DUST STORM

Authors Notes: I am by no means an expert on dust storms or tornados. This is just a story of what could happen should someone figure out how to control a little bit of mother nature.

by Leslie

On the road seven riders travel eastward to Four Corners all weary from the nights’ journey; it would be at least half a day’s trek before arriving home, having assisted one of the neighboring towns. Vin Tanner a former bounty hunter now a wanted man has lived in the open range most of his adult life becoming sensitive to the sudden weather changes. Feeling change come he quickly turns to his left what he sees at first seems a sight impossible to imagine. He reins in his horse and watches when sure he calls out, “Chris hole up?”

Chris and Buck both riding ahead, stop as do the others behind. “What is it?”

“Look yonder tell me my eyes ain’t playing tricks?”

“Oh, hell!” Both Buck and Chris reply in unison.

Chris rides towards the back of the other riders. “Boys we got trouble coming, ride as fast as you can there’s a dust storm headed our way.”

Chris hits his horse hard pushing the others to do the same. Riding ahead taking the lead they follow with Josiah and Nathan bringing up the rear, suddenly finding them self-falling behind. They thought to out run the storm, but just as fast it turns towards their direction. Vin has seen a lot of strange things out in the open but never anything like this. “That there dust storm is following us!”

They all started to ride harder finally getting past it. Unfortunately for Josiah and Nathan who were still lagging behind are caught, there horses falling at the impact. Ezra sees them get hit and turns to help but becomes caught, his horse suffering far worse as its back is broken instantly and both are pulled down. The dust storm pulls them all near the cliff's edge. Josiah and Nathan manage to hold onto a tree while one horse pulls itself up and rides off the other lying in pain with a broken leg. Ezra and his horse are still being pulled Ezra’s leg stuck to the stirrups. When his horse is pulled along the cliff’s side Ezra’s foot finally unclasps from the stirrup and he manages to hook his fingers on the edge burrowing as deep as possible.

The horse falls over the edge Ezra looks down a moment as he feels the effects of vertigo. Oh how he hates heights. As the dust storm dissipates when it reaches the edge, he tries to lift him self up and is caught by supporting hands as Josiah and Nathan recover and head right for Ezra. “Thank you gentlemen.” He didn’t want to look back down. “That was close.”

“What were you thinking?”

“I have no idea Mr. Jackson.” They all shake their heads that was real close.

On seeing what happened Chris and the others head for them, “that was quite a rescue boys.”

“In all my years I have never seen anything like that.” Vin could not believe that the dust storm seemed to have a mind of its own. “It looked like the thing was following us.”

After making sure everyone was all right they round up Nathan’s horse and have to shoot Josiah’s, that leaves them to double up Ezra with Vin while Josiah with JD. All were looking out for any other surprises as they continued on their journey.

*******

While at a far off distance two men were watching with a telescope at the marvel they had created. “Professor did it work?”

“Johnny my boy it worked beautifully. The control was far more successful then I’d hope for. The power toppled three riders it was incredible.”

“What now Professor?”

“Well now we must recharge the apparatus before testing again. Then phase two will bring us to testing a much larger target.”

“A town Professor.”

“Yes, Four Corners would be the logical target, it’s big but not noticeable enough to cause suspicion.”

“Now Professor what about those seven men that protect the town. I hear there tough.”

“Perhaps among other men, but nature's fury is entirely different. The funnel we create for the town will be greater than we have just witness. No Johnny our seven would be heroes will pose any threat. Now gather our things and I’ll head into town.”

“Yes Professor.” Johnny then begins collecting all their instruments and putting them into the covered wagon. Johnny was pretty happy the Professor’s plans always worked he could hardly wait to rake in the money that would come from ransoming towns from pending disasters.

*******

Arriving finally late afternoon the seven men dismount. When Ezra touches the ground he flinches apparently he injured his ankle. Vin looks down “you okay Ezra?”

“Find Mr. Tanner, merely sprained my ankle.”

“Why don’t you let me take a look at it.”

“Thank you Mr. Jackson, but I’ll manage.” He turns and heads to his room.

Nathan shaking his head, “I’ve never met anyone as stubborn as Ezra.”

Everyone would have to agree when it came to injuries Ezra always sucked it in. When he arrives to his room removing his boot he looks at his ankle. It had already swollen he lays back on his feather bed and puts his foot up. Closing his eyes, recalling how close death was. Still he was more concern that he had not yet mastered his vertigo.

A few minutes later there is a knock and Nathan enters his room. “Here brought you a cold compress and some ligament to help with the swelling.”

