No infringement upon the copyrights held by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment
Group, The Mirisch Corp. or any others involved with that production is
intended. This is purely fiction and based on the television series The
- For a rundown on the guys check out this page
CHARACTERS: Ezra, Chris & Josiah
SUMMARY: Ezra pulls a con and Chris engages his new friends for a mission.
SPOILERS: The Pilot. 4th in the Series and follows directly on from my stories, Extort thy Childhood, Color me Black, and Young Warriors.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thanks to Mitzi and Beth Baker for beta reading this fic.
COMMENTS: Yes, please!
DATE: 26 Feb 03
Beneath the Surface
Blood Brothers, AU
Sanchez followed at a quiet pace. The hike down the hill from the
cemetery wasn’t overtaxing on his aging limbs, but he relished the
idle moment of quiet and the lazy descent in the wake of the previous
tumultuous events. At twenty-three, Nathan Jackson stood at a
staggering six feet and three inches; he walked beside the preacher at a
loping gait. Josiah had watched Nathan grow from a gangly teenager
into the decent young man, and had always been impressed by the
dark-skinned man’s sense of morals and caring nature. Josiah
tried to look out for the young black man, knowing how prejudiced many
folks were, but he hadn’t always been around. And today was
another example of the problems Nathan had to face every day, just
because his skin colour wasn’t white. Thank the Lord, for the
timely intervention. Without Vin Tanner and Chris Larabee, Nathan
would have died today for sure. Josiah’s arrival would have come
too late. He was just happy that it had turned out for the best.
preacher arrived in town he hadn’t expected to find Nathan ready to
swing by the neck. Even more surprisingly, he was flabbergasted to
find the seven-year-old in the midst of the action attempting, alongside
Vin, to save the young healer. Chris Larabee was certainly going
to be a handful.
lingered on Josiah’s chiselled features as he watched Vin and Chris
stop off at the hardware store. He caught the tail end of
the conversation between Virgil and Vin and nodded in appreciation to
the hardware store owner for offering Vin the rifle. The boy
deserved some reward for the risks he’d just taken.
couldn’t help wondering where the young Southerner had gone while
Chris was off saving Nathan. He’d assumed they were brothers
when he’d first laid eyes on the two boys. Not that they
looked anything alike, or spoke with the same accent, but hell, he’d
come across many kin that showed little resemblance to each other.
He thought he had sensed a connection between the two, but maybe that
notion had been wrong.
your help, Josiah,” Nathan interrupted his thoughts. The
dark-skinned man gingerly rubbed his tender neck; he dreaded the thought
of what could have happened. He still had plenty of living he
wanted to do.
“Most of the
job was completed ‘fore I even arrived, Nathan. Those two kids
make a pretty good team.” He patted the young healer on the
shoulder. Vin Tanner and Chris Larabee certainly showed up this
town, taking on those trail herders by themselves and winning.
his head in agreement. The shot that saved his skin had been
perfect. And the little fella in black had certainly played a
significant role in his escape. When Nathan got the chance, he’d
make sure they knew how grateful he was, including the brash Easterner.
“What cha doin’ back in town, Josiah? Thought you were
planning on a long sabbatical…”
sign I’d been hopin’ for.” He grinned widely and nodded at
Chris and Vin as they disappeared through the swinging doors.
kids?” Nathan asked sceptically. What did the preacher
know about kids?
“Actually, at the time it was only Chris and one other …” But he
didn’t mind including Vin Tanner into the equation, too. They
pushed through the doors together and stood a foot inside while their
eyes adjusted. Sanchez grinned wider. He’d wondered where
the young Southerner had run off to. Josiah sidled along the bar,
his back flat against the wood. He grinned. “And here’s
the other one,” he smirked at the wide-eyed Jackson.
grinned in a lopsided fashion and licked the corner of his mouth.
The acidic taste of whiskey lingered on his lips. Unfortunately,
he hadn’t been able to dump all the glasses of alcohol pushed his way,
and some had to his dismay, been literally forced down his throat.
