Turk and Clan

by Heather F.

Disclaimers: Not mine, no money

Acknowledgements: Mitzi she had to slog through this bedeviled story and offered ‘lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut’.

Challenge: Jan. O5: Write a story using Euphemisms (sp?) Not sure I really have a handle on them but I tossed in the ones I know and learned from my previous life (and frighteningly enough, use on occasion)

Warnings: Bad words were used. Very bad words; My spelling, grammar and apathy for both (at the moment).

Jan.5, 2005

“You ain’t gonna catch ole Ezra,” Buck pointed out from his seat on the floor against the exterior wall of the saloon, “He’s in Eagle Bend gamblin’ his little heart out, probably happy as a one eyed dog in a meat house.”

‘Turk’ leaned back against the bar and folded his meaty arms across his chest and furrowed his brow. His tiny blue eyes narrowed under attached bushy eyebrows as he stared at Wilmington.

Josiah’s expression matched those of their captors.

“Hell, ya ain’t gonna find ‘im around here,” Vin chimed in, wrestling with the ropes that bound his hands behind his back, “right now, I bet he’s probably busier than cat trying to cover crap on a marble floor.”

Larabee leaned his aching head back against the wall of the saloon and closed his eyes and let out a tired sigh. “Even if he were in town, Standish’ll know something’s wrong the minute he steps foot onto the street.” Where ever the Hell that lazy son of a bitch was it wasn’t Eagle Bend---or had better not be. Ezra and he had had that conversation days ago. Poker tournament or not, Larabee needed Standish around town for the weekend when the cattle drives came boiling through.

“Chris, is right about that,” Nathan added as he shifted in an attempt to alleviate pressure points that came from sitting on the uneven wood floor, “Damn man’s sharper than a surgical knife. Ain’t no way you fools’re gonna catch the likes of him.” Jackson glared at the two mismatched figures sitting at a scarred saloon table. They were smaller replicas of the monstrosity leaning against the bar.

Nathan shook his head in self disgust and shot an accusing stare at the Preacher. It was all his fault. Who in their right mind starts sawing wood planks before the sun rose? And who in their right mind asks a friend to help them?

It was damn near embarrassing to think that they were caught by the likes of those four brothers across the room. Between the group of them a fresh thought never stood a chance to flourish.

“Hell, no,” JD piped up raising his chin and exposing the harsh bruising that surrounded his left eye, the digger he took in the street did more than just bruise his ego. “Even if ya do manage to see him; Ezra’s slicker than deer guts on a door knob.”

The other five regulators leaned forward and stared at their youngest with muted disgust. JD straightened up the best he could in his seated position with his hands tied behind his back. “Well he is.” He added with heated defensiveness.

Turk scratched at his deep black beard and stared at the six captured peacekeepers. They were missing one. The first six were surprisingly easy to capture. The dark clothed demon with dirty blonde hair was clipped on the back of his head when he exited his room. Hell, Kyle hit him hard enough to knock out a bull but that damn man merely went to his knees reaching for his gun like muted sheet lightening. He was quick but not that quick. Kirk and Timmy handled him just fine after that. The long haired injun lover was struck down leaving the damn trash heap of a wagon. A gun barrel up under the chin was a real nice way to quiet down the rebellious ones. The big mustached fellow was found with his draws down and mouth open sleeping after his ‘lady’ left for the morning. The kid sheriff was simply marched out of the jail. Damn kid tried to make a break for it but earned a rifle butt to the back of the knees. The preacher and darky were setting up lumber in the church and never heard the three brothers sneak up behind them. That was six. The seventh, the supposed easiest of the group was still missing. Rumor had it he had done slicked out of town to Eagle Bend for some poker tournament. They’d pick up his rebel ass on their way South of the border.

Turk rubbed at his chin and stared at the six peacekeepers trying to figure out which one of them would be likely to give them good directions to Eagle Bend.

His reverie was broken when the batwing doors swung open. A gambler strode through the doors with a cock sure, greasy smile and counting a thick roll of money. “Well gentlemen, it seems that my skills surpass even my own expectations. Good Lord but I am good at what I do --- If I do say so myself.” The gambler raised his head, gold tooth sparkling in the early morning sun with dimples highlighting the edges of a toothy self indulgent smile. His black hat sat squarely on his head accenting the fine plum color of his swallow tail coat. “God Lord I am gifted---one of the chosen ones.”

“Full of shit if you ask me,” Buck whispered to Josiah.

“Full of himself that’s for sure,” Josiah returned with a soft voice.

“Same thing ain’t it?” Nathan asked slightly perplexed.

Ezra lifted his eyes from his wad of hard won crisp cash and stared into the dust littered gloom of the saloon. His sparkling green eyes landed first to the four ill kept men standing with their hands resting on their guns. It gave him some pause. They looked like trouble. He’d have to let Mr. Larabee know about their presence so the others could keep an eye out. As for himself, he was over due for a visit to his feathered bed. Riding hard last evening to Eagle Bend---playing all evening until just a few hours ago and riding back wore on a man---especially one such as himself. Plus it would put him in good stead with Mr. Larabee and hopefully help in keeping with appearances that he had been in Four Corners all evening.

