Mourning Over Dinner
Disclaimers: They are not mine. I don´t make profit from this. Thoughts in italics
Third in the Dinner series, you may want to read the previous parts, Dinner and For Dinner before this one.
Thanks to my beta Laura and to Angela B.
Feedback is welcome. (Be kind, I´m still learning English)
Ezra didnt feel older at all. Mother was right again, a birthday is important just if you want it to be
After convincing Inez of staying in Eagle Bend they shared a nice afternoon in the town and had a great time through dinner. Their conversation had been engaging. They had little in common experiences, quite opposites, but that made the sojourn more stimulating. Ezra walked Inez to her hotel room, the one Maude had used during her short visit to the territory.
Later, Ezra went in search of a game of chance. Reflecting in the events of the day he let a smile settle and joined a group of locals that were playing poker.
"I saw you at the restaurant a while ago," a short old man said to the southern gambler between sipping his whisky and studying his cards. "There was a lovely woman keeping you company."
The old man put down his cards and found that Ezra's calm face had turned to a cold mask. The man quickly explained, "My wife pointed out what a lovely couple you made. She is a seamstress and is always trying to convince young couples to get married so she can make wedding dresses."
The men around the table barely had time to set down their glasses before hurrying to pound Ezras back as the comment nearly made him choke on his bourbon. After a moment he got back his breath, to the relief of the men.
"Are you ok., son?," asked Dylls, one of the fellow players and the owner of the saloon.
"Old Charles can be bold sometimes."
"I´m all right, thank you. The remar it took me unprepared," stated a flustered Ezra.
"Hear you came from Four Corners," said one of the ranchers from the opposite side of the table.
"Mr. Standish is one of the pacekeepers there." said the man from his right, tall and sandy haired.
The con man looked nonchalant but didn't like what was going around. "And how do you know of me, Mr. Clark?" Asked Ezra making his displeasure known.
"Easy, son. This is a friendly game. I'm sure Junior here, was there at the same time as you at the hotel this morning," Dylls tried to mediate.
"I work there, at the hotel." explained Mr. Clark. "And heard the Miss calling you by name."
"Come on," interrupted the blond rancher, "Everybody has heard about The Seven from Four
"The Sheriff recognized you outside of the train station, this afternoon and told me about you," the sand haired man clarified. "Sometimes I help the Sheriff to watch over the jail and he thought that I should know that you are a lawman too."
"Well son, it seems you are famous, at least at this table." Dylls was taking great pleasure at the young man discomfort.
"Perhaps I should visit another establishment the next time I'm in town Mr. Dylls. I do not like the fact of being too well known in yours." Ezra's words caused the man to chuckle.
"That happens when you have nosy deputies and hotel clerks." Said old Charles.
"Who are calling nosy?" asked the indignant sand haired deputy, "It was you who started harassing Mr. Standish about his bride to be."
"She is not..." Ezra attempted to explain, but the men didn't pay him any attention.
"Enough!" shouted Mr. Dylls. "Leave the man alone, if she is or not his fiancée is none of your business. So are you going to continue gossiping or are we playing still?"
As the night went on, the players lost not only their prying demeanor but a lot of their money. Leaving Ezra and Dylls as the last two at the game.
"You are a good player son, but I bet you don't make this much at your little town," stated Dylls looking at the money in front of them.
"Today has been a good day at business," smiled the gambler.
"Just at monetary business?" asked the older man.
"I thought that you had stated previously that my life was of no interest of the other players," inquired Ezra with an arched eyebrow.
"I did, but maybe now I have reasons to ask." observed the saloon owner.
"And what motives are those?" Ezra was intrigued by the man words.
"I have been thinking on going south," elucidated Mr. Dylls. "And travel a little before going back to New York."
"These are interesting plans, Mr. Dills, but I fail to seek a relation with our current conversation," said the puzzled gambler.
"Have you ever thought about owning a saloon?" pressed the older man.
Ezra took a deep breath, to get hold of his emotions before answering. With his poker face firm in place he said; "I did, a long time ago." letting out any kind of explanations he faced the man.
"Would you like to settle in this town? Maybe with the lovely woman you were with before?" the man continued.
Could be that the older man was playing with him or he really was offering what Ezra thought?
Ezra was loosing his patience at the man ramblings.
"Mr. Dylls, What are you trying to accomplish with those questions?"
"Wasn't I clear? I know you are a gambler but nevertheless you stayed in Four Corners and helped to settle the town. Of course that town shows promise, but what I'm offering is a better deal here." Dylls paused. "The Sheriff already values your presence enough to inform his temporary deputies. The youngest like Clark worship your reputation as peacemaker and I know that you have the respect of a lot of the people around, like those ranchers."
Ezra P. Standish had the respect and admiration of people? Mr. Dylls has to be too drunk to believe that!
