The cool October breeze rustled the paper Mary was trying to work on. She loved this time of year. The weather was cool but not unpleasant. Billy also liked October because he loved to get dressed up for Halloween. She was trying to decide what she was going to feature in the paper for this month. She finally got an idea. She walked back to her room in the back of the Clarion. She ran her fingers along the spines of the books on the shelf. When she found the one she was looking for she pulled it out and walked back to the presses. She smiled as she opened the book and started to set the type.
Vin was sitting in front of the saloon watching the street. The day was sunny but cool. The others were inside but Vin preferred to sit outside. He watched Mrs. Potter sweep the boardwalk in front of her store. Vin tipped his hat to her when she glanced at him. She smiled and waved. He heard someone come out of the saloon but he didn't look.
"Howdy Chris," he drawled.
"Vin," Chris smiled. "Anything interesting going on?"
"Nope," he answered. "Reckon I'll go for a ride. Take a look outside town."
Vin nodded to Chris and headed for the livery. Chris turned and entered the saloon. The rest of the regulators were sitting at their usual table. Chris walked over and had a seat.
"Where's Vin?" JD asked.
"Decided to look around outside town."
"In other words, our intrepid tracker doesn't wish to be trapped inside on, what to him, is a glorious day," Ezra replied.
"Can't say I blame him," Josiah commented.
"I, for one, prefer the warmth of a good glass of whiskey and a deck of cards," Ezra smiled as he dealt the cards.
Vin rode back into town three hours later. Chris was sitting outside the jail and watched as he headed for the livery. Vin dismounted and walked Sire into the dark interior. He unsaddled him and put Sire in his stall. He gave him some hay then walked outside. He saw Mary come out of the Clarion office carrying the latest edition. Vin crossed the street and tipped his hat to Mary.
"Ma'am, let me take those for you," he said taking the papers.
"Why thank you Vin," she said with a smile.
He followed her as she delivered the papers to the general store. She took the papers from Vin and placed them on the counter. Mrs. Potter came over and they started talking. Vin started to walk away.
"Wait Vin," Mary said. "Take a copy with you. JD likes to read it when he's on duty at he jail."
Vin took the paper she held out then tipped his hat to them. He went out the door and headed for the jail. When he got to the jail he took a seat next to Chris. He handed Chris the paper then leaned back and stretched his feet out. They sat in companionable silence as Chris read the paper. After awhile Vin took out his harmonica and played random notes. Chris shook his head as he listened to the tracker. Vin didn't know any songs he just liked the sounds.
Chris finished the paper and folded it.
"How about some dinner?" Chris asked
"All right," Vin answered.
Chris got up and opened the door to the jail. He threw the paper on the desk and closed door. They walked down to the hotel. Josiah was walking towards them from the church.
"Evening Chris, Vin," Josiah said. "Going to get dinner?"
"Yup," Chris answered. "Care to join us?"
"Don't mind if I do, brother."
They entered the hotel and went to their table in the back. They ordered and waited for their dinner.
"Anything going on outside of town?" Josiah asked.
"Nope, everything's real quiet."
Their dinner came and they started eating. Buck and JD came in and walked over to the table.
"Howdy, Pards," Buck said and had a seat.
"Evening," greeted JD.
"Boys," said Chris.
Buck and JD ordered while the others finished their dinner. They stayed with Buck and JD while they ate. They talked about what was going on in town. It had been quiet foe the past few weeks and they hadn't been doing much. When Buck and JD were finished they left the hotel and they each headed in a different direction. Vin headed for the jail. He opened the door, entered and took a seat behind the desk. He picked up the paper and started to read it. Mary had figured out he couldn't read and was giving him lessons. He did the best he could when he came to a story with an interesting headline. He tried to read the story but it made no sense. He really wanted to know what it was about so he headed for the saloon. He saw Ezra sitting at the table in the back. There wasn't anyone else there so he was playing solitaire. Vin walked over and had a seat.
