Mayhem Woo Hoo...It's Finished!!!!!!! 14th June 02
These are a collection from the drabbles page that just kept growing...each section is 100 words in length, excluding the titles. Unbeta-ed...so all mistakes are mine. Hope you enjoy!
Story moved to Blackraptor in October 2009
Josiah departed Four Corners, their prisoner riding a dappled mare between them.
In three days hence he would await justice in another town. The outlaw was
tied to the saddle horn and conspicuously quiet for the first day. The
gambler and preacher watched him more closely. He returned their
speculative looks with cocky indifference and rode with an air of arrogance.
second morning the outlaw talked incessantly. He was on edge, as though he
were waiting. The two lawmen attributed his nervous behaviour to his upcoming
trial and ignored it. They were unprepared for the ambush.
guided his mount through the narrow ravine. He turned back to watch the
others pass through when a branch whipped out, knocking Josiah from his horse.
His arms and face were scratched from the branches, and the wind forced from his
lungs. The outlaw smirked at the preacher’s downed position.
shot echoed in the ravine. Sanchez slowly stood, raising his hands high in
surrender. Out the corner of his eyes, he could see Standish doing the
outlaw laughed, joining the side of his liberator. They glanced at each
other and the second bandit fired again.
grunted and was somersaulted off Chaucer with the momentum of the bullet.
A burning pain ripped through his side. He bit his lip attempting to ward off
the wave of dizziness. He heard the rush of horseflesh and the pounding hooves
as their prisoner raced to freedom. His cohort leading the way.
gambler struggled to his feet, clutching at the bloodied jacket to cover the
wound, but the subterfuge was unnecessary, Josiah already knew he was hurt.
He smiled weakly, a ghostly facsimile.
gathered up the smaller man and lowered him down. “I’ll fix you up,
stared into the campfire. A shower of embers flew high into the midnight sky.
A pensive smile broke out on his weathered face as he glanced over the flames to
where the younger man lay.
watched as Standish rolled onto his side; he slept restlessly, moaning every so
often. Ezra sported a fresh wound to his side, curtesy of the bandits they
were tracking. It’d bleed a lot initially, but Sanchez had gently tended
the injury. His heart had pounded when he saw Ezra fall from the saddle.
God, he’d feared the worst. He couldn’t lose his son.
flushed with a slight fever. His side ached, and it hurt even more
attempting to lie perfectly still, but he didn’t want to worry Sanchez any
further than he had earlier that afternoon.
heavy eyelids, Ezra watched as Josiah hovered by the fire. He rolled off
his back, regretting it instantly. A moan escaped, and just as quickly the
preacher was by his side rubbing his back and pulling up the blanket that had
slipped to his waist. Josiah wiped his brow and offered a canteen to his
lips. Ezra closed his eyes, knowing he was safe.
kept a concerned eye on the gambler. Standish sat stiffly in the saddle,
his head bobbing in time with the horse’s movements. He’d refused any
help in mounting, but now he was beginning to sway. Sanchez wondered how
much longer Ezra could cope, before passing out.
Sanchez steadied the younger man, and felt the heat radiating through Ezra’s coat. He lifted the jacket to check the bandages. At least there was no fresh blood. But Ezra needed to stop and recoup his strength. The preacher took hold the reins from limp fingers and smiled reassuringly at the bewildered gaze.
interrupted their passage. The bullet tore up the road in front of Chaucer, and
Ezra was unseated. He cried out wretchedly as his abused body hit the
leap to his friend’s side, wildly searching the ridge for the attack. He
deliberately placed his body in front of Ezra to protect him. “Are you
hit?” he asked anxiously.
groaned, attempting to sit. “Not this time.”
“Stay still,” Josiah ordered, patting his thigh. “I can see him,” Sanchez grinned jubilantly. He drew a bead on the outlaw and fired. “Got him!”
