopped, leaving Ezra exhausted and even more pale. Chris soaked
a cloth and placed it on Ezra's head.
Buck had turned to see sympathy in Hank's face and some of his
anger left him.
Ezra wet his lips and swallowed, his chest rattled with each
painful breath he took. He turned his head and furrowed his brow
as he looked upon his mother's face. "Mother?"
Maude smiled. "You're going to be okay, son," she soothed
smoothing down his sweat drenched hair. She couldn't stand to
see him in pain. Even when he was a child she would ignore it or
send him away so she didn't have to deal with it.
Buck knelt down next to Maude and helped to bring Ezra's head up
as Nathan placed a cup of water to his lips. "Here Ezra, drink
this it'll help with the pain."
Ezra managed a couple sips then slowly slipped back into
Buck came and took Maude around the shoulders and slowly forced
her up and away, her eyes never leaving Ezra's slack face. He
helped her over to a rock where she sat. Buck glared at the
woman then turned and walked away. Maude watched as Nathan
cleaned Ezra's head wound and wrapped a bandage around it. He
cleaned and put herbs on his shoulder wound then he set his
broken arm and wrapped his ribs.
Vin and JD returned with two stout poles. They used the bedrolls
and made a travois which they attached to Chris' horse then they
slowly moved out.
When they reached town JD and Vin pulled Hank and Mac off their
horses none to gently. Hank stopped and looked down at Ezra then
turned sad brown eyes up at Chris. "I'm sorry." Chris ignored
him and Vin and JD shoved them towards the jail. Josiah and
Chris carefully carried Ezra up to Nathan's room. Maude followed
close behind she knew she was no longer welcomed, but she was not
going to leave her son's side. She kept telling herself that
Ezra would understand.
As they placed Ezra on Nathan's bed a small groan escaped his
lips. "Ezra, can you hear me?" Nathan quietly coaxed. Chris,
Buck and Josiah backed up against the wall. Maude had gone to
the other side of the bed and sat next to his head. Nathan took
a cloth and wet it putting it on Ezra's fevered brow.
Buck moved closer to Ezra's bed. "C'mon pard come on back," he
Ezra's eyes fluttered opened, everything was blurry and he closed
them again bringing his hand up which caused him considerable
pain. Someone took it and gently forced it back down. He could
hear murmurings like a low atonal hum all around him. He tried
again to open his eyes, shapes were starting to form and Ezra
wrinkled his brow trying to bring them into focus. His head hurt
something terrible and every breath he took was painful, it felt
like someone was sitting on his chest. He managed a faint smile
as Nathan's concerned face came into focus. "Nathan?" he asked in
a pain-husky voice. Nathan smiled.
Ezra turned a heavy head slowly towards Maude. "What happened?
Are you alright mother?"
"Yes dear, you just rest," Maude softly replied placing a
comforting hand over Ezra's. He had so many questions but his
eyes grew heavy and darkness swept him away. Josiah abruptly
walked out. Maude heard him leave and bowed her head. She raised
her eyes to meet Nathan, Chris and Buck's accusing stares. "I
did it for him too. I can buy him that saloon he's always
wanted, he doesn't have to stay in this accursed town."
"The statue goes back," Chris stated coolly and walked out.
Chris sat down in the chair next to Josiah who stared morosely at
the beer in front of him. "She was willing to trade Ezra's life
for that statue, I can't get past that," Josiah muttered still
staring at the amber liquor on the table.
"I don't understand it either, Josiah," Chris replied. "And I'm
not so sure Ezra will either."
Everyone took turns watching over Ezra throughout the night. He
had become delirious brought on by the high fever which came with
the infected head wound. Several times he had to be held down so
he wouldn't injure himself more. Maude had to leave early on,
she couldn't stand hearing the rantings of her son. JD had
promised to keep her informed as he was the only one even
remotely talking to her.
Nathan entered the room the next morning to find JD asleep
in a chair. Chris was sitting in a chair next to the bed his
eyes on the gambler's slowly rising chest, afraid if he looked
away his chest would cease to rise. Nathan came over and placed
a dark hand on Ezra's pale forehead. "I think his fever is
coming down the worse should be over, Chris. He should be
alright as long as no complications set it." Nathan placed a
hand on Chris' shoulder breaking him from his task. "You and JD
should go and get some rest I'll take over."
Chris nodded and went and shook JD.
"Wha..What? is Ezra..."
"He's okay. I need you to come with me, there's something we
have to do."
Chris kicked in the door to Maude's room and stormed in, followed
meekly by JD.
"How dare you?" Maude yelled. "What gives you the right?"
had just finished putting some clothes into the chest of drawers
which sat against the wall under an open window.
Chris ignored her and went to the bag which sat on the bed and
started rummaging through it.
JD stood in the doorway his hat in his hand, trying to appear
respectful. He knew she didn't deserve it, but it was hard to
break from years of teaching. He was always taught that his
elders were right and should be respected no matter what.
