Lone Wolf Series

Read 'em Right

By Yolande

Thanks Mitzi

Vin Tanner crumpled the parchment paper into a ball and threw it in disgust at the livery wall.  The paper travelled a few feet in the air and dropped to the earthen floor not reaching the intended target.  The quiet Texan took a step and crouched, picking up the discarded correspondence.  He remained in this stance for a long moment, then smoothed out the page, rubbing out the creases on his thigh.  He sighed, standing and walking back to Peso’s stall.  “What’s the use,” he muttered, knowing that he wouldn’t receive a reply from the gelding.  “Why can’t they just say words that are simple?  So a person can understand,” he growled bitterly. 

The former bounty hunter petted the shoulder of his black horse, lost in his own musings.  The soft tread of leather boots went unheard as the owner of said boots strolled inside the livery.  It wasn’t until the newcomer cleared his throat that Vin became aware that he was no longer alone with the horses.  He glanced up, abruptly swivelling on his heels and his hand nudging the hilt of his mare’s leg.  Standish!  It just had to be him.  Of all people, why did Ezra choose this moment to check on his horse?  The educated Southerner had laughed in his face.  Making a mockery of his illiteracy.  It wasn’t his fault that he wasn’t given the opportunity to study his letters at an early age.  And Tanner didn’t want to deal with the gambler’s snobbish behaviour at the moment.  

“Mr. Tanner,” Ezra Standish exclaimed as his eyes widened.  “I apologise for intruding on your introspection…” 

“My what?” Tanner shouted, not bothering to suppress his anger. 

“Ah, I see that you are not in the best frame of mind, perhaps we can continue…” 

Vin launched at the retreating gambler, grabbing a fistful of shirt he pulled the Southerner back around to face him.  “I want to know what you just said,” he growled through clenched teeth. 

Ezra could see the emotions that flittered over Tanner’s face, and seriously doubted that he was the cause of the dam breaking.  Not entirely, in any case.  “If you could release me, Mr. Tanner…” he left the rest unfinished.  

Vin looked down at the tight hold he had on the gambler and relaxed his grip, finally setting the Southerner free.  “Sorry,” he mumbled, turning back to Peso’s stall and expecting Standish to leave now that he had the opportunity. 

Ezra brushed at his jacket, attempting to straighten the rumpled look he was positive he now portrayed.  “Mr. Tanner…Vin,” the gambler tried again when the first plea went unacknowledged.  “I said - I was sorry for intruding on your silence,” he translated. 

The Southerner’s words seeped through the fog in his mind.  He slowly turned, resting his hip on the stall rail.   He actually understood the entire sentence from the verbose gambler.  Each and every word.  “That was what you said when you came in?” he asked incredulously. 

Standish smiled warily.  “In effect,” he responded. 

Tanner rolled his eyes, throwing both arms in the air in frustration.  There he goes again. 

Ezra quickly saw his mistake and corrected it.  “Yes.” 

“What’s that other word you used?” 

“Introspection?” Standish asked, clarifying which word the tracker was referring to. 

“Yeah.”  Vin dropped his eyes, refusing to meet the gaze of the steady green orbs.  

“It means contemplating…” he stopped when Vin’s expression glazed over.  “Umm… reflecting on?” he paused again, continuing when Tanner shrugged his understanding,  “one’s thoughts.” 

“Oh,” he nodded ruefully, embarrassed at his lack of schooling. 

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”  Ezra stepped forward, raising his hand to Vin’s shoulder, but stopping short of actually laying it down.  Now would be a good time to apologise for his rash behaviour when Tanner asked the gambler to write down his poem.  But he was inebriated at the time. Of course, being drunk was no excuse his conscience reminded him.  He should never allowed himself to get into such a state. 

“Ain’t ashamed,” the Texan countered. 

“Good,” Standish smiled weakly, not believing the declaration, but not calling him on it either.  “About the poem…” 

“Don’t wan ta talk about that now, Ezra,” he growled. 

“Then I shall, depar… leave…” It was almost phrased as a question. 

