Title: The Blind Man and the Elephant
Pairings: Ezra/Chris, pre-slash Ezra/Buck
Disclaimer: Don't own them, enough said.
Archive: EBoS RJD
Writer s Bible Summary: One of the Seven rides into a town where, on
the surface, everything seems normal. When he is cornered and
captured, we soon realize that a heavily armed group has taken over
and is waiting for a large shipment of gold that is due there. And
if anyone does anything to reveal what's truly going on, they'll
There were once four blind men who came across an elephant. The
first man, the bravest of the group felt the elephant's leg and said
it was as sturdy as a tree. The second felt the trunk. "It's like a
snake!" he cried. "You're wrong," said the third as he touched the
tail. "It's nothing more than a rope."
The fourth was afraid. He couldn't feel the elephant at all.
It was pure chance that Buck looked up at that moment and saw them
through the batwing doors. Ezra and Chris, they were too far away
for him to hear what was being said but it was obvious from their
body language that it wasn't pleasant.
Ezra was angrily pulling Chaucer along by his reins; the gelding
danced unsteadily beside him. That in and of itself was odd. Ezra
never jerked Chaucer. Never.
Beside him, dancing almost as much was Chris, he was stepping
backwards, his hands waving and cutting through the air and his face
was pinched into harsh lines. Something he said must have hit a
nerve for at that moment, Ezra pulled Chaucer to a stop and with
pursed lips; he looked Chris up and down. Slowly, speculatively,
every ounce of his expression and stance suggesting that what he was
looking at was nothing more than dirt on his shoe.
He said something, one or two words that Buck imagined were uttered
too quietly for even Chris to hear and then he was on Chaucer's back.
The horse stepped around Chris, its hooves kicking at the dirt but
obediently waiting for the command.
Chris said something, shouted it and Ezra gave a disbelieving nod.
He looked away from Chris, gathered the reins tight within his hands
and with one short kick of his heels, Chaucer was away. Chris
stepped out into the lingering dust, hands on his hips and watching
the retreating back.
Inside the saloon, Buck dropped his beer on the table, rolled his
neck and sighed a world-weary sigh.
"God damnit, Chris." He muttered to himself. "What have you done
It was well into late evening when Ezra arrived at the small town of
Landon. He'd ridden all day without rest, something he'd never done
before. Beneath him Chaucer snorted and pawed at the ground in
irritation. His sides heaved and Ezra could feel a light foam
gathering beneath the stirrups and beneath his calves. He patted at
the horse's unruly mane in silent apology. It wasn't often that his
anger caused him to overlook such things and now, as it quietly
ebbed away to a more subdued emotion, he was beginning to feel more
than a little guilty.
Beside him, Chaucer snorted a thoroughly exhausted puff of air and
his head lulled to the ground, lashes drooping over his eyes. Ezra
ducked neatly backwards and walked down Chaucer's side, running his
hand along the damp fur as he did so, soothing the animal. He
reached the saddlebags, the brown leather cracked and weathered by
the sun with its golden clasps buckled and dented. He lifted the
smallest flap and fished his hand in, rooting amongst the contents
until his hands closed around a bundle of papers. Smiling, he pulled
them out and unfolded the topmost one, revealing a neatly printed
receipt. Beneath it sat a hand printed letter, neat and formal and
mentioning no names save for a curved M in the bottom right corner.
Ezra recognised the signature, always would he remember that
signature. Maude. His eyes scanned the letter momentarily, picked
out one small word, Landon, and then he alternated his gaze to the
receipt 'Landon' and finally, he looked up to the sign swinging
above a nearby saloon.
Whether he wanted it to be or not, this was the place.
Almost subconsciously, anger began to resurface within him but he
quickly swallowed it. With a flicker of his tongue over dry lips, he
put on a dapper grin, and strolled along the empty boardwalk to the
Buck and Chris were the only ones left in the saloon. It was close
to closing time. Technically it was past closing time, but
guidelines were a forgotten commodity and Inez had all but resigned
herself to late nights of waiting out the last of her patrons.
The two men were still nursing their last beers, the same beers they
had been sipping from for the past few hours. By now they had gone
flat, their head no more than a patchy skin of white foam.
"You keep looking at me. What?" Chris asked and though he never
looked up from his beer, he knew Buck had sat forward in his seat.
"Nothing," Buck said, and after a moment he added, "Just thinking."
Buck shrugged. He lifted his glass and grimaced as he took a drink.
Behind them at the bar Inez dropped an empty glass down on the
counter with a little more force than necessary and looked pointedly
from them to the door.
"Jesus, Buck." Chris snapped. "If you've got something to say then
"See now that's the thing. What makes you think I wanna' say
Chris looked at him.
Slowly, with a purposeful methodical nature, Buck toyed at his
glass, pushing it around in a circle with his index finger, creating
small rings of condensation on the tabletop.
"You okay?" he finally said.
"Of course," Was Chris's short answer and Buck studied him from
beneath lowered brows.
"Why wouldn't he be?"
Buck shrugged and he lifted his glass again but paused before
"He lit out of here awful quick." He said from behind the glass's
Chris sighed; he nodded his head and scratched his chin.
"You saw," he said, tone deadbeat.
"Yup," Buck said unnecessarily. "So... gonna' tell me?"
"Nope." Chris said and picked up his own glass.
"Figured as much." Buck nodded. He palmed the glass, glanced once
over his shoulder to Inez, tilted his head at her in acknowledgment
and then looked back to Chris. "Reckon you don't want my advice
"Alright." Again Buck nodded. With a slow movement that was almost a
stretch he patted Chris on the shoulder and rose to his feet, his
chair scraping back behind him. "But I'll tell you one thing. You're
onto something good. Don't mess it up."
And with that, he picked up both his and Chris's glass, handed them
over to Inez and walked out of the saloon.
Chris remained seated in his place until long after Buck had left,
his expression sour.
It was obvious from the moment Ezra stepped into the sheriff's
office that he was less than welcome. The sheriff, the first person
he had seen since entering the suspiciously quiet town was short and
squat. The skin on his face was red and pock marked, having seen one
too many hot summers and far too little of water and soap. He looked
up at Ezra with brown eyes that were by no means beady, but appeared
smaller than they actually were due to the excessively bushy brows.
"Yes?" he demanded in a brusque, croaking voice. He didn't put down
the gun he was carelessly cleaning and Ezra made sure to keep out of
the line of the barrel, just in case.
"There was a delivery here a few days ago," Ezra said as he placed
the receipt down on the table next to the gun canister and tattered
cloths. "I'm here to collect."
The sheriff squinted down at the receipt, pausing barely long enough
to read a single word before he looked back to his guns. "Ain't
been one." he said. Ezra wasn't sure if it was just his imagination,
but the sheriff's hands seemed to quicken, polishing almost
"I said," the Sheriff looked up from beneath his bushy eyes, though
he couldn't have seen very far past them. "There ain't been a
delivery. You musta' gotten the wrong town."
"Is this Landon?"
The sheriff paused, his eyes darted to the sign visible past the
door and it appeared as if for a moment, he were tempted to bluff
outright. His shoulders bowed a little.
"Then I'm not mistaken."
"I didn't say you were mistaken. I said there was a mistake." The
sheriff spun the paper around on the desk and frowned down at
it. "Probably a typing error."
Ezra took a deep breath.
"How is that possible? There is no other town with a name remotely
similar to this one."
The sheriff chewed on his lip and dropped his gun to the desk. Ezra
involuntarily skipped out of the barrel's path again. Almost
sheepishly, the Sheriff ventured a small shrug and glanced at Ezra.
"Coulda' been London."
"Of course," Ezra muttered sarcastically. "How foolish of me."
"Standish," Ezra supplied. The Sheriff just frowned at him.
