Strong Ties

by Yolande

Notes: This is actually my second fic, but it was a little delayed in making it here. Every-time I looked at it I kept changing or adding something. Thanks go to Shelley for Beta reading this, time and again and I hope I don't confuse too many people, and that you enjoy reading this story. I'd love to hear any comments and or suggestions, let me know if I'm on the right track. Hey I need all the encouragement I can get. Enjoy!

Part 1
He reread the telegram again. The message still remained the same. Surely they didn't really expect him to go and sort out this mess. Did they? What was the world coming to when you expected a conman gambler to come to the aid of a barely known acquaintance? Let alone plan the man's funeral.

He folded the message in half and placed it inside his breast pocket. He didn't need to view the note again. 'Ezra Standish Stop George McTaggart dead Stop Arrangements need to be made Stop come quickly Stop'. The request imbedded on his brain. The Southerner looked around the saloon and sighed audibly. Standish had been trying to sort out his options. Should he go? Perhaps there was a particular reason why the gambler had been summoned to bury this man. Perhaps the man had left a Will and named Ezra as a beneficiary. Then again, why would anyone of sound mind leave something of value to him? Hell, the man himself was a gambler, probably didn't even have a cent to his name.

He would go. Unfortunately, in doing so, he would have to leave his position as one of the seven peace keepers of Four Corners, a place that had become his home, he would miss it and the other men. He was not looking forward to this, or informing Chris Larabee of his impending departure. Perhaps he should just leave and not say anything. Surely that would not surprise them. If anything, they would be expecting it.

It was approaching noon and the saloon was all but deserted. A lone man sat in the far corner with a near empty bottle sitting on the table in front of him; he seemed oblivious to anyone, drowning his sorrows in liquor.

The Southerner sat at his table shuffling a deck of cards, not really paying attention to them. Sighing deeply, he abandoned the cards and let his eyes view the room. It was quiet. None of the others were here. Chris had taken Billy fishing, the boy had been asking all week to go, and finally today Chris had given in deciding to take the boy. Vin was out at Nettie Wells' place fixing up a fence that had fallen down in the most recent storm. Buck was with a young lady, hopefully her husband was nowhere around or Buck's visit might be really quick and painful; JD and Casey were off riding together. Nathan was over at the clinic attending to young Harry Morris' broken arm, and Josiah could be heard hammering away fixing the roof of the Church.

"Guess I'll go see Josiah," Ezra reluctantly muttered to himself and picking up his cards he pocketed them. Standish hesitantly stood up and straightened his burgundy jacket, dusted it off, and headed out through the bat wing doors towards the Church. He could not put off the inevitable any longer.

Standing on the broadwalk for a moment as his eyes adjusted to the extreme change in light, he absently settled his low crowned hat on his head before stepping off the worn wooden slats and onto the street. Two young skinny boys that grappled for ownership of a small object that he couldn't identify captured his attention. He sighed audibly as be walked passed them, wishing his life could be as simple as those two boys' were.

Part 2

"Ezra what do you mean your leaving?" Josiah bellowed at the smaller man.

The younger man appeared unconcerned by this display of aggression, if anything, he expected it. "As I have told you already Mr. Sanchez, I am leaving this quaint little backwater town and request that you pass on this information to our formidable leader, Mr. Larabee and the others as I am taking my leave now."

"Ezra can't this wait till the other's get back?" Josiah almost pleaded.

"I have a rather lengthy journey ahead, so I must get under way post haste."

"Does this have anything to do with what you and Chris were arguing about last week?"

"I can assure you Mr. Sanchez my leaving at this particular moment in time corresponds in no way with the aforementioned difference of opinion between myself and Mr. Larabee."

Josiah stood silent, running his fingers through his salt and pepper hair, trying to fathom out what the Southerner was really up to, by trying to read between the lines. Unfortunately with Ezra you just could not read him. Finally, as a sudden spurt of inspiration hit him, the former preacher volunteered, "You want me to come with you?"

The gambler was astonished by this offer, and his poker face slipped for a brief flicker of a moment before the mask came back into place. Josiah thought he saw the emotion in the Southerner's eyes, but it was gone so quickly he was not sure. "Thank you for your generous offer Josiah, but I can not impose upon you to do that, I must do this alone." The gambler held out his hand to shake the larger man's hand. Josiah firmly clasped Ezra's hand in his and pulled the gambler towards him, enveloping him in a bear hug. This also surprised the gambler and he didn't move for a minute, allowing the giant of a man to hold him close. "Ah, Josiah..." Standish left the sentence unfinished.