Not that he minded the odd drink or two, but usually the after effects
were not worth the trouble and he especially disliked indulging when he
was running a con. He glanced up at the influx of customers and
grimaced slightly seeing Chris among them. JD Dunne moved through
the crowd and Standish smiled; his plan finally coming together in his
Ezra rose slowly
and staggered around the room. The bartender fixed a Queen of
Clubs playing card to the dartboard readying for the action to begin;
when it was his turn he wanted the Ace of Spades as his target.
running out ‘fore I get the chance ta whip yer ass?”
he drawled thickly. Hah! We’ll see who was going to
whip whom! Ezra moved on unsteady legs towards JD, the perfect
assistant, and he didn’t even know it. “Just stretching my
legs…” The young gambler lurched at Dunne, tripping over an
invisible obstacle on the floor. JD instinctively caught the
shorter boy. This brought hoots of laughter from the rowdy
patrons and covered the words Ezra whispered to JD.
“Shush!” Ezra hissed, silencing anything JD had been going to say.
He thrust his Remington from his shoulder holster into the Easterner’s
grasp. It was a quick manoeuvre and Ezra didn’t think anyone had
noticed the transference. Quite clearly, and not a hint of
drunkenness about him, Ezra looked JD straight in the eye. “Hold
this for me…” Standish pushed away and laughed softly as he
tramped back to his seat. He fell heavily into the chair and
looked up with an air of innocence. “Please proceed…time is
The mangy cowboy
smirked, showing his missing and blackened teeth. It wasn’t too
difficult, he fired at the card and as expected, he put a hole within
the white background to the top right of centre. He was pleased
with the result, as were the growing crowd backing him up. They
cheered their support and thumped the cowboy hard on the back.
“If you would be so kind?” he held out his hand, palm up, for the
pistol used by the crow-dusted cowboy. “Stand aside, sir.
You are…obstructing my view.” Ezra Standish swayed slightly,
but aimed the heavy and unfamiliar colt at the single card pinned on the
dartboard. “This should be…” he sighed melodramatically,
“…a piece of cake.” The young conman stepped on an empty bottle,
but it turned under his boot and his arm flew upwards. The gun
fired, missing the intended object.
A round of
laughter answered his failure. “Pay up,” the cowboy ordered
Standish insisted. “I was encumbered by the debris on the
just try it again,” the man eagerly suggested. This was easy
money in his opinion.
pleasure.” Standish chuckled and walked across the room,
standing abreast with JD. “If nobody has any objections, I’ll
use this young man’s weapon.” Ezra stared at Dunne, and forced
another burst of jovially from his mouth. He smiled back at the
waiting cowboys and rolled his eyes, and mouthed the word, ‘slow’.
Turning back to Dunne, Ezra leaned close and hissed impatiently in the
taller boy’s ear, “My Remington, sir!”
JD stammered, giving up the pistol Ezra had palmed to him only minutes
before. What was the point of such a deception?
Standish drawled out in exaggerated tones, earning more scoffs and
snickering from the crowd. “Double or nothing,” he challenged.
money. Get ready to duck boys.” He chuckled.
Ezra felt a
little more comfortable now that he had reclaimed possession of his
weapon. He made a show of aiming the ‘borrowed’ gun at the
target. But before he pulled the trigger, he turned back around
and faced the crowd, causing a small scuffle when everybody ducked and
skidded away from the Remington he held, Standish grimaced shamefacedly
and lowered the gun. “My apologies, gentlemen…this is the
first time I have imbibed to such an extent, and I fear it is affecting
“Just get on
with it,” someone yelled out.
means.” His expression became serious and he lost the drunken
sway as he lined up the new card that had been placed on the board.
The Ace of Spades always was his favourite card. A smile formed
before he finished squeezing off the first shot, which hit dead centre.
It was followed in quick succession by five more shots. A wide
smirk greeted his mockers.