Standish sighed, slipping into unconsciousness.
rubbed at his temples. Lord it was hot! He gulped a large mouthful
of water and poured some into a cloth. He was certain that they wouldn’t
be going any further today. Sanchez wiped the cool cloth over the
gambler’s forehead. “You hang in there, son.”
eyes fluttered and he smiled weakly. “Can’t get rid of me that
easily,” he rasped.
preacher returned the smile. “You get some rest. We have a long
you’re ready, old man,” Standish countered.
chuckled. He poked at the fire and watched his charge drift off to sleep.
glanced anxiously over his shoulder. He felt guilty leaving the Southerner
alone and injured, while he scouted for the remaining bandit. Sanchez
ambled quickly over the rocky terrain, his boots scuffing softly over the course
shouldered, Josiah crouched, examining the remains of a cigarette crushed
underfoot. He licked his dry lips; a sudden feeling of dread rose, causing
a hitch in his breathing. The preacher straightened, his eyes desperately
searching out his companion, hidden below. A crack of a discharged pistol
split the air. “No!” he screamed, stumbling down the ledge,
expecting to find the worst.
fell from the ledge above him; he wondered if it was Josiah or the outlaw they
sought that generated their fall. Standish pushed back flush against the rock
wall, his Remington wavering in his hold. Its cold metal heavy in his unsteady
hand. His injury ached and his vision blurred. Where was Josiah?
The outlaw jumped into his sights, his face glowering with a wild sadistic passion. He aimed the weapon in Ezra’s direction, but never completed the action. Ezra’s bullet didn’t stray, and the outlaw dropped without a cry. The gambler winced; his side was bleeding once again.
stumbled down the rock face, his heart pounding in his chest. How could he
have been so foolish? Why did he leave the boy? He’s hurt and
fevered, not in any position to protect himself, Sanchez cursed. What had
he been thinking?
skidded to a halt.
outlaw was dead. Josiah kicked at the motionless body, and sighed with
relief. Ezra had killed him with one shot. The preacher glanced at
the Southerner and shook his head in awe. The bandages where bright with
grinned roguishly. “A little help, if you don’t mind?” he rasped.
Josiah tied off
the bandage; he stared intently at the younger man. “How’d you get
over here?” When Sanchez had left the gambler, he was secluded behind
some rocks. The outlaw shouldn’t have been able to find him.
straighter, grimacing at the pull on the wound. “I couldn’t very well
leave you to hunt down the miscreant.”
exactly what you were supposed to do,” Josiah reprimanded, albeit softly.
“No harm done.”
“And what do you
call this?” he pointed at Ezra’s side.
can’t be fixed,” he replied glibly.
“Ain’t worth risking your life!”
Standish’s mouth dropped open and he
frowned at the older man. Stunned! “You can’t believe I would
sit back and wait while you risked your life, to protect me?”
“I wasn’t in any danger!”
“No more than I,” Ezra stubbornly
Sanchez sighed. There was no
convincing the gambler. “It would have hurt me worse if he had killed
you,” Josiah confessed, slightly embarrassed at his admission.
“But he didn’t. Do you think I would have felt less pain at your demise?” Standish pressed. The preacher had become an important part of Ezra’s life, since he’d arrived in Four Corners.
Standish sluggishly opened tired eyes, and
gazed directly into the concerned blue orbs of Sanchez. “Morning,” he
slurred, a ghostly smile drifted over his face. His hand drifted to his
side and a wave of nausea hit him.
“Your fever broke. Want some
“Something stronger?” Ezra implored.
Sanchez shook his head and rolled his eyes.
“Nope. How’re you feeling?”
“Good. We might be able to leave
“We can depart today.” Ezra
attempted to sit, but grimacing as his wound pulled.
Josiah pushed Standish back.
“Perhaps a day of rest would be
welcome,” Ezra conceded.
preacher frowned, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “Need to find their
horses.” The judge would expect them to bring the outlaws back to town.
don’t require a minder,” Standish growled, though he smiled. “Go
find them,” he ordered.
Sanchez nodded and returned quickly leading the dabbled mare. He tossed the desperado over the saddle. “Didn’t see the other mount.” It’d probably run off. “I’ll bring the other fella down.” He climbed up the ledge, where he’d last seen the bandit. There was blood on the ground, but the body was gone. “Hell!” he shouted and rushed back to Standish.
wasn’t how he’d planned his escape! His brother shouldn’t be dead
and he shouldn’t have a hole in his gut. Damn that preacher! And
Standish! If it were the last thing his did, he’d get revenge.
