Disclaimer:All the characters from the "Magnificent Seven" T.V. series are property of Trilogy Entertainment, The Mirisch Group, MGM Worldwide. I repeat this to myself daily. Though they really have more fun with me....sometimes Ezra disagrees.....
Ezra was quite surprised to see his mother returning to Four Corners so soon after extricating herself from that theft charge. He fully expected her to stay away from this area in hopes of avoiding her persistent suitor.
He crossed the street and intercepted her by the hotel, "Mother, I am quite astonished that you would put in an appearance so soon on the heels of your emancipation. What brings you back?" Ezra did not have to feign his curiosity.
"Motherly duties, my dear son. I know that you have continued to be disgruntled at my purchase of the saloon. I have also been noticing some extremely negative traits appearing with alarming regularity."
Ezra was still pondering her gross understatement in the use of disgruntled and so was unprepared when his mother pierced his arm with a dart. Almost immediately Ezra started feeling peculiar. He raised his shocked and bewildered face to look into his mother's eyes as he collapsed to the ground.
Maude continued talking to Ezra, "Darlin', I feel it's a mother's duty to educate her son on the error of his trust. Your friends are going to assume you are in a coma, but you will only be paralyzed. Sometime late tomorrow, the curare will wear off, but of course, your partners will not know this. They will talk freely in your presence, and you will discover that they do not have any respect for you. You will come to realize that your faith is misplaced. Hopefully this will educate you on your error and allow you to return to your true profession. My darlin' boy, this is for your own good."
Ezra found that he was completely conscious, only paralyzed as she said. He watched as his mother took out her handkerchief and started waving it as she screamed for help.
Chris appeared on the scene first and assessed it quickly, yelling, "JD, get Nathan. It's Ezra." Chris then unbuttoned Ezra's shirt at the collar and spoke to him softly. "Hang in there Ezra, Nathan'll fix you up."
As Chris was saying this, Nathan was already running over to Ezra, with JD at his side. Josiah, Buck and Vin were only a step behind them. Nathan immediately knelt beside Ezra and began examining him.
After seeing that Nathan had plenty of help, Josiah went to aid Maude. Maude played her part convincingly, "Oh, Josiah. I sure could use a strong arm to lean upon. My dear son, and I can do nothing to help him." She leaned into Josiah to prove her point.
"Don't be worrying, Ma'am, Nathan will fix him up right fine." Josiah offered his arm to steady her. Maude smiled up at him in gratitude.
Chris, Vin and Buck picked Ezra up and carried him to Nathan's place. Nathan checked for Ezra's pulse again, and was worried at how faint it had become.
Vin picked up on Nathan's frown right off, "Is it bad?"
Nathan's brow furrowed as he rubbed his chin, "Hard to say, but it has me worried." He looked around for Josiah and Maude. "I need to find out from Mrs. Standish what his symptoms were before he collapsed."
JD, who had followed them up said, "I'll go ask her." He turned and left straight away.
Nathan looked at the three before him, "I am very worried about his breathing. I think we should take turns watching him, to know if there is any change in it right away."
Chris and Vin nodded, and Buck said, "Sure."
Nathan looked grateful, "Good. I want to look through some of the medical papers I have. If we take three hour turns, that will get us through till tomorrow night. Hopefully, there will be some change for the better by then."
"Maybe those papers will help some." Buck said gently. Nathan smiled his appreciation. Buck then said, "I'll take the first watch. I have a meetin' later on," and smiled.
"With a women, no doubt," Chris smiled as he said it.
Buck grinned broadly, then his expression sobered slightly as he said, "Unless Ezra gets worse, of course."
Chris nodded once at Buck as he said, "See ya in three hours." Vin joined Chris as they left Nathan's place. The echo of their footsteps could be heard over Buck's dragging a chair next to Ezra.
"It could get tedious, just watching his breathin, but it's real important." Nathan looked Buck straight in the eye, hoping he'd understand the seriousness of the duty.
"Now, don't you worry none, I take my nursin' duties real serious. You just go on and get to your readin." Buck's expression backed up his remarks.
"Okay, thanks Buck." Nathan went over to his cupboard and rifled through his papers, finally finding the ones he wanted, gathered them up and left. Leaving Buck alone with Ezra.
Ezra himself was following all the happenings in the office, and wished he could give some kind of sign to them.
Buck sat there next to Ezra, looking down at him, wondering what had happened to him. After a bit, he realized that he couldn't take the silence any longer, so he started to talk aloud. "Well, Ezra, let me tell you 'bout the sweet little lady I aim to see later. For I know that you appreciate the finer sex almost as much as I do. Beneath that roguish exterior beats the heart of a gentleman. And a gentleman knows how to treat a lady. Ezra, I know what you did for that China woman, and that was a right fine thing to do. Women appreciate the finer things and not all men understand this. But, you do, Ezra, you make them feel special, with the gentle touch and kind word. You're a good man Ezra, but I'll keep your secret."
