Last Chance

by Fastdancr

Characters: Buck, Ezra, All seven (eventually), OFC (non romantic)

Rating: PG probably

Spoilers: minor ones for episode “Inmate 78”

Disclaimer: All characters from the television show, “The Magnificent Seven” do not belong to me and are being used here without permission. Unrecognized characters can be used in anyone’s story if they so choose. This story was written for entertainment purposes only and no profit will ever be gained from this publication.

Author’s Notes: Some content might be sensitive to some readers but I’m trying to make things as realistic as I can! As always, all feedback is welcomed and appreciated.

Summary: Buck and Ezra escort a wanted prisoner to a nearby town named ‘Last Chance’ but what happens when the trip isn’t all they bargained for and will they make it back to Four Corners in one piece?

Chapter 1: How it all began…
Summer was fast approaching and that meant tempers were usually just as fiery as the scorching temperatures, especially for one in particular and another who went out of his way to annoy his fellow lawman. Chris Larabee was a man no one ever wanted to cross. He was the unofficial leader of the seven men who were sworn to protect the small town of Four Corners.

He had a glare that knocked just about anyone into submission and if that didn’t work, a bullet with deadly accuracy often did the trick. Most of the time, he kept to himself and his men and the townsfolk respected the distance.

Unfortunately every now and then, one of his men was daring or stupid enough to toy with the gunslinger’s mind. Usually it was Chris’ best friend Vin Tanner who always made it a point to refer to him as ‘cowboy’. A surname Larabee absolutely positively hated and Tanner knew it. The other that liked to get on Larabee’s nerves was one of his oldest friends, Buck Wilmington. Buck took pleasure in annoying Chris because he had known him for so long and the only thing that deterred Wilmington from doing so was the latest girl who happened to catch his eye or Chris’ threat to shoot him. Usually it was the former.

And then of course, there was Ezra Standish, an ex conman gambler with southern gentleman charms and a flare for annoying the hell out of his comrades when he was bored. His large vocabulary and deceptive nature gave him plenty of latitude to maneuver his friends into the latest practical joke without them realizing it. Although sometimes he wasn’t really all that smart; for the last couple of days he had gone out of his way to annoy Chris Larabee and of course took all of his money in a friendly game of chance.

The temperatures were getting hotter, small signs of drought were slowly beginning to creep into the territory, and Chris really wanted to shoot Ezra. Luckily for the southern gambler, they had found a wanted poster for an escaped murderer that had ridden through Four Corners a day later and Chris was able to take out his frustrations on the stupid bandit they had just apprehended instead of resorting to shooting Standish.

Although the quick tempered gunslinger dressed in black contemplated on doing both; first the murdering outlaw mouthed off to Larabee and managed to somehow catch him off guard long enough to punch him in the jaw in his attempt to escape Chris from putting him in the jail cell. Lady luck was shining on the outlaw that day because he was easily caught by one of the other regulators and thrown in the cell before Chris had a chance to strangle him. Then Ezra proceeded to use those twenty five cent words of his accompanied by that smug characteristic arrogant smirk before he tipped his hat and walked out of the jailhouse.

As punishment for irritating him, Chris made sure to assign the gambler to escort the prisoner to the town he was wanted in. it was almost a good three days’ ride south of Four Corners and Chris knew how much Ezra hated the wild outdoors. He was a fancy dressed southern gentleman who didn’t relish camping out in the middle of nowhere. Not to mention, he didn’t want to be away from the poker tables. Larabee figured it served as good as any punishment and proceeded to not only inform Ezra of the assignment but order him to ride out the next day at first light. Everyone knew they were risking life and limb if they dared waking the gambler before noon. He hated mornings and according to Chris, that was the icing on the cake as far as Standish’s punishment was concerned.

Buck Wilmington, the town’s ladies man, had done his fair share of getting on Chris’ nerves lately so the darkly dressed gunslinger quickly assigned the womanizer to the task of escorting the prisoner as well. He knew full well how much Buck hated to be away from the ladies!

So Ezra and Buck were resigned to their fate of three long hot summer days through the desert, a dusty trail that never seemed to end, and a loud mouthed outlaw that Buck physically gagged in less than an hour from the beginning of their trip. Wilmington finally removed the gag when both of the lawmen were annoyed with hearing the bandit mumble. They were beginning to realize nothing was going to shut him up unless they shot him. They had contemplated doing just that only then they would have to explain it later and they still probably wouldn’t get any reward money.

The resident gambler of Four Corners chuckled inwardly as he rode alongside the two other men and listened to what was beginning to turn from somewhat of a friendly conversation into a heated debate. The outlaw had decided to completely unnerve his captors, or at least one of them. It wasn’t the bad guy’s fault entirely; Buck had starting whining about having to endure this trip and how he missed his date with the latest object of the mustached gunslinger’s affections. It didn’t take long for the murdering robbing outlaw to figure out the gregarious cowboy’s reputation and before long he challenged Buck saying that he was the better ladies man.

