Magnificent Seven Old West
Desperate Measures

by Michelle

"Vin! He ran around back!" Chris Larabee shouted to the buckskin clad bounty hunter as he ran across the dirt covered street. It had been a peaceful morning........, well, as peaceful as it could get in Four Corners. The town attracted trouble like a moth to the flame.

Chris had been enjoying his morning coffee, when a shout from the direction of the bank broke the moment. He went outside just in time to see a man dressed in a brown coat run from the bank, turn, and fire is gun at the teller who had chased him him out. Chris shot his gun at the man in a an attempt to stop him, but missed, and the man took off; running around to the back of the saloon. Chris caught sight of Vin, who had appreaded with his own gun in hand at the sound of the shots being fired.

While Vin went around to the back, Chris entered the saloon from he front. If the man was in there, he would be trapped. The gunsligner cursed the fact that 3 members of the 7 men who protected the town where not there at the moment. Buck, JD, and Joshia had left before sunrise to protect a stage carrying a shipment of gold. Only he, Vin, Nathan and Ezra where in the town. He knew where he and Vin where. Nathan was probably at the moment running out into the street to find out what the hell was going on. And Ezra,.....he was most likely still sound asleep in his bed seeing as it was only 8:00am. Ezra never got up until at lest 11. Well, damn if Chris was going to let him sleep while he and Vin chased a bank robber around town.

He saw Vin come around the corner from the back and shake his head. The robber was not back there. Which either meant he was somewhere inside the saloon, or had somehow ran away without their seeing him.

"I ain't seen him." Vin said. "I swore he came in here, though."

"Search the place. If you don't find him, go get Nathan and look over the town. I'm gonna go wake up Ezra. How anyone can sleep while there's guns going off is beyond me." He took the steps two at a time to the top floor, where the gambling man kept his room.

At first he thought the gun shots where just part of the dream that had been running through his mind. It took a few minuets to realize that they where real, and that he was now awake thanks to the idiot who just had to make the noise.

Ezra rolled over and groaned. He could sleep for at least 3 more hours, but knew that such a noise in this town could only mean trouble, and he better get out of bed before Chris decided to come up and drag him out. He swung his legs off the bed, and sat up, then waited until the spinning stopped. He had indulged in one too many glasses of his favorite brandy last night during the very lucrative game of poker against a traveling salsesman from back east. The man truly had no idea how to play the game, and Ezra had walked away this triple the money he had started out with.

Oh well, back to his other job he supposed. Not that being a law keeper gave him as much monetary gain as gambeling did, but it did give him a sense of self worth. Pride in himself and what he did was not something he had ever really thought of before, but until he had met the 6 other men and began his work with them, he never fully realized that they where things he never really had before.

He stood up and retrieved a pair of trousers and a crisp white shirt from his closet. He had donned the pants, and was just finishing buttoning his shirt when the knock came at his door. He smiled. It was probably Chris coming to tell him to get his butt out of bed and help chase the shooter down.

He and Chris had started out on a bad foot; he had run out on the others during their first job together, and even though he had returned to save them Chris had had a hard time forgiving and learning to trust him. Things had improved though, and after the horrendous nightmare named Mitchell Harring that they had endured together, a new closeness seemed to be forming between them. Ezra found himself wishing that this new bond would only grow stronger. He put on his best scowl, which didn't quite reach his eyes, and opened the door.

"Mr. Larabee, why are you waking me at such an ungodly............"

The words he spoke where quickly silenced by a large hand covering his mouth. He found himself being pushed back into the room and backed up against a wall. He heard the door being shut and locked beside him. A gun was pointed agasint his head.

"Make a sound, and I will kill you."

Shock registered itself in Ezra's eyes. His assailant was the very same Eastern Sales man he had played poker with last night. Was he the cause of all the ruckus outside? The second knock on the door made Ezra jump. Mr. Salesman lowered the gun from Ezra's head, and shoved it hard into his stomach. He leaned close to Ezra's ear and whispered in a low voice.

"I am not in here. You haven't seen or heard anything. I hear you say anything to try to give clues as to my presence, and you will have a brand new button hole in your pretty white shirt. Got it?"

Ezra nodded, and the gunman released his mouth. "Yes?" he called out.

"Ezra, get up. Someone just robbed the bank. He's still somewhere in town." Chris's voice called from the other side of the door.

