JUST GET ME TO THE NEXT TOWN

by Jackie, a.k.a. Phoenix1972

 

 

Part 14

 

When Ezra next awoke he was alone and it was much later judging by the pinks and oranges painting the sky outside his bedroom window.  “Where is everyone?” he mumbled quietly as he pushed the blankets off and swung his legs to the floor. 

 

The boarding house seemed usually quiet for this time of day considering for the last two days Ms. Millie had been running around trying to keep up with all the new boarders.  Word had spread like wildfire about how one of the culprits responsible for the train wreck had been apprehended.  The towns folk were baying for blood and intended to see Robert Shaw, aka “Scruffy” hang until dead.

 

Curiosity piqued, Ezra prepared to stand when suddenly the room spun.  Desperately, he clutched at the bed post to keep from pitching onto the floor in an ungainly heap.  Taking slow steady breaths and using pure dogged determination he managed to stay upright while keeping his stomach contents in place.  “Get yourself together, Ezra.  It was only a small stab wound for pity’s sake.”  Peeking around the empty room several moments later, he allowed himself a small smile when the dizziness did not recur.

 

There was no way Nathan was not going to force him back into bed over a small dizzy spell, and as far as Ezra was concerned Nathan need not know about this little episode.  Ezra was more than ready to head back to Four Corners and secretly hoped Chris’s recovery was a speedy one.

 

Not seeing any proper clothing within easy reach, Ezra shrugged and purposefully pulled on his boots, stood, and took a few shuffling steps forward.  Catching a glimpse of his reflection in the mirror, Ezra sighed. He looked like an absolute fright wearing a too large nightshirt, boots, and hair sticking up in all directions.  His mother would succumb to a fit of apoplexy if she even suspected he’d leave his room in such a state.  Too damn bad.  Grinning, Ezra yanked the bedroom door open.

 

An empty hallway greeted him as he stepped from his room and looked into the dark foyer.  No sounds came from below and house felt empty.  Was he alone?  Certainly, Chris should still be here.  Breath hitching in his throat when he thought something may have happened to his friend, Ezra stumbled forward, rapped on the door and pushed inside.

 

“That’s a good way to get shot!” Chris snapped, lowering his gun to his lap.  “You’re supposed to be sleeping.”

 

Ezra waved him off as he slowly made his way to the chair positioned next to the bed.  “I was, but I’m awake now.  I needed to get up and move around.  Where is everyone?”

 

“There’s a memorial service at the church.  How’s the shoulder?”

 

“I know it’s there if that’s what you mean,” Ezra groaned as he sank down onto the seat.  “Has there been any word on Rupert’s family or the trial?”

 

“Rupert’s grandmother arrived yesterday while you slept and she had him move up to the hotel with her,” Chris explained as Ezra nodded and abruptly turned his gaze out the window.  “She said she’d bring him by before they left town.”

 

Ezra felt a knot form in his throat and swallowed tightly before replying, “It’s for the best.  It’ll be good for him to be back around his own again.”

 

“Yes, it will,” Chris agreed.  “And just so you know, his grandmother seems like good people.”

 

“Good.”  Turning his gaze back on Chris, Ezra asked looking at his friend’s pale features, “How are you feeling?”

 

“Tired of lying around in this bed and tired of being tired all the time.”

 

Ezra snorted quietly, “I heartily agree.  I am ready to get back home and return to some semblance of normalcy.”

 

The rattle of china on the other side of the door brought Chris’s head up and Ezra twisted to get a better look at whoever was about to enter and to Ezra’s relief it was only their hostess, Ms. Millie.  She stepped into the room bearing a tray leaden with food and stopped short when she spied the gambler.  “Oh, I thought you were still sleeping.  Let me get Mr. Larabee settled and I’ll make you up a tray.  I’m afraid Mr. Jackson is still insisting on broth, but not to worry.” She whispered conspiratorially, “I’ll sneak you a little treat.”  Ezra couldn’t help blushing when Chris grinned and shook his finger while Ms. Millie had her back turned.

 

After ensuring the tray was settled securely on the bureau, Ms. Millie bustled over to fuss over Chris, plumping his pillows, and readjusting the blankets while she prattled on, “I’m so glad to see you up and about, Mr. Standish.  We were all beginning to worry when your fever lasted so long.  Poor Rupert was beside himself.  He’ll be so happy to know you’re on the way to recovering.”

 

“I am feeling much better,” Ezra sighed as he pushed himself carefully out of the chair, the thought of broth putting a damper on his appetite.  “I’ll leave you to your dinner, Mr. Larabee.  I find I am a little tired and would like to lie down.”

 

“You all right?” Chris asked in concern as Ms. Millie set the tray over his lap.

 

“Fine.  Fine,” Ezra yawned, shuffling slowly toward his own room.  “Just more tired than I thought.”

 

“I’ll be back in a moment with some supper for you, Mr. Standish.”  Ms. Millie turned to follow Ezra out the door.

 

With a long suffering look Ezra groaned, “Honestly, I’m not really hungry.  I think sleep would better for me.”  Peering around Ms. Millie’s bulk, Ezra noticed Chris grinning as he dug into what appeared to be mashed potatoes and fried chicken.  “Enjoy your dinner, Mr. Larabee.”

 

“I will.  Night, Ez.”

 

~o~

 

“Honestly, Vin.  I’m feeling a lot more like myself this morning.”

 

“Fine.  I’m still goin’ with you when you go out.”

 

Glaring at Vin’s reflection in the mirror, Ezra sulked, “I’m only going as far as the hotel and should be back directly.  Your time would be better served looking after Chris.”

 

“Nathan’s here.  Chris is fine.  In fact, he’s been as antsy as a cat in a room full of rockers.  Bein’ stuck in the bed is wearin’ on him something fierce,” Vin sighed as he looked down onto the street below.  “Nate doesn’t want you over-doin’ it and I need some fresh air.”

 

Ezra snorted as he settled his gun belt about his hips.  “You know very well the real reason they insist you sticking close is the town’s current attitude.”

 

“Ez, don’t forget about the mob that overran the jail a couple nights ago.  These town folk seem to have no problem with taking the law into their own hands.”  Vin let the curtain drop back into place and turned to watch Ezra smooth his waist coat.  “I’d feel a hell of a lot better with this place behind us.”

 

“Not until I see Rupert and his grandmother off on the stage.  I promised him I’d come down and see him off.”

 

“Couldn’t they stop by the boarding house?  I’ll even escort them here to see you and Chris.  We don’t need to be rilin’ the town folk anymore than they already are.”

 

“Mr. Tanner, I will not be run off like a mongrel dog.  Mr. Larabee and I were just as much victims of this tragedy as anyone else.  No one knew there were assassins about and besides, the trial in Denver went on without us in attendance.  Despite our absence, the cretin was still afforded a quick drop and sudden stop.”

 

Rubbing at his neck, Vin strode to the door and yanked it open.  “You about ready?  Day lights burnin’ and I’m not getting any younger.”

 

“I wish I had the opportunity to watch both hangings and Shaw’s was much too quick.  I can assure you,” Ezra muttered wistfully as he checked his reflection one more time.  Grabbing his hat he moved past Vin without further comment. 

 

Vin stared after Ezra as he breezed by and pointed out, “Never knew you to be the type to enjoy a hanging.”

 

Looking back from the staircase with a bored expression Ezra asked, “You coming?”

 

“Yeah, right behind you.”

 

 

Part 15

 

Ezra tried to ignore the stares as he and Vin made their way down to the street.  “You needn’t suffer the venomous glares directed our way, Vin.  I am perfectly capable of finding my way to the stage office.”

 

“Told you I needed the fresh air and I don’t care what people think,” Vin replied, his breath showing in the cold late morning air.  “Just so you know.  Chris is planning on heading home before the end of the week.”

 

“Is Nathan aware of this planned escape?” Ezra asked as they stepped up out of the street and onto the boardwalk.

 

Vin chuckled and slowed his stride to match Ezra’s swagger.  “What do you think?”

 

“I think Nathan is going to have his hands full.”

 

“Yup.  Can’t blame Chris though, he’ll be able rest easier once we get home.”

 

As they meandered down the boardwalk Ezra’s attention wandered and he found himself chest to chest with a hulk of a man.  Mumbling an apology while trying to step to the right, he found his way blocked by another.

 

Vin glared at the two men but held his tongue as Ezra held up a staying hand. 

 

“Please let us pass,” Ezra said, staring up into the glowering face of the largest man.  He’d only wanted to see Rupert off, grab a quick card game and a drink at the saloon before heading back for a nice dinner at Ms. Millie’s.

 

“How come you ain’t left yet?” The hulk of a man snapped as he looked Vin and Ezra over with a critical eye.

 

“I wasn’t aware you were in charge of the town’s business,” Ezra deadpanned, staring up into the man’s fierce expression.  “Are you the mayor?”

 

“No.”

 

“The sheriff?”

 

“Of course not.  Why?”

“Well then you have no say over how log we stay.”  Ezra dropped his hand to rest on the butt of his gun.  “We have paid for our board and have every right to stay here in town.”

 

Glaring down at Ezra and Vin the large man and his companion purposely crowded the two men.  “This is our town and we don’t want you here.  We lost some good folk on that train and you’re the ones that caused it.”

 

“Really?  I want you to think on this for a moment.  Why would I stay on a train I intended to wreck?”  Waiting for the space of two seconds Ezra continued, “I know it’s a stretch but I feel you can muddle through.”  Ezra looked up innocently into the man’s mottled red face as he realized he’d been insulted.

 

Taking a deep breath and stepping forward the man opened his mouth to retaliate when Vin’s quiet words gave him pause.

 

“Back off before you say something you’re gonna regret,” Vin growled evenly, glaring up at the two men from beneath his hat.

 

The hulk snorted and clapped his friend on the shoulder.  “He thinks I’m afraid of him.”  Leaning down closer to Vin he snarled.  “Why don’t you run on back home and put on your short pants.”

 

“He thinks I wear short pants?”  Vin grinned slyly at Ezra and struck quick as a snake, kneeing the man in the balls and dropping him to the ground.  The second man sent a wary look Ezra and Vin’s way as he knelt next to his friend trying to offer sympathy.

 

Stepping around the prostrate form of his aggressor Ezra followed Vin down the boardwalk.  “I have to say, Mr. Tanner.  I did not expect that tactic,” Ezra laughed as he glanced back over his shoulder at the two men crouched on the boardwalk.

 

“You wanted to make the stage didn’t you?  He’d a kept yammering all day.”

 

“Well yes, but a punch to the jaw could have sufficed.”

 

“Nope, it’d take too much energy and he’ll think twice about messing with us again.”

 

“Remind not to get on your bad side, Mr. Tanner.”

 

“Mr. Ezra!” Rupert called happily from where he was waiting with his grandmother.  Excitement getting the better of him, Rupert ran up the street to meet Ezra and Vin.  “You came, you came!”

 

Catching Rupert up before he could barrel into him, Ezra grimaced, before squatting down to look the child in the eye.  Smiling, Ezra replied, “Yes, I did.  I always like to see my friends off on their travels.”

 

Rupert gave Ezra a quick hug and whispered, “You are my best friend.”

 

“You are mine also.  Now, you have a long trip and I come bearing gifts.  Chris regrets not being able to come, but he has sent along something to remember him by.”  Ezra pulled a small book and deck of cards from inside his coat.  “He said it was one of the stories you requested read over and over again with while staying with us.”

 

“Oh yes, it’s got pirates and buried treasure, oh and sword fights!”  Rupert cheered as he clutched the book to his chest.  Glancing up at Vin, Rupert gave a small grin.  “I know he said not to tell, but he even did the voices.”  Looking back over his shoulder at his grandmother Rupert whispered, “She won’t do the voices.”

 

“I’d have never suspected, but your secret is safe with me and Mr. Tanner.  Now, this,” Ezra sighed as he held out the worn pack of cards, “Well, these are my lucky cards.”  Vin took the book from Rupert so he could take the cards Ezra held out.  “They have served me well and I want you to have them.”

 

Rupert looked down at the well-worn cards clutched in his hands and back up at Ezra.  “You want to give me your lucky cards?”

 

“Yes, I want you to have them.  Maybe they’ll bring you the same luck as they have me.”  Waving Vin off as he heard the man chuckle, Ezra added, “In fact, I know they will.”

 

“Rupert!  Hurry, boy.  The stage is preparing to depart.”  Rupert’s grandmother called from where she and the other passengers stood by the stage.

 

Waving to his grandmother, Rupert turned back to Ezra and Vin.  “I’ll never forget you or Mr. Chris,” Rupert cried, as he energetically hugged Ezra around the neck, “You’ll have to come to Denver and visit, grandmother has plenty of room.”

 

“I’m sure we will.  Now I believe our time is drawing to a close and the stage master wants to get your journey started.”  Ezra put the cards into Rupert’s coat pocket, “Keep them safe and they will serve you well.”

 

Vin handed Rupert his book and shook his hand.  “Thanks for keeping ‘em out of trouble until me and Nate got here.  You’re a good friend.”

 

“Thanks,” Rupert chirped as they started down the street to where his grandmother was waiting.

 

Fishing a piece of paper from his pocket Ezra handed it down to Rupert.  “I almost forgot.  Here’s where you can write us and tell us all about your adventures.”

 

“I’m just a kid, Mr. Ezra.  I don’t get to have adventures yet.”

 

“Yes, well you can tell us about all the adventures you want to have.”

 

“Rupert!  Come along, they want to start,” Rupert’s grandmother called again as she climbed up into the stage.

 

“Yes’m.”  Rupert waved at Vin and Ezra and took off at a run down to the stage.

 

Ezra and Vin watched from the street as the stage left town heading off toward Denver.

 

Vin clapped Ezra on the back as they turned to head back the way they’d come, “Kid kinda grows on you.  You did good, Ez.”

~o~

 

“Thought you were coming right back?” Chris asked as he put down the book he’d been reading.  He looked Ezra over and shook his head.  “You couldn’t pass up the game could you?”

 

“I admit I have a weakness for a good card game,” Ezra wheezed, as he held a handkerchief to his bloody nose.  “I did not start the fight, but I did feel the need to defend my honor.”

 

Chris turned a critical eye on Vin, who just shrugged.  “You have anything to say for yourself?”

 

“They deserved it?”

 

Nathan glared at Ezra as he paced back and forth.  “We were supposed to be keeping to ourselves.  You’re barely ready to travel and Chris, well he should be kept in bed for a while longer yet.”  Stopping in front of Vin, Nathan glowered darkly.  “I thought I told you to keep him out of trouble.”

 

“Ezra’s perfectly capable of taking care of himself.  These townsfolk are just spoiling for a fight.”  Vin stretched out across the end of the bed, being mindful of Chris’s leg.  “Let’s just go home, Nate.  Chris’ll be fine, you’ll see.”

 

“Do you think you can make the trip back to Four Corners?  It’s going to mean going back on the train, the stage would take days.” Nathan looked pointedly at Chris and was about to continue when there was a knock at the door.

 

The men turned as one as the door creaked open and Asa Jones stepped in, his hat in his hands and a solemn look upon his face.  “I fear I bring bad tidings.”

 

“Pray tell us,” Ezra sighed as he sank down into the overstuffed chair sitting near the bed, “it’d be just the thing to round out the perfect afternoon.”

 

“Apparently, you fellas have over stayed your welcome.”

 

“What do they want?” Chris asked Asa as Vin got up to look out the window.

 

Turning his hat around in his hands, Asa frowned.  “They want you gone by sun up.  I tried to change their minds but they wouldn’t compromise.”

 

Rubbing at his temples Ezra felt a horrendous headache coming on.  “Mr. Larabee can not be expected to travel yet.  Would it satisfy the town if I left?”

 

“No, they insist that all of you leave, you’re no longer welcome.  I’m sorry my hands are tied.  Tomorrow’s stage will take you down to Bristol where you can catch the train or even hole up there for a while.”

 

“Understood.  It’s time to be getting home anyway.”  Chris gave Asa a reassuring smile before turning his attention to Nathan.  “Nate, get what supplies you need before the shops close up for the evening.”

 

“Come on, Vin.  We’ve got a lot to do over the next few hours.”  Nathan tapped Vin on the arm as he hurried out of the room.  Vin nodded to Asa before following Nathan at a hurried clip.

 

“We appreciate everything you’ve done, Mr. Jones.  We will be forever in your debt,” Ezra replied as he crossed the room and held his hand out.

 

Grinning as he shook Ezra’s hand, Asa replied, “Do me a favor and stay out of trouble and maybe steer clear of here for a while.”

 

“Don’t worry.  Thank you for everything.”  Chris grinned also and held out his hand as Asa stepped up to the bed.

 

Once Asa had exited the room Chris turned his attention to Ezra.  “Stay in tonight and get some rest.  I mean it.”

 

Crossing his arms, Ezra growled, “This is not my fault.  These townsfolk have been baying for blood for days now and I’m happy for an excuse return home.  The game wasn’t all that exciting anyway.”

 

“I understand.  You just wanted to have some fun, but these people are on edge,” Chris explained, “and they want someone to blame.”

 

“The wreck wasn’t our fault.  We were just as much the victims as they were.”  Ezra spun away in frustration taking particular interest in a painting on the wall.

 

“I know how hard this trip’s been on you, hell it’s been hard on me.”

 

Ezra glanced at Chris from over his shoulder, his brow furrowing in confusion.

 

“Thank you,” Chris huffed, his cheeks coloring.  “Rupert and I wouldn’t have made it if you hadn’t been looking out for us.  Heck, I’d be a rotting corpse in the wreck.”

 

“I tend to doubt that.  You are very resourceful and would have found some way to get out.”

 

“Ez, just take it for what it is.  I’m trying to thank you for all you’ve had to do since starting this trip.”

 

Turning to face Chris, Ezra smirked.  “If you’d really like to thank me, I could think of no better way than leaving at a more hospitable hour tomorrow.  Oh, say the afternoon?”

 

“Nope, we’re leaving in the morning, early morning.  In fact, just be ready to leave at sun up.”  Chris grinned as he turned back to the page he’d been reading.  “I know that shouldn’t be a problem for you,” Chris called to Ezra’s retreating back.

 

Ezra scowled darkly as he pulled the door shut behind him and stomped down the stairs to find something left over from lunch.

 

~o~

 

Morning came too soon as far as Ezra was concerned, but he held his tongue as Chris cursed roundly when Nathan continued to fuss over him.  This was going to be a long trip home.  Ezra secretly envied Vin, who’d jumped at the opportunity to take what belongings they possessed down to the stage office.

 

“Are you sure you’re ready for this?” Nathan asked as he helped Chris to stand.  “We can carry you down to the stage office.

 

Chris’s glower halted any further discussion.  “I can do it.”

 

“Chris, perhaps if Nathan and Vin carried you down the stairs, Nathan would compromise and let you use the crutches to get to the stage?”  Ezra peered out the window as a commotion drew his attention.  Turning to grin at his friends he chuckled, “Never mind.  It appears they are so desperate to rid themselves of our presence they’ve had the stage brought up the street.”

 

“How you doin’ in here?” Vin asked, stepping into the room, taking in his three traveling companions.  “Apparently we’ve got the stage to ourselves.”

 

“Give me a hand here Vin.  This hard head is insisting he can get there under his own steam,” Nathan growled as he draped one of Chris arms over his shoulder.

 

“Very convenient, we having the stage to ourselves,” Ezra mumbled as he watched sweat bead on Chris’s brow as Nathan and Vin helped him toward the door.  Grabbing the crutches leaning against the bed, Ezra followed the slow procession to the top of the stairs.

 

“This is gonna hurt,” Chris groaned as they stopped and Vin and Nathan adjusted their grips.

 

Looking down the long flight of steps, Ezra swallowed and squawked, “I’ll meet you three outside.  There’s not much for me to do here and I’ll just be in the way.”  Sliding by his friends he took the stairs at a quick pace.

 

Once outside, Ezra breathed deeply of the cool fresh air and tried to calm his racing heart.  He could just imagine the pain Chris was going to be in on his way down the stairs and the stubborn man had refused Nathan’s offer of laudanum.

 

“It’s a shame to see you go, Mr. Standish.  I don’t care what the town says.  I know you boys are a good sort.”  Ms. Millie trundled up the stairs to join Ezra where he stood at the edge of the porch.  “You’re welcome to stay at my boarding house anytime you’re in town.”