“Thank you Mr. Jackson you should not have bothered I am a quick healer.”

“I’m sure you are Ezra and it was no bother.” Nathan didn’t wait for a response and left Ezra to attend to him self.

He hated being so glib, his former acquaintances taught him, to survive you must depend on yourself. So it was very hard for him to accept help from these men. Although his greatest fear was one day betraying them, which he had once when he ran out on them whose to say he wouldn't betray them again. So he preferred keeping them at a distance, but it was hard sometimes because he always felt so at home with them. He finished rubbing the ligament and his ankle felt better.

In the saloon the others talked about the day’s events then Mary walked in on hearing their return. “Gentlemen.” They all tipped their hats in response. “I couldn’t help but noticed that some of you were rider less. Was their trouble?”

Chris had gotten up and pulled her a chair to sit with them “only on our way back, we ran into a dust storm.”

“Dust storm this time of month, isn’t that unusual?”

“I would have to agree with you Mary this one also happen to chase us.”

Mary had to smile, “chase you Mr. Tanner?”

“Chase us,” answered Buck. “Nearly threw Nathan and Josiah off the cliff and near killed Ezra.”

She was not prepared for that and a glanced from Chris made Buck regret saying it. “Is Ezra all right?”

“Yes Mrs. Travis I took him some ligament he’s rubbing it to a sore ankle.”

“Thank goodness. But why do you think it chased you. Surely that would be impossible for a dust storm to react in that manner.”

“Mrs. Travis is right we must have been imaging it after all we didn’t get much rest with Buck snoring last night.”

“JD I have told you time and time again I don’t snore.” They all laughed. Mary excused herself and returned to the Clarion. Buck and JD continued arguing Chris left for his shack outside of town, and Josiah return to the church Nathan to his clinic and Vin kept a watchful eye in town by his wagon.

Later that evening Ezra showed up ready for takers in a game of draw poker. When he noticed a nicely dressed man walk in. At first glance he posed no threat then he recognized him and was surprise to see this man way out west. Since he had no takers he walked up to the stranger. “Professor Worthington?” The man turnaround to face the stranger. “Yes, have we met?”

“Ezra Standish we met at Harvard.”

The Professor smiled at the recollection and shook Ezra’s hand, “yes of course. My boy what are you doing out here?”

“I could ask the same of you Professor. I would think this backward town hardly the place for a man of your reputation.”

He had to think of something to say. At the moment he wasn’t sure he could trust this man with the truth. “Health reason’s I’m afraid.”

A concerned look on Ezra’s face “nothing serious I hope.”

“Nothing the desert air won’t help. I am find just an over zealous Doctor.”

“Well that’s good news, may I offer you a drink and conversation.”

“Why thank you Mr. Standish. Perhaps now you will relate your reasons for arriving hear of all places.”

Sitting down “well I am afraid a few unsuccessful business ventures.”

“As I recall their was a somewhat scandal involving you and a most prominent young lady. Which cause you to be expel?”

“Ah yes I am afraid her father did not approve of my company.”

“A pity Mr. Standish as I recall you were quite the protege I had high hopes for you. You had a unique way of seeing things. Which I must admit helped me in some of my studies.”

“I am honored that you would hold me in high regard Professor. I must admit it is good to see someone from my youth. I miss those days.” “As I understand Mr. Standish you had quite a reputation at the University. If there was folly you were not far behind."

“The days of youth Professor.” They continued to have good conversation and were later joined by Buck and JD who were surprise at hearing Ezra laugh.

Introductions made they entered the conversation as well.

*******

The next morning Ezra was up rather early for him. He was searching for Vin and when spotted went over, “morning Mr. Tanner.”

Vin turnaround and was surprise to see Ezra. “Ezra isn’t this a might early for you.”

“Yes but necessary.” Then sat down next to him on one of the outside saloon chairs. “I was wondering Mr. Tanner if you could help me with a small dilemma I have encountered.”

“And what would that be?”

“The location of where my horse fell. I would like to retrieve my saddle.”

“Really and how would you value your saddle.”

“Pardon?”

“You know Ezra how much you willing to give me to guide you to your saddle.”

“Mr. Tanner I am shock that you would think to charge me.”

“Well Ezra I learned from you to always take advantage of any situation.”

Ezra just accepted, “very well Mr. Tanner would five dollars be enough incentive?”

“That’ll do.” He stood up and turned to Ezra. “Saddle up then wouldn’t want to be accused of stealing.”