He had no
intention of hanging; that was not his destiny. But death was not the
freedom he’d sought. His shirt was bloodied and he hurt so badly.
He couldn’t have too much longer, but he’d be damned if he was going to hell
before he’d enacted his justice. He howled with laughter. “Come
and get me,” he whispered in a sadistic sneer.
gone!” Sanchez puffed, glancing vigilantly over his shoulder, wondering
if they were in danger of being ambushed again.
not deceased?” Ezra queried, tugging at his jacket.
plenty of blood, but no body.”
nodded in understanding. The outlaw could still pose a threat. “We
should locate him first…”
want you to stay here.”
mother hen routine is becoming maudlin, Josiah,” Ezra muttered. Sanchez
smiled indulgently, reaching out to steady the gambler as he stood.
“It’s your funeral,” Josiah grumbled, attempting to keep his voice from faltering. It had better not be, he screamed silently!
two lawmen searched in a widening pattern. They circled the
surrounding area methodically, tracking the bandit. They started
where the criminal had been wounded, and followed the trailing blood
path. The heavy pools of blood indicated the outlaw didn’t have
long in this world, if he was not already dead.
The splotches of blood disappeared behind a bush. Sanchez pointed to the boot that was sticking out a fraction, and pulled aside the growth. The blast of gunfire, his sharp intake of breath and the outlaw’s vindictive grin were Josiah’s last coherent thoughts as he stumbled backwards, in agony.
Ezra screamed, a wave of dizziness assaulted him as the preacher collapsed
heavily on top of him, the older man’s weight dragging them both to the
ground. The gambler grunted, his eyes glazed over and he fought to stay
awake, but a surge of dread rose in his chest. Josiah lay limp in his
arms. “Don’t you die!”
Standish had a job to finish. He screwed his face up and squinted into the desperado’s lifeless eyes. “You worthless piece of garbage! If you weren’t already dead, you’d have known a new meaning to the word suffering!” Ezra growled fiercely.
dreaming and his mind wandered through the cloudy haze. He trembled,
something urged him to leave this haven, but it remained poignantly beyond his
attempted to speak, but the words slurred from his mouth. He tried to open
his eyes, but the heavy lids refused to respond. His limbs were numb and
he felt like he was floating in water. His head bobbed gently on a fluffy
pillow and he smiled inanely. This was the life. He’d rest now and
work out what was nagging at him, later. Much later! He was
comfortable here, why rush?
treated the preacher’s wound as best he could. The bullet had gouged a
deep grove along Josiah’s hairline and he’d been unconscious since.
The wound bled a lot initially, but Standish was now satisfied that he’d
managed to control the loss.
Southerner was struggling with his own limitations, but pushed his body to the
brink of exhaustion.
muttered reassuringly to the older man, not even listening to his frenzied
words, but he hoped Sanchez would somehow hear them and respond. So far,
Josiah had not reacted. The lack of movement pushed Ezra to the brink of
you can’t hear me, but you could at least have the civility to listen,”
Standish grumbled, tilting Sanchez’ greying head back.
have you know that both miscreants are now devoid of this world,” he laughed,
a brittle sound to his own ears. “And given the new circumstances, they
will be remaining here. I can’t manage them all,” he admitted wearily.
“I hope Travis understands.”
would be reassuring if you’d regain your senses, Josiah,” Standish sighed.
sincerely miss you, if you leave,” he confided.
“A game of chance?” he prevaricated, his voice wavering and uncertain.
remainder of the day passed in a blur. Standish hovered protectively over
the preacher, willing him to wake up. He rested a hand on Josiah’s chest
wanting to feel the steady rise and fall of his breathing. It calmed him,
like nothing else seemed to.
stomach rumbled; reminding him it was ages since he’d eaten. Standish
had little appetite, but the gambler prepared a meal of beans. It weighed
heavy in his gut and he wished he hadn’t consumed the meal.
The Southerner tended his own wound and sometime during the night Ezra slipped into a restful sleep.
I want you to mount your horse.” Standish steered the preacher to the
beast. The taller man smiled in confusion, swaying on his feet.
lift your foot.” Ezra groaned as Josiah applied more pressure, leaning
on his back. “Damn It!” Standish pushed. “Into the
lifted his foot off the ground and unbalanced, tumbling into the gambler.