“You had best not been to Eagle Bend.” Larabee’s soft spoken warning had the gambler snapping his head to the left. A story was already forming as mental gears kicked into play at the sound of the voice that could evoke a cold sweat with just an utterance. As an innocent yet shocked and appalled, outraged expression crossed his face it was quickly replaced with a look of stark curiosity; then concern. Standish’s emerald eyes flashed over the six regulators sitting on the floor with their hands tied behind their backs.

He turned his attention back to the four standing and albeit free behemoths and then back to the six tied peacekeepers.

“Oh Good Lord.”

The four men started to draw their weapons.

Standish triggered his derringer, fired off two quick ill aimed shots and beat a hasty retreat out the bat wing doors under a barrage of gunfire.

“Git’im boys!” Turk yelled out as his three brothers tore after the fleeing gambler.

Chris leaned back against the wall of the saloon listening to the sound of gunfire. As long as they kept shooting the gambler still remained alive. “Damn man isn’t even sharp enough to cut hot butter on a good day.”

“Maybe so but, he’s quicker than a greased pig on fair day,” Buck added chuckling.

“He ain’t got any better chance at surviving than a cat with kerosene knickers down in the fires of Hell,” Josiah muttered.

“Where’s your faith preacher man?” Vin asked chuckling. “Ezra ain’t caught yet. Hell he’s slick as shit on a boot heel.”

Buck nodded absently as he listened to the fading sounds of gunshots and then curses. After a moment the sound of approaching booted feet tolled on the board walk.

Two of the three gunmen burst through the batwing doors.

Turk pushed off the bar, “You get’im?” The monster of a man stepped toward his two younger brothers.

“We got’im alright!” the middle one announced.

The six regulators sat up straighter exchanging worried glances.

“Then where the Hell is he?” Turk spit out staring over his brothers’ broad shoulders into the building sunlight of a strengthening morning.

“Hell, Turk, he’s slick as a fresh born calf fallin’ from his momma, but Kirk winged’im in the leg. He ain’t gonna get far.” The one named Kyle announced, “not dragging a bad leg around with him.”

Chris leaned forward and caught Nathan’s eyes. The healer merely shrugged. There was not much he or anyone could do right now.

Turk stared at his two younger brothers and opened his mouth to yell when an explosion rocked the morning.

The three standing men reached to grab furniture hoping to keep their balance. Chairs skittered and slid across the heaving floor as tables bumped in place.

Dust cascaded down from the wood planks as glasses shimmied and window panes rattled.

JD cautiously sat up and looked over at Buck. Wilmington merely shrugged dislodging a small plume of dust from his shoulders and hat.

“What the fuck was that?!” Turk hollered as he pushed himself up off the bar. A bottle of whiskey tipped and fell from a shelf. It hit the wood floor without shattering and rolled to a stop out of sight.

“Horses are gone,” Vin whispered to Larabee not bothering to hide his knowing smirk. Whatever horses were tethered out front had just broke their reins and bolted down main street.

An amused smile flashed on Larabee’s dusty face.

“How the fuck should we know?!” the middle brother shouted back. He pushed his younger brother off him and straightened up. All three turned and stared at the six men sitting on the floor.

“Just what the Hell was that?” Turk asked again taking a determined step toward the six tied men.

“Sounded like dynamite to me,” Vin offered up. He wondered how long it would take for the brothers to realize their horses just galloped off.

“Yup,” Josiah confirmed.

“Who the Hell in this town has dynamite?” Turk asked stepping menacingly toward the six; his hand dropping automatically to his gun belt.

None of them shrunk back.

“Ezra,” JD answered back truthfully.

“Yup,” Buck nodded with raised eyebrows conveying an unconcerned air.

“Damn nuisance with it too,” Nathan muttered.

“Blow just about anything just for the Hell of it.” Chris added with a twisted leer.

“Our wayward brother can get quite childish with it at times.” Josiah added sagely.

Turk’s attention was diverted from the six men when the third brother limped through the door followed by a second explosion that engulfed main street just outside the saloon.

Chunks of frozen mud pelted the window panes and side of the building causing everyone in the saloon to take cover.

The four brothers dove to the ground as the six regulators fell to the left and right trying to shield themselves the best they could from the dust and falling debris.

“I’m going to kill him,” Larabee muttered to himself as a thick glob of partially frozen mud smacked into his exposed ribs.

Within moments the noise stopped and the dust began to settle. The six peacekeepers once again pushed themselves upright.

“Nah,” Vin answered shaking chunks of dirt and mud from his hair, “you’ll just glare at him and make him promise not to do it again.”

Turk picked himself up off the floor wiping his hands on his pants and reaching for his youngest brother who had landed right next to him.

“Where the Hell is that gambler?” He hauled his younger brother up onto his pointed booted toes by the front of his shirt, “we have a time schedule to keep---we got to meet up with those cut throat Bastards this afternoon---with the seven of them.” He cocked his massive and amazingly square head to the side, indicating the captured peacekeepers. His young brother followed the movement with his eyes.

