Mayhem   Woo Hoo...It's Finished!!!!!!!         14th June 02    

By Yolande

These are a collection from the drabbles page that just kept growing...each section is 100 words in length, excluding the titles. all mistakes are mine.  Hope you enjoy!

Story moved to Blackraptor in October 2009  

The Beginning

Ezra and Josiah departed Four Corners, their prisoner riding a dappled mare between them.  In three days hence he would await justice in another town.  The outlaw was tied to the saddle horn and conspicuously quiet for the first day.  The gambler and preacher watched him more closely.  He returned their speculative looks with cocky indifference and rode with an air of arrogance.  

On the second morning the outlaw talked incessantly.  He was on edge, as though he were waiting. The two lawmen attributed his nervous behaviour to his upcoming trial and ignored it.  They were unprepared for the ambush.   


Sanchez guided his mount through the narrow ravine.  He turned back to watch the others pass through when a branch whipped out, knocking Josiah from his horse. His arms and face were scratched from the branches, and the wind forced from his lungs.  The outlaw smirked at the preacher’s downed position.  

A single shot echoed in the ravine.  Sanchez slowly stood, raising his hands high in surrender.  Out the corner of his eyes, he could see Standish doing the same. 

The outlaw laughed, joining the side of his liberator.  They glanced at each other and the second bandit fired again.   


Ezra grunted and was somersaulted off Chaucer with the momentum of the bullet.  A burning pain ripped through his side. He bit his lip attempting to ward off the wave of dizziness. He heard the rush of horseflesh and the pounding hooves as their prisoner raced to freedom.  His cohort leading the way. 

The gambler struggled to his feet, clutching at the bloodied jacket to cover the wound, but the subterfuge was unnecessary, Josiah already knew he was hurt.  He smiled weakly, a ghostly facsimile. 

Sanchez gathered up the smaller man and lowered him down.  “I’ll fix you up, son.”   


Sanchez stared into the campfire. A shower of embers flew high into the midnight sky.  A pensive smile broke out on his weathered face as he glanced over the flames to where the younger man lay.  

Josiah watched as Standish rolled onto his side; he slept restlessly, moaning every so often.  Ezra sported a fresh wound to his side, curtesy of the bandits they were tracking.  It’d bleed a lot initially, but Sanchez had gently tended the injury.  His heart had pounded when he saw Ezra fall from the saddle.  God, he’d feared the worst.   He couldn’t lose his son.   


Ezra was flushed with a slight fever.  His side ached, and it hurt even more attempting to lie perfectly still, but he didn’t want to worry Sanchez any further than he had earlier that afternoon.  

Through heavy eyelids, Ezra watched as Josiah hovered by the fire.  He rolled off his back, regretting it instantly.  A moan escaped, and just as quickly the preacher was by his side rubbing his back and pulling up the blanket that had slipped to his waist.  Josiah wiped his brow and offered a canteen to his lips.  Ezra closed his eyes, knowing he was safe.   

Riding Home 

Josiah kept a concerned eye on the gambler.  Standish sat stiffly in the saddle, his head bobbing in time with the horse’s movements.  He’d refused any help in mounting, but now he was beginning to sway.  Sanchez wondered how much longer Ezra could cope, before passing out.  

Sanchez steadied the younger man, and felt the heat radiating through Ezra’s coat.  He lifted the jacket to check the bandages.  At least there was no fresh blood.  But Ezra needed to stop and recoup his strength.  The preacher took hold the reins from limp fingers and smiled reassuringly at the bewildered gaze.  


A blast interrupted their passage. The bullet tore up the road in front of Chaucer, and Ezra was unseated.  He cried out wretchedly as his abused body hit the ground.  

Josiah leap to his friend’s side, wildly searching the ridge for the attack.  He deliberately placed his body in front of Ezra to protect him.  “Are you hit?” he asked anxiously. 

Standish groaned, attempting to sit.  “Not this time.” 

“Stay still,” Josiah ordered, patting his thigh.  “I can see him,” Sanchez grinned jubilantly.  He drew a bead on the outlaw and fired.  “Got him!” 

“Marvellous,” Standish sighed, slipping into unconsciousness.   


Josiah rubbed at his temples.  Lord it was hot!  He gulped a large mouthful of water and poured some into a cloth.  He was certain that they wouldn’t be going any further today.  Sanchez wiped the cool cloth over the gambler’s forehead.  “You hang in there, son.”  

Ezra’s eyes fluttered and he smiled weakly.  “Can’t get rid of me that easily,” he rasped. 

The preacher returned the smile.  “You get some rest.  We have a long ride tomorrow.”  

“Whenever you’re ready, old man,” Standish countered. 

Sanchez chuckled.  He poked at the fire and watched his charge drift off to sleep.   