The older man realising the younger man's embarrassment released him from his grasp. "Take care of yourself," the older man heeded.

"Always do Josiah, always do." Ezra smiled showing his gold molar, but the smile didn't reach his eyes. He gave his customary two-fingered salute and turned on his heel and departed the church.

Josiah watched the figure of the man depart his sanctuary. The man seemed burdened by some weight, but uncomfortable about discussing it with him. He felt unaccountably saddened by the abrupt departure of Ezra.

From the outskirts of town Ezra glanced solemnly back at the town he'd just left. He'd found a home, companions and a sense of belonging in this town. And in a matter of moments it was all gone. Turning Chaucer, he led him away, not looking back again, as he felt the small tears that escaped the corners of his eyes and ran down his cheeks.

Part 3 - That evening

The saloon now pulsated with an ambience that it lacked earlier during the day. Some trail riders had made their way into town that afternoon and as well as the local partons and visiting travellers they all indulged in a drop of sustenance before heading home for the night. Some of these men sat hunched over the tables playing poker, whiling away their hard-earned salaries. Occasionally a cheer would go up as one of the men won his money back, followed not long after by a groan of complaint. The steady hum of noise echoed around the room and bounced off the walls. Chairs scrapped on the wooden floor boards as they were slid back and forth under the tables, glass clinked on glass as yet another soul poured himself a drink and the laughter, coughing talking and whistling all contributed to a boisterous atmosphere. A smoky haze added to the effect, drifting over the patrons.

Five of the seven regulators sat around their usual table at the saloon discussing their day. The saloon had become a sort of unofficial meeting place of the Seven. Chris and Vin were sitting back just taking it all in, sipping on their drinks. Content in the pleasure they received from the by-play between Buck and JD. "Hey Buck, you sure you didn't know that Miss Lizzie's husband was out visiting with his sister over at Eagle Bend?" Buck reacted to this statement by reaching across and whacking JD's bowler hat off his head sending it flying to the floor. "Geez Buck! Can't ya stop doing that?" The younger man whined, "ya know there ain't nothing wrong with me wearing this hat. Bat Matheson wears one just like it." JD proudly announced as he picked it up off the floor and dusted it off before replacing it back on his head.

"Hell JD you really ought to get yerself a decent hat and put that one out of its misery," Buck raucously continued to tease the younger man.

Vin had been following the conversation between the two friends and couldn't help himself by suggesting, "JD, Buck's just trying to divert the attention from him so's you don't all find out that he lucked out with Miss Lizzie."

"What the hell you talking about Tanner?" Buck sputtered, indignant at the notion, "I'll have you know that Lizzie and I..."

"Not in front of the boy Buck," Nathan quickly admonished. Larabee now had a genuine grin from ear to ear.

Josiah appeared at the batwing doors, stomping the mud off his boots before entering into the brightened room. He surveyed the room and discovering that everyone was there. He sighed heavily as he noticed the general buoyant temperament of the group.

"Hey Josiah!" JD yelled out, almost tipping over his chair with his over exuberance, alerting the others to his presence. Buck grabbed him by the belt and pulled him back into the chair.

"Can't you just sit still and wait for him to join us without upsetting the furniture?" JD threw a dirty look Buck's way.

Josiah stopped at the bar on the way past, got a drink and proceeded to their table. "Boys. Have a pleasant day?" This was following by a litany of highlights from each, Buck and JD being most boisterous. Josiah forlornly bowed his head to his chest and let out a sigh; this captured everyone's attention, all eyes now riveted on the preacher.

"Sumthin' on yer mind Josiah?" Vin quietly inquired.

"Ezra's gone," was all the larger man said, but this said it all.

"What?" Chris shouted in disbelief, his voice reverberated across the room. A pregnant silence echoed around the room as everyone stopped what they were doing and stared at the gunslinger following his outburst. Chris ignored the inquisitive looks he received from around the room; his eyes scrutinised the ex-preacher's to confirm his words. "You sure?"

The ex-preacher diffidently nodded, "he came and told me just after midday that he was leaving, couldn't talk him out of it. He left early afternoon." The others now also loudly voiced their own opinions to this piece of unexpected news.

"Always thought he'd go, just didn't expect it'd be today." Nathan announced.

