This is in response to the April Challenge, which I have set in the Skinwalker AU, where Ezra is a mythical creature and the others are either bounty hunters, or investigators, this is also set in present time, and the guys live in Arizona. I'd like to take this time to thank my friend Ancil who gave me the title of this story and it sort of took off from there. Hope you all enjoy it.
Chris Larabee walked into the bedroom of seven-year-old Diego Cervantes. As the tall dark clad investigator walked through the doors, the first thing he noticed was the all too familiar animal, his thoughts quickly change from the present to the pass as his own son Adam was so fond of rocking himself to sleep. He smiled remembering how one time his young son had pooped in his diaper, while still rocking himself on his pony. Sarah had a heck of a time trying to remove it while Adam cried. Chris wasn’t sure if it had to do with the unexpected wake up call or the fact that it must have hurt like hell.
The young woman noticed when the older man came in. She knew who he was; she hadn’t seen him since Sarah’s funeral more than three years ago. The lost look in his eyes while staring at her son’s newest gift prompted her to speak. “My husband gave it to our son just this Sunday.” She paused at the look of confusion. “It was our son’s birthday, he just turned seven. He seems to be growing far too fast. He hasn’t even given it, it’s new name yet.” She seemed to need to talk, so Chris didn’t interrupt her, merely sat down next to her.
“Tell me this isn’t happening, that there both all right and coming home soon?” She pleaded.
Three hours ago Carlos Cervantes arrived at the sheriff’s office, it look like he’d been attack by a large animal. He’s son was to have gone with him on an outing after school let out. There had been no word about Diego.
Taking her hand in his and hoping to offer comfort he replied, “Nathan just heard from the hospital Carlos will be all right. The wounds were deep, but not life threatening.”
Her eyes wide, she asked, “Has he said what happen, where Diego is?”
“No, he’s out of danger. But the doctors have him sedated. The injuries were severe enough to cause pain. JD and Buck are with him. The minute he wakes up they’ll find out what they can and let us know.” He paused a moment, before continuing again. “For now, do you know where Carlos was taking Diego?” He looked at her hoping she had some idea. Waiting for the husband to wake up could mean the difference for a small boy.
Mariela Cervantes, a striking beauty, petite in size, with dark hair and brown eyes just shy of thirty years, she was one of Sarah’s closes friends growing up in the small town of Four Corners. She thought about the question. He loved taking their son to various locals, most of them historical points. Having grown up in Four Corners Carlos wanted to pass on the traditions his father had passed onto him.
“He was taking Diego to the old Seminole Village over by the rims, his father took him there when he turned seven. Carlos wanted to do the same.” She whispered the last part as her voice trembled with pain.
“The Seminole Village, you sure?” He asked, she nodded in reply, “all right, I’ll let the sheriff know, and we’ll head out there to start the search.” He got up to walk out the room, when she called to him.
“Chris, you’ll find him won’t you?” It was a plea rather than a question, which the dark clad man readily replied as more of a promise then an answer.
“I’ll find him.” He reassured as he walked out, she was able to breathe easier with those simple words.
Chris walked to the living room. Both Vin and Ezra were waiting for him.
“How’d it go?” Vin asked.
“She said he was heading for the old Seminole Village. You’ve been out there haven’t ya?” Directing his question to their bounty hunter and tracker.
“Yeah, been there, isn’t really used as a tourist stop, why’d he take the boy there?” Most people stay away from the rims, even when you take horses it’s dangerous unless you know the area. One false move and a horse or person can easily fall down the cliffs.
“Seems it’s a family tradition.” The man answered with a shrug.
“Well, do we start there?” The southerner asked, entering the conversation.
“Yep, it’s at least a two hour drive, and then we’ll need to walk up the cliff’s. Could be three or four miles up.” Chris replied.
“There’s an old path along the rim, we could use horses there.”
Chris nodded, knowing the tracker had a keen sense of the area. “Okay, take the keys to the ram, get the two horses saddled and hitched and meet me there. Since we only have the two horses Ezra’ll walk.”
Vin smiled, as the southerner replied, “Pardon me?”