Josiah glanced anxiously over his shoulder.  He felt guilty leaving the Southerner alone and injured, while he scouted for the remaining bandit.  Sanchez ambled quickly over the rocky terrain, his boots scuffing softly over the course ground.  

His rifle shouldered, Josiah crouched, examining the remains of a cigarette crushed underfoot.  He licked his dry lips; a sudden feeling of dread rose, causing a hitch in his breathing.  The preacher straightened, his eyes desperately searching out his companion, hidden below.  A crack of a discharged pistol split the air.   “No!” he screamed, stumbling down the ledge, expecting to find the worst.   

Attack No 2 

Pebbles fell from the ledge above him; he wondered if it was Josiah or the outlaw they sought that generated their fall. Standish pushed back flush against the rock wall, his Remington wavering in his hold. Its cold metal heavy in his unsteady hand. His injury ached and his vision blurred.  Where was Josiah? 

The outlaw jumped into his sights, his face glowering with a wild sadistic passion.  He aimed the weapon in Ezra’s direction, but never completed the action.  Ezra’s bullet didn’t stray, and the outlaw dropped without a cry.  The gambler winced; his side was bleeding once again.


Josiah stumbled down the rock face, his heart pounding in his chest.  How could he have been so foolish?  Why did he leave the boy?  He’s hurt and fevered, not in any position to protect himself, Sanchez cursed.  What had he been thinking? 

He skidded to a halt.  

The outlaw was dead.  Josiah kicked at the motionless body, and sighed with relief.  Ezra had killed him with one shot.  The preacher glanced at the Southerner and shook his head in awe.  The bandages where bright with fresh blood. 

Standish grinned roguishly.  “A little help, if you don’t mind?” he rasped.   


Josiah tied off the bandage; he stared intently at the younger man.  “How’d you get over here?”  When Sanchez had left the gambler, he was secluded behind some rocks.  The outlaw shouldn’t have been able to find him. 

Ezra sat straighter, grimacing at the pull on the wound.  “I couldn’t very well leave you to hunt down the miscreant.” 

“That’s exactly what you were supposed to do,” Josiah reprimanded, albeit softly. 

Standish shrugged.  “No harm done.” 

“And what do you call this?” he pointed at Ezra’s side. 

“Nothing that can’t be fixed,” he replied glibly. 

“Ain’t worth risking your life!” 


Standish’s mouth dropped open and he frowned at the older man.  Stunned!  “You can’t believe I would sit back and wait while you risked your life, to protect me?” 

“I wasn’t in any danger!” 

“No more than I,” Ezra stubbornly counted. 

Sanchez sighed.  There was no convincing the gambler.  “It would have hurt me worse if he had killed you,” Josiah confessed, slightly embarrassed at his admission. 

“But he didn’t.  Do you think I would have felt less pain at your demise?” Standish pressed.  The preacher had become an important part of Ezra’s life, since he’d arrived in Four Corners.


Standish sluggishly opened tired eyes, and gazed directly into the concerned blue orbs of Sanchez.  “Morning,” he slurred, a ghostly smile drifted over his face.  His hand drifted to his side and a wave of nausea hit him.  

“Your fever broke.  Want some water?” 

“Something stronger?” Ezra implored. 

Sanchez shook his head and rolled his eyes.  “Nope.  How’re you feeling?” 


“Good.  We might be able to leave tomorrow.” 

“We can depart today.”  Ezra attempted to sit, but grimacing as his wound pulled.  

Josiah pushed Standish back.  “No, we can’t!” 

“Perhaps a day of rest would be welcome,” Ezra conceded.   


The preacher frowned, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.  “Need to find their horses.”  The judge would expect them to bring the outlaws back to town.  

“I don’t require a minder,” Standish growled, though he smiled.  “Go find them,” he ordered. 

Sanchez nodded and returned quickly leading the dabbled mare.  He tossed the desperado over the saddle.  “Didn’t see the other mount.”  It’d probably run off.  “I’ll bring the other fella down.”  He climbed up the ledge, where he’d last seen the bandit.  There was blood on the ground, but the body was gone.  “Hell!” he shouted and rushed back to Standish. 

The Outlaw 

This wasn’t how he’d planned his escape!  His brother shouldn’t be dead and he shouldn’t have a hole in his gut.  Damn that preacher!  And Standish!  If it were the last thing his did, he’d get revenge.  

He had no intention of hanging; that was not his destiny.  But death was not the freedom he’d sought.  His shirt was bloodied and he hurt so badly.  He couldn’t have too much longer, but he’d be damned if he was going to hell before he’d enacted his justice.  He howled with laughter.  “Come and get me,” he whispered in a sadistic sneer.  


