Disclaimer : Not Mine.. no profit.
With thanks to all the people who wrote after I posted my other fics - You keep me writing!
Comments: Squeakypeep@hotmail.com - be nice.
The scruffy ex-bounty hunter sat basking in the late fall sunshine, balanced somewhat precariously on the rear legs of an old wooden chair which creaked ominously at the ill-treatment. The sunny saloon porch was positioned in such a way as to allow him a clear view of both ends of the dusty street.
Although seemingly asleep, Tanner watched through slitted eyes as the townspeople scurried about, hurrying to complete their tasks before the sun set and the chill of the evening chased away the fragile warmth.
Suddenly tipping the chair forward he gained his feet with a fluid grace, which belied his rough appearance, and moved to lean hip-shot against the porch upright. He fixed his gaze unblinkingly on the North end of town.
Across the street, where the young sherriff had been engrossed in a dimestore novel, JD Dunne caught the abrupt movement of his friend out of the corner of his eye. He watched him for a moment and then turned to see what Vin was watching. Nothing. He turned back to the Texan who remained unmoved. Closing his book he rapped on the wooden wall of the jail behind him and called, 'Hey Chris.'
Larabee emerged from the interior of the building. 'JD?'
JD nodded in the direction of the saloon. Chris glanced over the street at the sharpshooter and took in his alert stance. Like JD, he turned to see if he could make out what Vin was watching.
The gunslinger and the Easterner exchanged looks and stepped off the boardwalk together. Tanner did not acknowledge their approach, although both men knew he was aware of their presence.
Chris joined him at the rail. 'Trouble?'
'Maybe?' Dunne seached the horizon. 'Can you be more specific Vin?'
Tanner looked down at the sherriff, at a more acute angle then normal since JD's feet were still on the dirt street, and gave him a pained look. JD shuffled his feet uncomfortably. Sometimes the men he rode with made him feel like a ten year old.
The Texan refocussed on the distance. 'Somethin' comin', heavy, noisy. Ain't a stampede, ain't a train. Don't rightly know what it is. Should be comin' over that rise about now.' The other two turned to look and within seconds a peculiar sight began to emerge.
A team of six draft horses, lead by a man on foot, were pulling a iron flatbed wagon loaded down with an enormous mishapen load, concealed by a dusty tarpaulin. There were four outriders on either side and another group of three bringing up the rear. All of them were armed.
Chris eased the leather strap off this peacemaker and tucked the long black duster back behind the holster. It never hurt to be prepared.
'Now that ain't somethin' ya see ever'day.' Vin gave him a sideways look, complete with sideways smile.
As the strange procession rolled into town, people were drawn out of their homes by the unfamiliar rumble and many stopped to stare at the newcomers.
Josiah and Nathan appeared at the bottom of the steps which led to the healer's clinic. Ezra and Buck emerged from the saloon and took up positions on either side of Chris and Vin.
'Well Gentlemen, this is undoubtably the most interestin' spectacle to visit this dusty little backwater since the day Mr Wilmington discovered his evenin' companion was not referrin' to courage when 'she' informed him that she had more balls than he did.'
'I told ya Ez I knew she was a man minute I laid eyes on her, I was just funnin' ya'll.'
'Way I hear it, eyes wasn't the only thing ya laid on 'er.' Vin chuckled as Buck spluttered.
'Boys.' Chris's warning tone told them to keep to the task in hand. The entourage had stopped in the middle of the street, the heavy horses blowing and tossing their head in their harnesses. Chris stepped forward to the edge of the saloon steps but he did not speak.
The man Driving the team swung down from the bench. 'We're not looking for trouble Mister. You got a Sherriff in this here town?'
'That'd be me.' Dunne stepped forward. 'Sherriff JD Dunne. You boys staying in town long?'
'You're the Sherriff?' He looked incredulously at the black clad gunslinger. Chris's sharp green gaze remained on the mounted men behind the wagon driver. 'He is.'
The man quickly recovered himself. 'Sherriff. My Name is Nye Wilkins and these gentlemen are hands from the Stuart Ranch outside of town. We are making a delivery to Mr Stuart. We will be on our way in the morning.' He turned and looked at the ranch hands. 'We will stay in town tonight and these gentlemen will not give you any trouble.' He glared at the ranch hands who were smirking.
'We won't START any trouble.' The swarthy, heavyset man on a blaze-faced black seemed to be the leader. His look seemed to say, 'but we'll finish it...