Chris just raised an eyebrow, but didn’t comment knowing the southerner was being difficult. “I’ll let Buck know where we’re headed and have Nathan pick me up. I want to head to the office and call Sheriff Stains, and let him know what we found out.”
“All right cowboy, I’ll see you later.” Vin replied.
Both younger men left.
Chris took out his cell-phone, and speed dialed, “Jackson,” The voice on the other end answered.
“Nathan, I need you to pick me up at the Cervantes home.”
“Okay, be there in five.”
Clicking his phone off, he approached the fireplace, and on the mantel was a photo, it was the image of Mariela and Sarah, just out of high school. The smiling faces were contagious as a smile form on his face.
“She looks about eighteen there?” Josiah asked, his baritone voice carried louder then it should in the quiet home.
“Yeah,” Chris replied. “Nathan’ll be here shortly.”
“Do we have a destination?” The anthropologies wanted to know.
“The old Seminole Village, that’s where the father and son were headed,”
“Doctors say what, or who attacked the father?”
“Something big,” he shrugged, “I’ll take the boys with me.” He stated, everyone well aware that when he said the boys, it meant Vin and Ezra.
“Nathan and me?” He asked.
“We only got two horses, I’ll need Nathan with me, that’ll leave Vin with Ezra once he changes.” Looking over at the big man he said. “That’ll leave you with the equipment.”
Josiah nodded, “right.”
Taking one last look at the old photo both men walked out of the house to wait for Nathan.
* * * * * * *
Up near the canyon rims a small boy huddled as close to the wall as possible. He shivered. He should have listen to his mom, when she said to take something warm. He took it but left it in the car, when they started their climb.
Diego shouted as loud as he could, “hello, is any one there?” The little boy could hear the sound of his own voice echo around the canyon. But no one else seemed to have heard it. Tears streaked down his dirty face. Even a small boy of seven could tell it would be dark soon, and he’d be all a lone out here.
The small boy was scared as eerie noises could be heard coming from above. He wasn’t sure what they were and that’s what made them eerie and scary, at least to one small frighten boy. He hoped his dad would bring help soon.
Vin and Ezra saddled up the two horses they would need for the climb to the Seminole Village.
Sire was a painted pony about fifteen hands high, an ornery SOB who never liked going into the trailer quietly. Diablo on the other hand was just the opposite a black horse about sixteen hands high, loyal only to Chris Larabee in the sense that he was the only one able to ride him, and getting him to enter the trailer you’d think would be a problem but old Diablo knew that his rider needed him and so he’d enter with no problem. Diablo looked behind to see Sire would still not enter. He snorted in impatience and then kicked the side of the trailer, but still the skittish pony would not enter.
“Ez, help me out here.” Vin gasped still trying to push his horse inside.
The southerner chuckled, and then began to concentrate, he allowed the change to enter his body, but without completely changing into the skin walker, but enough to get a troublesome horse to enter the trailer.
The unexpected bolt by the horse caused the Texan to slip and fall forward on the trailers door. “Warn a guy will ya,” he said as he glared at his laughing partner.
“Well you did ask for help.” The un-repented southerner responded.
Vin smirked, as he tried to get up off the ramp door.
Ezra asked, “need a hand?”
“Sure,” as the Texan stretched his arm for help, he could hear clapping from behind him. “Oh, you’re a real comedian today.”
Ezra decided to give the man a break and grabbed his arm pulling him to his feet. “My apologies Mr. Tanner, I don’t know what came over me.” Putting on a straight face, but the Texan could see the twinkle of amusement in his jade eyes.
Wiping his dirty hands on his jeans Vin turned to his friend. “Come on lets meet Chris before he sends out a posse.
Securing the latch door, both men entered the black dodge and started the long drive to meet the others.
After notifying the sheriff’s office, Chris, Nathan and Josiah headed out. Taking one of the back routes Chris was familiar with they arrived two hours later at one of the entrances to the old Seminole Village, Chris looked up, this was diffidently going to be one hell of a climb.
The Canyon de Chelly was one of the oldest Indian settlement sites in the four-corner area, located in the northeastern region of Arizona. The canyon is also one of the only settlements still used by the Navajo people. The old Seminole Village is another issue all together, the trails leading up to the village are old only accessible half way by horse and the last part on foot.