“He done blew up that old shed in the back and now main street…what if he’s got more dynamite?” The youngest stammered. He stood covered in soot and dust, the rim of his hat was singed as was the front of his shirt. Whisps of smoke spiraled up from his back and heels. “I mean he was right there on the mercantile roof, just smiling and then he saluted me just before he lobbed a stick of dynamite at me---he’s crazier than a run over dog in the middle of the street.”

“Shut the fuck up, Kirk!” The middle brother shouted. He could barely hear a thing over the ringing in his ears.

“Make me!” the one called Kirk answered back, his voice held a bit of a quiver and his blackened hands shook as he stood up to his older brother while trying to wiggle free of his oldest brother. “I damn near got blowed up!”

“Yeah, well, ya didn’t, so quit your pissin’ and moanin’ and git out there and find that gamblin’ two bit son of a whore and drag his ass back here.” Turk ordered shoving his brother in the direction of the still wobbling bat wing doors. “If we don’t meet up with them other sons of bitches by noon then its our asses that are going to be cooked.”

“Well, we aint goin’ fuckin’ no where,” Kirk added sneering at his brothers, “Our gawd damn horses are gone!”

“Hell, we’ll jist git some from the livery,” Turk barked, “we got a rendezvous to make.”

Vin and Chris shared a concerned look. Ezra had better come up with a way to get them loose before they hit the trail or their odds at escaping were going to quickly dwindle away.

“Why Turk?” One of the middle brothers whined, “we got six of’em that’s got to be close enough.”

“Yeah, ‘sides I saw that two bit peacock try and jump the grange roof, damn near made it too.” Timmy said peering out over the batwing doors to something across the street.

“Let’s call it good, Turk, take these six.” Kirk pleaded, “there’ll still be some money in that.”

“We could say that damn fool blew ’is self to bits and we didn’t want to bother traveling with chunks of him in our saddle bags---the smell and all even with it being winter.” Timmy added still staring over the batwing doors searching the skyline of the building tops.

“Oh shit!” Timmy cried and dove away from the doors covering his head with his hands.

A third explosion rocked the street tossing mud, frozen horse manure and assorted detris into the air.

“He’s damn near the most trying pain in the ass I know,” Larabee muttered.

“Well, no one ever said he’d been wrapped too tight, that’s fer sure,” Vin whispered out rubbing what he hoped was just dirt from his face.

“Listen here you idiots,” Turk grumbled from underneath an overturned table. “We’re being paid to get the seven of’em.” He shook off the table sending it a few feet across the room and glared at his younger brothers, “ Not six---but seven.” Turk took a menacing step toward his brothers, “Kirk you take Timmy and Kyle and drag that seventh one back here you got it?”

The three brothers looked as if they were about to argue but stopped when Turk added, “We’re doin’ this for Ma or have’n ya’ll fergot that little piece of information?”

“No,” Kyle muttered out and Kirk dropped his eyes and Timmy scuffed his boot on the floor.

“Than go git that damn fool gambler,” Turk ordered. “And take that gawd damn dynamite away from him!”

“It’s low Turk. Damn low of him to be throwing dynamite at us.” Kirk pointed out.

“Real low,” Kyle added.

“Really really low,” Timmy chimed in.

“Lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut,” Buck helped.

The four brothers turned and stared at the tall mustached peacekeeper.

“That’s pretty damn low, Buck,” JD pointed out.

“It is Ezra we’re talkin’ about,” Vin added.

“You three don’t get your asses out there after that damn cardsharp and I”ll bury ya under that snake!---Now git!” Turk hollered pointed to the now dangling bat wing doors.

The three men trudged out of the saloon with their eyes upward searching for any more flying explosives and headed in the direction of the Mercantile and Grange hall.

The six peacekeepers struggled with their bound wrists with more vigor.

“Gawd damn man finds more trouble than anyone I know.” Nathan stated pulling on the coarse ropes that held his wrists.

“He ain’t caught yet,” JD pointed out.

“That ain’t gonna last, kid,” Turk leered at the six. He lifted a chair upright and settled back in it. He groaned as he raised his long legs and rested his boot heels on one of the saloons tables but kept his attention between the batwing doors and his six captives.

The sun slowly rose in the sky chasing the reds and greys of early morning away and revealing the light blue of a sunny day.

Turk sat up when he heard people shuffling hurriedly down the board walk. The saloon doors were tossed open and Kyle and Kirk struggled through with a dusty apparently incoherent gambler draped between them.

“Got’im Turk,”

“Good fuck’n for you,” Turk responded with heat, “put’im over with the rest and tie his hands good.” Turk watched somewhat despondently as the gambler allowed his left leg to drag behind.

“Let me loose so I can tend his leg,” Nathan implored as he watched the two men drag the sagging gambler over to their wall and drop him on the floor between JD and the wood stove.

The wood stove smoldered; occasionally sap or bark sparked and popped sending sparks spiraling up the metal stove pipe.

“We ain’t got no more rope.” The four brothers paused and scrutinized each other.

Buck sighed. It was a damn shame the six of them, well seven now, were caught by these men. Humiliating really.

“There’s some shackles in the Sheriff’s office,” JD supplied helpfully.

“Damn it kid, shut up,” Buck reprimanded.

“Kyle, git the shackles.” Turk ordered he then turned and smiled at Dunne, “thanks, kid.”