“He’s gone!”  Sanchez puffed, glancing vigilantly over his shoulder, wondering if they were in danger of being ambushed again. 

“He’s not deceased?” Ezra queried, tugging at his jacket. 

“Found plenty of blood, but no body.” 

Standish nodded in understanding.  The outlaw could still pose a threat. “We should locate him first…” 

“NO! I want you to stay here.” 

“This mother hen routine is becoming maudlin, Josiah,” Ezra muttered.  Sanchez smiled indulgently, reaching out to steady the gambler as he stood. 

“It’s your funeral,” Josiah grumbled, attempting to keep his voice from faltering.  It had better not be, he screamed silently!


The two lawmen searched in a widening pattern.  They circled the surrounding area methodically, tracking the bandit.  They started where the criminal had been wounded, and followed the trailing blood path.  The heavy pools of blood indicated the outlaw didn’t have long in this world, if he was not already dead. 

The splotches of blood disappeared behind a bush.  Sanchez pointed to the boot that was sticking out a fraction, and pulled aside the growth.  The blast of gunfire, his sharp intake of breath and the outlaw’s vindictive grin were Josiah’s last coherent thoughts as he stumbled backwards, in agony. 

Oh No! 

“Josiah!”  Ezra screamed, a wave of dizziness assaulted him as the preacher collapsed heavily on top of him, the older man’s weight dragging them both to the ground.  The gambler grunted, his eyes glazed over and he fought to stay awake, but a surge of dread rose in his chest.  Josiah lay limp in his arms.  “Don’t you die!” 

Standish had a job to finish.  He screwed his face up and squinted into the desperado’s lifeless eyes.  “You worthless piece of garbage!  If you weren’t already dead, you’d have known a new meaning to the word suffering!” Ezra growled fiercely. 


He was dreaming and his mind wandered through the cloudy haze.  He trembled, something urged him to leave this haven, but it remained poignantly beyond his grasp.  

He attempted to speak, but the words slurred from his mouth.  He tried to open his eyes, but the heavy lids refused to respond.  His limbs were numb and he felt like he was floating in water.  His head bobbed gently on a fluffy pillow and he smiled inanely.  This was the life.  He’d rest now and work out what was nagging at him, later.  Much later!  He was comfortable here, why rush? 


Ezra treated the preacher’s wound as best he could.  The bullet had gouged a deep grove along Josiah’s hairline and he’d been unconscious since.  The wound bled a lot initially, but Standish was now satisfied that he’d managed to control the loss.  

The Southerner was struggling with his own limitations, but pushed his body to the brink of exhaustion. 

He muttered reassuringly to the older man, not even listening to his frenzied words, but he hoped Sanchez would somehow hear them and respond.  So far, Josiah had not reacted.  The lack of movement pushed Ezra to the brink of panic. 


“I know you can’t hear me, but you could at least have the civility to listen,” Standish grumbled, tilting Sanchez’ greying head back.  

“I’ll have you know that both miscreants are now devoid of this world,” he laughed, a brittle sound to his own ears.  “And given the new circumstances, they will be remaining here.  I can’t manage them all,” he admitted wearily.  “I hope Travis understands.” 

“It would be reassuring if you’d regain your senses, Josiah,” Standish sighed.  

“I will sincerely miss you, if you leave,” he confided.  

“A game of chance?” he prevaricated, his voice wavering and uncertain.


The remainder of the day passed in a blur.  Standish hovered protectively over the preacher, willing him to wake up.  He rested a hand on Josiah’s chest wanting to feel the steady rise and fall of his breathing.  It calmed him, like nothing else seemed to. 

His stomach rumbled; reminding him it was ages since he’d eaten.  Standish had little appetite, but the gambler prepared a meal of beans.  It weighed heavy in his gut and he wished he hadn’t consumed the meal. 

The Southerner tended his own wound and sometime during the night Ezra slipped into a restful sleep. 

Mount up 

“Josiah, I want you to mount your horse.”  Standish steered the preacher to the beast.  The taller man smiled in confusion, swaying on his feet. 

“Josiah, lift your foot.”  Ezra groaned as Josiah applied more pressure, leaning on his back.  “Damn It!”  Standish pushed.  “Into the saddle!” 

Sanchez lifted his foot off the ground and unbalanced, tumbling into the gambler.  They rolled on the ground. 

Ezra hissed sharply, panting to catch his breath.  Coloured dots danced before his eyes.  How was he going to get Josiah home?  He hugged his injured side and winced.  Tears shone in his green eyes. 

Second try 

“Can you stand?” the gambler prompted Sanchez.  

The preacher rubbed at his aching head, and blinked.  Why was this young man shouting? 

Standish walked around Josiah, wondering how he was going to get the giant off the ground.  “Josiah, stand up.” 