Chris shook he’s head, “what the hell was Carlos thinking bringing the boy out here.” The cliffs were anywhere from six to seven hundred feet down along the old village; which was one of the reasons no one lived up there too dangerous, it would be like rolling out of bed and someone yelling ‘look out below!’ Not a good thing to wake up to. Only a skilled tour guide could get you up there, looking at his two companions the dark clad man asked, “you think Carlos got permission from the Indians to climb up there?”
Nathan shrugged, Josiah looked up also as he spoke, “he’s lived here all his life, he probably knows the area just as well as the Navajo. Of course, it doesn’t explain why he didn’t ask for help instead of heading to the sheriff’s…” He looked back to his friends.
“Yeah,” Chris was one for few if not any words. But he too was pondering on that question, unless they didn’t know or he saw something he wasn’t suppose too, it was a puzzle.
A few minutes later Vin and Ezra pulled up along side Nathan’s vehicle.
Vin walked over, “any idea where we’re headed?” Directing his question to his friend.
“Was hoping you could help with that.” He replied.
Ezra headed further up a path, trying to pick up a clue or as Buck put it a scent. It’d embarrassed the dapper southerner to be viewed as you would a hound dog. JD was always quick to reassure the man that Buck was just teasing, ‘he does that all the time…’ Was how the kid put it, the others hadn’t even been aware that Ezra didn’t understand the concept of teasing having had no experience of how friends acted.
Now over nine months since Ezra joined the team, he was beginning to relax and allow the camaraderie to include him. And realizing for the first time that he was allowing himself to have friends was a new feeling that was beginning to warm his heart.
“Mr. Larabee,” the southerner called, getting everyone’s attention. “I think we should start here.” Pointing to large prints as well as dried blood, obviously this is where the father came down.
They all looked up, ‘this was going to be one hell of a climb,’ they all thought.
“Jesus,” Chris swallowed, “any idea how we’re getting up there?”
“Yeah, there’s another trail about a mile from here, it’ll reach the village, and will hold the horses. It’s a longer trail, but it will take us the same amount of time as if taking this trail on foot.” Vin supplied.
Chris didn’t like that hoping to reach the boy sooner. “What if you and Ezra head up from here, could you make the climb?”
“Yeah, but how are you and Nathan going to get up there?” They would need the tracker to guide them.
“Damn,” Vin was right, he wasn’t as familiar with the area as the Texan. And they’d need Nathan in case the boy was injured and needed immediate medical treatment. This would mean he’d have to stay behind.
As if reading his thoughts Ezra had a suggestion. “I could carry Mr. Jackson, if he was willing?”
Nathan stared at the southerner; he wasn’t comfortable with the change that Ezra would go through, now he was proposing a piggyback ride!
“Ah, Ez no offense, but I’m not sure I can do it.” He said.
“I can assure you a safe journey Mr. Jackson.”
“He’s right Nate, Ez won’t drop you.”
“That’s all well and good Vin, but you can communicate with him I can’t.”
“Don’t worry about that, he can still understand you. He won’t drop you.” He reaffirmed his previous statement.
“Nathan, if you don’t feel comfortable, I’ll stay behind, you ride up with Vin there’s no reason for me to go.” Chris said.
The healer shook his head, “you know as well as I do no one but you can ride that devil horse of yours.”
Ezra bowed his head ashamed that the healer wouldn’t trust him to keep him safe.
Vin could see the hurt in his friend and sighed, they really needed to get more horses. As it is Josiah will have to stay behind and Buck and JD won’t even be here.
Nathan looked over at the southerner and saw the hurt too. Although Ezra kept his head down he did notice the pain. Now it was his turn to sigh. “Okay, Ezra. I’ll give it a try, but just so you know I do trust you, it’s just…” he paused as he thought about what to say. “You’re kind’a scary.” He shrugged it was the truth.
Ezra smiled, “Fair enough Mr. Jackson.” The southerner extended his hand and both men shook.
“Now how’s it work, I know you ain’t going to wear no saddle, so how do I hold on?”
“As you probably noticed, I don’t have a normal animal’s body form. I can run almost on two legs. So, just wrap your arms around my neck and your legs around my ribs and just hold on tight.” He raised his eyebrows testing that he understood.
