Nature of the Beast

by Toni

Buck Wilmington looked around the street as he went to fetch JD, as of yet he didn't see any strangers about. He only hoped the outlaws hadn't gotten to the boy yet. He was angry, he had started thinking of Ezra as a friend and the gambler was risking others lives and reverting back to his love of money. He didn't think he could forgive the gambler for it. He saw JD come to the entrance just as he reached the walkway. At least he was all right.

"Heh Buck what you up to? How's Ezra doing?" he asked exuberantly.

"You shouldn't care a whit about him, he done brought it on himself " Buck replied.

JD looked at him astonished, why in the world would Buck say such a thing.

"What's goin on Buck ?" he inquired.

"Ya seen any strangers hanging about? " Buck asked looking about.

"Nope, why ?" JD asked again, Buck didn't seem to want to answer him.

" Buck what's going on?" JD persisted.

Finally he blurted it out "That low down skunk is riskin yours and Josiah lives just for money. "

"What do you mean by that?" JD asked surprised he couldn't think of anything the gambler could have done.

"He stole that bank money "

"No he didn't "

"Yeah and he paid for it too, it was those bank robbers that messed him up. They want the bank money back and Ezra's got it. "

" Buck how would Ezra get that money "

"That man he shot had it on him, guess Ezra found it on him and decided to keep it. "

" Buck, Ezra never went near that man after he shot him. Josiah put him back on his horse and ..," JD hesitated when the realization hit him the saddle bags that had fallen from the man's horse. He hadn't even looked in them to eager to get to Casey's birthday dinner. "Damn " he muttered quietly unable to look into Buck's eyes. JD ran across the street to Nathan's clinic.

"What's the matter kid? " Buck yelled after him unable to figure out what had upset the boy. He ran after the kid, meeting up with Chris and Josiah heading back to the clinic. Chris had not yet told Josiah why he wanted him at the clinic, on their way there they had seen JD at a run.

"What's with JD Buck?" Josiah asked.

"Don't know yet, I guess we'll find out. " Buck replied just as stymied.

+ + + + + + +

JD burst into the clinic "Oh God Ezra I'm so sorry " he said to the startled gambler.

Vin looked at the young man he was on the verge of tears.

"Good lord it's not like I'm dying Mr. Dunn," Ezra said in surprise.

"It's my fault, all my fault," JD exclaimed.

"What's your fault "Chris asked as the rest of the men made their way into the clinic.

"Ezra being hurt," JD answered wringing his hands and pacing stopping again in front of the bed "God I'm sorry Ezra," he said again.

"Why in the world is it your fault JD, what in the world could you have done wrong " Buck asked his anger was still directed at the gambler.

JD looked at Buck then Chris as he answered. "I think I got the money " he replied.

"What does he mean about the money," Josiah asked still in the dark.

"The outlaws we was after yesterday the man Ezra killed had the bank money. They wanted it back and thought Ezra had it," Vin answered.

"JD why would you have the money ? "Chris asked already feeling guilty for immediately assuming the worse of the southerner.

"I know," Josiah replied "I was responsible too. "

"All right now what in tarnation is goin on. " Buck asked nonplussed.

"I don't know what I was thinking, the outlaws' saddlebags fell off his horse, JD picked it up and asked me what to do with it and I told him just to carry it with him. It never even occurred to me it was the bank money. I guess I didn't think one man would be carrying it," Josiah replied.

"No Josiah it was my fault, I wanted to get to Casey's so quick I never even thought about the bag. I never even looked in it. And because of me Ezra got all beat up," JD said fearing he would be asked to leave town.

"It's all right kid, you're mind was on other things. " Buck said wanting to take the strain off the boy.

Ezra looked up at Buck not really completely surprised but still somewhat astonished. They had been ready to tear into him for putting the others lives in danger but now that it had been discovered it was someone else's fault that's okay. He had been grievously harmed for nothing he had done but now it was all right. Ezra shook his head but no one else noticed to intent he thought at comforting the young man. He himself harbored no animosity towards JD but he was riled at those others who had been quick to judge him when they thought he had been at fault. He wondered if it would ever change.