“Why me? Send Timmy.”

“Cuz he said you!” Timmy challenged.

Josiah leaned back against the wall and matched Larabee’s posture and closed his eyes. It was God awful embarrassing---captured by the likes of them.

“JD?” Nathan asked, “What’s his leg look like?”

“I can’t tell,” JD replied trying to twist around so his open eye would face the gambler who laid crumbled on the floor beside him.

“He bleedin’ bad?”

“Can’t tell.”

“Well boy what the Hell can you tell?” Buck asked in worried exasperation.

“That he’s breathin’,” JD shot out hotly.

“Well that’s just fine, JD, real fine,” Buck added, “but he ain’t gonna be breathin’ long iffen he’s bleedin’ to death from the shot in his leg.”

“He’s got more dirt on him than main street, Buck, I can’t tell anything with him covered with all that shit.” Dunne explained with a hint of fear and frustration.

Larabee raised his head and stared hard at Turk. “Wrap his damn leg,” Chris ordered.

Turk met the hostile gaze and easily read the promise of death. They had to get these seven men out of town and then south of the border. It was going to be a long trip and anything could happen. He didn’t need this demon breathing down his neck.

“Kirk, tie somethin’ around his leg,” Turk ordered out matching the gunslinger’s steely gaze. Larabee simply dipped his chin in thanks.

“Why the Hell should I do it?”

“Cuz you’re the idiot that shot’im,” Timmy pointed out. “And now we’s gonna have to find a wagon or buckboard or something to haul his ass.” Timmy bit out angrily. He whirled on his younger brother, “don’t ya ever think of the consequences of yer actions? Damn, Ma always said ya were the smart one, can’t figure how she thought that.” Timmy turned back to the window and stared at the large holes in main street, “Ma must be losin’ her sight or something.”

Kirk headed behind the bar, “Fuck you, Tammy,” he sneered out purposely mispronouncing his brother’s name.

“You’re fuckin’ dead,” Timmy stated whirling around and leaping for the bar.

Turk grabbed him and stopped him, “you can beat his ass once we’re on the trail; right now we got to figure out how to move these morons and get them to the meet and then to the boss.”

Josiah raised his eyes and stared at Buck and mouthed, ‘Morons?’

Buck shrugged his shoulders, “Must be talking about JD.”

“Real funny Buck,” JD griped.

Nathan watched as the one called Kirk searched behind the bar and then the backroom before coming back with a large towel.

“Tie it up high around his leg and tie it tight to git the bleedin’ to stop,” Nathan ordered.

“Shut the fuck up darky,” Timmy ordered feeling the need to fight somebody. No one called him Tammy and got away with it.

“Son, the Good Lord don’t much care how you die,” Josiah intoned from under the brim of his hat, “but you just might.” The big preacher’s voice had the room pausing.

JD watched as the one named Kirk wrapped a towel around Standish’s upper left thigh and then cinched it down harshly, knotting the makeshift bandage in the front. Standish groaned and curled around his leg.

Kyle kicked through the lopsided batwing doors swinging the manacles around his fingers. “Hey Turk we better git a move on, people are starting to git a little bit braver now that the dynamites stopped.” Kyle tossed the shackles to his younger brother.

Turk merely nodded his head.

“Should do the trick.” Kirk mumbled as he snapped the metal cuffs around the gambler’s wrists and backed away from the seven men.

Standish moaned and shifted closer to the wood stove.

“Ezra? You alright?” JD asked.

“Ezra?” Nathan leaned forward and stared over Buck and JD and tried to get a glimpse at the gambler who scooted closer to the wood stove.

“Ezra, answer the damn man,” Vin shot out in exasperation. They had to get out of this fix before they left town. Even tied they stood better odds against the four brothers than they did against whoever they met up with on the trail.

“I’m fine,” The thick drawl indicated otherwise.

“What’d ya blow up, Ezra?” Chris asked without opening his eyes. So much for their Ace in the Hole.


“Uhhuh.” Josiah intoned sitting back against the wall.

“These more friends of yours Mr. Larabee?” Ezra asked facing the wood stove and enjoying the heat.

“Ezra, shut up.” Chris ordered softly. His mind ran with possible scenarios to get them out of this fix. They’d have to do it here in town. They couldn’t risk waiting to get on the trail. They couldn’t risk being outnumbered not with one of them being injured. They would never be able to make a quick break if the chance arose. It would prove to be near impossible to move with any stealth or alacrity if they were having to haul someone.

JD watched the gambler’s hands as the southerner worked his fingers of his left hand up into the right sleeve of his coat. The sheriff watched mesmerized as the gambler palmed a thin piece of wire and then fumbled for the lock quickly and quietly. In a matter of seconds the cuffs clicked opened.

Dunne smiled. He looked over to Buck and quietly nodded.

“Well boy, what ya waitin’ fer,” Buck whispered, “scoot closer to’im and git his knife.”

“What make’s ya think he’s got a knife?” JD whispered back.

“What makes you think he doesn’t?” Buck countered.

JD hesitated a moment and then moved closer to the gambler.

Standish stretched his fingers upward searching the back lining of his coat. The small knife slipped easily into his hand.