JD watched him. 'See that ya don't.' He noticed one of the hands unhitching the team. 'Hey you can't leave that there. It's blocking the middle of the street.'
The dark cowboy swung down from his horse and handed to reins to a younger man who seemed to be in charge of caring for the horses since he then collected the rest before heading for the livery. The cowboy climbed the steps of the saloon and stopped as he met the green eyed glare of the leader of the seven. As any one of the townsfolk could have told him, getting into a glaring competition with Larabee was always going to end one way and as expected he backed down first.
'Ain't got no beef with ya, Mister, me an' the boys jest want a drink is all' and taking a step sideways he pushed past Vin to get into the saloon. Tanner let him pass without comment.
'Mr Wilkins, may I enquire what manner of article you are escorting to Mr Stuart's ranch?' The handsomely dressed gambler looked spectutively at the wagon.
Standish, Sir, Ezra P Standish.'
'Mr Standish, you may indeed inquire. This, my good fellow,' he indicated the eight foot tall covered mass behind him, 'is a statue of Mr Franklin Stuart himself, cut from a single piece of Italian Marble by the reknown sculptor Euphemedes Washbourne the Third, and commissioned by Mr Stuart as a birthday gift to his wife.'
'The man commissioned a statue of himself?' Ezra started to laugh, his chortle echoed by his friends. 'I always considered flowers or a trinket to be an ideal gift for a lady...'
'Awful tall ain't it? Stuart ain't but a little runt.' Tanner was gazing at the covered statue.
Wilkins looked taken aback. 'I have not had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of the esteemed gentleman...'
'He ain't that big.' Larabee looked down at the little man who took an automatic step backwards.
'Can we see it?'
'Alas, Mr Stuart left specific instructions that the unveiling was to take place only once delivery had been made. I assume, Sherriff, that this will be safe here overnight?'
'Ain't nobody gonna steal it, Mister. Who'd want a statue of Stuart, even if they could move the damn thing?'
With the exception of Josiah, who was making his rounds of the town, the rest of Four Corners' peacekeepers were ensconced at their usual table in the corner of the saloon. Ezra had already cleaned out the newly arrived Ranch hands and was idling flicking his cards between his fingers. The rest of the room was empty, save for Inez who was clearing the tables.
Talk inevitably turned to the day's new arrivals.
'Maybe we should escort them boys up ta the ranch, get a look at that statue.' Buck was trying to get his curiosity under control and failing miserably.
'Ain't our business.' Chris's tone brooked no arguement which, of course, was no deterrent to the Texan.
'Mebbe we should take a look anyways.' Chris raised a brow at him. Not you too?
Tanner smiled mischieviously.
'It may be prudent Mr Larabee, to take steps to ensure that the article in that wagon is in reality what the estimable Mr Watkins claims it to be.'
'What are you suggesting Ezra?'
'Well it is not my intention to cast doubt upon the good word of another gentleman, but it would seem that to me that if one were desirous of transporting items which would draw the attention of the authorities, this would be a ideal manner in which to accomplish such a feat without arising the suspicions of said lawmen.'
'What's that in English Ez?' Dunne took a sip of his milk.
'He said he wants ta know what's under that tarp, kid.' Tanner grinned at the outraged expression on the gambler's face.
'I did not. I am merely suggesting that we, as duly appointed representatives of the law in this little corner of the territory, should ensure that nothing illegal or dangerous is being passed under our noses.'
'Yep, that's what I said.' Vin chuckled.
'What sort of 'items' did you have in mind Ezra?' Chris stared at the conman. If anyone knew about shifty dealings it was him.
'I really have no idea, Mr Larabee.'
The others looked at each other.
'Alright. We'll take a quick look and put the cover back on, if only to get you all to shut up about it.' The others grinned at each other. That had been too easy. Obviously Chris was also curious.
They moved off towards the door.
'Just don't damage anything.' The gunslinger had no idea how prophetic that statement would prove to be.
Vin untied the knots securing the statue to the wagon and Nathan and Buck stood at either side, ready to pull the cover free. At a signal from Chris the two pulled and the tarp began to peel away revealing the sculpture beneath.
As the cloth settled around the feet of the figure there was a stunned silence.
'Oh my god.' Ezra, standing well away from the wagon gawped. The others all began to laugh.