Ezra looked at the man holding the gun in his stomach. The man smiled and nodded. Ezra swallowed against the dryness that had formed in his throat. "Indeed? Where would this thief might have gone to?"

"Thought we saw him come somewhere in here, but we don't know for sure." There was silence, and then, "Ezra? Come on, let me in."

The robber shook his head in warning, and pulled the hammer back on the gun. "I'm afraid I am indisposed at the moment. Why don't I meet you downstaires?" 'Come on, Chris. Get the picture here.'

"Are you still feeling ill?" The question surprised Ezra until he realized that Chris was trying to tell him that he understood the situation.

"I'm afraid that I am. I apologize, but it seems to be quite serious." The robber began to back away from him. but kept the gun pointed in his direction. He went over to the window, and looked out into the street. Ezra considered making a run for it, but knew that any movement he made would result in getting a bullet in him.

"Ok. Why don't you just stay in your room. Can't have you getting sick trying to find this guy."

Unbeknownst to the two men in the room, Chris had motioned to the bartender to go and get Vin and Nathan. He now knew where the robber was, and it made him madder then hell to think of the man inside the room with Ezra. If they in anyway made him think that they knew he was in there, Ezra could well end up dead.

Inside the room, the man had come back over to Ezra; the gun once again pushed into his stomach. "Tell him to go away." The words where whispered only loud enough for Ezra to hear.

"Chris, could you return at a later time to fill me in on the chase?"

"Sure. Feel better now." Chris did walk down the steps, but stopped at the bottom where Vin and Nathan where waiting.

"What's goin' on?" Nathan asked, seeing the worried look on Chris's face.

"The bank robber's got Ezra up there." Chris turned to look up at the closed and locked door that his friend was being held hostage behind. Damn it, if he'd only been a few minuets sooner.

"What are we going to do?" Vin followed Chris's gaze up the stairs.

"Hopefully he doesn't realize that we know. We'll just have to wait it out." Chris only hoped that he was correct about that.

Ezra let out a breath he didn't know he had been holding as the robber lowered the gun. He was beginning to think that he had some sort of sign on his back that read 'Hurt Me'. If so, it was a recent happening. He couldn't remember so many times that his life had been threatened before becoming a law man in this town.

"He will come back." He said to the man who was now back over by the window. "You can't hide in here all day."

The man looked over at him, then pointed with his gun for Ezra to move over to the bed. Ezra obliged him and sat down among his still rumpled sheets.

"Lets get something straight right now, shall we? I am in charge here. I will be the one to decide what I do and don't do. Until I feel it is safe for me to do so, I will not be leaving this room. And neither will you."

Ezra's green eyes met the cold blue one's that stared down at him. Last night this man had seemed good natured , not at all the type to go around robbing banks and shooting at people. Now though, he seemed dangerous. There was no question whether or not he would kill Ezra if he had too. The man turned his face back toward the window. Ezra leaned his back against the headboard of his bed. He might as well get comfortable. He had the feeling that it was going to be a long wait.

Chris paced across the hardwood floor of the saloon, not quite certain of what to do. He felt like a damn fool. The robber had somehow gotten past them and now had himself shut up inside of Ezra's room. With Ezra! How had this happened? Vin and Nathan where watching him, waiting to hear some words of wisdom from him. To show them what to do. To lead. Damn it, why him? What was it about him that made these men look up to him the way that they did? He had never asked them too. They where only supposed to ride together for one job. To protect a Seminole village under attack by renegade confederates who had never let go of the fact that the war had ended years ago. Now though, they had become something more. These men where brave and loyal, they fought at each others' sides. These men had come to mean everything to him. And now one of them was in danger. And god help him, he had no idea of what to do. He looked over at the two men with him. Gesturing over to the door with his head, he lead them from the saloon to the boardwalk outside.

"Chris, shouldn't we stay inside? When the robber comes down, we'll be there." Nathan said.

"He's not going to come down. At lest not yet. If he thinks that we're still down here, then he might realize that we know where he is. No telling what that would mean for Ezra." Chris began to walk across the street, not daring to look up at the window of Ezra's room. He knew that they where being watched. "Nathan, I want you to make it look like your searching the town. Go through twice, then head back to the saloon. Go in through the back entrance and hide yourself inside. If you see them come down, don't approache them, just follow."

"What about me?" Vin really just felt like running up the stairs and shooting the blazes out of the place, but knew that might cost Ezra greatly. Whatever plan Chris was coming up with, he would work with it.