"Aw come on Nathan, he might'a had a reason." Buck turned and looked beseechingly at Josiah waiting for confirmation of this statement. Josiah casually shrugged his shoulders but shook his head, furrowing his brow in concentration. He tried to remember if Ezra had given him any clue as to why he departed so abruptly.

Vin bowed his head and let it fall to his chest letting the shadow of his hat cover his eyes, knowing his despondency would be evident, if he looked up.

JD stared, shocked at them all as he looked from one to another. "You all don't think he just up and left us for no good reason do you?" Upset by a surge of disappointment at these men, that they could so easily think the worst of Ezra, truly perturbed the young Easterner. He also felt disappointed that the Southern gentleman had left Four Corners without saying good-bye.

A frown crossed his forehead for a moment, lost in thought, JD knew there was something missing to this puzzle, and then suddenly remembering spoke hurriedly, "What about that telegram that he got the other day? He's been a reading it over and over, then when anyone comes near him he folds it up and puts it away in a real hurry."

"Telegram? When was this JD?" Josiah asked, buoyed by this revelation. "Anyone else notice Ezra with this telegram?" Suddenly given a possible solution as to why the gambling man left, Josiah latched on to it. Josiah had been quite disturbed by the younger man's departure and couldn't understand why.

"I seem to recall he was reading something at the jail yesterday when I came to relieve 'im. But he put it away real quick like. Thought it might'a been a letter from Maude. He up and left then, didn't say nothin' about it though." Buck supplied.

Vin, although outward appearances indicated otherwise, had been closely tracking the conversation, "Yeah, I saw him reading sumthin' this morning in the saloon 'afore I headed out to Nettie's. Could of been bad news the way he was frowning at it. Said I's going out to Nettie's and I don't think he even heard me. Didn't think nothin' of it at the time."

"Anyone else?" Chris asked, turning to everyone in the group, "What about you Nathan, you see him with this telegram."

"Nah, haven't seen him much of late, think he's been avoiding me."

"Or you of him Nate?" Josiah asked his long time friend.

"Now what's that supposed to mean Josiah? I ain't been avoiding him!" Nathan huffed in indignation.

Josiah growled at the dark healer, "How's the man been avoiding you Nathan when he spends most of his day in the saloon? You ever want to find Ezra; this is the first place you'd look. He ain't been avoiding you Nathan, he hasn't left the saloon."

"Maybe," thought the healer non-committally.

"What about you Chris?" Vin queried.

"Nah, we haven't exactly been on good terms of late, more so since last week... " He turned to face Josiah as if struck by a sudden inspiration. "Josiah you don't think that's why he left do you?"

"If you're referring to the disagreement you and Ezra had last week, then no. I asked him if that was why he was leaving and he assured me it had nothing to do with it. I'm more inclined to believe his leaving had something to do with that telegram he got." Or at least he hoped that was the reason for his departure. He hated to think Ezra would leave because of one of the seven. Seven? Hell they were only six now.

"You could be right Josiah." Chris agreed, "we have to find out what was in that telegram." Larabee squarely faced Buck and JD, "you two boys get on over to the telegraph office and talk to Murray Kindley see if he remembers what was in that note to Standish."

"On our way," Buck hollered back as they raced out the doors of the saloon.

"Vin and I'll check his room, see how much stuff he's taken. Nathan and Josiah go on over to the livery, check with ole Matt, see if Ezra let anything slip about where he was headed. Back here in half an hour. Let's go!"

Part 4

Half an hour later the six peacekeepers regathered together around their table. The gambler's usual spot was conspicuous for its vacancy. "Okay Buck, JD what'd you find out?" Chris asked.

Buck decided he'd do the talking. "He wasn't gonna tell us anything, you know privacy and all that, but with a little persuasion he opened up like a can." The man smiled gregariously at his sleuthing. "Wire came from Talon Creek, that's up north somewheres. Some guy called McTaggart died and apparently Ezra must know him, cause they wanted him to organise the funeral arrangements."

"I just don't understand why he didn't tell us?" JD remarked.

"Hard to say why Ezra does anything he does. The man's full of mystery, and too many secrets." Josiah supplied.

"Must be a really close friend for Ezra to up an go like that," JD thought out loud.

"If he was such a good friend JD then how come he didn't light outta here as soon as he got the wire?" Tanner probed.

"That's a good point Vin," Josiah thoughtfully rubbed his hand across his stubbled chin, "I think Ezra's the only one who can answer that one though."