Buck looked over at Ezra ashamed at what he had said and done earlier. He didn't know what to say, he knew he had been quick to judge but the gambler's past had made it easy to jump to conclusions.

"Sorry Pard " seemed to be all that he could manage.

For Ezra it wasn't enough this time, he was tired of the innuendo, of the disbelief no matter how much he tried changing, he was trying to make a new life in this town but now he considered he might have to leave and begin anew.

Ezra surveyed their faces "Yes well gentlemen now that we have the matter settled I am feeling rather taxed and need to rest do you think you could all do me the favor of leaving me to my rest?" he said.

Nathan took over "He's right guys, Ezra needs his rest," he said as he ushered the men out.

Vin had decided to stay, he had seen it in the gambler's eyes what he was going through, he needed a friend. The tracker was staying.

+ + + + + + +

"Okay JD where did you say the saddle bags were? "Chris asked he could see the guilt in JD's eyes.

"It's still at the livery with the rest of my tack," JD answered.

Chris could tell the boy was holding back tears. The boy had made a mistake, a bad mistake one that had hurt another. He remembered how he had felt when he thought something Ezra had done could have endangered two of the others. He didn't want to make the same mistake again.

Chris and Buck followed JD to the livery and found the saddle bags just where JD had left them inside was the bank money, all of it.

" Buck I think we better take this to the town bank then wire Falstaff we have their money. JD stay close to Buck the bank robbers may still be close and we already know they want this money back. "Chris instructed.

He looked at JD who looked dejected.

"JD don't let it break you up too bad, it were an accident. It could have happened to any of us. " Buck said trying to console the boy.

"No Buck, he should feel bad, he should have checked in the saddle bags but JD"Chris looked straight into the young man's eyes "We all make mistakes and I'm sure this won't be your last. "Chris smiled.

"Amen to that brother," Josiah said as he stepped into the livery hearing Chris' comments. "It was my fault too JD but now we have to get past it from what I understand everyone jumped on Ezra pretty bad I think we all need to make up for it. "

Buck and Chris both shook their heads in agreement.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra sat out on the balcony in front of the clinic. The room had become stifling. The southerner looked down at the wheel chair he was temporarily imprisoned in. He didn't like being an invalid relying on the rest of the peace keepers to get around. Though he knew it had happened many times before and would again it still bothered him that the men he worked with still had no belief in him. As long as he had worked with them trying to gain their respect and friendship they still saw him as a conman and a thief. Ezra knew he had to make a decision eventually whether to stay in this little burgh or continue on. He had really tried to make a new life of sorts but now he didn't see the purpose. The easiest way was to go back to his old ways running cons with his mother and gambling fleecing anyone who happened across his path. He felt alone again. Oh well he thought nothing he could do about it until he was able to get out of this contraption and then he'd be on his way. He would maintain his façade of indifference and civility , he would use their guilt to receive the aid he'd needed right now then he would leave not looking back.

"Ezra you getting tired you want to come back to bed?" Nathan asked as he came out to check on his patient.

"I'd rather get some help to go back to my own room please," Ezra answered. He really did want to be back in his own comfortable bed away from prying eyes.

Nathan looked at the southerner he knew there was no reason not to allow Ezra to rest in his own abode but he didn't want him to pull away anymore than he already had. The healer shook his head in agreement.

"I'll go get Josiah, it'll take two of us to get you over there. "

Nathan went down the stairs leaving Ezra alone to his thoughts again. He went to find the preacher, after asking around he found him in the livery talking to Ezra's horse and brushing him.

