I do not own any of the Magnificent Seven nor do I make any money from this story. All copyrights apply.
Thanks to my beta readers.
This is the first fanfic I have ever written, also the first story that I have completed.
Ezra Standish was walking toward the saloon when he heard his name being called. Turning, he saw Mary Travis rushing to meet him, waving a brown envelope in her hand. She came up besides him slightly out of breath.
"Ezra, I'm glad I caught you," she said, "I just received this and it's addressed to you."
She handed him the envelope, which he took, while a slight frown settled on his handsome face.
"Why, thank you, Mrs Travis," he said.
As he spoke he gingerly turned the brown envelope over in his hands, studying it for clues as to what it might contain, what news it might bring. Of course, Ezra being Ezra, assumed any news would be bad.
"You say it came to you personally?" he asked.
"Well, no. It was addressed care of the newspaper in a larger envelope. Whoever sent it obviously didn't know your address. It must have arrived yesterday, however I only found it this morning. I apologize for the delay."
Ezra looked up from studying the envelope, "Please do not concern yourself about what is most certainly an inconsequential delay; I have it now and that is sufficient," he said flashing his trademark smile.
"I'll leave you to read it then," Mary replied with a smile and turned to leave.
"Thank you, Mrs Travis," Ezra called after her.
She half turned and waved in acknowledgement. The envelope puzzled him; he did a quick memory search on who knew him by the name 'Ezra Standish' and of those who did, who would write to him and why.
"You could always open it up and see."
Ezra started; he hadn't heard Vin come up behind him.
Angry with himself for being caught off guard, Ezra turned and snapped, "Mr. Tanner, please desist that irksome habit of sneaking up on people."
Before Vin could react Ezra stormed away, down the boardwalk and into the saloon. Vin stood for a few minutes contemplating Ezra's actions. Finally, dismissing the sudden show of temper as embarrassment, he wandered off.
Ezra sat tapping the envelope on the table, musing. Vin was right, he should just read it.
He torn the letter open and unfolded a single sheet of rough page.
It's me, Seth Dane. How you doing?
Ezra's heart started to beat a little faster. Dane. Seth. Seth Dane. He was a man whom Ezra had encountered about twelve years ago. A frightening character; gentle and kind one moment, cold-hearted and downright mean then next. And the change, well, it could occur in the blink of an eye. Ezra had only known the man for about two weeks, when he had been up north. Those two weeks had been far too long. With much trepidation he continued to read.
I have been okay... I got out of prison two years ago.
Out, the man was out of prison. This was a worry. The man had been in prison for murder. He should have been hanged, not released after ten years. Ezra's thoughts raced.
Trying to get my life together, then I thought about you. I don't blame you. I thought I would visit you. See how you are doing.
Ezra wondered where he was going to with all the you's.
So I said to myself, I would visit you. I am catching the next coach.
See you, Seth
"The next coach," Ezra muttered.
Seth hadn't said where he was and the envelope didn't reveal a location either. What if he had only been a few miles away when he wrote the blasted letter; he could be here on the next coach that could be today. What did he mean he doesn't blame Ezra. He did not do anything. Ezra chewed his bottom lip as he considered the possibilities.
He jumped up suddenly, saying aloud, "The coach."
He looked up to see Buck and JD sitting at their table, looking at him with puzzled expressions on their faces. He went over to them and asked,
"The stage coach. Was it not supposed to be here yesterday?"
"Yeah," said Buck wondering want was up. He had being watching Ezra reading the letter, wondering what it contained that it had held his attention for the better half of the afternoon.
"Gentlemen, I have an errand to run; be assured I will be back in town in a few days," said Ezra as he headed towards the saloon doors.
Just as Ezra reached the saloon doors, he heard the distinctive sound of the stagecoach as it rolled into town. Looking up the dusty street, Ezra could see the coach. He turned and jogged up the street to the livery to get Chaucer. If he left now he could remove himself from Four Corners for a few days, perhaps find a lucrative poker game or two in one of the nearby hamlets and upon his return find that he missed Mr Dane's visit. Arriving at the livery he realised he had forgotten his supplies. He stood at the doorway debating what to do. He couldn't leave without clothes, food or water. If he returned now to his room above the saloon the probabilities were high that Seth would find him. But he couldn't very well leave without any personal effects. Damn, he had to go back.