Chris removed the statue and glared at Maude. "This goes back
it's rightful owner." He turned his back on Maude, stopped and
said, "Ezra's fever broke."
JD tipped his hat remorsefully. "Sorry, ma'am," and followed
Chris out. Maude stood silently and watched them go her hands
clenched in fists of rage. She had lost this hand.
It was several days before Ezra was lucid enough to know what was
going on around him. Nathan kept visitors to a minimum, but
Maude was at his bedside most of the time holding his hand and
talking softly to him. Most of the men thought this was too
little to late, but didn't interfere, unfortunately she was still
Ezra was getting frustrated he couldn't remember much about what
happened. He remembered trying to escape, but by the way he felt
he didn't think that went to well. No one would tell him what
had gone on. Even his mother tapped danced around the events of
the past few days. Everyone gave vague answers then made excuses
and left. He always thought he was the only evasive one.
After several days of this Ezra began to believe that he would
never discover the truth until Josiah quietly entered and pulled
up a chair. Josiah had waited, giving Maude every chance to tell
Ezra what had happened and what part she had played. Now he felt
that Ezra should know.
The next morning everyone was sitting in the bar room enjoying a
good breakfast supplied by Mary who knew they had been neglecting
their own health as they took care of Ezra. Maude came in not
even acknowledging their presence as she headed towards the
stairs to go and check on her son.
Chris and Josiah who shared a table glanced up as Maude went by,
her skirt flaring out behind her determined strides. Since she
had been forced to relinquish the statue she had little to say
to the six regulators. The statue had been returned to Mac and
Hank and they were released as soon as it was certain that Ezra
would be alright. Hank gave his word that they would return next
month to stand trial for kidnapping. Chris believed the young man
and assured him he would be given a light sentence in view of the
circumstances. He wished there was some charge he could place on
Maude Standish, but there was no law against being a bad mother
and Hank Brok had refused to press charges against her for theft.
Chris suspected that Maude had talked to the young man while he
was in jail and convinced him to not press charges.
"Did you tell 'em?" Chris asked Josiah in a quiet voice.
"Yep," Josiah replied, taking another bite of sausage.
"How'd he take it?"
"Hard to tell, but I think we'll find out shortly," Josiah
remarked as he pushed his plate away and removed the napkin from
Everyone held their breath then looked up at the sound of
shouting from the top of the stairs. "GET THE HELL OUT!"
Followed by the sound of a glass being thrown against a wall. JD
abruptly stood at the crash, but was summarily forced back down
by Buck and Vin's hands on his shoulders. Everyone looked away
as Maude descended the stairs trying to compose herself quickly.
She stopped at the bottom of the stair case standing on the last
step she cast an angry glare at the six men.
"I hope you're all satisfied I've been asked to remove myself
from your quaint little town." Maude brought her eyes down upon
each one of the six men. "You think you're better for him than
his own mother?"
Chris raised his head to meet Maude's burning scowl. "He'd of
been better off if he'd been raised by wolves."
Maude didn't know what to say, she didn't understand why these
men were acting the way they were. She had only been trying to
take care of herself and Ezra. It wasn't her fault he had been
hurt, if he hadn't tried to escape he would have been rescued and.
Her face fell at this thought and Josiah noticed the sadness that
replaced the anger in her eyes she turned on her heel and walked
out the door.
Josiah approached Ezra's room stepping over the broken glass in
the hallway. He entered the partially sunlit room seeing Ezra in
bed his right arm over his eyes.
"Ezra, are you okay?" Josiah quietly asked.
"No," came a curt reply.
Josiah pulled a chair up next to Ezra's bed.
"Do you want to talk about it," he asked.
Ezra removed his arm from his eyes which had taken on a lost
appearance. His head was no longer bandaged and a huge purple
bruise covered half his face. His left arm was bound to his
chest and the bruising to his ribs could be seen peeking out from
under the bandages.
"What's to talk about. I've always known what she is. She's
never hid it from me." But Ezra never believed his mother
would choose money over his own life this tore at his heart. He
was not sure he could ever forgive her. A thought came to Ezra
and he turned his bruised face towards Josiah.
"I apologize, Mr. Sanchez I'm fully aware that you carried
certain feelings for my mother and for that I'm deeply
Josiah smiled and shrugged, he then stood as Nathan entered to
check on him. Josiah walked out and stood outside the door
leaning against the wall. He didn't want to see anyone. His
heart did ache, probably not as much as Ezra's, but he did feel
betrayed. He thought he had learned to accept Maude as she was,
but after all that had happened he no longer felt the same way
and he grieved for that.
Maude waited for the stage the next morning. No one had come to
carry her bags and she was forced to hire a man off the street.
When the stage pulled in the driver proceeded to load her
baggage. She cast an eye up to the second floor window of the
saloon, she thought she saw the curtain move. The driver offered
his hand and helped her into the stage. Ezra stayed back from
the window not wanting to be seen. He stared down at the
contriving woman, who he called mother, and a single tear slid down his
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