"Josiah "

" Brother Nathan "

"Thought I'd find you in the church "

"I thought Ezra's horse could use a little tending to. "

"Looked like you were talking to him. "

"Yep, just reassuring him that Ezra would be all right. Horses are smart they can feel when somethings not right. Didn't want him worrying. "

"I can use your help "

"What do you need "

"Ezra's hankering for his own bed, couldn't see why not. Needed your help to get him up there though. "

"How's he doing," Josiah asked.

"He's healing pretty fast," Nathan answered.

"That's not what I mean," Josiah said as he looked the healer in the eyes.

"He's closed himself off again. I think he's planning on leaving when he's able to," Nathan said aware of the part he had played.

"We'll have to help to change his mind. "

"I don't know if we can we went too far this time. "Nathan did consider Ezra a friend, he would trust him with his life. It had been just too easy to assume Ezra's lust for money had taken him over.

+ + + + + + +

The six men hovered around the campfire trying to gain some warmth from the fire. They now had very little money loosing what was to be their big score to an unknown element. One of the men stood carrying a cup of hot coffee to their leader who had kept himself apart from the others. He had asked for their trust and now they had nothing. One of the men had stayed in town after their assault on the gambler, unfortunately he found out it had not been the gamble who had had their money but now it was locked in the vault of the bank in Four Corners, the lawmen had found it.

"Jake what are we gonna do now? " the smaller man asked as he handed him the coffee.

The leader shook his head not liking what he was about to say but knowing they could not go back empty handed. They had very little to go back to.

"We grab one of em, then we parlay for the bank money. There's no turning back now," he answered. Jake stood up and walked to the rest of the men. He held his shoulders back and with authority he did not feel he laid out the plan. Which ever of the peacekeepers of Four Corners was found easiest to grab they would take. They were not leaving without what they now considered they're money. They had nothing left to lose but their lives.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra had awakened to a shooting pain down his leg. He moaned trying to get more comfortable but nothing seemed to be helping.

"Ezra are you all right?" JD asked. He had been sitting, reading his dime store novel ready to help Ezra with what ever he needed.

Ezra had been taken to his own room but one of the peacekeepers was with him every minute of the day and JD had seemed to be with him the most. JD had been very repentant, Ezra hadn't the heart to be angry with him, he wasn't even angry anymore with the others who had doubted him, he had bottled up his emotions telling himself it didn't matter anymore what anyone else thought of him only what he thought of himself.

JD tried to help Ezra to a more comfortable position, he could see though the gambler was trying to hide it that the man was in a lot of pain, his face was flushed. JD was worried he might have a fever.

"Ezra I'm going to go get Nathan, he can give you something to make you feel better," JD said looking down on the injured man knowing that he had caused Ezra to be hurt.

Ezra nodded allowing the grimace to show on his face. His legs were throbbing. He would drink what ever Nathan saw fit to give him.

"I'll just be gone a minute " the boy said and quickly left the room.

JD raced down the stairs to find Nathan, he wasn't in the saloon and he wasn't in his clinic. JD ran to the church hoping to find the healer helping Josiah with the church repair. As he entered the darkened church he saw Josiah and Vin near the front in discussion as they hammered at a bench.

Vin was the first to look up hearing JD enter.

"Anything wrong with Ezra JD?" he asked knowing the boy had been keeping watch on the gambler.

"He's not feeling too well, I've been looking for Nathan but I can't find him." he replied anxious to get back to the gambler.

Josiah stood up concerned "You left Ezra alone?" he asked.

"He needed Nathan, I didn't think I'd be gone this long," JD answered.

"It's all right son you did the right thing, why don't you and Vin go find Nathan and I'll watch over Ezra for a bit," Josiah said not wanting the boy to feel any more guilt. Too many mistakes had already been made.

"Come on JD let's check with Chris over at the jail, he'll most likely know where to find Nathan," Vin said as he led JD out of the church.

Josiah watched the two leave then picked up his bible and headed for Ezra's room.

