This story is in response to the June Challenage, also set in a different AU, but still in the 1870's in this story Ezra and Vin are children while the others are adults, if you wish to read the original story which spawn this second one please click on Encounters, both are separate stories, but there are some references to the first one, I also like to thank Meg Tipper for her legal expertise, I hope you enjoy this new adventure.
Vin kneeled down, and uncovered the large print on the ground.
Chris Larabee also kneeled next to the boy and watched. “What’da you think?” The gunslinger asked.
“Cougar,” looking at his guardian, he continued, “pass by an hour or less.”
Chris frown, “how’d you know?”
The young boy who for the last few months had been learning the art of tracking from Chief Kojay answered as he looked at the gunslinger, trying to gather his thoughts. “Kojay taught me to touch instead of seeing the print. I can feel the heat from the animal.”
Chris wasn’t sure he understood and waited for more.
“He said I could feel how warm the print is, so it’d tell me how long the animal pass.” Then he shrugged his shoulders hoping the man understood now.
“You can do that?” Chris had never heard that before. Feeling the imprint himself; he couldn’t feel if the paw print was warmer or not from the ground itself.
Vin nodded, looking over at him, “you think its bad, cause I’m different?” The boy wanted to know.
Chris was quick to belay those thoughts, “no Vin, I think your really special.”
The boy shook his head, “don’t want to be special, just want to be like everybody else.”
The gunslinger sigh, “you are just like everyone else, you just have a special talent is all.”
Vin smiled, he looked at Chris “you mean like Ezra and poker?”
Chris snorted, “don’t even go there son, now that’s enough tracking for the day, lets head back to the lake and see if we can’t catch us some lunch.”
“All right, I’m real hungry too.” Vin was practically jumping for joy as he mounted his palomino Nugget, “come on cowboy.” He shouted as he raced off.
Chris jumped on Diablo, “wait up kid.” As the race back to camp was on. The large black horse would have beaten the young smaller mount, but the gunslinger enjoyed these rare moments as the boy exercise his recent ability to let loose and be a kid.
This new side to the otherwise shy boy was due largely to Ezra who helped release the natural mischievous streak to come out and at the most odd times too.
* * * * * * *
Finally arriving at camp, twelve year old Ezra lifted his way too big hat and watch Vin laugh at having won the race. The southerner smiled, covering his face and taking a relax posture he waited.
Vin noticed his friend leaning against a tree trunk and smiled, looking over at Chris, he lifted his finger covering his lips in a symbol of silence. The gunslinger shook his head as he looked at the sleeping child he could sleep like the dead.
Vin walked over to his friend with that glint in his eyes and suddenly, “don’t even think about it Mr. Tanner, or I may be force to hurt you,” drawled the southerner.
“Damn,” Vin said, his friend seemed to always be able to fool him. “I was sure you were sleeping Ez.”
“Never assume the obvious, Mr. Tanner.” Ezra lifted his hat and stood up dusting his pants. “How goes your lesson this morning?” As the boy took Nugget and began to unsaddle the animal, the gunslinger followed and unsaddled his own mount as well.
“It went find, we found cougar tracks, so you better watch your back or she might pounce on yah.” Vin laughed as he gave the impression of a prowling cat about to attack.
“Really Mr. Tanner, you are acting quite the juvenile this morning.”
“Ah Ez, just having some fun.” The Texan grinned.
The gunslinger shook his head at the banter between the two very diverse boys, then he suddenly wondered how the boy determined the animal was female. He was about to ask and then decided against it. Vin wanted to be normal not special.
“All right you two, Ezra you okay with the horse?” He asked.
“Yes, Mr. Larabee.”
The gunslinger nodded, “okay, Vin lets see about catching lunch.”
“You coming too, Ez?”
“Please Mr. Tanner, I leave the forging to you gentlemen. I’m find tending to these beast.”
“You don’t know what you’re missing.” Vin laughed, he knew Ezra didn’t like getting dirty or wet, the Texan just liked teasing his friend.
Ezra didn’t pay any attention already knowing the younger boys teasing. Ignoring Vin he proceeded to brush Nugget first, and then he’d get to the large black horse after wards.
* * * * * * *
It had been just a few months since they came to Four Corners. Ezra was going to be left in the care of an uncle, while Vin would be sent back to an orphanage.
But the boys had other plans and they would have succeeded in their escape; if fate as Josiah put it, had not stepped in. Ezra’s uncle had been arrested for nearly beating to death another man while drunk. So, there would be no one to take the southerner. Chris and Buck had ridden out to try and reach the Judge and boys before they’d take the train the next day.
They had tried wiring the town, but the lines were down. By the time the two gunslingers reach Ridge City the train was all ready on route to San Francisco, they’d miss their chance, so Buck had gone to the telegraph office to wire him at his final destination.
Chris stood watching the departing train feeling a churning lost at having miss them. Then just as he was going to turn his horse back, he saw two boys making their way back to town. He swore out of anger at the boys placing themselves in such danger, but relief flooded his thoughts, because now he had a second chance to make things right, especially with Vin.
Soon after they were on their way back to Four Corners and an argument between the southerner and the dark clad gunslinger had gone on for almost an hour neither one willing to give in. The subject, what else, Ezra’s gambling.
“Now Mr. Larabee you can’t expect me to stop plying my families livelihood. My parents have taught me the art of gambling since I was three years old.”
Chris just stared at the boy in shocked; Adam had been barely started putting whole sentences together and Ezra was all ready gambling? He just couldn’t believe it.
“Now I feel we must come to some understanding. I will not dishonor my father by not following in his footsteps.”
“No Ezra, you are too young to be playing poker in a saloon. You were there when those cowhands got upset about losing to a kid.” Chris reminded him.
Ezra sighed, “Mr. Larabee, that day at the saloon was nothing I can assure you. I’ve been in worse situation and managed to come out unscathed.”
Now it was the gunslinger turn to sigh. “No Ezra, no.”
Finally Ezra played his trump card. “Very well, but I must warn you, if I loose what my mother refers to as ‘my god-given talent,’ and she disowns me you will be stuck with me. Is that what you want?”
Looking at the boy, Larabee was hoping this was some nightmare that he had yet to awaken from. “What are you talking about?” He wanted to know.
“Simply put, my mother has continued training me in the art of gambling. The only way to keep sharp is to continue to ply my trade.” Ezra was looking intently at the gunslinger. Vin sitting behind the southerner both riding Nugget, wrapped his arms around his waist in support as well as comfort. This argument was escalating.
Chris couldn’t believe what the southerner was telling him. “Do you think I’m stupid Ezra?” He asked.
Now it was the southerner’s turn to be surprise. “Never Mr. Larabee.”
“Well I can’t honestly believe that your mother would be training you to be a gambler.”
“I see.” Ezra replied. “Well I guess it really does not matter what is to become of me, my mother will eventually return for me and whisk me from your care. You sir, will not have the burden of what fate will come my way.” The southerner reasoned in a cold tone for a boy his age.
They remain quiet for a long while, Vin holding tight to the southerner. The Texan knew his friend was hurting but didn’t know what to do.
“All right Ezra, if you insist on gambling you’ll only be allowed to on Friday’s and Saturday’s – two of the busies days of the week – you’ll ply you’re talent between the hours of three through eight at night. No earlier or later than that, and only if one of us is there to watch over you.” He paused now turning to look at the boy. “Do we have an understanding?”
Ezra blinked, he didn’t think the gunslinger would have given in. So without saying another word he nodded in understanding and not another word was spoken for the rest of the trip.
Wilmington smiled in relief. He wasn’t sure if he believed the boy, but then again the boy’s mother had virtually abandoned him when she decided to travel overseas.
Destiny, that’s what brought the seven together, the residents of the small back water town had all ready started calling the five men The Magnificent Five, but since the arrival of the two boys, the people decided to call them The Magnificent Seven, Chris Larabee could only groan, while the others smiled and accepted their fate.
* * * * * * *
Chris was helping the young Texan baiting his hook, and then he showed the boy each position of casting a fishing line. Once done the gunslinger preceded to do the same with his.
After a few moments the gunslinger’s line started pulling, soon a struggle ensued; Chris pulled his line in with a good size fish following.
Vin watch in awe as the peacekeeper brought in his line, as soon as Chris cast his line back out, the Texan’s line started pulling. “I got one! I got one!” Vin shouted, as he began to struggle with the line.
Chris smiled, placing his fishing pole securely in the ground with two strong rocks to hold it in place; he stepped over to help, “you need help?”
“Reckon, it feels big,” he said excitedly.
Chris walked over and held loosely the line, he too notices how heavy it was and realized the boy caught something big.
The southerner finished brushing Diablo and heard Vin’s shouts of excitement. Curiosity had the boy walking to see the fight between boy and nature.
Then Chris saw what was hooked to the boys line and shouted for Ezra.
“What’s wrong?” The southerner wanted to know.
“Vin goes with Ezra back to camp.”
“But Chris?” He didn’t want to give up.
“Now!” In a tone, which brook no argument.
Ezra now could see what the gunslinger was apprehensive about and quickly guided the younger boy away, “Come along Mr. Tanner.”
Vin still didn’t want to leave and then he too saw what was rising and gave his line over to the gunslinger.
Both boys went back to their campsite and sat on the log near the saddles, the horses whinnying, seeming to sense something wrong.
“Ezra, how come the body looks so big?” He asked.
“When a person drowns then remains underwater for a long time the body seems to…” He paused not sure how to explain. “Have you ever seen a fish die?” The Texan nodded. “Well if left in water after it dies, it begins to bloat or expand. The same thing happens to people.”
“Was he stuck underwater?” Vin asked.
“I don’t see how.” Ezra responded, he had been thinking along the same thing.