Nathan nodded, gathering he’s medical supplies and placing them in his backpack Ezra went behind some large bushes and began to undress, he tossed his clothing over the bush as Josiah began to retrieve them.
A few moments later Ezra came out of the bushes, Nathan step back it was disconcerting to see the southerner in his changed form. It didn’t matter how often he saw him in this state it was and Nathan suspected would always look frightening.
Vin was the only one who could see him with a look of awe. The Texan smiled at the beast before him. The southerner's grin looked scarier then reassuring. “Ez you ready?” The Texan inquired, placing he’s hand to touch the skin walker.
“As I’ll ever be, just show Nathan how it’s done.”
Vin all ready knew what his friend was telling him. So, he called to the healer. “Okay, Nate, just hold on like this.”
The Texan climb on Ezra’s back, with both legs straddling tight around the southerners ribs and his arms firmly wrapped around the creatures neck.
“So long as you hold tight you’ll be find, don’t worry about holding too tight Ez won’t feel it, at least too much. If you feel as if your loosing your grip just shout to Ezra. He’ll stop and let you readjust your hold.”
Nathan nodded, jumped aboard as Vin jumped off and the healer wrapped his legs and arms around Ezra as the Texan showed him.
“We’ll see you at the top,” the southerner replied to Vin as he was the only one who could hear him and both Nathan and Ezra were off.
“We better get going they’re going to be way ahead of us.” Vin stated as he made his way to Sire.
“They going to be okay?”
“They’ll be find cowboy,” Vin replied.
Chris looked over at the anthropologist, “Josiah, the minute you hear anything from Buck, call us on the radio.”
“Will do brother, you both be careful.”
He nodded, “lets ride.”
It was near eight o’clock in the evening when Carlos Cervantes woke-up. Mariela his wife was by his side. Buck and JD sat just outside the small clinic.
Carlos squinted at the bright lights in his room; the nurse entered the semi-private room to check his vitals. She noticed that he was quaking up. “Well senor Cervantes welcome back,” she smiled at his confusion.
“Diego,” he looked around the room for his son, seeing his wife.
“He’s not here, what happen?” Her worry was evident as her husband tried to get up off the bed.
“Hold on senor, just take it easy,” the nurse forcibly held him down while calming him with her voice.
Buck and JD heard the commotion and entered the room.
“Carlos, good to see you awake!” Buck exclaimed.
The agitated father looked to the two men who entered the room, “Buck, where’s Diego?” He gasped as the pain began to register.
“Actually we were hoping you could tell us.”
“Did you go to the Seminole Village?” Mariela asked.
“Yes, I had to put Diego over the side, a cougar, there was a cougar.” Carlos gasped again as he tried to get up.
Buck reached the agitated man, as the nurse moved to give him room. “It’s okay Carlos, Chris is all ready there and probably half way up the mountain. They’ll get to him. I just need to know where exactly you put the boy?”
“Near the edge of the first kiva, the one as you first enter the village. It’s the only one that has a ledge on the side big enough to hold an adult.” He quickly added.
“Okay pard, you take it easy, I’m going to call Chris and let him know. We’ll find him, I promise.”
Carlos nodded as he relaxed, Buck’s words giving him comfort. He looked over at his wife and smiled as the medication was starting to kick in.
The self appointed ladies man walked out of the room, he’s young cousin right behind him.
“Buck, you think you’ll get through, those canyons often block the signal.” JD stated.
“I know kid, that’s why we’re going to the sheriff’s office. The boys took Chris’ truck out there and the sheriff should be able to reach him.”
“Good thinking,” JD had forgotten.
“That’s why they pay me the big buck’s kid.”
“Buck, you’re so full of…” Before the kid could finish Buck clamped his hand over the boys mouth, “now kid, you don’t want me to wash out your mouth with soap…” he gave his cousin a questioning look, “do you?” The boy shook his head ‘no’ and the big man removed his hand. “Come on times a wasting.”
And they both headed out the door.
Josiah received the message as to the exact location of the boy. “Chris do you copy?” When he released the Motorola handheld radio it squawked once then a voice came on.
