Author's notes: started this story a while back finally finish after much toiling, hope you enjoy it.
For several weeks, the seven regulators of Four Corners had been chasing elusive cattle rustlers through out their territorial area. Judge Travis would be arriving in a few days for a progress report on the cattle thieves. Chris Larabee, leader of the Magnificent Seven had become frustrated of their lack of said progress.
Word had already spread of the seven�s misfortune, the large cattle ring was thwarting Larabee�s plan, almost as if they could read his mind. Vin was also becoming frustrated on his inability to track these thieves; he hated disappointing his friend. Even Ezra was having no luck trying to obtain information on the thieves� whereabouts. Tempers were flaring, if something didn�t give, heads would roll.
For the last five days the seven men had been out tracking and trying to pick up any information. Finally, luck was with the seven, one of the ranchers had spotted a dozen men riding through his property the day before headed north along the river. From the location they were headed Vin surmise they could be headed for some canyons, perfect for holding cattle without attracting attention. With Tanner�s hindsight they followed.
Luck continued to hold for the seven, they found their hideout and a short battle of gunfire ended the cattle ring. Only six rustlers where left alive and quickly rounded and tied. Buck suffered a shoulder wound and Josiah another leg wound. Nathan managed to bandage the two protesting men and was satisfied they were travel ready.
With the situation finally over, they all headed back to Four Corners with prisoners in tow.
�I don�t know about you Chris, but it�s going to feel good to be home.�
�I hear yah�, Buck,� replied a weary leader.
�It will be good to feel civilization once again, my friend.� Ezra commented.
�I don�t know Ezra, I thought we were doing just find out here.� The tracker replied.
�You would Mr. Tanner.� Bringing laughs to the others relieved that all was well.
A few hours later camp was set up and Josiah began to make dinner for the lot.
�Buck let me look at the wound,� called the dark healer.
�Nathan I�m find, you said it yourself, the wounds healing find.�
�You let me be the judge of that,� Nathan answered.
�You better do as he asks Brother Buck, I already tried but had no luck dissuading our healer.� Josiah remarked.
�Yah, Buck stop being a baby and let Nathan have a look at yah�.� JD decided he would have some fun at his friend�s expense.
�Who you calling a baby, green horn.� Buck retaliated.
�Gentlemen, gentlemen, how about a game of chance to sooth our tempers.� All you could hear were moans, as they all knew who�d win. Ezra simply chuckled, while Chris smiled relieved no one was seriously injured.
As the prisoners were secured, Vin leaned on a fallen tree and started playing his harmonica. Ezra looked at the lean tracker and smiled, a little sadly remembering a long ago stolen harmonica of his own. A gift from his father, about the only thing he had, except of course his gold pocket watch. He touched it unconsciously making sure of its proximity.
�Hey, Vin you know �Oh Suzanna�?� The kid asked.
�Nope,� a short reply.
�How about �Amazing Grace�?�
�Well, which one�s do you know?�
�Don�t know any, Kid, just like the sound of the music.� Vin replied; they all chuckled. �Hey, kid why don�t ya�ll ask Ezra to play his harmonica.�
They all looked at the gambler. �Pardon me?� He asked wondering how the tracker found out he�d bought one only last week.
�Sorry, Ezra saw you buy one over at Mrs. Potter�s store, didn�t know it was a secret.� Vin realizes he�d made his friend uncomfortable and hid his smirk.
�Come on Ezra did you bring your harmonica?� The kid had him now, everyone knew, the con man could never bring himself to lie to JD. They all waited for the gamblers response.
How could he refuse now, the kid was rewarded when the gambler pulled his harmonica from his vest pocket, tapped it, �since you have an ear for music Mr. Tanner, why don�t you accompany me?�
Vin smiled, �ready when you are.� The sly con man smiled back and started with his favorite ballad of the �Streets of Laredo�.
Everyone pause listening to the tune both men played. The kid stretch listening to the medley smiling, this was always the fun part of traveling with his friends; they just never cease to amaze the kid.
Ezra played the kid�s favorite tunes and Vin followed never skipping a beat. When he started playing �Amazing Grace� the ex-preacher decided to join in by singing with his soft baritone voice, bringing an even bigger grin to their young friend. Josiah turned to the dark healer encouraging him with a nod to join the festivities; they were all rewarded with the healer�s deep voice. The gambler smiled at his friends hidden talents.
Even the dark clad gunslinger began to relax. Bringing a smile to his long time friend. Buck knew that Chris had been on edge over the last few weeks and was glad they were heading home.
�Now that was down right beautiful boys.� In the darkness a lone tear fell both from the jovial man and the kid remembering their mothers.
�Thank you Brother Buck,� with a smile on his face.
Late morning the following day, the trackers uncanny vision, pick up a disturbance in town. They were about half an hour�s ride from Four Corners Vin took his spyglass, then handed it over to Chris.
�Judge didn�t mention he was bringing Marshal�s with him...� The tracker didn�t finish the statement, just looked at his friend.
�JD why don�t you and Vin head to the Seminole Village,� returning the spyglass to Vin. �I�ll send word when you can head back.� The last time a Marshal came into town, he was after the ex-bounty hunter, and Chris didn�t want a repeat of that incident.
The kid understood, �sure Chris.�
The rest headed into town with their prisoners.
�Morning Judge,� Chris greeted dismounting.
�Morning Chris, who are your prisoners?�
�There our cattle rustlers, known as the McCormack gang, at least what�s left of them?�
�Well gentlemen, this is good news,� replied Judge Travis.
�What�s with all the Marshal�s Judge?�
Looking over at Buck, �why don�t we go inside so we can talk?�
Both Chris and Buck started to get a bad feeling. They all entered the jail taking their prisoners placing them inside the empty cells.
�All right Judge, what�s going on?� Chris asked, he�d hope the Judge would help them try and clear Vin not hand him over to the law.
�I�m afraid I can�t ignore this arrest warrant.� He looked at Chris, talking in a low voice. He walked over to Ezra, �Mr. Standish, I am hereby placing you under arrest.� Chris was stun.
�Now hold on Judge, what the hells, going on.� The dark clad gunslinger placed himself in front of the gambler, Josiah doing the same.
�I�m sorry Chris, but it seems Mr. Standish has not been very truthful, about his past. There has been a bounty on Mr. Standish for many years.� None could believe what the Judge was saying; all the while Ezra said nothing merely eyeing the Judge.
�What kind of bounty?� Buck asked.
�Murder, Mr. Wilmington.� The Judge was watching to see any reaction from the gambler.
�No way, Ezra would never murder anyone.� Buck stated. �Come on Ezra tell him?�
Looking at the Judge, �I assume my Uncle has sent these Marshal�s to escort me to my fate.� Ezra simply stated.
�Indeed Mr. Standish, it seems your Uncle has very influential people. He managed to get the Governor to allow him to take you before your hanging.� The gambler smiled lowering his head, then looking at the Judge.