“It looks like he was down there an awfully long time.” The in a whispered tone, “I saw, it look like the fish were eating him.”
Ezra had hoped the boy hadn’t notice, so he placed his arm around Vin in comfort. “I notice the same thing my friend.” They continued to wait. “Vin, I am going to take that blanket over to Chris so that he might cover the body. Will you be all right?”
“Okay, don’t be too long.” The boy didn’t want to be left a lone. On the outside he had the appearance of not being afraid, but on the inside he was sacred.
“I will only be but a moment.” Ezra replied getting up and picking the blanket, he walked towards the gunslinger. “Mr. Larabee?”
Chris looked up and was going to reprimand the southerner for coming back when he noticed the blanket. “Thanks Ezra,” taking and placing it over the body.
“Do you recognize the gentleman?”
“No, but it looks like he’d been here awhile.” Then he looked over at the young Texan. “Vin doing okay?”
“He is a little shaken, but otherwise doing all right.”
Chris nodded Ezra was about to turn back, when the gunslinger stopped him. “Ezra, you think you can take your horse and ride back to town?”
“Okay, head back and tell Buck what’s happen and get Josiah to bring a wagon to take the body back, maybe someone in town knows him?”
“What of Mr. Tanner?”
Chris looked at the young boy looking smaller than ever, “you get the horse saddled, I’ll go tell Vin.”
“You wish me to ride alone?” He didn’t want to leave Vin here so close to the body.
Chris understood, “don’t worry, you’ll ride faster and I’ll sit with Vin until you return with Josiah.” With that said Ezra headed to Nugget to saddle him.
* * * * * * *
JD came out of the sheriff’s office and stretched his back; ‘Buck should be arriving to relieve him soon.’ He thought. Squinting as the sun shone into his eyes, he quickly shaded them when he saw a dark shape approaching fast.
Suddenly, the sheriff shouted for the ladies man, “Buck!” He ran out into the middle of the street placing his hands high up in the air to stop the horse riding hard into town “whoa, whoa!!!” JD shouted as the southern boy pulled the reins of his horse.
“Mr. Dunn, thank goodness, is Mr. Sanchez about?” The young boy exclaimed as he dismounted and sway slightly.
“Hey, you okay?” JD held the kid still, ‘til he gains his balance.
“Yes, yes, I’m find.” Nodding his head. “I need to speak with Mr. Sanchez.” He continued to explain, but was cut off and Buck came running down the boardwalk and seeing the commotion in the street.
Just then Buck came up from behind the boy, “where’s Chris and Vin?” Buck grabbed young Ezra lifting him up easily and setting him on the boardwalk, while waiting for an explanation. “Are they okay?” He asked.
Startled for a moment Ezra smiled at the concern look he received. “Mr. Larabee and Vin are find; they are still at the lake.” He paused to catch his breath. “I must however speak with Mr. Sanchez. Mr. Tanner, while fishing discovered a body in the lake. Mr. Larabee asked me to bring Mr. Sanchez with a wagon.”
“Shit!” Buck exclaimed, looking at the boy he saw his green eyes wide and realized what he had said. “Sorry kid.” Buck looked over at the kid and indicated towards the church. JD understood releasing Nugget over to the ladies man he took off. “As for you why don’t you head over to Chris’ room and rest?”
“Rest? Mr. Wilmington, both Mr. Larabee and Vin are waiting for my return.”
“Sorry kid, but you look about to keel over.”
“Mr. Wilmington, Vin is waiting for my return. I promised to return.” Ezra almost shouted his words to the gregarious gunslinger.
Buck raised his hands in a placating manner. “Okay, okay. But if you fall over don’t dome crying to me.” He teased the boy.
Ezra looked at him stun, “I have no wish to come crying to you.” Strengthening his apparel he grabs Nugget’s reins and heads to the livery to unsaddle the tired animal.
Leaving Buck behind who merely shakes his head as he follows the young boy.
Nearly half an hour later, both Josiah and Ezra are headed back to the lake. It was all ready late in the afternoon; by the time they arrive and were ready to head back it would be late evening.
* * * * * * *
At the pond Vin was all ready fidgeting, pacing back and forth by the fire Chris had set-up for lunch.
“Vin, why don’t you sit down and eat?” The dark clad gunslinger encouraged.
“Ain’t hungry.” Vin answered.
“They’ll be here soon. And if you don’t stop pacing your going to burrow a hole over there.” Last part was said in a teasing tone. Of course, the boy missed it.
“What’s taking so long, Ez should have been back by now? Its goan’na be dark soon.” Walking over to Chris and sitting down beside him, picking up a stick he began poking at the flames.
Chris shook his head, deciding to change the subject. “Vin, how’d you know the cougar was female?”
Vin just shrugged his shoulders, “guess cause the tracks was heavy, but not like a bigger cat, Kojay show’d me that sometimes that means she’s going to have babies.” Looking at the gunslinger with a smile on his face. “Wow that’d be real neat to see huh?”
“Sure would.” Chris smiled back. “Now why don’t you have something to eat?”
“What about Ezra?”
“Well when he and Josiah get here you makes sure to sit Ezra down and have him eat too. Knowing him he won’t stop to eat until he gets here.”
Just then Vin realized; it would be because of his promise. “Aw hell!” He cusses feeling guilty.
“Don’t worry Vin, you just tell him you’ve eaten and its his turn and he’ll eat.” Chris smiled at the boy as he started eating the fish the gunslinger caught earlier.
* * * * * * *
A few hours later both Josiah and Ezra entered the camp. Vin waved at the southerner’s return while Ezra tips his hat in response. He wasn’t used to displaying his emotions.
As the wagon stops in front of the lake Ezra jumps off the wagon and walks over to greet Vin.
Chris waits for Josiah to climb down, “Everything alright in town?” It was about the only type of greeting the dark clad gunslinger would ask.
“Everything’s find Brother Chris.” The ex-preacher replied.
Chris nodded and walked towards the corpse, the ex-preacher following. Pulling the blanket back, “you recognized him?”
Josiah looks and frowns, the man looks familiar and then realization hits him. “Yes, its Tyler Jones. Strange, I thought he’d left several months ago. I can’t believe he drown?”
“He didn’t, he was helped.” Chris replied.
“At least two bullets in the back.”
“Oh Lord! Who would do such a thing?” Josiah said a silent prayer.
“How’d you know him?”
“He came to the Seminole Village, when Nathan and I visited them a few months back, he was staying with them, but was interested in looking for work.” Looking at Chris, “I took him to the Henderson’s homestead. Knew he needed help with harvesting their crop. Last time I visited Mr. Henderson he said the man up and left without any word.”
“Did Henderson pay him before he left?”
“Don’t know, if he up and left after paying him. I didn’t ask?”
“Look through the man’s clothing, could be he was robbed, I didn’t find no money.”
Josiah nodded, “I’ll go talk to Mr. Henderson tomorrow see if the man was paid.”
Chris nodded looking over at the two boys sitting talking and the southerner eating, he was relieved at least he wouldn’t have to argue with the kid to eat something before there return to town.
Josiah noticed the look, “the boy’s exhausted fell asleep on the way here, but wouldn’t stay in town.”
Chris smirked, “he could tell Vin wasn’t happy to see him go, I knew Ezra’s a better rider, so the boy made sure to promise he’d return, that settled Vin.”
Josiah chuckled, “those boys are like two pea’s in a pod.”
Chris snorted and returned to the task at hand.
* * * * * * *
“Were you scared riding to town by yourself?” Vin wanted to know.
“Hardly, I knew the way back.” He replied.
“Yeah, but you were by yourself?” He question.
“Did you not allow me to carry your good luck token that Kojay gave you?” Ezra asked showing him the small pouch around his neck.
“Yeah?” Vin looked away while still looking in his peripheral vision at the southerner.
“Well then, no harm would be fall me with your trustee charm with me.” Ezra deadpan.
“I thought you didn’t believe any of that stuff?”
“Yes, but you do, so how could anything go wrong with your faith?” He asked.
Vin smirk, “here we save yah some of the fish Chris caught.” At the look of distaste Ezra gave, the Texan continued. “Its real good Ez, all ready ate my share. Would be rude not to eat yours,” The southerner couldn’t argue with that.
Suddenly the boy realized he hadn’t eaten earlier and was quite ravenous. Vin just laughs watching his friend eat.
* * * * * * *
Once the two peacekeepers placed the body in the wagon they proceeded to break camp. The boys also pitch in gathering their fishing poles, packing the cooking utensils and helping saddle Diablo for Chris. After everything was done they were ready to leave.
The trip back to town was quiet, Vin fell asleep leaning into Ezra, who simply placed he’s arm around the Texan’s waist to hold him steady.
Josiah watches them both as they traveled back to town and smiled. Chris shook his head normally they would have spent the night at the lake, but because of the body they found the gunslinger thought it best to return.
It was late when they arrived, “Buck,” the ladies man was waiting for their return. “Take the boys and get them tucked away?” Chris knew he could trust him to comply, having done it when Adam was alive.
“Sure thing Chris.” He answered, “come on boys lets get you down and straight to bed.” Buck helped Vin down, Ezra right behind, looking at the young Texan Buck could tell the boy was still half asleep.
When they reached their room, Buck help them undress and into nightshirts and then both boys crawled into bed. Tucking them under the covers, Vin curled facing the window while Ezra faced the door. Buck smiled as he walked quietly outside making sure to lock the door.
* * * * * * *
At the undertakers Nathan met the others to exam the body, as per Chris there were in fact, two gunshot wounds one looked like it was to stop the man, while the second and probably the lethal shot was to the back of the neck.