"Look mister," he repeated. "I'm sorry. We haven't had any
deliveries here for months; best thing I can suggest is you head up
to Ridge city and ask about it there, maybe they just put the wrong
Ezra nodded and smiled as if he were actually listening to the man.
There was no way on earth that Maude would ever make such a mistake,
not when it involved something of hers.
"Thank you," he said, purely because conduct called of it. "But if
you don't mind, I think I'll be staying here for the night. Perhaps
it's just delayed."
Everything about the sheriff's posture said that it was the furthest
thing from 'okay' but he smiled his own fake smile, baring gnarled
"Whatever you say." He ground out. "Delaney's the only place still
open, there's rooms available." He glanced up, almost
hopefully. "Unless of course you have alternate lodgings?"
"The hotel will be fine." Ezra nodded and turned before the sheriff
could say anymore. As he stepped back out onto the deserted street,
he restrained a shiver.
Chris could feel Buck watching him. All morning he'd felt him
watching him. As he was eating breakfast, he felt Buck's eyes from
across the table. Sitting at the jail, he knew Buck was in the
saloon, peering out through the window. Finally, when he'd been
nicked for the third time whilst trying to fix the heel of his boot,
he dropped his knife by his chair and stormed across the street to
where Buck sat nonchalantly.
"How long are you gonna' keep this up?" he demanded as he stood hip
shot before Buck, the sun behind his back. Buck shaded his eyes and
peered up at him quizzically, a twist to his mouth.
"Couldn't answer that," Buck said almost jovially, his eyes were
serious. Chris let out an exasperated hiss. He glanced up and down
the boardwalk, as if he were ensuring their privacy, then he glared
back down at Buck.
"Figure you should know the facts before you judge."
"And what are those facts, Chris?" Buck asked patiently. Chris
opened his mouth and he was so close to answering, before he
suddenly snapped it shut again and his eyes grew stormy.
"It's none of your business," he snapped and stormed back to his
seat. He snatched up his knife, cast one more glare in Buck's
direction then disappeared into the saloon.
Buck remained seated, bemused.
Although he knew it was foolish, Ezra had secretly hoped that when
he woke up the next day, everything would be normal. He'd hoped that
his package would be there ready for collecting, he'd hoped that
Landon would actually feel like a living town, and most of all, he'd
hoped that he'd be able to think about his trip back to Four Corners
without feeling sick to the stomach.
Sadly, that wasn't to be the case.
He was the only guest to make it down to breakfast; part of him
suspected he was the only guest full stop. After a moment, a young
girl came out to take his order; she acted as nervous as a mouse in
a cat's bed and didn't once meet Ezra's eyes. When he tried to make
conversation with her, asking about the weather, her health, just
what the hell was going on, she uttered a small excuse and hurried
back into the kitchen.
Ezra occupied himself whilst waiting for his breakfast by attempting
to balance his knife on its handle.
He'd almost succeeded when the door leading to the street slammed
open and the sheriff stormed in.
"Mr. Standish," he greeted briskly and took a seat without waiting
for invitation. At least he had the manners to remove his hat, Ezra
Ezra nodded his own greeting and the sheriff supplied him with a
gruff name 'Fawkes'.
"You need to leave," Fawkes said. He seemed casual, so casual that
it wouldn't have been too hard to mistake it as a comment on the
"May I ask why?"
"The package ain't here and it won't ever get here."
Both men looked up as the young girl returned with Ezra's meal and
an extra mug of coffee for Fawkes. Ezra didn't miss the look the
girl gave Fawkes as she passed, nor did he miss the sheriff's own
nod of aknowledgement.
"Thank you, Valerie," he muttered quietly then returned to
Ezra. "Once you've finished your meal, you need to head out. I've
saddled your horse and supplied you with provisions already."
As Fawkes continued to discuss Ezra's being run out of town in a
conversational manner, Ezra's countenance grew more and more
agitated as his frustration increased. Finally, he snapped. The
cutlery jumped as he slammed his palm against the tabletop.
"Please!" Ezra hissed. "Would you please wait one moment? Contrary
to what you may wish, I am not leaving this town until I get what I
came for." Fawkes looked as though he were about to argue but Ezra
silence him with a glare. "Now I'm not sure what is going on exactly
and quite frankly, I don't care to but this package is important and
I won't allow you to mess me around." He indicated his plate. "Now
if you don't mind, my breakfast is growing cold and my horse
irritated I imagine, so would you please leave me in peace and
return him where you found him?"
Much to Ezra's chagrin, Fawkes didn't leave although, thanks to
small mercies, he did look decidedly ruffled. With each passing
moment his cheeks deepened in colour and his eyebrows danced so
animatedly across his brow that they looked like two bulbous
"Okay," he relented. "Okay, fine. I didn't want to tell you this but
since it's so important... your package is gone."
"Gone." Ezra repeated, it wasn't a question. Fawkes nodded.
"The mail stage was held up on the way here, everything was taken."
Ezra frowned at Fawkes dubiously.
"Why didn't you just tell me that?"
"We ah... I just didn't want to trouble you I suppose. Plus you
know, enough people take their complaints to Ridge City, we're more
likely to be reimbursed."
"Do you have any witnesses?" Ezra asked and Fawkes suddenly look
"I'm a lawman of Four Corners. I could contact my fellow
peacekeepers and-" At the time, Ezra wasn't sure what it was he'd
said but one moment, Fawkes was seated before him and the next, he
was on his feet with his newly polished gun aimed straight for
Ezra's head, a desperate shine to his eyes.
"Mr. Standish, I'm sorry but I have no choice but to arrest you."
"What?" Ezra sputtered. Fawkes continued as if he had never spoken.
"It's best to do what I say and accompany me to the jail. If you
resist, I will shoot you."
Later that evening and Chris, Buck, Vin and Josiah were seated at
their usual table. They had their usual meal, steak and potatoes
with gravy and a mug of beer, with, of course, the odd vegetable
thrown onto the side of the plate for 'vitamins', Nathan's request
They looked up when Jake, the young assistant hired in the telegraph
office stepped in through the batwing doors. It was obvious he was
looking for somebody and as his eyes trailed from their table, to
the poker tables on the raised platform, it soon became apparent
just who he was looking for. Chris waved him over with a careless
"You looking for Ezra?" Chris asked. Jake nodded.
"He ain't here," Vin said helpfully and Jake screwed his freckled
face up uncertainly.
"Do you know when he'll be back?"
All four men shrugged.
"Hand it over, I'll see he gets it." Chris held out a hand
expectantly but Jake stepped away from it, clutching the note close
to his chest.
"I ah... confidentiality. He needs to get it in person."
"Give it here," Chris repeated slowly, his voice like subtle steel.
After a brief hesitation, Jake slumped his shoulders and thrust the
note into Larabee's awaiting grip. He was paid too little to care.
Chris unfolded the note, keeping it cupped to his chest and his eyes
skimmed over the scant few words. Josiah frowned disapprovingly even
as he shifted in his chair in an attempt for a better view.
"Gonna' clue us all in to Ezra's private affairs?" Buck asked, the
bite in his tone evident.
"Nope," Chris said simply.
"Should you be doing that?" Josiah said once it was a given that the
only way he'd be in the know was through Ezra himself.
"Nope," Chris grinned.
"Who's it from at least?" Vin asked.
"Ah," the three men chorused, and to be honest, that was all that
was called for.
"So..." Buck began again. "You going to get him?"
Chris pondered this for a moment, his eyes drifted to the ceiling
and he sucked in on his cheek. He let it out with a snap of his
"Great," Buck sat forward in his chair. "I'm coming too."
"You are?" Chris eyed him speculatively.
"I ain't talking." Chris warned.
"Good. I ain't staying."
The two men left separately and Vin and Josiah shared a look.
"Humouring them works best most times." Josiah advised.