"Ezra can I ask you a favor," Vin said.
Ezra was surprised. The last time Vin had asked for a favor he had laughed at him. Vin had wanted his help to write down his poem. Ezra had been drunk and he had laughed. He didn't think Vin would ever ask him for a favor again.
"Mr. Tanner, if it is in my power, I would be happy too," he said. Vin rarely asked for favors and he wasn't going to let him down again.
"I think you can handle this," Vin smiled handing him the paper.
"What am I to do with the paper?"
"Well, there was some thing in the paper that caught my eye," Vin began. "Only problem is I can't figure it out."
"An what caught your eye, pray tell?"
"This headline 'The Headless Horseman' I just thought it might be interesting," Vin said turning to the article.
Ezra took the paper and read the headline. He smiled when he realized what it was.
"Why Mr. Tanner this is a story written by a gentleman by the name of Washington Irving," Ezra said with a smile. "This was one of my favorite stories when I was a youngster."
"A story?" Vin asked surprised. "About a headless horseman?"
"That is correct."
"No wonder I can't read it. This Irving fella uses bigger words than you."
"Yes, he does," Ezra laughed. "I believe you will like this story. Shall I commence reading it?"
"No, not here," Vin said self-consciously. "I don't want the others to see you reading me a story like a kid."
"Think we might be able to go out on patrol tomorrow?"
"It would be my pleasure, Mr. Tanner."
Vin got up and tipped his hat. Ezra watched as he walked through the bat-wing doors. He had been given a second chance with the quiet tracker. He didn't want to mess it up. He picked up his cards and dealt out a hand of solitaire.
Chris walked out of the boarding house and surveyed the street. It was early morning and not that many people were awake yet. He saw Mrs. Potter sweeping the boardwalk outside the general store. She smiled at him and he nodded in her direction. He glanced towards the jail and wasn't surprised to see Vin sitting out front. The tracker had his legs stretched in front of him with his feet crossed at the ankles. To a passerby Vin looked completely relaxed, but Chris knew better. Vin never let his guard down completely. Vin sensed someone was watching him and looked up. He saw Chris looking his way and walked over to the blonde gunslinger.
"Mornin' cowboy," Vin said.
"I'm heading for breakfast," he said.
They started walking towards the restaurant. Nathan came down the stairs from his clinic and noticed them across the street. Vin saw him and motioned him over. They walked inside and took their usual table. They ordered and sat talking until their food came. They had just been served when Ezra walked in the door. He saw them and walked over.
"Gentlemen," he said as he sat down.
"Are you feeling all right?" Nathan asked in concern.
"I'm fine, my good doctor," Ezra answered. "May I ask why you inquire about my health?"
"Because you're up before noon," Chris answered dryly.
"Ah, that is easily answered," he said with a smile winking at Vin. "Mr. Tanner made a wager that I couldn't arise before noon and go on patrol with him."
"Looks like you loose Vin." Nathan laughed. "What did you bet?"
"Well, I..." Vin started.
"He wagered that he would care for my horse for a week," Ezra said coming to Vin's rescue. "You can start tomorrow."
"Thanks," Vin said sarcastically.
Ezra ordered and the others finished breakfast. They sat drinking coffee while they waited for Ezra. When he was done Ezra and Vin headed for the livery. Nathan went back to his clinic and Chris had a seat in front of the saloon. Josiah came and had a seat next to him.
They watched as Vin and Ezra road out of town. Josiah glanced towards Chris and could see the gunslinger wasn't happy.
"Anything wrong?" Josiah asked.
"Nothing yet," Chris answered.
"You think something's going to happen with those two?"
"When those two get together there's always trouble."
Vin and Ezra rode out of town and headed for a secluded spot. Vin didn't want the others to find them. He followed the stream for about a mile before he turned west.
"Mr. Tanner, I do believe we are far enough away from the prying eyes of our compatriots," Ezra commented.
"Just a little further," Vin said.