They rolled on the ground.
hissed sharply, panting to catch his breath. Coloured dots danced before
his eyes. How was he going to get Josiah home? He hugged his injured
side and winced. Tears shone in his green eyes.
you stand?” the gambler prompted Sanchez.
preacher rubbed at his aching head, and blinked. Why was this young man
walked around Josiah, wondering how he was going to get the giant off the
ground. “Josiah, stand up.”
complied, swaying on leaden legs. He reached out for support and stumbled
when his hand groped thin air.
horse, Josiah. Get on.”
wobbled to the horse. Ezra waited, groaning aloud when Josiah wrapped his
arm around the horse’s neck.
closed his eyes and sagged against the animal. “Tired,” he mumbled,
and slumped to the ground.
up, Josiah” Ezra pleaded. The day was half gone and they were no closer
to leaving than three hours ago. “Please.”
moaned, and after more prodding he opened his eyes. He stared blankly.
nodded, absorbing the information. “Who shot me?”
miscreant.” Ezra pointed to the deceased bandit.
kill him?” Josiah swayed as he approached the body.
your bullet that eventually took his life,” Ezra smirked.
preacher grunted. “Why are we still here?”
Can we leave now?”
Can you ride?”
am I?” Sanchez slurred.
middle of nowhere,” Standish retorted. His usual patience had deserted
him and the barrage of questions was driving Ezra to distraction.
concentrate on staying in the saddle, Josiah,” Standish ordered.
we going?” Sanchez frowned in confusion.
sighed, resisting the urge to throttle the older man. “I’ll let you
know when we arrive.”
Josiah responded. “Is it far?”
be there tomorrow.” Hopefully, he added.
live there too?”
what are we doing out here?”
growled, closing his eyes in frustration. WHY ME?
Alone (11 May 02)
rubbed his head, wincing when his fingers touched the bandage. The gentle
sway of his mount had lulled him into a doze, but the shrill cry of a hawk
snapped him from his repose. The bird circled above, and he
abstractedly watched the hawk as it searched for prey. It surged to
the ground, disappearing beyond Josiah’s sight. He sighed, feeling
strangely at a loss.
in a deep breath; the air was heavy with the promise of rain. The horse
stilled beneath him and Josiah stared blankly at the unfamiliar landscape.
He wondered why he was alone.
steady rhythm of rain sloughed the trail. Small rivulets undermined the
surface and the surefooted beast on dry ground became uncertain in the slippery
tugged his hat lower and hunched further inside his coat. It didn’t
occur to him to stop and find shelter. Instead, he allowed his mount free
rein trusting the animal knew where to go.
The preacher swivelled in his saddle and frowned, searching back through the curtain of falling rain for… something. He had a suspicion there was something amiss, but for the life of him, he couldn’t put his finger on it.
huddled under the foliage of the spruce - wet, cold and dejected. The thin
blanket about his shoulder sagged heavy and did nothing to keep him warm.
His body was wracked with chills and he trembled uncontrollably. His side
ached and he wanted nothing but to lie down and sleep. But
Josiah was out in the rain and that caused him greater pain. He’d
betrayed the trust of his friend, by not protecting him. Ezra should have
been paying more attention. How could he have let Josiah wander off?
“Josiah where are you?” Ezra whispered through blue tinged lips.
(17 May 02)
time to think while he waited out the storm. He blamed himself for losing
the concussed man. Standish was more coherent, and it had been his job to
He seriously doubted that mounting up in the devilish weather would’ve helped find Josiah sooner, but convincing himself of this point had been a hard battle. So instead, he was sitting in the faded light thoroughly soaked, praying to a God he didn’t believe in, for the preacher to magically reappear. Somewhere along the way, he’d lost any optimism, and altered his prayer, asking for the preacher’s safety.