"Go up to the roof of the bank. You can get a pretty good view of Ezra's room from there. Stay down, and don't let him see you."

Vin nodded. "What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to find the money. He didn't have it when I chased him to the saloon, but its not at the bank. He must have dropped it somewhere close." Chris headed toward the bank with the intention of backtracking every move the robber had made. If he found the money, they would have something with which to bargain with for Ezra's freedom.

"Chris, if this doesn't work..........."

"Tell me something I don't know, Vin." Chris said, as he entered the bank. Vin and Nathan looked at each other, each sharing the same thought. It was obvious to them that Chris Larabee was at a loss as to what to do. Truth be told, they themselves where not exactly sure either.

Ezra sat with his arms crossed over his chest, and frowned at the man who sat by the window. He was not in a good mood, and really didn't feel like wasting his considerable talents in trying to humor a bank robber who had forced his way into his room and held him at gunpoint. He was getting sick and tried of being what Buck had termed, 'Victim bait'. If there was a criminal within a 10 mile radius, chances where they would somehow meet up with Ezra. There had been a time when Ezra would have scoffed at the idea, but the last few months have only proved the theory.

His eyes went over to the top of his dressing table where his gun belt and arm harness still rested. He didn't have the time to put them on before he had been accosted. He wondered how fast he could run over there to grab one of his guns. His mind played out the scenario several times, trying to find one that didn't end with him bleeding to death on his own floor. It seemed as if it would be his only way to go, considering that Chris hadn't come crashing through the window as of yet. If his friends' weren't going to help him, he would just have to help himself.

Seeing that his captor had his attention directed toward the street below, Ezra quietly moved off the bed, then made a dash for the dressing table. His hand touched the derringer, when he felt a hard blow across the back of his head. He cried out and fell to the floor. Bright flashes of light burst behind his eyes, and for a moment he thought he was going to be sick. He was pulled up from underneath his arms, and pushed into the rocking chair near the window.

"That was a damn stupid thing to do." A fist hit his jaw, snapping his head to the side and causing a wave of dizziness to overcome him. "Don't move." The robber commanded him with the gun pointed at his chest.

"Wouldn't think of it." Ezra muttered, touching his sore jaw and trying to clear his swimming head.

Turning back to the window, the robber once again looked out into the street and watched as the colored man who did the job of healing in this town went by for the second time. Something did not feel right to him. He knew there where two other, but he had seen hide nor hair of either of them. His gaze flickered to the man sitting next to him. He remembered him from the night before. Said his name was Ezra something or other. Not that his last name really mattered, cause he had no intention of hanging around long enough to get to know the man. He was just the means to an end.

Robbing the bank had been a last minuet decision. He had planned to only pass through, but then learned that several local ranchers kept their money there. Over a million dollars worth, he heard tell. That was too great a temptaion for him to pass up. The only problem was, he hadn't counted on the teller opening up so early. The spooked man had stared yelling, so he had grabbed the money that he had managed to get and ran. The teller chased him out the door, screaming all the way. He had turned around and shot at the man, not intending to kill him but only scare him into shutting up. By then it was too late, of course. Another shot landed close to him, and he saw the man dressed in back running toward him. So he took off, managing to hide the money in an ally behind some whiskey barrels. He came into the saloon looking for a place to hide. Knocking on the fella's door was pure chance. Well, at lest he had something he could bargain with, if it came to that.

The street was empty now. He didn't know what was going on, but he knew he didn't like it. Giving another glance at the gambler man, he went over to the dresser and began to go through the drawers.

"Excuse me sir, might I inquire as to why you are rifiling through my personal belongings?" He heard his captive ask.

"Looking for this." he answered, and pulled out one of Ezra's silk ties. He grabbed Ezra's hands and quickly wrapped the tie around his wrists, tying it with a tight knot. "We're gonna go for a little walk. Do as I tell you, and I won't hurt you any."

"Isn't it kind of late to make such a promise." Ezra stated. The man looked at him and saw the bruise on his jaw where he had hit him. It was already swelling and turning an ugly purplish color. "You burst in my room, take me hostage, hit me, and tie me up. I think the hurting phase has well passed."

He locked his hand around Ezra's arm in a vise like grip and pulled him up from the chair. Holding the gun against his side, he directed him to the door. "Ok then. How about, you do as I say and I won't kill you."

"How very reasonable of you." Ezra remarked, not hiding the sarcasm in his voice as the robber pushed him through the door, and down the stairs.