�He can be quite convincing.�
Chris couldn�t believe the calm facade of the gambler, �what the hells he talking about Ezra?�
He looked to the Judge to answer. �Mr. Standish was accused and convicted of murdering his cousin, Patricia Curry.�
�What!� Buck and the others could not believe that their gambling friend would ever hurt a woman much less murder one; and family to boot. �There�s got to be some mistake,� looking at his friend for confirmation. �Ezra tell him he�s made a mistake?�
The gambler bowed his head not able to look the man in the eye, but instead turn looking straight at the Judge. �I wish I could Buck.�
They were all speechless the only one who reacted was the dark healer. Whirling the gambler to face him. �Quick it Ezra, this is no time to be lying, we may have had our difference, but you are not capable of murdering anyone much less a woman. There�s got to be some explanation, who�re you protecting?�
He looked at the black healer inwardly he smiled at the loyalty of his friend. �I am not protecting anyone Mr. Jackson.� Nathan couldn�t believe it, releasing his hold on the gambler he turned away. �When will we be departing?�
�Marshal Thompson and his men will be escorting you tomorrow. If you have anything you wish to take care of, I suggest you get to it.�
�Thank you Judge, I would like to go to my room and see to my belongings.�
The judge looked at the Marshal, nodded his head two deputies escorted Ezra to his room. The others left reeling, Chris had thought Vin was in danger, he would never have realized that Ezra would be labeled a murder, even worst admit to the murder.
The three men left the jail followed by the ex-preacher. He needed to get to the bottom of this mess. Approaching his room above the saloon, Josiah was allowed in and both men were given their privacy provided they were assured the preacher wouldn�t let his friend escape.
The ex-preacher looked at his friend, he moved over to the bed and sat down, he waited a moment before asking. �Ezra?� Getting the gamblers attention. �Are you going to stand there and let this happen? Nathan is right, who are you protecting?�
�Please Mr. Sanchez. Accept this, I am not protecting any one.� He started packing not wishing to continue the conversation. After finishing he bend down taking a loose floorboard and removed an envelope stash inside. �Josiah, there�s a thousand dollars inside please give this to Mr. Jackson for the clinic?� The preacher took the money. He then sat at his desk and started writing a letter, after a while he turned. �Please, will you see to it my mother receives this letter and Mr. Tanner receives this one?�
Josiah took both letters and stood facing the gambler, he took him into an embrace, �why won�t you let us help you? Do you realize they will hang you?�
Ezra wanted to pull away from the giant preacher, but something inside him couldn�t, he�d come to enjoy the preachers company very much. His constant admonishments to his questionable ventures always seem insincere. He didn�t judge him merely wanted him to look at what he was doing. Make him realize that something that seems lucrative money wise; didn�t mean it was fruitful in his heart. He returned the embrace.
�Thank you for everything.� He answered, Josiah exited, since the jail was full the gambler would remain sequester in his room until tomorrow.
The rest of the day pass very slow, Ezra�s friends stayed in the saloon, Josiah left for the church. The only ones who had no idea what was happening were JD and Vin. They were still at the Seminole Village.
The next morning Ezra was pack and ready to go. He wasn�t sure why he bothered to pack, it�s not as if he�d be able to take his clothes with him in the hereafter. He�d guess it was just something you did. He was escorted to the prison wagon waiting outside the jail. The journey to Missouri would take a few days. Ezra was greeted by his friends; Buck, Josiah, Nathan and JD who had ridden in this morning to find out what was going on. He too couldn�t believe what had happen.
Ezra was wondering where Chris was, then he notice the dark clad gunslinger in the back, a half empty whiskey bottle in front. The gambler sigh, he didn�t want to be the cause of any undue burden for his friend. He asks the Judge for a moment. He walk over to the only man he�s ever respect or admired.
The gunslinger looked up at the gambler, blood shot eyes meeting concern green eyes. �Ready to go?�
�Yes sir.� He didn�t know what to say, �I hope you won�t think too badly of me Mr. Larabee.�
�After a few more shots of whiskey, I won�t be thinking much of anything.�
Ezra swallowed and whispered, �I�m sorry.� Turned and left. Chris watched him go and took another shot of whiskey. Then his gaze returns to the bottle as he pours himself another shot.
Buck and the others watched as their gambling friend boarded the wagon. None of them able to say goodbye, nor could you wish him a fond farewell.
These men were taking their friend to be hanged, and the law would not allow them to rescue him without becoming outlaws themselves.
�Ezra?� Buck couldn�t say anything else.
The gambler understood, �do not attempt anything Mr. Wilmington, I would never forgive myself should something happen to any of you.� The wagon then pulled away taking their friend to certain death.
The men entered the saloon and sat next to Chris. �JD after the Marshall�s are gone head out and tell Vin he can come back.� There was no feeling in the order, the kid just looked at his leader and friend. The gunslinger did not return the stare, JD looked at Buck and with a slight nod from Wilmington the kid headed out to the Seminole Village.
Vin Tanner with spyglass in hand watched the prison wagon leave Four Corners. There were five men escorting the transport. Vin returned the spyglass into his saddlebag then mounted his horse and headed back to the Indian Village. He didn�t notice the Judge leave so figure the transport must be for the rustlers.
After a couple hours Vin saw JD reach the village.
�Hey kid, you here to bring me home.� He said with a smile, then notice the solemn look on JD. �What�s wrong?�
The kid dismounted, �they took Ezra.� Vin just looks at the kid stun.
�What yah mean they took Ezra, what for?�
�Judge said he�s wanted for murder, he said Ezra killed a woman, his cousin.�
�What? Did Ezra tell them it was bull?� JD shook his head not able to believe that the gambler did not denied the charges. �What Chris have to say?�
�He didn�t say anything, been drinking since last night. Didn�t even say goodbye.� Then thought, �not that any of us could say it either. Vin they�re taking him to be hang.�
�Come on Kid, let�s head back to town.� They both mounted and rode to Four Corners.
When they reach the saloon all of them turn to see Vin and JD enter the saloon all except Chris Larabee, at the moment he was just staring into space.
Looking directly at Chris, �why�d you let them take Ezra?� Not believing that his friend would allow them to take the gambler.
�Now son,� answered Judge Travis. �This is a matter for the law. Mr. Standish is a convicted murder. He was tried and sentence, how he manage to escape well you know Mr. Standish he can pick any lock which obviously his jailers were not aware.� Chris still would not meet the trackers eyes.
Josiah tried to temper the situation, �Vin there was nothing anyone of us could do, and Ezra didn�t want our help.� The tracker look at the ex-preacher, �but he did want me to give you this letter.�
Vin took the letter and sat down; it had his name on the outer envelope, opening he looked inside. For the past few months Mary was helping him learn to read, but looking at the letter he realize most of the words he didn�t know. He looked over at Chris angry that he would just sit and continue to drink when one of their friends, no brother was in trouble. He looked over to the ex-preacher.
�Josiah, do you think you could read it to me, I don�t think I can right now.� He wasn�t yet ready to admit he couldn�t read.
�Sure Vin.� He opens the letter, �My Dear Mr. Tanner,� the letter began. �I have been pondering your current situation, I have therefore dispatch an acquaintance to look into the false charges which finds you a wanted man. Mr. William Daniel�s assured me that he would be in contact with me by the end of next month. Since my predicament will not allow me to be present. I wish to relay this information to you.�
�I am not sure, if Mr. Daniel�s will be writing soon, or if he will arrive into our quaint little backwater town. In any case, please do not shoot first and ask questions later. The gentleman in question owes me a favor and will help you in your endeavor. Good luck to you Mr. Tanner.� The letter was signed, �Ezra.�
Just then Vin got up and then slam his fist down, �I�m not going to let him die.� He was looking at Chris, but the gunslinger did not react merely kept looking into space. The tracker left in disgust. Buck, who understood what was eating his long time friend, went after Vin.
�Vin, you�re not going after him.� Buck pulled his friend back into the saloon.
Vin pulled away from the ladies man, �don�t try and stop me Buck.�
�Vin, you think Ezra has gone through all this trouble to watch you get killed trying to rescue him.� The tracker looked away, �he asked us not to interfere,� then in a whisper tone, �why�d you think Chris is like that, you think he didn�t want to go after him...� Vin looked over at his friend.
�Will he be okay Buck?� Feeling bad for his earlier outburst.
�I hope so,� Buck replied.
Night descended and the prison wagon stopped, the Marshal and deputies made camp. Ezra looked out the wagon at the guards, he knew what was waiting for him and dreaded the pain his Uncle would inflict upon his person. He knew all too well the violence the man was capable.
When he first met Chris Larabee, the look in the man�s eye told him the pain he felt. At the time Ezra did not know what that pain was, until after he got to know him. The pain came from a deep lost, a lost the gambler could not nor would he ever want to know. With time though he became fearful of Mr. Larabee, not the same way he felt about his uncle, but of losing Chris� respect and trust. Now being taken like this he knew that Chris would be feeling anguish, maybe not the same as if he�d lose Vin or Buck, but still he would feel a loss.
Ezra muse that it would only be a matter of time before his uncle found him. He�d hope it would been sooner rather than later, as it happen the latter now means he would cause his friends great distress. At least with the help from Mr. Daniel�s, Vin would be exonerated. Ezra did not have that same luxury. He was tried and convicted of his cousin�s murder, even though Ezra is innocent of the crime, he would not be able to prove it and he was not about to tell his friends of his innocence. If they knew a rescue would be attempted and lost of life might be forthcoming and he would be damn if he�d allow that to happen.
No, he made a Gentlemen�s Agreement and no matter what he would not dishonor it, even if it meant his life. Now looking at his keepers he knows the end is inescapable.
By late evening in Four Corners, Chris and Buck were the only ones left in the saloon. The dark clad gunslinger made no effort to converse with his friend. Whether or not he even knew Buck was sitting next to him, the ladies man was not going to leave his side.
The others weren�t sure what to do, they�d never seen Larabee like this, morose, solemn. Buck told them that he would stay with him. Buck seems to know what the gunslinger was going through, so they left.
Buck kept a careful watch over his friend, he looked at the gunslingers hand, and his knuckles were white which meant he was pressing hard on the shot glass. Then just as suddenly the glass broke, blood ooze from Chris� hand.
�Come on pard�� lets get you to bed.� Chris did not resist, merely allowed Buck to guide him to the boarding house.
Upon entering the building the jovial man saw JD approach. �Buck, is everything okay?� Looking concern, Chris didn�t appear too well to the kid.
�Yeah Kid,� then he whispered. �Can you get Nathan, tell him Chris cut his hand pretty good.�
�Sure Buck, I�ll bring him right quick.� Buck smiled at him as he took off towards the clinic.
Within half an hour Nathan was knocking on Chris� room. Buck opens the door letting the healer in. Nathan quickly looked over his hand. He could tell the dark clad gunslinger wasn�t even aware of his presence, which worried him. He looked over to Buck he just shook his head. Nathan began stitching the wound; then bandage the hand. Once finish he got up to leave, Buck walking him out.
�Is he going to be alright?�
�He�ll be find; just needs rest.� But Nathan wasn�t ready to go, putting his hand on the healer�s shoulders. �He sometimes gets this way when he feels helpless.� Nathan nodded in understanding; he felt the same way.
The next day Chris woke with a start. Looking around he survey that he was in his room. Then looked over seeing Buck sleeping on a chair. He lowered his head feeling the effects of a nasty hangover. Placing his hand over his forehead he wince, then looked at his hand. �What the hell happen,� he thought.
He then began recalling last nights events, sighed. He chided himself, �some leader I am, can�t even save one of my own men, no more friend, god more like a brother�. He shook his head and got up off his bed. Stopping himself, as his head was pounding.
�Chris you alright pard�?� Buck heard his friend move, looked over at his friend as he got up. Chris looked to his friend and merely nodded. �God, he needed coffee,� the gunslinger thought. Buck seems to read his thoughts got up and help Chris. They both headed to the saloon for some thick coffee.
It was late morning in the saloon the others were waiting for their missing friends. They all glance up when they heard the bat wing doors open. Watching Buck lead their dark clad friend towards their table. Josiah watch them enter and felt the pain the gunslinger was going through, they were going to lose a friend and all felt helpless.
�How are you Brother?� Josiah asked, looking at the younger man.
�I�ve been better,� slight pause, �course can�t remember when.� Buck went over to the bar for coffee.
�Here you go pard�,�� Chris had to smile at Buck�s mothering. He just wasn�t the type to let go of you, �til he knew you�d be able to stand on your two feet, even then you�d have a tough time getting away from him.
�Thanks Buck.� They were silent, neither wanting to broach the issue. What could they say?
By noon the stage rode into town, JD got up to greet the new visitors. He felt it was his duty being the sheriff. Buck usually would be by his side looking for any new ladies, but at the moment he just wasn�t in the mood.
JD looked in utter astonishment as three nuns exited the stage. The driver helped the ladies and placed their bags gently along the boardwalk.
�Thank you kind sir and God bless you.� Replied the youngest of the three sisters. She turned and noticed the young man with dark hair looking at them. She smiled, feeling in a small town like this their appearances would be noticeable. �Good afternoon, young man would you be able to tell us where�� She didn�t finish as her eyes took in the small church at the end of town. Looking at her fellow sisters, �they have a church in town.� The two other nuns looked and smiled.
JD cleared his throat, �if you like I can have Josiah, walk you over the church.� They looked at him and he felt a little uncomfortable, with hat in hand and clutching to his chest he gulp.
�Is Josiah the preacher of this town?� The young sister asked.
�Well he�s the closes what we have in town.� They all smiled at him. Making the kid feel funny inside, all warm.
�We would like that very much.� The young sister again spoke. �My name is Sister Bernadette, this is Sister Marie Jeanne and Sister Juliet. We�re on our way to San Francisco, on tomorrows stage.� Looking at her bags, �would you be able to help us with our bags?�
�Yes ma�am, if you wait here I�ll bring Josiah and I�ll take care of the bags.� He didn�t wait for a response as he ran towards the saloon. Busting through the saloon doors, �Josiah!!�
The look on the kids face brought them all to attention, �what�s wrong son?�
Realizing the others were getting up ready for action he quickly put them at ease, �oh, I�m sorry, it�s just that three nuns have just arrived in town. They wanted to know if you�d escort them to the church.�
The look of astonishment was also on the older man�s countenance. He straightens his clothing and walks out with JD in tow.
�Good day Sisters.� Josiah�s baritone voice boom; the sisters smiled.
�Good day, sir.�
�We welcome your arrival to our humble town.� The ex-preacher announced.
�Thank you, the young man told us you are the closes these people have to a preacher.� Stated Sister Bernadette.
�Yes, my name is Josiah Sanchez and my young friend is our town sheriff JD Dunne.� They all nodded to one another. �If you�ll allow me I would be honored to escort you to our church. It might not be what you are use to. At the moment I am still trying to restore the sanctuary.�
�On the contrary Mr. Sanchez, any house of God is a welcome to us.� All four headed to the church as JD pick up the bags and headed for the hotel.
While outside of town, still traveling in the prison wagon Ezra sat shuffling his cards. The guards refuse to speak to the gambler, merely gave him water and food when necessary. Ezra felt the same way, but for different reasons. He was not in the mood to talk. At the moment his thoughts were filled with past events that led up to his present accommodation.
They would be traveling all day and tomorrow evening arriving at Fort Benton just outside of Kansas City, Missouri. Where his Uncle will be waiting for him. According to the Marshal, �Uncle Patrick Curry will be interrogating him on information regarding to the whereabouts of his daughters body.�
Ezra wondered if these men knew the kind of man his uncle was really like. He doubt it though, his uncle has the power and money to buy government officials as well as lawmen. He didn�t think the Judge knew everything about what really happen. The Judge is an honest man and if he knew the truth he would have warn them.
His thoughts went back to Four Corners and to Chris Larabee and the state he last saw him in. He�d hope the others would be there helping him get over what was about to happen to him. Chris has a tendency of bottling up his anger and not talking about what�s bothering him.
The gambler had no doubt the gunslinger would have tried something and hope the others would convince him to respect his wishes. Hopefully they�ll be able to get over his death. He sighed and continued to shuffle his cards.
Fort Benton, Missouri, Patrick Curry was reading the telegram from Marshal Thompson, they have Ezra Standish and would be arriving in three days. He could hardly wait for his young nephew to arrive. This time he wasn�t going to get away from him. He was renting a small ranch not in use, a private place to question his nephew. He brought with him two men to help with the interrogation, men easily bought and without a conscious.
A short lean man approached Curry, �Mr. Curry,� he called. �Captain Irwin has instructed me to escort you and your men to your temporary residence.�
�Very good Corporal, we�ll be ready in about 15 minutes.� The man bow and exited the galley. Giving Curry and his men time to finish eating their lunch.
In Four Corners, Josiah had escorted the three nuns to the church and spent a few hours talking with them. They were on their way to San Francisco to a convent of the Sister of the Holy Family. The stage would be arriving around 10:00 a.m. the next morning. They had been traveling for almost a week from New Orleans. It was a trying trip but the sisters were holding up just find use to the strain and hardship that went with the service of God.
For Josiah, it gave him a little small respite from the thoughts of losing his friend. But after conversation ended and the nuns retired to their hotel room after an early dinner. Josiah�s thoughts return to his wayward friend. He sat in the saloon with the others looking at the gamblers favorite table, the one in the back. Thinking on the memories of high stakes poker games Ezra so enjoyed. Even his mother was sometimes seen their when ever she was in town, which the con artist would grimace every time she arrived wondering what he�d have to do to dissuade his mother while trying to protect the town.
He�s going to die alone, a fear he once confided, he often thought that it would happen in some obscure saloon, an irate customer would not take kindly to losing and shoot him dead. Instead, circumstances which none of his friends could believe took him away from them and now he would actually be facing the gallows and not a bullet. In any case, death would occur and a friend will be gone forever.
None of them would voice their concerns or thoughts, they just merely sat together and when night came simply left for their rooms, to return the next day and face it with out the gambler.
Josiah in his heart knew that he would not wish to see his friend hung, but to leave him to face it alone was another thing, he decided to speak about this with the others come morning.
The next morning, Chris and Vin rode out on an early patrol. Buck and Nathan were still in their respected beds and JD was up and in the jail, their cattle rustlers would be shipped out later in the afternoon per Judge Travis.
Josiah was up and spotted one of the sisters having an early breakfast in the hotel. �Morning Sister,� greeted the ex-preacher.
�Good morning Josiah.� Sister Bernadette replied, glad to see the preacher a little more cheerful. She had notice on occasion the sadness that pass through his eyes.
�You are up early.�
�Oh yes, I like early mornings, however my two companions, do not share my enthusiasm.� Bringing laughter to the preacher. He also knew of someone who had those similar feelings about early mornings. �Will you join me this morning?�
�Thank you, don�t mind if I do.� Josiah sat next to the sister and ordered, both sat conversation turn to the hopes and dreams of the sister�s journey to bring enlightenment to the people of San Francisco.
She related on the stories about the abuse of opium, the gambling, prostitution, the city was growing too fast and direction seem to be lost on the souls of its people. They were also opening an orphanage, it seem children were either being abandon more frequently or losing their parents through violence. The family structure was losing and the sisters were determined to make a difference.
Josiah had to admire the conviction of these sisters. �Well, it is indeed going to be trying. I lived their for a while when my father did missionary work with the Chinese people, you will be going against tradition and prejudice.�
�I have no doubt Josiah, but the sisters are committed and will prevail God Willing.�
�Amen sister� amen,� replied Josiah.
The other sisters joined them and ate a hearty meal for the long journey. The stage was arriving just as Chris and Vin were returning both men headed for the livery stables. Vin took care of the horses and would meet Chris in the saloon.
Josiah was saying his good-byes to the nuns.
�Josiah, I enjoyed your company very much. I do hope if you ever find your self in San Francisco do come to visit.�
�I will,� unconsciously Josiah lifted the sister�s hand and kissed it in a gentlemanly manner bringing a smile to Sister Bernadette. Josiah realized what he�d done, shaking his head at the influence of the gambler.
�Josiah, I have not been kiss on the hand since I was a young woman. Actually the only other man was merely a boy, my cousin Ezra.� Josiah looked up at the woman. It would be too much of a coincidence.
�Ezra? Would that be Ezra Standish?� He dare not hope.
A smile played on her face, �why yes, but how do you know him?�
Josiah was surprise to say the least, �please, I know for some sisters when you take your vows you also take another name. What was your given name?�
�Patricia Curry. Why do you ask?� Josiah could not believe it; the woman Ezra was accused of killing was right in front of him. He became agitated.
�Are you aware that Ezra is to be hanged for your murder?� She looked at him in horror.
�What are you saying? How could this be?� She was confused. Sister Marie Jeanne spoke.
�Sister Bernadette, we are ready to board the stage, is there something wrong?� She hadn�t heard the preacher�s conversation.
�Dear Sister, I can not leave with you, there is someone in need of me.� Looking at Josiah. �Who has accused my dear cousin?� But she knew.
�Your father.� Closing her eyes, she turned to her two companions.
�Please dear friends. I must stay, I shall travel later to meet you.� Both sisters looked at one another. �God has lead me here for a reason. Please understand.� It was a plea that her companions knew all too well that the Lord�s will must be followed. They said their good-byes, the stage departing leaving one passenger behind.
Josiah led her to the saloon, but hesitated after all she was a nun. But she smiled at the ex-preacher knowing his hesitation, took his arm and both entered. Renew hope filled Josiah. The Lord does work in mysterious ways.
The wagon arrived in Fort Benton, Missouri late in the evening. Ezra was escorted to the outpost prison. The following morning he would be taken to his uncle�s temporary residence.
Ezra looked out his window cell, looking into the night sky. An old familiar feeling reiterated his heart, loneliness. Since arriving in Four Corners he hadn�t felt it Ezra attributed it too his six friends. Now that lonely feeling was returning and he hated that sentiment. Taking his cards out he again began to shuffle them, listening to the night sounds.
After Josiah and Sister Bernadette explain who she was and her relation to Ezra the six men rode out. Sister Bernadette incident on riding with them rather than taking the train, which would take longer since Vin, knew the shortest route. Judge Travis had already left on the stage, which brought the sister so, Mary wired the Judge to meet them there as soon as possible or wire them to stop the hanging.
After changing from habit to riding clothes, all seven riders arrived at their first camp for the evening.
�How are you doing sister?� The ex-preacher asked.
�A bit tired, but all right. How long will it be before we arrive?�
Josiah sighed, �not for another day and half at least.� He paused a moment wanting to find out the reason behind her fathers accusation of the cardsharp. �Why would your father believe you dead?�
She looked at him; the others finished setting up camp and were also curios. A fire was already started and coffee was being brewed. She too sighed, not sure if she should tell them everything.
�He doesn�t, but this maybe the only way for him to find me, through Ezra.� Looking at her cousin�s friends, �Ezra gave me his word of honor, or what he would call a Gentlemen�s Agreement. That he would never allow my father anywhere near me again.� This surprised them, why would a daughter fear her own father?
In a soft voice hoping to get at the bottom of this, �would you care to elaborate on that?� Josiah asked.
�Josiah�� She paused fidgeting and then he placed a comforting hand on hers for encouragement. �It happened a long time ago. Ezra was only 15 years old. Aunt Maude brought him to stay with us for a few months, she had a business venture to pursue and her son needed a place to stay. I hadn�t seen dear Ezra since I was five years old, my mother was Maude�s first cousin and the closes friend she had. We were there when Ezra was brought home.� He was born in Georgia and the most beautiful baby I�d ever laid eyes on. Even as an infant he had an endearing smile and those eyes well everyone who ever held that boy just melted. My father gave no notice on the boy, but allowed my mother and me to remain with Maude until she was on her feet.�
She looked reflectively at the campfire and continued. �After my mother died, father became different, he changed.� At the moment she didn�t wish to give more information, �when Ezra arrived he was quite the charmer, polite and a gentlemen for sure.� She smiled at the thought of her cousin, �father welcome him, knowing how mother had favored her cousin Maude. At the time my father was on his way to business and would return in a couple of days.�
�Ezra and I became aquatinted, I was older then him and he wondered why I had no prospects, I couldn�t help but laugh. He wondered why I laugh and told me �that a beautiful woman of my breeding and age should be married and have children of her own.� I accused him of playing matchmaker and simply told him there were no interested men or prospects as he pointed out. He actually wanted to search for prospects for a nominal fee. I pretended to be shock that he would consider charging family. He pointed out that he would not be offended in taking money from family or friends.� The others laughed thinking on that 10% Vin still owed the con man.
�Then my father arrived one night late, Ezra and I had already retired. Father entered my room as he always did,� she paused here and stood fidgeting with her hands. �I� I,� she paused again, but decided she could not hold back. �Its hard to talk about what happen, poor Ezra could not understand why it happen at all. After my mother died as I said father changed, he� when I was only 16 years of age my father force himself on me.� She saw the look from the men she rode with, not sure if they would blame her or not. Josiah looked at her not with blame or pity but understanding. He stood next to her and encouraged her to continue.
�That night he entered my room, I was surprise. I thought with Ezra there he would not touch me, but I think he must have forgotten; Ezra must have heard what was going on or at least heard noises coming from my bedroom. My young cousin pulled father from me. He had no idea that it was father. Ezra was shock when he recognized him. Then father became angry I�d never seen him so angry. He attacked Ezra; beat him almost killing him. It�s as if he lost all reasoning and only felt rage. I screamed, the whole house hold heard and only then did my father stop beating Ezra.� She waited trying to control her emotions to continue, tears were streaming down her cheeks.
�I thought he�d killed Ezra, he wasn�t moving, but I felt a pulse. Father sent for a doctor and told him, he thought that Ezra was an intruder trying to attack me. I never thought I would ever hate my own father but I could not bear to be near him. The cook and I had laid my cousin in my bed and there he lay for nearly three months recovering from the beating. And dear sweet Ezra, do you know what he told me?�
She waited for their response they shook there heads �no�. �He saw the beating as a blessing for me, for those three months my father never touch me.� Shaking her head in wonder. �When Ezra finally recovered he had been devising a plan to take me away from my father to somewhere safe. For a very long time I had been praying for a miracle, for the good Lord to protect me from my own father. He sent me Ezra.�
She took comfort in the looks the men gave her one of awe at their friend�s courage. �He took me to a convent, where he use to spend time apparently my father wasn�t the only family that beat Ezra. He knew the Mother Superior there,� she laughed. �Apparently, Ezra had pulled a small con on her, since then she took a liking to the little thief as she offend referred to him. My father had no idea where we were, Ezra managed to lose them, he then hid me and took off to misdirect them. I had no idea that my father had accused him of my murder. He never mentioned this to me.�
Josiah took her hands into his, �not only that but your father apparently had witnesses to your murder. But somehow instead of hanging him outright for the murder, he convinced those in authorities to hand him over to your father for questioning. He wanted your remains for a proper burial, but somehow he managed to escape and now your father has him again.� It was his turn to pause then looking at her, �what will your father do to him?�
�What we all fear, he will hurt him until he tells him were I am. And knowing Ezra he would rather die then divulge that information. We have to get there in time Josiah.�
�We will, we will.� And silently he prayed they would. Chris and the others didn�t say a word but their thoughts were of the same mind. They would rescue the gambler and heaven help the man responsible for the heartache inflicted on both Ezra and his cousin. There would be hell to pay.
The following morning Marshal Thompson delivered Ezra to his uncle. �Sir, per your request I am releasing the prisoner into your custody.�
�Thank you Marshal, if that is all your are free to go.� Thompson hesitated a moment. �My men and I will take care of my nephew.� Satisfied he and his deputies rode off. Curry looked at his nephew, �It�s good to see you again.� The tone in his voice did not reflect the words.
�I wish I could reciprocate the sentiment Uncle.� Ezra replied sarcastically.
His uncle merely smiled then motion to his men, �why don�t you gentlemen show my nephew his accommodations.� The men led Ezra towards the barn just a few feet from the ranch. �I will join you shortly.� Patrick Curry walked back to the ranch.
The two men led Ezra into the barn, preceded to remove his upper clothing. Then chained him to an iron hook, Patrick Curry had instructed his men to inflict pain to the gambler. They each took turns using Ezra as a punching bag. After about an hour, Curry entered the barn. As he walked in he heard the gambler scream and smiled to himself. Both men looked to their boss and stopped. Reaching his nephew, he stood in front of him.
�Ezra?� Waiting for a response, no sound he tried again. �Ezra, come now...� he lifted the gamblers head. �Ezra.� This time he had the con man�s undivided attention. �There, good to see your still among the living.�
Ezra wince, �well... I wouldn�t wish... to disappoint you, I know... how you enjoy inflicting pain to family.� That earned the gambler another punch. Knowing whom he was referring to.
�Now nephew, this could be over in a matter of moments. Now be so kind and tell me where my daughter can be found?�
�I... do apologies, but I made her a promise... that I intend to keep.� He saw the look his uncle gave him, Ezra realize at that moment that the man had lost whatever sanity he still held onto.
�I will return later this evening and hope you�ll reconsider.� Then looking at his two men, �please refrain from killing him, I still require the information.� Both men nodded. Curry exited with a smile plastered on his face.
This time the two men resorted to using a riding crop, rather than continue to bruise their fists on an uncooperative gambler. Ezra held as long as he could before the screams escaped once again. But the pain didn�t stop there, as the men decided to inflict even more pain by breaking his leg. He lost consciousness, but the beating still continued.
Marshal Thompson was back at Fort Benton, after delivering the gambler to his uncle his thoughts on the look Curry gave the young man unnerved him. He knew without a doubt what the man had planned for Standish.
So, rather than deal with that knowledge he bought a bottle of whiskey took it to his guest room and wasn�t going to stop until unconsciousness took him. After three quarters of the bottle had been consumed he was feeling numb which brought a smile on his countenance. He wouldn�t have to think about anything any more.
Unfortunately, the good Marshal wasn�t going to get away that easily. Just then seven riders entered Fort Benton looking for Thompson. After speaking with the Captain, they were directed to the Marshal�s quarters. A loud pounding sound from the door awaken the stupor man.
Chris didn�t wait for an answer and went in. The room was darkly lit, but still visible enough for the dark clad gunslinger to see the near empty whiskey bottle. Anger griped the leader of the seven and roughly pulled the Marshal to a sitting position. Josiah and Nathan entered just as this took place, both men pulled their friend hoping to steer Chris� wraith before things got worse.
Nathan looked at the drunken man shaking his head. Buck and Vin entered as well leaving outside JD with Sister Bernadette. Buck was none too pleased at the condition of the marshal he was the only one that knew where Ezra was taken. The other deputies were dispatched back to their providence and only one was left, but that man had stayed behind at the Fort. The gambler wasn�t much of a threat and the marshal didn�t feel it necessary to take additional manpower.
�We got to sober this man, iffen we�re going to find Ezra.� Nathan couldn�t understand what made the marshal start to drink when he was to retrieve his friend in two days. He mask his thoughts, this man was trying to escape. �Did he know what awaited the gambler and want to drawn his thoughts?� Josiah heard Nathan and left the room taking Buck with him, he had his own special remedy for a quick sobering experience.
Chris� patience was running out. He wanted to hit something, and wouldn�t mind directing that feeling over to the marshal, trying one of his own type of sobering experiences. Just then Josiah and Buck came back from the galley with a tall glass of an interesting curative drink, that the ex-preacher swore would dispel any demons the whiskey brought on. After the marshal consumed the concoction he was laid back on the bed.
�Well!� Chris shouted.
�Give it a few minutes Chris,� looking at his friend with a wry grin to his face. �It�ll work.� Just then the marshal practically jump from the bed choking his eyes were wide open now and it seem like he was trying to put out a fire. Josiah looked at Buck with another glass in hand and gave it to Thompson. He drank the whole thing and started coughing this time, but was very much sobered up. With a knowing smile, �see, it never fails.� Bringing a smirk from Chris.
�Oh god! What was in that thing?� The marshal asked in-between coughing fits.
�Oh just a little something to put fire back in your blood.� The ex-preacher replied. Chris decided to take control of the situation now.
�All right marshal where did you take Ezra?� While Thompson was still trying to calm his inflame senses, Chris pressed him against the wall trying to elicit information about their missing friend.
�What?� he said confused as to what these men were doing here. �You have no right to be here, this is a matter for the law. Judge Travis told you not to interfere.�
He continued finally regaining his senses.
�Yeah, we already told Judge Travis that Ezra was set up,� just then Sister Bernadette entered the room. �This young lady is Ezra�s cousin the one her father accused him of killing. Seems he was protecting her from a derange man.�
He regretted saying that in front of his own daughter, but a mans life was at stake and he had no time for pleasantries. �Now I�m going to ask you again, where�s Ezra?�
The marshal was looking at the woman and realized what he had done. Given an innocent man over to a mad man, that�s why he bought the bottle because deep down something didn�t fit, the gambler didn�t look the type to kill anyone much less a woman. And Chris Larabee would never ride with a man he didn�t know to be good. Con man or not and here standing before him was the proof.
�Marshal, please where is my cousin?� The plea in her voice was the final sobering he needed to bring him to attention.
�He�s a good ride out from here. We won�t be at the ranch �til tomorrow morning.� He looked at all the men. �It�s all ready dark out...�
�Do you know how to get there or not?� Was Chris� question?
�Yeah, I know.� Pulling him self from Larabee.
�Let�s ride,� an answer that brook no argument.
All riders were given fresh horses for the long journey. A full moon shuns brightly against the darkness that was enveloping the Fort. �They would be guided by the hand of God,� thought Josiah as he looked up saying a silent prayer. It seem he�d often say these prayers for his new found family.
After the gambler lost consciousness and the beatings stop, the two men inflicting such pain left to take a break. They had been at it most of the afternoon and had yet to consume any edibles, so with satisfied looks both men retired for the evening.
It was early morning as Ezra began to stir; his first thoughts were jumbled. He tried to move but every part of his body seemed to hurt. A bright light was shun in front of his face which he immediately close his eyes and a slight moan escaped, bringing a sharp painful ache from his leg. Then he heard a voice enter his conscious thought.
�Ezra wake up son.� The voice was soft but unrecognized; however, with this much pain it had to be...
�Nathan?� Ezra called out, his eyes still closed.
�No, son. It�s Uncle Patrick.� He said it so naturally as thou there was civility in their relationship; another moan escaped the gambler bringing a chuckle to the man who has brought nothing but pain. �Come now open your eyes, I wish to discuss a few things with you.�
�I will never tell you where she resides, so there is no need for me to look upon your countenance Uncle.� This brought a slap across the gambler face.
�I said open your eyes.� He did as was told, but put on his best poker face hoping to mask any pain, so not to bring pleasure to his uncle. �There now, that wasn�t so hard,� a cooing sound to his voice.
�We have nothing more to discuss uncle.� This earns him another slap making Curry even angrier. He lifted Ezra up from the floor where he�d been drop. He could feel the pain from the exertion and his back was slammed against the wall, which he could no longer hide the pain. �Get off me you bastard.� He grimaced as the punch to his already bruise or broken ribs were hit. He gasped for air, as it was wrench from his lungs.
�You have no right to keep my daughter away from me!� He shouted in the gamblers ear.
�And you sir, have no right to call yourself her father. What you did to her was monstrous, and I will protect her from you, at all cost.�
The man became enraged; he started hitting Ezra and wouldn�t stop. He dropped the gambler to the floor again and continued to pound him, this time he heard ribs break and smiled an evil grin and still continued beating the already unconscious man. When he finally finished he was breathing hard, gave him another kick and left the barn closing behind him. Tomorrow brought a new day, and he was sure this time he�d get want he wanted.
They rode in the following morning; it was all ready light out. At the sound of hoof beats three men with rifles ready, stop just before entering the barn. Curry recognized the marshal.
�What are you doing here Marshal. I still have until tomorrow before you take what�s left of my nephew.� Still holding his rifle.
�Father, where�s Ezra?� He put the weapon down when her voice pierce the morning sky, it was music to his ears and the giddiness in his voice was evident.
�Patricia, daughter you�ve come back to me.� As he approached her both Chris and Josiah dismounted and stood in front of his path. �Get out of my way,� he said looking at these men in disgust and taking aim again. �You have no right to keep my daughter away from me!� This time he shouted the words.
�Mr. Curry, you�ve lied sir. Your daughter is alive, yet your nephew was convicted of her murder. What the hell is going on?� Marshal Thompson wearily was looking at the barn and wondering if the young man was still alive.
�This does not concern you Marshal, all I�ve ever wanted was my daughter back. Now give her to me!� He spoke as though she were his property instead of a family member.
�You�re not laying one filthy hand on her.� Larabee sneer, �now where is Ezra?� The coldness in his tone shook the man allowing Chris to disarm Curry. The other two men now faced the wraith of six men and a marshal and quickly drop their weapons.
�I saw them take Mr. Standish in the barn.� The Marshal led them towards the building.
Buck, JD and Vin took care of the two men; Chris grabbed Curry following the marshal while Nathan and Josiah lead the sister to the barn. When the door was open their on the floor laid Ezra. Blood adorned his head and mouth; to all looking he appeared dead. No movement. Nathan ran to his friend, as did Patricia. Chris wanted to beat the hell out of the uncle who did this, but it would serve no purpose.
�How is he Nathan,� The dark clad gunslinger held his breath waiting for news. Josiah just stared hoping they weren�t too late. After what seem forever.
�He�s alive, I don�t know how, but he�s alive.� Looking at the uncle, the usually compassionate healer wanted to rip this man apart for what he�d done to his friend.
Patricia helped Nathan turn the gambler on his back and with a knife cut the ropes that bound their friend.
Josiah approached as well to help in any way. Nathan did a cursory examination to determine the extent of their friend�s injury. After a few minutes he sighed.
�He�s got two broken ribs, a head injury and concussion. Plus bruises all over his body, and�� He turns to look at Chris. �They broke his leg as well, I�m going to need to reset it and then splint it.�
Chris struck the man, no longer able to control his temper. �You bastard!� He flung the man across the room, Josiah and Buck had to restrain him. The sound brought a moan from Ezra he focus on the man in black.
�Chris?� Which stop Larabee from continuing to fight his friends. He laid back and then focus on, �Nathan?� This brought Chris immediately to his friend�s side. �I am somewhat perplex at your appearance here. Did I not say for you gentlemen not to interfere?� Bringing a sigh of relief to hear that southern drawl.
�Dam,� thought Chris even in the worst circumstance the man used them fancy five dollar words.�Shut up Ezra and let Nathan have a look at you.� Which brought a small chuckle, if not painful grimace to the sly conman. He lay back and fell back to sleep, Chris places his hand on the conman�s forehead. �You just go back to sleep, it�s too early for you anyway.� Both healer and leader looked at one another grinning.
After several minutes of tending to the gamblers injuries, which included the broken leg reset and splinted. Ribs wrapped, as well as all the cuts and abrasion taken care of, Nathan issued orders a wagon to be readied.
After helping Nathan tend to her injured cousin, Patricia confronted her father. �How could you do this? How could you hurt him so much when all he ever wanted to do was help me?� She waited for his response, he tried to reach out but she pulled away from him. He was now angry.
�Why did you leave me you are my daughter? You should have stayed with me, not run off with this bastard boy.� He sneered.
�Is that what you think happen. No father, when he found out what you�d done, he took me away from you. Because even a boy knew that what you did was wrong. No parent should treat their child, the way you treated me.� Taking a breath, �I forgave you for what you did, but I could never forget the humiliation you put me threw. Then, dear Ezra took me to a place where I found sanctuary and peace.�
�What was it some whore house your cousin sold you too? He�s just like his mother, a conniving little bastard who would sell anything for a profit.� He shouted, venom clearly in his tone.
Patricia shook her head wondering how she could have loved and admired this man growing up. The others were shock at the words coming from his mouth regarding the gambler.
�No, he took me to a church. You see father I prayed that God would send me one of his angels to help me. He sent Ezra.� She smiled and looked to her cousin, �he was just a boy, but he showed me compassion and offered me safety.� Patrick looked from his nephew back to his daughter.
�Stay with me?� This time he softens his voice. �You belong with me, we were happy before he came. We could keep the secrete again, no one has too know.� Patricia couldn�t believe what her father was proposing.
�No, I�ve found a home with God, I am now called Sister Bernadette. I help those that need a place of safety and to those who need to reacquaint themselves with our Lord.� She replied.
�God? Go to hell daughter, he took your mother from me and now he�s taken you. How could you leave me? Don�t you know how much I need you?� Expressing his emotions with his hands, as he extended them to her.
�No father, I�m leaving with Ezra and his friends. I will no longer return to you. I have my own path now and it doesn�t include you.� She looked at her father one final time as the others lifted the gambler and moved him to the waiting wagon and the return home.
It was a grueling trip, the first night they made camp, and the gambler had developed a fever. The day was hard on him, the road harsh, that night delirium entered Ezra�s mind and kept thrashing against unseen demons from his childhood. Sister Bernadette started to sing hers and Ezra�s favorite song; an old song from the south. Her nanny use to sing it to her Nathan recognized it as did the conman and became calm. The others listened as well.
It was a hauntingly beautiful song about the south�s lost and forgotten children. The memories brought a tear to the black healers face of his mother and his brothers and sisters wondering where they were. When she finished Ezra was fast asleep and Nathan had finish tending to his many injuries.
Marshal Thompson arrest Patrick Curry for the beating and since Ezra was innocent, the marshal hoped that Judge Travis would add kidnapping to the charges.
They arrived in Four Corners within two days leaving behind the memories of a mad man and the tortures inflicted on two innocent people.
Night had arrived and the eight weary friends were grateful to be home. They stop the wagon in front of the clinic; Nathan and Josiah lifted the gambler and together made their way inside.
Nathan began checking the wounds and leg, the leg was going to take time in healing, and how a man could inflict such pain the healer would never understand. Ezra was still in the throes of a fever; hopefully this too will break now that they were all home.
During the late evening, or was it the early morning Ezra�s fever broke both Sister and Healer stay the night seeing the gambler through his ordeal. He would sometimes cry out that he would never tell where his dear cousin could be found. Sister Bernadette would take a wet cloth cleaning the sweat and calling his name telling him he was safe.
The next morning Sister Bernadette watched these two gentle men tend to her cousin; the care she saw brought a smile. She�d often wonder if Ezra would ever know what a true caring family would be like. Her young cousin had shown her when he brought her to the house of God, she had found peace and love and yes even hardship you could only save those who wanted to be saved and help those who sought help. Finally Ezra sought out that help and safety.
Now sleeping comfortably Sister Bernadette knew it would be time to leave. She hated having to leave, but what needed done was accomplished. Ezra was back among his friends as it should be.
�I wish you didn�t have to leave so soon.� Josiah commented.
�I have a long journey ahead of me, Ezra is save, and I know you and Nathan will take good care of him.� Looking out to the horizon, �Ezra will understand Josiah.� The ex-preacher nodded. �Will you give him this for me?� It was a gold crucifix, beautify crafted with a small jade stone along the center of the small object.
�It�s beautiful,� Josiah handled the delicate piece. �Are you sure you wish to part with this?�
She nodded her head. �It�s a gift for my cousin with a message, �I made it.� He�ll understand.� Smiling at the man with a wistful look on her face.
The morning stage approaches the two people. Chris, Vin, Buck and JD arrived to bid farewell to the good Sister. She smiles at them. Reaching out to them, �thank you all for everything you�ve done to keep my dear cousin safe.�
�You could stay �til Ezra�s better, he�s going to kick himself that he�d miss seeing you.� The dark clad gunslinger couldn�t understand why she was rushing off.
�No, it�s best this way.� She hugged and kiss them all, Nathan waved from the clinic as Sister Bernadette boarded the stage.
The five men left for the saloon the stage no longer visible.
Two days later Ezra was stronger, the leg was still in splints, �at least for another two weeks.� Nathan had said. The gambler already wanted them off.
Ezra was sitting on the bed of Nathan�s clinic, lost in thought, shuffling his deck of cards. Chris had left for patrol after assuring him self that the wily conman was mending. It touched the gambler that the others truly were concern about him.
Josiah entered the clinic, �afternoon, Brother.�
Ezra looked up at the ex-preacher, nodded his head and resume with his cards. �I have something for you.�
The gambler looked up, �and pray tell what would that be?� He inquired.
�Your cousin visited us by sheer miracle, she told us what really happened and with the judges help we managed to get you away from your uncle.�
Josiah still wasn�t happy about this noble streak of Ezra�s he almost died without asking for help, and worst yet he would have left his friends with the doubt about the truth of what really happened to his cousin. �Why wouldn�t you trust us to help, do you realize you could have hang?� Josiah just shook his head. Not able to let go of how close they came to losing their friend.
�I did what I had to do. Now pray tell which cousin are you talking about, no one but my dear cousin Patricia knew. And you have yet to tell of what you have?�
�Well, it was your cousin Patricia who came to visit us, her and two other nuns stop in Four Corners a few days ago and that�s how we discovered the truth.� Josiah was smiling, but the look on Ezra�s face wasn�t what he imagine it should be.� What�s wrong?�
�My� cousin, you say.� Ezra stuttered a bit. �But� no that�s impossible.�
�Well I did say it was a miracle��
�No, no.� Shaking his head. �You don�t understand Josiah, my cousin Patricia died over six years ago, she died of consummation in Arizona.�
Josiah was stun, then he remember the crucifix, �I don�t understand, but she asked me to give this�� Handing the necklace to the gambler. ��and to tell you �I made it�. She said you�d understand.�
Ezra looked at the necklace for almost 10 minutes not sure what happened, how was it possible. �She died Josiah, I was there just before�� He choked a little trying to compose himself. His eyes watering at the memory of his once strong cousin who had endured so much and to watch her body succumbing to illness, it just wasn�t fair.
�There were two children who became lost during one of their winter storms she felt responsible and wouldn�t give up the search. She found them but shortly there after she became ill. The Mother Superior wired me and I arrived as quick as I could, but it was only to watch her die.�
Looking at the preacher Ezra continued. �She asked me to take back the necklace in remembrance, you see I gave it to her as a gift when she took her vows. Patricia said that she would not need it where she was going. I told her just in case; you know that there wasn�t. She gave me one of her exasperated looks and scowled me for saying such things.� He chuckled, �so I made a bet with her if she did arrive to heaven that I would take back the necklace.� Then looking again at the preacher, �you think she really made it?�
The look on the gambler was so innocent you never know you were actually speaking to the once cynical man they come to know.
Josiah had said that it was a miracle that she�d arrive just when they needed her and now looking at the gambler and the wondrous on his face� �Well I guess that necklace proves it?� The preacher and the gambler just looked at the delicate necklace in awe and wonder.