Strange blunt fingers hit his backside.

“Watch where you put your hands Mr. Dunne,” Ezra hissed out in warning.

“Sorry Ezra,” JD mumbled his cheeks flush with embarrassment.

The sheriff took the small knife into his tied hands and then leaned back against the wall and started sawing on his own rope bindings.

Down the row, Vin leaned back against the saloon wall watching the four brothers as they feuded amongst themselves.

“Can’t believe you let those four get the drop on you cowboy.” Vin pointed out shaking his head sadly, “must be gittin’ old if the likes of them can sneak up on ya.”

“Don’t see you running free, Vin,” Chris answered back.

“Even a blind sow’ll find an acorn.”

“Think Ezra’s got his hands free yet?” Chris asked.

“Yup,” Vin answered, “JD’s working on his right now, figure the way he’s grimacing Ezra ain’t going to be the only one who needs a tourniquet.”

Larabee chuckled.

“Give me that damn knife kid,” Buck hissed out leaning down close to young sheriff.

“Git away from me Buck,” JD hissed back. He could feel blood oozing into the palm of his hand.

“Hell, kid the way you’re going, we’re gonna be in Mexico by the time you manage to cut your own hand off.”

“Fuck you, Buck.”

Turk looked up from the map he had laid out on the table. He had not really planned on them succeeding in catching all seven of the peacekeepers. In fact, he had kind of figured that him and his brothers would have botched the job and been run out of town. Having caught the Seven he was now floundering trying to figure out the best trail to take to Mexico. They weren’t going to be able to travel as fast as they liked if they were hauling wounded with them. Damn gambler.

“Ya’ll knock that whispering off. Or I’ll gag you.” Turk barked.

Buck sat up straighter and waited impatiently for JD to finish maiming himself with Standish’s little hideaway knife.

“Hey darky, you think that southern boy can travel on horse back?”

Nathan peered over Buck and JD and stared at Standish’s back scrutinizing the man. Jackson sat back and looked to the four brothers who stared at him waiting for an answer, “Don’t look it from here,” Jackson answered but then added, “why don’t you let me get a better look at him and I can give you better answer.”

“No way in Hell.” Turk blustered. He stared at the gambler and turned back and nailed his younger brother with a hard look, “ya know we got to deliver’em alive---we can’t go havin’em die on the trail. You dumb son of a bitch---now we gotta alter our plans.”

“Hell Turk we ain’t got no plan for this part.” Kyle pointed out.

“Shut your stupid trap Kyle,” Timmy ordered.

Josiah watched the four brothers and felt his face burn with embarrassment. How did they ever get caught by these men? Sanchez looked to the ceiling, not seeing the beamed roof but imagining the crisp skies of the heavens. The good Lord did have a peculiar sense of humor. The big preacher dropped his eyes to the gambler.

“Ezra? How you holdin’ up?” Josiah asked trying to divert Turk and Buck’s attention away from the struggling JD. Damn boy had no skill with a blade.

“Like a fat hog in the sunshine, Mr. Sanchez.” Standish mumbled out, his sarcasm layered under the thick drawl.

Tanner’s chuckle mirrored Larabee’s smirk.

“Think he’ll be alright?” Vin asked.

“Man’s tougher than a one eared alley cat.”

“Wonder what he really blew up.”

“Probably something of Conklin’s.” Larabee answered still smirking.

Turk and his three brothers sat and stood staring at the map and arguing. They resorted occasionally to shoving one another and throwing insults, occasionally one would threaten to spit on one of the others.

Turk turned around and stared at the gambler, “Hey gamblin’ man? Gamblin’ man, you up to riding on horse back?”

Ezra groaned and mumbled something incoherent.

“Shit,” Turk muttered frustrated by the turn of events. He turned back to the map and slapped his youngest brother on the back of the head in reprimand for shooting the gambler in the first place.

Ezra nudged himself closer to the fire, hiding a gilded smile behind his shoulder.

“You hot Ezra?” Nathan asked worried that a fever had already started to take hold. He leaned forward and tried to a get a clear look at Ezra who was curled away from him. Jackson stared at Standish’s coated back and counted his respirations---they seemed too quick and shallow. He had to still be losing blood.

“Damn it, let me get a look at him,” Nathan suddenly shouted out startling everyone.

Turk and his brothers snapped their heads around and stared at the seven nearly forgotten prisoners. “Shut-up, you can see’im from where you sit.”

“He’s gonna bleed to death,” Nathan shot back. His ire grew with the lack of concern and disregard for human life.

“No he ain’t I tied that towel good ‘n tight around his leg.” Kirk replied.

“He’s gonna git an infection in that leg and it’ll kill’im before you even git us to Mexico.” Nathan countered.

“Well hell, blacky you can jist cut his damn leg off when it comes to that, now can’t ya.” Turk pointed out callously.

Ezra’s hidden satisfied smile faltered.

Vin opened his eyes and stared at Turk but spoke to Chris, “Reckon you’ll let me kill that son of a bitch when we get free.”

“Figure you and Josiah can share.”

Vin closed his eyes, “Ain’t much for sharing.”

“Then you can have the corpse when I’m done,” Josiah supplied.

Turk and his brothers paled but doggedly returned to their map.

