Not Much To Do 

by Estee

Moved to Blackraptor in October 2009

Chris closed his book, settled back in his chair and with a long sigh, pulled his hat down over his eyes. A few feet away, Buck snoozed in another chair, his long legs stretched out half way across the boardwalk. From the sounds he was making, one might think the railroad had already established itself in their little corner of the territory.

The day was warm; the town was quiet and peaceful, just like it had been for weeks on end, now. There were sounds of children playing, a dog barking, several women talking and laughing down by Mrs. Potter's store, but no outlaws had passed through their town, there'd been no fights, no drunken cowboys, not a single gunshot had been fired in far too long.

Truth be told, there wasn't much for a peacekeeper to do these days but sit by and watch the dust settle.  It was enough to drive a man crazy.  Vin and JD were half way there already, and Ezra wasn't far behind them. Just yesterday, he'd caught the three of them dressed up like banditos, planning to sneak out of town and ride back in firing shots over their heads, 'just to stir things up, and give the folks a little excitement'. When Chris and Buck had threatened to toss their butts in jail just for having such a stupid idea, all three of them had looked half ready to take them up the offer. He shook his head, wondering again whether or not it was possible for a man to go insane from boredom.

Then he heard footsteps and what sounded like a chain clanking, followed by a very familiar voice whispering, "Be careful, JD!"

"I am being careful!" another familiar voice whispered back.

Chris opened his eyes, and tilted his head back just enough to be able to peer out from under the brim of his hat and watch, surreptitiously.  As far as he knew, there was no known proof that boredom could drive a man insane, but what other excuse could there be for two fairly intelligent and reasonable young men to completely take leave of their senses?

He ducked his head again, forcing himself not to laugh. He wondered where they'd gotten their hands on a set of military issue leg irons; then he remembered the prison wagon that had passed through last week, on its way to Yuma. One of the prisoners had been in need of medical attention, but by the time they'd got him up to the clinic he'd already been too far gone.  Nathan managed to convince the guards to unchain him, only to realize that the blood poisoning caused by the man's festering leg wound was beyond his or anyone else's ability to heal.  The prisoner had died within an hour's time, and the wagon had immediately resumed its course for Yuma - leaving one dead prisoner, and one set of leg irons in its wake.

He tilted his head sideways just in time to catch a glimpse of Vin closing and locking a manacle around Buck's left ankle, then he tossed the key over to a grinning JD, who already had 'his' manacle around Buck's right ankle.

JD inserted the key, fumbling briefly with the lock, then with a frown he shook his head and looked over at Vin. "It won't turn. It's stuck."

Both men froze, their eyes going wide when Buck shifted in his chair, a dreamy smile stretching across his face as he sighed, breathing out some woman's name.  When they were sure he was still asleep, they both visibly relaxed and let out a long, slow breath. Then Vin leaned closer to JD and whispered, "Try it again."

JD pushed his hat back and looked at Vin with uncertainty. "I dunno, Vin. Maybe this ain't such a good idea."

Vin rolled his eyes. "Course it's a good idea."

But JD was shaking his head. "Maybe we should just give these back to Ezra and go fishing instead."

"We can go fishin' anytime. Besides, why would we give these back? They're ours. We won 'em fair and square."

Chris wondered how much money they'd lost to Ezra before he allowed them to win their prize. He should have known Ezra had something to do with this lame brain idea.

"Yeah, but," JD glanced guiltily at Chris, then lowered his voice even more, "I don't think they belonged to Ezra, in the first place."

Vin narrowed his eyes. "What's wrong, JD? You gettin' scared?"


"Well, then," Vin nudged JD out of the way, "here, let me try it."


Vin wiggled the key; he tried twisting it one way then the other. He let go to wipe his hands on his pant legs, then started working it again until finally something gave way with a snap. "Uhh . . . ." Vin slowly lifted his hand, staring mesmerized by what he held. A broken half of a key. "Oops?"

JD blinked, his eyes going wide with disbelief. "Oops?"

Vin actually blushed, a sheepish grin spread across his face. "I think I've broken something," he said.

"We're dead."

"Aw, come on JD. You know ol' Bucklin won't kill us."  Vin might have been more convincing if he hadn't then tossed what remained of the key over to JD as if it were a burning coal.

"Oh no, you keep it! I don't want it!" JD tossed it back to Vin.

At that moment, Ezra strolled through the batwing doors, puffing on a cigar. He glanced at Buck's shackled feet and grinned at Vin and JD. "Gentlemen, I see you've put your recent acquisition to good use."

The gambler's observation was punctuated by a loud snort from Buck, which startled both Vin and JD. They quickly got their feet and took a step away from Buck. Vin glanced down at the broken key in his hand, then grinned and tossed it in the gambler's direction.

Ezra had always prided himself on his exceptional hand-eye coordination and thus caught the object easily.  When he realized what it was, he shook his head giving Vin a patiently benevolent look. "I suppose you think that was terribly clever?"