Sanchez complied, swaying on leaden legs.  He reached out for support and stumbled when his hand groped thin air. 

“The horse, Josiah.  Get on.” 

Sanchez wobbled to the horse.  Ezra waited, groaning aloud when Josiah wrapped his arm around the horse’s neck. 

Sanchez closed his eyes and sagged against the animal.  “Tired,” he mumbled, and slumped to the ground. 

Third time lucky 

“Wake up, Josiah” Ezra pleaded.  The day was half gone and they were no closer to leaving than three hours ago.  “Please.” 

Sanchez moaned, and after more prodding he opened his eyes.  He stared blankly.  “What happened?” 

“You were shot.” 

Josiah nodded, absorbing the information.  “Who shot me?” 

“That miscreant.”  Ezra pointed to the deceased bandit. 

“Did I kill him?” Josiah swayed as he approached the body. 

“It was your bullet that eventually took his life,” Ezra smirked. 

The preacher grunted.  “Why are we still here?” 

“You were sleeping.” 

“Oh. Can we leave now?” 

“Indeed.  Can you ride?” 

“Of course.” 


“Where am I?” Sanchez slurred. 

“The middle of nowhere,” Standish retorted.  His usual patience had deserted him and the barrage of questions was driving Ezra to distraction. 


“Just concentrate on staying in the saddle, Josiah,” Standish ordered. 

“Where’re we going?” Sanchez frowned in confusion. 


“Where’s that?” 

Ezra sighed, resisting the urge to throttle the older man.  “I’ll let you know when we arrive.” 

“Oh,” Josiah responded.  “Is it far?” 

“We’ll be there tomorrow.”  Hopefully, he added. 

“Do I live there too?” 


“Then what are we doing out here?” 

Standish growled, closing his eyes in frustration.  WHY ME? 

Alone (11 May 02)

Sanchez rubbed his head, wincing when his fingers touched the bandage.  The gentle sway of his mount had lulled him into a doze, but the shrill cry of a hawk snapped him from his repose.    The bird circled above, and he abstractedly watched the hawk as it searched for prey.   It surged to the ground, disappearing beyond Josiah’s sight.  He sighed, feeling strangely at a loss.  

He took in a deep breath; the air was heavy with the promise of rain.  The horse stilled beneath him and Josiah stared blankly at the unfamiliar landscape.  He wondered why he was alone. 


The steady rhythm of rain sloughed the trail.  Small rivulets undermined the surface and the surefooted beast on dry ground became uncertain in the slippery conditions.  

Josiah tugged his hat lower and hunched further inside his coat.  It didn’t occur to him to stop and find shelter.  Instead, he allowed his mount free rein trusting the animal knew where to go.  

The preacher swivelled in his saddle and frowned, searching back through the curtain of falling rain for… something.  He had a suspicion there was something amiss, but for the life of him, he couldn’t put his finger on it.


Standish huddled under the foliage of the spruce - wet, cold and dejected.  The thin blanket about his shoulder sagged heavy and did nothing to keep him warm.  His body was wracked with chills and he trembled uncontrollably.  His side ached and he wanted nothing but to lie down and sleep.    But Josiah was out in the rain and that caused him greater pain.  He’d betrayed the trust of his friend, by not protecting him.  Ezra should have been paying more attention.  How could he have let Josiah wander off? 

“Josiah where are you?” Ezra whispered through blue tinged lips. 

Contemplation  (17 May 02)

Ezra had time to think while he waited out the storm.  He blamed himself for losing the concussed man.  Standish was more coherent, and it had been his job to protect Sanchez.  

He seriously doubted that mounting up in the devilish weather would’ve helped find Josiah sooner, but convincing himself of this point had been a hard battle.  So instead, he was sitting in the faded light thoroughly soaked, praying to a God he didn’t believe in, for the preacher to magically reappear.  Somewhere along the way, he’d lost any optimism, and altered his prayer, asking for the preacher’s safety. 

Resuming the Search 

Once the heavy rain cleared Standish hastily clambered into the saddle.  A fine mist descended as he trudged through the wet undergrowth, and with each breath he exhaled a stream of frosted cloud escaped his mouth.  The temperature dropped with each passing minute, and Standish shivered in his damp clothing.  “We got to find him,” Ezra mumbled, clicking his teeth to motion Chaucer through the narrow passage.  He patted the horse’s shoulder.  “Josiah!” he shouted, jumping slightly as the echo returned.  “Damn it!  Answer me!”   Sanchez had to be close by.  Why didn’t he respond?  And where had he gone?


Ezra noticed the nervous sidestep his mount had taken and scanned the rocks above his head.  Something had scared the horse.  It wasn’t like the stubborn animal to react without reason and Chaucer pranced skittishly, throwing his head and snorting.     “Calm down…everything is under control.”  But the gambler drew his Remington and continued to study the surrounds.  