Chris was sitting outside the jail keeping watch over the town; his attention had been on the coach until he saw Ezra leave the saloon. He watched curiously as Ezra stood outside for a moment before jogging up to the livery. He hesitated in the doorway then turned back toward the saloon but this time he went round the back.
'What is Ezra up to now?' Chris muttered to himself. He was about to get up and follow but stopped as the door to the stagecoach opened.
Only one passenger stepped out of the coach, a well-dressed man of average height and build. The man stood in the street for a few minutes looking over the town before headed directly to the saloon.
Chris got up and walked over to the alley behind the saloon; sure enough, Ezra came hastily round the corner carrying his saddlebags.
"Where you goin' Ezra?" Chris asked.
Ezra stopped abruptly, a slight frown on his face then he grinned. His face smoothing as if he hadn't a care in the world.
"Mr Larabee, what can I do for you?"
"I asked you a question." said Chris. Now he was getting irritated.
"Ah, yes, you did. I have some business to attend to. Now if you excuse me, it's getting late and I must be on my way."
Chris stared at him for a while, shrugged and stepped aside. Ezra started to pass when suddenly a voice from the past rang out,
Ezra flinched. Turning he saw it was indeed Seth Dane; damn, the man was immediately recognizable. Even after twelve years.
"I just got here. You know, some boys in the saloon told me I just missed you," said Seth. He appeared not to have noticed Chris. His eyes fell on Ezra's saddlebags, "You going somewhere?"
Chris noticed how uncomfortable Ezra looked, he saw Ezra flash his fake smile, "No, I ..."
He stopped, Seth had closed his eyes. He swayed slightly and opened them, his left eye gazing toward the rooftops. Ezra took an involuntary step back, his face paling suddenly.
"Are you lying to me?" asked Seth.
Seth's voice was deeper and suddenly menacing; he narrowed his eyes. Chris coughed, breaking the uneasy air that had been developing. Seth turned to look at him, he gave himself a little shake. Blinking rapidly, he stuck out his hand,
"Afternoon, I'm Seth Dane."
Chris glared at the man, glanced at Ezra, who had his poker face on although the colour had not completely returned to his face. He slowly took shook Seth's hand,
"Chris Larabee." Almost as an afterthought he added, "the law of this town; so is Ezra."
Seth frowned at Chris's statement. He stuck a fake grin on his face,
"A lawman, Ezra? You on the side of the law?"
Ezra simply nodded, not wanting to say anything that might send Seth over the edge. Seth suddenly laughed, causing Ezra to step back again.
"Well, that is something, Ezra. That why you stay in this town?" Not waiting for an answer, he grabbed Ezra's arm and started for the saloon, "come on now, I'll buy you a meal, then how's about a game of poker?"
Ezra pulled himself out of Seth grasp, "I am quite capable of finding my way to the saloon, Mr Dane."
Again Seth laughed.
"You still can't call people by their first names."
He stopped laughing just as suddenly and turned to Chris, who had been watching quietly.
"You know Ezra can't call people by their first names; you know why?" he asked.
Chris looked past Seth at Ezra who seemed intent on staying out of Dane's reach. Damn, Ezra looked ready to run; ready to bolt any second. What was it about this man that had Ezra so skittish?
"No," said Chris.
Seth looked disappointed, "Oh, I don't know either."
He laughed again. Chris was already tired of Dane's constant laughing. Nothing funny was being said. It seemed to Chris that the man was having some trouble with the idea that Ezra was a lawman. He had trouble with it himself sometimes. Seth turned, he saw Ezra standing some distance away from him now. Squinting his eyes, he pointed a finger at him and barked "food" before walked towards the saloon.
