Special thanks to Kelly A for beta-ing.
the back,” Chris Larabee ordered the Southerner.
squinted at the bright sun and looked at the gunslinger in bewilderment.
Why did Chris want him to go around the back of the bank? He ducked his
head lower when he felt the path of a bullet whiz past his cheek. Damn!
Why did they have to pick their town to hold up? Didn’t the miscreants
know that Four Corners was protected by seven lawmen? Except, at the
moment five of the seven were absent from town. Buck, Josiah and Vin were
transporting a prisoner, Nathan was up at the Seminole Village visiting with
Rain and JD was spending the afternoon riding with Casey. That left Chris
and Ezra to protect the town.
crouched down and shot off another round into the bank’s windows. The
bandits inside continued their barrage in return. It was a standoff with
the outlaws having the advantage of a hostage; the bank teller was the hapless
victim. Fortunately, no others were inside at the time of the heist.
Larabee hissed irritably.
Ezra silently shouted. Crouching low, he sprinted quickly to the back.
The exit was secured and he slid along the wall to the door, slowly drawing it
open. The gambler paused on the threshold, straining to hear over the
gunfire that erupted from the front. He then stepped quietly inside the
room, which the manager claimed as his office. Ezra let out a heavy sigh
on finding the room deserted.
slowly edged open the office door, biting the inside of his cheek when it
creaked noisily. He peered through the space into the main section of the
bank. Holding his breath, the Southerner waited a fraction then slipped
through the narrow opening. He tiptoed into the melee and wondered again
how this was beneficial to him. Standish sighed; they had yet to discover
his presence inside the bank. The backs of five outlaws greeted him, and
they were all focused solely on the barrage that Chris and the commandeered
services of a few able bodied men handy with a gun, were providing from the
front. Ezra frowned, wondering briefly where Amos Mills, the bank teller
Come on, Chris!
What’s keeping you? If the lawman had something planned, now was the
time. Ezra hunkered behind the counter, diligently watching the fracas.
It was with this thought still on his mind when the entire front of the bank
disappeared in an explosion. Standish rocked back on his heels and winced
at the thundering blast.
Ezra carefully straightened, flexing body parts to determine if any had been injured, then slowly shook off the showering of debris his jacket had received. He blinked twice and watched Chris wander through the destruction. The five outlaws lay somewhere beneath the pile of rubble.
“Then ya can
help clean this mess up,” Larabee abruptly interrupted. He glanced
around the bank and other than the open-air view of the street; the rest of the
bank was amazingly still intact.
dejectedly and stepped out from behind the counter, prepared to sift through the
broken wall in search of the outlaws.
the teller?” Larabee asked curiously. God, he hoped Mills wasn’t under
the shattered wall. Couldn’t abide with killing innocent men.
another step an’ I’ll blow a hole through that pretty jacket,” a rough
voice instructed from behind the gambler.
turned and found the missing teller exiting the vault, held tightly in the grip
of a sixth member of the gang. He raised his hands away from his holster
and felt Larabee’s presence beside him.
pieces!” the outlaw demanded of both lawmen. All the while he dragged
the teller along, forcing him to acquiesce by the gun that was pressed to his
and the gunslinger complied; tossing their guns across the wooden floor, hoping
the action of surrender would afford them an opportunity to free the hostage.
plannin’ on doing now?” Chris asked in mild curiosity. “Yer friends
are buried in a pile of rubble, and yer not gonna get far hauling that sack of
money and a hostage.”
grinned wickedly as an idea formed in his mind. He backed up and motioned
the two lawmen to join him behind the counter. “You can all go inside
there,” he smiled deviously; pleased with the solution he’d reached.
baulked at the narrow width of the vault, his eyes wide with suspicion and a
flicker of fear. “You can’t be serious?”
“I said, get
up the nerve to protest, swallowing the bile that threatened to explode from his
mouth. “You can’t lock us all in there,” he choked. “Mr.