"Most of his things are gone from his room, doesn't look like he was planning on coming back this way. Nathan, Josiah you find out anything?" Chris asked.

"Nah he just saddled up and took off, didn't talk to Matt, or anyone else as far as we could figure." Josiah nodded his head in affirmation of what Nathan had said. "Headed north, so Matt said, so I guess he's aheading to Talon Creek. Least wise he's heading in the right direction."

"What cha thinking pard? You gonna go after 'im?" the quiet spoken tracker queried their blond leader.

"Yeah, something's not quite right, we'll ride in the morning. Buck and JD will stay an watch over the town and the rest of us'll go after Standish." Satisfied with his instructions, and expecting them to be carried out without protest, the black clad gunslinger pushed back the chair away from the table. Having all intentions of leaving the saloon and heading over to the boarding house to make ready for the long journey they were undertaking early the next morning.

JD boldly stood up to protest, knocking over his chair in his haste, " but none of you are even gonna listen to him. You'd already made yer minds up as to why he'd left without even hearing his side. I think I should go with you Chris, he needs at least one friend there for 'im when we catch up with him." JD held his breath not knowing how Chris would react to his brazenness, but stood firm in his belief that what he was doing was right.

Chris paused in his exit and turned to face the young easterner considering his request, "all right JD," surprising the other five men with his easy acceptance of JD's proposal, "you can go, but I still want two of us to remain in town."

Nathan volunteered immediately, "I'll stay, can't say as he'd really want to see me anyhow." Josiah shook his head at the dissension that Nathan afforded the absent gambler.

"Okay that's settled, let get some rest, it's gonna be a long day in the saddle tomorrow."

Part 5

Ezra had been riding hard and fast since leaving Four Corners. Not that he was really in that great a hurry to get to Talon Creek, heavens knew the gambler, in all honesty, would rather be anywhere else than attending a funeral, but more so to get a greater distance between him and a certain disgruntled blackclad gunslinger. Knowing Larabee as Ezra did, he did not put it past him to come after him and put a bullet in him for leaving in the manner as he did.

Chaucer was breathing hard and his sides heaved with exertion. His neck was stretched out full as the horse gave its all to his owner. Legs pumped, as the chestnut gelding flew over the desert floor. Standish sat low over the animal, trying to create as little resistance as possible. He knew it was unforgivable to ride the animal to such extremes, but what else was he to do?

Standish started to reign in the horse and slow the pace, allowing the animal to recover it's strength. McTaggart wasn't going anywhere; he'd still be there when Standish arrived in three days time. The sun was already in a downward spiral towards the earth and once the sun had set the Southerner would not be going any further that day. Riding by night was not a favourite past time of his, and as there would be no moon out tonight he would have to find a satisfactory site for a camp. Travelling by night can be a foolhardy risk, especially when one is not entirely certain of the direction or the terrain. So tonight he would have to settle for a hard piece of earth for a bed and a lumpy jacket for a pillow, a poor substitute for a feather bed and pillow.

The sun had risen into the morning sky an hour ago, just starting to warm the desert floor and melt the dew from the night. Even with his low brimmed hat sitting directly over his face the brightness of the new day managed to filter around the edges. Standish, who was not in the usual habit of arising early, awoke much earlier than usual. Reluctantly giving in to the invading rays of sunlight he decided to get up. Untangling himself from his bedroll he folded it up. A shiver travelled through his sinewy body and he wished that he wasn't out in the environs.

Unwilling to hasten his tasks, he set about making some coffee over the diminished fire of the night before. Strategically placing a few twigs and branches brought forth a new spark from the slowly dying fire. While the coffee was brewing, he approached his horse and patted him affectionately before offering from his pocket, a piece of sugar to the animal. Chaucer greedily took this and started looking for more as soon as it was finished. "That will do you for now, my friend, we have another hard days ride ahead of us today. I hope you are up for it?" The Southerner had always felt an affinity with his horse. Standish spoke in soothing tones to the animal while he saddled his equine friend. Feeling guilty that he had pushed his horse so hard yesterday and yet now he was preparing to do the same again today. Standish gave his friend a friendly pat before heading back over to the re-established fire where his coffee would now be ready. The gambler could not imagine starting the day without the brew, and he sipped contentedly on his coffee before heading out.