Ezra followed Seth with his eyes, watched him go into the saloon. He turned his gaze on Chris. He really felt like hitting the man, if he hadn't delayed him with his questions he would have been on his way before Dane caught him. It was too late now; he wouldn't be able to slip away. Of all the luck.
Chris stood for a few seconds after Ezra had angrily brushed by him, watching as Ezra followed Dane into the saloon; the doors swinging rapidly as the man reluctantly followed Dane.
Why was Ezra going to eat with a man he clearly disliked? No, there was more to it than that. Feared the man? Was that it; did Ezra fear this man? Dane was obviously crazy. How did Ezra know him? And what did Dane want in his town? Mulling the situation over he walked out of the alleyway. A bit of white caught his eye as he headed back to the jail. It was a piece of paper, he bent to pick it up. Unfolding the paper, Chris saw that it was a letter addressed to Ezra. Chris was about to fold it again when he caught the name Seth Dane. Ezra must have dropped it earlier when he pulled himself out of Seth's grasp. Chris debated with himself on whether he should read it or not. His concern over both Ezra and Dane's strange behaviour overcame his reluctance to invade another's privacy and Chris quickly read it.
It's me Seth Dane. How are you doing?
I have been okay... I got out of prison two years ago. Trying to get my life together, then I thought about you. I don't blame you. I thought I would visit you. See how you are doing. So I said to myself I would visit you. I am catching the next coach.
Chris noticed a change of writing style halfway through the letter, as if someone else had finished the letter. Chris recalled the almost physical change that came over Dane when he saw Ezra's saddlebags, as if suddenly they were looking at another person...as if there were two people in one body. It wasn't possible. Chris wandered back to the jail and sat down in his usual chair. He spent the remainder of the afternoon watching the town, studying the letter and contemplating Dane's actions earlier that day. It was approaching evening when Chris looked up and noticed Josiah coming from the church. If anybody knew about such things it would be Josiah.
"Josiah!" Chris called as he walked towards him. Josiah stopped and waited for Chris to catch up.
"Josiah, I want to ask you something. Can two people live in one body?" asked Chris straight out.
There was a long silence before Josiah answered,
"By two people in one body, you mean their minds?"
"Yes, some believe there is such a thing. Not much is known about it. The few who are thought to suffer from this...disorder...are in asylums. Why do you ask? Do you know someone like that?" Josiah asked.
Chris shrugged, "I don't, but I think maybe Ezra does."
Chris explained about Seth, his odd behaviour and Ezra's strange reaction to the man. He also showed Josiah the letter.
"Does Ezra know you have this?" Josiah asked, indicating the letter.
"I doubt it; he dropped it when he was pulling away from Dane."
Josiah was about to respond when they both heard gunfire from the saloon. With a brief glance at each other they set off.
Ezra was having the worst evening of his life, that didn't involve jail and even then he was sure things would have gone better. He had hardly eaten and had drink more than he usually did. He was playing his fourth game of poker and was losing more than he wanted and more than he normally allowed but so far it had kept Dane happy and that was all that counted. In addition to Ezra and Dane was a third man, James, who had joined them two rounds ago apparently hoping that Ezra's bad luck would allow him to recoup some of yesterday's losses.
Ezra couldn't help remembering a similar situation involving Dane, himself and a stranger that had occurred some twelve years ago.
Ezra had met Dane on the road to River's Bend. After a bit of conversation and an amiable lunch on the side of the road, they agreed it would be prudent and safer to continue traveling together until they made their way to River's Bend. After about a week on the hot, dusty road, Ezra headed directly to the hotel to check in and made arrangements for a hot bath. Seth likewise checked into the hotel and the two men agreed to meet later at the town's saloon.
Following a surprising serviceable meal at the restaurant in the hotel, Ezra made his way over to the saloon and he and Seth settled down for a night of poker. Eventually a third, then a fourth man joined in. Ezra was, as usual, winning steadily. And while the third and fourth men were winning often enough to be respectable, Seth was losing quickly.