“I copy, go ahead, over?” Chris answered on the other end.
“Just got word from Buck, Carlos placed the boy to the south rim, by the large kiva, over.”
“Did he say what happen, over?”
Clicking the radio mic, the big man answered, “yeah, cougar, watch yourselves, over.”
Another squawk; “copy that, over and out.”
The anthropologist looked up the cliff side and sent a silent prayer that the boy be safe.
* * * * * * *
At the same time Chris received the message. Ezra and Nathan reached the top. The healer could fill the tremors run down the southerner’s body from the exertion of carrying him as well as the long climb.
They each breathed a sigh of relief at reaching the top. Nathan slid off the beasts back falling on his buttocks. He could hardly wait for the ride down and wondered how that would go.
Ezra turned to watch Nathan, to see if he faired the ride well.
Nathan breathed relief to be back on solid ground. He looked up at the piercing green eyes and the razor sharp teeth directed at him and swallowed. Nathan hated being afraid, especially since he knew how sensitive Ezra could be about his appearance.
The healer back pedal, to gain a little more space for himself as Ezra moved forward and with his long muzzle nudged the healer.
“I’m okay,” Nathan, gasped, Ezra nudge him again, hoping to alleviate his fears, “stop it, I said I’m okay.” He repeated.
Suddenly the wind blew and the southerner picked up a faint sound – a small whisper, “help me,” the small voice said.
Ezra moved, before Nathan had a chance to ask ‘what was wrong?’
The southerner leaned over the edge and saw the boy, he couldn’t call out to the boy nor did he want to change back to human form since he didn’t bring a change of clothing.
Ezra turned back to the healer and to his horror he saw another animal right above Nathan.
Nathan didn’t see the animal looking as he was looking intently at the southerner, but he did hear the growl, stiffening he froze. The healer turned slowly and saw two red eyes looking back at him. It was dark, so he wasn’t sure what kind of big animal it was, but clearly its intent was not good.
Ezra saw the beast about to jump on Nathan so he sprang into action. The southerner took several strides and grappled with the large cat just as it was about to jump at his friend.
Nathan stared at the ensuing battle being played out before his eyes. He didn’t know what to do, so he just stood there and did nothing.
The fight didn’t last very long as the cougar realized it was out class. So it choose retreat rather than to continue the fight. This was diffidently not worth the meager meal to be had.
Ezra didn’t bother chasing after the animal; instead he looked at himself. He hurt, that cat had rather large claws and sharp teeth.
Nathan seeing the pain on Ezra’s face, even with it looking so different he could still see the grimace of pain that went through him.
The healer in him took over and he walked over and approached the southerner. Seeing this Ezra backed away, he wanted his space and didn’t want to feel crowed.
For a fierce looking animal, Ezra sure acted like a wimp, thought Nathan. He didn’t like to be looked at or treated and since Vin and Chris weren’t here yet it would be impossible to touch him.
“Come on Ez, I know your hurting, let me look at ya?” Hoping the southerner would listen. Seeing a negative response didn’t mean the healer still didn’t believe in miracles.
Ezra moved away from the healer and back towards the edge. Nathan asked, “You want me to follow you?” Getting a positive response, he caught on, “oh, the boy, you found the boy.” Ezra nodded. “Okay lead the way,” as Nathan followed.
They approached the edge of a cliff. It was pretty dark below and Nathan wasn’t sure what he was looking at if anything.
“Hello, Diego you there boy.” The healer shouted, which he really didn’t have too as the echo carried his voice all along the canyon.
“Hello, I’m here,” the boy called back. “Help, I’m down here.” He shouted again, hoping he wasn’t hearing things.
“It’s Nathan, hang on, I’m going to climb down and bring you back up… so hang on, okay?”
“Okay,” he responded. “Hurry it’s cold down here.” The boys quivering voice worried the healer as he began to prepare the ropes.
“I’ll be down soon,” Nathan assured.
“Should be there anytime now,” Vin stated.
“Hope so, damn it’s getting really dark out here, and the fact there’s no moon tonight isn’t helping.”
“Yeah, hope Nathan and Ezra are okay.”
“When those two get together, I’m glad to be here and not there.”
