Dark clouds gathered over the distant mountains - a promise of the coming storm. However, they seemed insignificant when compared to the tempest which raged within. As the slamming door served to emphasize how out of control the whole situation had become.
It had all started out so simply, so right. Just doing a favor for someone, or so he had thought. A favor for one, that would help out another greatly. Inez had asked them as she served them their drinks, if they knew anyone who might be looking for some work. She couldn't pay much, but would offer meals to go with the few coins.
Vin remembered thinking it was a sign, for it was an answer to something he had been thinking on. He told her he knew somebody that was looking, a good worker. Agreeing for them to come by the next morning, Vin had sat back and felt good; he was going to be able to help out both friends.
The next morning Chris was sitting in front of the saloon enjoying his coffee, when Vin came back from his patrol. It wasn't until Vin got close that he saw he had someone riding behind him. Watching as he dismounted with a young boy jumping down after him, Chris asked, “Problem?”
“Na, brought Miz Inez some help,” Vin answered, stepping up on the boardwalk with the boy right behind him.
Chris, getting a better look at the boy, figured he was around 15. And though his clothes were thread bare and past worn, he had done his best to clean up.
Vin went inside and introduced Matt to Inez. He came back out with his own cup of coffee and sat in the chair Chris had waiting for him.
“New family move into the area?” Chris asked since he had not recognized the kid.
“No, he’s all alone. Been staying in that abandoned line shack past the curve in Grey Creek. Good kid, just trying to get by. Helped him out here and there last couple of days,” Vin said.
Chris knew in other words, Vin helped him catch some rabbits and showed him what was edible. Probably gave him his bedroll, too, since he didn't see it on Peso.
Going in for a refill on their coffee, they saw Matt was working hard cleaning and carrying stock for Inez. They sat at their back table and Inez brought them over plates of food.
She leaned over saying, “I can't thank you enough, Senor Vin, this little chico, he is a good worker and such polite manners. He is honest, too. Found some coins on the floor that fell from the cash box, he came straight to the kitchen and told me as he handed them over.”
Vin nodded as she left. He hadn't said anything for he already knew the kid had a good heart.
It wasn't until 3 days later, that the storm came in both weather and temper.
Vin heard the yelling, long before he reached the sheriff's office. He opened the door and saw the banker, Mr. Oddswell, holding Matt by the scruff of his neck, yelling about him being a thief. He reacted without thought. He grabbed Oddswell’s wrist in a tight grip causing him to let go of Matt. Vin then pushed the boy behind him as he stared at the banker with hard eyes.
“What the hell is going on?”
“I want that boy arrested and put in a cell right now. He stole my watch and wallet, while I was having a drink in the saloon,” Mr Oddswell yelled, turning his attention back to Chris and JD.
“What proof do you have he did it?” Chris wanted to know.
“He was there before it was missing and when he left they were gone,” growled the banker.
The door to the office opened again, Buck, Josiah and Mary came in followed by Conklin.
“See, I told you we didn't need his kind around here, they always steal and are up to no good,” Conklin said facing Mary and Mr. Oddswell.
“Are you going to arrest him?” Oddswell demanded facing Chris.
“Was anyone else around your table?” Chris said back.
“No. It was just my son and me. The only other was that trash. Now I'm not asking, I'm demanding you do your job and arrest him,” he shouted.
“Mr. Larabee, it is your duty to protect the decent people of this town from the likes of him,” Conklin insisted.
“I have to agree, Mr. Larabee. You were hired to protect the town. Not ...well let’s just say, a drifter,” Mary added, taking sides with the banker.
Chris let out a huff. He knew Vin was going to think the wrong thing about what he was about to do, but he figured it would be safer for the boy till they could find out the truth. “We were hired to enforce the law. The law is for everyone. But at the moment we will hold Matt, 'til we can clear this up. JD, put him in a cell.”
“What! No! You’re not arresting him for something he ain't done,” Vin growled.
“Mr. Tanner, you forget you work for this town. Not trash like him.”
“You call Matt trash one more time, and it'll be me that needs to be arrested for cleaning the floor with you,” Vin threatened, turned and stormed out of the office, slamming the door behind him.
Standing outside just at the bottom of the steps, he was so upset that Vin didn't feel the hard rain that had finally started falling from the pending storm or Ezra stopping on the board walk behind him.
“Mr. Tanner, although I agree a bath is probably a good idea for you, I would suggest the bathhouse, instead of standing in the street in the rain.”
Whirling around on his friend. “I'm not dirty or trash. And neither is Matt. Just 'cause we had no one and did the best we could, don't make us trash,” Vin yelled, not realizing Mary and Chris had both come out the door.
“Well, I should say not. What cretin has inferred to such a notion toward your good self or toward that most honorable boy? Why, there isn't a more hard working and quiet, pleasant young man I have ever met,” Ezra answered, shocked at both the emotion Vin let slip out about himself as well as the hurt about the boy.
Chris filled Ezra in on what was going on. Mary realized that her thinking was narrow minded, for she knew Vin, knew he was a good man and he had grown up alone and did what he could. She walked away feeling ashamed with how she had acted.
“Ah well, I think I can clear this horrendous mistake of one's character up very quickly and it will be quite eye opening, too. Shall we gather Mr. Oddswell and our dear Mr. Matt and take a nice walk over to the saloon?”
Chris and Vin, both seeing the gleam in Ezra's eye, figured he knew something and was going to enjoy enlightening them all to it.
Stopping JD from putting Matt in a cell, and hushing Oddswell with a hard 'Shut up'. Chris told them all where they were going.
Just before heading into the saloon, Ezra stated, “I was on my way to see if Mr. Dunne would mind taking my shift at the jail for me for I had been invited to a high stake's poker game that included a wallet filled with cash and a very nice gold watch hanging from the pocket of the one who did the inviting. Since these are the items, Mr. Oddswell, you have stated to have been taken from you, I'm sure you will want our good selves to arrest the right thieving trash as you called him.”
“Yes! Yes, I do. It's probably some other kid working with this one, or one just as bad,” Oddswell retorted.
“Mr. Larabee, I will leave the pleasure up to you and Mr. Tanner to take possession of the thief, as I return Mr. Matt here back into Miss Inez's caring protection. The one you seek is sitting up at the second level table with his back to you, waiting for my return.” Ezra smiled, his gold tooth gleaming with the knowledge of what was coming.
Vin, Chris and Mr. Oddswell, making their way through the saloon doors and straight to the table, grabbed the shoulder of the one sitting, turned him around and found it was Oddswell's son. The gold watch was hooked on a chain to his vest and the wallet was in his hand.
The next morning Vin sat out in front of the saloon drinking his coffee and Chris joined him. Vin, looking up, said, “Ya know, ya just got to enjoy Ezra's way of setting things right.”
Chris smiled, “Yeah, I don't know which I enjoyed more - Oddswell's face at finding it was his own son who was a thief or his face when Ezra started talking about handling Matt's case for him in suing Oddswell for character assassination and false arrest.”
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