The man continued oblivious to the gambler's thoughts, "We get word from travelers and some times from newspapers of what happens there."
"Mr. Dylls, I have no idea of what are you trying to say." Ezra was astonished, surely the man had been misled, but by who and for what reason?
"What old Charles said made me think. This town is a better place for newly weds than Four Corners will be, at least for a couple of years. It's not so rough but can use another lawman. Then there are my plans, I would be glad to sell this saloon to you and you would be able to gamble
if you chose too. I don't think you'll get a better deal than this." the older man said, finally laying it all out for Ezra.
"Well, no." Ezra was dazed. Could this be true? The way to fulfill his dream was to stay in Eagle Bend?
The morning had found the remaining pacekeepers of Four Corners tired and unhappy. Not one of them had appreciated the manner in which each other had acted concerning their gambler.
In the restaurant, Larabee lifted his gaze as Josiah took a seat among them.
"I got a telegram this morning, from Brother Ezra... And Inez... I think."
The blond leader just stared, making Josiah pause a moment.
The ex-preacher handed the little paper to Chris so he could read the message himself, which he did out loud for the others.Important business detains us (STOP) Take care of tavern with help of others (STOP) Date of return unknown (STOP) Gracias (STOP) IR & EPS.-
"Inez is staying too?" asked Buck trying to get hold of the note.
"Do you want her to travel back alone?" J.D. doubtful voice questioned him.
"Of course not, but don't really like her being far from town. Even if she is with Ezra." notified Buck.
"Even if she is with Ezra or because she is with him?" inquired Nathan looking closely at Buck so he didn't miss his reaction.
"At least she made the message short and clear. Our brother would have used a lot more words and the meaning would have been confused." breathed Josiah.
"Ezra has never shown any interest in her." Buck said, "Not in that way," he finished, then abandoned his quest for the telegram and settled for stealing one of J.D.'s biscuits.
"That could be because he doesn't think she is interested in him. But since she went after him I'm having my doubts." stated Josiah, making Buck freeze in mid motion.
"And now she's staying. Maybe then he won't be too angry when he comes back and will forgive us easier," interjected J.D. happily.
After breakfast every lawman went to his duties; J.D. and Buck to the jail, Josiah to the church, Nathan to his clinic and Vin to patrol. He was going to Ms. Nettie's later to check that everything had stayed ok.
He was getting his horse ready when Chris came to the livery.
"Are you ok?" The concern in the blond's voice made Vin turn from his task.
"Feel guilty to have forgot. You?" stated the long-haired man.
"Some. Everything that happened wasn't Ezras fault," replied Chris.
"Still caught him in the middle." the Texan's focus returned to his mount. "Glad she went with him, they are good for each other." Vin guided his horse out of the building, he mounted and left without uttering another word.
Chris stayed by the door for a moment before heading to the jail. He needed to talk with Buck.
At the jail, J.D. had been pestering Buck with questions; did he think Inez was interested in Ezra? Would it have been Ezra´s accent that did the trick? Had Buck´s animal magnetism wore off? What eye color would Inez and Ezra´s children have, green or brown? Would they get married at Eagle Bend? Or wait until going back to Four Corners? If they wait, who would be likely to end up as best man at the wedding? Would Josiah marry them?
Buck wasn´t paying attention after the second question. He had seen Inez gazing lovingly at their table a few times in the past but he had been quite sure it was him she was looking at, as she had
blushed and look away when he had turned and smiled to her. Why had Ezra never said a thing about it? Why hadn´t Inez?
J.D. stopped talking when Chris walked into the room. Recognizing the look on the leader's face he decided to remain in silence.
"Buck, we need to talk," Chris said, as he approached his oldest friend, his face was serious and his eyes cold.
"Yeah," breathed Buck. He had been trying to avoid Chris for a while but knew that this moment would come.
"We need to be more careful, Chris. The young'uns can be stupid and get killed by our lack of attention."
"We are not stupid." murmured J.D. who was clever enough to not interrupt the older men´s conversation.
"We need to plan a few options for those kinds of times. A simple bank robbery can make us all lose our heads, we need to know who is gonna be covering who and the likes," The blond agreed.
"Oh God, when did we stop being gunfighters to become babysitters." groaned the mustached man.
"Wait a minute " said J.D. forgetting his purpose to be quiet. He was ignored all the same.
"It´s nobody's fault that Vin believes he can fly when he jumps from those buildings. Or that the kid here thinks that he can stop any robbery by himself. It´s the way kids behave Chris, they think nothing can hurt them. We, wiser and older men, should keep closer watch over them at all times."
"Even Ezra?" asked Chris, pondering Buck´s words.
"He more than any other. That Southern boy can pull the weirdest stunts. He has a very active mind, you know, and most of the time he´s on his own at the shootouts." Buck´s words reflected some of his concern and a lot of his obvious respect for the gambler. "I know he´s used to watching after number one, but we could try to help him a little."