Buck stood up and took a damp cloth off the counter and wiped Ezra's forehead. He bent over and looked closely to double check for Ezra's breathing and was relieved to see he still was. Buck stretched a bit, then took his seat and started talking again. "Ezra, the little lady I will see tonight has long silky red hair and..."
+ + + + + + +
Nathan joined Chris, Vin and JD in the saloon. The three looked up, hoping for news on Ezra.
Nathan shook his head and said, "No change. I haven't found what I was looking for yet, but I wanted to hear on what JD found out."
"Not much," JD's puzzled expression had all heads turn toward him. "Josiah said that Ezra's mother had no real information. Said she was standing there talking to her son and he wavered, then fell to the ground. Josiah felt something was missing from her story, he just couldn't figure what."
"I'm gonna have to check his body more thoroughly. So, Chris, I'll take the next watch, then if you could spell me?"
"No problem," Chris nodded his head as he leaned back in his seat.
Nathan left as quick as he had come. He headed back to his place, but was intercepted by Mary as she stepped out of her office.
"Nathan, how is Ezra?" Mary questioned.
"Same as he was, ma'am. No better, no worse." Nathan's voice sounded heavy as he imparted this news.
"Nathan, I 'd like to offer my help in watching Ezra in the morning." Mary drew her shawl tighter as a gust of wind chilled the air.
Nathan smiled as he replied, "Why thank you ma'am. That would be right helpful, about eight?"
Mary nodded, "I'll be there. Good-night Nathan." Mary went back inside her office and put out the closed sign.
Nathan opened the door and was surprised to hear Buck talking. "Who ya talkin' to? Is Ezra awake?" Nathan was curious, figuring Buck woulda yelled if Ezra had come to.
"Why, Ezra, of course. It got a little quiet in here and I figured that Ezra was hating it, so I helped out by telling him my secret with women. I believe he was riveted." Buck smiled his great grin, eyes flashing with the humor.
Nathan just shook his head side to side, "Then it's probably lucky for Ezra, that he's unconscious. It might be considered torture, having to listen to such malarkey." Nathan's grin matched Buck's.
Buck picked up his hat as he sauntered out the door whistling. Nathan watched the door close and turned to Ezra saying, "That man does think highly of his way with women. But that's Buck for ya." Nathan checked Ezra's breathing and pulse. He also checked for puncture marks or bruises. The symptoms tugged a memory, but Nathan just couldn't pull it out.
He dripped a few drops of water on to Ezra's lips and let them run gently down his throat. He then took the seat that Buck had placed close to Ezra. He leaned forward and directed his voice to the figure lying before him. "Ezra, rest assured, I am doing my best to make you well. I know that sometimes I have had some real bad thoughts about you, but lately, Ezra, I think that we have learned to trust each other more. And with trust, comes understanding. You are not the completely selfish man I once thought you. Instead, you have been steadfast, and even at times, risked your life. So, Ezra, listen up, I for one want you to recover, so's we can work on our understanding."
Nathan wiped Ezra's face with the same damp cloth that Buck had used, and listened to his heart. Faint but steady. He sat there pondering the symptoms.
+ + + + + + +
Josiah, Vin and Maude were finishing up a hand of poker when Chris came and sat at the table. He tipped his hat at Maude, saying, "Maude, as I'm heading over to the doc's, was wonderin' if you recalled anything useful for Nathan?"
Maude looked over at Chris with wide, innocent looking eyes, and shook her head ruefully, "I have been going over everything in my mind, and I can't recall anything useful."
Josiah looked at Maude a little puzzled, but Chris only nodded and left for his turn at Ezra vigil. Chris knocked on the door before entering so as not to startle Nathan. Nathan's eyes were on the door as it opened. He smiled as Chris entered.
"Any change, Nathan?" Chris asked as he set his hat on the counter.
"His condition remains unchanged. I wish I could say different." Nathan replied with exasperation in his sigh.
"Go get some rest, Nathan. You'll be no good for him if you become exhausted." Chris sat in chair beside Ezra.
"Thanks, Chris." Nathan gathered up all the medical papers he'd spread out on his desk.
Chris raised his eyebrows as he pointedly looked at the papers in Nathan's hands. Nathan smiled a mite sheepishly and explained, "Somethin' has been naggin at my memory. I jus know that I've read about these symptoms before. I gotta keep on tryin'." Nathan gave a slight shrug just before he exited.
Chris sat back with his feet up, watching Ezra. Usually he welcomed the silent time, but this particular silence only emphasized the dire predicament of one of their own. Chris paused a moment, reflecting how easy that thought materialized, one of their own. Surprised, he said aloud, "Well, Ezra, you earned it." Chris paused as he changed positions. Then continued musing aloud, "I sure wasn't certain about you when we started. Wasn't sure if you would just up and disappear into the night. But each morning you were still here, until I stopped wonderin' and just started assuming. Now, I think I'd be surprised if you weren't. " Chris stopped as he lit a cheroot.