Vin laughed at Chris’ terse response.
They traveled in companionable silence, until there was, what sounded like big animals fighting. The horses became spook, but both men held their reins tight and calmed their beasts.
The men stood quiet and when the fighting stopped, and the horses calmed, the young Texan spur his animal forward as both men continued neither one saying anything.
Chris and Vin finally reached the plateau; there was no fire or any kind of light to direct their path.
“Ezra!” Vin shouted.
“Nathan!” Chris called out.
Silence was there only response.
Chris dismounted, and pulled two heavy-duty flashlights from his saddlebag.
“Vin, lets go search them out.” He said as he handed his friend one of the flashlights.
The young Texan was worried, Ezra should have responded; ‘what happen,’ he thought. Vin ground tied Sire and both men began the search for their friends.
* * * * * * *
Ezra held the rope as tight as he could, he may not have human hands but the beast hands were just as strong if not made for this type of job. But the southerner’s human side knew how to work the hands and arms like a… human would. He lowered Nathan down to the small boy waiting.
“Okay, stop,” the healer called up. “Diego, how you doing, do you hurt any where?” Nathan asked as he did a cursory exam, while trying to balance himself on the ledge.
“I’m okay, just cold.” He answered with chattering teeth. “Is my Dad okay?”
Nathan gave the boy a warm sweater his mother had sent with him before replying. “Yeah, he made it down, but he was hurt. He’s at the hospital with your Ma, and waiting to hear if we found you.” The healer smiled at having said so much, but he wanted to calm the boy without having to lie to him about his father’s condition.
“All right you ready to leave this place?” He asked the boy.
“Yes, sir.” The boy replied, making the healer laugh at the boy’s enthusiasm.
Nathan wrapped the second harness on the boy and then pulled twice on his line, while attaching Diego’s harness to his.
Ezra feeling the pull began to bring up the line holding both the boy and man. The southerner was still in animal form when the two finally reached the top.
The boy seeing the rather large beast in front of him, caused him to cry out, and almost topple them back down, but Ezra had a tight grip, plus Nathan began telling him that he was a friend and wouldn’t hurt them.
Finally, when the boy calmed, the southerner release the rope, so Nathan could un-strap both harnesses.
“Woo… that was fun, let’s just not do that for a while,” Nathan stated hoping to ease the boy.
“Is he really friendly?” The boy asked, still not able to let Nathan go.
“Yeah, he won’t hurt you none.”
“What’s his name?” Diego asked, cleaning the dirt from his pants as he got up from Nathan’s lap.
Nathan helped clean the boy, while checking to make sure no injuries incur during their climb along the cliffs.
“Well you know, he really doesn’t have a name,” the healer simply stated. The boy after all knew who Ezra was and since the change was a secret, he didn’t want to expose his friend.
“He doesn’t have a name?” The boy was appalled. “But everyone has a name.” He said.
“Ezra, Nathan!” Chris yelled, having spilt up with Vin, the dark clad man was heading toward the south end of the village.
Finally, a call came back.
“Chris, we’re over here.” Nathan yelled back.
Chris ran to the voice and was relieved to see both men and boy huddled together for warmth.
“I see you’ve found our missing boy.” Chris smiled looking down at the small form leaning into Ezra’s warm fur.
“Yeah,” Nathan answered.
The boy smiled knowing now that he was safe, “Uncle Chris,” he jumped up running to the tall man wrapping his small arms around his neck.
“Hey, champ, you okay?”
“Yeah, we going home now?” He was missing his ma and pa something fierce.
“Not just yet, it’s too dark to make the journey tonight, but we’ll head for home first thing in the morning.” He assured the boy.
The boy sighed, but nodded his head.
“He really a friend of yours?” Looking over at the southerner.
“You mean that big mangy thing over there?” Chris smiled as Ezra growled his displeasure at having been insulted.
“Yeah, Nathan said he’s a friend, but he has no name, that true?”
Chris looked to Nathan and saw him shrug. Looking over at the boy he said. “Yeah, he’s awful particular about what we should call him and we just haven’t found the right name.” He replied.
“Oh,” was the boy’s reply.