“He put all
six in the same hole,” the bartender exclaimed after examining the
“My, my… how
astonishing. I’ve never done that before.”
The same man,
who’d been eager for Ezra to take the shot only minutes before,
quickly changed his tune. Gone were his chuckles of laughter and
merriment. He figured by now that the teenager had duped them
somehow and he certainly wasn’t drunk like he’d been pretending.
“You sure sobered up quickly, boy.”
“Must be the
desert air,” the gambler drawled, reaching for his winnings.
take kindly to being hustled.” There was a rush of sudden
movement, tables overturned and punches were thrown. Somehow the
larger man cornered Ezra, and without warning a huge blade was thrust
into his face. “Let’s see how good you can shoot with one
eye,” he threatened, pushing the pointed end delicately close to the
Southerner’s left eye.
teenager stared almost cross-eyed at the nasty weapon. His
Adam’s apple rose up in his throat as he contemplated the situation
that he’d found himself in. Not good, Ezra! This
shambles would horrify Maude. The Remington he’d used for the
show was empty; it would be of little help now, but he did still hold an
ace up his sleeve. He needed a diversion, before it could be
around the saloon, looking for an opportunity or any form of help.
His mouth dried, and his throat tightened. He spied Chris Larabee,
contentedly returning his stare – what could he expect from a child?
Chris was dismissed as a source of rescue. His gaze moved along
the counter. Directly by Chris’ side stood a younger version of
Buffalo Bill, a rough nut if he ever saw one. The preacher, Josiah
Sanchez relaxed casually on the far end of the bar; he’d obviously
followed them into town. The black healer was tipping back a drink
beside the tall preacher. Ezra wondered who had saved the
dark-skinned man from hanging, but didn’t ponder this for long. Then
there was JD Dunne, who’d participated in this scam, but now hung back
from the group, and alternated between edging forward and taking a step
backwards. No help was forthcoming from that quarter. But
then, Ezra Standish had NEVER depended on anyone but himself before, so
why should now be any different?
gambler reached above his head and pulled down the draperies from over
the window. They fell onto the man holding him hostage and were
enough of a distraction for Standish to pull out of the hold and escape
the knife’s bitter edge. The derringer shot out into his palm,
and he was prepared to defend himself. Several fights had broken
out on the fringes of the saloon, all suddenly claiming an interest in
the cash pool. Ducking under a flying chair and dodging past
flailing fists and drunken bodies Ezra separated himself from the chaos.
abandoned cash on the bar top, Ezra manoeuvred through the melee to
gather his winnings…after all, he did put the bullet through the
centre of the card. Grabbing quickly at the notes he looked up
into the mirror behind the bar, saw one of the cowhands coming at him
from behind, and instinctively fired the derringer at the man.
Standish hadn’t even turned around; he’d just used the mirror as a
guide and aimed the small weapon from around his side. Another
trick he’d learned trailing around after Maude. The bullet only
winged the man, but did stop the intended attack.
Ezra turned and
viewed the disaster the room had become. “Sorry for the mess.”
A dimple showed in his cheek as he slyly grinned over the top of his
“You only got
one shot left in that popgun,” another grievous participant stated
Ezra swung the
small weapon back and forth, holding the group of complainants at bay.
There was no way he was giving up his hard-earned money. “Well,
then…you best discuss amongst yourselves which one of you is going to
die,” he drawled. He kept his back to the bar and tried to slide
away into oblivion. He hadn’t expected any help from Chris
Larabee’s new friends, and also didn’t expect them to talk to him.
He was, after all a gambler, and a conman. His mother’s son, in
all things that count.
pard,” Tanner grinned, keeping his voice relatively low.
Ezra raised his
eyebrows. “Dreadful. I was aiming to kill him, but the
mirror was cracked.” Let these hooligans think what they liked,
just so long as they thought the teenager was capable of killing them
without a qualm. They didn’t need to know that Ezra was
extremely nervous and couldn’t even kill the man who’d been coming
at him from behind. And it would have been such an easy shot…but
the young gambler couldn’t do it.
smirked at the taller boy. He really did like Ezra, especially
after the older boy had rescued him from Maude’s control. But
there was a time and place for saying such things, and it wasn’t now.