“Mr. Tanner you belie me.” Ezra was never worried about that he had never met a more honest man then Vin, of course he would never admit to it. He also had another motive for wanting to travel with Vin.

*******

Later that day Professor Worthington enters the saloon searching for Ezra and finds JD and Buck having another discussion. “Good afternoon gentlemen.”

“Afternoon Professor.”

“Have you gentlemen seen Mr. Standish today?”

“Well Professor as a matter of fact he and another friend left early this morning to go hunting for his saddle.”

“For his saddle, that sounds a bit unusual?”

“Not for Ezra the saddle was a gift from his mother.”

“I see how did he lose the saddle in the first place.”

Both Buck and JD made room for the professor as they related their story as to yesterdays harrowing experience leading up to Ezra’s missing saddle.

“Well gentlemen that is indeed an enlightening tail. When Mr. Standish returns I’d like to invite him for dinner.”

“Well Professor if I know Vin he’ll properly spend the night out which Ezra will enjoy very much.” While Buck turns to JD sneering. Both knowing full well how Ezra hates camping out.

“In that case I shall take this opportunity to explore the country side and will see Mr. Standish tomorrow. Good day gentlemen.” Tipping his hat he leaves the saloon leaving Buck and JD to finish their discussion.

*******

After several travelling hours outside of town Professor Worthington arrives finding Johnny busily unloading equipment. They found a large cavern able to hold their wagon so not to draw any attention to them self. “Johnny my boy you are indeed a marvel.” “Afternoon Professor, how did it go!”

“Well Johnny we may have encountered a problem, seems a former student of mind has been living in town and may cause us a delay?”

“Do you want I should take care of him Professor?”

“At the moment no. I will monitor the situation more and determine if we should dispose of Mr. Standish.”

“Mr. Standish? You mean Ezra lives here?”

“You remember him Johnny?”

“Yes he use to get into so much trouble in school.”

“That he did which might bring him to our cause. As I recall he used whatever means possible to gain money and we are in the business of making money.”

*******

Vin and Ezra were half-a-days journey outside of town when they finally came across the ravine where Ezra’s horse would be found. Vin was keeping a watchful eye above looking for the exact location. “Mr. Tanner why do you keep looking up when you should be looking on the ground?”

“Simple I’m looking for the broken branches where your horse would have fallen from that would alert us to the location.”

“Very impressive Mr. Tanner, but how will you be able to see said branches?”

“You do ask a lot of questions, don’t worry I’ll see it.” After awhile Vin stopped just ahead then satisfied he moved on following another direction and both saw the carcass a few feet away. “You better dismount.”

“Whatever for?”

“Because horses tend to be skittish when they smell death especially there own kind.”

So Ezra and Vin dismounted and held onto the reins of their horses. Tying them off by a tree they walk towards the carcass. Ezra went around the horse and tried removing the saddle. “Mr. Tanner would you be so kind as to assist me?”

“Now Ezra you ask for my help in tracking not removal of property.” He smiled to himself enjoying watching Ezra struggle with the saddle. When he finally was able to remove the saddle he landed on his butt. Which sparked laughter from Vin.

Ezra grin, “how comforting to know you are enjoying yourself Mr. Tanner.”

“Sorry Ezra I’ve just never seen such a spectacle."

After getting up and dusting himself off he manage to place the saddle onto his horse. “Well should we head back?”

Vin looked up at the sky, “no it’ll be dark soon we’ll make camp and leave first thing in the morning.”

“Oh joy! A night in this uncivilized location.”

“Cheer up Ezra it will only be one night. We should look for a nice area up wind of the carcass.”

After finding a good site Vin went off to gather wood for a fire and see about some food. Ezra used this opportunity to head back to the carcass without Vin in hopes of finding out clues. When he reached the carcass looking at it he noticed some crystals surrounding the horse. He took his handkerchief and collected a few samples.

Then Vin followed Ezra’s trail finding him looking at the body. “Hey!”

Which startled Ezra making him pull out his revolver from his hip. When he saw it was Vin he relaxed. “Mr. Tanner in the future try to give better notice. I could have shot you.”

Vin had never realized just how fast Ezra really was with that gun. He would say as fast as Chris, he wondered what other secrets he was hiding. “Why’d you come back, did you forget something else?”

“Yes, but could not find it must still be in my room.” Then he moved towards Vin and both headed back to camp. Where Vin had a nice fire going and snake for dinner. “I still can not believe how tasty snake really is.”

“Taste like chicken does it?”

After their bellies were full they decided to turn in. A few minutes later both sound asleep they begin to dream. Ezra remembering the dust storm that threw him over the cliff killing his horse, then the scene changes to reveal childhood memories being chased by a drunken uncle then an explosion at the university which he once attended. Vin also dreams of the dust storm and how it chased them.

*******

Next morning partially awake a rustle startles Ezra. Still dark dawn approaching slowly he notices Vin is gone. Getting up he calls out to him in a whisper “Vin?” Then he hears again the rustle in the bushes “alright come out?” There is a growl and from the bushes out jumps a rather large wolf attracted by the horses. It topples Ezra, desperately trying to keep those jaws from biting down on his throat he shouts for help, a shotgun fire’s killing the wolf. Ezra pushes it away lays back down and takes a breath. He rises “well Mr. Tanner”---but he doesn’t finish the sentence the man in front of him is not Vin but a big mountain man, whose smell can properly just as effectively kill you as his strength.

The man looks at Ezra wondering what a fancy pants is doing out here. “You alone Mister?” As he walks over to the camp the man notices the other bed roll. He points the rifle at him. “Where’s your friend?”

Ezra is wondering that him self, “I fear the wolf may have found him.” He looks at the man now rummaging through their belongings. “Are you looking for something in particular sir?”

The big man approaches Ezra “you making fun of me?”

“No sir!” He backs away the stench of the man is worse then the breath of the wolf. “I am merely inquiring as to your reason for searching the camp.” “I am afraid not, we devour the last of the snake yesterday evening.” “Am I to assume this is to be a robbery?”

“No fancy talk just give me what you got.”

He threw Ezra down, looking up at this man “sir I did not come prepare to be robbed, so no I have no money with me."

Then the man hits Ezra with the butt of his rifle. He staggers down to his elbow but just in time Vin shows up with his own sawed off shotgun hitting the big man. But he doesn’t quite go down instead becomes angry Vin points his weapon to the man’s face cocked and ready to be fired which makes the man reconsider his position. With the situation handled he looks over to Ezra still on the ground. “Ezra you okay?”

For a moment he doesn’t answer trying to focus, “yes Mr. Tanner. I hope you have an explanation as to your whereabouts?”

“Sorry Ezra call of nature.”

Which makes Ezra laugh, “I am almost killed and you are attending to nature.”

Vin looks at him and shakes his head after all he did apologize. Then he walks over keeping an eye on the stranger and helps Ezra up. After he focuses and can stand on his own he pulls away. “I am quite capable of standing now Mr. Tanner.”

Then he gives Ezra the gun and walks to his horse taking out rope to tie the man’s hands. “We’ll take him with us to town. There’s a wanted poster on him calls himself Big Jim wanted for murder.” He looks over to Ezra again. “You do have a way of attracting unsavory fellows?”

“Must be my charming personality." After securing their prisoner and packing up they head out neither one willing to ride with Big Jim. Walking in front down wind from them. “Will we make it back in town by this evening?”

“It’ll be late but we’ll make it.”

Arriving in town Josiah sees them wait’s until they dismount. “Evening boys, who’s your friend?” “Would appreciate Josiah?”

Josiah walks over to Vin and takes one sniff, “boy what did he fall into?”

He smiles “you coming Ezra?”

“No Mr. Tanner I think I will turn in. I have taken all the adventure for one day.”

“What’s eating him?”

“Oh he was attack by a wolf and then by Mr. Big Jim here. Didn’t sit well with him.”

“Poor Ezra.”

Shortly after leaving Big Jim in jail both men head for the saloon Nathan and Chris are still up. “Well Vin how was spending the day with Ezra?”

“Nathan don’t ask.”

Josiah response “seems they ran into a very large mountain man or rather he ran into them.”

“Are you both alright? Where’s Ezra?”

“He decided he’d had enough of out door life.”

Chris shakes his head “did he find his saddle?”

“Yes he did, which reminds me I’ll have to get that five dollars tomorrow. How was it here anything new?”

“Except for JD and Buck’s arguing it’s been quiet.”

“Well boys if you all will excuse me it’s been a long day I think I’ll turn in.”

Then Nathan decides he’d turn in as well leaving Josiah and Chris neither seem tired or maybe neither wanted to sleep. They pretty much kept silent with their feet up relaxing most everyone had already gone to bed.

*******

Next morning Buck and JD were headed towards the saloon for breakfast they saw Ezra already inside having his. “Morning gentlemen.”

“Ezra how’d it go yesterday find your saddle?”

“Yes Mr. Wilmington.”

Then Buck looks over to the bar “Inez how about two more breakfast?”

She leans across the counter “I did not hear the magic word senior Buck?”

“Please Inez two breakfast.”

“It will be ready in a few moments.”

Then JD turns to Ezra; “almost forgot yesterday that there Professor friend of yours was looking for you? Said he was going exploring.”

He finished his breakfast, “well gentlemen if you will excuse me I have urgent business.”

Buck follows as he leaves “hey Ezra where’s the fire?” He turns to JD “he’s always up to something.”

Inez comes over and serves the two boys breakfast. “Thank you Inez.”

She looks at Buck with a leer “you are welcome JD.”

All Buck can say “what?”

Inez turns away in a huff.

*******

Professor Worthington and Johnny are also up calculating the atmospheric readings they have been accumulating. These readings will enable them to figure on how much energy will be required to mount phase two of testing.

“Professor how rich do you think we’ll get?”

“Beyond our wildest dreams Johnny, now let me see those readings. Yes everything is proceeding as plan. We should be ready to test in two days.”

“What about Ezra?”

“I’ll go back into town today, Mr. Standish should be back by now. Then we will talk and see what he knows. If I feel our project is threaten then Johnny I will leave him to you.”

Johnny who had known the Professor for half his life sneers at the very thought of having fun. He wasn’t always like this there was a time he was a brilliant student but an accident had robbed him of that mind. Leaving him burned with a bad limp and depended on the Professor.

*******

After Ezra leaves the saloon he meets Professor Worthington as he sees him leaving the restaurant. “Good morning Professor.”

The Professor turns to look at him and smiles, “why good morning my boy.” He notices a worried look on Ezra. “Are you alright Mr. Standish?”

“Professor I think this town may have a serious problem developing and I am hoping you can help me.”

“Certainly, how can I be of service my boy?”

They both sit on the chairs outside of the restaurant, Ezra wonders how best to approach the situation. “Professor I know you are behind the sudden appearance of a dust storm which occurred a few days ago.”

The Professor merely looks at Ezra confusion on his face, “behind what Mr. Standish?”

“I found the granite crystal particles Professor. You are using too much and if you continue the result could be catastrophic.”

“Really Mr. Standish this is utter nonsense. How on earth could I be responsible for creating a dust storm.”

Ezra realizes that he won’t get any cooperation from the Professor. “I am sorry Professor; I should have known better. I do apologize for belie your good name.”

“Not at all Mr. Standish. No harm done.”

Ezra during their conversation was watching the Professor closely accessing his body movement and knew without a doubt that he was behind it all. He could not believe that this man whom he admired so much would commit such a heinous crime.

The Professor shook Ezra’s hand as he departed “we should have breakfast tomorrow Mr. Standish as I will be leaving in a few days.”

“That would be nice Professor.” He felt such a sense of loss.

As the Professor leaves his thoughts are that he will have to let Johnny handle Mr. Standish after all.

After his meeting with the Professor Ezra heads towards Nathan’s clinic for some chemical compounds he was sure he’d seen before. When he finds what he is looking for he takes out his handkerchief careful not to spill any crystals. Then places it on the counter top. When he finish mixing the chemicals he pours the crystals. The reaction he receives is what he feared the energy is far greater than he imagined and there is no telling how big the dust storm could get. Just then he hears the door open and Nathan walk in. Ezra turns around trying to hide what he is doing. Nathan stares at him. “Were you looking for something?”

“Why yes, I did not wish to bother you and thought I’d look for the ligament you gave me the other night.” Then Nathan goes over to the opposite cabinets opens the door and takes out the ligament. “Amazing Mr. Jackson for I was about to search that very area next.” Taking the ligament and the flask remaining hidden from Nathan’s sight he turns to the door to leave.

“You know Ezra you don’t have to sneak around the clinic it is free to all.”

“Of course Mr. Jackson it’s just the brigand in me.”

He leaves and breathes a sigh of relief that was close. But he found the answers he was looking for though he wasn’t sure he was ready to tell the others. How could they fathom that man could manipulate nature? He also needed proof and then find out who was behind this heinous crime. When outside he dumps the contents of the flask.

Vin was headed towards the saloon when he sees Ezra coming from the other direction he waits for his arrival. “Morning Ezra. Get any sleep?”

“Yes indeed Mr. Tanner.”

“Good, just came to collect that $5 we agreed on.”

“Ah, yes.” He searches his pockets and takes out the money handing it to Vin.

“Nice doing business with you.” He was about to leave when, “Oh Ezra that crystal you took from the horse the other day did you find out what it was?”

“Crystal Mr. Tanner, I’m not sure what you mean?”

“Ezra I may not be as educated as you are, but I’m not stupid. My guess you weren’t as interested in retrieving your saddle as you were in finding out what happen with that dust storm the other day.”

He wasn’t sure what to tell him but lying would only make matters worst. “You are correct Mr. Tanner but at the moment I am not prepare to go into detail on my findings.”

“All right Ezra; it’s obvious you don’t want the others to know but holding back information now could be dangerous for the town.”

“You are right of course. I need to check one more area before completing my conclusion.” He looked at Vin. “Can you take me to the exact location where we first saw the dust storm? My sense of direction is atrocious.”

“I’m with you, let’s ride.” So both gentlemen rode back out to the edge where three of the seven almost lost their lives one of which was Ezra. After a few hours riding out of town they come to the exact spot. To Ezra everything looked the same he admired how Vin could distinguish one bush from another. “All right Pard’ this is the place.”

They dismounted, “look for the same crystals we found on the horse. It looks like most of the crystal particles have vanished,” he realizes they will need to get closer to the edge to search. Walking towards there Vin has his eyes down looking on the ground Ezra keeps his eyes forward as he approaches the cliffs edge. He begins to sweat his hands becoming claming. Vin still looking on the ground as they were approaching the edge isn’t aware of Ezra’s anxiety.

The closer to the edge the more apprehension Ezra feels. Then Vin spoke, “hey Ezra are these the crystals your looking for?” He’s down on one knee looking at the crystals waiting for Ezra to answer when he doesn’t he looks up and notices the look on Ezra’s face. Vin stands up and puts a hand on Ezra’s shoulder, “Ezra you okay?” He still does not respond. Vin notices he keeps staring at the edge. Couldn’t tear his eyes from the cliff. So he takes his arm and pulls him from the edge and turns him, “Ezra? Can you hear me?”

Ezra closes his eyes and takes hold of Vin’s arms the world wouldn’t stop spinning he hadn’t felt like this since he was a boy. Nearly falling from the cliff a few days ago didn’t help. When he is ready he opens his eyes and notices the look of concern on Vin’s face, guilt and embarrassment showing. “I am all right Mr. Tanner.” He then releases his hold on Vin feeling the final spinning of the world come to an end. “I apologize for my lack of control.”

“That’s okay Ezra, I’ve never seen anyone turn as pale as a ghost before. What happened?”

“A minor set back.”

“Ezra that was more than a minor set back. You nearly fell.”

He looked at Vin grateful that someone was with him to stop him from falling. “It is an affliction called vertigo. Which I lose all sense of perception. It is a feeling of falling Mr. Tanner. For which I am grateful for your assistance.”

Vin thought to him self that was the first time Ezra has ever said thank you. “That’s okay Ezra. I found some of the crystals along the edge.” He looks at him and decides to pick up the crystals himself. Ezra hands him his handkerchief. “All right now what?”

“Now we check the energy level of these crystals. It has been two days since the dust storm.” He poured the crystals in the container with the chemical compound mixture; it was what he feared, “these crystals are still as strong.”

“What does that mean?”

“With the level of energy emanating from these crystals the power of the dust storm could last for hours instead of minutes. Which can destroy a lot of homes as well as lives.”

“Then we have to tell the others now.”

“I know Mr. Tanner but at the moment we still don’t know who is behind this conspiracy.” They both walk towards their horses and mount them.

“Do you have any idea who could be behind this?” “Yes, I need to know something first, out here is there a place where one could hide a wagon in secret? A cave or something of that nature?”

Vin thought about for a moment and remembers a few months ago he had come across a rather large cave about 100 miles outside of town. “Yes, there’s a cave just outside of town you can’t see it until you get about ten yards from the entrance. You think that’s where there hold up?”

“If it’s large enough to hide a wagon then that’s where they’ll be. Can you give me directions for me to find this place?”

“Direction hell I can take you there.”

“No! I need you to warn the town for evacuation in case I can’t stop the perpetrators someone will have to warn the others.”

“You’ll get lost, it will be best for you to warn the others and I can stop the criminals.”

“Vin listen to me. I have a better chance of stopping the dust storm from happening then you do. Even if you reach the criminals what if they all ready start the dust storm, would you know how to stop it? Besides the others would believe you than they would me.”

Vin did not appreciate being put in this position. “Believing aside Ezra, you’re right about one thing you would have a better chance of stopping the dust storm. But that’s the only reason that I’ll go.”

“All right Vin.” He had to smile Vin wasn’t about to let Ezra think that the others wouldn’t take his word. He’s a good man there was no doubt about that.

Vin heads back to town and Ezra travels towards the professor. He is hoping that the good professor will not be too far-gone that he wouldn’t listen to reason.

*******

Professor Worthington and Johnny were preparing the final stages of their plan. They would begin testing in half an hour and if successful the destruction of Four Corners will serve as a reminder of those who would mock him. “All right Johnny is everything ready?”

“Yes Professor.”

“Then let us begin.”

Just then a voice calls out, “Professor stop you can’t continue with this plan.”

The Professor turns around to see his former pupil, “Ezra my boy you’ve come to join our team?”

“No Professor I’ve come to stop you. Don’t you know this is wrong, you would be hurting a lot of innocent people; is this what you want?”

“Ezra this is nothing personal this is business. If my plans are successful think for a moment on the potential profits we can obtain by assuring farmers, ranchers that we can stop dust storm. Of course never realizing that we are the cause of the storm.”

“Professor that is utter madness.” “Madness? But this is your brilliant idea. Only instead of using rain, I thought dust storms would be far more destructive and convincing.”

“Yes I’ll admit that my plan was similar, but then I realized you can’t control the end result. Nature has a way of escaping any control over it. If I am right this dust storm you create now will become a tornado which will cause more destruction than you can image. Please Professor while there is still time.” While Ezra was trying to convince the professor not to continue with his plans he had planted two explosive devices in the cave one near the mechanism the other ten feet inside the entranceway setting them for fifteen minutes.

*******

Vin arrives in Four Corners and enters the saloon. Chris and Buck were having whiskey when the look on Vin’s face had them worried. “What’s wrong Vin?”

Without sitting, “Chris, Ezra and me have been looking into this strange dust storm that occurred a few days ago. We found proof that this is no ordinary dust storm.”

“Hold on Vin, what are you talking about.” Both Chris and Buck look at each other wondering if Vin has gone loco.

Vin took a deep breath and started again, “remember the dust storm?” They both nodded. “The reason Ezra wanted to get his saddle was so that he could get a closer look at the carcass. He found crystals that when mix with other chemicals they cause an explosion I’m not sure how it all works.” Then Nathan and Josiah walk over. Vin continues to explain, “Ezra came to the conclusion that someone created that dust storm.”

Buck started laughing, “and you believe him, he’s probably just pulling your leg. No one can create a dust storm.”

JD had also come in and was listening to the conversation and was reminded of something that the professor told them about Ezra. “Buck remember what the professor told us about an experiment Ezra did when he made it rain. Then Ezra said that’s when he realized you can’t control nature.”

“But that was rain JD not a dust storm?”

“Well why couldn’t you do the same with a dust storm.”

Vin agreed, “gentlemen Ezra has gone to try and stop this professor from starting that dust storm, but if he can’t he wants us to get everyone out of here. He said that the storm can become a tornado.”

Josiah reacted, “my God. If this is true I’ve seen what devastation a tornado causes.”

“Vin you believe what Ezra told you.”

“Chris he showed me how it works, small amounts caused an energy charged that broke a glass jar. Think of what large amounts would cause and Ezra said that the professor has no idea just how dangerous his experiment can get.”

“All right we need to get these people out of here, where’s Ezra now?”

“Remember that cave we found last month, he figures that’s where there hold up, but he said not to worry about him he’s taken some explosives to destroy the machine. He’s just hoping he can save the professor too.”

Chris shook his head sometimes he wondered what Ezra could be thinking. “Then we’ll worry about Ezra after we get these people out of here.”

*******

Ezra had to conclude that the Professor lost all reasoning. No matter what he said he just wouldn’t budge. “I’m sorry Professor you leave me no choice but to stop you.” That’s when Johnny jumped disarming him while the professor continued working on his machine.

Johnny now had Ezra’s gun, “sorry Ezra but the professor has to work quietly.”

Ezra knew he had less than ten minutes left and had to find a way out. He was getting up slowly, then with his left hand threw dirt into Johnny’s eyes giving him time to run. Johnny started shooting wildly and managed to hit Ezra’s shoulder. He fell and Johnny started jumping up and down yelling that he got Ezra they were both mad. He got up and ran for all he was worth.

*******

Everyone was working together evacuating Four Corners when the earth seem to suddenly shake and from the distance an explosion so loud it broke a couple windows from the top floor of the hotel. They all took a deep breath and look to Chris to reassure them that everything would be all right.

Chris looked out towards the west side and wondered if Ezra succeeded, “Mary keep the people going until you hear from me head south. We’ll come get you when it’s safe.”

“All right Chris, be careful.”

“Let’s ride boys.” They all rode west towards the explosion in hopes of finding Ezra in one piece.

*******

Ezra knew time was running out. He finally reached the entrance and continued to run not knowing how far he could get and hope to survive. He reached at least a 100 feet from the entrance, when the first explosion erupted causing the second one to ignite. Then the blast lifted Ezra clear across at least another 100 feet when he finally hit the ground before losing consciousness he had the presence of mind to realize he may have used too much dynamite.

*******

When Chris and the others reached the entrance the cave was sealed by this time it was so dark searching for Ezra would be difficult. Vin anticipating this brought a lantern to help them with the search. They called out to him several times with no answer they began to assume the worst. Maybe he was also caught in the explosion scarifying him self for the townspeople. Whatever happen they were unable to find their friend.

The mood was quiet reflecting moments with Ezra. From the very first time they met him, he was not an easy man to like. But as with anyone you had to look beyond the image and see the man. “You know what I remember about Ezra that time he put stakes on who would win between me and Don Paolo. He made out better than I did.”

Nathan added, “remember that time he wanted us to invest in the saloon only to lose it to his mother.”

“Well I remember he was my first arrest after becoming sheriff.”

“You remember that time I borrowed $300 for Nettie’s and he expected interest. I’ll tell you one thing he had nerve.”

“I remember when he ran out on us.” Everyone looked at Chris. “But I never got the chance to tell him I was glad he came back.” Ezra may have been a scoundrel but deep down he was a good man. Although not always wanting to do the right thing, he would eventually.

It was now Josiah’s turn; “you know what I remember most about Ezra. How easy it was to convince him to put that purple dress.” Everyone had to laugh. “Who else but Ezra could have pulled it off. I heard everyone in the tent enjoyed his singing very much.”

It was Buck who added another event that change Ezra. “I remember when he lost Marisol and how heart broken he was. Sometimes he felt things more profoundly then the rest, maybe because his childhood was that of abandonment, or because he had abusive relatives. He used to say ‘you can’t always chose your family’.” It was getting late and tomorrow they would head back to Four Corners and let the people know it was okay to return.

The next morning everyone gathered their things saddled their horses and were about to leave when JD looked over by a bush when he noticed a shinning object being reflected by the rising sun. He walked over to look at the object when he noticed something else boots, “Buck, Nathan over hear!” Both looked over at JD. “I found him he’s over hear.”

Nathan ran with his medical kit, with JD and Buck’s help they pulled Ezra out of the bushes; Nathan checked his pulse, “he’s still alive.”

The others join them, “that boy has more lives than a cat.” Josiah commented. Everyone was just happy to see him in one piece.

Nathan began removing his jacket and shirt he had a bullet wound exit, the bleeding had already stopped. He also had a lot of wounds on his back from the blast. “Looks like he must have been blown clear when we heard the explosion this is debris stuck to his back.” He had bruises along his sides and back plus a very nasty bump on the head.

He started coming around and looked up the sun was shinning on his face Nathan was tending to his wounds before moving him. “Nathan?”

“Don’t move you’ve been badly hurt just lie still.”

“The Professor?”

“The explosion sealed the cave, they were properly buried inside.”

He closed his eyes; “he was once a brilliant and good man. He believed in me.”

Once he was ready for travel Chris took him onto his horse and rode with him the rest of the journey home. After leaving Ezra at Nathan’s clinic the rest rode off to gather the townspeople and bring them home too. When they heard that Ezra had saved the day people brought him food while he was recuperating. There were even those who came to play cards with him.

After a weeks rest he was again fit to return to the saloon on his own. He was having breakfast early morning and Vin walks in and sees him. “Morning Ezra, how are you feeling?”

“Quite well Mr. Tanner.”

“Everyone here thinks you’re a real hero.”

“Well I never saw profit in being a hero, but since I’ve been recuperating more ladies have visited me with food and praises and even the gentlemen have come to play cards with no fear of losing. I would have to say that being a hero has its rewards.”

Shaking his head, “don’t ever change Ezra.” Vin goes to the bar and orders a drink, bringing it back to the table.

“Mr. Tanner how about a game of cards.”

“Are you going to let me win this time?”

“Now where’s the fun in that!”

THE END





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