"This is insane!" Ezra shouted out to the empty room. His voice
echoed off the four walls, bouncing back to him tenfold and only
enhancing his frustration, He shook at the bars and they rattled on
their imbedded hinges, surprisingly strong for such a small rundown
town. In front of him, on the law-abiding side of the office sat the
cell keys, large and shiny and connected to an oversized ring. So
obviously taunting him. He'd already tried reaching through the bars
for them, he'd tried so hard that he had very nearly wedged himself
between them and had more than likely managed to strain something.
Now he chose instead to make as much noise as possible, he had to be
annoying at least one person hidden away and maybe, if he did it
enough, that one person would come out and set him free.
He'd been shouting for hours and the concept that perhaps this
mystery person was just very patient was wearing thin.
Fawkes had refused to give him any more of an explanation as to just
what he had done, though Ezra was fairly certain that it had a lot
to do with him being a lawman.
Perhaps the man had set up a black market for packages. Any that
happened to be sent through Landon were delivered on to the Chinese
railroad. The price depended on the colour of the wrapping.
He wondered absently what price Maude's package would have gone for.
"Fawkes!" Ezra slapped a hand against the bars and stormed over to
the small window. He had to climb onto the frame of his bed to reach
it but soon enough, he had managed to comfortably wedge himself
against the wall and using his hands to steady him, he was able to
look out onto the empty main street.
Still no sign of life anywhere, though he could just make out
Fawkes' silhouetted figure through the curtained window of Delaney's
"Fawkes, god damnit you son of a bitch!" The figure jerked and
quickly disappeared, presumably into the hotel's kitchen. Ezra let
himself slide down onto the dirt mattress stained with god knows
what and for god knows how long.
"Well hell," he sighed to himself in defeat. This was not what he
"What is this?" an angry demand, hands splayed and
challenging. "What do you want from me?"
Fierce, icy eye. A flash of fury.
"The truth would be nice."
A sombre smile, eyes mocking in their sympathy.
"There are many truths, Chris."
Late that night, when most people were fast asleep, Chris lay awake
in his bed. The telegram sat on his beside table, its corners
creased and smudged from continued handling and the words almost
seemed to glow like a beacon, continually drawing his gaze.
ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT THIS
PLAN STILL VIABLE
ALL MY LOVE
He worried at his cuticles, picking at them with calloused fingers
as he frowned up at the ceiling. An old cobweb hung from the far
corner, tattered and covered in dust. He really needed to clean that.
Outside his window something fell to the ground with a crash and
someone laughed in a high, piercing cackle. Presumably one of the
saloon girls, he wondered idly if perhaps it was Buck she was with.
A gruff voice snapped out a curse, silencing the girl and Chris was
No, Buck was probably fast asleep and getting as much rest as
possible for their journey tomorrow. Landon was about a day's ride
away, if they moved fast, with breaks they'd probably arrive there
early the following morning. They'd have to sleep out on the trail.
He smiled grimly to himself, even less sleep; that would be fun...
In the silence, with nothing else to distract him, Chris found his
thoughts drifting more and more forcibly towards Ezra. Thoughts on
where he was at that moment, what he was doing, who he was doing it
Some part of his mind shrunk away at that moment, scolding him for
such thoughts whilst also slipping away from the part that sombrely
agreed that yes, as pessimistic as the thoughts were, they were
probably more likely to be true than false.
The part of his mind that remembered their last conversation-
"What do you want from me?"
Chris turned onto his side and glared at the telegram, it was folded
away from him, but he could see the words clear as day in his mind.
"There are many truths."
And the question was clear. Set out on the table as it had been for
the past few days.
Which one did he want?
And just like the past few days, he couldn't answer.
It wasn't until the next morning that someone came for Ezra. He
didn't recognise the man that stepped through the jail doors but
that wasn't surprising. Anyone outside of the Sheriff and the hotel
staff were new to him.
The man was too old to be called youthful, but not old enough to
have claimed any of life's wisdom. His eyes were large and brown and
his hair a mess of frizz peeking out from beneath the rim of a
beaten old hat.
He had a tray of food propped in his arms and a gun at his hip. It
looked suspiciously like the sheriff's and the gun belt didn't fit.
A novice, Ezra decided with some distaste. If they insisted on
arresting him, surely they could have at least pretended to have
someone competent watch over him.
The young man laid the tray out by the bars and with a quick nudge,
pushed it beneath the gap and to the foot of the bed. Ezra leaned
down from his ginger crouch on the mattress and picked the tray up,
noticing the food wasn't much different to that he had ordered the
"Courtesy of Fawkes," the young man said as he claimed a seat at the
sheriff's desk. Ezra arched a brow at him.
"He was incapable of delivering it himself?"
"He's busy," the young man said with a shrug. Ezra spared a short
glance to the door left hanging open and the empty street beyond
sceptically. He refrained from commenting and instead satisfied
himself with picking at the meal which although looked appetising,
didn't bode well for his tension tightened stomach.
"So tell me," Ezra said as he gnawed at a slice of bread, breaking
the uncomfortable silence. "Do you often arrest strangers for no
apparent reason? And if so, is that perhaps why the head count is
so, for lack of a better word, low?"
The young man frowned at him. "We don't kill nobody." He said
defensively and Ezra sighed.
"Good for you." He uttered scathingly and decided on a new
approach. "Just who does this 'we' consist of?"
The young man looked at Ezra with wide eyes. "The town," he said,
voice loud and clear for better understanding.
"And where is 'the town'?"
The young man looked to the jail door.
"The residents!" Ezra snapped quickly. "Where are the town's
"They're around," was the evasive reply. Tapping his heel against
the floor in an obvious show of discomfort, the young man tilted his
head towards the tray of food propped on Ezra's crossed knees.
"Are you done?"
Ezra nodded. The young man stood, walked to the bars and waited
patiently for Ezra to slide it back to him.
"My name's Ezra." He said as he bent and idly nudged the tray across
the floor with his right index finger. He glanced up, meeting the
young man's eyes as he too knelt down.
"Tim," the young man replied.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Tim." Ezra smiled, the sarcasm was
entirely lost on Tim however.
They'd gotten up early that morning, when the sun had barely just
risen and the dew hadn't yet formed. All morning they'd ridden,
alternating between a gentle walk and a trot, until they'd finally
reined in for a break at noon.
Buck tethered the horses to a sturdy branch whilst Chris worked on a
small fire for coffee and food and then the two of them sat together
on their bedrolls. They huddled close together, needing it for
companionship as opposed to warmth since the day was relatively
cool, but not bitingly so.
Buck tore a strip of jerky off in his hands and idly ran his fingers
over its surface. It felt strange, both dry and greasy. Soft and
"Did he run?" Buck asked and Chris looked up with a start. Behind
them a bird rustled through the bushes, its call loud and shrill.
They both ignored it.
"No," Chris said as if the very thought were offensive to him.
"So then what is it?"
Muttering low under his breath, Chris reached into his front pocket
and tossed Buck the tattered telegram. Buck read it quickly, eyes
scanning back and forth as his lips mouthed the words.
"That's it?" Buck asked quizzically. "We're headin' all the way out
to Landon to give Ezra this?"
"'S more than just that, Buck."
"Well then tell me!" Buck cried impatiently. He folded the telegram,
running his finger over the creased edge. "Two of you were fine just
a few days ago. What the hell happened?"
"Leave it, Buck."
And Buck went quiet. He sat so silently, so still that it looked as
though he had just stopped living. Then he let out a sharp exhale
and tossed the telegram into Chris's lap.
"Right, shut up, of course. We don't talk about things like that."
He shredded at the jerky with an almost savage vigour and angled
himself away from Chris as he glared into the fire.
Ezra wasn't sure what time it was exactly, but one moment he'd
managed to coerce Tim into getting him a blanket, and the next the
doors were flung open and Fawkes ran in yelling at Tim to retrieve
the keys. Ezra clambered to his feet watching with bemused owlish
eyes as Tim nervously pranced from the desk to Ezra's cell. In his
haste, it took him a moment to get the key into the lock and another
moment to turn it the right way. In the meantime, Ezra glanced over
Tim's shoulder to where Fawkes was nervously standing.
