I do not own the magnificent seven nor do I make any money whatsoever from this story. All copyrights apply. Thanks to Joy and Nancy, as well as my Beta readers.
This is my first story ever; please tell me what you think.
Chris Larabee watched as the coach came slowly into town and rolled to a stop outside the hotel. He was sitting outside the saloon, as usual, keeping an eye on the town. The footman of the carriage stepped down to help the passengers out, a woman and an older man, who appeared to Chris to be the womans father. The older man turned to the footman and spoke to him, assumably to give instructions about their luggage, while the young woman surveyed the town. She was very pale looking and wore a shawl despite the midsummer heat, Chris wondered if she was perhaps ill. Her father came forward then and took her arm as they walked indoors, the footman following with their luggage. Chris wasnt sure what to make of it, they didnt look like settlers, of which they had had many in the last few months, and if they where just passing through, where were they going next? As there where no more passengers, the carriage rolled on to the coach stop. Chris stood and went inside, it had been a quiet week and all the seven where slightly restless, and so in the absence of anything better to do they had resorted to hanging around the saloon all day. Buck and JD where standing at the bar, each with a drink, watching Ezra playing poker with Josiah and Nathan. The only one not there, and the only one doing any real work, was Vin who was out on patrol. Chris went up to stand next to Buck at the bar as Ezra won the round and Josiah and Nathan tossed their cards down in resignation. Chris noticed as he ordered a drink that they werent playing for money. It really had been a dull week.
"New people in town?" Buck asked without looking at the man in black.
Chris nodded slowly," Looks like city folk."
Buck snorted," Dont know what they think theyre going to find here. If theyre not settlers, that is."
"They could be visiting someone," said JD. Chris and Buck gave him a simultaneous look, JD shrugged, "Or not," he added.
"Well from what I saw through the window, the young lady did not look well at all," commented Ezra, from the table, as he shuffled his cards.
"There you go then, "said Josiah, looking at Nathan, "They came for the counsel of our good healer, well known throughout the lands."
"Ha ha," Nathan replied sarcastically.
"Just as long as they stay out of trouble theyre welcome to stay as long as they like," Chris commented.
"Oh come now, they look innocuous enough, Ezra said. Chris looked at him and raised an eyebrow.
"I mean, they look harmless enough," the gambler amended with a smile.
Chris started towards the door, still restless and unable to stand still in the saloon, but stopped when he saw, with some surprise, the two visitors in question walk into the bar. The older man spotted Chris and immediately walked up to him with his hand stretched out.
"Mr Larrabee, I assume?" he said, and then when Chris confirmed this with a small nod of his head, "My name is Jonathon Greene and this is my daughter Marie," the daughter smiled shyly, as her father went on, "Were in this town because were trying to track someone down." Jonathon Greene paused as if trying to ascertain if there might be a problem with this.
Chris just nodded again, slowly, and noted that sometime during the conversation Vin had stealthily entered the saloon and now sat at a table off to Jonathan Greenes right, who smiled and continued,
"You see my wife ran off a few weeks a go and weve been looking for her ever since. We have reason to believe she may have come here."
Greene seemed about to go on, but Josiah interrupted.
"Why here?" he asked.
Greene turned his attention to the preacher, "She mentioned she had family here," he replied, then looked slightly embarrassed, "I must admit, I dont know much about my wife, Maries stepmother. We only married about a month ago and she ran off but a few days after the wedding. Im still trying to figure out why.
Chris, looking slightly amused, turned to the man and his daughter, "Well, if you can tell us her name and what she looks like, well send word around and see what we come up with.
Greene gave Larrabee a winning smile and said, "Sure, her names Maude, maiden name Standish, I believe." Jonathan Greene was about to continue when he noticed the shocked expressions of the men in front of him. He hesitated, unsure of how to continue.
Ezra tried to keep a poker face as his five companions all turned to look at him as one, but the resigned despair on his face was obvious to all. The gambler slowly put a hand over his eyes and sighed, hed been through similar situations before but this seemed different somehow. He looked up at his apparent stepfather and smiled rather falsely.
"I believe I would be the family you seek, he said as he rounded the table and came to stand in front of Greene, "My name is Ezra Standish, Maude is my mother."
To say Greene looked shocked would have been a gross understatement. The man visibly floundered for a good moment before saying anything.
"Maude never mentioned a son," he said, "She just said she had family here."
Buck smirked, "Well, you wanted family, it doesnt get much better than a son."
Greene shook his head, "No," he said firmly, "She would have said if she had a son.
I asked her once if she had family and she said she might have family here, but she as vague about it. Are you trying to tell me she intentionally mislead me?" The man tried to look fierce but there was disappointment in his eyes.
Ezra looked directly at the man before him. "May I ask you a question of a most personal nature, Mr Greene?"
Jonathan Greene gave the gambler a suspicious glare but nodded slowly.
"Are you a wealthy man?"
Greene hesitated, he hadnt expected that, "Im well off, yes," he replied, "But most of my money goes into a trust fund for Marie."
Ezra raised an eyebrow, "For college, I assume?"