+ + + + + + +

The bank robbers had been watching the town. They were finding it difficult to abduct any of the lawmen. Apparently after finding out about the attack on the gambler they had stayed out in the open and usually in twos. One of the men had watched JD run out of the saloon, he knew the boy had been staying with the gambler. The gambler was now alone he didn't have much time he guessed making his way to the back of the saloon he went up the back stairs. He had been to the gambler's room once already he knew exactly where it was. There was no one guarding the door. Grasping the door knob he turned it slowly and quietly opening the door. He quickly entered the room. The gambler lay on the bed, his eyes were closed but he could tell the man was not asleep, he felt somewhat sorry for the gambler for what Jake had done but they needed the money badly. He had hesitated, the gambler opened his eyes surprised at who he saw and made a feeble attempt to grab for his small derringer sitting on the table next to the bed. The robber already had his own gun drawn and used the butt of it against the gambler's head effectively knocking him unconscious. He grabbed the unresisting gambler and threw him over his shoulder removing the note from his pocket he left it on the night stand where the others could find it then quickly leaving the bedroom and exiting down the back stairs shortly before Josiah entered the front stairway to check on Ezra.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah knocked on Ezra's bedroom door. The man valued his privacy though he had not had any recently. There was no answer Josiah wondered if the southerner had managed to fall asleep then began to worry whether Ezra may have passed out. He turned the door knob he knew it wasn't locked. He entered the room calling out quietly Ezra's name, if the man was asleep he didn't want to disturb him. He looked at the bed, it was empty. There was no way Ezra could have left the bed with out help and if he was feeling poorly as JD had said he wouldn't have left it at all. Josiah looked closer he could see what looked like small stains of blood on the pillow case. They were fresh, Josiah knew the gambler had been taken he had to find the others and fast.

+ + + + + + +

"Damn it," Jacob cursed as he looked down at the man that had been brought to him. It was the gambler again he was still unconscious, his man had been able to extricate him from the town without being seen.

"What's wrong Jacob you said as soon as one of em was by themselves to nab him," Horace couldn't understand why his boss was so mad at him.

"They ain't gonna give us back the money for him! He's a cardshark with a quick draw. They barely tolerate him. Jacob himself felt somewhat sorry for the fancy man. What little he'd seen of him he didn't seem that bad.

"Jacob maybe you're wrong, I seen all of them staying with him all the time, helping him out. I don't think they would have done that iffen they didn't like him at least a little," Horace tried to appease the older man. " besides none of us could get to any of the others. "

"Well I guess all we can do is try," Jacob replied. He looked down at the southerner who was beginning to stir, he squatted down on his knees looking into the gamblers eyes as they began to open. He smiled "I guess this just isn't your week. "

"Good lord," Ezra replied, he just wasn't up to this again, his legs hurt and now his head hurt.

"Boys," Jacob called out " bring me over a blanket and some coffee " he ordered. "No reason we can't make you comfortable while you're here " he said to Ezra. He straightened the gambler from the heap he had been thrown in then laid the blanket on top of him then held out the cup of coffee.

Through bleary eyes Ezra looked at the man quizzically "I'm afraid your kindness surprises me, I would have thought you have started inflicting more pain upon myself," he said as he reached for the coffee.

"Naw we're just gonna use you as a hostage. We know the laws got the bank money now we're just gonna keep you here till we get it back. "

Ezra choked on the coffee he had begun to sip, Jacob gently hit him on the back until he managed to stop. "My good man, as much as I regret telling you this there is no way in Hades you're going to get that money back using me as a hostage. You might have had a slight chance if you had taken one of the others but I'm of no use to you. I am truly sorry. "

"You sure don't think too highly of yourself," Jacob replied not surprised at what the man had told him, he already had an inclination of the same, but at emotion he had seen in the gambler's eyes, the sadness, the southerner couldn't completely hide.

"I am being practical sir," Ezra replied he was fighting to keep his eyes open but losing the battle his vision was blurring finally he closed his eyes no longer fighting it. There was nothing he could do at this time to help himself.