"You came to visit," Ezra drawled acidly, because he really didn't
want to think about the implications of this sudden activity. "How
gracious." Tim opened the door with a triumphant shout and Fawkes
rushed in, clasping strong hands on Ezra and half pulling, half
pushing him out of the cell and to the door.
"Get his stuff, leave no trace!" He snapped over his shoulder to Tim
and as Ezra was guided down the boardwalk, he noticed with some
remorse that Tim hadn't bothered to account for creases when he
threw his dress coat over his arm.
"May I ask where we're going?" Ezra asked.
Fawkes leaned in close to Ezra's back and squeezed down onto his
shoulders. "Shut up," he hissed, a hint of desperation to his
voice. "Just... don't say anything. Promise me."
The plea was so odd, so unexpected, that Ezra forgot to struggle or
even complain when he found himself being pushed down into the
storage cellar below Delaney's hotel. His feet stumbled on the stone
steps and he tripped down them, landing with a painful thud at the
"Don't move from here no matter what and... try not to breath."
Fawkes voice hissed down to him and then with a clash of metal on
wood, the trap doors were slammed shut and the cellar became pitch-
It was strange in darkness, no matter how loud it had been
beforehand, when it became pitch-black, everything seemed to go
entirely silent. Ezra rolled onto his back and he reached out before
him with hands he couldn't see, his palms hit wood before they had
even fully extended and slowly, with exaggerated care, he began to
inch along on his back, using his hands and feet as leverage, he
stopped when his head touched the bottom most step and there he lay
until he could eventually make out the dim grey outline of the
trapdoors. Gradually, almost as if it too had to adjust to the
darkness, sound returned to him and he lay listening to whatever was
He heard running feet, voices of strangers fading and growing louder
as they sped past the doors. Fawkes' voice ordering people with
names he didn't recognise. It was strange, a kind of organised
chaos, as if the people were terrified, but also well versed. They
knew where they had to be and what they had to do, even if they
didn't know how.
And then he heard another voice, it was clear, the owner probably
standing only a few feet from the cellar and it was cool. A stark
contrast to the chaos that had silenced around it.
A horse snorted, Fawkes voice meekly spoke and Ezra knew that this
voice, this cold voice was the reason for the chaos. The reason for
why he was hidden down beneath the earth and surrounded by wood as
if he were lying in his own coffin.
Gregory Cooper was a tall man, strong and fair, a second-generation
Dutch immigrant. His voice had a soft inflection to it, an accent
born of listening to his parent's battle with the American tone and
phrases. He had hazel eyes that would have been called serene if it
weren't for the grey flashes of something else in them, something
that made them icy and sometimes even murderous. He sat tall in an
expensive saddle on a steel grey gelding. Behind him at some
distance stood three men, none of which looked even the slightest
bit as refined as their leader but all just as strong, even stronger
in some cases. They all looked relatively intelligent, but with an
extra edge of borderline sociopathy, a requirement of the Cooper
Slowly, with a slight smile, Cooper looked from Fawkes to the small
groups of villagers scattered along the boardwalks.
"It's good to see you again," he said with false sincerity. "And
with a welcome committee, how grand."
Fawkes, his brow pulled so low that his eyes were obscured wrung his
hands together and shifted his gaze continually.
"You're early," he muttered low. "Stage doesn't arrive until
"I know that," Cooper scoffed lightly and hefted himself down from
his saddle. The large grey snorted beside him and adjusted its
footing. "But Hal," he indicated one of the three men, "Believes
it'll rain soon, we don't want to catch chill and surely you
couldn't expect us to camp out in the cold?"
Never once meeting Cooper's eyes, Fawkes muttered an almost
Cooper nodded his head primly and took his horse's reins.
"Smart man," he grinned as he stepped past Fawkes. "Now if you'll
excuse me, I have things to attend to." Fawkes glanced nervously at
the horse and quickly jumped in front of the two before they could
reach the livery.
"Let me do that," he rushed and grappled for the reins. Cooper
pulled away, batting Fawke's hands away elegantly.
"Let you handle my mount?" he snapped in disgust. "You know only
know about mules and even then you couldn't make one see more than
"Well then let our blacksmith tend to him," Fawkes waved a hand to
where the town's blacksmith stood and Cooper looked at him
"Why?" he asked. Fawkes eyes widened beneath his brows and his face
"Because... well, ah..."
Cooper laughed, amused.
"You don't trust me," he grinned ironically. "Tell me, do you treat
all your visitors this way?" Unbeknownst to Cooper, Fawkes flushed a
deeper red and he glanced to the cellar doors. He remained silent,
allowing Cooper to believe what he wanted. After a moment of
gleefully playing up to his gang who laughed appropriately and
obediently, Cooper thrust the grey's reins into Fawkes hands and
shooed him away impatiently.
Fawkes scurried to where the blacksmith stood.
"Hide the lawman's horse," he whispered as he handed the grey over.
The blacksmith nodded grimly.
Ezra had been trapped in the cellar for at least a couple of hours
before the trapdoors swung open and Fawkes came staggering down the
steps. He had a large water canister and numerous blankets balanced
in his arms.
Ezra propped himself up on one elbow and watched with eyes squinted
against the sun as Fawkes bent double when he reached the low
ceiling and laid the items down.
"What's going on?" he demanded.
"You have to stay here until nightfall," Fawkes said. He unfolded
one blanket, the action awkward in the small space. "It's safer that
"Who was that man?"
Fawkes gave Ezra a look, he rocked back on his knees, neck stooped.
"I woulda' brought a lantern but they might see." He gestured above,
fingers tracing over the small slithering gaps between the
"Tonight, alright?" Fawkes snapped. He backed away on his hands and
knees until he reached the stairs where he began to take them one at
a time. "I'll tell you tonight. Just... stay quiet." A small guilty
pause. "I'm sorry."
And then the doors swung closed and it was once again dark.
It was one word. One simple word from the unfamiliar voice of a
silhouetted figure peering at him from above.
Ezra hadn't the faintest idea who he was, whether the man was
trustworthy or would shoot him the minute he climbed the stairs.
He had no idea but he followed.
His limbs were stiff from lying down for so long and his joints
popped painfully as he walked. The figure kept to the side of the
street, in the shadows away from the flickering street fires and due
only to the instinct of survival, Ezra matched his footsteps
He didn't try to talk to the figure, knew he'd get no response if he
did and so the only sounds were the night crickets. In the silence
between them, it seemed amplified tenfold, as if the crickets would
reveal their position. Unconsciously, Ezra quickened his steps.
They reached a small alleyway lined with crates and barrels. It
smelt sweet, like mouldering apples and cider. At the bottom of the
alley was a small door tucked away within a shallow alcove in the
wall. The figure stopped, he rapped his knuckles once against the
wood and thrust his hands into his front pockets. There was a brief
moment, a series of shuffling and scratches and the door opened
revealing the same young girl who had served Ezra at Delaney's. She
looked from the figure to Ezra with wide, doe eyes then stepped
The figure looked at Ezra from over his shoulder, in the light
coming from the doorway Ezra could see his features. They were
grimy, a shade of young Tim's but a little more wizened. He said
nothing, just gave Ezra a wide, wolfish grin that caused his teeth
to flash in the candlelight then he disappeared inside.
And again, Ezra followed.
Somewhere, out in the middle distance a coyote howled. It wasn't
close to them and proved no threat whatsoever but even still, Buck
startled awake. They were half an hour or so away from Landon,
nearly on top of it but both men had agreed that it would be best to
camp out for the night and arrive as the town was waking up.