The two soon began trading stories of their various expeditions and the somewhat handsome dark haired outlaw was either a true ladies man or a very good liar. In any case, he told a story of such conquest better than Buck Wilmington and before Buck could counter with a story of his own, the outlaw had started another colorful detailed tale. Wilmington was soon starting to see red as the wanted cowboy smirked smugly at him. His hands were tied behind his back and Buck held the reins of both of their horses. Ezra now rode slightly ahead so if Buck decided to suddenly cause bodily harm to the arrogant dark headed prisoner, the gambler could claim later that he was scouting too far ahead to stop whatever the mustached gunslinger had in mind for the prisoner they were escorting.

As they entered the small mining town of Last Chance, it looked virtually deserted. A few burly men with a day’s beard could be seen walking along the boardwalk with guns on their hips as well as shotguns or rifles in their hands. A few were seen pushing a few of the scared townsfolk around but had stopped when they heard the sound of approaching horses and had only stopped long enough to menacingly glare at the newcomers.

Ezra slowed his horse until he was alongside Buck, their prisoner riding between them. His instincts never lied and they were now on their highest alert. The gambler spied a glance at his friend and noticed Buck was feeling the same. It wasn’t anything they could really pinpoint other than a feeling. They rode silently, ignoring the dangerous glowers of the armed men standing on each of the boardwalks, and headed for the sheriff’s office located at the other end of town.

The sheriff was a short bald headed man who appeared to be in his mid fifties. He had never met any of the legendary seven men who protected the town of Four Corners and whose reputation was known throughout the territory, but he assumed the two men riding toward him must be a part of the extraordinary group since he clearly recognized the smug prisoner riding between them. The outlaw grinned mockingly at the elderly sheriff.

The older man had done his best to uphold the law but with the hired guns working for the mine owners and most of the town running scared, his opinion really didn’t matter much. The elderly sheriff smirked back at the prisoner; for a day or two he would have at least a little bit of backup.

A few townspeople watched anxiously as the two newcomers and nefarious outlaw continued riding down the main street. Their looks didn’t go unnoticed by the two regulators and the town quickly reminded them of the town of Jericho the time Chris Larabee had been unjustly arrested and imprisoned. Both had the same feeling of foreboding then as they clearly did now. They exchanged glances before they dismounted in front of the sheriff’s office and tied their horses’ reins to the wooden post in front of them. Buck reached up and pulled the smugly smirking outlaw from atop his horse and nearly dropped him on the ground.

The dark haired man had quickly gained his feet and glared at Wilmington who only smiled innocently. Ezra rolled his eyes and followed both men into the small office. As they did so, they continued to feel the eyes of the armed men on both sides of the main street’s boardwalks watching their every movement.

The sheriff of Last Chance made little conversation as he locked up the unruly prisoner. He knew the man now being housed in his jail would be broken out long before a judge could arrive. He thought about asking these two unofficial lawmen to stay an extra day or two but he knew even with their help, the mercenary gunslingers roaming the town would kill all three of them without so much as a second thought.

Since the sheriff of Last Chance sent the wire to be on the lookout for this prisoner, things had drastically changed for the worse. He had lost his two deputies in the past week because they had tried to uphold the law when a few of the hired guns went after a saloon girl. They had been shot at point blank range and one had been shot in the back.

After spending the last two and a half days on horseback, Ezra and Buck had already planned to stay the night. They left the sheriff’s office and headed down the nearest boardwalk along the main street. The gunslingers watched them carefully and they moved slightly when Buck and Ezra passed them. This was far from the friendly dusty little town they had left behind almost three days ago.

When they had passed the remainder of the gunslingers on their side of the street, Buck grinned and clapped his friend on the shoulder before saying “How ‘bout a drink, Ez?” he was doing his best at trying to ignore an overwhelming since of foreboding.

“Would you be paying for such libation, Mr. Wilmington?” the southern gambler asked, his gold tooth flickering in the sunlight

“I’ll buy the first round if you buy the second” Buck compromised, knowing he wouldn’t get out of buying the first round since he had suggested the idea.

“Lead the way Mr. Wilmington” Ezra extended his arm. Buck nodded and confidently strolled in front of him. He quickened his pace when he noticed a saloon girl standing inside, leaning over the batwing doors. Ezra grinned; he had seen the girl first and knew it would only be a matter of time before his compatriot noticed her too. So much for all the whining about the paramour he had left behind to make this trip!

Chapter 2: Spending the night…

The dimly lit saloon seemed to be the only thing in town that remotely resembled something from Four Corners and it seemed to calm Buck and Ezra’s nerves a bit. Although one could argue that it had made the ladies man relax more than the gambler. The two regulators had been sitting at a table on the far right side and next to a large window facing the main street. Ezra was absentmindedly shuffling his deck of cards while Buck already had two women hanging on him. The girl they had seen earlier was now contently sitting in the mustached gunslinger’s lap. The other was standing behind the jovial ladies man and was leaning over with her arms around his neck and her chin resting on his left shoulder.

Ezra subtly rolled his eyes; his compatriot never ceased to amaze him. Unlike Buck, the gambler still expected trouble to happen in this town but his associate seemed to be completely at ease. Ezra only hoped that if trouble presented itself, that it wouldn’t do so when any women were around because if it did… there went the gambler’s backup! The southerner grinned at the thought. It was funny to imagine but disastrous if it ever were to happen.