Jacob took the coffee from the gambler, he hoped the man was wrong, he and his men needed the bank money but he also hoped the men in town thought more of the gambler than he thought they did. Jacob knew the man was decent even if you had to look a little harder to find the good.

Nathan was found in the livery with Chris by Vin and JD. The healer had gone to his clinic to fetch some herbs for Ezra walking down the steps from the clinic the rest were waiting for him a dour look on their faces.

"What's wrong is Ezra worse ?" he asked afraid for the southerner.

"He's gone," Josiah answered he had already met the rest of the men and given them the bad news.

"What do you mean he's gone, he's got two broken legs he couldn't have gone anywhere yet," Nathan replied thinking Josiah meant the gambler had decided already to leave.

"No Nathan, he's been taken I reckon," Vin answered.

"Whoever took him left this note behind," Josiah said. Chris took the note from his. It read: we have your man, bring our money to the clearing two miles from town at noon tomorrow if you don't the man dies.

Buck was the first to ask "Chris what are we gonna do?" he asked his friend.

"Wake up the banker and get the money out " the dark man replied.

"You're not gonna give em the money are you, you can't be serious. " Buck said wanting to save Ezra but not believing Chris would turn over the money to save the gambler.

"It's just money Buck, we can get it back later. We can't leave Ezra to die. "Chris answered looking Buck in the eyes.

"He's right brother we owe Ezra that much," Josiah said hoping the others believed the same.

Chris looked to the others in turn, each nodding their head in agreement. They were all as one or at least would be as soon as they got Ezra Standish back.

Jacob had sat watching the gambler during the night not worried the man would escape but concerned over his health. The gamble had awoken a few times during the course of the night nauseous and vomiting and now appeared to have a fever. The bank robber didn't actually think he would be able to kill the man if his companions didn't bring their money back. If the exchange were not only a few hours away he would have considered taking the gambler back to town for medical help.

Ezra awoke to find Jacob lay a cold compress across his brow. The man was being remarkably helpful for being his captor. He wondered how the day would go, if this would be his last or if his captors would release him. He had no doubt the money would not be forth coming. He had no way to escape on his own. The way he felt now if he didn't receive any medical help from Nathan he might not make it through the day.

Horace brought over a cup of coffee for both Jacob and Ezra. Jacob took his cup and handed the other over to the gambler.

"It won't be much longer now," Jacob said to Ezra.

"I'm afraid that's not much comfort to me," Ezra replied.

"Why's that?" Jacob replied looking at him puzzled.

"It tells me my death is imminent," Ezra replied sipping from his coffee.

"You don't have much faith in your friends," Jacob said.

"The question is are they my friends, I had started to believe they were but I'm afraid I was wrong," Ezra answered surprised he was discussing it with a man who was probably going to end his life very soon.

"Maybe they'll surprise you," Jacob replied and smiled then stood to help prepare for the trade.

Ezra watched the other man, he was an enigma to him after causing him such pain earlier he now doted over him like a mother hen. He had heard the other men talking over the campfire. They were not such a bad lot, most had lost everything and had turned to robbery to bring back money for their families. He did not approve of it but he could understand it. Ezra didn't think there was any way they were going to get their money but now he began to wonder if his life might be spared by them but if it was what would he do next, did he still want to leave Four Corners once he was capable of it? He didn't know though he didn't know how he could continue to face his fellow lawmen knowing that he was the only one that put a value on his life. Ezra looked down at his legs, they throbbed incessantly, this was for once a time he truly wished for one of Mr. Jackson's foul brews. He was sweating but at the same time felt chilled he knew this didn't bode well. He just had to hold on for a little longer. One way or another something was going to happen.