He looked across the fire and saw that Chris was still seated on his
bedroll, hands propped on his bent knees.
"No matter how many times I hear them I always think it's a child."
Buck gave Chris a small grin. Chris's eyebrows arched, his lips
quirked but he continued to glare at the dying flames. Buck groaned
and clambered out from his bedding, tucking his feet up and away
from the dirty ground.
"Chris you're obviously not gonna quit moping about this anytime
soon." He waited for Chris to react. "Just have out with it, be good
practice for when you talk to Ezra."
"Buck..." Chris began, it was a warning but one that fell through
quickly. With a sigh, he rubbed at the base of his neck and grumbled
beneath his breath. "Suppose I found something out about Ezra."
"Like...?" Buck coaxed.
"He's a conman. You know that, I know that, we all do. We all know
Maude is too."
"Not making things any clearer, buddy."
"Okay," Chris looked up, met Buck's eyes. He took a deep,
strengthening breath and continued. "Okay. Buck, Ezra's been conning
"That's it? Hell Chris, he does that all the time. Remember that
time with my horse? And my sword fight? And... come to mention it,
most times he's conning me." Buck's lips quirked with
amusement. "That son of a bitch."
"No, Buck," Chris interrupted. "He's been conning us." Chris
stressed the word as if continued repetition would help Buck to
understand. "The town, everyone. He and his mother have been conning
us from the beginning."
Buck's smile faded a little and he looked confused.
"What do you mean?"
And with a sombre, weighted tone, Chris told the story; every last
bit of it that he knew.
When Chris stepped into Ezra's room he hadn't meant to do anything
other than wait. It wasn't much of a surprise that Ezra wasn't there
yet. He was often held up by someone or other and Chris knew that
he'd show up sooner or later.
There were papers scattered on Ezra's bed, a small mess but notably
out of place in the otherwise impeccable room. He hadn't meant to
read them when he picked them up, he hadn't intended to anything
other than be helpful by tidying everything to the sideboard.
He hadn't meant to but he couldn't help catching sight of the top
sheet. The two words, 'Chris Larabee'.
At first it had been innocent, a guess that perhaps it was a letter
to him. Perhaps an excuse to call off the arrangement.
It hadn't been. Instead of words scrawled in Ezra's hand, he'd found
information, facts and figures, everything from his land to his
current boarding and rent. He flicked through the papers and found
much the same for each of the seven. Buck, Josiah, even JD, Nathan
and Vin. But it didn't stop there; it went on beyond the men to the
town, detailing everything of the important members of the society.
Judge Travis, Mary and her widowed inheritance. There were lists of
the residents and every store, their successes, their failures.
And beneath it all, at the very bottom of the pile was a small,
neatly scrawled letter from Maude to Ezra. It was more a passing
footnote and Chris knew that it was just a chip of what was probably
dozens of letters with much the same content hidden away somewhere
within Ezra's belongings.
Focus is Larabee. Continue as agreed.
Chris barely understood most of it, he didn't need to. He felt sick
all the same. No matter how many angles he tried to look at it, he
could come up with one thing and one thing only. Ezra had been
conspiring with his mother on what had to be their greatest con of
all time. They were working on the entire town, and like every
criminal mastermind, they were starting first with him, and later,
their world better known as Four Corners.
Chris's jaw tensed as his anger grew; His hands tightened around the
sheets of paper so tightly that they crumpled within his fists.
By the time Ezra got back to his room later that night, Chris was
gone. And so was the 'evidence'.
"Shit, Chris." Buck's cheeks expanded as he whistled in morbid awe
and shook his head. "Just... shit."
"Yeah," Chris nodded. "I know."
"So what's with all that?" Buck gestured to the telegram that sat by
Chris's side and Chris lifted it distastefully.
"I confronted him the next day, figure you saw most of it. He kept
repeating it was only in the beginning. That he'd told Maude no
months ago and the only reason the papers were out was because he
was going to ask her for everything she had on us. Insurance he
"You believe him?"
"At first? No. Then this came," Chris tossed the telegram back to
the ground and smiled grimly at Buck. "Reckon he was telling the
truth but still..."
"Yeah," Buck agreed serenely. He frowned at the fire, worrying at
his bottom lip.
"I just don't know what to do." Chris said with a frustrated
groan. "I mean we all keep saying he's changed but Jesus... why
should he have to change? Why did he change? We arrest guys like him
everyday and he's just..." Chris searched the air for a suitable
description, "just a god damned anomaly!"
"Reckon he is." Buck agreed. "Reckon there's also a reason why he
is." Chris frowned at Buck. "I'm just saying that we're all kind of
like that. JD's an idiot, was when we found him, still is now. But
there was some reason you didn't shoot him. You're a bastard,
there's still something to you that keeps you from being a 'raving
bastard'. Josiah's crazy but still..." Buck made a so-so motion with
his hand, humour in his eyes. "Nathan's this weird fresh kind of
bitter and Vin's a smart fool."
Buck shrugged lightly.
"Reckon you'd do well as a lewd Wiseman." Buck threw a twig across
the fire at him and Chris ducked it with a grin.
"He came into town on a horse as black as night."
"I thought he had a grey horse."
"...Different horse. He had at least twenty men with him."
"No, no. There were thirty and each one had a gun the size of a
small cannon-no two. They all had two guns."
"I saw ten men."
"Can you carry cannons?"
"Small ones, yes."
"And he called for the sheriff, shooting at the sky with a golden
"But two of them?"
"They took all of our women and children, threatened to kill them
and god knows what."
"Except her, they didn't take her... And her..."
"Took my husband too."
"They took lots of people."
"Well if they're very strong men, which these men were."
"...Said they wanted the gold."
"...No, on the stage."
"But it wasn't coming until tomorrow, well back then it was next
week but today it's..."
"No today, look. It's one in the morning."
Ezra sat in the middle of the small crowd of people, a Zen of
silence in the sea of bickering. He rapped his fingers against the
tabletop beating out a small tune.
Fawkes stood next to him, trying very much to look like the figure
of authority he was whilst also trying to win an argument with Tim's
older counterpart about whether or not it was possible to carry a
He said yes, Counter-Tim said no, Ezra drummed his fingers. He was
waiting for the arguments to phase out on their own, for everyone to
realise his patience was only limited, so far it wasn't happening.
One more 'thocka' of his nails against the table and he'd had enough.
"Silence!" he bellowed as he sprung to his feet. The chair he'd been
sitting on screeched back and the crowd silenced, all eyes on
him. "Wasn't this gathering supposed to be discreet?" he asked,
meeting the eyes of those nearest him, they shifted amongst
"I brought you here, remember," Fawkes reminded from his side. Ezra
arched a brow.
So far, through each and every conversation he had caught, he'd
managed to piece together the gist of the town's predicament.
Cooper had arrived at the town sometime last week with ten to fifty
strong men each carrying one, maybe two menacing looking guns and
had taken half the town hostage releasing them only for the exchange
of a considerable sized gold shipment due at Landon. It was common
practice for banks and other businesses to never give a set date for
due shipments on the belief that never having a particular day would
put off any would-be stagecoach robberies. The East really
underestimated the stubbornness of the West.
However, one tiny thing was niggling at him...
"Why didn't you just ask for outside help?" he held up a hand when
Fawkes looked about to answer. "I've already guessed that they'd
kill the hostages should you go for help but why didn't you just do
it quietly? I managed to arrive unnoticed."
"Not that easy," Fawkes frowned sorrowfully. "We could kill Cooper
and his men anytime we wanted," he gestured to the crowd around
him. "We're not helpless and a lot of us have killed before.
Cooper's got the hostages hidden away in the mountains with more of
his men. They hear anything, see anything or even if they don't,
they're ordered to kill everyone."
"Where in the mountains?"
"Don't know and we can't know. Anyone misses roll call morning or
evening and the hostages die."