“What?” Buck asked seeing his friend’s smirk

Ezra plastered on an innocent look “Oh nothing at all, Mr. Wilmington” Buck raised an eyebrow clearly showing he wasn’t convinced with the gambler’s answer “I was just wondering if our prisoner were to be joining us, would you have as much luck with the ladies” Innocent façade forgotten, the gambler’s smile had been wide enough to expose his gold tooth. Buck glared at him.

“I’m the better ladies man and everyone knows it” he boasted with confidence and wiggled his eyebrows flirtatiously at the saloon girl sitting in his lap.

“Perhaps I should talk the sheriff of this dusty little town into allowing the prisoner into my custody for a bit of friendly competition” Ezra couldn’t resist annoying any of his friends. Poor Buck just happened to be the only one with him this time and he really hated the prisoner that had brought them to this town.

“Do it and I’ll shoot both of ya” Buck warned sending a threatening glance in Ezra’s direction.

“You shouldn’t threaten such things in front of these two obviously charming young ladies, Mr. Wilmington. Surely they may contemplate seeking less dangerous company” Ezra’s smirk clearly showed he was amused to his heart’s content and he knew Buck would never make good on his threats especially with the two women hanging on him.

The older of the two blonde women, whom was sitting in Buck’s lap, quickly dismissed the gambler’s teasing. The younger blonde wasn’t too sure about the gunslinger and was a little annoyed with him anyway because he had picked the other girl to sit in his lap instead of her. She stayed where she was for the time being until a few of the saloon’s patrons had caught sight of Ezra’s playing cards and sat down at the table for a game.

Ezra nodded his head in acknowledgment as the newcomers sat down ready to lose their money. The gambler threw a teasing smile in Buck’s direction when the younger blonde that had been standing behind him walked over to one of the other men sitting at the table and allowed him to pull her into his lap.

“Paybacks are hell Ezra” Buck warned sourly. He couldn’t believe the other girl had left him for some uglier, heavier, drunken old cowboy. What was she thinking?

Ezra put his cards down on the wooden tabletop momentarily and rose his hands in mock surrender “Perhaps you’re losing your touch is all. I wouldn’t worry, it will most likely come back to you” his smirk widened as he added “eventually” he then picked up his cards and continued to shuffle them.

Buck narrowed his eyes; he would pay his friend back ‘eventually’ for annoying him so much tonight and he would definitely get reprisal on Chris for sending him on this trip in the first place. Ezra meanwhile was now paying attention to the three close-to-be-drunk men sitting at their table.

They had just started another hand of poker when the saloon girl sitting in his lap whispered something in his ear. Buck smiled and wiggled his eyebrows before he let go of the saloon girl and she stood up. He then stood up and followed after her as everyone else kept their attention on the poker game.


Ezra sighed contently as he leaned back in his chair and pulled out his gold pocket watch. He was still sitting at the table he had been all night, dressed in his trademark red coattail jacket with matching vest and dark pinstriped pants. His watch read that it was only a half hour until midnight and he had done well at the gaming tables tonight. In a few games, he had even met someone skilled enough to give him a run for his money. Maybe this creepy little backwater and its hired guns weren’t so bad after all.

Meanwhile at the back of the dimly lit establishment was the bar and off to the side, almost hidden away in another small room, was a winding staircase that led to the upstairs rooms over the saloon. The barroom itself was noisy because by now most of the patrons were feeling no pain and were lucky not to have fallen off their barstools. Others were at a few tables in a poker game and some were off who knows where with one of the barmaids.

The only thing that had seemed to quiet the place down, at least for a few seconds, was the sound of a scream. It came from a young girl when one of the town’s hired guns had picked her up and threw her into the side of the bar after they had walked down the winding staircase. A few unoccupied barstools had fallen on top of the girl as she slouched against the bar on the floor.

Serena Hunter glared at the man who threw her and thought about picking up one of the barstools that had fallen on her and throwing it at him. She thought better of it considering he was three times her size and already angry with her. He wasn’t the only one that was angry and soon it had gotten the better of her judgment.

She was a little over five feet tall with long black hair down to her waist. She calmly stood up from the floor and picked up one of the fallen barstools, then proceeded to act like she was putting it right side up and underneath the bar again. Instead, she waited until the man had let his guard down before she jammed the stool into his stomach.

It had caused him to double over in pain and Serena laughed at him, pretending to be unfazed by the murderous glint in his eyes. As she continued to stand there and mock him, a few of his friends standing nearby had other plans. One grabbed the barstool out of her hands while another pulled her arms behind her. They were intent on teaching the girl a lesson that no one should ever make fools of them or who they associated with.

Serena struggled against the man holding her. She knew it was no use and also knew what was to come. It had all happened to her before; she was the saloon girl that always caused the most trouble. She was mentally preparing herself for the first punch to come as the crowd gathered around. Instead, it had been interrupted by a man’s voice she had never heard before and she had yet to see him as he slowly parted his way through the crowd…

Chapter 3: Meeting a new friend…

“Gentlemen and I do use the term loosely” the voice interrupted with an underlined deadly tone as its owner parted his way through the crowd “I suggest you immediately release your hold upon that young girl” he completed his statement as he stood next to the bar and across from the man who was about to hit the girl in question.

“This doesn’t concern you” the man spat angrily. Ezra instantly recognized him from one of the men who he and Buck had passed on their way into the saloon earlier. The southerner looked around the room as his mind evaluated his options. He thought about ordering the men to release the girl with gun in hand but that would’ve only resulted in getting someone killed, predominately him. The man holding Serena had paid no heed to the gambler’s warning and tightened his grip to make his point.

