No infringement upon the copyrights held by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment
Group, The Mirisch Corp. or any others involved with that production is
intended. This is purely fiction and based on the television series, The
- For a rundown on the guys check out this page
CHARACTERS: Ezra, Maude & Chris
SUMMARY: Ezra has a confrontation with Maude, and ends up responsible for a young Chris.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thanks to Mitzi and NotTasha for beta reading this fic, and Heather's encouragement to post it.
COMMENTS: Yes, please!
DATE: 10 Feb 03
Extort thy Childhood
Blood Brothers, AU
rushed along the crowded street. He paid no mind to the hectic
bustle or the fancy hotels he passed, nor the rude stares he garnered as
he pushed through the throng, parting them down the centre.
What the young
gambler did notice was his growing ire, his confusion and, yes, the
painful hurt. He muttered to himself as he jogged along the
overflowing boardwalks. This only acquired more curious looks.
How could she do
this to me? he screamed inwardly. He wanted desperately to holler
and shout out loud, but ‘appearances were everything’, and he was not
about to break that golden rule…not yet, at least.
The fine gambling
house loomed in front of him. This was the third such place young
Standish had visited that afternoon. He had no trouble entering the
establishment; he had visited this place before, and he was wearing the
appropriate attire of a gambler. They wouldn’t curtail his entry.
Money was, after all, what the gaming house was built for, and any money
was worth their taking. But Ezra Standish had no intention of
gaming at this particular time.
His heart beat a
little faster, as he scanned the opulent room, searching for HER. He
passed the craps tables and then the numerous roulette wheels and jostled
through from one room to the next. The rooms were crowded with eager
young men vying for their fortunes and many older, more experienced
players, hustling the inept and naive. There was a descent
smattering of female gamblers and a large assortment of staff and
onlookers. There was cheering and cursing, groaning and nervous
stammering, not to mention the flick of cards, the roll of dice and
spinning of wheels.
quickly up the spiral staircase and systematically scoured the second
floor. His face contorted when he finally discovered the woman.
She stood, centre stage to a group of five attentive admirers. She
was playing them for all her worth. She threw back her head and
laughed heartily, lightly patting one of her so-called gentleman friends
on the shoulder and smiling inanely at him. Ezra wondered briefly,
which of them would become his next stepfather. “MOTHER!” Ezra
growled, glaring at the blond-headed woman. He ignored the group of
darling,” she cooed, but the ire in her eyes nearly matched that of her
“Where is he?”
dear…” Maude Standish attempted to draw her son away from her group of
attendants. “We don’t need to discuss this here.”
Ezra pulled his
arm from Maude’s firm grip and rounded on the con-woman. They
stood in the middle of the second floor of the gaming room, having drawn
quite an audience. Standish didn’t care. “What right do
you have…stealing children,” he sneered in disgust, “for your own
“Be wary of what
you are accusing me of, young man,” Maude warned. “I don’t
need to resort to kidnapping.”
“Your act of sincerity is pitiful, and you and I both know it is only
for the benefit of your audience.”
jealous, Ezra. Don’t you like it when I pay attention to someone
other than you?” Maude simpered at the listening crowd.
She’d have them under her spell soon.
Standish made a
choking sound in his throat. “I’m not jealous of any waif you
managed to pick up and con with your promises of wealth. I doubt you
treat him any better than you did me. And when have you ever paid me
any proper motherly affection?”
“Oh, we’re not
going to get into that again, are we?”
Ezra was stunned
by his mother’s response. Yes, he wanted to cry. He
desperately needed to discuss this with her, or someone. But he’d
tried before, and usually found himself abandoned on the doorstep of some
unknown relative for his indiscretion. This was no place to bare
their dirty laundry, but there never was an appropriate place when it came
to Maude. “No, we are not,” Ezra agreed miserably. His
mother, as usual had distracted him from his purpose. “Why are you
abandoned me,” she hissed in return. “Leaving your own mother to
defend for herself. I was left with no other recourse.”
“I am fifteen
years old, mother! I am not a child any more, to be shuffled like
old money under the table and for services rendered. I was sick of
the cons; because we both know that was the only reason you kept me
around. You never wanted me, and I’ll bet none of your friends,”
he sneered the word, glancing at the group of gullible idiots, “are even
aware of your maternal responsibilities.”
lips thinned. How dare this young upstart challenge her in her own
stomping grounds in front of prospective clients. She’d taught him
everything he knew. Made him into something worthwhile and gave him
a career abundant with many opportunities. And he despised her for
it. “You left me in an awkward situation, Ezra. I had to
find a replacement…”
That brought the
young Southerner to the crux of the matter. He’d heard along the
grapevine that Maude Standish had been hustling with a child. Ezra
couldn’t allow his mother to take and destroy the child, the way she’d
done to him. He felt responsible for the boy, knowing he couldn’t
leave the child under the con-woman’s control. He would foil her
plans and abscond with her protégée; that might teach Maude a lesson.
“How long have you had him?”
Maude smiled at
the fledgling gambler; he was extremely talented and held a promising
future, if only he’d heed her wishes. She’d led them to the
corner and didn’t feel quite so exposed now that they had some privacy
to discuss the matter; maybe Ezra would be willing to join up with her and
her new protégée and complete her scam…she glanced at her only child,
and decided that was probably not an option. “He’s been with me
for three months. He’s nowhere as talented as you are, darling,
but when one is forced to use substandard…”
whirled, ashamed at his mother’s words. “What of his family?
You just kidnapped him and brought him to New Orleans?”
“Don’t be so
melodramatic. The boy has no parents. I found him on the
streets, and have offered him a better life.”
“In your opinion.”