“JD, give me the damn knife.” Buck whispered sharply as the gunslinger tipped the sheriff to the side and took the blood slick knife.

“Go ahead I’m finished.” Dunne spat out. No one thought he could do anything right.

“’Bout damn time.” Wilmington muttered, slicing through his bindings with a few well practiced and well placed swipes.

“Ain’t like I’m trussed every day like you.” JD shot back.

“You should try it more often, broaden your horizons.”

JD stared at the older man as if he had lost his mind but a groan from Ezra had him turning his attention to the gambler.

“Ezra, leave the towel alone. Ya can’t go unknottin’ it, yer gonna bleed out.” JD whispered harshly.

“Hey! Listen to the kid,” Kirk stated as he pulled his eyes from the map to the gambler who practically lay under the wood stove. The outlaw watched as the southerner struggled with the knot in the towel wrapped tightly around his upper leg.

“Hey, What are you doin’? Leave it be,” Kirk ordered with an air of disbelief and indignity. He swung around in his chair. There was no way in Hell he was going to be blamed if that damn idiot bled out.

“What the Hell is going on?” Turk asked gazing up from the map and heated discussion with his other two brothers to stare at their youngest.

“Damn gambler’s trying to untie the tourniquet.”

“Well who gives a shit if he does?” Turk responded and turned his attention back to the map.

There was a moment of complete silence until the meaning of the words settled across the saloon.

“Oh shit” whispered out from different areas of the saloon and from different sources as it collectively dawned on both groups that the gambler’s hands were openly free.

Chairs were pushed back as the brothers scrambled to their feet to face the onslaught of four peacekeepers that surged toward them. Nathan watched from the corner of his eye as Ezra struggled to his one good leg, still pulling on the tourniquet and unable to bear weight on the injured leg.

Larabee, Tanner and Sanchez watched with building fury and frustration as JD, Buck, Nathan and Ezra took on the four brothers.

Nathan sent Turk flying backward into the bar. JD twirled Kirk around and tossed him into and over chairs scattering them about the floor. Standish hobbled gamely forward trying to aid the healer and missed Josiah’s warning. Kyle, however, didn’t miss when he smashed a chair over the Southerner’s shoulders sending Standish crashing to the saloon floor like an unstrung puppet.

The big preacher struggled to his feet using the back wall and entered the fray. His block head and shear mass were apparently sufficient weapons.

“Josiah’s sure does got his back up,” Vin pointed out.

“Man’s got a temper,” Chris agreed.

“Think we should help?” Vin asked.

Both men leaned in opposite directions when Timmy was thrown into the wall between them.

“Come on now,” Vin urged the dazed brother slouched next to him, “Don’t let Buck toss you around like that---git on up and get him.”

Timmy nodded drunkenly and scrambled to his feet.

Larabee straightened up but ducked his head as a glass flew by and shattered just above him. “Nah, I think the boys can handle it.”

“Think Nathan’ll be able to save Ezra’s leg?” Tanner asked as he spied the gambler struggling groggily to his hands and knees only to be flattened again by Kirk’s dancing about trying to dislodge JD.

“Don’t rightly know,” Chris stated, “hope so.”

Within only a few minutes the four brothers were subdued and knocked senseless.

Nathan didn’t miss a step and rushed over to Standish’s side brushing the remnants of the broken wooden chair from his patients back and shoulders. The healer ignored the cut and growing bruise just above the hairline. He rolled Ezra onto his back and quickly checked for a pulse at the base of his jaw. Even from there he could feel the rising heat of a fever on his calloused hand. “JD, hurry up and untie Josiah and the others. We got to get Ezra up to the clinic fast.”

In hardly any time, Josiah and Buck shuffled as quickly as they could up to Nathan’s clinic with Ezra slung out between them. The gambler moaned softly once or twice, raising a heavy hand to his head only to drop it back to his side. JD raced ahead with Nathan to get the clinic ready. Vin and Chris dragged the four brothers across the street to jail.

Buck backed into the clinic kicking the door open.

“Put’im up on the table,” Nathan ordered as he unwrapped his instruments and opened a leather black bag. A wood handle, serrated saw blade rested discretely out of the way but within reach.

“JD, get those bandages in some boilin’ water.” Nathan turned his attention to Josiah. “Git this over his nose and mouth and pour the ether into the cotton. I’ll tell ya when to stop.”

Chris and Vin bounded up the wood steps and entered the room. “Chris, git his boots off. Vin…”

“Nathan he’s comin’ around.” Buck interrupted.

“Shit,” Jackson turned his attention back to his patient. He watched as Standish blinked his eyes open and rolled them left and right trying to focus on something. His legs started moving a moment later. “Buck, Vin hold his legs still and be careful of the hurt one.” Jackson looked up at Josiah, “You almost ready with that ether?”

Josiah’s inexperienced hands fumbled with the glass vial and wire screen inhaler. “Almost brother.”

Nathan nodded and then looked back down at Standish as the gambler fought to get his conscious mind awake. “Listen Ezra, jist take it easy, yer gonna be okay,” Nathan intoned calmly forcing a smile to lance his face, “you’re gonna be alright. Me and the boys are gonna take a look at your leg ‘n try’n save it.”