Neither man was surprised to see the saloon empty. It only assured the robber that those men where out there somewhere looking for him. He didn't have much time. He dragged Ezra to the back, and out the door. Keeping is gun steady against his hostage's side, they walked around the corner and into the ally where he had hidden the money.

He shoved Ezra up against the wall while he reached down behind the barrels. "God damnit!" He swore. "It's gone!"

"Did you loose something?" Ezra turned toward the familiar voice, and saw the bank robber do the same. Chris stood at the front of the allyway, holding up the bag of money in one hand and pointing his gun at the robber with the other.

The robber looked over in shock at the man standing at the end of the alleyway. His precious bag of money was held in the strong grip of the law man's hand, and a gun was pointed in his direction. He silently cursed himself for not being able to control his urge of robbing the bank. He should have just rode out of town like he had planned. Now he had to come up with quick way to get his behind out of this situation. He still had his gun, and he had the gambler fellow. Grasping his hand around his hostage's arm, he drew the man in front of him and held the gun against his head.

"I'll make you a deal, sir. You hand over that bag and I'll let your friend here go."

Chris just laughed. "I don't think you really have any idea what your doing. For a bank robber, you are hopelessly stupid. Why don't you just let him go, and we'll end this. I want to get back to enjoying my morning."

Ezra didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the words that Chris spoke. While he had hit the mark with the bank robber; he really was not the brightest criminal Ezra had encountered, he was still dangerous. Most especially with the gun shoved into the side of Ezra's head! "Chris, maybe you should consider the man's offer." The hand the held his arm in a vise like grip tightened even more, and twisted his arm hard.

"Did I say you could talk?" Keeping a tight hold on his captive, he shoved the man forward toward his adversary. "Here's hows it will be. You give the bag to him, you let us go to the livery and then I will just ride away, leaving him here, alive and unharmed. That shouldn't be too difficult."

"No, it shouldn't. 'cept of course for the fact that I have this aversion to letting people who steal other peoples' money go. Wouldn't say much for my current position in this town." The robber and Ezra kept walking forward, and Chris backed away from them out of the ally. This is exactly what he wanted them to do. Having them in the open would give Vin and Nathan a better shot at the robber. He looked up quickly to see Vin on top of the roof of the bank, his shot gun pointed at the spot where the bank robber and his hostage now stood. Vin would not make a shot until he was sure that Ezra was saftly out of the way. Turning his gaze to the ally behind them, Chris saw Nathan seek out and move up silently to the robber. "There's no way your going to get out of here. Come on, let him go and no one will have to get hurt."

"I didn't want to have to hurt anyone either. But it seems as if I have no other choice. " Ezra heard the sound of the gun being cocked back close to his ear, and snapped his eyes shut. He gave off a gasp of shock when he felt himself being pushed forward. Nathan had seen the robber's finger on the trigger, ready to pull it and end Ezra's life right there in the street. He rushed forward and threw himself into the robber's back, pushing him forward and loosening his hold on Ezra.

Chris stepped forward to catch Ezra before he hit the ground. As he helped to steady the gambler on his feet, he looked down at the smaller man's face. He saw a look of gratidute in the emerald green eyes that he had come to know so well. He smiled and nodded at his friend, as if to say 'Your Welcome'.

"Chris, look out!" Nathan's voice rang out, makeing both men turn at once.

The robber had regained his footing, and was pointed the gun straight at them. Two shots rang out if unison. Chris belatedly tried to shield Ezra from the shot, and he felt the other man lerch, but remain standing. The other shot came from ontop of the bank building. Vin, seeing the robber get back up, aimed for him and hit him square in the chest; but not before the man could get off a shot.

Nathan rushed forward, ingnoring the dead man in the street in favor of Ezra, who was standing next to Chris as if nothing was wrong. Chris had untied the gambler's hands, and Ezra was rubbing each wrist. "Ezra, let me see." Nathan said, quickly looking him over in search of the injury he knew was there.

"See what?" Ezra tried to pull away from Nathan's searching hands, but the healer pulled his arm forward and pointed to the quickly spreading spot of red staining his once immaculent white shirt.

"That." Ezra looked down to where Nathan pointed, surprised to see the bleeding wound to his shoulder. He blinked, as if doing so would erase the sight.

"Oh." The single word emmited from Ezra's mouth right before his body sagged.

Chris caught the limp body and lifted it effortlessy up into his arms. "Ezra, I swear, life around you is never boring." He smiled in spite of the concern now growing in him.