In a blur of movement, Standish found himself knocked off Chaucer and under the weight of a large cougar.  His gun discharged automatically, but he lost it in the fall.  He screamed a blood-cuddling cry, as the animal sank in claws and teeth.  

A Pause 

Josiah poked the meagre fire, adding more wood to keep the flames from dying.  He’d unsaddled the gelding and let it forage on a long lead.  He couldn’t recall owning the animal, but the beast didn’t shy away from him, so it wasn’t unfamiliar with the grey-headed man.  He fingered the wooden cross, hoping this would refocus his memories, but nothing came to mind. 

He froze, listening to the terrible, almost animalistic, wail that drifted beyond his camp.  He held his breath, waiting to hear more, but it was quiet.  He relaxed against his saddle and drifted off to sleep.

Found   (24 May 02) 

Ezra stared disconcertedly into the deepest pair of black eyes he’d ever seen.  He moaned involuntarily and automatically closed his eyes. 

“Yer gonna be fine.” 

Ezra sluggishly watched the figure, wondering where he’d come from. 

“Yer a lucky cuss, mister.  Figure you’d be dead iffen I didn’t come along.  That there cougar had its sights set on you fer dinner.” 

Standish lethargically glanced at the dead mountain lion.  “What…?” 

“Save yer strength.”  He torn a cloth and pressed it to Ezra’s thigh.  “Fine looking horse, ya got,” he sighed wistfully.  “We’ll get home to Flora, she’ll know what to do.”  


“Flora!” the old miner called. 

Flora emerged through the battered door and smiled gamely at her husband.  She noted the fine chestnut horse and the body slung over the saddle.  “What cha got, Oli?” 

“Young fella, done got himself attacked by a cougar.” 

“He dead?” 

“Not yet.  I’ll bring him in.  See what you can do for him, okay?  Then I’m gonna go collect that pelt, afore somethin’ takes it.” 

Oli dismounted his mule and led Chaucer to the house; he pulled the gambler off.  He patted the sleek horse jealously, before assisting Flora with taking the unconscious man inside.


Josiah woke with a sniff neck from the way he’d been laying, but generally feeling better.  His nauseousness and headache were both gone.   He rubbed at his grizzled features and stretched his arms above his head, rolling the kinks from his aging frame.  “Lord, it’s good to be alive!”  His voice was strong and clear.   

His stomach chose that moment to rumble loudly and Josiah roared with laughter.  He startled at the sound of his mirth, but enjoyed hearing the deep throaty chuckle.  “Reckon it’s time to eat!”  Sanchez patted his belly and searched his saddlebags for nourishment. 

Passing Through (26 May 02)

Sanchez reined in his mount.  He’d smelled the smoke some time ago and headed toward it.  “Morning, Miss,” he smiled at the young woman, who was intently beating a rug. 

She startled, not hearing the horse and rider approach.  “Morning.” 

“Just wanted to water the horse.” He motioned to the trough. 

“Go inside, Sophie!” Oli ordered, brandishing his shotgun at Josiah. 

The young woman headed for the stairs.  “Pa…” 

“I said get inside!” 

“I ain’t planning on causing trouble,” Josiah stated. 

Oli covered Sanchez, eyeing him suspiciously.  “Who are ya?” 

“Name’s…Buck.”  Sure, that sounds right.  “And I’m just passing through.” 


Oli lowered the weapon slightly.  “Don’t get many visitors out this way.” 

“Pa, invite him for lunch,” Sophie suggested from the porch.  Sanchez grinned. 

“Mind if I get down?” 

Oli shrugged and stepped backwards a pace.  

Sanchez stood by his horse while it drank and curiously took in the aging homestead.  He noticed the chestnut gelding tethered beside the ancient mule and his brow furrowed.  “Nice horse,” he commented.  Seemed familiar for some reason. 

“He ain’t mine.” 

“Pa…” Sophie called, reminding her father that she’d not heeded his order and gone inside. 

“Ya stay for lunch?” 

“That’d be mighty, generous.” 


“Buck…You got another name?” Flora asked, setting a bowl of soup in front of him. 

Josiah dipped the crusty bread into the steaming broth.  Buck…who?   “Um…Standish…” 

“You hurt yourself, Mr. Standish?” 

Sanchez automatically lifted his hand to his forehead.  “Just a scratch…” 

“Looks like a bullet wound,” Oli interrupted. 

“You a gunman?” Sophie gushed. 

Was he a gunfighter?  Sanchez fingered the wooden cross around his neck.  “No, Ma’am.” 

“Oh.” She lapsed into silence. 

“Fine meal.  Don’t reckon I’ve tasted better.”  