Again, the silence wasn't friendly. "I'll admit you have surprised me at times, but you've been there when any of us has needed you, and I would have you at my back. So, ya see, you earned it. You are one of the seven." Chris put his feet up again. Now the silence wasn't as bad.
The hours passed and soon Chris was expecting Vin at any moment. So he leaned over Ezra, and with a smile in his voice, whispered near his ear, "Hurry and recover, we need your cheatin' ways." No sooner had he straightened, Vin walked in, and they nodded to each other.
"Nope." Chris picked up his hat as he headed for the door. "He seems to be resting easy, though."
Vin met Chris's eyes, and nodded, then watched as Chris closed the door behind him. He had already been versed by Nathan, so he listened to Ezra's breathing, then took the seat. Vin leaned back, much the same way Chris had done.
Vin always liked the quiet sounds of the night, and tonight, Ezra's continuous breathing was added to his list. His thoughts and the quiet mingled together, the way they did all his years on the road.
When it had been about three-quarters of his time there, Vin reached over an checked for Ezra's pulse and breathing as Nathan had instructed. Looking at Ezra this way, he almost looked the innocent. Vin took on his half smile and said softly, "Ezra, you always appear reluctant to help, but, in the end, you've never lets us down. I would trust you at my back."
When the sky began showing pink, Vin knew that JD would be on his way. JD was always just scooting in, barely on time. Vin just couldn't help smiling thinking of JD and all his exuberance. Sure enough, after a small bit of time, Vin could hear JD's footfalls coming up the stairs.
JD burst in the room, "How's he doing Vin? Do ya think he's gonna get better? What did Nathan say last?" All three questions came out as one long sentence.
"Woah, slow down kid, or do you have a ca-yoat on your tail?" Vin held in his smile, and instead just kept his eyes open wide.
JD looked behind as if to see if the coyote was indeed there, "Oh, Vin. Now tell me, how's Ezra?"
"Nothing's changed, JD." The humorous light left his eyes. Vin left as quietly as he arrived.
JD stepped over to Ezra and put his cheek close to his nose to feel if he was breathing. JD was relieved that he felt the slow, even breaths.
His immediate fear abated, JD started chatting to Ezra, "You'd sure be surprised at all the people rallying 'round you. Why even Casey and Mrs. Potter offered their help. You see, everyone knows your one of us, so's they respect you. You know, it sure seems like each one of us has somethin' we do extra good, and all together we are a strong group. So, you sees, Ezra, we need you." JD wiped Ezra's brow than planted himself down next to him.
JD spent most of his three hours chatting away, telling Ezra about his growing up years. Places he remembered going with his Ma, good and bad memories. JD didn't really figure that Ezra could hear him, but he just didn't want him to think he was alone.
When Mary Travis opened the door, JD couldn't believe where all the time had gone. Mary smiled at JD as she said, "Morning JD. There's breakfast waiting for you at the saloon." Hearing about food was all the incentive JD needed to be on his way.
Mary bathed Ezra's face and hands, then replaced the fallen blanket over his legs. She turned the light on Nathan's desk so it was behind her. She planned on reading to Ezra. "Ezra, I have a dime novel version of the Post printings of Twain's new tale, and I thought it just might be a story you would appreciate. You've been such a help to this town, I would be remiss in not taking this opportunity to help you. Ezra, you've brought culture and polish to this town, and you've managed to help fix some of the problems with your special talents. I am very glad that the wind blew you, and the others into our town."
Mary then settled in and began the story of `The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County'. She read almost non-stop over the next three hours, only pausing to check on Ezra's breathing. As she was just finishing the last page, Nettie Wells burst in the door, followed by Nathan.
Nathan checked on Ezra as Mary bid them good-bye. When the door closed behind Mary, Nettie turned to Nathan and saw the puzzled look on his face.
Recognizing that surprised look she said, "Now, you just wipe that expression off your face. I reckon I can lend my time looking after Mr. Standish here. Now, you git." Nettie plunked herself down in the chair and picked up his hand.
"Well thank you ma'am. If you notice any change, you just'a holler." Nathan looked grateful as he left to get breakfast
Nettie felt Ezra's head for fever, but found none. She sat back in the chair as she said, " Well, Mr. Fancy Dresser, I believe you'd be surprised to find me here. But I never forget a kindness, and you were instrumental in saving my land. You have a kind heart, and if you repeat a word of this, I'll deny it." Even with his eyes closed, Ezra heard the smile in her voice at the last words.