Just before midnight Seth ran out of money. Angrily digging in his pockets, he pulled out a pendant. It was a tear-shaped black pearl encased in delicate silver latticework. It was exquisite. Ezra was surprised to find that Seth carried such an obviously expensive piece of jewellery around in his pocket. Although Seth was pleasant enough he was dressed simply and appeared to be only moderately educated. Ezra asked where he had got it. Seeing Ezra's obvious surprise at the appearance the pendant, Seth explained somewhat defensively that it had belonged to his grandmother before she died. It was quickly agreed that the pendant would cover Seth for the next round and the black pearl pendant went into the pot.
Seth lost. He sat staring at the table for a full minute and when he looked up his right eye was staring forward but his left eye was looking off to one side. Ezra had noticed earlier that it happened when Seth got mad or irritated. He had found it slightly amusing at first but as the evening and Seth's losing streak continued Ezra began to find it more and more disconcerting. Seth suddenly pulled out his gun and started shooting randomly around the room. He killed the player sitting to Ezra's left, the bartender and wounded four others before he was subdued and arrested. Ezra had fled town that very night but had heard talk in a nearby town that Seth Dane had soon after been tried and found guilty. With two deaths by his hand, Ezra had assumed that the man had been hanged. After that he put the entire incident out of his mind and never gave it a second thought until he got Seth letter that morning.
That morning... that seemed an eternity ago to Ezra. The sun was just setting as Ezra looked out the window of the saloon. Suddenly aware that Seth had won the round, Ezra turned his attention back to the game just as James slapped his hand down hard on the table stopping Dane from collecting his winnings.
"You cheated," said James.
Ezra knew James had put a large sum of money down, he cleared his throat hoping to defuse the situation,
"Sir, I can assure you, no one has cheated at this table. I ..."
"I said he cheated," James said again.
"Didn't," said Seth sullenly.
"Gentlemen, let's not regress to childish arguments. I'm sure this can be sorted out," placated Ezra.
"Are you taking his side, Ezra?" asked Dane, directly his glare at Ezra.
"I do not take sides, Mr Dane. I ..."
Again, James interrupted Ezra.
"Do something about this cheat, lawman."
"I didn't cheat," snapped Dane.
Ezra raised his hand to interfere when Dane suddenly stood up his gun drawn; James followed suit. Ezra realized that Dane's left eye was off on its own. Halfway up from his seat, James and Dane started firing at each other. However, as both were well on their way to drunk, their shots flew wide.
As Chris entered the bar he saw Ezra standing in front of two men. Dane and some other man, Ezra had a gun trained on both men. The two men also had guns in their hands. Chris realised that the card game on the table was the reason for the stand off. A quick scan of the room showed that no one was seriously hurt. Seth was saying something,
"Are you going to shoot us, lawman Ezra?"
Ezra frowned, had he said 'us'? Surely the man wasn't suddenly aligning himself with James?
"Mr. Dane, may I inquire as to whom you are referring when you say 'us'?"
Both eyes now blinking rapidly. Seth looked around wildly, as if he thought Ezra was trying to play a trick on him.
"Us... me and Seth."
Ezra stared at Dane, the man was insane. Before he could decide what to do or say to the insane man in front of him a single shot broke the silence and Seth crumpled to the floor. Dead. Ezra turned to his guns on James.
"No one cheats me!" snarled James.
Ezra's mind was still reeling from the implications of Dane's words. He looked down at the floor at the man he had so briefly known as Seth Dane and back James. Opening his month, he said the first thing that came to mind,
"You are under arrest, sir."
Ezra was standing outside the jail watching the prison wagon roll away. It was Nathan, not Josiah, who knew about split personalities; he had seen a case in the war and read about another in a medical journal that Mrs Travis had ordered for him last year.
JD came out of the jail and stood next to Ezra,
"Judge said Dane must have somehow slipped out with an attempted escape that happen two years ago. He got life 'coz killing the bartender was an accident and nobody seems to care about the other man...just some stranger passing through."
They stood in silence for a while.
"Was Dane a friend of yours?" asked JD.
"No, Mr Dunne."
JD looked at Ezra, laughing softly he said,
"Ezra, that was the shortest sentence I have ever heard from you, you know that?"
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