"He could go," someone at the back of the room said. The crowd
separated to reveal Tim. "They don't know he's here." Ezra mentally
imagined splatting Tim's dear little frizzy head against the far
wall. However Tim's counterpart stepped forward nodding his
agreement. He looked wolfish and feral and not the kind of person
Ezra would want to cross. Perhaps squashing his younger brother
wasn't the best of ideas.
"Would you?" Fawkes spoke up from his side and Ezra realised that
he, along with the rest of the crowd were all looking at him with,
god forbid, hope in their eyes.
"Wouldn't it be better to...?"
"No time," Fawkes correctly predicted and interceded his
suggestion. "The gold would be here by the time you get your
partners and I doubt Cooper would just let the hostages go like
"You keep saying 'hostages'. Just how many are we talking about?"
"Twenty-five." Fawkes said decisively.
"Cooper's got a lot of men." Fawkes shrugged. "Thirty at least."
"Fifty," came a voice to the side, followed by a quiet echo of 'ten'.
Somebody muttered something about cannons low under their breath and
"Okay," he said. "Alright, I'll find them, though if you can, try
and get word to Four Corners. I don't think I can do this on my own."
The next morning, at around seven to be precise, Buck and Chris rode
into Landon. Neither looked refreshed despite their rest beforehand.
"Livery," Chris ordered even as he was dismounting from Solon.
"Saloon," Buck ordered in turn.
The two men went their separate ways, Buck with the horses and Chris
with the cash.
It wasn't until a moments later, when Chris had settled down after
buying two mugs of beer from the nervous serving girl that Buck came
in looking worried.
"Chris," he said as he neared the table. "Think you'd better come
out here and see this."
Chris glanced at the serving girl who quickly bowed her head and
busied herself with scrubbing at the bar top. Buck lead Chris out of
the saloon and into the livery where they came to a stop at the very
far wall. There, hidden away amongst the tack boxes and pitchforks
stood Chaucer, happily munching on a bag of oats.
"So Ezra's here, we know that."
Buck frowned at Chris.
"You don't find it a little bit odd that he's hidden away in the
Chris looked back to the livery doors; he bent to pick up one of the
communal brushes. When he stood again, he too was frowning.
A small pebble skittered out from beneath his footing and Ezra
stumbled. He caught himself on his knees and waited. The scattering
of rocks and dirt down the steep slope seemed amplified tenfold and
his shoulders tensed with each passing second. Finally they reached
the bottom and...
Nothing happened. He let out an explosive sigh. Slowly, still on his
knees Ezra crept up further along the rise until he was just below
its lip. Below him, he could hear the voices of men, loud and
slurred by lingering echoes.
The hostages were kept in a miniature valley at the foot of the
mountains, it was no more than half an hour's walk from the town,
but sheltered enough that it was easy to see why Fawkes had presumed
it to be further. There was a small but deep mine at one end of the
valley, the results of a foolhardy miner who had refused to believe
every voice of wisdom that told him there was no gold to be found in
Using the shade of a nearby bush to his advantage, Ezra peeked out
from over the rim of the rise and watched the activity below. There
were eighteen men seated before the mouth of the mine, they had a
small fire going, brewing a pot full of what could either be very
inedible stew or just as inedible coffee.
As he watched, two men emerged from inside and sat down in the
spaces cleared by two of the men who had risen grudgingly to replace
the hostage watch. As far as he could see, there were no other men
Silently, he rested a hand on the butt of his Remington and waited.
"Mr. Fawkes?" young Valerie called through her smile. Outside she
could see the two newcomers storming across the street from the
livery. "I really think you ought to come out here."
Fawkes poked a curious head out from the back storeroom just as the
two men slammed through the batwing doors. Neither of them looked as
though they were about to ask for another drink, and so Valerie
tossed her rag to the side and quickly hurried past Fawkes into the
"Who the hell are you?" One of the two men demanded.
"I'm the sheriff of this here town." Fawkes grimaced a little,
eyeing the two men. "Can I help you with something?
"Could start by telling us where he is," The moustached man said in
an almost friendly tone, his moustache quirked in an odd little
smile. It was almost as disconcerting as the obvious temper of the
man beside him. Almost.
"Uh... what?" Fawkes smiled, eyes shifting nervously across the
street. He hoped beyond hope that Cooper hadn't seen the two
newcomers. A movement behind the lace curtains of one of Delaney's
rooms shifted and he knew his hopes were in vain. Damnit.
"Don't even..." the bad-tempered one growled, an unfinished threat
that was perhaps a shade on Cooper's gang. Sweat began to gather
between Fawkes' shoulder blades.
"Where is he? Where the hell is Ezra?"
"Ezra?" Fawkes laughed nervously. He looked again to the hotel
window. Nothing yet, but there would be, unless... "No one been
through here named that."
"Small guy," Moustache said. He held a hand up to around his nose
level. "Green eyes, dark hair, kinda' good at going unnoticed when
he wants to."
"Oh yes," Fawkes stammered. "He passed through here yesterday, used
a different name though... uh... Bob, that's it. Went by Bob."
Valerie gasped behind him and he glanced across the street. His
heart lurched, Cooper was on the far boardwalk and he was heading
towards them. Even from a distance he could see the man's eyes,
cold, clinical, terrifying.
"Funny how 'Bob's' horse is still here." the man with the temper
"Really?" Fawkes tried weakly. "Oh my... must've... uh, used someone
else's? Look, could we maybe continue this elsewhere?"
Cooper was on the street now. Ten more steps and he'd be at the
door. Nine... Eight...
"We'd rather you just told us where he is," Moustache leaned
conversationally against the bar and beckoned for Fawkes to lean in
closer. "See, we're a might worried about him."
"He is... was in fine condition when he left." Fawkes squeaked,
Cooper was almost onto of them and he was antsy for the men to leave.
"Oh no," Moustache dismissed. He nodded at Temper. "It's him we're
worried about. Gets a bit... unpredictable when he's mad."
And, almost for show, Temper emitted a low, animalistic growl and
snatched up the rag Valerie had discarded, ripping it in half with
Moustache snorted and looked at his feet.
"Is there something the matter?" Cooper asked. All three men turned
to the batwing doors. Cooper had propped himself up against the
doorframe, one arm draped carefully over the artfully curved wood
and looking very much like some model back East.
"Don't say anything," Fawkes pleaded beneath his breath even as
Temper snapped a 'damn right'. Moustache looked at Fawkes curiously.
"No trouble," Moustache interrupted his partner, laying an arm over
Temper's shoulder as he looked to argue the point.
"Damnit, Buck!" Temper hissed. Moustache-Buck, just pulled him back
to the bar.
Cooper eyed the both of them, taking in their dusty trail clothes
with something akin to distaste. He drifted away from the door
towards the group; he was trailed by a group of three men.
"I suppose introductions are in order," Cooper remarked breezily. "I
am Gregory Cooper and these," he gestured behind him, "Are my fellow
companions. I trust you've already been introduced to sheriff
"Buck Wilmington, Chris Larabee and no, not exactly."
Cooper pursed his lips, his eyes flickered from Fawkes back to Buck
"Larabee..." he said absently, as if verbally searching his
memory. "I've heard that name... we haven't run into each other
before have we?"
"No," Chris snapped, too busy glaring at the side of Buck's head to
look at Cooper.
"No, no, we haven't met," Cooper confirmed with a bob of his head,
but he continued to look quizzical. "It's something else..."
"Well," Fawkes clapped his hands to dispel the moment and with his
arms stretched over the bar, he began to guide Larabee and
Wilmington to the server's door. "These fella's were fixin' to head
on out now anyway so, better not keep them."
"Hang on-" Chris snapped his head to Fawkes.
"Later," Fawkes hissed.
"It was Four Corners... yes that's it. You're the law, aren't you?"