There standing before them in all his glory, and then some, was a eight foot tall male nude.
The face was recognizable as that of Stuart but the rest was surely wishful thinking.
Legs braced apart, the well defined chest and abdominal muscles seemed to ripple with life, highlighted by the seams and colours of the stone. Postured as if surveying those before him he stood proudly, hands settled easily on narrow male hips. Thick thigh muscles tapered down through strong calves to disappear into the disgarded tarpaulin.
But what focussed and drew the attention of the flesh and blood audience, was the fact that the figure was anatomically correct, and seemingly ready for action.
'Oh my God.' The Southerner's impressive vocabulary seemed to have deserted him. Even in the low light from the street fires, Vin could be seen to be blushing. JD had his hand over his mouth, eyes wide. Chris and Nathan stood shoulder to shoulder, mouths agape.
Buck, well Buck, being Buck, stepped up for a closer look.
'Woowee. Would ya look at that.' Wilmington climbed up onto the flatbed and approached the marble figure. 'Mrs Stuart sure ought to be smilin' more if that's what keepin' her warm at night.' He reached out a hand to touch the impressive phallus.
'Jeez Buck don't touch it.' JD found his voice.
'Consider, if you will, Mr Wilmington, what would befall your reputation were you to been seen gripping that which seems to have garnered your interest.'
'Somethin' ya wanna tell us Buck?' Tanner had supressed his blushes and taken on an air of nonchalance.
The ladiesman snatched his hand away. 'Ain't nothin' ta tell you boys, just sizin' up the opposition.' Buck grinned at the others, now gathered round at the front of the wagon.
Chris raised his brows. 'Well Ezra. See anything there that could be considered dangerous?'
They all started to laugh again as the gambler blushed.
'That rather depends on you point of view Mr Larabee.' Chris grinned.
So caught up in the sight before them they failed to notice Josiah approaching.
'What is going on here?' The booming voice took the group unawares.
Unfortunately, Buck managed to get his feet tangled in the tarpaulin and he teetered for a moment on the edge of the wagon before tumbling unceremoniously over the side.
The group watched aghast as the marble man began to rock, unsecured by the ropes Vin had loosened earlier.
'Oh my Lord.'
'Quick, catch it.' JD began to panic.
'Catch it? JD that monster is made 'a stone, ain't nobody gonna catch it.'
They all watched as the figure began to topple over, face first. There was a endless moment of silence before a resounding crash as it hit the front of the iron wagon and then slipped over the edge to land with a thud on the dusty street.
'Ever fixed up a stone man before?'
The healer gave the gunslinger a withering look.
The following morning the seven men watched as the entourage disappeared out of town in a cloud of dust.
Wilmington spoke first. 'Ya think they'll notice?'
'Nah, Nate fixed him up real good.' Tanner laughed.
'Boys, the drinks are on Ezra.' Larabee turned and stepped through the doors of the saloon.
'Me?' Ezra spluttered following, 'Why me?'
'It was your idea to look under the cloth Ezra, you're buying.'
'It was Mr Wilmington's big feet that caused the mishap, Mr Larabee, I think under the circumstances...' He trailed off in the face of the green glare.
'The drinks are on me, for one round only gentlemen.'
''Ass right generous pard, I've a hankering ta try that 'spensive imported stuff ya never share.'
The collected Ranch hands, Mr and Mrs Franklin Stuart and assembled guests stood gathered while Wilkins removed the ropes and prepared for the grand unveiling.
Stuart stepped forward. 'In honor of my beloved wife's birthday I would like to present her with this token of my esteem..'
Smiling at the assembled Audience he tugged at the tarpaulin and they all held their breaths as the cloth cover slipped away.
There was a silence followed by chuckle, which quickly spread amongst the group.
'What... my statue...what?' He stood and gawped as the others fell about in gasping, giggling heaps. Mrs Stuart started to smile which quickly developed into full blown laughter as tears ran down her face.
The marble figure stood, revealed in all his glory.
Well defined chest and abdominal muscles seemed to ripple with life, highlighted by the seams and colours of the stone. Postured as if surveying those before him he stood proudly, one hand settled easily on a male hip. His other arm, cut off just below the elbow, supported a crutch propped under his muscular bicep, poor compensation for the missing leg. His once proud phallus, cut short and glued in place, was pointing South and slightly sideways to a spot a short space in front of his single foot.
'Thank you, Frankin it's perfect!'