“I’ll let him
go, if you promise to join me in his place,” Maude bargained. She
smiled sweetly, and flicked back an errant curl off Ezra’s forehead.
stepping out of her reach. “You would do that?”
dear,” she grinned, reaching out to cup his face gently.
widened in alarm; his lips curled into a sneer. “You would abandon
the child in this city, just like that?”
dismissively. What did she care about the boy; he wasn’t her
concern. “He is not my child. But if you came back with
horrified by what his mother was suggesting. “I can’t do that
anymore, mother. And I can’t allow you to keep the boy.”
sighed. It didn’t matter really, she’d not been impressed by her
new protégée in any case and had been going to dump him in the next few
days…what did it matter if it happened now? “Fine,” she easily
complied. “You take him.” With her final words Maude
Standish turned her back on Ezra and, masking her emotions completely,
returned to her admiring crowd. They had waited patiently for her to
finish. “Fool, child,” she gushed in way of explanation.
“Thinks for some reason I am his mother…follows me from city to
sank, not wishing to hear Maude dismiss him so coldly. But his
determination to set out on his own was made stronger. Now he needed
to find the child and set him free of Maude’s clutches. It
shouldn’t be too difficult…How many children would be playing poker in
the gaming house? Of Ezra’s time here, he remembered himself being
the only child to pass through those doors; and he had done so, in so many
different towns and cities, conning for Maude and making a killing on his
natural ability with the cards. Gambling, and finetuning his skills,
were something he wouldn’t be able to give up. But the conning
Maude had him participating in, was finished with.
His mouth narrowed
and his brow furrowed. It didn’t take long to find the child, as
he’d expected. The boy was seated at a felt-topped table shared
with three other players. Ezra took an empty seat and watched the
blond-headed boy shuffle the deck. He did it well, but the movements
were jerky and unnatural. In the three months of Maude’s tuition
the boy had learnt the rudiments, but it was obvious to Ezra that he
wouldn’t have the skill to keep in Maude’s good graces. He might
be able to con better than he could play, but Ezra doubted this.
the young boy asked Ezra. There was no animation to the child’s
tone. He sounded defeated.
you can go home, now.”
The boy stopped
dealing cards around the table, and his small chest heaved up and down.
“I’m here with Maude.” His eyes darted nervously around the
room, expecting her to appear the very minute he said her name.
need you anymore,” Ezra brusquely informed the boy.
around the table. “Are we playing here or not?” “Get on
with it.” And; “Keep out of this, kid and mind yer own
business.” One of the heavier players roughly pushed back his
chair, and lunged in the direction of the young Southerner.
Ezra flicked his
right arm upward, the derringer springing quickly into his palm. He
shook slightly; this was the first time he’d used it since strapping it
on his arm. It felt strange and unnatural, and he couldn’t believe
he had the nerve to employ the gun. The gambler, who’d been moving
toward Ezra pulled up, stunned. Standish watched him slowly raise
both hands and the tremors that started and shook him down to his boots.
“I suggest you consider you options very carefully,” Standish warned,
holding the three players at bay. “Come on, kid.” Ezra
pushed back from the table, guiding the boy out of the gaming house and
onto the street. Standish returned the derringer and sighed deeply.
“That went well,” he muttered.
“Who are you?”
the boy asked.
down at his young companion; the child was probably seven or eight.
His hair was too long and hung over his eyes; he kept pushing it off his
face. His clothes fitted well; a small concession on Maude’s part,
no doubt to have the boy fill his role adequately, and his boots were
shined to a sheen. But his eyes held a sorrowful expression;
something that wasn’t expected in someone so young. “Ezra P
Standish, at your service.” Ezra held out his hand to shake the
boy’s, but he withheld his small hand. “And you are?”
matter,” he answered sullenly. “You and Maude related, or
Ezra squatted to
the level of the shorter boy. He grinned wryly. “She
is my mother,” he admitted ruefully. “Where are your folks?”
He knew Maude had said the boy didn’t have any, but she wasn’t against
stretching the truth to benefit her own means.
The boy lifted his
head and stared up at Ezra. He refused to cry. “My ma’s
sorry…what about your father?”
“You got any
After a long pause
the blond-headed boy nodded. “My brother.”
sighed. He could dump the kid off on this brother and leave.
“Where’s he? Is he in town?”
took him away…”
Ezra raised both
his eyebrows. “How old is your brother?”
him…then my ma was killed…then Maude came,” the little child
his eyes to the sky. Everything was crashing down on him. This
couldn’t be happening. The kid’s brother had been kidnapped and
his mother killed, and a child left abandoned to Maude’s authority.
“There any other family?” He knew the answer before the boy
replied. Of course there wasn’t.
“You gonna tell
me your name?” Ezra persisted; he needed to call the boy
The boy hadn’t
told Maude his name, but then he hadn’t trusted the con-woman since
she’d taken him from his home and ferried him across the country and
started his, ‘schoolin’, her word, not his. He wanted to return
home, but there was nothing left, except charred remains. His mother
was dead, burned in the home they’d shared, and his brother was missing.
Adam had been his best friend, not only his younger brother.
“Chris…It’s Chris Larabee.”
“Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Chris Larabee.” This time
Chris eagerly shook the gambler’s hand.
The boy smiled for the first time and Ezra breathed a little easier.
“You got any money?”
Chris turned out
his pockets. There were half a dozen coins in his palm. And
Ezra had not much more. “We’ll work something out.” Ezra
knew how to quickly double their cash. “Where are we headed?”
“East of Eagle
Bend…” Chris grew sombre. “Are you gonna take me?”
“I can’t very well leave you here, now can I?”
Next story:- Color me Black
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