He was also worried that the Southerner was going to abandon him…and
he had the perfect blackmail to keep the gambler in line. “First
shot was louder than the other five.”
stuffing the wads of money inside his jacket. He glared at the
child and his words that, although were said softly, would cause more
trouble for him if the disgruntled patrons chose to listen. He
growled in the back of his throat. “What are you attempting to
sharing a smile with Vin Tanner before facing the young gambler.
“First bullet was real.” Now that was ingenious…and
incredibly dumb, especially with a room full of drunks. “The
rest were blanks.” But Standish had dead-centred the playing
card with the first shot, which in itself was incredible. Chris
would have to convince the gambler to show him how to use such a weapon.
hadn’t been trained by the best, his mouth would have fallen open.
How did a seven-year-old come to know how to differentiate the sounds of
blanks fired from a pistol and that of a bullet? That was perhaps
a discussion left for a later time. “Well, I abhor gambling and
as such, leave nothing to chance,” Ezra quoted his mother.
Finding nothing else keeping him in the saloon, he made a hasty retreat,
keeping his eyes on all the patrons and holding them at large by nothing
more than the threat of a single bullet in the small derringer.
When Ezra passed
through the swinging doors, several of the cowboys lurched towards the
door, ready to chase down the gambler and, what they considered, their
part of the money.
his throat and levelled his rifle to waist high. “Not so fast,
“Stay out of
our money!” shouted another.
back the hammer of his weapon and glared at the man closest to him.
“Ain’t the way I saw it happen. He shot the centre out of that
card, and I believe that was the entirety of the bet. That he was
capable of doing it more than just the once,” Sanchez paused here,
glancing around the disgruntled faces, “suggests that he wouldn’t be
someone, anyone of you, would want to come up against.” Sanchez
glowered at them for a minute, making sure each of the men had received
his message…no one was going after that boy. After several more
minutes past, the patrons returned to their tables, picking up the
furniture and restoring it to the original positions and resuming their
seats. Mumbling out loud, Josiah smirked at the compliance.
“Glad everyone chose to see it my way.”
reckon you gave ‘em much of a choice,” Nathan chuckled.
had a choice, Nathan,” the preacher corrected, and settled himself at
a table, waving a hand for the others to join him. The Southerner
could certainly handle a gun, but why was he so proficient and running
scams out west? He’d seen the gambler palm off his weapon for JD
to mind, and he wondered at the time why it had been done. But
after hearing Chris profess that five bullets were in fact blanks, it
cleared up this little manoeuvre. The gambler probably wanted the
others to think he had no knowledge of pistols and therefore lure them
into a false sense of security. And of course, they had upped the
pot after the Southerner’s disastrous first attempt. It worried
him to see the young gambler having to claw himself out of the hole
he’d dug, but Josiah admitted there was a smudge of satisfaction
witnessing him escape on his own. He would have stepped in if it
had become too much for the teenager, but he seemed quiet adept at
handling the situation. Obviously, there was more to the gambler
than met the eye. Much like Chris Larabee, he mused curiously.
And there was much to learn from this boy. “Chris…?”
their eyes to the child. Chris Larabee sat up on his knees to see
over the table. He glared at JD Dunne as the Easterner made to
join them. JD rolled his shoulders and sensibly took another chair
at an adjacent table.
for help to find my brother,” Chris curtly informed Josiah, Nathan and
Vin. “There’s a gang of four killers, who murdered my ma in
our home and took Adam away. I’m planning on tracking the
bastards down. Any of you interested? I can pay.”