Ezra stared owl eyed at Nathan and then around at the worried faces that stared down at him. They were going to try and save his leg. There was nothing wrong with his leg. The moron who shot at him had missed. Didn’t they know that? If he had been okay to travel then they’d have been bound and slung over horses out on the trail.

Standish stared at Jackson trying to get the healer’s features into focus.

“There’s nothing…” Ezra mumbled out trying to get his muddled mind to form words his mouth refused to articulate.

“You jist relax Ezra, we’ll take care of everything.” Nathan looked to Josiah, “You ready?” Jackson turned his attention back to Standish, “Listen Ezra, we’re gonna give you some ether---just in case.” Nathan rested his hands on either side of Standish’s head and stared directly into the glazed eyes, “yer gonna be fine and we’re gonna do everything we can to save yer leg.” Nathan stepped back laying a reassuring hand on Standish’s coated shoulder. They’d worry about his clothing after he was out. They needed to assess the leg wound first.

“Go ahead, Josiah.”

Josiah nodded and lowered the wire mesh cotton filled inhaler over Standish’s nose and mouth and started pouring Ether into the cotton.

“No,” Ezra mumbled trying to coordinate his muscles, trying to get his body to listen to him, to articulate what he needed to pass on to them. “Its fine.”

“I know son, I know,” Sanchez soothed keeping time with the jerking motions of Standish as he tried to dislodge the mask. The dry heat of the fever had the preacher worried that perhaps Nathan wouldn’t be able to save the leg after all. The fever seemed to have hit hard and furious. Josiah couldn’t ever remember seeing or hearing about a wound going sour that fast. Maybe the blood supply had been hit. Something wasn’t right.

Standish shook his head trying to free himself of the annoying weight that fell across his head. Fingers and hands tightened down on his body holding him still. It was a curious sensation.

He could still hear Nathan saying something about trying to save his leg.

There was nothing wrong with his leg. It was a con. A good one at that; his mother didn’t raise a mediocre son. He played those brothers for fools. How else would he have been able to get into the saloon to get the others a knife? A brilliant move on his part. Sheer brilliance.

“Just take it easy Ezra, yer gonna be alright---.” The voice faded a bit, “Buck git that saw in boiling water.”

Standish’s eyes shot wide open. A saw? Good Lord! He tried to buck off the table.

“Hold him boys!” Josiah shouted as he wrapped an arm around Standish’s head pinning it between his bicep, forearm and chest with the gambler’s chin facing the ceiling.

“Keep’im still, Josiah don’t take that mask off his face,” Nathan ordered as Vin, Buck and Chris cinched down on Standish’s legs. Nathan leaned across his patient’s torso and held Standish’s forearms tight to the table. Funny Ezra’s hands didn’t feel that hot, cool actually. Nathan shook his head, fevers could do that, makes ones hands and feet freezing cold while the torso baked. This wasn’t looking good.

Ezra tried to jerk his head left and right to no avail. He arched his back and pulled and pushed on his legs trying to twist and turn to free himself. Nothing was working. They were going to saw his leg off. He tried to scream into the contraption that trapped his nose and mouth. The sound came out muffled, barely audible.

A large hand rested on his forehead, someone rumbled at him to relax.

Then his traitorous lungs drew in a breath. The sweet smell of a tantalizing oily vapor tickled the back of his throat and wormed its way down into his lungs, infusing into his blood and filtering to the rest of his body. He stole another quick breath, feeling his muscles give up their fight. He gulped, tried to break free again, but instead stole another gaspful of tainted vapors.

A third and finally a fourth breath. Things swayed and swirled around him. Colors ran and shapes shifted and melted. He never remembered the fifth or subsequent breaths after that as his eyes rolled and muscles relaxed.

The others waited cautiously as the gambler’s limbs went lax his arms and legs lost their tension and simply melted under their touch.

Nathan straightened up, “Okay, Chris, finish getting his boots off---Vin get rid of his guns.” Nathan grabbed a pair of scissors and slipped the tips into the slight tear at the lateral side of the gambler’s mid thigh. Another fine pair of wool pinstripe slacks were going to become rags.

“Think you should cut along the seams---just in case?” JD asked as he stared at the gambler who lay boneless on the table with his arms out flung from his body. His plum coat was twisted and bunched under him, his ruffled shirt was askew from the center line with the neck line open exposing the mottled hand prints as evidence of being held still.

“Ain’t got time for that foolishness JD,” Nathan answered, “He’s already runnin’ a fever.”

“Could just be from the wood stove,” JD added quietly, something wasn’t right.

“He snuggled up to the wood stove JD, cuz he was gitt’n chills. Fever will do that to a man.” Buck answered with a touch of sarcasm.

JD watched as Nathan slit the pant leg all the way down to the gambler’s mid calf.

“I never saw any blood.” JD added refusing to give in.

“Cause of the tourniquet, kid,” Vin pointed out never looking up as he struggled to unbuckle the derringer rig.

“Buck, give him a dose of that morphine in the shoulder.” Nathan ordered as he rolled the gambler’s leg gently to the side pulling the split pants material away from the skin. Jackson expected to feel the material peel away from the tacky blood covered wound, he expected to feel the heat of blood. He felt none of it.