Part 6

It was still early, and a cold wind whipped along the deserted street. The burning fires along the street had died out an hour or so ago, but with the coming of dawn and with the approaching day they were no longer needed. Six men congregated around the livery, as four of the men prepared to leave. Buck was hovering furtively over JD checking that the boy had not forgotten anything. He was a bit disappointed that he wasn't going with them, not only to keep an eye on JD but because he had become friends with Ezra. He was proud of JD that he stood up in defence of the Southerner, and that he wasn't willing to accept that the gambler would just abandon them without cause. Buck tugged his thick jacket tighter around him and prayed Lizzie would be able to warm him up when he returned to her welcoming bed. Chris, Vin, Josiah and JD all mounted their horses, saddles creaking as they settled themselves, and headed in the direction they knew Standish had taken.

Chris and Vin took the lead followed closely behind by Josiah and JD. Nathan and the ladies man watched them until they were a dot on the horizon. Only then did Nathan turn to Buck and suggest going to the restaurant to get an early breakfast. Buck smiled benignly at the former slave, giving him a wink and replied he had a better offer and that he'd see him later in the day. Nathan shook his head, and headed for the restaurant alone.

Two hours later the four gunmen had stopped; three of them remained on their horses while Vin dismounted. Crouching down he examined the dusty trail, stretching out his hand he picked up some of the dirt running it through his nimble fingers. Tilting his head back he spoke to his friends, "He's still heading north, but he's travelling mighty fast, doesn't look like he's even broken stride. We'd best get moving," the tracker announced, "way he's going we'll be lucky to even catch him." Tanner tossed the handful of earth back to the ground as he stood, then remounting Peso he nudged him forward setting a faster pace; the others followed his lead.

It wasn't until mid afternoon before they encountered Standish's first night's campsite. They continued on after this until the sun had set for the day, they needed to make up lost ground, Standish had a half a day's hard riding between them. The four men rode on; words spoken were of a minimum.

Part 7

Ezra Standish rode hard and pushed his horse to the limits. He was uncertain if Larabee was pursuing him or not, but he didn't want to risk the chance of him catching up, so he urged his faithful friend even harder. He knew this was unforgivable putting both Chaucer and his own safety at risk, but promised to make it up to him when they reached Talon Creek. Knowing his horse would appreciate being in a warm stable in town than out in the open, he continued the hectic pace.

Two nights out in the open night air with only a horse for company, was sufficient for the gambler, who was more accustomed to the finer side of life. Although the Southerner had spent many a night in less reputable conditions he didn't relish doing this anymore. As a youngster Ezra had been passed from relative to relative, barely seeing his mother during his younger informative years, until she realised what a gold mine she had in her son. Using him in cons that would supposedly benefit the both of them. Those times Ezra looked forward to, because this meant that he would get to spend time with his mother. But those times didn't last long enough, Maude would find a prospective husband or someone worthwhile to fleece, and the young man would be fostered off on the resentful relatives. He was always promised that he wouldn't be there long 'I'll be back in a few weeks' was the common assurance his mother used. But she didn't return when she said and often left him stranded there for six months and sometimes even a year. The young Ezra never got on with his older cousins and they constantly beat up on him. Befriending the susceptible boy only when they required his talents. The aunts and uncles used him for child labour and worked him hard, claiming he had to earn his keep, and pay for the fact that they had to feed another mouth. Mulling over these disturbing thoughts the last part of the journey seemed to pass quickly.

Ezra arrived in Talon Creek at dusk on the third day after he had set out, taking only two and a half days to reach the small nondescript town. A wagon rattled up the dusty street sheltered in a cloud of red dust as it passed him. He scanned the main street, immediately spotted the undertaker's; he didn't want to go there just yet though. First he'd find a room and then have a bath, travelling for two and a half days without the vital comforts one expected in a civilised community was unrewarding. The town appeared smaller than Four Corners, at first glance; the saloon across the street was just starting to hum with activity, with the night crowd streaming into the building. There was a general store already closed for the night, a telegraph office, hotel and restaurant, bank and jail. The stables were at the end of the street, and a few houses were scattered about. The gambler urged his mount in the direction of the livery, deciding that his horse was entitled to a rub down and he would attend to this himself.

After acquiring a room and soaking the desert grim off him in a tub of hot water, the Southerner felt considerably better. Running his hand over his now stubble free face and feeling the accustomed smoothness again was a reassurance. His clothes although somewhat rumpled where cleaner and fresher than the attire he arrived in. Feeling more like himself he decided now was as good as time as any to head over to the undertaker's and arrange for the body of George McTaggart to be buried.