+ + + + + + +

The black steed reared back on its hind legs sensing the mood of its rider. Chris was angry, Ezra was gone and it was his fault, a part of his extended family had been ripped from their fold and it was his fault. First he had bullied him when he hadn't done anything wrong starting the rift the he had immediately jumped to the wrong conclusion when Ezra had needed their support so the gambler was thinking about leaving them and now the bank robbers had abducted the southerner, they had not properly protected him when they knew his life was in danger. Plus he knew the southerner probably thought there was no way they would trade him for the money. Well this time the man would be wrong, they were going to trade for him. If they saw an opening to grab the gambler they would but if not the bank robbers could have the money and once he got the gambler back he was going to do everything in his power to keep him in their town, in their family

"All right everyone mount up " he called out to the others, it was time, time to bring back one of their own. The others had been ready, they didn't think Falstaff would agree with what they were about to do but they didn't care, besides no one but no one argued with Chris Larabee.

"Don't worry Chris we'll get him back," Buck called out as they headed out. Nathan was bringing up the rear with a buck board knowing that Ezra would not be able to ride a horse. He would stay further behind in case of trouble. The healer had also brought laudanum and bandages ready to administer to the gambler.

Jacob and his men were waiting at the clearing, they had arrived early in preparation for the exchange. This would be their last chance, there was a possibility that none of them would leave here alive but they were willing to face that possibility. Ezra was waiting at the back he actually wished these men luck not so much at getting their money back but in staying alive. They were not such bad sorts he had decided just made a wrong decision or actually a number of bad decisions, taking him hostage was just one of them. He had had a long time with their leader Jacob, the man was a decent fellow. Ezra harbored no animosity towards the man for his predicament.

Jacob walked up to the gambler "It's just about time " he said.

"Jacob it's not too late, just leave me here and ride away if they come they will most certainly kill you. If you ride away maybe I can talk them into letting you go. Falstaff will have their money back, you just made a mistake," Ezra pleaded with him, he no longer feared for his own life but for these wayward men.

"Ezra you're a good man, but we have nothing to go back too our families will starve with out this money, I know it wasn't ours but we have to have it." Jacob replied sadly.

"Jacob, leave me out on the trail, I'll talk to them, we'll think of something to help you all out. They're decent men willing to help others," Ezra tried afraid of the out come otherwise.

"Can't do it," Jacob answered "But don't worry no harm will come to you," feeling the genuine concern the gambler was imparting.

"You know I'm real sorry I had to hurt you before. "

"Water under the bridge my good man, water under the bridge," Ezra said as he held out his hand to shake the hand of his captor and friend. Jacob held out his own hand in reply and grasped Ezra's hand in a firm grip.

"It was nice knowing you Ezra " he said.

One of the men rode up and dismounted "Boss they're comin "

"You can still change your mind," Ezra asked one last time.

"Naw we've come too far," Jacob replied and smiled " this'll end it one way or the other" he said as he walked to meet with the peacekeepers.

Chris was in the lead with Buck behind him, Vin had taken the high ground. JD was in the wagon with Nathan.

Jacob walked out in front of his other men " you got the money Lara bee " he asked.

"I got it where's my man? "Chris asked glaring at the man.

"He's safe let's see the money," Jacob replied.

Chris pulled the saddle bags from behind him opening them so Jacob could see the money inside.

Jacob motioned Horace to take the bags , Chris pulled back "Not til I see Standish," he stated.

Jacob turned and nodded to two of his men, Ezra was brought up carried by the two men and set down on the ground. Chris threw the saddle bags on the ground next to Jacob.

Ezra watched, he could see Chris and the men were itching to pull their guns, he saw the money as it fell out of the bags when tossed on the ground he couldn't believe Chris would trade the money for him. Ezra turned towards the robbers he saw the look in Jacobs eyes telling him " see they are your friends " it was true but now his friends were more than likely going to kill these other men because of him, he couldn't let it happen but what could he do.

Horace pulled his gun, Chris saw the threat began to unholster his own, Jacob saw the peace keeper aim towards Horace he pulled his own gun.