Charlton is away for the week-end, and other then myself, he’s the only one
with the combination.”
the outlaw pressed the gun firmly against the teller’s head. “Get
shrugged, obediently complying and Ezra hesitantly followed his lead. They
were ordered to the end of the room. A scuffle broke out between the teller and
the remaining bandit at the entrance, but was almost immediately stopped by the
piercing sound of gunfire. The body of Mills collapsed across the
threshold of the vault. The teller was pulled out and the thick metal door
closed with a dull clang echoing in the small enclosure. The dial turned
with a sharp click, effectively trapping the two lawmen inside.
Standish drawled sarcastically. “Absolutely marvellous.”
Southerner rushed at the vault door and hammered his fists against the cool
metal. “Let us out, dammit,” he shouted hopelessly in vain. The
gambler continued to pound on the door and even kicked a number of times in the
slim chance that the act of aggression would help.
“Cut it out,
Standish,” Larabee ordered, content to wait, biding his time to be released.
Ezra spun on
his heel and glared down the badly lit tunnel at the gunslinger. This was
Larabee’s fault entirely. He wouldn’t be trapped in the slim box with Sir
Galahad for company if not for Chris’ easy compliance with the outlaw.
The vault was approximately six feet across, but both walls were lined with
shelving, which in turn made the space even narrower. The length of the
room was hardly more than ten feet long, there were no windows and all the walls
were lined with a heavy metal. As soon as the door was closed, the
flickering flame from the oil lamp barely shed enough light in the small room.
“Oh, by all means, Mr. Larabee,” Standish hissed in annoyance. The
gambler kicked angrily once more and slumped to the floor, slouched in a heap.
incredulously at the gambler. What was that about? He
shrugged, resuming a similar pose to the one adopted by Standish, although he
remained at the far end of the vault.
flickered in the dark, and the light was becoming increasingly dim. Ezra
held his hand in front of his face and could only just see a vague outline.
He swallowed painfully and forced himself to breath evenly. Close
your eyes and take slow deep breaths, he instructed himself over and over again
in his mind. You’re in control, he reminded himself - just remember it.
He sat with his knees drawn up and rested his forehead on the top of his knees.
It was becoming increasingly more difficult to draw in each breath and his chest
ached from the exertion.
lantern failed and the vault plunged into total blackness, the Southerner gulped
frantically, blinking wildly in panic. Ezra jumped to his feet and wiped a
hand over his face. His heartbeat thumped strangely loud to his ears.
He fought the urge to pummel at the door, and his hands shook from the effort to
Leaning his forehead against the door, Standish squeezed closed his eyes and
concentrated on imagining that he was anywhere else but here. It was just
beginning to work when a hand clamped down on his shoulder, and the harshness of
his breathing intensified. Standish panicked by the touch, startled, but
responded on reflexes only and punched out with his left hand, following it
quickly with his right. He heard a grunt moments before he found himself
on the receiving end of a few punishing blows.
from his light sleep wondering what had caused him to wake. He remained
still and listened in the dark, frowning at the oddly disturbing noises that
were coming from his companion. The lantern was out, so he had little
chance of seeing what the younger man was doing, leaving the alternative of
either ignoring him or taking the risk of interrupting something that could
potentially be private. He sat up and scowled in the direction of the
vault door, wondering belatedly what time it was. It had to be late, he
was certain of that, but other than that, he’d only be guessing.
if JD had come back to town yet. And whether the young gunslinger was
endeavouring to find the absent bank manager, Brain Charlton, so they could
leave this tomb. He hoped that the outlaw had been long gone before Dunne
had returned, not wanting him to encounter the bandit alone.
his head to the side and curiously wondered again what Ezra was trying to do.
The younger man’s breathing was hurried and shallow. The man in black
didn’t think that Ezra would be able to continue to breathe like that and not
pass out. With that thought in mind, Chris decided he’d find out what
was bothering Standish. “Ezra…” he called the gambler’s name
softly, not wanting to startle him, by breaking the relative silence with his
voice. The greeting went unanswered.
skimmed his hand along the shelving, guiding his steps toward the entrance.
The Southerner’s raspy breathing gave him direction. “Standish?”
Chris fumbled in the dark, and reached with his hands to find the conman and
probably connected a little harder then intended, but he couldn’t see, dammit!