Once the heavy rain cleared Standish hastily clambered into the saddle. A fine mist descended as he trudged through the wet undergrowth, and with each breath he exhaled a stream of frosted cloud escaped his mouth. The temperature dropped with each passing minute, and Standish shivered in his damp clothing. “We got to find him,” Ezra mumbled, clicking his teeth to motion Chaucer through the narrow passage. He patted the horse’s shoulder. “Josiah!” he shouted, jumping slightly as the echo returned. “Damn it! Answer me!” Sanchez had to be close by. Why didn’t he respond? And where had he gone?
noticed the nervous sidestep his mount had taken and scanned the rocks above his
head. Something had scared the horse. It wasn’t like the stubborn
animal to react without reason and Chaucer pranced skittishly, throwing his head
and snorting. “Calm down…everything is under
control.” But the gambler drew his Remington and continued to study the
In a blur
of movement, Standish found himself knocked off Chaucer and under the weight of
a large cougar. His gun discharged automatically, but he lost it in the
fall. He screamed a blood-cuddling cry, as the animal sank in claws and
poked the meagre fire, adding more wood to keep the flames from dying.
He’d unsaddled the gelding and let it forage on a long lead. He
couldn’t recall owning the animal, but the beast didn’t shy away from him,
so it wasn’t unfamiliar with the grey-headed man. He fingered the wooden
cross, hoping this would refocus his memories, but nothing came to mind.
He froze, listening to the terrible, almost animalistic, wail that drifted beyond his camp. He held his breath, waiting to hear more, but it was quiet. He relaxed against his saddle and drifted off to sleep.
(24 May 02)
stared disconcertedly into the deepest pair of black eyes he’d ever seen.
He moaned involuntarily and automatically closed his eyes.
gonna be fine.”
sluggishly watched the figure, wondering where he’d come from.
lucky cuss, mister. Figure you’d be dead iffen I didn’t come along.
That there cougar had its sights set on you fer dinner.”
lethargically glanced at the dead mountain lion. “What…?”
yer strength.” He torn a cloth and pressed it to Ezra’s thigh.
“Fine looking horse, ya got,” he sighed wistfully. “We’ll get home
to Flora, she’ll know what to do.”
the old miner called.
emerged through the battered door and smiled gamely at her husband. She
noted the fine chestnut horse and the body slung over the saddle. “What
cha got, Oli?”
fella, done got himself attacked by a cougar.”
yet. I’ll bring him in. See what you can do for him, okay?
Then I’m gonna go collect that pelt, afore somethin’ takes it.”
Oli dismounted his mule and led Chaucer to the house; he pulled the gambler off. He patted the sleek horse jealously, before assisting Flora with taking the unconscious man inside.
woke with a sniff neck from the way he’d been laying, but generally feeling
better. His nauseousness and headache were both gone. He
rubbed at his grizzled features and stretched his arms above his head, rolling
the kinks from his aging frame. “Lord, it’s good to be alive!”
His voice was strong and clear.
His stomach chose that moment to rumble loudly and Josiah roared with laughter. He startled at the sound of his mirth, but enjoyed hearing the deep throaty chuckle. “Reckon it’s time to eat!” Sanchez patted his belly and searched his saddlebags for nourishment.
Through (26 May
reined in his mount. He’d smelled the smoke some time ago and headed
toward it. “Morning, Miss,” he smiled at the young woman, who was
intently beating a rug.
startled, not hearing the horse and rider approach. “Morning.”
wanted to water the horse.” He motioned to the trough.
inside, Sophie!” Oli ordered, brandishing his shotgun at Josiah.
woman headed for the stairs. “Pa…”
ain’t planning on causing trouble,” Josiah stated.
covered Sanchez, eyeing him suspiciously. “Who are ya?”
Sure, that sounds right. “And I’m just passing through.”
lowered the weapon slightly. “Don’t get many visitors out this way.”
invite him for lunch,” Sophie suggested from the porch. Sanchez grinned.
if I get down?”
shrugged and stepped backwards a pace.
stood by his horse while it drank and curiously took in the aging homestead.
He noticed the chestnut gelding tethered beside the ancient mule and his brow
furrowed. “Nice horse,” he commented. Seemed familiar for some
Sophie called, reminding her father that she’d not heeded his order and gone
stay for lunch?”
be mighty, generous.”
got another name?” Flora asked, setting a bowl of soup in front of him.
dipped the crusty bread into the steaming broth. Buck…who?
hurt yourself, Mr. Standish?”
automatically lifted his hand to his forehead. “Just a scratch…”
like a bullet wound,” Oli interrupted.
gunman?” Sophie gushed.