Ezra could see Vin was headed for a small outcropping. They rode around to the far side and Ezra followed him through the trees. Once past the trees Ezra was surprised to see a small clearing next to a pond. The trees completely hid it from view. Vin dismounted and Ezra pulled up his horse next to him. He dismounted and watched as Vin took the saddles from both horses. He set them loose to graze then headed for the pond. Ezra followed and they settled with their back against a rock. Vin pulled out the paper from yesterday and today's and handed them to Ezra.
"Let's see where is the article," Ezra said as he flipped through the paper. "Ah here it is. 'The Headless Horseman' by Washington Irving. Shall I recite it for you, Mr. Tanner?"
"There ain't no on out here but us Ezra, you can call me Vin, if you have a mind to."
"If you prefer, Vin," Ezra said with a smile. "Did you wish to read it out or shall I?"
"I can't get my tongue around them fancy words, you better do it."
Ezra suspected that Vin couldn't read and this confirmed his suspicions. He also surmised that Mary was teaching the tracker in secret. He had seen Vin come out of the newspaper office late on a number of occasions. The only other person Ezra figured that knew about this was Chris. Vin probably didn't want him to get the wrong idea about him and Mary so confided his shortcomings to Chris. Ezra would keep his little secret. Ezra began the story that took place in New York.
"Hey Ez?" Vin said interrupting him.
"You ever been to New York?"
"No I have never been to that bustling city."
"What do you suppose it's like? What with all them tall building I hear they got?"
"To be honest, Vin, I don't think you would enjoy the boisterous port."
"I reckon you're right," he said with a smile. "I don't like when the saloon gets too full. Might be interesting to go some day. You ever been to a big city?"
"I have had the pleasure of visiting the fair port of New Orleans," Ezra answered. "The French Quarter is quite exquisite. The saloons were numerous and very lucrative."
"Trying to say you made a lot of money?"
"Yes," Ezra laughed. "Shall I resume?"
"Alright," said Vin stretching out in the grass.
"The dominate spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and seems to be commander-in-chief of all powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback without a head. It is said by some to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper, whose head had been carried away by a cannonball, in some nameless battle during the Revolutionary War, and who is ever and anon seen by the country folk, hurrying along in the gloom of night, as if on the wings of the wind."
Ezra continued with the story as Vin listened. Every once in awhile he would interrupt to ask what a particular word meant. Ezra found himself enjoying the morning immensely. Irving was one of his favorite authors and he was happy to share his love of words with the easygoing tracker. Ezra came to the last part of the installment and Vin raised sat up to lean on his elbows.
"So the town's people have this Ichabod fella afraid of the Hessian?" Vin asked stumbling over the last word.
"That is correct," Ezra answered. "According to legend, the German soldier haunted the environs around Sleepy Hollow."
"Looking for his head?" Vin asked.
"That is part of the legend, yes."
"Sounds to me they're just funning with the school teacher," Vin drawled.
"We shall see, Mr. Tanner," Ezra smiled wide showing his gold tooth. "It would appear that the morning has abandoned us and noon is approaching. I for one could use some nourishment. Shall we head back to town?"
"I reckon," Vin said getting to his feet. "I'll saddle the horses."
Vin walked over to Chaucer and spoke quietly as he picked up the saddle and placed it on his back. He tried to move away but Vin stopped him. He got the saddle secured and moved on to Sire. Once the black was saddled, Ezra came down off his perch and mounted. Vin swung into the saddle and they moved out.
"You know, Ezra, you don't have to get up early tomorrow to do this," Vin said. "Besides I don't want Chris getting suspicious. He fell for the story this mornin' but I don't think he'll believe another one."
"You are correct in your assumptions," Ezra agreed. "It is very hard to fool Chris Larabee. Shall we continue this at night after everyone has gone to their slumber?"
Vin tapped his heels against Sire and set him cantering. Chaucer was eager to follow and they headed back to town. Ezra was looking forward to tomorrow night.
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