Ezra Standish stepped inside the room and came face to face with an old withered man, of indeterminate age. He was balding on top, but had a mass of facial hair flowing twisted and matted down almost to his waist. The man was probably tall in his younger days but now he was hunched over and stood no taller than the Southerner.

"Good Sir, I believe I am in need of your help," drawled the Southerner.

"What cha want mista?" The gravelly hoarse voice called out.

"Standish. Ezra Standish," the gambler offered his hand to shake the undertaker's outstretched gnarled and arthritic hand.

"'enry Dobbins. Official undertaker of Talon Creek." He announced with a touch of pride.

"Mr. Dobbins, l am told you have the body of a George McTaggart on your premises?"

"Yeah. You here to claim 'im?"

"That would be me." Ezra let out a sigh, " Did he...Ah...have anything of...value on him? Perhaps a letter?"

The old man strode, surprisingly with very little effort, to the drawer in a table, roughly drawing it open. "This is it; a pocket watch was all he had on 'im. Now iffin you'd be paying the expenses of burying him, then you can 'ave it. Otherwise I'll be keeping it to help cover the bill."

"No. I'll pay you your fee. May I have the watch?" The old man reluctantly handed over the watch dropping it into the outstretched palm of the Southerner.

"You want me to arrange a couple of fellas who'll take him to the cemetery for ya?"

"That would be most agreeable. Is there perhaps a man of ecclesiastic persuasion in residence of your humble town?"


Seeing the man's confusion Ezra added, "A man of the cloth? A Clergy man? A preacher?"

"Oh. Nah. The church burned down a few years back. 'aven't ad a preacher since about then."

"Thank you Mr. Dobbins for your time and invaluable assistance. I'll be back in the morning." The gambler unfolded a roll of money and handed the appropriate amount to the man before heading out the door into the frigid chill of the night air.

Part 8

Ezra Standish stood by the plain wooden casket as it was lowered into the newly dug gravesite at the bottom end of the Talon Creek cemetery. No words were spoken. Although Ezra had portrayed a preacher at one stage, he could not find the right words at this moment. Ezra hung his head, and let his chin rest on his chest. No others from the small western town had attended the funeral of McTaggart.

The two men hired by Henry Dobbins dutifully buried George McTaggart, when they finished shovelling the last of the mound over the top of the coffin they stepped back, wiping away the sweat dripping from their faces, and looked towards the sombre mourner, waiting for further instructions. When Ezra didn't immediately acknowledge them one of them coughed to gain his attention. The Southerner raised his downcast eyes connecting with the man and acknowledging his presence, "Thank you, that is all I require." The two men nodded, and hoisted their shovels over their shoulders strode off towards the Saloon.

The Southerner stood at the grave, contemplating the isolation and solitude the man had endured. Whether it had been a forced loneliness or of his own compunction Ezra didn't hesitate a guess. Speculating if he in turn would die alone, be buried in an unmarked grave with no one to miss his passing from this life to the next. "George McTaggart" Ezra heard his own voice crack, glad that no one was here to witness it, "what a life you led. Going from town to town, never settling anywhere long enough to call home, forming no attachments or having any friends. Was it worth it?" Ezra's accent thickened as he asked, looking not at the mound in front of him but up at the sky, searching for the ultimate answer. "Is this what it's going to be like? Surely there is someone out there that would be at a loss over your demise? Hell why would you have me to fix things for you?"

Ezra pulled the old timepiece out of his pocket and rubbed his fingers over the casing. Turning it over in his hands and noticing for the first time the inscription on the back 'Time is forever ours' Floss. A frown appeared over his handsome features, 'who was this Floss? And where was she?' Flipping the lid open he traced his fingers over the exposed hands as the glass piece was missing. As he turned the wind up to restart the watch he realised it was broken. "Hell, even this thing it dead," he dejectedly threw the useless timepiece to the ground. The watch hit the earth and the back fell off leaving the watch in more pieces. Ezra turned to leave when he noticed the scrap of paper that had fallen out of the back of the watch. He bent down to retrieve it and the watch, unfolding the note that had been stashed away in its hiding place. Scribbled almost illegibly in black ink across the scrap of paper was 'E.S. Floss and Joe. Cannon Falls.'

"Perhaps there is someone for you after all Mr. McTaggart," he reflectively fingered the note.


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