Nathan had seen it done often enough as a slave, he’d seen the masters kill a slave who’d run away and get caught, it was done as a show of force to intimated the others into submission.
“Okay, you and Nathan head out to the Henderson’s place and see about when he disappeared?” Chris ordered.
Josiah nodded he’s head.
Everyone headed out; JD and Buck were still on duty ‘til the early morning when Chris would take over, so the dark clad gunslinger headed for bed. He really wanted to check on the boys. Josiah headed for the church and Nathan back to his clinic.
Opening the door quietly, Chris entered his rented room. The lamp lit in the room was low, good ‘ole Buck always thinking ahead. The gunslinger wouldn’t be tripping over anything waking the boys.
Both children lay quietly asleep, walking over the other bed; he began removing his black short coat, gun-belts and then his boots. Chris heard a soft and moan, looking over at the sleeping boys, he stood and approached the bed. Chris noticed Vin seem a bit disturbed as he moved a little, the gunslinger was about to pull the covers back up, when Ezra moved and placed his arms around the younger boy and pulled him closer in an embrace. Chris raised his eyebrows there was no telling how the young gambler knew he was needed, after a bit Vin calm down. The gunslinger decided to pull the covers over both boys. Seeing them both calm, Chris went back to his bed placing his guns near him and going to sleep.
* * * * * * *
The next morning found Nathan and Josiah riding out of town and headed towards the Henderson homestead.
The Henderson homestead was probably the furthest ranch; it boarded between Four Corners and Eagle Bend. Their homestead provided both towns with seasonal vegetables. They had the best crop in the area. But because they were so far, Josiah and Nathan only stopped by when they headed out to the Seminole Village, since it was along the same trail. It made visiting them convenient and they hadn’t been by in nearly three months.
They arrived shortly before noon, and came upon the young daughter bringing down the laundry.
Josiah cleared his throat, startling the young woman. “Excuse me miss?” The ex-preacher warmly called out. The young woman stood still as she slowly turned, not bothering to retrieve the laundry basket. She made her way to her home.
The ex-preacher looked over to the healer as they both noticed her swollen belly. As far as both were aware she is an unmarried woman.
After she entered her house, her father came out with rifle in hand. “What’s your business?” He asked abruptly.
“Mr. Henderson, its Josiah Sanchez, we’re the peacekeepers of Four Corners.” The preacher stated.
“I know who you are, you scared my daughter, now state your business.” Still not lowering his rifle.
“I’m sorry Mr. Henderson,” Josiah apologizes, “wasn’t my intension to frighten the child. We’re investigating a death, the gentleman who used to work here a few months back. Tyler Jones?” The ex-preacher noticed the daughter watching them from one of the windows.
“Yeah, what about him. Thought I told’ya he just up and left.”
“Yes, I remember. Seems though it was not all together by choice.”
“Father, please put the gun down.” Susan Henderson came out of her home, standing in the porch to plead with her father.
“Daughter get back inside, I will handle this.” He all but shouted. The young woman lowered her head and re-entered their house. “Now, preacher man what do you want?”
“Forgive me brother, I did not mean to cause you trouble. I wish to ask; if you all ready paid Tyler Jones his wages before he’d gone?” Josiah hoped to get an answer.
Foster Henderson thought for a moment. “No, that’s why I was surprise he’d left.” He shrugged, “guess I’m glad I didn’t.”
Nathan frowns at the coarse remark. He could tell Josiah was surprise as well.
Josiah decided to redirect the questioning, “Mr. Henderson, how far along is your daughter?”
“Why you interested?” Henderson was becoming agitated at all the questioning.
“Mr. Henderson…” This time Nathan interrupted the conversation noticing the rancher’s anger. “…Do you have someone in mind to help deliver the baby when the time comes?”
Henderson switch his rifle to the healer, he was thrown for a moment by the question. Looking over at his daughter, it had been in his thoughts a few weeks now, but didn’t know who to trust.
“No,” he finally answered.
Nathan nodded glad the man was starting to calm down. “You know Mrs. Wells don’t yaw?” Receiving a nod, the healer continued. “Well she is an experience mid-wife and probably your closes neighbor. We could pass by on our way back and ask her to check on you’ll?”
He let the thought sink in and waited for a response; the healer didn’t have to wait long. Lowering his weapon Henderson replied, “I appreciate that. Mrs. Wells is a good woman, I should have thought on her my self.”
The ex-preacher sighed at least now he’ll listen. “We’ll let her know, now we’ll take our leave and I apologize for scaring your daughter, we will leave you in peace, God be with you brother.” Josiah answered.
“Thank you.” Henderson meekly replied.
* * * * * * *
Josiah and Nathan were back on the road. For nearly an hour they traveled in silence and then the healer turned and asked his friend a question.
“You think Tyler might be the father?”
Josiah turn to look at his friend. “I don’t know, but if he was, might be a strong reason for murder.”
“Yeah, but she looks to be maybe eight months along. Timing would be off.”
Josiah frown and thought on that for a few minutes before answering. “What if Tyler found out who the father is, and maybe he don’t want it known. Could be another reason for murder.”
“Then that would mean he’d still be in the area. Maybe Miss Nettie knows something. She once told me she’d known the Henderson a lot of years.”
With that, they continued on the trail to Nettie Wells’ place.
Back in town the noon stage had just arrived and several passengers disembarked. One of those passengers was an older distinguished looking gentleman, with a brush mustache much like the ladies man of Four Corners, but with slightly more hair. The newcomer asked the driver for the best hotel and made his way there.
“Good afternoon sir.” The hotel clerk greeted the new arrival.
“Good afternoon. I’ll be requiring accommodation for the night,” the man answered with a refined southern accent.
“Of course, sir. If you will kindly sign the register; will the accommodations just be for yourself?” The clerk asked.
Taking the register, “yes.” Then signed it.
“Here is the key to room seven, up the stairs first door on your left.”
“Thank you.” Taking the key and his bag he headed for the second floor. The hotel clerk looked at the name on the register. It read S.L. Clemens.
* * * * * * *
Clemens was tired, he was getting too old, and all this traveling was wearing him down. With all his lectures and speeches behind him, traveling to Connecticut for a well deserved rest, that’s what he was looking forward to.
As he entered his room, he drop his bag and lay in bed; although, the room was not what he was used too, for now he’d take a short nap before dining.
* * * * * * *
Nettie Wells greeting the two peacekeepers with her spencer carbine in hand. Josiah and Nathan sighed seems everyone today would be greeting them with hostile intent.
“Good afternoon Miss Nettie.” Josiah greeted.
Un-cocking the spencer carbine, she smiled and returned the greeting. “Gentlemen, what brings you my way?” She asked.
“Well,” Josiah paused and then continued, “we were at the Henderson ranch and wondered if you were aware that his daughter was in a family way?” The ex-preacher spoke a subtle as possible.
Nettie Wells showed surprise, “why don’t you get off them horses and have lunch with me, you can tell me what’s what?” She replied.
They both dismounted tying their horses, and wiping their feet entered Nettie Wells home.
* * * * * * *
Lunch was simple, sandwich with soup and a refreshing tall glass of lemonade. Nettie’s lemonade was said to be the best in the territory. Of course, two wayward children said this, but it was enough that the whole area believed it, including five peacekeepers.
After lunch all three sat in the front porch and both Josiah and Nathan relayed their story including the death of Tyler Jones and their suspensions. The peacekeepers trusting Nettie Wells to be discrete about spreading rumors and valued the older woman’s insight.
“I’ll go visit the family tomorrow and see what I can find out.”
“That’d be great Miss Nettie,” Nathan was concern that their maybe complication and the fact the young girl lived so far from town… “We told them that maybe you’d be able to stay with them when the time came.”
“I don’t see why not, but if that happens, I’ll have Casey stay in town and if one of you can bring her out when she needs to check on the ranch would be great.” She paused, “I’m sure JD would volunteer to watch out for her…” She didn’t finish the sentence also looking at both men, to keep an eye out for both when alone.
“You need not fear sister, we’ll keep them in line.” The ex-preacher replied with a smile on his face.
Soon the conversation turn to other events of the actins of their boys as well as news from town, after about an hour of visiting both men said their goodbyes and headed back to Four Corners.
* * * * * * *
It was late afternoon when Josiah and Nathan return to town. Heading to the saloon they found Chris and Buck at their usual table.
“Brothers,” Josiah greeted and sat down, followed by the healer as he nodded and also sat down.
“Where are the boys?” Nathan asked.
“Over at Mary’s, seems we a famous person in town, man name of Samuel Clemens.” Buck answered.
“You mean Mark Twain?” Nathan gasped; he read some of his stories.
“Yeah, that’s what Mary said, can’t understand why a man would have two names.”
Chris just smiled; he too was familiar with the author and apparently the ex-preacher as well.
“Brother, Mark Twain is a pen name, which he writes under.”
“Yeah, that’s what Ezra said, still don’t make any sense, he ashamed of who he is?” Shaking his head.
Buck is the type of man; that would not hesitate introducing himself to any woman and be proud with his own name. Any woman who happens to remember him would be able to recall the name of Buck Wilmington and remember him with fondness. At least that was Buck’s theory.
“So, what is Mr. Clemens doing here?” Josiah asked.
“Seems he was just passing through but got wind of Tyler Jones murder and decided to stay a while longer.” Chris paused a moment and looked a both healer and ex-preacher. “What yaw find out?”
For the next hour both men explain their findings, they’re suspicious and there visit with Nettie Wells.
“All right, I’ve all ready wired Judge Travis he’ll be here in two days, tomorrow we’ll ride out to the Henderson’s ranch and bring him in. Find out what’s what.”
“Now Chris we don’t have any proof.” Buck didn’t want to have to force the man, especially if they were wrong.