The boy had been
dealt a horrible blow for one so young, but Chris Larabee certainly had
spirit. “And just what are you paying with?” Josiah
asked. He’d be willing to go along for the ride without any
remuneration, because this was his sign from God, but he was curious all
Chris pulled out
an oiled cloth and set it on the table. It lay unopened, with four
sets of eyes staring at the small package, five sets if you counted
JD’s. Larabee reached out to open it, but a large
calloused hand weighted down over his. He looked up into the blue
eyes of the preacher. “Don’t you want to know what’s
and patted the child’s hand. “Not in here,” he glanced about
knowingly. There were more eyes watching them than had any right.
“And there’s no need. Put it away, son.”
but worried at his bottom lip. How was he to hire guns if he
couldn’t present the prize? His shoulders sagged.
patted the youngster on the back. “You know anything more
about these killers?”
all reckon we should hand this matter over to the law?” Nathan’s
voice of reason interrupted.
don’t want to help…” Chris sighed. “He reckoned they were long
gone, and wouldn’t be comin’ back, and I should jest get on with my
life,” he added in disgust.
“Hell, I was
making five dollars a week at the hardware store without anybody
shooting at me,” Tanner stated.
He’d been impressed by Vin’s precision with the rifle and his cool
attitude under pressure when they’d saved Nathan, but if the former
buffalo hunter didn’t want part of this, then it didn’t worry him.
come,” Nathan nodded.
grunted in agreement too. Someone had to watch out for the young
ones. “I’m in.”
wasn’t plannin’ on dying with a broom in my hand anyway,” Vin
smirked and was rewarded with a full-blown smile from the
just the three of us and a kid?” Nathan gritted his teeth and frowned.
“I ain’t a
kid…” Chris protested.
“I can help
too,” JD Dunne rushed to stand by their table. His hands were on
the colts at his hips, eager for his first battle.
Chris looked the
eighteen-year-old up and down. The brown pinstriped suit was
the same one that he’d been wearing when they’d shared a stagecoach
a few days ago, his attitude was still the same, and his enthusiasm was
high. JD would be a liability, and those at the table knew it.
“Didn’t ask you,” Chris dismissed.
JD looked around
the table, watching the faces of the men seated there. Were they
going to accept the word of a child? He could help them. He
only needed a chance to prove himself. He looked to Josiah for
support, but the preacher looked away with a sigh. “I know how
to use a gun…”
“Who we gonna
send your body to when yer dead?”
gonna get killed!” JD responded heatedly.
snorted; he’d aged years in the past six months. His childhood
had been ripped away from him and he’d been left scarred and
traumatised, haunted by scenes of his mother dying in their home
surrounded by a wall of flames and his brother’s kidnapping. He
couldn’t watch anyone else die. “You don’t know the way of
the west. You should go back home to your safe little house and
pretend we don’t exist.”
Why was he even listening to this kid? But the others were nodding
their heads agreeing with the pint-sized cowboy. Damn it! He
wanted to go! “But…I can...”
interested,” Chris cut him off.
wanly at the youth. He hoped Chris might relent and allow JD to
come with them; he might in a few days time when they were set to leave.
He’d talk to the boy…he’d talk to them both in fact. He
realised, like Chris, that Dunne was a greenhorn, but leaving him here
in town, to fend for himself, would be asking for trouble - he
wouldn’t last a week. No, it would be much safer if JD joined
their little band. Josiah could teach him a few things that may
keep him alive longer. Vin might even be willing to show the older
boy a thing or two and so might Nathan. But that was something for
later. “How about your young friend? He coming with us?”
Yeah, he’ll be coming.” Chris answered. Why wouldn’t he?
Standish had promised.
kid who cleaned out those folks?” Nathan pointed to the corner of the
saloon where the cowboys had slinked off to. Chris nodded.
“Why would we want to use a cheater?”
one. And he’s my friend,” Chris declared.
Didn’t see him around earlier to help you out any when the lead was
flying. Where was he then, Chris? I’ll tell you
where he was,” Nathan roared, he was on a roll, and he was angry.