“Besides she’s mine after him” the man holding her boasted and nodded his head in the direction of the man who was barely starting to regain his breath after being jabbed in the stomach by a barstool.

“Good luck” the one hit with the barstool hissed “She won’t do anything you tell her to”

“Maybe I’d consider it if you weren’t so ugly” Serena retorted, still trying to wiggle out of the grasp of the buffoon holding her. Ezra smirked inwardly at the girl’s statement. The man probably hadn’t won any cutest baby contests as an infant and it seemed he must have only gotten uglier with age, which of course said nothing for his disposition.

“Don’t matter” the buffoon holding Serena smugly replied. His malice grin was enough to make a small shiver crawl up Ezra’s spine. “I’ll get her to do what I want her to” With that, he dragged the girl toward the stairs.

“Let me go you ugly babbling idiot” Serena screamed and refused to move. The man literally had to drag her and he seemed quite content to do so until the same stranger’s voice pierced the air.

Ezra let his instincts take over. He knew a definite way to beat these unruly men at their own game and still save the girl. Although he knew she would hate him for it as she did the others until he had a chance to explain.

“Perchance you aren’t the only man in this fine establishment who has had his eye on the girl standing beside you” Ezra spoke loudly over the noise of the barroom crowd. Everyone looked at him like he had a death wish while Serena glared at him with a look that sarcastically demanded ‘does it look like I’m just standing beside him?!’

“Anyone else who wants her will have to wait” the burly man retorted as he rested his right hand on his gun at his hip while his left hand held the defiant saloon girl by her arm.

“Perhaps” Ezra smiled, almost agreeing with the man “Since we do seem to have encountered some competition, maybe you might be willing to consent to a card game” his eyes narrowed slightly and he kept his even stare directly on the man near the stairs and no one else. Serena glowered at the southern gambler; she wasn’t some chip in some irritating card game.

“Winner gets the girl?” the burly man questioned. He wanted to make sure of the stranger’s intentions. Word had gotten around that the southerner was some type of lawmen or so the rumors went.

“Indeed” Ezra smiled although inwardly the proposal made him sick. He didn’t want to think about what would happen if someone else had come up with the idea instead and was just as cold as the opponent he was about to play.

The burly man stomped over to a table a few feet away. He practically threw Serena into the next chair and she glared up at him as he sat down. She crossed her arms and looked over her shoulder; there were too many men standing around her to make an escape out the batwing doors. She would just have to think of something before the hand was over.

Her mood worsened when the stranger sat down beside her. There was no way she was going with either one of them. At first she felt gratitude for the man when he had intervened in the fight earlier but after he suggested a card game to determine where she was going to be tonight, she couldn’t stand him. Ezra expected as much and he didn’t like to treat her this way but he had a part to play if he wanted to save his life and her from a fate worse than death.

Ezra dealt the cards which had been his opponent’s first mistake. This wasn’t a hand the southerner was going to lose and he had no desire to gamble on it. He made sure it was fixed in his favor because he knew what would happen to the girl sitting next to him if he were to lose. He kept the mood light and carefree as he dealt the cards. Everyone was fooled except Serena. She was about to shoot any man in the bar, that is, if she knew the first thing about shooting a gun.

The burly man smiled as he looked at his hand “Three of a kind” his grin widened when Ezra dropped his gaze, leaned back in his chair, and appeared to be defeated “Guess you lose” he laughed menacingly and abruptly stood up before dragging the girl to her feet.

“On the contrary” Ezra’s voice was low as he sat up straight in his chair. He had given the man a good enough hand so he wouldn’t suspect anything. “Full house” he put down his cards on the wooden table displaying Kings and Aces ; one of them being his trademark card. Simultaneously, he flicked his wrist and a small derringer popped into his hand. “Now if you’ll excuse us” he stood up from the table and walked around Serena before gently grasping her upper arm with his left hand while his right hand held the derringer.

The girl glared at him defiantly but only complied because he had a gun and she noticed he was different than the other men in the way he led her away. Glowering looks were sent in the well dressed cardsharp’s direction as they continued to walk toward the staircase. Ezra walked backward, the derringer still pointed at the crowd. Tension was still thick in the air with a small unspoken promise of vengeance from the man he had just played cards with.

When they had reached the bottom of the staircase, most of the crowd had gone about their own business. Ezra nodded and let Serena climb the stairs first. He kept his eyes on the barroom for a few seconds longer before slowly following the dark haired girl up the steps.

She led him to a secluded room at the end of the hallway while wondering if she could escape. She had heard the click of the derringer being put back into place but didn’t turn around. Ezra meanwhile silently followed her and could already read her thoughts. He knew she didn’t trust him and he didn’t expect her to. The gambler wondered what would cause someone so young to work in a place like this; she couldn’t be more than fourteen or fifteen years old. He had noticed a dark bruise under her right eye and split lip that was slowly starting to heal. As he followed her, he noted a few deep bruises on her back and neck from where her long low-cut velvet blue dress didn’t cover the skin and her long hair had been slightly aside.