His stepfather shook his head, "No its for ." He trailed off and looked hesitantly at his Marie Greene, who nodded. Jonathon Greene continued, "Its for her medical care. Marie has chronic asthma and her treatment can be quite expensive.
Ezra looked pained for a second, it was his turn to look hesitant as he asked, "And are your funds still there?"
Greenes face lost all trace of amusement, he glared at Ezra, "Last time I checked," he said icily.
"And when was that?" the gambler persisted despite the frosty look.
"Thats enough," Greene all but shouted, "I dont know what you are insinuating, but I dont like the way this conversation is going. Are you suggesting my wife ran off with her stepdaughters medical funds?"
Ezra returned the glare and looked square at the man, "No Im suggesting that my mother ran off with your daughter's medical funds," his voice softened as he said, "The woman you married doesnt exist!"
Greene looked confused for a second until he realized what Ezra meant; he nodded hesitantly still not wanting to believe.
"Ill wire my bank," he said resignedly.
Ezra nodded as Greene left, but Marie, his daughter, stayed and looked hard at Standish before asking, "How can you stand her? A mother like that is hardly a mother at all! You may as well be an orphan!" Then she turned and marched out after her father leaving a bemused Ezra behind her. The gambler turned to the men behind him, who where watching him in an expectant manner, he sighed.
"Before you ask, this has happened before. Not always with husbands, but always someone trying to find my mother and not with good intentions in mind. In fact I believe Mr Greene is the first person who has not wanted to harm or maim her in someway."
Standish looked thoughtful as Buck piped up, "That daughter sure looks like shed like to do Maude some harm."
The others nodded as Ezra chuckled mirthlessly to himself. Chris took charge then by saying, "Ezra it might be a good idea to tryn find your mother, see if she cant shed some light on this mess," the gambler nodded, and Chris continued, "JD, as the sheriff you can demand that man tell you whether or not his funds are where they should be, you come let me know the minute you find out," JD nodded and dashed out the door, ever enthusiastically. The leader turned lastly to Vin and gave him a glance that needed no words; keep an eye on him, meaning Jonathan Greene. Vin nodded his head slightly in answer and headed out the door to scout out the mans whereabouts. Ezra waited on going to the Telegram office to avoid running into Mr Greene, or more likely his daughter, the gambler wondered if Jonathon Greene his darling Marie wasnt as subdued as she acted around him.
Standish headed up to his room above the saloon instead but paused on the landing as he realized without even going near it that the door was ajar. But instead of becoming tense, he relaxed and smiled knowingly as he pushed open the door and addressed the figure sitting on the edge of his bed.
"Ah, Mother! I did wonder when you would show up," he sighed.
Maude turned to look at her only son, "You know?"
"Indeed, Mr Greene is at present in the telegraph office wiring his bank," Ezra looked meaningfully at his mother, who suddenly turned fierce.
"I did not take that money, Ezra. How could you even think that of your own mother?"
Ezra gave her a look and she sighed, "Alright I admit my intentions for marrying before have leant toward the financial before, but this time " she trailed off and Ezra resisted the urge to chuckle, "You felt for the child didnt you?" he said.
Maude didnt answer and turned to the window instead, as her son sat down on the opposite side of the feather bed. He opened his mouth to make a comment, but his mother cut him, "Dont forget to whom youre speaking Ezra," her voice held a hint of warning. The gambler nodded and tucked his chin into his neck, looking at her from the side. Maude sighed and glanced at him, "Dont look at me like that! Yes, I felt sorry for the child but thats the last. It shall never happen again!"
"And what of Mr Greene now?" Ezra asked in all seriousness.
Maude stood abruptly and threw her hands up in frustration, "Id divorce him if he would only give me leave to, but the man is stubborn, says I have a duty to him as his wife. Duty!" Maude snorted disdainfully, "Ill tell him what I think of his duty!"
"Youll tell him nothing for now," Ezra said quickly, getting to his feet as well, "I need you to stay here until I talk to Mr Greene and Mr Larrabee."
Maude looked surprised, "I fully intend on avoiding all contact with Mr Greene and his daughter thank-you very much. And dont you dare let him know Im here. The man is insatiable, he would seek me out in a moment."
Ezra hid a smile as he left the room and closed the door behind him; Jonathon had seemed besotted with Maude when he spoke of her. The gambler went down to the saloon and made his way to the table where Chris and Buck where sitting speaking to Dunne who was standing over them. He fell silent as Ezra came over.
"Are Mr Greenes funds in place?" he enquired of the young sheriff.
JD nodded, "Every cent!" he said.
"Any idea where your mother might be?" Chris asked as the gambler sat down across from him.
"Well?" Buck prompted, reaching for the bottle in the centre of the table to refill his glass.
"Upstairs, in my room," Ezra replied without looking up. There was a silence, which was broken only after a few moments.
"Oh," Buck said sounding confused, "So she did come here like her husband said?"
"Indeed-," Ezra stopped and considered the ladies mans choice of words, "Do not allow my mother to hear you refer to Mr Greene in that manner, for your own health, please!"
Buck chuckled at the gamblers accurate summary of Maude reaction to such a statement as Chris turned to JD, "Where is Greene and his daughter now?"
JD appeared to think, then he said, "Greenes at the hotel but I dont know where Marie is."
Before the man in black could respond there was a loud crash from upstairs followed by a short scream of rage, Ezra immediately leapt to his feet. There was another crash, this time of glass and he sprinted up the stairs followed closely by Chris, Buck and JD. What ever the four of the seven had been expecting it was not the sight that greeted them as they the gambler opened the door to his room.
The dresser had been knocked over and the bed shoved to one side, the window was smashed and in the centre of all the disarray were Maude and Marie, facing off to each other. Ezra paused, unsure he wanted to walk into the middle of what was quite clearly a volatile situation, the two women had drawn blood! Their hair was pulled out of their clips and hung limply around their faces, their clothes where torn and arms and faces scratched. Each had a look of pure fury on their faces. Maude looked up as she noticed her son and Marie took the opportunity to attack her again, but Buck quickly stepped around the stunned Ezra and intercepted her. She screeched profanities at him and tried to elbow him in the face but he grabbed both arms and pinned them to her sides. Maude put a hand to her heart and sat down shakily on the edge of the bed, as Ezra came forward and knelt down next to her on the floor.
"Mother, what on earth happened?" he asked gently.
"She attacked me," she said in shocked voice, "For no reason, she just walked in and attacked me."
"Shes lying!" Marie all but shouted at them, still struggling with Buck, who seemed to be enjoying the close proximity of the women in his arms.
Ezra glared at her, "Hold your tongue," he said in a low voice, then turned to Chris and gave him a look. Chris tried not to smirk as he came to stand in front of Jonathan Greenes daughter, "Did you attack Ms Standish?" he asked out right.
Marie tried her best to look innocent, "No!" she stated, but no one was convinced, "I came to talk to her, she attacked me, I was just defending myself."
"Talk about what?" JD asked from the doorway, but Marie just glared at him.
Chris turned to Maude, "What did happen?" he asked her none to gently.
"Ms Greene just walked right without even knocking and told me I was a terrible stepmother and that I had broken her fathers heart, then she attacked me." Maude had regained some of composure and stood up to face Marie, "You really shouldnt get worked up, dear, she told her, "Youll have an asthma attack."
The girl merely glared at the older woman as Chris addressed Buck, "Take her to her father and explain what happened, JD, you go with him," he then turned to Maude, "With no witnesses we cant really press charges until Marie admits what she has done-."
"She will," Maude cut in, "Just as soon as her father tells her to."
Chris raised an eyebrow but said nothing; the man was obviously besotted with Ezras mother enough to be blind to his daughters hatred for her. The gambler took his mothers arm then, "Come, Ill take you to see Nathan about those scratches-."
Maude pulled her arm free in irritation, "I dont need a doctor!"
"Well youre in luck," Chris told her, "Cause we dont have a doctor, but you do need something for those scratches and Nathan is just the man for the job," he grinned as Ezra took her arm again and led her firmly toward the clinic.
Jonathan Greene was dismayed to hear of the incident involving his daughter and, as Maude had foreseen, had taken his wifes side and blamed it on Marie insisting that she admit that she had been the attacker and apologise to Maude. The young girl did so but not without much reluctance and glaring all round.
Greene himself apologised to his wife and asked her if she was going to press charges and at the same timing begging her not to.
"I will be prepared to forget this whole ugly mess on one condition," she told him later as they, including all the seven, where sitting in the saloon. Marie had been sent back to the hotel in a disgrace. Greene leaned forward eagerly, "Anything!" he told her with conviction.
Maude smiled sweetly and Ezra resisted the urge to groan as he new exactly what was coming, "I will forget everything if you agree to give me a divorce," his mother told the man.
Jonathan Greene looked crushed and for one moment Maude looked as though she regretted asking what she had, but the look was gone just as quickly as it had come. There was a silence for a long while as Greene considered Maudes proposal, finally he nodded reluctantly, "Very well," he agreed and Maude gave a brief smile of triumph, "I will meet with my lawyer when we get back to San Francisco and I expect you to be there."
"But of course, Jonathan."
Greene tipped his hat to her and the men and strode out the door with dignity. The minute he was out of sight Ezra turned to his mother, "I do believe you shattered that mans heart," he told her.
Maude just smiled and replied, "Then he was a fool to think I valued his heart in the first place," and made to stand.
"Mother!" Ezra said reproachfully.
"I made and still do not make any pretences, Ezra. You should know that."
Chris chuckled then and when Maude raised an eyebrow at him, he asked, "You regretting feeling sorry for little sickly Marie yet?"
Maude gave him a disdainful look, "No regrets, Mr Larrabee. Thats one of the first rules. Is that not right Ezra?" Her only son gave a non-committal shrug.
She stood and looked at the men in front of her each in turn, then she looked at Ezra, "I must go back to San Francisco, I will see you once the divorce has gone through," and with that she walked out the batwing doors.
"Sure, Mother," her son replied to space she had occupied, "You do that."