Jackson ignored the sound of Standish’s shirt sleeve getting torn and Wilmington hesitantly trying to give his friend an injection. “Oh Hell Nathan you do it.”

Wilmington handed the predrawn syringe and needle to the healer. Nathan paused in his examination and jabbed the needle into the gambler’s exposed bicep and pressed the plunger. “I swear Buck you can be as useless as teats on a boar sometimes.”

“Don’t seem right to be injecting stuff into a man’s body.”

Vin and Chris both silently agreed but held their tongues.

“It’ll keep the pain away, and could give us more time iffen’ we have to…” Nathan refused to say it.

“How’s he doing brother?” Josiah asked. He had laid the gambler’s head back on the table and kept the ether mask firmly in place. The ether bottle lay safely behind him just within reach should they need more.

“Still looking,” Nathan went back to examining the gambler’s amazingly pale leg. He tore the pant leg material even further apart and rolled the leg to the left and then the right. He ran his hands around and then under the leg.



“Give me a second.” Nathan grabbed the scissors and then cut the towel tourniquet free and waited a moment. The skin beneath his hands began to flush with new blood supply. Nathan waited for the tell tale sign of a bleeding wound.


He cut the pant leg circumfentially shoving the free material down toward the gambler’s relaxed extended knee.


He searched Standish’s thigh medially and laterally. He bent the knee and then hunched down and studied the backside of the leg.

No blood---no wound. Nothing.

“Buck, cut the other pant leg off.”

Wilmington did as he was told. All eyes in the clinic with exception of the gambler’s were on the second exposed leg.

No blood---no wound---no nothing.

As a group they stared at the bare remarkedly unmarred legs and then the slack features that lay hidden under the ether mask.

“Ohh, He’s gonna be riled.” Vin pointed out.

“Maybe you can squeeze a few stitches in somewhere?” Buck asked laying down the scissors fingering the remains of Standish’s sleeve.

“Shit.” Larabee muttered not sure whether to laugh or not.

“Shoulda cut along the seams.” JD whispered.

“Boy does know how to pull a con.” Josiah whispered with admiration.

“Too good for his own good,” Nathan admitted.

Nathan stared at the other five men, the bare pale upper legs of the gambler and then Josiah who leaned forward over Standish’s head but with his hand still tightly holding the ether mask in place.

“Josiah git that off him.” Nathan said pushing the preacher’s hand off the ether mask and freeing Standish’s nose and mouth.

Ezra’s head lolled to the side.

“We’re so dead.” JD mumbled.

“He’s real good with a con,” Buck admired.

Larabee couldn’t hold back the laugh as he kicked Standish’s discarded boots out of his way.

“Might as well treat these scrapes and bruises he has on his side.” Nathan intoned with the resignation of a man knowing he would be facing a firing squad.

“I think, brothers, I have some pressing business out of town.” Josiah said as he backed away from the head of the table.

“About due to visit Kojay and Chanu.” Vin agreed creating distance between himself and the anesthetized gambler.

“Molly and Maize said they were waitin’ on an escort to bring them to Spring Creek.”

“I’ll go with you Buck.”

“Sure kid.”

“Oh so you rats are abandoning a sinking ship? Leavin’ me here alone to face’im?” Nathan asked with rising indignity.

The other four stared at one another and then faced the healer as one, “Yup.”



“No one’s going anywhere.” Chris said quietly as he leaned against the door to the clinic. “We still got those four down in the jail and have no idea why they were after us.” Larabee stared up at Nathan letting his smile stretch even further, “You think you can handle Ezra for awhile?”

“Jist ‘til he starts coming around.”

“When’ll that be?” Buck asked as he picked up Standish’s right hand and then let it drop to the table.

“Day or two,” Nathan answered and then muttered, “or more.”

“Shiiiit,” Chris chuckled.

“He’s gonna be madder than a stepped on wet cat.” Vin commiserated with the rest of them.

“Well we best enjoy the silence while we have it, boys,” Josiah stated.

“Come on let’s git him comfortable and into a bed.” Nathan muttered out lost between his feeling of relief and horror.

It took only a few minutes to get Standish free of his clothing and into the lumpy cot that served as a bed in Nathan’s clinic.

“Look on the bright side, Nathan” JD said.

Jackson paused in packing away his surgical instruments.

“At least you saved his leg.”

Chris laughed out loud and headed for the door.

Buck swatted the kid on the back of the head.

“You gonna need help brother?” Josiah asked with a touch of forced seriousness.

Nathan sighed and leaned back against the small table. “When he starts coming around it might get tricky; won’t know until he starts waking up. Might be just fine, might be sick as a dog, or just might be groggy and disoriented for a bit. Just can’t tell ‘til he comes to.” Nathan paused, “He’ll be cold though, for some reason people wake up feelin’ real cold. He’s gonna want extra blankets.”

“Not to worry Brother Nathan,” Josiah slapped his large hand down on Nathan’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze, “Brother Ezra is a forgiving soul,” He paused, stared at the sleeping gambler and added, “for the right price.”

Josiah’s deep laughter followed him all the way out the door.

The End