Serena peeked over her shoulder into the narrow hallway behind her. She would have to run past the well dressed man and down the back staircase to make an escape but then he could very easily find allies in the barroom to help look for her. As her mind wandered, her eyes found Ezra’s and he smiled softly at her. She wanted to trust him, he seemed nice enough. Then her mind reminded her it was he who thought of that poker game.

“Miss?” he called out softly and she turned around and waited for him “I want you to know that the game of chance was only for your well being”

She raised an eyebrow “You mean you didn’t come up here for… “ she trailed off. He answered her by a shake of his head. She now felt a pang of guilt for misjudging him and hoped the little act to save her didn’t end up getting him killed later. “You better stay up here anyway. They won’t be too happy if they think they were tricked” she offered a small smile

“Indeed” Ezra agreed. He held out his hand. “What’s your name?”

Serena looked at him hesitantly but still put her hand in his “Serena” she answered as he brought her hand up and kissed the back of it. She tried not to blush; it had been the first time a man had ever kissed her hand. “Yours?” she asked, returning her hand to her side.

“Ezra P. Standish” he said taking off his hat and bowing as much as the narrow hallway allowed “At your service”

She smiled at the gesture “Thank you” she tried to curtsey but almost fell over. She laughed at herself “Now follow me before someone gets suspicious” she said as she led him to her room and unlocked the door.

Serena walked over to a small dresser and lit the lantern sitting on top of it next to a porcelain water basin and pitcher. Next she walked to the opposite wall where a bed stood against it and a small nightstand. On the nightstand was another lantern and both were very dim. They were slowly running out of fuel.

Ezra looked around. From where he was standing there was a small window almost straight across from him. A small white transparent shade hung above it and a slight breeze blew it off the sill in its own quiet rhythm. Outside laid an eerie darkness without a trace of a star or the moon. To the gambler’s left was a small closet and to his right, a little ways further into the tiny room, was the nightstand. The bed was on the other side and the dresser lay at the foot of it. The lantern on the dresser was slowly casting shadows on the ground as the light bounced off the water basin and its pitcher and the flame slightly increased with the soft blowing of the breeze.

“I saw you ride into town today” Serena said, finally breaking the silence in the room “Where you from?” she asked as she sat down near the foot of the bed and motioned for him to sit beside her.

“Four Corners” Ezra replied. He was a little uncomfortable sitting next to her although he didn’t show it. She was half his age and had the body of someone older than her years only her face showed her real age, especially her eyes. The gambler still wondered what had caused her to find a job working in the saloon. “My associate and I were returning a wanted prisoner”

Serena smiled wryly “Oh he’s wanted all right” her voice had a slight clip to it “Too bad he won’t stay in jail long” she looked down at the floor and shook her head.

Ezra raised an eyebrow “May I enquire as to why?”

Serena turned slightly and pushed her hair behind her ears “He’s a brother of one of the hired guns in town. They’re sorta the law here” she explained “If you could call them that”

“Unfortunately I’ve meant the acquaintance of a few of them” Ezra didn’t know much about the town other than it having a few silver mines. “Am I correct in assuming they were hired to protect the mine owners’ interests?”

The girl nodded her head “They control the whole town. Honest men don’t live long around here” her voice took on a serious note “You and your friend should sneak out of here before the sun comes up”

“Actually Mr. Wilmington and I had planned on staying a few days” Ezra replied. Who knows… it might be a little fun to raise havoc in this town. Serena looked at him like he’d lost his mind.

“You can’t” she quickly protested “You don’t understand… you either become like the men down in the saloon tonight or they kill you” her blue eyes widened when a smile twitched at the corner of the gambler’s lips.

“Well then… I can assure you that we will do our best to stay out of trouble” Ezra winked. Serena still looked at him like he had lost his mind and for a second he thought she might be right…

Chapter 4: Day 2…

It was around ten in the morning when Ezra had finally woken up. He stood up and stretched, trying to release the tension in his sore muscles from sleeping on the floor all night. He then reached down and picked up the blanket and pillow Serena had given him the night before. He folded the blanket and put both it and the pillow near the foot of the bed before he checked the time. His pocket watch was sitting on the nightstand next to his derringer rig and the lantern.

His clothes were a bit wrinkled but not much to worry about since he would be wearing his red jacket. Serena had folded it the night before and put it on the top of the dresser. His black hat sat on top of his folded jacket along with his other two guns still lying in their respective holsters. Ezra hooked his pocket watch to his red brocade vest and slipped it into the small pocket. He then strapped the device holding his derringer to his right forearm before he crossed the room toward the dresser.

A breeze was still blowing lightly through the transparent curtain hanging above the tiny window. It was a bit colder than it had been the night before.

Looks can definitely be deceiving; last night was an eerie cold darkness with a soft summer breeze, today the sun was shining brightly but did nothing to warm the air coming through the window. Ezra slipped on his shoulder holster and trademark red jacket before putting on his gun belt. He left his hat on top of the dresser and his boots beside it as he walked around the bed to close the window. Only when he was standing a few feet away from it did he finally notice the window didn’t have a glass pane in it. It hadn’t really surprised him considering what most of the town looked like.