“True, but he’s our best lead, if he don’t have anything to hide he won’t have no trouble cooperating.” Now Chris is the type of man that would seek out the truth no matter what. “You, boys hungry?” He asked his friends.
Josiah grinned, “we could eat.” Well let’s face it, it was a while since lunch, a man can work up an appetite after a long hard ride.
Arriving at the restaurant it look like there was standing room only. Chris spotted Vin and Ezra and smiled it seem those two save them some seats.
“Boys.” Chris greeted.
“Ah, Mr. Larabee, good evening.”
“So, I see you saved us some seats.”
Ezra smiled, “of course, Mr. Wilmington. Dinner just would not be the same with out your presence.” He remarked sarcastically, which didn’t faze the ladies man at all.
The rest of the evening seem to go by as JD soon join them and they all listen to Ezra talk about their visitor. Vin was happy to just sit back and listen to his friend about his conversation with the famous man, as well as the stories and articles he’d read. It always amaze the young Texan how much his southern friend seem to know about everything.
Chris took both boys back to his room and tuck them in, Ezra of course pretend he didn’t enjoy that kind of comfort, but he never argue when the gunslinger, who took his tucking in seriously.
The next day Vin got up early, dress and headed outside. The southerner was still asleep when he left.
The horses were saddled, as it was decided Chris, Buck and Nathan would head out to the Henderson ranch. Leaving Josiah and JD to watch the town.
Mr. Clemens was also up and would have gone with them, but the dark clad gunslinger refused. ‘It would be best if you stay in town, you can ask your questions when we get back.’ Was how Chris explained it; the writer accepted the decision.
“Chris, you want I should go with yaw?” Maybe help with tracking or something?” The young Texan was always nervous when his friend and guardian weren’t near by.
Chris smiled, “not this time cowboy, Nathan knows the way.” He could see the disappointment so he compromise. “But I would appreciate you help Josiah and JD watch the town. Oh and wake Ezra up too.”
“Aw hell.” The men laughed knowing how the southerner felt about mornings. “I’ll do my best.”
The gunslinger nodded and all three peacekeepers rode out of town.
Clemens was curious about the boy. “Mr. Sanchez, does the young man often help with tracking?”
Josiah looked over at their visitor he was about the same age as ex-preacher, and was treated like any other man. “Why yes brother, Vin here is a natural tracker and has often helped track criminals with the rest of us making sure no harm comes to him.”
“But he is so young, how can you risk he’s life like that and I am well aware that the boy has no family to speak of, I feel you might be taking advantage of the situation.”
Vin looked almost as angry as Josiah did, but the ex-preacher placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder squeezing it in reassurance.
“Now Mr. Clemens, I am well aware that you are unfamiliar with how things work here. Bu I can assure you that those men including the rest of us, would protect this boy with our lives if need be. So I would prefer you not to judge us to harshly.”
Clemens looked at the angry Texan and softens his countenance. “I’m sorry young man I was only thinking of your safety.”
Vin scrutinized to verify the truth of his words and then satisfied nodded his head in acceptance. “Josiah, I think I’ll go wake Ezra up and we can have breakfast?”
“Sure, I’ll go get JD and meet you at the restaurant, will you join us Mr. Clemens?”
“Only if Mr. Tanner agrees.” Looking at the young boy for confirmation.
Vin shrugged his shoulders, “Ezra like yah.” He simply stated making Clemens smile, he was still under scrutiny by the boy.
“Thank you.” Vin inclined his head and walked back to Chris’ room to wake the southerner.
* * * * * * *
Vin crept inside the room quietly, he could hear the steady breathing of Ezra and the smooth heart beats. As he approach the bed and about to pounce on his friend, an amused southern accent spoke, “Don’t even thin about it Mr. Tanner.”
Scaring young Vin as he curse. “Shi… shoot.” He walked cautiously as Ezra turned over. “How yaw do that?”
Smiling, “Do what?”
“You’re the only one that can hear me, not even Chris can do that, and he’s real quiet.” Vin was in awe of his friend.
“It is a trade secret.” This time the southerner jumped off the bed and began his morning ablutions.
“Aw Ez.” Vin sat dejected in the rocking chair, watching as the southerner finished with his face and then began dressing. Vin began rocking faster Ezra knew something was troubling the boy.
“Has Mr. Larabee and the others gone?”
“Yeah, Josiah and JD stayed, and waiting on breakfast.” Vin replied.
“Well then let us depart.” He took one last look at himself reminding himself about appearance are everything, at least according to his mother.
The two boys walked back out and headed to the restaurant.
“Is there something you wish to talk about?” Ezra asked.
Vin looked over at his friend, shrugging his shoulders, he continued walking down the hall of the boarding house. Ezra placed his hand on the boys arm to halt him. Without saying anything he stared at the young Texan. Vin sighed.
“Hmm… its just I got mad at that man you like. Mr. Clemens.” He lowered his head afraid Ezra would be angry with him.
“Now why on earth could you possibly be ‘mad’ at the gentleman?”
Vin began scuffing the floor with his boots, “it’s just that he said Chris was taking adva… advantage of me?”
“And why pray tell would he say that?”
He didn’t want Ezra mad at him for being upset with Mr. Clemens, but he wasn’t about to lie to his friend either. “He said that because I don’t got no parents that my tracking with Chris and the others is taking advantage and that I’m too young.”
Ezra smiled, “Ah,” was all he said.
“What, that all yaw going to say? You know Chris would never take advantage of me.”
So that was it. “Mr. Tanner… Vin you and I know very well that Mr. Larabee would never take advantage of you or me. Mr. Clemens said that only because he doesn’t understand how much Mr. Larabee trusts you, nor does he know how much Mr. Larabee cares about you. Mr. Clemens was only concern and did not realize he’s error.”
This time Vin smiled in relief, leave it to Vin to worry about losing Chris.
“Think nothing of it. Now shall we continue; I am famish.”
“Sure Ez.” Both boys continued as before.
* * * * * * *
Henderson ranch late morning, Chris, Buck and Nathan arrived and stood by as they saw young Susan Henderson on the porch. It looked like she was pealing green beans in a large bowl. She stood and placed the bowl on her chair and quickly entered the house. Her father came out and was surprise to see the dark clad gunslinger and frown.
“Mr. Larabee, what brings you out to my home.” Making that plane as he said the words. This was his place and Larabee was trespassing.
“Just wanted to let you know Judge Travis will be arriving tomorrow morning about Tyler Jones’ death, we’d like you to come to town and answer questions, since he was working for you and you were probably the last to see him alive.”
“Then I’ll be there tomorrow morning.” He stated.
“What about your daughter?” Buck asked.
Looking over to the ladies man, “what about her, she ain’t got nothing to do with this.”
“That’s not what Buck meant Mr. Henderson. Just don’t want her here alone;” Nathan hoping to placate the man.
Henderson looked over at his daughter. “I can take her to Nettie’s before arriving in town.”
Chris tipped his hat, a habit he’d pick up from Ezra, “we’ll see you tomorrow at 10:00 am, don’t be late.” So there were no misunderstandings as to the seriousness of the whole situation.
“Don’t worry Larabee, I ain’t got nothing to hide.”
With those words said, they departed and traveled back to town, but before that they too would swing by Nettie’s and let her know she’d have visitors.
“Chris, thought you wanted him coming with us today?” Buck asked.
“Yeah, planned on it, but he won’t be going no where with his daughter that pregnant. He’ll show.”
Buck accepted the explanation and glad too he was afraid they’d end up in a shoot out with the daughter caught in the middle, it never fail that the innocents always ended paying for the mistakes of others.
* * * * * * *
Back in town, and in the only decent restaurant sat three men and two young boys, two of these where in a battle of words. The resident gambler as people often referred of the young southern boy and the town’s famous visitor.
Finally, Samuel Clemens was exasperated at losing the battle of argument and decided to go a different direction, “Mr. Standish are you an optimist or a pessimist?”
Ezra thought a moment at the change of subject and then, “that would depend on the time of day sir.”
Clemens frown at the boy, then hesitantly asked, “oh, how so?”
“Well,” the southerner started, “during the day I would be a pessimist, as I abhor early mornings and can not find a pleasant outlook at having to arise at an ungodly hour. But in the late afternoon, and allowed to gamble…” Looking pointly at the two remaining peacekeepers, which merely smiled at the boy, “I would be an optimist, especially when I win each hand.” He smiled.
Samuel just looked at the boy. “You young sir; are indeed an unusual boy.”
Ezra smiled, he was enjoying the company of his friends and one of his favorite authors.
Clemens on the other hand was amazed of these to young boys, one a tracker who was only nine and the older eleven year old con-artist as well as a gambler, there was a book waiting to be written about these two boys, he just had to figure out where to start.
* * * * * * *
The other three peacekeepers had just arrived at Nettie’s homestead; the widow saw them arrive and greeted the men. “Afternoon boys must be your turn for a home cook meal.”
“Well that would be right nice man,” the gregarious gunslinger responded.
Chris shook his head at his old time friend. “Well ma’am, Buck might want to stay but I still got patrol to continue, just wanted to let you know that Ms. Henderson will be stopping by tomorrow, her father will be giving a statement concerning Mr. Jones death.”
“Thank you Mr. Larabee, I’ll be on the look out for them. Mr. Jackson I hope you’ll be staying as well?”
Tipping his hat, “thank you ma’am I’d like that.”
Both Buck and Nathan dismounted and while Chris tipped his hat and headed out.
“Well ma’am hope you got some of your special peach pie on hand.” Buck could almost taste that pie.
Nettie headed inside and with out turning answered, “don’t see young Vin with you Mr. Wilmington.”
Nathan just smiled knowing where this was going.