The double up of blows were an unwelcome attack, and certainly unforeseen.
back, surprised by the attack, but not for long. He aimed a blow at where
he imagined the gambler was standing and a smile grew on the gunman’s face
when his hand met with the gambler’s body. “You want ta fight?”
Larabee didn’t wait for a response, but threw another volley of punches in the
Southerner’s direction. “I’ll give ya something to remember,”
Chris snarled. The last punch missed his target. Standish had moved.
Chris landed flat against the vault door after following through with the punch.
“Come on, Standish,” Chris taunted spinning around, wanting the Southerner
to disclose his position by speaking. The gunslinger listened, but only
his racing heartbeat sounded in his ears.
A soft shuffle
sounded to his left and he threw himself at the gambler, bringing them both to
the floor, landing a few well-placed blows on the way down. Larabee landed
atop of the Southerner and heard the grunt from him when they hit the floor.
Chris straddled the conman’s hips and brought his arm back high over his
shoulder. He clenched his fist and prepared to bring it down hard.
realised belatedly, that he scarcely had any restraining hold over Standish, but
the gambler barely moved beneath him. Certainly he wasn’t struggling to
escape. Chris lowered his arm and climbed off Ezra, sitting beside the
still man. When the gunslinger tempered his anger, the raspy breathing
that had initially woken him, broke through his senses. “Ezra…are you
havin’ trouble breathing?” He felt the slight movement when Standish
changed positions, but the harsh breathing continued.
over, crawling to his hands and knees. His head dropped down between his
shoulders. His head spun, and he gasped urgently to swallow some air.
The air about his face was thick and hot and he couldn’t seem to get enough of
it. Even closing his eyes didn’t stop the spinning rotation that his
mind seemed to be trapped in. Fighting with Larabee certainly didn’t
help matters either. Got to get out of here! He screamed mutely, before
passing out and collapsing to the floor.
Chris crawled, feeling anxiously with his hands along the floor. He found
the gambler’s leg and worked his way up the unresponsive body until he could
feel Standish’s face. Larabee felt for a fever, and was pleased to find
none. He lightly tapped the Southerner’s cheeks, calling his name to
awaken him, but the gambler remained silent. Although, Chris noted that
his breathing had settled into a relaxed rhythm and he no longer struggled for
snorted, shaking his head in bewilderment. How did he get trapped in here
with a man who was terrified of what…the dark? He questioned in confusion.
The gunman pulled a match from his pocket and scraped it along the base of his
boot. He passed the slim flame over the gambler’s face, the miniature
glow showed only Ezra’s slack facial features. He briefly wondered if
Standish had been injured in the explosion, but he’d stated that he was
unhurt. The wood burned down to his fingertips and Chris flicked the
remaining sliver of timber away, where it sputtered and finally went out.
dragged the Southerner over to the end wall, propping him up. Chris sank
down beside him to prevent Ezra from falling sideways.
immediately when Standish started to come around, his breathing hitched and the
steady rhythm and general quiet of the room vanished under the gasping and
panting. “Ezra,” he growled, turning the gambler’s face in his hands
by holding under his chin. “Talk to me,” Larabee commanded.
hitting me?” Chris joked.
winced. Oh God, he really did hit the stoic gunman, he realised in dismay.
“My…sincerest…apolo…gies,” Ezra muttered.
me what’s goin’ on?”
his head, tilting it back against the wall. “Small spaces…and
I…don’t mix… too well,” he admitted. He owed the gunman that much
chuckled. “That’s an understatement, Standish,” he deadpanned.
and clambered to his feet. Momentarily disorientated, he felt for the
shelving. Realising that they were at the far wall, because that was the
only wall without shelving, he stumbled toward the door. “I need… to
get… out of here,” he muttered urgently.
Chris promised. “Just got to bide our time.” The gunslinger
pulled out another match and set it alight. In the dim glow he watched the
panicked expression of Standish zero in intently on the flame. Damn, he
didn’t have enough matches to keep lightin’ ‘em one after each other.