Just then Ezra strengthen, and looked over his shoulders, he grin at seeing who came walking into there make shift camp.
With both Chris and Vin present the healer finally had Ezra under his care. After the poking and the probing was all done. Ezra lay down, much like a regular animal would, curling into a ball.
Vin sat next to him, actually petting him, making the southerner sigh. Of course, not out of pleasure, but annoyance. But how do you tell your best friend how embarrassing being petted really feels. Especially, when you know how concern he was.
The little boy walked over to Vin sitting next to him, “Vin, do you know what his name is?” He asked.
The Texan was aware, of the situation having spoken with Ezra shortly before.
“Well,” he whispered to the boy. “I sometimes call him Littlebear,” he said.
The boy smiled, “how come?”
“Well, when you first met him what were you thinking when you saw him.”
“That he was going to eat me.” No question there, Vin thought as he smiled.
“Okay, how about after you knew that, wasn’t going to happen?”
“Well,” the boy paused, looking back at the Texan he whispered. “That he was kind’a strange looking. I ain’t ever seen anything, like him.”
Vin nodded, “you’re not sure what he is, that’s how I felt. I mean he’s not big enough to be a bear, but he’s not small enough to be a wolf. But he sort of looks like both, so I like calling him Littlebear.” He shrugged his shoulders, looking at the boy.
Diego smiled again, this time looking at the strange beast. “Littlebear, I like it.”
Vin nodded pleased.
“Yeah,” Vin had a feeling that there was more on the boys mind.
“My Dad gave me a horse, a horse with no name. He said the new owner has to give him a name.
“That makes sense.” Vin agreed.
“I had a lot of time to think,” he said.
For a boy of seven he was showing great maturity, Vin thought. “Go on,” he encouraged.
“Well, I remember my Ma telling me an old story about the morning star, there called lucero in Spanish.” He paused, “and well I want to name my rocking horse Lucero, cause when I first saw him it was like looking at the morning star. So bright and shiny it makes you happy.” He looked at the Texan waiting to hear what he had to say.
“Lucero,” he thought about it, and then looking at his friend he asked, “what do you think Littlebear?”
Ezra lifted his head as he listened to the on going conversation taking place. The southerner liked the name and the boy’s reasoning, “I think that’s a find name.” He told Vin using their special telepathic communication, while nodding to the boy with his approval.
“Littlebear likes it.” Vin replied.
The next morning, had everyone helping pack up their small campsite.
Ezra stayed close to the small boy who had curled up next to him during the cold night.
They had called Josiah during the evening, after the boy had gone to sleep and told him they would be spending the night. It was decided that Josiah would head back to town in Nathan’s truck and bring Mariela back in the morning to greet her son.
Diego rode with Chris while Vin led them down the path. Ezra and Nathan headed back the same way, on piggyback.
“Diego,” spoke Chris.
“Yes, Uncle Chris.” The boy responded.
“About Littlebear, you know we have to keep him a secret don’t you?”
The little boy nodded.
“Now I don’t want you lying to your mother. Just there really is no reason to mention him.”
“I know Uncle Chris, mums the word.” He replied in a whispered tone.
Chris chuckled; glad the boy would keep his word.
“Can I come visit Littlebear from time to time?” He asked.
“Well that’s going to be kind’a hard, you see Littlebear doesn’t live in town, people get pretty scared when they see him.” Looking down at the boy sitting up front, “you understand don’t you?”
“Yeah, he kind’a scared me too.”
Chris nodded his head in understanding.
* * * * * * *
Josiah arrived early to the site, bringing Mariela, Buck and JD. The boy’s father was not scheduled to be release, until later possibly in the evening, so they would see him at home or at the hospital depending on when they would arrive.
“You’re sure Chris said my son was all right?” She asked again.
“Yes, Mariela. Diego is fine, a bit shaken and a little cold but other wise fine.”
She sighed, “Josiah is there any way I could speak with him?” Mariela looked at the big man with pleading eyes.
Josiah chuckled; “sure,” he walked over to Chris’ truck and brought out the two-way radio. “Now, just press this button here when you wish to speak and then release it when you are waiting to hear from them.” He handed the radio to the young woman.
“Hello, Chris can you hear me?” She asked releasing the mic.