Oh... crap. Fawkes' head dropped as Chris and Buck turned back to
Cooper. Cooper was no longer smiling and behind him the three men
stepped forwards, hands on the butts of their guns.
One gunshot. It was one gunshot that echoed out over the land. It
was one gunshot that caused nearby birds to take off with an
indignant squawk. One gunshot that caused the horses in the livery
to lift their heads. One gunshot that echoed over and over, rolling
through the air and travelling up the mountain with the ease of a
One gunshot, and in minutes the men outside the mine jumped to
One gunshot and Ezra's heart lurched in his chest.
"No!" Fawkes all but screamed. He leapt over the bar and skidded to
a halt by the lifeless body of the downed men.
"Get back, god damnit!" Chris snapped. He and Buck had their guns
trained on Cooper and the remaining two. Larabee's own barrel was
"Why did you do that?" Fawkes demanded, turning desperate eyes up to
Chris. "Why in god's name did you have to shoot him?"
"He drew his gun," Chris growled. He spared Fawkes a quick
glance. "It was either him or me."
"But... jesus did you have to shoot him so loud?"
"Mind telling us what the hell is going on here?" Buck asked from
Something flashed behind Fawkes' eyes and he scrambled over the
bloodied corpse to the door. For a moment he just stood there,
poised, not even breathing. He slumped against the doorframe.
"No shots. Thank god, no more shots." He suddenly turned around and
though he was facing the group in general, it was obvious he only
saw Cooper. "Why aren't there any shots?" Worry was thick in his
Cooper shrugged, ever the epitome of graceful relaxation, even when
in the line of fire.
"Fawkes," Buck said. "Explanation, now."
"Yes, yes, the short one." Fawkes took a deep breath. "He's up in
the mountains trying to stop his men" he glared at Cooper, "from
killing half our town."
"Wait, what?" Buck asked as Cooper tutted low under his breath.
"Fawkes," he exclaimed with dismay. "Have you been misbehaving?"
"Where?" Chris said suddenly, nudging his gun closer to Cooper. His
barrel no longer smoked but its heat was still tangible, whether
imaginary or not. "Where is he?"
"Heaven knows," Cooper yawned and he would have looked bored, if it
weren't for the minute but continual glances he cast the gun in
Another gunshot rung out over the land and everyone in the room
flinched. Cooper gave a slow, lazy grin.
"I suppose that could be taken literally now."
Ezra had watched as the group of men lingered in the valley, none
appearing certain as to what they should be doing at that moment. He
crouched on the valley's lip, his gun drawn and waiting. He breathed
low and shallow, the air dry in his throat and the sun, though not
raging, an uncomfortable presence in his eyes.
He watched with narrowed eyes as one of the men disappeared into the
mouth of the mine, returning shortly with an elderly man in tow. The
man's footing stumbled and he shivered under the fierce grip,
obviously terrified. Ezra watched as the old man was lined up and
the captor's gun was drawn. Finally, he couldn't wait any longer and
he raised his gun.
The man dropped like a fly. He barely even had time to cry out when
the bullet sliced through his skull as if it were no more than
With a yelp, the old man fell away from the fallen body as the rest
of the group spun to face the direction of Ezra's bullets. They all
drew their weapons, eyes intense and focused.
"Who's there?" One of the front men shouted out. His eyes darted
along the lip of the valley and on more than one occasion Ezra
thought that he had been spotted, but the man's eyes just continued
on past him, oblivious.
"I suggest you all put down your weapons if you want to live," Ezra
called back. He deliberately avoided answering the question on the
grounds that stalling was his best option.
"Yeah?" the front man spat on the ground. "How do you figure that?"
"I'd say the ten guns currently drawn on you and your friends
figures, wouldn't you?"
"Ten?" Spitter smirked, neither impressed nor believing it.
"Ten," Ezra confirmed, "and more guns are on their way."
Ezra watched with a careful eye as the group began to fan out in the
valley, none of them looked close to identifying his position so he
saved his bullets for now.
"Don't believe you." Spitter shouted.
"Well then," Ezra sighed and examined his nails, as if acting out
his supercilious front would somehow make it real. "I suppose it's a
chance you'll have to take."
Spitter seemed to grow a little anxious as he spun in a small
circle, squinting up along the edges of the valley.
"Prove it," he called out a little hesitantly.
"And use up our ammo? Do you honestly believe we're that foolish?"
"Get someone else to call out!" one of the men next to Spitter
called out. It took Ezra a moment, but he had just thought of a good
excuse for just why only he could speak-- being the translator for a
group of mute but very talented gunslingers was plausible at a
stretch-- when he was interrupted by an alien voice behind him.
"He's lying, Jay, there ain't no one but him here!"
Ezra swallowed. This was not good...
Chris and Buck raced out of Landon on the road leading to the
mountains. Beneath them, their horses snorted and tossed their
heads, excited by the fast pace. They raced each other over the dirt
ground and although Solon was leading, Beavis was putting up a good
fight, considering the fact that he carried both Buck and a very
indignant looking Cooper.
"Chris!" Buck shouted out against the wind. "Go left."
Chris didn't answer but Solon veered to the side in a sharp angle
and Beavis followed close behind.
"Where now?" Buck asked, leaning over his captive's shoulder. Cooper
didn't answer immediately and Buck dug into his ribs with his gun.
"Right-right! Turn right."
"I heard," Chris called over his shoulder and Buck grinned.
Ezra stood with his hands locked behind his head and a gun pointed
directly between his eyes. It was strange, but all he could think
about was how tired his arms were getting and how stiff they would
be later on. Beside him stood a growing line of people, it
alternated between man, woman, and child and just seemed to go no
and on. A new line began behind him; from the quiet sniffling he
presumed the first person in the second line to be a child. A young
one at that.
"Quiet." One of the men grunted as he passed the child. The child
sniffed again and the man came to a stop. Ezra couldn't see the man
but he knew what he was doing. Had experienced it many a time
himself. People who happened to be a little larger in size, girth,
or just older than their victim always believed that they could
instil intimidation just by being there. Sadly, on this occasion,
it worked perfectly and the child let out a pitiful whimper. The man
shifted and Ezra knew that if he didn't step in, the outcome could
only be disastrous.
"You might want to keep an eye out," he said as he felt a slight
waft of air on the back of his neck from the man's hand. It paused,
the child whimpered again but the man ignored it.
"What?" He stepped around into Ezra's vision and Ezra saw that it
was the very man who had crept up on him before. "You see
something?" he glanced over his shoulder to the lip of the valley
before them. Ezra snorted mentally but outside he tilted his head,
as if he were seriously considering aiding his captors.
"I might have." He focused on one spot in particular and the man
followed his gaze. He looked back at Ezra uncertainly, then
gradually made his way towards the slope.
"'Ey, Roy." Spitter neared Ezra from further down the line. "Where
"Just checking out the area." Roy answered. He scaled the slope as
pebbles rained down onto the valley floor. Once he reached the top
he shielded his eyes with one hand and peered out over the land
And promptly let out a shriek of alarm.
"We got company!" he bellowed as he half skipped half tumbled to the
ground. Chaos erupted immediately, the captives screamed as they
were pushed with aggressive hands back into the mouth of the mine.
Many fell to the ground but were violently pulled to their feet and
thrown forwards into the backs of those around them. Amongst the
chaos stood a wide-eyed, very quiet Ezra.
That, he hadn't expected.
They were reaching the rise; Buck could see it now, cutting out
through the sparse mountainside. He tightened his grip on both the
reins and the gun at Cooper's side and smiled.
Gradually, the sound of approaching hooves became audible to the
group. They hadn't managed to push all of the hostages back into the
mine but still they froze and turned to where the sound came from.
Ezra turned also; he stepped around a young woman, gently guiding
her to the side with his hands as he frowned at the rim.
They came closer and closer, galloping until they were very nearly
riding up the slope and over and then suddenly, they stopped. There
was a lone snort of one of the horses, then nothing.