Chris joined the gambler at the front of the vault and before the wood
burned to the end he motioned that they should resume their seat. Standish
nodded and slid rigidly down the door. Chris sat next to him and their
shoulders touched. When the light faded, Chris squeezed Ezra’s forearm,
but the hitch in his breathing still returned and Larabee could feel the gambler
tense under his fingertips. “Do ya know why?”
what…Mr. Larabee?” he drawled.
smothered the growl that rose to his throat. “Why this happens,” he clarified.
“Musta been somethin’ bad that caused this,” Chris prompted. He felt
if he could get the gambler talking it would take his mind off his problem,
maybe settle down his breathing some too.
tipping his head back and gulping for air. “I was stuck…inside a…box
once,” he hesitantly divulged.
that would explain a lot. “How old were you?” There was such a
long pause after his question that Larabee assumed that the Southerner was not
going to reply. When he did, the choked sound was barely a whisper.
I was eight at the time.” Standish shivered at the vividly haunting
mother had finally decided to take him with her on one of her trips.
He’d actually enjoyed staying with his aunt and uncle and their young
daughter, but it wasn’t the same as being with your own mother. He was
so excited to see her after not hearing from her in over six months.
And for the first time, he would get to travel with her on a train. Lord,
he loved being on trains. But he’d made so many trips on trains by
himself, that to be given the opportunity to be with Maude, and on a train, his
heart fluttered with anticipation.
arrived at the platform, an elderly man with a portly belly and swinging a heavy
cane met them. The young Southerner eyed the man suspiciously, yet curious
all the same. Maude didn’t introduce Ezra to the gentleman and when he
boldly scrutinized the young Southerner, his mother waved a dismissive hand over
his head, saying that he was the porter’s son wanting to earn a nickel for
helping with the luggage. All his excitement shattered in an instant at
hearing his mother’s flippant words. Ezra backed away from her and would
have run, but for the firm grip Maude secured on his shoulder. She winked
suggestively at the gentleman and promised a swift return.
was dragged along behind her to the baggage section of the train, and he was
practically thrown through the open doors. Maude pulled a key from her
bosom and opened a chest with it.
when he recalled what was inside the box.
a brown package, a canteen and nothing else. Several holes, not much
bigger that a nickel, were drilled at both ends of the wooden box. She had
planned this from the beginning. Maude never had any intention of spending
time with her son. It had all been a ruse from the beginning, and he’d
fallen for it, once again. “Now, hop in, son,” she urged, anxiously
looking over her shoulder for fear of being caught.
caught in his throat, and tears streamed down his cheeks. “B…b…but,
I thought…we were going to be on the train together,” he whimpered, looking
up at her with doleful eyes.
be silly, Ezra. How can I possibly convince Mr. Humphries to be my
husband, if he thinks I already have a son? No, that would be impossible.
Be a good boy and climb inside. There are plenty of air holes, and some
sandwiches in the bag, but you must be very quiet,” she warned, wagging her
finger at him. “You don’t want to get your mother in trouble do
you?” The young boy shook his head. “Good.” She patted
his head. “Because that’s what would happen if they found you.
And besides, it saves the extra fare I would be required to pay for you.
This way we only have to pay for one, and you get a free trip,” she enthused,
lightly kissing him on the cheek.
eight-year-old had any chance to react, the lid closed down on him, surrounding
him in total darkness. The key turned in the lock and he sobbed
uncontrollably into his coat so no one would hear him, until he cried himself to
A lone tear
tracked a path down his cheek and Ezra sniffed, swallowing the bile at the
unpleasant memory. He jerked awkwardly at the gunslinger’s touch and
choked out an apology.
“I said, how
did ya get yerself locked inside?” Come on, Ezra, talk to me, Larabee
his hand nervously through his hair, and the hand literally shook. “I
didn’t say… I was locked in,” he contradicted.
smiled in sympathy. “Then why couldn’t ya get out?” Chris reasoned.