Ezra yelled out to Chris looking him in the eyes pleading "NO" but it was too late. Horace was shot by Chris, Jacob attempting to help him was shot by Buck. The rest of the robbers shot randomly. Ezra crawled to help Jacob, JD jumped out of the wagon to help Ezra, Ezra saw one of the robbers point his gun at JD as JD bent down to pull Ezra away, the gambler knocked JD down but in return felt the burn of the bullet enter his back. Vin shot this last man dead. The smoke cleared with all the bank robbers dead.

JD lay on the ground, he felt Ezra's weight on him the man wasn't moving. "My God " he thought have we gone through all of this only to let Ezra die.

"Nathan," JD called out. Nathan had taken a graze to the head a small trickle of blood ran down his face. Chris helped Nathan off the ground where he had fallen.

"I'm all right Chris, help me get to Ezra, Josiah get my bag," Nathan commanded. The healer walked to JD who was cradling the unconscious gambler. He could see where the bullet had entered Ezra's back not much blood was flowing from it. Hopefully he thought the bullet had not hit anything vital and he could remove it quickly. Nathan had Josiah remove Ezra's coat. If the wound was bad he would have to tend to it now. Nathan probed the entryway it wasn't too bad the bullet had entered just below the shoulder blade and stopped, embedded in the muscle there. This time Ezra had been lucky.

"Nathan how is he?" Chris asked looking down at them.

"I think he'll be all right the wound isn't serious but I want him in my clinic and he has to stay there until I say otherwise. He's gonna be too weak to do anything," Nathan warmed the rest.

"When Ezra wakes up he's not gonna like that," Vin said with a small laugh.

"It's not gonna be up to Ezra, it's gonna be up to me until he gets better," Nathan fumed doting over the downed gambler after the harsh words he had used on the southerner then the threat he could have left or even died Nathan was gonna make sure Ezra got the care he should even if it killed him which once the gambler started feeling better the healer knew it might come to that, Ezra didn't like any one fussing over him.

Josiah lifted the unconscious gambler on to the back of the wagon, Nathan jumped in the back to tend to him while JD grabbed the reins to take them back to Four Corners.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra became fully awake when he attempted to shift his position only to feel a burning pain coming from his back, a shaft of sunlight peeked through the curtains which were only partly drawn but managed to shine directly on his face. Ezra certainly didn't like that. He tried to move again.

"I wouldn't do that " he heard turning his head he saw Chris in the chair next to him. "You'll end up ripping your stitches and then I'll have to wake up Nathan and he'll be awfully grumpy considering he just got to sleep then he'll make your life miserable."

Ezra stared at the man, he couldn't remember when the man had said so much at once. "Would you be so kind as to pull those curtains a little tighter. " the gambler asked.

"Sure " the usually monosyllabic answer, now that was more like the man he knew.

"Could you use some water?" Chris asked reaching for the pitcher.

"I would prefer a more substantial libation," Ezra answered but took the water gratefully.

"Don't think that would be a good idea," Chris stated and smiled another unusual occurrence.

Ezra looked at the leader of the peacekeepers "Mr. Larabee, I would just like to thank you for bringing the money, I know that was a hard decision," he said looking Chris in the eyes.

"Wasn't hard at all Ezra, we all were willing to give up the money to save you," Chris answered. "Ezra... I want to apologize for my actions earlier, you been with us long enough I should have believed you. It won't happen again. "

"Mr. Larabee, Chris that means a lot to me," Ezra said with gratitude.

"I know the rest of the boys feel the same way.... But I think you can probably milk them for awhile yet," Chris said and laughed.

"Chris what did you do with the robbers?" Ezra asked.

"We checked with the town of Falstaff, most of the men were from the surrounding area, we're sending them back to their families. "

"They're all dead? "

"Yep "

"Chris they weren't such bad men, they just made some wrong choices. "

"We didn't want to kill them," Chris said.

"I know that but in the end that's what they were expecting , can't change the nature of the beast. "

The End

Comments to: