Lone Wolf Series
Read 'em Right
Vin Tanner crumpled the parchment
paper into a ball and threw it in disgust at the livery wall. The
paper travelled a few feet in the air and dropped to the earthen floor not
reaching the intended target. The quiet Texan took a step and
crouched, picking up the discarded correspondence. He remained in
this stance for a long moment, then smoothed out the page, rubbing out the
creases on his thigh. He sighed, standing and walking back to
Peso’s stall. “What’s the use,” he muttered, knowing that he
wouldn’t receive a reply from the gelding. “Why can’t they
just say words that are simple? So a person can understand,” he
The former bounty hunter petted the
shoulder of his black horse, lost in his own musings. The soft tread
of leather boots went unheard as the owner of said boots strolled inside
the livery. It wasn’t until the newcomer cleared his throat that
Vin became aware that he was no longer alone with the horses. He
glanced up, abruptly swivelling on his heels and his hand nudging the hilt
of his mare’s leg. Standish! It just had to be him. Of
all people, why did Ezra choose this moment to check on his horse?
The educated Southerner had laughed in his face. Making a mockery of
his illiteracy. It wasn’t his fault that he wasn’t given the
opportunity to study his letters at an early age. And Tanner
didn’t want to deal with the gambler’s snobbish behaviour at the
“Mr. Tanner,” Ezra Standish
exclaimed as his eyes widened. “I apologise for intruding on your
“My what?” Tanner shouted, not
bothering to suppress his anger.
“Ah, I see that you are not in
the best frame of mind, perhaps we can continue…”
Vin launched at the retreating
gambler, grabbing a fistful of shirt he pulled the Southerner back around
to face him. “I want to know what you just said,” he growled
through clenched teeth.
Ezra could see the emotions that
flittered over Tanner’s face, and seriously doubted that he was the
cause of the dam breaking. Not entirely, in any case. “If
you could release me, Mr. Tanner…” he left the rest unfinished.
Vin looked down at the tight hold
he had on the gambler and relaxed his grip, finally setting the Southerner
free. “Sorry,” he mumbled, turning back to Peso’s stall and
expecting Standish to leave now that he had the opportunity.
Ezra brushed at his jacket,
attempting to straighten the rumpled look he was positive he now
portrayed. “Mr. Tanner…Vin,” the gambler tried again when the
first plea went unacknowledged. “I said - I was sorry for
intruding on your silence,” he translated.
The Southerner’s words seeped
through the fog in his mind. He slowly turned, resting his hip on
the stall rail. He actually understood the entire sentence
from the verbose gambler. Each and every word. “That was
what you said when you came in?” he asked incredulously.
Standish smiled warily. “In
effect,” he responded.
Tanner rolled his eyes, throwing
both arms in the air in frustration. There he goes again.
Ezra quickly saw his mistake and
corrected it. “Yes.”
“What’s that other word you
asked, clarifying which word the tracker was referring to.
“Yeah.” Vin dropped his
eyes, refusing to meet the gaze of the steady green orbs.
“It means contemplating…” he
stopped when Vin’s expression glazed over. “Umm… reflecting
on?” he paused again, continuing when Tanner shrugged his understanding,
“Oh,” he nodded ruefully,
embarrassed at his lack of schooling.
“It’s nothing to be ashamed
of.” Ezra stepped forward, raising his hand to Vin’s shoulder,
but stopping short of actually laying it down. Now would be a good
time to apologise for his rash behaviour when Tanner asked the gambler to
write down his poem. But he was inebriated at the time. Of course,
being drunk was no excuse his conscience reminded him. He should
never allowed himself to get into such a state.
“Ain’t ashamed,” the Texan
“Good,” Standish smiled weakly,
not believing the declaration, but not calling him on it either.
“About the poem…”
“Don’t wan ta talk about that
now, Ezra,” he growled.
“Then I shall, depar…
leave…” It was almost phrased as a question.
Tanner stared at the unmoving
gambler, waiting for him to leave, but Standish adjusted his weight from
one foot to the other and returned his stare. “You got somethin’
else ta say?” He could sense the turmoil that ebbed beneath the
suave man’s surface.
“Vin…it may be none of my
business,” and he winced at the glowing anger that was sparked
immediately in Tanner’s façade. “But I noticed the trouble you
were having reading your correspondence…”
“You spyin’ on folks now,
Ezra bowed his head and chewed on
his bottom lip. “That is,” he began, “No, I just happened by,
and overheard your dilemma…I could read it for you if you’d like?”
Vin folded his arms and tried very
hard not to let his emotions take control. “Don’t need your
Standish accepted the rebuke and
didn’t persist. “Then good day to you, sir,” he declared
overly bright and left through the wide doors.
The longhaired Texan shuffled
forward to the opening and followed the gambler with his eyes. Vin
pulled the letter from his pocket and frowned at the unrecognisable
scrawl. Damn, he had to ask someone to help him. It might as
well be the Southerner.
Tanner made a run from the livery,
jogging until he stepped on the sidewalk at the same time as Standish.
He chuckled at the moment of panic that exploded in the conman’s eyes
when he draped his arm over Ezra’s shoulder and led him to the bench
seat in front of the saloon. Handing over the crunched note, he
waited for Standish to read it to him.
“You want me to relate the
“Yeah,” Vin nodded
enthusiastically. He watched Standish glance at the note, then the
deep frown lines that furrowed his brow. He frowned himself when
Ezra turned the page in his hand and studied it even longer without saying
a word. Tanner was beginning to feel a touch worried when the
gambler remained silent. “Well…” he prompted
Ezra lifted his eyes from the
letter and into the concerned blue-eyed gaze. “Ummm,” he
“Just give it to me straight,”
he ordered. “If it’s bad news I need to know,” he urged.
Standish looked back at the note.
“Who gave you this?”
“I dunno. I found it
attached to my wagon.” Vin leaned over to look at the now familiar
scrawl, even if he couldn’t read it.
“I can’t decipher this, Vin,”
“I can’t read it.”
Vin arched both brows.
“Ya mean it ain’t in our language?”
“Yes, I think it is in the
King’s English, but it is written so illegibly that I can’t make sense
of it. Here,” Standish leant forward, pointing to the middle of
the message, “That looks like ‘listed’, or maybe it’s
‘holed’,” he groaned. Pointing to another part he stated;
“That word is definitely ‘and’- I think,” he added dubiously,
rubbing at his jaw. “That one could be ‘wait’ or
Tanner started with a soft chuckle
that burst into a raucous laughter. Plucking the note from
Standish’s grasp he balled it up and tossed it high in the air.
“And I thought it was just me,” he sputtered, gripping his sides more
as the laughter bubbled out.
Ezra grinned at the tracker.
“It seems that whomever penned this, needs to brush up on his writing
skills. I think someone may be having a joke at your expense.”
Vin flopped back in the seat,
relieved at the gambler’s summation. “I was beginning ta think
I’d been wastin’ ma time, having Mary teachin’ me.”
“Vin, I’m certain you are
progressing quite steadily,” he praised.
Vin abruptly stopped his laughter
and pinned the gambler under his scrutiny. “Why do you say
that?” he asked.
“Well you had no problem reading
the wire Chris gave you the other day.”
Tanner nodded his head, remembering
the message that Larabee had passed to him. It was a simple message,
and he probably took longer than the others to read it, but he had done it
on his own. “Yeah, I did,” he grinned. “How did you
“It is my profession to observe
everything, Mr. Tanner. Could I interest you in a drink?”
“You’re buyin’ right?” Vin chuckled as Standish rolled his eyes and shook his head.
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