“No ma’am Vin and Ezra are back in town,” he then notice Nathan’s smile and then looking at Nettie’s back he asked, “why ma’am?”
“Well if Vin were here then there indeed would be peach pie available.” Turning this time she smiled at him when he groan.
The laughter he heard riding off made the dark clad gunslinger smile, peach pie was only made if Vin was visiting, otherwise she wouldn’t make it. The older woman had a soft spot for the young Texan.
Chris decided to head to the Indian Village just outside of Four Corners and visit with Kojay, the gunslinger had questions about Vin that the Indian Chief, he was sure knew the answers.
* * * * * * *
In the late afternoon Chris finally arrived, he could see the children playing around the village, some of the women were preparing the evening meal, and still others were weaving or mending clothing. Even the young girls were helping with gathering or just sitting with the other women helping. He looked to see some of the older men were making or repairing weapons that are used in hunting. The whole village worked as a team to insure its people would thrive.
The gunslinger saw Kojay making his way towards him. “Afternoon Kojay.” He nodded to him as he stopped his mount and then slides off the animal.
“Mr. Larabee, greetings. What brings you to us?” He asked.
Always right to the point, he liked that about the man, “wanted to talk about Vin, if that’s all right.” He noticed the man wasn’t surprise.
He nodded and motion to his tent. “Please sit down, how can I help you.”
Chris sat down on the ground that was covered in both blankets and animal skin. Not wanting to prolong the visit or take up the chief’s time the gunslinger presided. “Well wanted to know how Vin training is going?”
Nodding in understanding. “Young Vin is a great omen to my people, we have not seen his kind in mind or my grandfathers time. He is like a gift from the Great Spirit of our people.”
Now the gunslinger was more apprehensive, he knew what the meaning of the Great Spirit is to the Indian people, being with Josiah you couldn’t help but pick up things like that. But to actually hear and referring in regards to Vin, well that was another thing.
“Kojay, I don’t mean no disrespect to you or your Great Spirit, but Vin ain’t no Indian, he’s a white boy, how can he be an omen to your people?”
He thought about how to explain to this man, who was not only afraid of losing another boy/son, but also how not to be afraid of helping the young boy to accept and develop his growing gifts.
“By taking Vin you have chosen a path, that would frighten any man, but you must be strong, not only for yourself but for the boy as well. This too is his path, without you or the other boy he would not have began to learn, it is the two of you who must help shape Vin and travel the same path.”
“That don’t help much, he’s just a boy.” Chris wasn’t sure he should have come.
“Please listen, there is no true name for what Vin will become.” He stopped a moment, pausing hoping to find the right English words. “You would call him a protector, like you are a peacekeeper, but Vin is much more, he is young now, yes but as he grows older and changes from boy to man, his gifts will grow much more than you can image.” He paused again seeing more confusion in the other man. “You are a man who can feel when danger is near, yes?” Chris nodded. “Vin can not only feel it, he will learn to taste it in the air, feel it in the ground when he touches it, or will see it before any one can, he will hear it from the wind as well as smell it. There is no real white man word for that but Vin will grow to be a protector like no other, he is a gift, a very special gift.”
Chris just stared at the man, and understood what he was trying to tell him, a fear so strong griped his heart and just as quickly left it. He knew all along that the young Texan was special; it was in his eyes, those bright sky blue eyes that almost seem to sparkle, the lopsided grin when he was up to mischief and now Chris Larabee, harden gunslinger was to be his guardian. The dark clad man nodded. “Thank you Kojay.” The Indian nodded glad the white man understood.
After leaving the Indian Village Larabee return to Four Corners later than he had originally planned. Both Buck and Nathan had all ready arrived hours earlier. Josiah was on watch by the time Chris arrived.
“Evening Bother Chris.” Josiah’s baritone voice carried.
Chris slowing dismounted his horse; both were tired as the gunslinger leaned into the animal. “Evening Josiah.” Looking around for the boys, “they give you any trouble?”
The ex-preacher chuckled, “there were angels.” Chris snorted. “There both in bed, Vin may still be awake, he was worried when you didn’t return with Buck and Nathan?” It was said more in question than a fact.
“Decided to visit with Kojay.” Chris said.
Josiah nodded hoping the man him self sorted. “Everything all right?”
“Yeah, everything’s find; you okay to take the watch. Must a been a long day for you and the kid?”
“Not too bad, Buck said he’d relieve me around two a.m.”
“Good, I’m going to check on the boys then straight to bed. I’ll see you later preacher.” Chris said while heading towards to livery to bed down his horse then straight to the boarding house, to ease a small boys worry.
* * * * * * *
Chris open the door quietly as possible, he knew how keen Vin hearing was. As he entered all seem quiet. Walking over to the boy’s bed he noticed part of the covers pulled away from the young Texan, smiling the gunslinger pulled it up and over the boys shoulder tucking the small boy in.
“Hey cowboy.” Vin whispered.
“Hey yourself, waiting on me?”
Vin turned over to look at the man, “kind’a, you okay?”
“Course I am. Just took me bit longer on patrol is all. You had a good day today?” The parental in Chris took over.
“Yeah, me and Ezra helped when there was a fight in the saloon.”
Chris frown, “Ezra didn’t started did he?”
“Heck no, don’t know who started it but me and Ezra were back up for Josiah and JD,” now Vin was becoming more awake and excited relaying their story. “You should of seen us Chris, Ez showed me how to trip over some of those rowdy’s.”
Chris groan, those two were in the middle of a saloon brawl, he was going to have a talk with the ex-preacher about this, “either one of you get hurt?”
“Course not, me and Ez were careful.”
“All right, why don’t you tell me all about it in the morning.”
“Okay, night cowboy.” Chris just shook his head.
“Night.” He leaned over and instinctively kissing the boys forehead as he made his way to his bed, while unbuttoning his shirt. He stopped when he realized what he had done looking over at Vin, the boy was now sound asleep either not noticing what Chris had just done or merely accepting as though it was nothing new.
The next day found the regulators outside the jail, waiting for Judge Travis to arrive as well as Foster Henderson to answer any questions regarding the last hours of Tyler Jones.
Early morning Vin and Ezra had left to visit with Kojay, Chris was never worried when they traveled together having every confidence in the older boy to watch over his young charge.
Soon the regulators could hear the clatter of the approaching stage, Samuel Clemens came out of the cool restaurant also having heard the stage. Clemens was looking forward to interviewing Judge Travis, he’d heard of the well-known judge and his swift form of justice.
The stage stopped and Judge Travis disembarked lightly dusty himself off from the long journey. Luckily he was in one of the neighboring towns when he’d received Chris’ wire. Looking around he saw his daughter-in-law approaching him.
“Morning Judge,” she spoke softly a smile gracing her soft features.
“Morning Mary, and Billy?” “Oh he’s inside helping cleaned the printing press.”
“What did he do?” Figuring the boy must have done something, to have him cleaning that monster, at least that’s how Travis thought of the pressing machine.
“Nothing Judge, Billy enjoys help out,” Mary laughed.
“Well at least someone does, as I recall Steven…” Looking at Mary, “Steven never liked doing it, always let you handle it.”
“That’s because he knew I’d do a thorough job.” Mary smiled and then looked around and stopped the man she’d want the Judge to meet. “Judge; I like you to meet someone.” She motioned Clemens over and then, “may I present Mr. Samuel L. Clemens, otherwise known as Mark Twain.”
He cleared his throat at the introduction, “thank you Mary, Judge Travis it’s an honor to meet you sir.” Both men shook hands.
“On the contrary Mr. Clemens its I who is honored. What on earth brings you to our town?” Judge Travis was in awe of seeing such a distinguish gentleman far away from civilization. He chuckled at himself, if his daughter-in-law he him even think that she’d be quite upset.
“Actually, I was just passing through and then heard about the unfortunate death of that gentleman, Mr. Tyler Jones, I decided to stay awhile and see what develops.”
“Ah yes, that would be my reason for being here as well.” Travis nodded.
Out of the horizon Chris saw Henderson riding in, he stood and waited for the man to approach him.
“Mr. Larabee,” Henderson pulled his horse in front of the gunslinger and then dismounted.
“Henderson,” Chris replied. “Judge Travis went over to the saloon, your daughter doing okay?” Which brought Henderson eyes upon the gunslingers.
“She’s doing just find Mr. Larabee, you and your men seem hell bent on my daughters well being, why is that?” He asked his own question.
“Just asking, didn’t mean no disrespect, shell we go to the saloon?”
“Yeah, I want this over with.”
The two men walked over to the saloon, Buck and JD were at the bar talking with Inez, while Josiah sat with Clemens and Judge Travis, Nathan was by now heading towards Nettie’s to check on the daughter at the moment they didn’t what Henderson to know that.
“Judge Travis, this is Foster Henderson, Tyler Jones worked for him.”
“Mr. Henderson glad you could come, you know Mr. Sanchez, this is Mr. Clemens, he’d like to sit in if that’s all right with you?”
“I got no problem.” Not realizing who Clemens is.
“First off when was the last time you saw Mr. Jones alive.” Judge Travis started.
“I’d say about four months maybe longer, not exactly sure of the last day.” Henderson answered.
“Do you know where he was heading, at that time?” Judge asked.
“It was after harvest, I’d send him to Eagle Bend, to buy some more seedling, he was good with the crops, seem to know how to choose the best seeds.”
“Did he return after visiting Eagle Bend?”
“Yeah, but I was out my daughter said he was going to be heading to Four Corners, didn’t say why.”
“And your daughter can corroborate your story?”
“I told Larabee, now I’ll tell you my daughter ain’t a part of this. So leave her out.” He knew not to get angry, but there instant to involve his daughter was wearing thin.