Nettie didn't keep a stream of chatter going, but she did relay stories of past years on and off during the afternoon. Josiah caught the tail-end of one as he entered quietly to relieve her.
"Afternoon, ma'am. Thank you for your kindness." Josiah held the door for Nettie as she exited.
As Josiah closed the door, he then leaned against it. "Well, Ezra, I've had a feeling that Nathan and I have missed some important clue, and I apologize for that." Josiah proceeded over to check on Ezra. Then, he too, sat in the chair Buck had placed at his side.
Josiah said a prayer aloud for Ezra, then added a thought he had been pondering. "Ezra, I have come to believe that your casual disregard of others is just a front to mask and protect yourself. I believe you are a man that could care too much, and thus, you have established this as a means to afford yourself protection. In retrospect, you will perhaps come to view this as a rewarding part of your journey."
Josiah had only been there an hour when Nathan returned. Nathan spoke almost before he had fully entered his place. "Josiah, have you traveled in the bayou area?"
"Yes, Nathan, I have. My thoughts have gone in that direction also. Those that practice Voodoo use a drug that can simulate death. I just don't remember the name of it. Is that what you were thinking on?" Josiah looked over at Nathan.
Nathan flipped through the stack of papers, extracting one, he placed it on top. "Curare, but how did he get it?"
"There is only one way that comes to mind, and it pains me to think on it." Josiah sounded so very sad as he said it.
"Then, gentleman, don't think on it." Ezra's faint voice startled them both. Nathan rushed to Ezra's side and checked for any signs of movement.
"Ezra, let me tell you, I am very glad to hear your voice." Josiah sounded as though a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
"Ezra, can you tell us what happened?" Nathan took in the pained look that crossed Ezra's face, and added, "Ezra, as your doctor and preacher, we will keep in confidence anything you tell us."
Ezra moved his eyes from Nathan to Josiah and saw them both nod. "I truly appreciate that gentleman. I will take you up on that. I don't believe that my mother meant any serious harm. She thought she was teaching me a lesson. And I suppose, in a way she did." For a fleeting second, a pensive look crossed Ezra's face and then was gone. "She spoke of curare, and that its effect wouldn't last long. I am truly sorry for all the stress and worry this has forced you all to endure."
Josiah contemplated his next words carefully, "Ezra, were you actually conscious this whole time?"
"Most of the time." Ezra's voice matched the same quality the was in Josiah's voice. "I did doze occasionally. I did not make it through all of JD's history." Ezra tried to smile on that last bit, but his muscles would not yet respond to all of his brain's commands. "Gentlemen, I ask of you quite seriously, that you with hold that piece of information to yourselves. I do believe it could cause undue embarrassment to some, and I would not wish to repay the kindness shown me with this unnecessary bit of knowledge."
Josiah and Nathan both understood immediately the impact that kind of information might have on the others. Nathan said emphatically, "Ezra, details of your mysterious illness will remain that way, after all, I was only a stretcher barer in the Union Army, and self taught. The others would understand that, and all they will care about is that you will recover." Nathan smiled his seldom seen devilish smile, and Ezra was caught up in the secrets it held and returned it in kind.
Josiah said, preacher-like, "Brother Ezra, issues discussed in confession are not at liberty to be discussed with others. I know nothing." Josiah then grinned, and it reached from ear to ear. Ezra inclined his head in acknowledgment. Then, he too smiled from ear to ear.
Nathan sounded all doctor as he commanded Ezra, "Try moving your legs, .." Nathan waited for Ezra to try, watching his face. "Do you feel yourself being able to move?"
"Yes, I have a great deal of sensation in my toes and hands, and while it is not all together a pleasant feeling, it is most welcome after no feeling at all." Ezra, himself, now sounded relieved.
"We need to tell the others that you have regained consciousness. Be warned, it will get overcrowded in here. But after they have assured themselves that you are on the mend, I will shoo them out of here." Nathan smiled at Ezra. They both watched as Josiah opened the door, and in his loud, booming voice yelled, "Ezra's awake, he's gonna be all right."
Josiah hadn't even finished his sentence when all could hear running feet and a yahoo that sounded like it came from JD. As Nathan predicted, his little place was overcrowded in just a few minutes with well wishers. Ezra just smiled.
Down in the saloon, Maude put her cards in her bag and rose to check on Ezra, as was expected of her. She was a might surprised at how the others ran hell-bent for leather at Josiah's announcement. She followed in their wake.
The Next Afternoon
Ezra knocked on his mother's door, and went inside at her answer. She was at the vanity brushing her hair. Ezra looked at her face via the mirror and said with great dignity, "Well, Mother, as you wished, I have been enlightened. But contrarily to your prediction, I have discovered my value to these men, my friends, and I have you to thank for it. As for working at my true profession, I am. Good day ,Mother." Ezra smiled at her then he turned away first and headed for the saloon and his friends.
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