The gambler made his way back to where he was standing before, careful not to wake up the girl still sleeping in her bed with some of the blankets covering her and the rest she had kicked toward the foot of the bed during the night. Ezra quickly slipped into his boots and put his hat on top of his head while stifling a yawn. He hadn’t gotten much sleep; he had spent most of the time thinking about the strange town and what had happened to his new friend that had brought her to working in a saloon.

Serena confided in him about something she hadn’t really discussed with anyone before now. The gambler watched her sleep, shaking his head sadly. She tried her best to stay strong and take care of herself. She didn’t want to be considered some damsel that needed to be babysat. Ezra respected her for it but she shouldn’t have to be in a place like this, nor did she deserve the circumstances that had led her here.

As she continued to sleep soundly, Ezra walked over and gently pulled the rest of the blankets over her. She was lying on her stomach and hadn’t moved from the new weight the rest of the blankets added. The gambler wondered how long it had been since she had a good night’s sleep. He carefully pushed her long dark hair behind her ear and out of her face. The gambler hesitated a moment longer, watching over her.

It was a good thing his mother wasn’t in sight; she would’ve had a fit. She had raised him to look out for himself and only himself. As time passed, the gambler found it harder and harder to accept his upbringing and simply walk away when a person needed his help. They were changes for the better but Maude would have a heart attack if she knew. Ezra smiled wryly and quietly walked out the door, shutting it firmly behind him.

As he walked down the narrow hallway to the winding staircase, he wondered where to start looking for Buck. He knew the ladies man was still in the saloon… it was just a matter of where and just how desperate Ezra was to find him. “I am certainly not going to go traipsing along after Mr. Wilmington if he is still with his latest paramour” he muttered to himself.

Lucky for him, he didn’t have to worry about it. As if on cue, he heard a loud laugh as he began to descend the stairs. Ezra shook his head; he was glad some things never changed. The laugh was certainly that of Buck Wilmington and the gambler was sure the mustached gunslinger was charming yet another woman.

Buck’s eyes lit up upon seeing the gambler. He was sitting at a nearby table with a new girl the gambler had never seen before. Buck figured now was the time to give his friend a little payback for teasing him yesterday afternoon. “Who’s the girl Ez?” he asked teasingly.

Ezra raised an eyebrow and looked to either side of him then took a few steps forward to look behind him “Your eyesight must be failing you” the southerner drawled “The only young woman I see is one I have yet to meet” he grinned, showing his gold tooth. Buck’s face twisted into confusion and the saloon girl giggled. The ladies man soon turned a scowl on the cardsharp. He tricked him again and what made it worse was the girl got the joke before he did.

“Very funny Ez”


The two regulators walked toward the livery with the small hair on the back of their necks standing up. Tension was just as heavy in the air now as it had been when they had rode into town the day before. The same glaring angry men stood around the main street, often going out of their way to intimidate anyone slightly smaller than them.

Buck was starting to get annoyed with the hired guns and Ezra almost felt sorry for them. When Buck lost his temper very few people could stop him. After all, ‘a show of force’ was his middle name!

They were definitely going to stay in town for a few days to provide the sheriff of this town with some backup. Right now, they were on their way to the livery. They planned to ride along the outskirts and around the mines. A part of them was curious; the other part didn’t want any surprises.

The outskirts of Last Chance bared a striking resemblance of Four Corners. Only Four Corners had ranches and farms prospering along the outskirts. The land around Last Chance was bare and unforgiving. It was nothing but open rocky prairie with no trees in sight, only a few scrub bushes and prickly tumbleweeds.

South of town were a few big boulders and trees. Ezra and Buck wondered if maybe staying around the shaded area near the boulders was safer than staying in town. In the opposite direction were the silver mines. They didn’t look any different from any other mine. The same kind of hired gunslingers were there supervising like they were supposedly doing in town. Buck and Ezra watched off in the distance. Everyone knew how hard and how dangerous it was to work in a mine. The mercenary gunslingers standing nearby only added to the problem. They would find fault with just about anything and take it out on just about anyone except themselves and their friends.

“Let’s head back to town and wire Chris” Buck said quietly. His eyes were trained on the mining camp and the conditions he saw didn’t please him in the least. This town had already gotten out of control and someone had to stop it before it got any worse. Ezra nodded mutely; he was thinking relatively the same thing as they turned their horses back toward town.

Once they had arrived in town, they planned to get lunch first before sending the telegraph wire to Four Corners. They were riding at a leisurely pace and slowly the day started to become warmer. Since they had ridden away from the mines, it had been completely silent. There wasn’t even a summer breeze accompanying them. Buck raised a curious eyebrow as he glanced over at his friend. It was obvious the cardsharp’s mind was elsewhere and the ladies man was more than a bit curious. Ezra smiled when he noticed the inquiring looks Buck was silently sending in his direction almost every other second.

“Dying of suspense, Mr. Wilmington?” the southerner drawled. If only he got paid for annoying his comrades!

“Well, it’s not like you to be quiet for long” Buck teasingly chided. Ezra snorted contemptuously. “What’s on your mind?”

The gambler thought for a moment. He trusted Buck with his life but it wasn’t his secret to tell. He was surprised the fifteen year old girl had even confided enough in him to tell him about her past. He couldn’t help thinking about her since he had left this morning. “Nothing to worry yourself over” he finally answered. Buck nodded reluctantly and let the matter drop for now.

They had eaten lunch at the only hotel in town. Since they had come back to town, they noticed that they were starting to be followed. It was obvious this town didn’t like lawmen, official or otherwise. Ezra and Buck thought it best to head over to the saloon for drinks and a few card games. They would send the telegraph wire later when so many hired guns weren’t watching them…

Chapter 5: Here comes trouble…

As they walked into the saloon, the establishment was brightly illuminated by the sunlight streaming through the large windows facing the main street. Small trails of dust could be traced along the wooden floor from the patrons who had come and gone.

The place was virtually empty aside from a few drunken cowboys sitting at the bar and a few barmaids behind the large counter. One of the girls appeared to be in her mid twenties with curly red hair that she wore atop her head with a few curls escaping to frame her face. She was dressed in a low cut pink sleeveless dress with black lace on the dress’s fringes. Her green eyes sparkled when she saw the newcomers, silently inviting them to the bar.

The other girl was shorter and her back was turned toward the bar. She was dressed in the same velvet blue dress with her long black hair down to her waist. She didn’t have to turn around for one of the lawmen to recognize her.

As she did so, her smile matched that of her coworker and her mood seemed to be greatly improved from the night before. Ezra smiled in return while Buck’s jaw dropped. What was a kid her age doing in a place like this? It was a good thing the gambler hadn’t told his friend about the girl’s past otherwise Buck would be breaking a few heads; Ezra smiled knowing he wanted to do the same if given the opportunity.

“What can I get you boys?” the redheaded woman asked as the two walked up to the bar. Both Ezra and Buck tipped their hats as she moved behind the counter to stand in front of them.

They had ordered a bottle of whiskey and sat down at a table close by. Serena brought the bottle and a few shot glances while her redheaded coworker dealt with the drunken cowboys already well off to an early start. As she set the bottle and shot glances down, she smiled at the two men before replying “For helping me last night… it’s on the house” she walked back to the bar before either Ezra or Buck could say anything.

Buck shot a suspicious glance in the fancy dressed cardsharp’s direction “Who’s the kid, Ez?” he asked. He figured she must have something to do with the southerner’s quiet behavior as they rode back to town.

“A young lady who required my assistance to avoid what was clearly a fate worse than death” his facial expression mirrored his words. Ezra shuddered and pitied any woman who found themselves the object of affection of the menacingly looking fool he had played cards with the night before.

“Pretty creative plan of rescue too” Serena added. The bar was relatively quiet and she figured they wouldn’t mind her company as a friend, that is. She smiled at him, letting him know she forgave him for ‘winning’ her in a card game. She was just thankful he hadn’t lost.

Ezra and Buck stood up as she approached and the gambler pulled out a chair for her. She nodded her thanks and sat down between them. Buck sat down with a look of confusion plastered across his face. “How’d you save her?” he asked, tossing the question in the cardsharp’s direction.

Ezra leaned back in his chair “To what am I known most for, Mr. Wilmington?” he answered a question with a question which, for a minute, only served to confuse Buck even more.

“You mean besides a sly conning smart-mouth?” Buck teased with his facial expression turning from confusion to a teasing smirk. Ezra rolled his eyes.

“By all means, Mr. Wilmington, don’t leave out any more endearing adjectives” Ezra retorted, mocking offense. Serena thought for a second a fight might start but since both men were grinning, they must only be joking.

The southerner took out his deck of cards from the pocket of his red jacket and began to shuffle them as he leaned further back into his chair. Buck’s eyes narrowed as he stared across the table “You won her in a card game?!” the ladies man looked like he wanted to strangle the gambler.

“Which would you rather have me do?” Ezra replied evenly “Brandish a weapon and make them all lie down on the floor?”

Serena stifled a giggle at the mental image Ezra’s comment had brought. It’s a good thing the gambler had better sense than to do that. The hired gunslingers would’ve laughed as they shot him. Buck was starting to think the same thing. He had seen the barroom the night before and quickly forgave his friend.

“It was funny actually” Serena tried her best to lighten the mood. This town had enough tension and hot tempers “Mr. Standish let that dumb idiot think he won before he embarrassed him and showed his hand”

“It was a fixed hand so I wouldn’t lose” Ezra added, happy that he had pulled off this con. His opponent the night before deserved it, as did his friends “And no one was the wiser”

Serena nodded “Not even me till I found out later” she still felt guilty about misjudging the southerner but it hadn’t seemed to bother Ezra. He knew she wouldn’t trust him at first. Actually he was surprised she trusted him as much as she did.

“Wait a minute” Buck interrupted as he looked over the girl. “What’s a kid like you doing in here anyway?”

The girl bit her lip cautiously. She knew she would pay for it if any of the hired guns or the saloon owner had caught her sitting with these men, let alone discussing anything important. She looked around the barroom warily.

“You have nothing to fear from Mr. Wilmington, my dear” Ezra’s voice brought her attention back toward the table “He will not harm you”

She glanced at both of them quickly before she resumed scanning the barroom. She had the feeling someone was watching her. “Its not that… its… “ she trailed off as she heard loud determined footsteps descend the winding staircase. As the person reached the landing, Serena’s eyes widened and she quietly choked out “I have to go” before hastily standing up from her chair, nervously pushing her long black hair behind her ears and walked behind the bar.

The figure slowly walked out into the barroom. He had been watching it from above on the second floor balcony and the longer these two strangers were in town; the more he didn’t like their presence.

He was a tall clean shaved man with light blonde hair neatly combed back. He was dressed in an outfit similar to Ezra with dark pinstriped pants, a neatly pressed white shirt with a silver and black vest, and a long black coattail jacket. In his hand was a gun similar to the one Chris Larabee had and his glare was almost as powerful.

It was quiet enough in the barroom that a pin would echo loudly no matter where someone was to drop it. The man’s piercing gray eyes narrowed in on Serena. He had witnessed the events the night before from the second story balcony and he didn’t like her getting friendly with these two men and possibly giving them more information then they needed. He held his gun at his side and everyone noticed he didn’t have a gunbelt.

He calmly walked up to the men now standing up from their table. They were ready for any trouble as their hands wavered near the guns at their hips. “Name’s Preston Glendale” he introduced, a slight clip to his tone. “I own the saloon and I strongly advise you to leave this town while you can” he twirled his gun in the air to make his point and deter the two lawmen from getting any ideas.

Buck and Ezra exchanged glances. They got the distinct feeling no one in this town was just going to let them leave and they still needed to send that telegraph wire to Four Corners.

“My associate and I would happy to vacate your humble little town” Ezra’s face was unreadable “But as you can see” he continued, glancing at the window “We only have a few hours of daylight left and it would hardly be prudent to risk riding the trail in darkness” he smiled inwardly at Glendale’s somewhat confused expression.

“Huh?” he asked, his question was more directed at the ladies man rather than the well dressed gambler.

“We’re stayin” Buck answered flatly before downing his last shot of whiskey. Glendale’s eyes narrowed; he thought that’s what the southerner had said. “Come on Ez” he said as he tipped his hat in the direction of the bar where the two women stood and headed for the batwing doors. Ezra tipped his hat and couldn’t resist sending a smug grin to the saloon owner before he left.

“I get the feeling we ain’t liked much in this town” Buck said as he walked out the batwing doors and waited for Ezra. The two started walking to the hotel since it was clear they were no longer welcomed in the saloon. The gambler spied a glance over his shoulder; they were being followed.

“And what, pray tell, was your first clue?” Ezra good-naturedly retorted as the two continued to walk down the creaky boardwalk and a few hired guns followed along behind them.


At least they hadn’t gotten kicked out of the hotel yet! It was about seven thirty and Buck was trying to win back the money he had already lost to his compatriot.

“It serves you well that you are the consummate ladies man and not a gambler” Ezra grinned, his gold tooth glinting in the light of the brightly burning lantern. They sat at the only table in the room. It was next to a window where they had a clear view of the main street and everything alongside it. Although they were the opposite direction from where the sheriff’s office sat, they could still see it in the far distance.

“I’ll win my money back” Buck replied confidently “Just give me time” Ezra shuffled his cards and dealt another hand before pulling out his gold pocket watch and flipping it open “Now what are you doin’?” the mustached gunslinger demanded exasperated

A mischievous smirk crossed Ezra’s handsome face “You said and I quote ‘just give me time’ “ Buck rolled his eyes and the southerner snapped the timepiece shut before returning it to the pocket in the front of his vest.

“Are all gamblers this sarcastic?” Buck grumbled. Ezra always seemed to be three steps ahead of him when it came to comebacks.

“Only the best” Ezra smugly grinned. Buck muttered incoherently under his breath and looked down at his cards. He muttered again as he realized he had just got another losing hand. Lady luck sure wasn’t with him tonight.

Their game continued for a few more minutes only to be interrupted by the loud unmistakable sound of gunfire. Buck jumped out of his chair and quickly looked out the window. The sound came from the place he hoped it hadn’t but his eyes weren’t deceiving him. It was coming from the sheriff’s office.

By the time Ezra and Buck arrived, the fight was nearly over. A group of hired guns had broken out the prisoner from the jail and killed the sheriff in the process. As most of them jumped on their horses and rode out of town toward the mines, a few sat on their horses and fired their guns at the lawmen approaching. Buck and Ezra quickly dove into the dirt of Main Street until they could find better cover. By the time they had decided to move, the men shooting at them had become bored and quickly rode off to join the others.

Ezra stood up, returned his gun to his holster, and dusted himself off. Buck was slower regaining his feet and it was now that both had realized simultaneously that the ladies man had been shot in the left shoulder. Ezra ran over to his friend standing a few feet away as Buck returned his gun to his holster. “Buck?” he called out, looking over the injury seeping blood down the front of the mustached man’s shirt.

“I’m alright” Buck answered looking down the street as a few approaching gunmen approached “We got a bigger problem” he nodded his head toward the trouble walking toward them.

Ezra let out a sigh; they just couldn’t win in this town.

“You shot at our townsmen” Preston Glendale hissed. He was standing in the middle of the group of gunslingers as they stood in front of Buck and Ezra.

“They killed the sheriff” Buck countered angrily. He was really starting to hate this town.

“These gentlemen are the law around here” Glendale stated as a simple fact that everyone knew or should’ve known. Ezra and Buck both let out a snort at the word gentlemen. These hired guns were anything but. “Take them to the jail” he ordered with narrowed eyes.

Before either could protest, they were disarmed and marched toward the jailhouse.