Just A Day
by Mary Ann

In the Year AU

The small town sat quiet under the snow bound whiteness. Only a few dogs ventured outside and were quickly let in again. No one had heard any wolves howling for a couple of weeks now and were happy about that.

Ezra paused to check his watch before looking out the partly iced up window - it was almost time for him to go to the jail for his work hours. Flower and Heather stood looking up at him and he smiled at them. They now stood just over 2 feet tall at their shoulder, and weighed a pound - if not more - for each inch.

With a sigh he patted them both on their heads and told them, "I must go out and to work for awhile. You can keep an eye on the establishment for me. I will return before it is your dinner time. Stay out of trouble, and I might give you a treat." Two pairs of eyes blinked and with flicks of their long tails the two cats walked away, heading into the lobby of the hotel. Ezra smiled, and with a shake of his head pulled his coat closer around him and opened the door.

Hurrying across the road and onto the covered boardwalk, Ezra covered the 100 or so feet to the jail in a short time. He opened the door, and entered the warm room seeing the man he was taking over from rise from the comfortable desk chair.

"Hey Ezra, glad you're here. I'm gettin' bored and tired. And hungry," grinned Vin, as he moved to the stove and shoved several more pieces of wood into it.

"Anything occurring Mr. Tanner?" Ezra asked as he hung up his coat and glanced around the jail's office. He noticed how clean the workplace looked.

"Naw, Conklin's been quiet and Jonas is sleeping it off."

"Conklin?" Ezra exclaimed in surprise. He took a step and looked through the double bars to where the old man sat on the bed in one cell, scowling at everything.

"Seems like he got into an argument with Mrs. Potter. He almost hit her. He did wallop her son with a broom. She got real mad about it, so mad, that said she would be pressin' charges against him. So, I had ta arrest him."

Ezra hid his smile from Conklin as he turned away from the steel bars. The man was a thorn in their sides. Conklin seemed to always be at the bottom of most adverse things that happened in town. For once it was nice to see the old bad tempered big mouth, sitting in a cell.

"What are you going to do now Mr. Tanner?"

"Goin' to have a hot meal, then head on out to the ranch, ta help Chris. We'll be back in town tomorrow afternoon. Judge Travis will be here on the next bus. Well, Mary said anyway, weather permitting. It's due in an hour or so. Judge'll talk to Conklin tomorrow I think. Jonas can be let go as soon as he's awake and sober." Vin grinned as he pulled his warm coat on over several layers of shirts. "What's for dinner at your place ta'nite?"

"Inez said pot roast with all the trimmings, and peach cobbler."

A grumble sounded from Vin and he blushed scarlet as he pulled his hat on. "Guess I'm hungry. Bucklin will be here at 11 pm to relieve you. See ya tomorrow." With that Vin opened the door and walked out, pulling it closed after him. The cold air made Ezra shiver as he moved to the desk. Once the door had been closed, he looked towards the cells and saw Conklin stalk around his cell before the old man stopped and gripped the bars. His angry gaze turned to Ezra.

"Let me out of here, I did nothing wrong," he demanded.

"Well, Mr. Conklin, I believe Mrs. Potter informs us differently, and she has pressed charges. You must reside behind these bars pending action for this occurrence, to be settled by Judge Travis sometime tomorrow. Now if you will, without further ado, sit down and calm yourself. Your dinner will arrive presently." Ezra sat down at the desk and began to look through some of the paperwork stacked in a neat pile on the flat surface.

With a curse Conklin threw himself down on the bunk and jerked a blanket around him. "Its freezing in here. I need some heat."

"You will have to wait until the heat is working better. There is only one heater back there, and you must share it with Mr. Jonas." Ezra replied, and turned his head so the man couldn't see his grin. It thrilled him to see Conklin on the wrong side of the bars for once.

Vin hurried across the frozen road to the hotel. Inside he found a table near the stove and moments later Inez arrived, bringing him a plate of steaming food. She followed that with a large cup of strong coffee and a sugar bowl. Vin saw a flash of dark colors coming towards him. He grinned as the two cats circled around his legs then sat down, one on each side of his legs. After his second plate of excellent pot roast, potatoes, vegetables and gravy, he leaned back and fed the cats the few scraps he'd saved for them. Inez brought him a large bowl of hot peach cobbler with heavy cream and placed it in front of him. He almost purred as the cats were doing, feeling like he'd almost died and went to heaven, as he savored each bite of the delicious fare.

Darkness had started to cover the land when Vin left the hotel restaurant, after telling the two cats he'd see them the next day. He hurried to the huge stone livery and saddled Peso, who grumbled at his master, knowing he had to go out into the cold and snow. Vin pulled on a heavy pair of coveralls then his heavy coat again before leading the black outside and mounting. Turning the horned horse's head he told him, "Let's go home." Peso snorted, blowing a cloud of vapor into the cold air, and with a shake of his horned head, the big black broke into a canter and headed out of town.

By the time they reached the trail leading over the foothills and cliffs surrounding Chris's ranch, night had fallen. The snow covered ground reflected enough light for them to make the trip without any problems. The horned horse quickened his gait as they worked their way down into the valley and the ranch that lay hidden there. A while later Vin saw the warm, beckoning lights of the house, and knew Chris would be waiting for him.

Peso halted at the barn. Vin stiffly dismounted and opened the barn door. Peso pushed past him with a huffy grumble and hurried towards his warm stall. Within a short time, Vin finished caring for the horse. With a last pat he headed for the door. He made sure it was closed and latched behind him then walked through the snow to the house.

Chris met him in the living room with a hot cup of coffee, sweetened just the way he liked it. Shedding his outer clothes he settled close to the large fireplace and told Chris of the day.

They both enjoyed a laugh over the idea that Conklin, for once, ended up behind bars for a couple of days. They hoped Travis would give him a week or more, just for the heck of it. The old man thought he ran the town, ordering people around, and always trying to trample over the peacekeepers, every chance he got. He was always put out and contrary to whatever they tried to do for the town.

+ + + + + + +

And so it happened. Mid-morning the next day, Conklin was sentenced to a week in jail then three weeks of helping the Potters at their store.

The seven were enjoying the peace of not having to listen to Conklin complain, as one of the stipulations the Judge made. If Conklin did complain to any of the seven, or anyone else, he would serve more time, up to several weeks per offense.

The whole town hid their smiles, seeing him working hard and following Mrs. Potter's directions. It proved to be just a day that they could all enjoy, that would last for several weeks.


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