 

Thankful for the distraction, Ezra smiled brightly.  “You have been a godsend, Ms. Millie.  Mr. Larabee and I can’t thank you enough for taking us in.”

 

“No one should be left out in the cold.  How is Mr. Larabee faring this morning?”

 

“Messer’s Jackson and Tanner are bringing him down as we speak.”

 

Ms. Millie and Ezra turned at the sound of the approaching men, taking note of Chris’s pallid complexion and clenched jaw.

 

Nathan halted their forward momentum and stated, “Let’s rest here a moment, Vin.  Chris we’re gonna set you down on the bench and let you catch your breath.”

 

“No!  I’m fine.  Let’s keep going,” Chris gasped as he bit his lip against the pain.  “I can rest once we’re on the stage.”

 

“Gotta agree with Chris, Nate.  It’ll be harder to get him moving again.”  Vin readjusted his grip on the gunslinger and took a step forward, forcing Nathan to keep up.

 

As Ezra was about to hurry down the stairs after his friends Ms. Millie gave him a quick hug.  “Have a safe trip.”

 

Taking Ms. Millie’s hand, Ezra lightly kissed the back of her hand, grinning when she giggled like a school girl.  “Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart.  And I’ll be sure to spread the news that Ms. Millie’s is the best boarding house in the area.”

 

Blushing deeply she sighed, “You sir are a real charmer.”

 

“Ez!  Come on, we’re leavin’,” Vin called from inside the stage.

 

Waving goodbye, Ezra trotted down the path and climbed up into the stage.

 

Snickering quietly, Vin reached around Ezra and pulled the door shut.  “You said all your goodbyes?”  Vin waved to Ms. Millie as the stage drew away from the boarding house.

 

“It was the polite thing to do,” Ezra snorted as he readjusted his seat.  “I hate sitting backwards in the stage.  Is there some reason Chris gets to lounge on the forward facing seats?”

 

“Because I’m injured and it was my choice.”  Chris growled as he lowered his hat down over his eyes.

 

Ezra’s mouth dropped open in astonishment and gesturing wildly he blustered, “But I’m hurt also and I have to be squished by Vin and Nathan.  Don’t I get the same consideration?”

 

“Ez?  You gonna be complaining the whole trip?  Cause if you are I might take my chances and ride topside.”  Grimacing as the stage bounced Vin re-wrapped his scarf around his neck and tucked his hands under his arms.

 

The stage hit a particularly nasty bump and pitched violently causing Chris to curse loudly and clutch at the seat to keep from falling to the floor.

 

Banging loudly on the roof with his fist, Nathan shouted, “Watch where you’re going!  We’ve got injured people back here!”  They heard nothing but an intelligible grunt in response.

 

“Thank you, Mr. Jackson.  I believe I am now deaf,” Ezra sighed as he dug in his ear.  “Do any of you know how long it’ll take to get to Bristol?”

 

“As long as it takes,” Vin mumbled around his scarf.

 

Pursing his lips together, Ezra huffed, “An estimate perhaps?”  He was going to be rattled to pieces at the rate the driver was hitting the bumps and dips in the trail.  Any thought of napping was out of the question.

 

“Could be several hours,” Nathan supplied, closing his eyes and trying to get comfortable.

 

“I guess it is unavoidable.  Let us hope for an …” Ezra started and Chris interrupted him.

 

“Don’t.  Just don’t make any comments about the trip.  I just want to get home in one piece,” Chris pinned Ezra with a glare, though it lost some of its effectiveness as he yawned widely.

 

Ezra laughed, “We’ve had enough misfortune this trip.  It would be quite unfair if any more were to be heaped upon us.”

 

“Ezra, don’t make me…”

 

Rolling his eyes and waving his hand in the air, Ezra pouted, “Yes.  I know.  Don’t make you shoot me.”

 

“Exactly.”  Grinning evilly, Chris again lowered his hat over his eyes and tried to sleep.

 

The End.

 

 

PARTS 1-3 / PARTS 4-6 / PARTS 7-10 / PARTS 11-13

 

HOME / ARCHIVE

 

Authors Appreciate Feedback. Email Jackie here.

 

 

 

Jackie  2011