"Like don´t leave him the burden of watching over the entire town?" Chris position about the whole affair was clear; he was angry and taking full responsability for his men´s actions.
"Ah, yes. I think that was our fault. All of us just assumed that the others were around and left him alone," replied the contrite man
"This better not repeat itself," Chris grumbled.
"I think we should look after the young'uns and then they can look after Ezra. Giving them some responsibility can make them stop to think before acting. What do you think about it, J.D.? J.D.?"
"He´s not here anymore," said Chris with a chuckle, "so much for watching them closely," he concluded.
"I´ll go after him." Buck paused at Chris side and got a grip of his shoulder, "We´ll manage, the seven of us together."
"I hope so" was Chris soft reply.
Turning to the desk, Chris let out a sigh. stuck in jail duty again
He sat at the desk just to spring back to his feet. He had come to scold Buck about the bank robbery, the shooting, their following fight and subsequent disappearance and Buck had somehow deflected all this by turning Chris attention to Vin, J.D. and Ezra.
Damn!!! That deceiver got me again, looks like Ezra has been teaching his escapades not only to the young'uns
By night the six were at the saloon, watching over it for Inez. They had to break a couple of fights before deciding to close the place. Buck dropped to a chair at J.D.´s side. "Don´t know how Inez manages. This is a hard work... for a girl."
"I think she does it better than you," Vin said cheerfully.
At Buck murderous look he tried to change the conversation, unfortunately for Chris, he became the new topic, more or less.
"Have you seen Mrs. Travis today?" the Texan asked Chris pretending to sound casual. "She hasn´t came by the jail today."
"I doubt she has left her press at all, must have a lot of things to print." imparted Josiah.
"I think she is still angry at us." reflected Buck, all innocent.
"Or maybe she´s having trouble with the prints, last few times it was Ezra who helped her." J.D.'s words severely affected the older men who had been oblivious to this.
"I thought he didn´t engage in menial labors," interjected Nathan.
"Come on, he´s always helping around. Like the time Mr. Epeler, the telegrapher got the flu and Nathan made sure he had enough food and rest, but it was Ezra who send the messages that were too important to wait." Vin declared making sure Nathan understood that he hadn´t been pleased with the healer´s commentary.
"Or the time he tricked you to unload Mrs. Potter buggy while he distracted her kids. They were real surprised at the gifts that appeared in their rooms." uttered J.D.
"Well, the plan had the need of stealth and hunter instincts." Vin explained to the rest of the peace keepers with Ezra´s words and a light drawl.
"He´s always doing small things for the town folks, like the rest of us," stated J.D.
"Good, Buck, it seems the young ones were already looking after Ezra before you thought about it." Chris observed with a dry chuckle.
"Oh yeah, then why he did end up all alone the other day?" asked Buck to no one.
After a moment Josiah surmised, "At least he´s having a great time with Inez in Eagle Bend."
"Josiah! How can you say that?" Buck outburst took everybody´s attention so nobody saw Vin stiffen his posture at the ex preacher's words.
"Don´t you misinterpret my words, brother. Ezra is in that town with his mother and Inez, he has no reason to not have a great time."
"Until his mama starts harassing him about wasting his talents in an unworthy place like this." at J.D.'s murmur, Chris got the impression the kid knew more than he was letting on.
"Don´t worry Buck," said Vin standing up. "Ez is a gentleman."
he would never hurt Inez feelings
"It´s getting late, I better turn in," said Vin exiting the saloon.
Outside the tavern, Chris approached Vin. "It sure bothers Buck that Ezra and Inez are staying at Eagle Bend." he relaxed against the beam observing Vin in the dim light.
"Hope they come back soon or he´s going to drive us crazy." Chris got the feeling that something was amiss. Vin soft, Yeah didnt ease his suspicions,
maybe Buck isn´t the only one bothered by this
"Something you want to talk about?" asked the leader.
"Nah, just thinking that Inez cares a lot for Ezra. They are good for each other." the Texan rationalized, with exactly the same words he had used before at the livery.
"You think so?" The blond wasn´t all that sure of the conclusions the bunch had reached.He knew that Ezra and Inez cared for each other but didn´t believe that the relationship was going to end in marriage
They were always picking at each other openly, like siblings
"Yeah, I´m sure." Vin paused and then went toward his wagon, "I´ll do the town patrol in the morning." He didn't wait to see Chris approving it.
Chris went back to the saloon. Both Vin and Chris missed the figure observing them from the Clarion´s shadows.
"Ezra and Inez, together?" was the whisper that the wind carried through the deserted town.
That same day, at Eagle bend, the gambler and the barmaid had spend their morning selecting clothes for Ezra, looking over small tokens for the Potter children and browsing over books that might hold the interest of young Billy.