Tanner stared at the unmoving gambler, waiting for him to leave, but Standish adjusted his weight from one foot to the other and returned his stare.  “You got somethin’ else ta say?”  He could sense the turmoil that ebbed beneath the suave man’s surface. 

“Vin…it may be none of my business,” and he winced at the glowing anger that was sparked immediately in Tanner’s façade.  “But I noticed the trouble you were having reading your correspondence…” 

“You spyin’ on folks now, Standish?” 

Ezra bowed his head and chewed on his bottom lip.  “That is,” he began, “No, I just happened by, and overheard your dilemma…I could read it for you if you’d like?” he offered. 

Vin folded his arms and tried very hard not to let his emotions take control.  “Don’t need your help.” 

Standish accepted the rebuke and didn’t persist.  “Then good day to you, sir,” he declared overly bright and left through the wide doors. 

The longhaired Texan shuffled forward to the opening and followed the gambler with his eyes.  Vin pulled the letter from his pocket and frowned at the unrecognisable scrawl.  Damn, he had to ask someone to help him.  It might as well be the Southerner.  

Tanner made a run from the livery, jogging until he stepped on the sidewalk at the same time as Standish.  He chuckled at the moment of panic that exploded in the conman’s eyes when he draped his arm over Ezra’s shoulder and led him to the bench seat in front of the saloon.  Handing over the crunched note, he waited for Standish to read it to him. 

“You want me to relate the message?” 

“Yeah,” Vin nodded enthusiastically.  He watched Standish glance at the note, then the deep frown lines that furrowed his brow.  He frowned himself when Ezra turned the page in his hand and studied it even longer without saying a word.  Tanner was beginning to feel a touch worried when the gambler remained silent.  “Well…” he prompted 

Ezra lifted his eyes from the letter and into the concerned blue-eyed gaze.  “Ummm,” he stalled. 

“Just give it to me straight,” he ordered.  “If it’s bad news I need to know,” he urged. 

Standish looked back at the note.  “Who gave you this?” 

“I dunno.  I found it attached to my wagon.”  Vin leaned over to look at the now familiar scrawl, even if he couldn’t read it. 

“I can’t decipher this, Vin,” Ezra admitted. 


“I can’t read it.” 

Vin arched both brows.   “Ya mean it ain’t in our language?” 

“Yes, I think it is in the King’s English, but it is written so illegibly that I can’t make sense of it.  Here,” Standish leant forward, pointing to the middle of the message, “That looks like ‘listed’, or maybe it’s ‘holed’,” he groaned.  Pointing to another part he stated; “That word is definitely ‘and’- I think,” he added dubiously, rubbing at his jaw.  “That one could be ‘wait’ or ‘want’…” 

Tanner started with a soft chuckle that burst into a raucous laughter.  Plucking the note from Standish’s grasp he balled it up and tossed it high in the air.  “And I thought it was just me,” he sputtered, gripping his sides more as the laughter bubbled out. 

Ezra grinned at the tracker.  “It seems that whomever penned this, needs to brush up on his writing skills.  I think someone may be having a joke at your expense.” 

Vin flopped back in the seat, relieved at the gambler’s summation.  “I was beginning ta think I’d been wastin’ ma time, having Mary teachin’ me.” 

“Vin, I’m certain you are progressing quite steadily,” he praised. 

Vin abruptly stopped his laughter and pinned the gambler under his scrutiny.  “Why do you say that?” he asked. 

“Well you had no problem reading the wire Chris gave you the other day.” 

Tanner nodded his head, remembering the message that Larabee had passed to him.  It was a simple message, and he probably took longer than the others to read it, but he had done it on his own.  “Yeah, I did,” he grinned.  “How did you know?” 

“It is my profession to observe everything, Mr. Tanner.  Could I interest you in a drink?” 

“You’re buyin’ right?”  Vin chuckled as Standish rolled his eyes and shook his head. 


The End

I'd love to know what you thought.  Please email me

If you'd like to read more of this series, check out this page:

Lone Wolf Series