“That’s not what I asked Mr. Henderson, I asked if you daughter gave you Mr. Jones last whereabouts she will confirm what you are now telling us?”
He didn’t say anything a few moments, “yeah, she’ll tell you the same thing.”
Judge Travis nodded; he hoped Nathan would be able to confirm this. “Very well, when Mr. Jones did not return that evening were you concern?”
“No reason to be wasn’t sure what business he had in Four Corners.” Henderson responded.
Judge Travis nodded, “when did you start to worry?”
“Look Judge I’d be lying if I said I worried at all. He didn’t return end of story. He was just some worker hired on they come and they go.”
“As I understand Mr. Jones, didn’t get his pay, I find that usual, didn’t you find that unusual?”
“The man was a Negro, a former slave, probably didn’t even remember that he was getting paid. I don’t know, like I said he left end of story.”
This was getting no where Henderson was about to say as much when Judge Travis decided to redirect the questioning.
“I understand your daughter is with child,” Judge Travis could see the anger in the man’s eyes but didn’t hesitate to continue. “Do you know who the father of the child is?” He asked.
Henderson slams his fist on the table none of the men flinch knowing something would happen. “I don’t know what your aiming for Travis.” He sneered. “But I warned you not to involve my daughter. She got nothing to do with this.” He got up to storm outside, Josiah and Chris beside him making sure the situation didn’t become too violent.
“Sit down Mr. Henderson,” Judge Travis ordered. “Now answer the question who is the child’s father.”
Henderson sat down reluctantly, looking at the men he answered, “she hasn’t told me, said it don’t matter none. That’s all I know. If she don’t want nothing to do with him then I don’t care none either.” He answered. “Ain’t the first time a woman’s has to raise her young’un alone. Least I’ll be there to help.” He finished.
* * * * * * *
Nathan rode arriving at Nettie’s about the time Henderson was answering questions, “Miss Nettie?” He called into the homestead.
“Why Mr. Jackson, how are you?”
“Just find ma’am. Wanted to stop by and see how Miss Susan was doing?” He dismounted his horse.
“Why don’t you come in then?” She opened the front door, and the big healer entered.
Nathan saw the young woman sitting in Mrs. Wells' favorite rocking chair, “ma’am hope I’m not intruding?” He directed his question to the young woman.
“Mr. Jackson, I didn’t know you were going to visit.” She answered. Casey Wells sitting next to her, it looked like both young girls were discussing women things. At least that’s what it looked like to the healer.
“Hey, Nathan, JD didn’t come with you did he?” She looked behind the big man.
“Fraid not Miss Casey. He stayed in town.” He took his hat off, “Miss Susan, I don’t mean to be forward none, but I’d like to make sure your doing okay; if that’s all right? Mrs. Wells can stay if you like?”
Susan Henderson, remembered how the healer had tried everything he could to make her mother as comfortable as possible during her last days alive. How he’d joke with her or even sat with her simply holding her hand, while her father worked hard out on the field. It had been three years now since that happen, as Casey helped her up from the rocking chair.
“Thank you Mr. Jackson, I’d appreciate any help and advice you can give me.” Susan was now only sixteen years old, and would soon be a mother.
“You can go ahead and use my room,” Casey said.
“Thank you Casey.” Nathan and Nettie went inside while Casey went into the kitchen to make some lemonade it was going to be a warm afternoon.
* * * * * * *
Nettie helped Susan onto the bed to lay a bit, while Nathan took out his stethoscope and then listening to her strong heart he smiled. Then he decided to listen to the baby’s heart and smiled again.
“Here Miss Susan you want to listen to the babies heart?”
“Oh yes Mr. Jackson, I’d love too.” The healer placed the instrument to her ears and then took the scope to listen guiding over her swollen belling until Susan stopped the motion and listen. Tears began to slowly trickle down her cheeks. “I can hear the baby, that’s my baby.” She began to whimper softly and Nettie simply held her in an embrace.
“That is the sound of a healthy baby Miss Susan.” Nathan smiled at her. “Miss Susan do you know what might have happen to Tyler?”
She stops for a moment, “No Mr. Jackson, I don’t. Mr. Jones was a good man, Papa said he probably decided to move on.”
“But why didn’t he wait for payday, I know he needed the money and that’s why he was looking for work. Just don’t make sense why your father didn’t tell no one he was missing?”
“Because Papa didn’t know he was missing, Papa wouldn’t do nothing to Tyler.”
“Didn’t say he did, Miss Susan.” Susan hadn’t even realized what she had just said, ‘no Papa wouldn’t done any thing to hurt Tyler,’ she thought. “When was the last time you saw him alive?”
“Just before he left for Four Corners, said he business with the preacher.”
“With Josiah, did he say why?”
“No just needed to talk with someone, not sure about what.”
“Did you tell your father he was going into town?”
“Yes, when Papa got back he noticed Tyler wasn’t back. I told him he’d come and left the seeds, but went to town to talk with Mr. Sanchez.”
“Did your father stay with you at home?”
She was about the answer yes when she remembered, “no Papa didn’t come home ‘til after around seven maybe eight that evening. He went to visit with Mr. Johnson, Papa been wanting to buy one of his goats.”
Nathan nodded, “did he managed to convince Mr. Johnson to give up one of those goats of his.” She chuckled.
“No, when Papa came home he was real tired, he didn’t say anything, but since there was no goat I guess he didn’t.”
Nathan also chuckled, “that man treats those goats like his children.” They all three laughed.
“What’s everyone laughing about?” Casey came in holding a tray with fresh lemonade and four glasses.
* * * * * * *
“Yahoo, look Ezra!” Vin shouted as he rode one of the Indian ponies.
Ezra paled slightly looking at his young friend riding Chanu’s pony, “Mr. Tanner, you had better not injury your self.” He shouted back. A hand squeezed his shoulder and Ezra turn around. “Mr. Kojay.”
“Ezra, Vin will be just find, he is doing well yes?”
“Yes sir, but I don’t wish to prematurely gray.” He stated, looking over at the older man and noticing his flowing gray hair. “Sorry sir.”
Kojay smiled, “no need to be sorry, let him have fun, you are only young once.”
Ezra sighed; he just couldn’t help worrying about his young friend. “I shall endeavor to try sir.”
Vin reined in the pony and jump before the pony came to a full stop and raced over to Kojay and Ezra. “Did you see me, that was so cool, I felt like I was flying.” He started to spread his arms making circles like a bird. All the while laughing. “Kojay, thank you, you were right I just let go and I wasn’t afraid no more.”
“That is good my young friend, but I think it is time for you to return,” looking over the horizon a lone rider was approaching.
“Can you see who it is Mr. Tanner?”
“Yeah, its Nathan, guess we’re going to have to head back huh.” He sounded sad.
“Well we don’t want to keep Kojay all to our self, his children will become jealous, if we monopolize his time.”
“Oh, sorry Kojay.” Vin looked to the older man.
“No Vin, I think my children enjoy your company as much as I do. Go in peace my young friends.”
“Go in peace Kojay.” Vin responded.
“Mr. Kojay, thank you for your hospitality.”
Both boys shook the man’s hand while headed towards Nugget.
“Race you Ez,” as Vin ran towards their horse.
“Mr. Tanner, that was not nice, not nice at all.” Ezra shouted as he ran after the young Texan who took a head start.
Kojay shook his head at the antics of the two boys.
* * * * * * *
Nathan saw a horse ride out to him at a trot, with two boys sitting in the saddle. ‘Guess they saw me coming’ he thought as he waited for their arrival.
“Afternoon boys,” Nathan greeted.
“Hey Nate,” Vin replied.
“Mr. Jackson,” Ezra greeted.
“Ready to head back?”
“Yes sir,” they both responded.
So, all three headed back to Four Corners.
“Mr. Jackson how is everything in town?”
“Not sure Ezra, I was over at Miss Nettie.” The healer responded, causing Vin to look up at the tall man.
“Nathan, she didn’t by chance make any peach pie did she?” He asked.
Nathan smiled not turning to look at the hopeful blue eyes, he merely stretch his arm with a small package, Vin quickly took the item and opened it, all ready smelling the aroma of the pie, “Ez you want a piece?”
Ezra chuckled at the young polite Texan, “no Mr. Tanner you go right ahead and enjoy your pie.” Knowing the boy was relieved to hear that.
Nathan pulled another package and gave it to the southern boy, “Miss Nettie sent this for your Ezra.”
Ezra blinked, and took the package also quickly opening the item. To his surprise it was a slice of pecan pie his favorite.
“I’ll have to right a note thanking Mrs. Wells on her generous offering.” Nathan chuckled at the boy’s response. “Mr. Jackson would you like a piece?”
Nathan looked at the boy holding out the pie, “thank you Ezra, but I had a slice of peach pie myself over at Mrs. Wells place. Told her I’d be swinging by to pick you boys up, she was kind enough to send a slice each for the both of you. But thanks anyway.”
They continued their journey as the boys ate their slices.
The three wearing travelers arrived while Larabee and the others were still questioning Henderson. It was now going into late afternoon and although, the pies were a welcome meal they were still hungry.
Nathan dismounted and looked in the saloon, he could see the others inside. “Boys,” looking at both Ezra and Vin. “Will you do me a favor and see to ole’ Doc here. Maybe give him a nice brush down like you spoil that horse of yours?”
Ezra snorted at the idea that they spoiled the animal, while Vin just smiled, “sure thing Nate.” Vin took the reins of Doc and Ezra still held Nuggets as they continued on to the livery without dismounting.
Nathan peer inside the saloon motioning to Josiah, who got up and walked over to the healer.
“What is it Brother?” The ex-preacher asked.
“Just wanted to let you know I spoke with Miss Susan. She said Tyler was coming to see you.”