Beside Ezra, Spitter uttered a foul oath and hastily drew his gun.
He fumbled at the holster, eyes continually flashing from one spot
to another, paranoid that he saw movement. Finally, he glared at
"You brought this on us," he hissed, venom in his tone.
"How many are there?" Chris asked as Buck latched Cooper to the base
of a small tree with Fawkes' cuffs. Cooper snorted and Buck made the
wrists just that little bit too tight.
"You gonna' tell us or are we just gonna' have to shoot you?"
Cooper glared at Buck.
"You shoot me and they'll know you're here."
Chris and Buck shared a look.
"We can take 'em?" Buck ventured and Chris nodded.
They began to scale the rise.
"What's keeping them?" Spitter snapped. He jogged on his feet and
had now taken to spinning in small circles, aiming his gun at
anything that just so happened to shift in the wind.
"Shit!" Buck barely managed to contain his shout as his footing gave
way beneath him. He hit the rise with a dull 'whumpf'. Beneath him a
steady stream of pebbles and dirt skittered back down to the ground
and into Cooper's indignant face.
"You okay?" Chris mouthed. Buck nodded as he crawled back to his
hands and knees, one hand rubbing at his elbow.
"Yeah, got my funny bone, god damnit."
"There." Spitter had stopped his circling. He looked at the spot on
the rise, as did the rest of the group. A cocky smile grew on his
face as he aimed his gun and waited.
They crouched on the ground just beneath the rim. There had been no
sound from below for some time and although neither mentioned it,
the fact disconcerted them. Chris glanced at Buck, met his gaze for
just a moment and bobbed his head, his bottom lip caught between his
"Count of three?"
A slow, lazy click and Spitter cocked his gun...
He stepped forward, calm, confident....
"Chris!" Ezra yelped the moment he recognised the blond head. His
eyes only widened as Buck joined Chris a moment later and he leapt
The third gunshot of that day and another man fell. He hit the
ground with a gasp of air, twisted once onto his back, then relaxed
so suddenly it looked as though a knife had just sliced through the
strings of a puppet.
No one spoke. There were no words to be said as all eyes looked at
the fallen man. Slowly, with a deadly detachment, the two men on the
rise looked up, murder in their eyes.
"You best put down your weapons." Spitter called out. He stepped
over Ezra's body, waving his gun as he did so and glaring up at the
two men. "We got you outnumbered ten to one."
"What makes you think we haven't got more men holed up back here?"
Buck called and Spitter sneered.
"We've already fallen for that once today. Reckon you'd better come
down here if you want your friend to live." Spitter kicked at Ezra's
side. Both Chris and Buck realised with some returning warmth that
Ezra wasn't dead. Yet.
"We go down there and you'll kill us."
"You stay up there and we still kill you."
"He's got a point," Buck murmured to Chris with a grim smile, Chris
just frowned at him.
"Ezra!" he tried, wanting to make sure that Ezra was okay for
himself. "Ezra, you think you can get up?"
Ezra uttered a low, pained groan and rolled over onto his side until
he could better see Chris.
"I could try," he winced.
"Where you hit?"
Ezra looked down himself and a hand snaked up to his left arm.
"Lord," he uttered, though Chris and Buck could still see him. "Why
is it always there?"
"Think he'll do okay." Buck chuckled. Chris grunted.
"Let him come up to us!"
Spitter barked a harsh laugh.
"Unless you didn't notice, you aren't in any condition to bargain
"You let him go and we let your leader live."
Again Spitter laughed. "You got Cooper? Like hell."
"Buck," Chris said and nodded down the rise to where Cooper was
"Buck," Chris repeated pointedly. With an irritated sigh, Buck slid
down the rise and began to remove Cooper's cuffs. He returned
shortly, pulling Cooper up roughly behind him.
Spitter's cocky grin faded a littler when he caught sight of his
leader and he snorted low in his throat, spitting foul phlegm to the
"Cooper," Cooper corrected with an irritated huff. "And what are you
doing standing around?" At Spitter's dumbfounded expression he
gestured to the mine.
"The hostages, you moron!"
It took a moment for Spitter to catch on, but when he did, he pushed
one of his fellow men towards the mine with a hissed order. The man
returned with the same frightened young child who had been
threatened before, a hand twisted firmly in the collar of the boy's
"My men are willing to let your friend go, Mr. Larabee," Cooper said
for his men. "But if they do, the child, and in turn all of his
fellow villagers, die in his place."
"If you touch one hair on that child's head or any of the others, so
help me god..." Came the reply. Strangely enough, it wasn't from
Chris, or Buck. It wasn't even from Ezra who was much too busy
remembering to breathe to speak again.
It came from the other side of the valley, where bit-by-bit, the
villagers were forming in a unified line. In the middle stood Fawkes
and he crossed his arms over his chest, bolstering his threat.
It seemed that the entire village had come. Tim, Counter-Tim, even
Valerie showed her support beside Fawkes with a glare and rifle of
"Fawkes?" Both Chris and Cooper asked almost simultaneously. They
glanced at each other, then back at the still growing group.
Fawkes winked across the valley.
"Damn straight," he replied. "Took us a bit of time to get on over
here, but," he looked down to where Ezra lay, "figure we arrived at
the nick of time."
"Your timing really is impeccable," Ezra wheezed sarcastically.
"Shut up, Ez." Chris reiterated automatically.
"So," Fawkes interrupted the two of them, looking now to
Spitter. "You boys gonna' behave whilst we take you in?"
Spitter bowed his head and looked ready to withdraw when Cooper all
but shrieked a negative.
"If any of you hand over your guns you're out! No-better than out,
you're dead!" he bellowed. Spitter looked from him to Fawkes and the
angry villagers behind him and snorted.
"Gotta' be crazy to go against that number." He threw down his gun.
Behind him came the sound of more guns being dropped.
And just like that, the tables had turned.
Two Weeks Later
Chris couldn't help but smile when he saw Ezra sitting out on the
clinic balcony. He tucked the package he held closer to his side and
scaled the stairs, secretly relieved when Ezra's countenance
genuinely brightened upon seeing him.
"How you doing?" Chris asked as he sat down on the bench beside
Ezra. Ezra shrugged with one shoulder.
"Nathan seems intent on treating me as if I were on death's door but
otherwise I'm fine." He cradled his hands on his lap with just that
much care that Chris found his eyes drifting down to Ezra's chest.
To the bandages he knew were hidden away beneath the shirt and
blankets. He looked away quickly.
"I brought you something," he said quickly and placed the parcel
lightly between him and Ezra. Ezra picked it up and looked down at
it. He ran his fingers lightly over the hand printed address on the
front and turned it over to the seal on the back.
"Thank you," he said, the slight quake in his voice said otherwise.
After a moment's hesitation, Ezra exhaled a steeling breath and
ripped the seal open, the papers inside dropped onto his lap and he
scooped them up, sorting them until one in particular was on top.
"I suppose I should give them to you," Ezra said softly. Chris
closed a hand over Ezra's and pushed the papers away.
"You don't have to..." There was an awkward pause, Chris took his
hand away. "What I said before... that I don't trust you. It's
not... I do, Ez. I trust you."
Ezra kept his eyes set on the papers, he attempted a light snort.
"I appreciate that." He glanced up at Chris. "I do, but even
still..." he pushed the papers onto Chris's lap and left them
there. "Better safe than sorry."
"Ez..." Chris reached out a hand, it lingered on Ezra's shoulder,
hesitant for a moment, and then he pulled Ezra over and draped his
arm around his shoulder. Ezra went easily. He looked out over the
street to the saloon. Inside he could see the silhouettes of his
friends. All of them, Josiah, JD, Vin, even Nathan. And Buck.
Ezra closed his eyes.
The fourth was afraid. He couldn't feel the elephant at all.