by Beth Green
Author's Notes: This is a missing scene from 'Working Girls.' Although this ficlet was written in response to a challenge, it also came about as an attempt to counter the rumor that Ezra enjoys dressing up in women's clothing in his spare time.
"I WHAT!? I have never heard such complete and utter nonsense. I am seriously regretting my impetuous decision to go along with Mr. Larabee's outrageous proposal. The merciless verbal slurs that I've had to endure from my fellow peacekeepers are bad enough. To hear such dreck from complete strangers is intolerable. I will not stand for it!"
Mr. Standish, believe it or not, I'm actually on your side. Shall I continue?
"Yes, please do."
+ + + + + + +
Once he had decided upon a particular course of action, Ezra was not the sort of man who could be easily dissuaded. If circumstances allowed, he always paused to consider the possible ramifications of his actions. His current endeavor was the result of careful reflection upon the fate that would befall the unfortunate women who had fled the hellish servitude they'd endured in Wickestown. Their skills and thus their prospects were exceedingly limited. The one thing that the ladies excelled at was giving pleasure to men. While Ezra applauded their talents, both he and they realized that finding a means of making their way through life in the future would no doubt require judicious use of their expertise.
Mindful of their circumstances, Ezra had hit upon the idea of assisting the women to marry advantageously. With a little bit of polishing, Ezra was certain that he could find suitable husbands for each and every one of them. As the idea took form in his head, he enthusiastically outlined the plan for both himself and the women. "Ladies, the best way to assure an agreeable future for yourselves is to become mail order brides." The ladies' initial enthusiasm was tepid at best, but Ezra was an excellent salesman. He persisted, and as he continued to verbalize his plan the majority of the women eventually agreed to accept his tutelage.
Ezra occupied the next several days by devoting himself to the effort of teaching the women to walk, talk, and act like their sisters in respectable society. It was a daunting task. He was trying to get the women to overcome a lifetime's worth of bad habits. His job was made more difficult by the attitude of most of the townsfolk. More than one person had commented upon his efforts, comparing it to trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Ezra waved off their comments and encouraged his students to do the same. He offered his own opinion. "Ladies, a good con artist is taught, not born. I don't believe that what I'm asking is beyond any of your talents. I'm sure that each and every one of you has pretended to an enthusiasm that you did not feel for a particular gentleman at one time or another." Ezra's comment was greeted with winks, nods, nudges, and outright laughter. One of the ladies stated, "Yes, I've been pretending that I don't think that your idea makes as much sense as lookin' up a hog's butt for a ham sandwich." The other ladies laughed appreciatively, nodding their agreement. Ezra sighed as the crude comment reminded him of the difficulty of his job. He resumed his instruction.
The former conman, now teacher, was currently occupied in instructing his pupils how to move without lewdly shaking their assets nor slouching. "Proper posture is important to the picture that you want to present." Ezra led the ladies up a nearby staircase. He waved a book in his hand. "As well as reading material, this book is an aid to learning how to carry yourselves. Let me demonstrate." He placed the book upon his head then slowly and carefully began to descend the staircase. "You will notice that the book remains balanced as I walk. To be perceived as a lady, one must have the bearing of a lady. Now, this will . . ."
Ezra was distracted when he noticed that he had an audience of two: Chris and Vin. Rather than engaging in the teasing and the laughter that would have been expected behavior, the two men were looking at him in a most disturbing manner. Ezra quieted in time to hear Vin's comment, "Walks awful graceful, don't he?"
Ezra immediately ceased to be concerned about posture. He let the book fall from his head. Between Vin's comment and Chris' intense stare, Ezra knew that they were plotting something. He was especially disturbed by the assessing gaze that Chris ran from the tip of his head to the toes of his boots. Ezra interrupted the silent survey. "Can I help you?"
Chris' smile was more a feral baring of his teeth than a sign of amusement. He began, "I think you can. We got a problem." Ezra listened intently as Chris filled him in on the events of the day. He concluded, "Wickes has Mary. We need you to help get her back."
Ezra nodded. "Of course." He turned to his charges. "I'm sorry ladies, but duty calls." A few quick steps brought him level with Chris and Vin.
Vin explained, "We want to get to Mary without anyone gettin' hurt. Best we can figure, we need a distraction. In Wickestown, the one sure distraction that will work is sending in a woman."
Ezra abruptly halted their forward progress. "You're not thinking of sending one of the ladies back there, are you?"
Vin immediately reassured Ezra. "Hell, no."
Chris continued, "We're sending you."
Ezra paled as he began to add up the meaningful glances and comments. He sputtered, "Surely, you can't be serious." He looked from Chris to Vin, seeing nothing but the deadly intent writ large upon their faces. Ezra verbalized the truth he deduced from his observations. "You are. You want me to pretend to be a woman. While at a distance such a ruse may be successful, the women in Wickestown are not kept at a distance very long." Even as he protested, Ezra had been furiously thinking about how he could possibly pull off the con. To run a trick with the full approval of his fellow peacekeepers would be quite rewarding in and of itself. His eyes brightened as a thought occurred. "Horizontal refreshment is not the only kind of female talent appreciated by the men of Wickestown. There is also some appreciation for alternate forms of entertainment. If I were to pretend to be a singer . . ."
+ + + + + + +
And that's how it really happened.
"Aw, that's a load of hooey."
"Mr. Wilmington, I don't recall anyone inviting your opinion."
"When have you ever known me to wait for an invitation? I was thinkin' that these fine folks might want to know about that dress of Miss Molly's that you borrowed the other day."
"I did no such thing!"
"Okay, Ezra, whatever you say. I'm sure these ladies believe you. Too bad I can't take 'em on a tour of your wardrobe."
"Were it not for the fact that I have no intention of letting you anywhere near my belongings, I would be more than happy to display the evidence of my veracity. I noticed that people have a tendency to believe what they want to believe, regardless of the facts. That being said, there are a few facts about my fellow peacekeepers that these ladies may not be aware of. It seems that Mr. Wilmington had to see Nathan recently for a most embarrassing problem."
"Now, Ezra "
Whoops, I think it's past time to close the curtain on this particular Missing Scene.