A shuddering cry interrupted their meal and Flora excused herself from the table. 

Josiah watched her disappear into another room.


“Hush now,” Flora crooned, wiping the Southerner’s heated brow.  “Yer gonna get better, I promise.” 

Flora plunged the cloth into the basin.  She sat on the edge of the bed and lowered the sheet to his hips and began the task of cooling him down.  Ezra reflexively shrank away from the cloth, but she followed his movements.  “Should probably change those dressings, while I’m about it, but we do have a guest in the house, so I’ll leave it until he’s gone.”  She knew he didn’t hear her, but she couldn’t just sit there and not talk to the man.


“Sounds like somebody’s not well,” Josiah commented, his eyes never leaving the door where Flora vanished.  He couldn’t stomach another mouthful, hearing the anguished moans. 

Oli didn’t notice Josiah’s scrutiny and continued eating.  “Young fella got himself mauled by a cougar.  Don’t reckon he’ll live to tell the story though.” 

“That his horse outside?” 

Oli paused, the spoon suspended in mid-air.  Finally he responded, when Josiah turned around to face him.  “Yup.” 

“Reckon he’s right fond of that horse, too.”  Now what made him say that? 

“What makes ya say that?” Oli asked. 

Josiah shrugged.  “Just an impression I get.” 

Taking leave 

“Thank you kindly for your hospitality.” 

“You’re welcome,” Sophie quickly interjected.  “Come back soon.”  

Josiah nodded amicably at the girl, not missing the fierce look her father sent her.  He pasted on a false smile and waved.  He took one last look at the gelding and wondered if he should have insisted upon seeing the horse’s owner.  Flora had claimed to have no medical knowledge, but promised to do her best.  And when Josiah suggested fetching Nathan, he couldn’t even explain to them who Nathan was or where he would come from.  He still muddled that over in his mind.

Watching (1 June 02) 

Josiah paused along the ridge.  From this high point he could watch the homestead without being seen.  He wondered why that would be so important and couldn’t bring himself to leave.   He didn’t think it had anything to do with the reclusive family.  Not directly, at least. 

He caught himself holding his breath when Oli reappeared and edged toward the gelding.  The horse nervously padded the ground and a bubble of laughter erupted from the preacher’s throat when the ornery mount evaded Oli’s attempts to saddle him.  But the mirth quickly died.  The homesteader had no right to saddle Chaucer. 


Sanchez beat a hasty path down the incline.  “Where are you taking Chaucer?” Josiah demanded, barricading the trail. 

“What’s it to you?  That gambler ain’t gonna be needing a horse where he’s going!”  Chaucer tossed his head; the reins were pulling the bit hard at his mouth. 

“Then he’s still alive?”  Why was this so important? 

Oli shrugged.  He didn’t care.  Flora said the wounds were deep and infected; she wouldn’t be able to help the injured man.  “I done my bit.  I didn’t have to kill that cat, and he would have already been dead.” 

“Get off Ezra’s horse!” 


Sanchez shook his head in disgust.  This man was robbing the dead, even before Ezra had passed on.  “I said to get off Ezra’s horse!  You got no rights to his possessions.” 

“Well I found ‘em, so that gives me all the right I need!”  He violently wrenched on the reins and kicked the sides of the mount.  The gelding surged past the preacher, carrying the rider through the trees. 

Josiah considered giving chase, but only for a second.  He needed to check on Ezra.  How had the Southerner come into such peril?  Oh God!  What if he’d already died? 


The preacher dismounted his horse and with heavy steps pounded on the narrow porch and flung open the door.  He stopped in the doorway startled by Sophie’s cowering form.  He smiled half-heartedly in apology, then strode determinedly to the room where he expected to find the gambler.  

Once again Josiah’s large form filled the doorway.  “How is he?” 

Flora moved from the bed.  “Not good.  Do you know him?” 

“His name’s, Ezra Standish.” 

“Then he is your son,” Flora presumed. 

Sanchez smiled, moving further inside the bedroom.  Josiah had forgotten that he’d introduced himself as Buck Standish.  “Reckon he is.”

Cold Coffee (8 June 02) 

Josiah sipped at the cold coffee, not even tasting the fetid brew.  He’d spent over twenty hours just watching and waiting for Standish to come out of his fevered nightmare.  Josiah predicted he’d be by the gambler’s side for many more hours to come.  The house was eerily quiet in the pre-dawn, and Sanchez prayed that today would be better. 

Ezra had deep scratches on his thigh and shoulder from the cougar and he’d been still recovering from the bullet wound to his side.  Although Flora knew little of healing, Sophie was a surprise, producing a poultice for the wounds.  