Was he a
gunfighter? Sanchez fingered the wooden cross around his neck.
She lapsed into silence.
meal. Don’t reckon I’ve tasted better.”
shuddering cry interrupted their meal and Flora excused herself from the table.
Josiah watched her disappear into another room.
now,” Flora crooned, wiping the Southerner’s heated brow. “Yer gonna
get better, I promise.”
Flora plunged the cloth into the basin. She sat on the edge of the bed and lowered the sheet to his hips and began the task of cooling him down. Ezra reflexively shrank away from the cloth, but she followed his movements. “Should probably change those dressings, while I’m about it, but we do have a guest in the house, so I’ll leave it until he’s gone.” She knew he didn’t hear her, but she couldn’t just sit there and not talk to the man.
like somebody’s not well,” Josiah commented, his eyes never leaving the door
where Flora vanished. He couldn’t stomach another mouthful, hearing the
didn’t notice Josiah’s scrutiny and continued eating. “Young fella
got himself mauled by a cougar. Don’t reckon he’ll live to tell the
his horse outside?”
paused, the spoon suspended in mid-air. Finally he responded, when Josiah
turned around to face him. “Yup.”
he’s right fond of that horse, too.” Now what made him say that?
makes ya say that?” Oli asked.
shrugged. “Just an impression I get.”
you kindly for your hospitality.”
welcome,” Sophie quickly interjected. “Come back soon.”
Josiah nodded amicably at the girl, not missing the fierce look her father sent her. He pasted on a false smile and waved. He took one last look at the gelding and wondered if he should have insisted upon seeing the horse’s owner. Flora had claimed to have no medical knowledge, but promised to do her best. And when Josiah suggested fetching Nathan, he couldn’t even explain to them who Nathan was or where he would come from. He still muddled that over in his mind.
(1 June 02)
paused along the ridge. From this high point he could watch the homestead
without being seen. He wondered why that would be so important and
couldn’t bring himself to leave. He didn’t think it had anything
to do with the reclusive family. Not directly, at least.
himself holding his breath when Oli reappeared and edged toward the gelding.
The horse nervously padded the ground and a bubble of laughter erupted from the
preacher’s throat when the ornery mount evaded Oli’s attempts to saddle him.
But the mirth quickly died. The homesteader had no right to saddle
beat a hasty path down the incline. “Where are you taking Chaucer?”
Josiah demanded, barricading the trail.
it to you? That gambler ain’t gonna be needing a horse where he’s
going!” Chaucer tossed his head; the reins were pulling the bit hard at
he’s still alive?” Why was this so important?
shrugged. He didn’t care. Flora said the wounds were deep and
infected; she wouldn’t be able to help the injured man. “I done my
bit. I didn’t have to kill that cat, and he would have already been
off Ezra’s horse!”
shook his head in disgust. This man was robbing the dead, even before Ezra
had passed on. “I said to get off Ezra’s horse! You got no
rights to his possessions.”
found ‘em, so that gives me all the right I need!” He violently
wrenched on the reins and kicked the sides of the mount. The gelding
surged past the preacher, carrying the rider through the trees.
considered giving chase, but only for a second. He needed to check on
Ezra. How had the Southerner come into such peril? Oh God!
What if he’d already died?
preacher dismounted his horse and with heavy steps pounded on the narrow porch
and flung open the door. He stopped in the doorway startled by Sophie’s
cowering form. He smiled half-heartedly in apology, then strode
determinedly to the room where he expected to find the gambler.
again Josiah’s large form filled the doorway. “How is he?”
moved from the bed. “Not good. Do you know him?”
name’s, Ezra Standish.”
he is your son,” Flora presumed.
Sanchez smiled, moving further inside the bedroom. Josiah had forgotten that he’d introduced himself as Buck Standish. “Reckon he is.”