“When you finish say over,” she looked over at the ladies man.
“Over,” she quickly said.
Buck smiled at Mariela’s exasperated expression.
“I hear you, over.” Chris’ voice came on the other line.
“Chris is Diego with you…” she waited a moment and at Buck’s smile she quickly hit the mic again and said, “over.”
“Yes, he’s here, hold on a moment…” There was a pause then a much younger voice came on.
“Mami, it’s me, I’m okay, over.”
“Oh, baby, are you sure your okay, over?”
“Yes, Mami, I’m okay, Chris, Vin and Nathan took real good care of me. We’re almost down the mountain, how’s Papi doing, over?”
“He’s doing all right, Doctor said he’ll be home soon, we could probably pick him up when the Doctor checks you out, over.”
“But Nathan all ready check me out, do I have too, over?”
She laughed grateful that her son was whining about having to go visit the doctor.
“I’m sorry sweetie, but Nathan I’m sure would say that you should see the doctor too, over.”
His mother was right, as Nathan had all ready mention that part, before they separated. “Okay, Mami, I guess, over.”
“All right, I’ll see you later, te quiero mucho hijo, over.”
“Yo tambien, Mami, over.” He replied with a small quiver in his voice.
“Oh, Mami, Chris say’s I need to say over and out so you know we’re finish. Over and out.”
Making his mother cry as Buck took her into his arms as she cried with tears of relief.
* * * * * * *
It was mid-day when Nathan came down the mountain; Josiah saw him and brought over Ezra’s cloths. Chris, Vin and Diego would be down a little later.
Mariela began to pace, the wait was becoming too much, just how much longer would it be, she thought. Suddenly, the sound of horses could be heard and then…
“Mami!” Diego yelled as Chris helped him down and he ran the rest of the way on foot.
Both mother and son were reunited.
“Oh, hijo,” Mariela sobbed, holding her precious boy, in her arms.
In the bushes a pair of green eyes watched envious of the love he could see between mother and child, and wondered why his own mother never showed him that kind of love.
“Ez, you okay?” Nathan asked.
“Yes, Mr. Jackson, I’m fine.” He answered.
Chris and Vin dismounted, and approached their friends. Josiah nodded over by the bushes and soon Nathan joined them as if he’d arrived with the other three Ezra remained behind.
Mariela looked over at Chris and smiled. The dark clad investigator merely tipped his hat in understanding.
“Josiah why don’t you drive everyone back,” looking at Nathan’s truck he decided to keep one of them behind, “Buck will stay with us?”
Mariela walked over to Chris reaching up she planted a kiss on his check and gave him a hug, “Thank you Chris for keeping your promise.”
“You take that boy home and talk some sense into that husband of yours,” he replied with a smile.
“Oh, don’t you worry, he’s going to get an ear full.” She smiled back at him.
* * * * * * *
A few minutes later Josiah drove off, with JD riding shotgun and Nathan sitting in the back with Mariela and Diego, making sure they were both all right. The three left behind could see the animated motions of the boy as he related his adventure.
“You, think he’ll say anything about Ezra?” Buck asked.
“I think he’ll be okay,” Chris answered, as he gave the all clear to the southerner as he walked out of the bushes.
“Mr. Tanner, might I have a word with you?”
Chris and Buck looked over at the Texan as he hung his head, he was waiting for this.
“Now Ezra, that little boy needed cheering up, what was I suppose to do?” He asked.
“Littlebear, of all the names you could have thought of you choose Littlebear, even the boy had a better name. Perhaps you should have asked him to name me?”
Ezra made his way to the truck and sat in the back, leaving the task of getting the horses into the trailer to the others.
“Ah, what just happen?” Buck looked over at his friend then the Texan waiting for a response.
Chris shrug, “the boy wanted to know Ezra’s name, so Vin gave him one.”
“You called him little bear?”
“Well, I mean he looks like a little bear, doesn’t he?”
After the men finally got both horses into the trailer, with no help from the southerner who was still sulking, they were ready to go.
As Chris turned onto the highway, he turn the radio on, the song that came on was A Horse with No Name. Chris smiled thinking of that rocking horse with a new name.