He heard the uncharacteristic snort from the gambler and wondered who had locked
an eight-year-old child inside a box. “How long were ya in there?”
days,” he sighed.
long days of suffocating in the heat, breathing in stale air and fighting for
every breath. Not long after Maude had abandoned him, the box had been
moved, and he wanted so badly to scream out and tell somebody that he was
inside, but his mother’s words repeated in his mind, warning him to be quiet,
and he didn’t want Maude to get in trouble because of him. He pushed his
tear-streaked face harder into the coat and smothered his pleas for help.
The box was pushed hard against the wall, leaving him only four small holes at
one end to receive fresh air through. He could barely move in the small
enclosure, and his legs were cramped by not being able to stretch out.
Chris shouted in abject horror.
jumped fractionally and wiped the moisture from his face.
hell did that to you?”
his head to the side, ashamed to admit his fears in front of the gunslinger.
Another match being struck tempted him to face Larabee, if only to embrace the
into the tear-stained eyes that were filled with fear and twisted his lips into
a snarl. The poker face was gone and the walls were crumbling. “It
was Maude!” Chris proclaimed, convinced by his revelation. How could the
conwoman do such a thing to her only son? An eight-year-old child for
God’s sake! The gunman glanced at the gambler to see the confirmation in
his eyes just before they were dropped back into darkness. “What the
hell was she thinking?” he asked in outrage.
didn’t have… sufficient funds… to pay for both our passages,” Standish
defended Maude’s actions, though he didn’t know why. But she was still
his mother, and the only one he’d ever had.
stuffed you in a box!” For two days, he added. Why would a mother
so such a thing? “What about meals? What’d ya do about them?”
smiled wanly. Yes what about the meals?
he’d woken the first time after crying himself to sleep, Ezra opened the
package and found the two thick slices of bread with a layer of cheese and bacon
neatly wrapped inside. He hungrily ate the contents; having missed
breakfast that morning because he was so hyped up about the journey, and washed
them down with some water from the canteen. Had he known that over the
next two days that no other meals were going to be provided, then he would
probably have rationed the limited supply to last longer. Though he did
have nearly enough water.
food in the box,” the gambler informed Larabee.
he agreed sceptically. “Don’t ‘spose ya got anythin’ on ya ta eat
now, do ya?”
Standish barked. “Do I look like a walkin’ food store?”
his stomach and smiled to himself, Ezra had managed to complete that last
sentence in one breath. “Figured it’s gotta be mornin’ and I’m
feeling hungry,” he announced.
for a moment and pulled out his timepiece. “Do you have another
complied and held the light over the pocket watch. Chris smiled sheepishly
at the Southerner, who was shaking his head, but managed a small smile.
Five-twenty in the morning, the timepiece declared. “See, I was
and Mr. Tanner would consider that time to be morning. To me, it is still
the middle of the night.”
“So go ta
sleep,” the gunman encouraged.
There was so
much they didn’t know or understand about Ezra Standish. The wily
cardsharp was an enigma. Certainly one of a kind. Each time they
learned something new about him, it shook the gunman’s opinion of the
Southerner out the window. And his estimation of Standish only grew the
more he found out about his childhood and what he’d had to overcome to reach
adulthood. Anyone who could survive Maude’s upbringing, had to be
desperately wanted to move, but the gambler had succumbed to an exhaustive sleep
and leaned heavily against his left shoulder, effectively trapping him.
Even the all-encompassing darkness was starting to grate on his nerves.
Larabee didn’t know how he’d be able to calm the gambler down, when his own
senses were starting to shatter. Chris had no intention of waking the
gambler; he’d allow Ezra to sleep as long as possible. At least while he
was sleeping his breathing was even and unforced.
With a stifled groan Ezra woke, and for
a minute was confused by what his eyes couldn’t see, but the events of the day
before came rushing back, crashing full force at him. Standish jumped to
his feet and paced to the length of the vault, cursing under his breath when his
knee connected with the back wall. Spinning on his heels, Ezra counted the
steps, only managing three before he turned and headed back in the opposite
have laughed if he were guaranteed that the Southerner wouldn’t physically
attack him again. Instead, Chris met the agitated gambler halfway. And in
the dark Standish walked right into him.
swore, attempting to swerve past the stalwart lawman.
grabbed either side of Ezra’s shoulders and prevented the manoeuvre. “You always wake up like that?” he teased.