Nathan took a quick look and asserited that the wound was clean, having gone straight through with out hitting any muscel. "Lets get him to the clinic so I can patch him up. I think he'll be just fine."

Chris looked over at the body as he walked by with Ezra in his arms. "Vin," he said to the bounty hunter now on the ground and looking at Ezra with worry, "get that sack of manure to the undertakers and try to find out who exactly he was." He headed to Nathan's clinic with his burden, the healer coming up close behind him.

Nathan cleaned and bandaged the bullet wound on Ezra's shoulder, then made him as comfortable as he could on the bed. Ezra had not yet regained consciousness, which the healer assumed was as much to to with the events of the morning as it did with the loss of blood. Nathan mixed some herbs in water, and placed the cup at Ezra's bedside; fully intending to make him drink the entire contents when he awoke. The herbs would help any pain Ezra might feel, and also fight off any fever that might take hold. He knew Ezra would complain about it, the southerner was just about the most stubborn man he had ever met. He looked over at Chris, who was sitting in a chair next to the bed. Ok, make that the second most stubborn.

"He gonna be ok?" Chris asked, his gaze never leaving the still form on the bed.

"Providen' he gets some rest, he should be just fine."

Chris nodded and sat back in the chair, his eyes closing from all the emotional fatigue. Seems like he was always feeling emotionaly drained these days. Which he guessed was probably a good thing. A year ago he had not been able to feel anything. The six men he called friends had made him want to live again, and he could not even begin to know how to thank them for that.

The sound of the door opening made both men look up to see Vin enter. The tracker nodded at them, and ran his steel blue eyes over the unconscious gambler. "How's he doin'?"

"You know Ezra." Nathan said, his wide smile spreading over his face." Can't keep him down for long."

Vin returned the healer's infectious grin. "Yeah, but its not for lack of tryin'."

The other two law keepers had to laugh in agreement. Ezra seemed to attract danger like a moth to the flame, racking up a most impressive list of injuries. On numerous occasions, Chris and the others had tried to give a little extra protection to the danger prone con man, although without his knowing it. Chris knew that Ezra would not appreciate it, no matter what the reasons.

"Find anything out about our robber?" Chris asked.

"Name was Gerald Framing. He had himself a room at the hotel. Found all of his stuff still there. He had a list of banks from here to Missouri and lots of maps. Seems he's been makin' quite a career for himself." Vin sat down in a chair next to Chris, and leaned back.

"Our bank on the list?" Nathan asked, as he ran a cool cloth across Ezra's forehead.

"Nope. Guess that was a last minuet decision."

"Worse one he ever made." Chris said, shaking his head. "Thought this would be easy, but it went wrong. He got scared and got desperate. What a complete wast."

"Found this at the jail house." Vin pulled a folded piece of paper from his coat pocket and handed it to Chris.

The gunslinger let out a low whistle. "Nice sum of money.

A sly grin appeared on Vin's face as he once again looked at the sleeping form of Ezra. "Thought Ezra should be the one to get that reward."

"Did someone mention something about a reward?" The weak, tired voice came from the bed. Nathan leaned over and smiled at the now awake man.

"Hey there, Ezra. Just take it easy. You lost some blood, your gonna be weak."

"You have a gift for the understatement, Mr. Jackson." Ezra turned his head slowly to look at the two men on the other side of the bed. "I do hope you gentlemen forgive me for not joining you in your shooting match this morning. I was unavoidably detained."

"Excuses, excuses." Chris's face was a mask of sterness, but his eyes reflected his joy and reliefe to see that Ezra really was going to be alright.

"What was this about a reward?" Ezra asked again.

"The bankrobber had a price on his head of $1,000."

Ezra just layed there staring at Vin after hearing what he said. The green eyes blinked a couple of times, and his tongue shot out to wet his dry lips. "$1,000?"

"That's right. Its all yours if you want it."

"Well, Mr. Tanner, I beleive I would be a fool to refuse such a tidy sum." Inside, Ezra felt like jumping up and down and yelling for joy. With that money he would be able to buy out his mother and the saloon would be his again. What started out as a bad day had suddenly become the best one he could remember.

"Good. Now that that's settled what do you say you drink this?" Nathan held a cup to his lips as Chris and Vin helped him to sit up. Ezra swallowed, then immediently started coughing. "Mr. Jackson, I swear one of these days these conncotions of yours will kill me."

The End