Vin shrugged. "What's that sayin' again, JD?"

"Huh?" JD's dark eyebrows drew together. "You mean the one about sowin' wild oats?"

"No . . ." Vin rubbed his chin, a thoughtful look on his face. "Not that one. The one about possession bein' nine tenths of the law, or some such."

"Oh, yeah," JD glanced at the key in Ezra's hand and his face brightened. "I remember that one."

Ezra chuckled, his green eyes twinkling with amusement. "Nice try, but I have no intention of taking the blame for your misdeeds."

"Well," JD put his hands on his hips and squinted at Ezra. "It's just as much your fault as it is ours."

"Yeah," Vin agreed. "Them were your cuffs to begin with."

Ezra's eyebrows shot up. "Just because that offensive object was, at some point in history, in my possession, does not make me an accomplice in your ridiculous scheme."

"Well, I think it does." Vin said resolutely, nodding to JD. "What d'you think, JD?"

"I think so, too."

"Oh, please. That is the most ludicrous notion I have ever heard." Ezra's voice was getting louder; he obviously wasn't so sure that he would be presumed innocent. "I simply lost a round of poker. I don't see how that makes me in any way responsible for what you endeavor to do with your gains."  Ezra scowled in Chris' direction.  He'd probably known Chris had been awake the whole time. "Mr. Larabee, a little help here would be appreciated."

"Don't look at me," Chris replied, without looking up.

"Guess we'll just have to wait 'til Buck wakes up and see what he thinks about it."

As soon as the words were out of JD's mouth, Buck let out a loud yawn, stretched his arms above his head, then pushed his hat back.  "Howdy boys," he said with a smile that lasted about three seconds.

JD and Vin looked at each other and automatically started backing away.

"Gentlemen, if I were you, I--" Ezra started to advise them, but was cut off by Chris, "I'd ride hard, don't look back!"

Buck stood up, looking puzzled, then tried to take a step forward and tripped over the chain. "Hey! Who did this?"

Chris pulled his hat down lower. "Don't look at me."

"JD! Vin! Did you do this to me?" They didn't answer; instead, they turned at the same time and raced off in the direction of the livery.  "Hey, you two! Git back here!" When they didn't slow down, Buck snatched the hat off his head and slapped it to the ground. "Hell!" After a few deep breaths, he seemed to calm himself down a little, even forced a smile. "Okay," he said to Ezra, since Chris didn't seem to be paying attention, "any idea where the key is?"

"You mean this key?" Ezra held up the broken half.

Buck smacked his thigh, letting loose a string of curses and nearly tripped over the chain again. Then he squeezed his eyelids shut, taking several more deep breaths. When he seemed to have himself under control, he put his hands on his hips, looked up at the heavens.  "Okay, okay," he said through clenched teeth. "This is a real good joke. Ha, ha. Now," he turned a glare on Ezra, "get these damned things off me, Ezra!"

"Mr. Wilmington, I feel that first I must assure you I had nothing whatsoever to do with the unfortunate predicament you have found yourself in."

"Right." Buck gave him a bitter smile. "I suppose you're gonna try and blame it all on those two," he waved in the direction of the livery, "since they ain't here to defend themselves."

Ezra's mouth fell open. "They're not here to defend themselves because," he turned his head and shouted toward the livery, "they have run away like the cowards that they are! Tell him, Mr. Lar . . ." Ezra paused, tactfully changing his demand to a polite request. "Please . . . Chris, tell him I had absolutely nothing to do with this."

Chris pretended to snore.

"I should have known you'd take their side."

"Now, Ezra, listen to me," Buck practically growled, "I don't really care whose fault it is. I just want you to tell me that you can get them off."

"Well, I suppose I could figure it out, if I must."

"What d'you mean if you must?" Buck straightened to his full height and took a threatening step toward the gambler.

"Never mind, I know what I must do." Ezra handed the broken key to Buck then began searching his pockets for who knows what; whatever it was, apparently
he didn't find it. "It's just . . . " he glanced up at Buck's menacing expression, cleared his throat and gave him a patronizing smile, "I'm afraid to do it." With that, he bolted in the same direction Vin and JD had gone. Buck tried to grab him, but missed.  A few moments later, three horses shot out of the livery stable, kicking up dust as they headed out of town at a rapid pace.

"It was nice of the boys to have Ezra's horse ready for him," Chris said fondly as the three figures disappeared from sight. He heard Buck mutter a curse then turned to watch him stumble down the road toward the livery, probably hoping Tiny'd be able to set him free.

Buck wouldn't go after them now; he'd wait 'til they got back, wait 'til they were least expecting it and then he'd get 'em . . . with a little inside help.  Chris stood up, with a grin, and ambled through the batwing doors, sure that Buck would be joining him soon.

Maybe he'd finally lost his mind, too, 'cause he was actually looking forward to the next few days. At the very least, it would be a nice change from sitting by and watching the dust settle.


~  end? ~