“What do you
want, Mr. Larabee?” Standish asked irritably.
stomach chose that moment to growl. “I’d settle for somethin’ ta
marginally and a soft chortle escaped. He licked his lips and stepped out
of Larabee’s hold. “You are welcome to share Chaucer’s treat,” he
Chris queried, concerned with what the gambler was suggesting.
“I picked up
an apple, yesterday…before,” he waved his hand dramatically, as if Larabee
could see the gesture.
got food?” Chris growled, stalking closer. “Hand it over,” he
greedily urged. “How come you only just remembered it now?”
pulled the fruit from his pocket and smiled at the lawman’s eagerness. “Didn’t cross my mind. Do you have a knife?”
removed the small pocketknife and held it out. “You spoil that horse of
been told,” the gambler agreed, halving the apple and handing one section to
The juice ran
down his chin, but Chris ignored it in favour of savouring the taste of the
crisp fruit. “By who?” he asked around a piece of apple in his mouth.
Larabee almost choked when he spurted in astonishment. “You seen what he
feeds his nag?”
the gambler encouraged, surprised that Chris would share this confidence with
we were in Eagle Bend a few weeks back, I caught him feeding pumpkin pie to
Peso. Damned if he didn’t eat it all too,” he shook his head in awe.
at the image that came to mind. “I hear Mr. Tanner is not particularly
fond of that variety of pastry.”
an appraising eyebrow at the gambler, wondering how he’d garnered that titbit
“I have some
brandy, if you care to wash it down,” the Southerner proffered.
The day past
incredibly slowly, and each time Standish’s anxieties came to a head, Chris
would distract him, redirecting his attention.
happened when you got out?” Chris casually prodded.
paused to recall his first action. He shrugged and frowned at the lack of
memory for that immediate response. “I climbed out,” he
snorted at the reply. “Yep, good choice. I’d a done that too.”
The gunman elbowed Standish in the ribs. “What’d Maude have ta say to
gambler’s breath caught in his throat and a spasm of pain surged through his
chest. He closed his eyes tight not wanting to remember anymore of the
dreadful train ride, but the memories flooded through his mind.
chest finally stopped jolting around and rested back on solid ground the lid
opened. The young boy inside squinted up into the bright daylight and with
a startled gasp, curled into a tight ball, afraid to move and wary of the person
opening the chest. It was not mother. “Come on, Ezra!” the
friendly voice beckoned and firm hands picked him out of the chest. “Lord, boy! You could do with a bath.”
Southerner opened his eyes and found he was cradled in his uncle’s arms.
“D…did you come to Forbes, too?”
not in Forbes, Ezra,” the Southerner’s uncle pursed his lips and informed
the boy. “Yer gonna be staying with Molly and me and the little one
again,” he smiled a toothy grin and set Ezra on a seat in a waiting wagon.
He’d been shocked to discover the only delivery for him off the train was a
chest. He considered, for a fleeting moment, that his cousin had changed
her mind and kept her young son with her. But he was appalled to find the
lad locked inside. The smell of urine and vomit almost made him gag when
the lid was thrown open
was going to Forbes with Mother…” he croaked, worriedly looking about for
Maude, but the town that he was in, was not Forbes. He recognised this
town easily; he had just spent the past six months of his life here. “Where’s mother?” he whimpered. He’d been good, just like mother
had asked. So why did she send him back?
mother got married yesterday in Forbes. And ya know that she can’t be
having a youngun’ around on the honeymoon,” he hurriedly explained,
disgusted at Maude’s treatment of the youngster. “Anyway, she wired
from Forbes that you were coming back on the train,” damn woman said nothin’
about him being locked in a bloody box though, “and ya could stay a while
longer with us. That’s good! Ain’t it, Ezra?” He lightly
ruffled the boy’s hair; he truly did enjoy having Ezra living with them.
He was a quiet and unassuming child, pleasant to talk with and a generally good
kid. Why Maude couldn’t see this in the youngster was baffling.
nodded his head. His mother didn’t want him in the way. And she
was ashamed to acknowledge him as her son. He wiped the sole tear from his
face and refused to cry anymore. After all, he was eight years old.