Of course, a Southern boy wouldn’t condescend to helping save a black
man’s life. And the events of the day, resulting in his near
death, were catching up with him; he wanted to take his anger out on
someone and the Southerner was as good as he could get to vent his
bottled rage. Hearing that honeyed Southern drawl almost made him
puke; it brought forth many memories and past hurts. “He was
inside here, conning the pants off these good folks…not givin’ you a
second thought…so much for thinking he was your friend. And what
would he want with a kid your age…he’s probably only using you in
true!” Chris shouted, jumping from the table and to the defence of his
rescuer. “You don’t know anything about Ezra…you should
wait, at least until you’ve met him.” Ezra wouldn’t do
that…Maude would, but Ezra wouldn’t…would he? “He said
he was taking me back home…”
“Do you trust
him?” Tanner pinned Chris to the spot with the probing question.
There was a
significant pause before Chris spoke. His silence was damning, and
said everything to Nathan, Josiah and Vin. Larabee chewed his lip;
it was unfair of these people to make such assumptions. Chris knew
Ezra was a good person, but the young Southerner had been brought up by
Maude, trained and manipulated for fifteen years, how could he not
possess some of those same qualities? Sure, Ezra had saved him
from Maude’s schooling in the arts of deception, and that was
admirable, but was he more his mother’s son, than Chris had first
perceived? “I don’t trust anybody,” was Chris’
belated answer. But Chris would stand beside the gambler until
Standish did something to warrant losing his loyalty. He owed Ezra
at least that.
Vin bobbed his
head. “Good enough.” Nathan didn’t seem
convinced, and Josiah reserved his decision until he got to know the
young gambler himself.
then,” Chris clapped his hands. “We can leave tomorrow, at
son!” Josiah held his hand up in a stopping position.
“We know yer anxious, Chris, but there are things we need to organise
first. Give us a few days….” he bargained… “That way we
can also get a chance to know one another.”
He knew Josiah was right.
back his seat and nursed the rifle. He smiled smugly at the
cowboys who watched his every move. “Come on, Chris.
Let’s go find Ezra.”
fifteen-year-old gambler sat on the edge of the mattress, straightening
each note carefully and putting them in neat bundles. One hundred
and seventy-three dollars, he had secured that afternoon. And
he’d only had to ante ten dollars to the total himself. Not a
bad effort, he considered. Although there had been a particularly
scary moment, when that eight-inch blade had been used against him.
But he had acquired the funds to keep the journey going, with some left
over for other investments along the way. At least now he could
pay for the room he’d acquired for them at the boarding house and
retrieve his sapphire ring he’d been forced to use as a guarantee.
It meant no more to him than procuring his next meal, or so he convinced
himself, but the security it represented was irreplaceable. It held no
sentimental value, but it was comfortable wearing it on his finger.
Perhaps he should see to regaining his possession before the landlady
decided to hock the valuable gem.
A knock on his
door brought a frown to his forehead. “Who’s there?” he
called out suspiciously.
Chris responded, his voice muffled though the closed door separating
A grin crossed
the gambler’s face and he lightly vaulted off the bed and swung open
the door. Seeing the young child, Ezra turned and moved back into
the room. “We have sufficient funds to acquire you a
mount…mind you, it won’t be anything spectacular. No prise
mare, just a saddle horse,” Standish was quick to clarify. He
didn’t have copious funds to indulge the boy’s every wish.
buyin’ me a horse? With your winnings?” Larabee
practically jumped for joy. His young face, that sometimes looked far
too old and experienced, exploded with expressions the gambler had never
necessity,” Ezra downplayed. “You can’t keep hiking up
behind me on Chaucer.” And it would pave the way for when they needed
“Do I get to
pick him?” Larabee could hardly restrain his enthusiasm, and at the
moment couldn’t see any motivation behind Ezra’s generous offer,
other then to buy him a horse.