Coffee (8 June 02)
sipped at the cold coffee, not even tasting the fetid brew. He’d spent
over twenty hours just watching and waiting for Standish to come out of his
fevered nightmare. Josiah predicted he’d be by the gambler’s side for
many more hours to come. The house was eerily quiet in the pre-dawn, and
Sanchez prayed that today would be better.
deep scratches on his thigh and shoulder from the cougar and he’d been still
recovering from the bullet wound to his side. Although Flora knew little
of healing, Sophie was a surprise, producing a poultice for the wounds.
preacher rolled his head on his shoulders; the muscles were tense and strained
from sitting motionless for so long. His eyelids sagged, and his weary
blue eyes bulged from their sockets. He flexed his long legs and wriggled
each toe inside his boots with deliberately orchestrated movements; Josiah left
his seat with the grace of a charging rhino and worked out the kinks that
knotted his tall frame. Each laboured step in the small bedroom awakened
an avalanche of tired and aching muscles. He windmilled his arms and was
pleased to feel the renewed circulation in his fingertips.
smile awakened on the preacher’s craggy face. “Morning.”
blinked in confusion, taking in the unfamiliar surrounds. His mind
registered Josiah’s voice, but he was slow to process the information.
Sanchez repeated his name twice more before the Southerner responded.
it does,” Josiah sympathised. “You’ll be feeling better soon.”
closed his eyes. A mug was pressed to his lips and he automatically sipped
at the contents. “How?”
waited until Ezra opened his eyes. “How did I find you?”
Standish nodded. “A little divine intervention.”
fine, Ezra. You get some more sleep.”
found a wicker chair on the veranda and settled his frame in the seat. He
rested his head back and stared at the underside of the roof. He’d left
Ezra in the gentle hands of Sophie, and while she changed the bandages, Josiah
took a breather outside. Too many days he’d been closeted inside the
shack, and with each passing day the gambler grew stronger. He wondered
how Ezra would react to discovering Chaucer gone. Oli had not returned as
Sanchez had hoped.
The preacher scratched his chin and stood to greet the riders that approached from the north.
back (June 02)
Chris,” he welcomed. “Been expectin’ you boys.”
seemed to relax ever so slightly in the saddle. “Ezra?”
inside. Glad to see you found Chaucer.”
across him a day ago,” Vin said. “Backtracked him to here.”
see an older man?”
He take Chaucer?”
nodded solemnly, wondering what had befallen Oli.
dismounted. “What happened? Got a message saying you never made
“Prisoner had some help, tried to escape. They weren’t successful,” he smiled grimly.
hurt?” Tanner asked.
shook his head in amusement. “That boy don’t know how, not to.
coming from a man who couldn’t mount his own horse,” Standish drawled,
leaning unsteadily in the open doorway.
helped the gambler to the chair and scolded him. “You shouldn’t be out
needed some fresh air.”
Ezra. You wearin’ enough bandages? How many times you get shot?”
the once that I remember.”
the cougar that did the rest,” Josiah added, when the gambler seemed reluctant
to enlighten the others further.
Vin exclaimed. “You’re real lucky to survive that.”
“At the time I did not feel too auspicious, I assure you.”
lawmen lounged on the aging porch, relaxing as though they belonged there.
Three of the four laughed and talked quietly, while the forth slept.
don’t look too comfortable.”
tugged the blanket up and gently tilted Ezra’s head, so it didn’t rest on
his chest. “He is sleeping soundly though.”
gonna get him home?” Tanner asked.
“The ladies have offered us the use of their wagon. It’s behind the barn,” Josiah added, noticing Vin sweeping the grounds for the vehicle.
we’ll leave in the morning,” Larabee declared, eager to have his wayward
smiled; a weary lopsided smile. Finally, he woke with only a modicum of
pain. He even felt half respectable, given the fact that he’d
almost died. He had begun to think he’d never feel anything but the
agonising throbs from the various wounds his body had endued, and the wretched
chills and bouts of fevered delirium…he shuddered, not wishing to relive those
motionless in his seat, listening to the good-natured arguing between his
friends. He enjoyed this moment, pleased, that given his rocky start with
them, that they had still accepted him into their motley group.
limped and trudged over the final distance. He rubbed his lower back and
around the frail hipbones, bringing a wince to his weathered face. He
walked with his head lowered, his eyes scouring the rocky path for obstacles
that may hinder his steps. His gait was tempered with a hiccoughing
action, a scissored stride that had him panting for breath.
the familiar path, wanting only to get home. He stood in front of his
veranda, not realising until too late, that four unknown men took comfort from
his home. No, he amended; he recognised two of them.
full out from the chicken coop. “Oli!” She grasped Oli’s arm
and pulled him into a hug.
pushed Flora protectively behind his back. “Where’s the girl?”
fine. They haven’t hurt us.”
are you?” Oli demanded.
the first to move. He climbed to his feet and stepped to the rail.