The large preacher rolled his head on his shoulders; the muscles were tense and strained from sitting motionless for so long.  His eyelids sagged, and his weary blue eyes bulged from their sockets.  He flexed his long legs and wriggled each toe inside his boots with deliberately orchestrated movements; Josiah left his seat with the grace of a charging rhino and worked out the kinks that knotted his tall frame.  Each laboured step in the small bedroom awakened an avalanche of tired and aching muscles.  He windmilled his arms and was pleased to feel the renewed circulation in his fingertips. 

Waking Up 

A slow smile awakened on the preacher’s craggy face.  “Morning.” 

Standish blinked in confusion, taking in the unfamiliar surrounds.  His mind registered Josiah’s voice, but he was slow to process the information.  Sanchez repeated his name twice more before the Southerner responded.  “Hurts.” 

“I know it does,” Josiah sympathised.  “You’ll be feeling better soon.” 

Standish closed his eyes.  A mug was pressed to his lips and he automatically sipped at the contents.  “How?” 

Josiah waited until Ezra opened his eyes.  “How did I find you?”  Standish nodded.  “A little divine intervention.” 


“I’m fine, Ezra.  You get some more sleep.” 


Josiah found a wicker chair on the veranda and settled his frame in the seat.  He rested his head back and stared at the underside of the roof.  He’d left Ezra in the gentle hands of Sophie, and while she changed the bandages, Josiah took a breather outside.  Too many days he’d been closeted inside the shack, and with each passing day the gambler grew stronger.  He wondered how Ezra would react to discovering Chaucer gone.  Oli had not returned as Sanchez had hoped. 

The preacher scratched his chin and stood to greet the riders that approached from the north.

Tracking back (June 02) 


“Vin.  Chris,” he welcomed.  “Been expectin’ you boys.” 

Larabee seemed to relax ever so slightly in the saddle.  “Ezra?” 

“He’s inside.  Glad to see you found Chaucer.” 

“Come across him a day ago,” Vin said.  “Backtracked him to here.” 

“Did ya see an older man?” 

“Nope.  He take Chaucer?” 

Sanchez nodded solemnly, wondering what had befallen Oli. 

Chris dismounted.  “What happened?  Got a message saying you never made it.” 

“Prisoner had some help, tried to escape.  They weren’t successful,” he smiled grimly. 

“Ezra hurt?” Tanner asked. 

Sanchez shook his head in amusement.  “That boy don’t know how, not to. 

Moving around 

“This coming from a man who couldn’t mount his own horse,” Standish drawled, leaning unsteadily in the open doorway. 

Sanchez helped the gambler to the chair and scolded him.  “You shouldn’t be out of bed.” 

“I needed some fresh air.” 

“Geez, Ezra.  You wearin’ enough bandages?  How many times you get shot?” Tanner asked. 

“Only the once that I remember.” 

“Was the cougar that did the rest,” Josiah added, when the gambler seemed reluctant to enlighten the others further. 

“Damn!” Vin exclaimed.  “You’re real lucky to survive that.” 

“At the time I did not feel too auspicious, I assure you.” 

Catching up 

The four lawmen lounged on the aging porch, relaxing as though they belonged there.  Three of the four laughed and talked quietly, while the forth slept. 

“He don’t look too comfortable.” 

Sanchez tugged the blanket up and gently tilted Ezra’s head, so it didn’t rest on his chest.  “He is sleeping soundly though.” 

“How we gonna get him home?” Tanner asked. 

“The ladies have offered us the use of their wagon.  It’s behind the barn,” Josiah added, noticing Vin sweeping the grounds for the vehicle. 

“Then we’ll leave in the morning,” Larabee declared, eager to have his wayward family home.  


Ezra smiled; a weary lopsided smile.  Finally, he woke with only a modicum of pain.   He even felt half respectable, given the fact that he’d almost died.  He had begun to think he’d never feel anything but the agonising throbs from the various wounds his body had endued, and the wretched chills and bouts of fevered delirium…he shuddered, not wishing to relive those again. 

He stayed motionless in his seat, listening to the good-natured arguing between his friends.  He enjoyed this moment, pleased, that given his rocky start with them, that they had still accepted him into their motley group.  

Long walk 

Oli limped and trudged over the final distance.  He rubbed his lower back and around the frail hipbones, bringing a wince to his weathered face.  He walked with his head lowered, his eyes scouring the rocky path for obstacles that may hinder his steps.  His gait was tempered with a hiccoughing action, a scissored stride that had him panting for breath. 

He walked the familiar path, wanting only to get home.  He stood in front of his veranda, not realising until too late, that four unknown men took comfort from his home.  No, he amended; he recognised two of them. 


Flora ran full out from the chicken coop.  “Oli!”  She grasped Oli’s arm and pulled him into a hug.  

Oli pushed Flora protectively behind his back.  “Where’s the girl?” 