if I came along…” Ezra’s grin stiffened, seeing the slight
movement by the open door come into view. His heartbeat leapt
forward in a tumble, until his brain became aware of who was standing
there listening. How long had he been there? Had he said
anything that might be misconstrued? “Mr. Sanchez…” Standish
moved behind the bed, wanting to put some distance between him and the
giant. This wasn’t the same as when they’d met out
in the wilderness; at that time Ezra had the advantage of being astride
his horse, it’d given him height to look down on the tall preacher,
but here in his abode, and him not fully grown, Sanchez loomed over the
shorter gambler. “Can I be of some assistance?” Surely
the preacher hadn’t come seeking compensation for the cowboys he’d
hoodwinked in the saloon. Ezra glared at Chris…why had the child
brought Josiah to his doorstep?
a mighty fine gesture, offering to buy Chris a horse.”
shrugged. What was he getting at?
you’d be hightailin’ it out of town after pulling such a stunt…”
nothing untoward in my dealings with those gentlemen, and I use that
be, they might find offence at being suckered by a kid.”
was not a kid! And he certainly didn’t dupe anyone! Did
everyone fail to notice that those cowboys were attempting to get the
better of him? They plied him with alcohol, which he almost
successfully disposed of all, and fingered him as an easy target to
steal from. None, were disagreeable about accepting the conditions
of the wager, and all willingly added their money to the pile.
Ezra sighed. “Is there a purpose to your visit?”
inside the small room, eventually taking a seat by the door and
stretching out his long legs. “Chris says you’re taking him to
Eagle Bend, then on to his home.” It wasn’t a question, but
Standish nodded. “Thought you might like to know I’ll be
tagging along, so will Nathan and Vin.” And JD Dunne if Josiah
could wrangle it. All these kids needed to stay together.
Ezra looked from
Josiah to the blond-headed boy. What the hell was going on?
He certainly didn’t need a guardian, and if that was what the grey-headed
man was implying then he wanted nothing to do with it. “If that is the
case,” he drawled, “Why do you require me?”
promised,” Chris snarled curtly, and folded his arms over his narrow
to see if Chris was going to say anymore, but he did not. “I
see.” There was silence in the room for a full minute. To
each of the occupants it lasted an eternity. “I am nothing, if
not a man of my word.”
“Good! Can I go choose my horse, now?”
had time to respond and the spirited child was backing out of the room
and gone, leaving him facing the giant preacher. Ezra
wondered what Josiah would deem as suitable punishment for his actions
in the saloon. Isn’t that what all adults attempted to do - mete
out discipline to disobedient children? Josiah remained seated,
even appeared comfortable in the semi-reclined position.
“Something else you needed to add, Mr. Sanchez?” There, he’d
said that without a waver or any indication that he was shaking in his
his thumb over his lower lip thoughtfully. He could see the brave
front the gambler was projecting, but the wariness was clear in the
teenager’s bright green eyes. He knew now that Ezra and Chris
were not related, but something had occurred to bring them together.
He couldn’t help wondering what that had been. What sort of
response would he get if he pressed the right buttons? Maybe
Josiah could force Standish into revealing something. “Was just
wondering where you fitted in with Chris. Can’t see the two of
you hooking up together…yet here you are.”
“I may be many
things, but I would never abandon a child when he is dependant on me.
Now, if you’ll excuse me…I have to justify the expense for a mount
and would like to have some say in the matter, as I’m doling out the
cash. And you can never be too careful with rip-off merchants and
how they like to wring you dry of every last dime.”
back and laughed. “Reckon I might mosey along, too.”
This young gambler might be worth the bother and frustrations yet.
The boy had a certain cockeyed integrity and a snide sense of
humour. Josiah could see the pair of them butting heads on many
issues, but looked forward to the challenge. It had been many
years since he had something to set his focus on. And there were
five young men who’d walked into his life this very day, seeking
direction and guidance and a helping hand - though most of them didn’t
know it yet. He might not be up to the task, but he was willing to
give it a go and it never hurt to try.
“By all means,” the young Southerner clipped, as he rushed past Sanchez.
Next story:- More than Friends
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