This surprised the ex-preacher, “did she say why?”
“Tyler didn’t say, but she told her father. He say anything ‘bout that?”
“Only that he was coming to Four Corners, didn’t say why, or who he was going to see.”
“She said she told him, he was coming to see you. Also said he went out to see about buying a goat from Mr. Johnson, went to ask him about that. Told me he hasn’t spoken with Henderson in sometime and he never was interested in any goats.”
“Most interesting,” looking behind the healer, “the boys with you?”
“Yeah, have them grooming the horses. I’ll take them to eat something when they finish.”
“Good, I’ll go back inside. This does not bode well for Mr. Henderson.”
Nathan nodded in understanding. He saw the boys come out of the livery and went to join them. “How about some lunch?” The healer asked.
“Yeah,” Vin would have jumped if Ezra hadn’t sternly looked at him.
“That would be acceptable Mr. Jackson.” ‘A gentleman must always be courteous and reserve not barbaric,’ he thought to himself, as he looked at the Texan who seem properly chastised by the southerner.
The three then headed to the restaurant, Nathan taking a last glance over at the saloon, wondering what was going on.
* * * * * * *
As Josiah returns back to his seat at the back table, he quickly glanced to Henderson listening to Judge Travis as he continued to question him. The ex-preacher waited a moment while Henderson finished he’s last answer, and then Josiah asked his own.
“Mr. Henderson, what did Mr. Johnson tell you when you asked about purchasing one of his goats?”
It question caught Henderson off guard all he could say was, “what?” Looking at the ex-preacher. “I ain’t interested in none of his goats.” Then after he’d said that he became nervous, he missed something.
“That’s not what you told your daughter, after she told you Tyler was coming to visit me. What were you afraid he’d tell me?”
“I don’t know what you’re getting at?”
“Simple, Tyler seemed very attentive to your daughter, perhaps you even thought he might be the father of her child. Or maybe he wanted to talk with me about possibly marrying them both.”
Now Henderson had enough, “if I even thought that, that he actually touched my daughter I’d of killed him.” He didn’t even realized what he just said, but it was too late.
“Sir, that’s just what you did.” Josiah responded.
Foster Henderson looked at the Judge and then the others. “Bastards, you’re trying to blame me for his death. It could be anyone.”
“But you’re the one lying to us, you said you were with your daughter, but she said that you didn’t get home until late evening, and Mr. Johnson said he hasn’t spoken with you in sometime. So if you are innocent why are you lying?”
“You ain’t going to blame me for no darkie’s death. You ain’t got proof.”
Judge Travis was listening to the conversation and events unfolding. “Mr. Henderson, in light of these of these new developments, you seem to have become our prime suspect. Mr. Larabee, perhaps you can take Mr. Henderson to the jail until I’ve spoken to his daughter?”
“What? I told you, she ain’t got nothing to do with this, you leave her be.” He wanted to jump at the Judge but was stopped by the big preacher as he grabbed him, pulling his arms behind him. The other patrons who were small during the middle of the day, looked groggily at the disturbance near the back of the saloon. They looked for all of a few seconds then went back to their neglected whisky.
Buck and JD who were still at the bar stool, made there way to the back table, and helped the big preacher with their new prisoner.
The dark clad gunslinger, held the man and spoke in a deadly tone. “Do yourself a favor and go peaceful like.”
Foster Henderson looked at the deadly intent in complied. “You better make sure I get a fair trial Judge.” Looking intently at Travis, “I ain’t hanging for no darkie.” He sneered, but went with the big preacher, Buck and JD a step behind. Chris stayed behind with Judge Travis. “What do you think?”
“I’d like to visit with the young woman find out from her, what her father may be hiding.”
“You up to ride out, I’ll have Josiah go with you? I want to stay and check on the boys. They should be back.” He looked at the Judge who nodded.
“Sounds find and how are those two getting on? Staying out of trouble I hope?” Judge Travis smiled, thinking on the last time he was here.
“There doing just find.” Chris answered.
Clemens who had been writing furiously during the questioning looked up. “Judge you mind if I ride with you as well?”
He wanted to get as much information for his story as possible. The possibility of a black man wanting or even allowed to marry a white woman was most interesting.
“I would appreciate not having any of what was spoken here to be mention, if you agree, I’ll allow you to accompany me?”
“I think my readers would be interested in hearing the truth.” Clemens responded.
“And they will, when all the facts are gathered and Mr. Henderson comes to trial. I don’t want these peoples judgment to be clouded by rumors. And until we know for sure what has happened I want what we’ve learned kept quiet. I hope you can understand that?”
Clemens was quiet, knowing what the Judge was expressing and weighing his options which were limited. “Very well Judge Travis, I’ll adhere to your judgment.”
“Thank you, then I don’t have a problem with you coming. Chris?” The gunslinger looked at the Judge and nodded, he too had no problems. Of course, he was hopping the Judge knew what he was doing letting an outsider to become involved in all this. “Very well, as soon as Mr. Sanchez is available I like to leave.”
“I’ll see to the horses.” Chris replied and then exited the saloon going to the livery.
“This could end controversial, people won’t be happy if you imply that the unborn child belongs to a black man, and right here in town, people will wonder if she wasn’t rape.”
Judge Travis looked at the man next to him, he had to agree, and this was not going to be good. He may have to go with a bench trial to avoid any violence in the courtroom.
It was early enough when the three men arrived to Nettie Wells place. Plenty of light still available, but that didn’t prevent the old woman from greeting them with her shotgun in hand.
“Gentlemen,” when she recognized the travelers she lowered her spencer carbine. She had a feeling the Judge would be by later. “Why don’t you get off them horses and come in? We were holding dinner. You boys eaten yet?”
Leave it to Nettie to anticipate their arrival, “as a matter of fact dear lady we wouldn’t pas one of your find meals.” Josiah gave one of his famous smiles; at least that’s what he called them.
As they went in Casey was all ready setting the dining table, while Susan was using the rocking chair, and knitting what look like baby’s clothing.
“Evening ladies,” Josiah’s baritone voice carried, while he took his slouch hat off as he walked in.
“Evening Mr. Sanchez.” Casey replied and then looked at the two men who walked in behind the big preacher. Recognizing one of those men. “Evening Judge.” She smiled in greeting.
“Casey,” He noticed the young woman in the rocking chair and walked over to her, “Miss Henderson?” She looked up and nodded, Nettie told her to expect the Judge to come over.
Susan attempted to stand, Casey went over to help, and she extended her hand towards Judge Travis in greeting. “Miss Nettie said you might be by, is this about my father? Was he able to help?” She asked.
“Some, but I want to ask you a few more questions, if your up to it?”
“Of course, Tyler was a find man and I’d like to help.”
“Why don’t you all wait ‘til after dinner and you sir who might you be?” She directed her question to the young man with a brush mustache, thicker than Buck Wilmington’s, she didn’t think that would be possible, but here it was.
“I’m sorry, ma’am, where are my manners, my name is Samuel Clemens at your service and I hope you don’t mind if I join you in your evenings repast?”
“Another southerner, and a famous one to boot, will wonders never cease.” She exclaimed as she shook hands with Clemens. Both ladies didn’t ask what she meant by famous, but would wait ‘til ask later.
Conversation at the table was mild with talk of weather, news, as well as travel. After an hour of light conversation; the table was cleared and desert was brought out, ‘oh yeah,’ Josiah thought looking at the two selections of pies being served.
“Miss Nettie Ezra and Vin are going to be sorry they missed out on these delicious deliquesce.”
She smiled, “thank you Mr. Sanchez, but you don’t have to worry, Mr. Jackson told me he would be seeing them this morning, unless Mr. Jackson decided to eat those pies.
Josiah laughed, the ex-preacher probably would be tempted, but Nathan could never be dishonest enough, “I’m sure they enjoyed there slices.”
She nodded also.
After desert Nettie motion everyone, “Why don’t we move to the front of the room?” Then looking at her niece, “Casey, you still got chores young lady.”
“Yes ma’am,” she grabbed her coat and went outside to tend to the animals.
“Miss Henderson, your father now is being held in the town jail.” Judge Travis stated.
She gasps, “Why?” What’s happen?”
“Well…” Judge Travis wanted to get to the truth and the sooner the better. “…That’s why we’re here. To find out the truth, starting with your relationship to Mr. Jones?”
She frowns not understanding quite what the judge was implying. “Tyler was my friend. When he wasn’t helping father, he’d help me around the house. He said a woman in my condition shouldn’t be working so hard. That’s the type of gentleman Tyler was.”
“How many months along were you when Tyler came out to help?” Josiah asked, realizing that perhaps Tyler Jones wasn’t the father.
“I was maybe four months along.” She answered. “I wasn’t showing much, but Tyler figured out by how tired I’d get or the way I moved, at least that was how he explained it to me. Said his sisters went through the same thing. He always help them, so it wouldn’t be right if he didn’t help me, seeing as how he was working for us.”
Judge nodded, “I’m going to be blunt and to the point. Considering the circumstances, which brought your father to the town jail. I feel that the truth of whose baby you are carrying must come to light.”
The young woman stared at the judge then shifted her gaze to Nettie, she saw the older woman nod, and ‘she was here for her if need be.’ Susan thought. Susan looked away and was starring at the window. The sun had all ready gone behind the horizon, there was no moon, and so you could see the stars almost as bright as the sun. They seem to twinkle and wink at her. She remembered her mother and tears flowed from her eyes.
Slowly she began to tell them the truth of the child’s origin, she spoke softly not looking at the men, but still starring at the night sky. It would be good to tell someone and not have to live a lie.
The men sat in stun silence listening to the young woman before them. Innocence is such a frail thing, taken always when you least expect it and sometimes by the very people who are meant to protect you.
* * * * * * *
Josiah, Judge Travis and Clemens returned almost at midnight. They heard the lively tones of the saloon patrons and they saw the firelights along the boardwalk, but there thoughts were somewhere else. Heading directly to the livery, Yosemite must have heard them, because he came out and took the horses from the men who didn’t seem to notice.
Mr. Sanchez, Judge Travis, I think I’ll head to my room for the evening. Will you be talking with Mr. Henderson tonight?”
“No, I’ll talk to him in the morning I’m a bit tired myself.”
Clemens nodded, looking at the ex-preacher, “and you Mr. Sanchez?”
“I’ll be in the saloon, I could use a drink, and let who’s ever up know that we’ve return. Judge; I’d like to be there when you talk with Henderson.”
Judge Travis nodded, as all three made their way to their destination.
Josiah entered the saloon, some of the patrons turn to see the new arrival, and others were too engrossed in their whisky or in the gambling. Inez was still tending bar and the ex-preacher ordered a bottle of Red Eye, he turn to their regular table and noticed Buck. After receiving his bottle and glass he walked over to the gregarious gunslinger and sat down next to him.
Buck was of course flirting with one of the ladies serving drinks when he noticed the big mans solemn look, he smiled at the young woman and slapping her behind as she walked away.
“Evening Josiah,” Buck greeted still smiling trying the gauge the man.
“Brother Buck,” the gunslinger knew something was wrong by the tone.
“Everything alright?” He asked.
Josiah pours himself a generous serving of the rut gut served in the saloon and then took another, just to know he was still a man with a soul, only then did he answer, “No brother, I don’t think I’ll be alright for a while at least.”
“You want to talk about it?” Not sure he wanted to know, but seeing the preacher this down he thought he offer.
“Nah…” pouring another serving. “I rather deal with it tomorrow, but you can join me in a glass or two.” He offered.
“Don’t mind if I do.” Buck grabbed his beer mug and pour a very small portion of the whisky, glancing over at Inez, she won’t be happy if she saw him using a beer mug instead of a shot glass for the whisky.
* * * * * * *
The next morning started much like most mornings; JD was all ready on patrol in town, having relieved Buck only an hour ago. The prisoner in the jail was quiet for the most part, he lay in the cot starring at the ceiling, not saying anything or even speaking to anyone after his arrest.
JD saw Chris and Vin, he thought, ‘those two were always up at the same time, now Ezra on the other hand was probably still sleeping.’
“Morning Chris, morning Vin.” JD called out.
“Morning Kid.” The dark clad gunslinger replied.
“Hey JD,” was Vin’s reply.
“Yeah,” JD answered.
“And the prisoner?” Ever since Henderson was arrested, he was now referred as ‘the prisoner’ where as before he was Mr. Henderson.
“He’s been quiet, just keeps staring at the walls or ceiling.” Which the kid thought it was the lull before the storm.
Chris nodded, “I’m heading out to patrol if any asks.”
“Sure Chris.” JD continued along the boardwalk, while Chris and Vin headed for the livery.
* * * * * * *
Late morning found Travis and Clemens in the saloon having a quick breakfast. Josiah entered a few minutes later and walked over to seat with them.
“Morning gentlemen.” The ex-preacher greeted.
The men greeted, and then remained quiet. Conversation between the three was non-existent, seem no one was looking forward to confronting Henderson.
Buck, JD and Ezra walked in much later. Once the three-spotted Josiah and the others they made there way over.
“Well good morning ya’ll,” then looking at those downward faces, “who died?” Buck asked. The ladies man knew something was wrong since last evening, but he wasn’t about to let it carry over to the two younger boys (yes he still refers to JD as a boy, much to the kid’s annoyance).
The other three heard Buck’s underlining meaning and decided to sober up their mood.
“I see Brother Ezra is up?” Josiah laughed at the look the young southerner attempted; it was close to a Larabee glare.
“It certainly wasn’t my idea,” as he tried to cover a yawn. Josiah and JD followed suit-making Buck laugh.
Inez walked over to their table to take orders, “the usual senors?” She asked.
Buck winked at her, “course darling.”
“Yes ma’am,” Inez smiled sweetly at the kid’s politeness.
“Senorita Rescillos, coffee please.” He smiled at the young woman, green eyes glistening and dimples evident and as enchanting as always, such a pity so young.
“As you wish chiquito,” she replied her pet name for both boys.
“Ezra is that all you’ll be having for breakfast?” Judge Travis stared at the southerner realizing how thin the boy looked compared to his Billy.
“I am not a morning person Judge Travis and therefore can not eat at such an ungodly hour,” is the southerner’s curt reply.
“Now son, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Josiah smiled at the look the boy threw him.
“So you keep reminding me, Mr. Sanchez.” He remarked with distaste.
So after Inez brought the remaining meals and Ezra’s coffee, small conversation went on, but no one broach Foster Henderson.
* * * * * * *
Chris and Vin returned early afternoon after a quiet patrol, Ezra, Buck and JD saw them arrive all three were seated in front of the jail.
Dismounting they exchanged pleasantries. Chris looked around noticing the healer’s absence. “Where’s Nathan?”
“Went to check on Miss Susan. He was worried about her after Judge’s return yesterday, seems things have gone from bad to worse.” Buck looked at his long time friend and a subtle message pass between them that Judge Travis was in the jail. Taking into consideration of the youngest in their group Chris changed the subject.
“We’re going to take care of the horses, and then go over to have lunch, Vin’s stomach has a mind of it’s own and won’t quick talking.” Chris grin as just then everyone heard Vin’s stomach grumble.
“Really Mr. Tanner, one would think you were a heathen.” Ezra said also grinning.
“Am not,” the young Texan defended looking at the dark clad gunslinger, “what’s a heathen?” He asked.
“Let’s go and I’ll tell you.”
“We’ll wait for you Ole’ dog.” Buck called out.
* * * * * * *
Inside the jail, was another story there was no pleasantries inside. The Judge was a straightforward man and got down to business. “Mr. Henderson, I went to visit with your daughter yesterday, and what she told me made me realized why you killed Mr. Jones.”
Henderson starred at the man, “and I told you I didn’t kill no darkie.”
“You had the motive and the time to do it. The man was shot in the back probably didn’t even know you were there. You shot him because he was coming to see Mr. Sanchez. You shot him because, you knew he was aware that, you sir are the father of your own daughters child.” The Judge waited for a response, he didn’t have to wait long.
Henderson immediately became defensive, “she isn’t my blood daughter, and she was five when I married her mother.” He stated, as if that made everything all right.
Judge nodded well aware from the daughter of this fact, “and you think that gives you the right to not only take her innocence and her trust as well?” Travis was angry at the man’s defiance.
He was silent, not trusting his voice, “did she say that?” Henderson asked.
Judge Travis ignored the question, “sir you murder a man in cold blood, because he knew who the child’s father was, and do you know why Mr. Jones was going to see Mr. Sanchez?” The shook his head negative, “he was hoping to ask Mr. Sanchez if the child could be baptized even though your daughter wasn’t married.” His voice soften but not because of the man before him, but because of his daughter and because Tyler Jones paid the price for a selfless task.
Henderson looked away, ashamed for what he did to his daughter, for what happen with Tyler Jones. “What’s going to happen now?”
Judge shook his head the man was only thinking of himself. “Do you freely admit to the murder of Tyler Jones?” The Judge wanted it stated before he spoke his decision. Henderson nodded in affirmation. “By rights you should hang, murder is murder, it doesn’t matter who died or for what reason. But your daughter pleaded for your life, despite what you’ve done to her and to Tyler Jones. And since I promised her I’d consider it, for the sake of the baby and your daughter I will grant it, however, you will serve a life sentence for the wrongful death of Tyler Jones, without the possibility of parole. Do you understand Mr. Henderson what I’ve just done for you?” Judge Travis wanted the man to look him in the eye, he had never done this before, but the young woman’s pleads did not fall on deaf ears.
“I have asked Mr. Clemens as well as my daughter not to print any information of what your daughter told us. I don’t think the people here need to know everything. Don’t you agree Mr. Henderson?” The man nodded again in defeat, not looking at the Judge or the other men.
“There is something else I’d like to let you know, your child will be baptize, as Brother Tyler would have wanted.” Josiah spoke in a quiet voice. Henderson; nodded not trusting his voice to convene his thanks. The three men got up and walked out the cell Josiah moved close to Henderson squeezing his shoulder, “she doesn’t hate you, in fact, she still loves you, but as a daughter should.”
This Henderson broke down and his cries were muffled as he turned his back on the men leaving.
Outside, Judge Travis took a deep breath of air, shaking his malignant thoughts, he could not understand what that man had done, no matter the lack of blood relation Susan thought of him as her father. Just then he notice Mary looking over at him waving him to the Clarion, it was probably lunch, yes she made not be blood related but Mary Travis was his daughter.
A month later Josiah opened a letter from Susan Henderson, she had moved to St. Louis, to live with an older man with three children, they were acquaintances of Ezra; of all people. The man was a well respected banker whose wife had died several years Maude had tried to marry the man, but she found out he was much too honest for her taste. Susan would be the children’s governess and since no one knew her they would all assume babies father had died, which in fact was the truth.
Josiah had received word that Mr. Henderson had hung himself after only a weeks time at Yuma Prison, Susan had her baby soon after a little girl she name Natalie in honor of both Nettie and Nathan who help deliver her.
As for Samuel L. Clemens, his detour to Four Corners was never written, but his introduction to two small boys well let’s just say Ezra is still waiting on his royalties for the resemblance of one of Mr.Twain's very conning characters.
It could have happen like that, comments as always welcome