“Sophie’s fine.  They haven’t hurt us.” 

“Who are you?” Oli demanded. 

Chris was the first to move.  He climbed to his feet and stepped to the rail.  “We’re the law from Four Corners.  You know they hang men for stealing horses?” 

Oli swallowed hard, and if Flora weren’t standing behind him, he would have fled.  “I was just giving the beast some exercise,” he stammered.  “He threw me, the ornery devil.” 


Ezra chuckled from under the blanket.  Chaucer was rather temperamental, and downright particular about who rode him.  The ranch owner was lucky to not have sustained more serious injuries.  “Gentlemen,” Standish waited until all heads turned in his direction.  “I’d like to introduce the man who liberated me from a very hungry mountain lion.”   Ezra gestured, and smiled at his rescuer. 

Sanchez muffled his voice.  “Son, he had no intention of returning your horse.” 

“I know,” Standish slyly stated.  “But he did me a service, and Chaucer knows where his bread is buttered. 

“Ya mean who spoils him,” Tanner drawled. 

On the Road 

“Was it necessary to rise so inordinately early,” Ezra whined. 

“Don’t know why yer complaining.  You get to sleep while we ride.   'Sides, didn’t reckon you were too eager to stay?” 

“Remaining in that quaint domicile, Mr. Tanner, has nothing to do with rising at a decent hour.  And I was not complaining!” 

“Ya best quit now, Vin,” Sanchez chuckled.  “Or he’s gonna argue the point ‘til we’re back.” 

Ezra frowned at Sanchez, crossing his arms over his chest.  “Josiah…I don’t argue.  Debate, perhaps, but never argue.” 

Larabee snorted, digging in his heels and urging the black into a gallop. 


“It is wonderful to be home,” Ezra sighed. 

“Yeah.  Can’t say as I’m too inspired to leave town again any time soon,” Josiah agreed. 

“Don’t reckon I’ll be sending you pair out together again,” Larabee rolled his eyes and shared a grin with Tanner. 

“Yep.  They did kinda make a hash of the job.” 

“What!”  Standish grunted as he moved too quickly.  

“Sit still,” Larabee commanded.  “We’re gonna have you in Nathan’s room soon enough.” 

“That is unnecessary,” Ezra retorted.  “I am sufficiently healed and only wish to reunite with my feather bed.” 

“It’s Nathan’s willingly, or jail,” Chris threatened. 

Final Leg 

Ezra’s jaw dropped.  “Mr. Larabee, surely you jest?  I don’t require Nathan’s ministrations,” he argued.   Chris grinned, baring his teeth.   Ezra appealed with large round eyes to Josiah, but the large man hid his face below his hat.  “Josiah?” 

“No use conning him,” Larabee interrupted.  “Besides, Josiah will be joining you.” 

“What?” Sanchez squawked. 

Chris shook his head.  “You were roaming around without yer memory for days.”  The gunslinger watched the frown that drew the preacher’s eyes together.  “Vin don’t let him out of your sight.” 

Standish chuckled, relaxing in the wagon as it made slow progress through the town. 


“Done.”  Nathan tied off the bandage and patted Ezra on the knee.  

“Thankyou.  May I leave now?” 

“You ain’t going anywhere,” Jackson admonished and gently pushed the gambler back.  


“NO!  You got a fever and I need you here, where I can look after you.”  Nathan grinned widely, thrilled at Ezra’s grudging compliance.  

Sanchez laughed, earning himself a reproachful glance from the healer. 

“You ain’t going anywhere either.”  Jackson pointed at Josiah’s chest. 

“But I thought…” 

“No use thinking, Josiah, yer staying.” Besides keeping both of them in the clinic was easier.  

“I’m fine.” 

“Yeah?  So what’s yer surname?” 

What’s in a Name? 

“That man is a menace,” Sanchez moaned. 

Ezra snorted, pulling the blanket higher.  “He is most… persuasive.” 

“Um, Ezra?” 

“Yes, Josiah.” 

“You do know I didn’t leave you deliberately?” 

“I know.” 


Standish grinned.  “Yes, Josiah.” 

Sanchez lowered his voice to a whisper.  “What’s my surname?” 

Standish laughed.  “Josiah Sanchez.” 

“Sanchez, huh?  Hmmmm.  Guessin’ I ain’t yer father?” 

“No.”  After a long pause Ezra added; “Unfortunately.” 

He wasn’t the only one to dream.  “Night, son.” 

“Goodnight…. Pa,” Standish smirked, rolling on his side.  The smile remained as he drifted off to sleep.  Josiah’s deep throaty chuckle echoed in the room. 


That’s it…The End…Completed… Finished…And Done! 



Hope you enjoyed reading this!  Please send comments to me.