“We’re the law from Four Corners. You know they hang men for stealing
swallowed hard, and if Flora weren’t standing behind him, he would have fled.
“I was just giving the beast some exercise,” he stammered. “He threw
me, the ornery devil.”
chuckled from under the blanket. Chaucer was rather temperamental, and
downright particular about who rode him. The ranch owner was lucky to not
have sustained more serious injuries. “Gentlemen,” Standish waited
until all heads turned in his direction. “I’d like to introduce the
man who liberated me from a very hungry mountain lion.” Ezra
gestured, and smiled at his rescuer.
muffled his voice. “Son, he had no intention of returning your horse.”
know,” Standish slyly stated. “But he did me a service, and Chaucer
knows where his bread is buttered.
mean who spoils him,” Tanner drawled.
necessary to rise so inordinately early,” Ezra whined.
know why yer complaining. You get to sleep while we ride. 'Sides,
didn’t reckon you were too eager to stay?”
in that quaint domicile, Mr. Tanner, has nothing to do with rising at a decent
hour. And I was not complaining!”
best quit now, Vin,” Sanchez chuckled. “Or he’s gonna argue the
point ‘til we’re back.”
frowned at Sanchez, crossing his arms over his chest. “Josiah…I
don’t argue. Debate, perhaps, but never argue.”
Larabee snorted, digging in his heels and urging the black into a gallop.
wonderful to be home,” Ezra sighed.
Can’t say as I’m too inspired to leave town again any time soon,” Josiah
reckon I’ll be sending you pair out together again,” Larabee rolled his eyes
and shared a grin with Tanner.
They did kinda make a hash of the job.”
Standish grunted as he moved too quickly.
still,” Larabee commanded. “We’re gonna have you in Nathan’s room
is unnecessary,” Ezra retorted. “I am sufficiently healed and only
wish to reunite with my feather bed.”
Nathan’s willingly, or jail,” Chris threatened.
jaw dropped. “Mr. Larabee, surely you jest? I don’t require
Nathan’s ministrations,” he argued. Chris grinned, baring his
teeth. Ezra appealed with large round eyes to Josiah, but the large
man hid his face below his hat. “Josiah?”
conning him,” Larabee interrupted. “Besides, Josiah will be joining
shook his head. “You were roaming around without yer memory for days.”
The gunslinger watched the frown that drew the preacher’s eyes together.
“Vin don’t let him out of your sight.”
chuckled, relaxing in the wagon as it made slow progress through the town.
Nathan tied off the bandage and patted Ezra on the knee.
May I leave now?”
ain’t going anywhere,” Jackson admonished and gently pushed the gambler
You got a fever and I need you here, where I can look after you.” Nathan
grinned widely, thrilled at Ezra’s grudging compliance.
laughed, earning himself a reproachful glance from the healer.
ain’t going anywhere either.” Jackson pointed at Josiah’s chest.
thinking, Josiah, yer staying.” Besides keeping both of them in the clinic was
So what’s yer surname?”
in a Name?
man is a menace,” Sanchez moaned.
snorted, pulling the blanket higher. “He is most… persuasive.”
know I didn’t leave you deliberately?”
grinned. “Yes, Josiah.”
lowered his voice to a whisper. “What’s my surname?”
laughed. “Josiah Sanchez.”
huh? Hmmmm. Guessin’ I ain’t yer father?”
After a long pause Ezra added; “Unfortunately.”
wasn’t the only one to dream. “Night, son.”
Pa,” Standish smirked, rolling on his side. The smile remained as he
drifted off to sleep. Josiah’s deep throaty chuckle echoed in the room.
That’s it…The End…Completed… Finished…And Done!
Hope you enjoyed reading this! Please send comments to me.