He’d stay with his aunt and uncle for as long as Maude wanted. He
didn’t need her. Not really. If only Ezra could convince himself
“Ezra, Maude did let you out didn’t
“I was only
inside for two days. Of course I was released,” Standish sarcastically
noticed the way the gambler hadn’t answered his question, but decided not to
pursue the point. “Musta been a bit cramped, inside?”
the Southerner mumbled.
“Was that a
yes or no?” Chris lightened the tone of his voice, wanting to keep the gambler
possible to discuss something else?” Standish complained.
about, why haven’t you told Maude what she did to you by ramming you into a
in exasperation, thumping his head hard on the vault door.
his last match and held it at his chest. The Southerner was back to
pacing, and with the shadow of light, the gunman noticed the fine sheen of
perspiration that glistened on his brow. “Won’t be too much longer,
Ezra. Let’s have a gander at yer watch, before we lose the light.”
He wasn’t about to tell Standish that he’d run out of matches. “Nine-fifteen,” he proclaimed.
shivered. “That’s nine-fifteen Sunday night. We won’t be
released until tomorrow morning.”
“If ya go ta
sleep, it’ll be morning before ya know it, and the first thing ya’ll hear
will be the clink of the wheel spinning to let us out.”
God, he prayed
that Larabee was correct.
bit his lip, attempting to stop the flood of words. He’d feigned sleep
in an effort to convince Standish to do likewise, but the conman either knew
that he wasn’t really sleeping, or Ezra couldn’t focus on anything but
himself at the moment. With the gambler’s breathing increasing in
rapidity, Chris tended to lean toward believing that Standish was totally
unfocused. If only he could use this against the gambler when they were
involved in a game of cards. Ezra was so in control while he held that
deck in his hands. The gunslinger snapped his fingers, berating himself
for not figuring it out before. “Standish! You got yer cards?”
can…see…in the…dark now… Mr. Larabee?” Standish drawled mockingly.
‘em or not?” he demanded.
Southerner irritably hissed.
Ezra held them out, waiting for the gunman to take them from his hands.
want ‘em,” Chris countered. “‘Sides I’d drop ‘em, not bein’
able ta see what I was doin’.”
he left the question hang open.
you’d know what ta do with ‘em.” A gratified smile curled his lips
when the soft shuffle of cards replaced the gambler’s laboured breathing.
After a short
time, Ezra spoke. This time with only a little hesitation to his speech.
“Mr. Larabee, I’d like to thank you for…” he paused, uncertain how he
wanted to continue. “For your assistance…and the company. I
don’t think I would have managed without…”
the same for any of the others,” Larabee interrupted. “And as for
keeping ya company,” he laughed softly, “didn’t have anywhere else to
appreciate it immensely if you didn’t mention this to the others.”
that’s what you want.” The man in black tapped his boot on the floor,
contemplating whether he should speak his piece or keep quiet. Deciding
that he was never one to hold back, Chris made the suggestion. “Maybe
you should tell ‘em. Might be easier on them if they were ever trapped
with you inside a vault, or somethin’, least they’d know what ta expect.
And maybe Nathan might be able to give ya some tips on how ta stop it from
one gonna think any less of ya ‘cause of it. You might want ta talk to
someone about it…”
interrupted, “I believe I talked to you.”
lot more happened than ya told me, but if ya ever want to share a drink and tell
me the rest, I’ll listen.”
overwhelmed by the gesture and struggled to keep his emotions under control,
thankfully the stoic lawman couldn’t see him. “Thanks,” he choked
True to his
word, the vault was opened early Monday morning just as Larabee promised.
JD Dunne hovered in the background as he enticed a weary bank manager to unlock
the vault. Brain Charlton had been hauled from the stage by the uptight
gunslinger and pushed through the damaged building to the vault. With a
little persuasion, the manager dialled in the numbers. Two very relieved
lawmen stepped from the small space and with a shared smile, headed for the
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A Weight to Bear - Series
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