After buying all they needed and a couple of things that they didn´t, Ezra carried the packages to the hotel and then joined Inez at the restaurant.
"Something wrong, dear?" he asked having noted a trace of a blush on the young woman's face.
She shook her head but her gaze went back to a matronly woman at the restaurant entrance. Following her gaze the Southern chuckled, "Ah, I see. She is Mr. Charles´ wife, a skilled seamstress, if the rumor is correct."
"She wants to make me a wedding dress!" exclaimed the again blushing Mexican.
"Really? I think you would look lovely in one of those. Imagine yourself walking through Josiah´s church toward the man of your dreams." Ezra made an exaggerated sigh, "Oh, to be in love," he said.
Meanwhile Inez had diverted her stare to gape at him with suspicion.
"Mr. Standish," she growled, "What... are you... talking... about?"
"Don´t you worry my dear lady, is just that some of the town's people have the inaccurate idea that you are going to get married soon." accounted Ezra unconcerned.
"Me, getting married? But why would they think that? And whom am I supposed to marry?" the young barmaid's voice had turned cold. Ezra could see the almost bloodthirsty glint in her eyes.
She wasn´t going to let that happen after all she had suffered from obsessed men in her past.
Fortunately, Ezra caught her line of thought almost at the same time it developed in her head.
"I´m sorry darling; it wasn´t my intention to unleash unpleasant memories, it´s just that these people think we are engaged." Said Ezra remorsefully.
"We? As in you and me? With each other?" the dark haired woman was surprised.
Ezra affirmation had barely left his lips when Inez' explosive laugh was heard. The gambler let out the breath he was holding, with a sigh of relief. The worry became a smile. Inez was still attempting to get hold of herself when he exclaimed, "My feelings, exactly."
"Yeah. But why didn´t you explain it to them?"
"Mmm, at first it took me by surprise, you know? After I regained the ability to breath the conversation had taken an interesting twist and after that I thought, incorrectly it seems, that the matter had been dropped. Later it brought a very profitable opportunity that I could not let pass without deep research."
"And now?" Inez was still somewhat affected by the situation.
"Now I´m just having some fun," Ezra was looking more relaxed and at ease than at any time the young woman remembered.
"Can I ask you what was the opportunity you mentioned?"
"It is, darling, the possibility of owning Mr. Dylls saloon, the one at the end of the street." Ezra was pleased with himself and it showed.
"Are you leaving Four Corners?" Inez demeanor had immediately changed to sorrow as she asked.
"It´s not impossible. Right now I don´t have the necessary funds but I will talk to Mr. Dylls tonight and maybe we can get a good deal for both of us."
"Shouldn't you talk with Mr. Larabee first, or with Judge Travis?" Inez was searching for reasons that could make Ezra go back to Four Corners before he made up his mind but unfortunately she was too upset to think.
The waitress chose that moment to ask their orders. Ezra had to decide for her. The rest of the meal passed in silence until the young barmaid, with a sad voice, asked the gambler, "I suppose this is the last time we will have dinner together."
"Dear, there are high possibilities that I will not make a deal."
"But you want to stay, and you want a saloon so you´ll do everything to buy it."
Ezra got hold of Inez´s hand with care, "Please, tell me what is wrong?"
"What is wrong?" asked the dark haired in disbelief, "You have been thinking of excuses to leave, you hadn´t thought of the motives you have to stay with us." her eyes got level with his and she
squeezed his hand. "What about Mrs. Travis and Billy, or what about J.D. and Vin and..."
Ezra tried to interrupt, but Inez didn´t let him. "...Mrs. Potter and her kids and me."
"Inez, I haven't decided yet."
"We all will miss you so much." her voice was a subdued murmur.
"And I would miss all of you too, but maybe it is time to search a new locality, one with more future, financially. I´ll ask you to stay, only, I know the reason for you to remain in Four Corners is as powerful as my reason to leave." Inez was one of the few people that he trusted enough to talk to freely. It had taken time on both their parts but after a while their friendship was strong enough to share a couple of the secrets they lived with.
"I should be leaving so you can go with that Mr." said Inez standing. "I think I´m going back home tomorrow."
Ezra followed her to the entrance, "Get some rest, darling, we´ll be leaving tomorrow early."
"Really? are you coming back?" Inez hopefully asked.
The gambler cleared his throat before answering. "I would never let you travel alone, but for staying, well, that´s still in consideration."
"I´d need help then." Inez said with resolve.
"I´m almost afraid to ask but, why should you need help?" her determination made him nervous.
"To convince you to stay with us," she said rolling her eyes. "And I know exactly who I´m going to
ask." she smiled all sweet and innocent.
Ezra realized that this was the prelude of a battle. Would he leave or stay at Four Corners? No one knew yet, but with Inez in the middle of this, the fight was going to be very interesting.
Continues in Maybe