azombiewrites: (The Magnificent Seven)
[personal profile] azombiewrites
Title: Blackmail
Eleventh story in 'The Continuing Ezra Standish Saga'
Rating: PG
Warnings: Bad writing ahead!
Fandom: The Magnificent Seven
Genre: Hurt/Comfort
Summary: An old enemy of Chris's arrives in town to seek revenge against him. And to do it she takes a friend of Ezra's hostage to blackmail him into helping her seek revenge.
Main Characters: Ezra, and the rest of the seven, and some OC's
Disclaimers: The guys are owned by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, and The Mirisch Corp.
Beta: Not betaed – written in the early days when I didn’t know what the words grammar and edit meant. *is ashamed but no longer care*
Notes: Eleventh story in the ‘Continuing Ezra Standish Saga’.
Spoilers: None.
Total Word Count: 33,041



Part One


"The Judge isn't going to like it," said Chris as he blocked Ezra's exit from the saloon.

"Judge Travis is not here Mr Larabee." Ezra had thought that the best idea would be to inform Chris of his plans but he was now beginning to think that he should have left a note.

"He is going to find out Ezra." Chris stood with his hands on his hips and his elbows pointed outward trying to cover as much of the door as he could.

"How? Are you going to tell him?" A smile formed on Ezra's face, as he now knew that he was going to win this argument. He was going to use Chris's guilt. He raised his eyebrows at him and this caused his smile to grow even more allowing the dimples to form on his cheeks.

Chris could not understand why Ezra was finding this so funny. He was still in shock himself as Ezra had come down from his room three hours earlier than he normally did. It gave everyone a shock and Chris had not yet recovered from it when Ezra told him that he was leaving. He couldn't even put up a decent argument against the man. He was still trying to get over the fact that he had gotten up early on his own.

"You know I wouldn't do that Ezra." Things had gotten better between them since they had returned to Four Corners.

The relationship was still trying at times but they had come to an understanding. They were willing to give each other the benefit of the doubt instead of jumping to conclusions. The others had taken bets on how long it would last.

"I am only going to be gone for three weeks at the most." Ezra watched as anger slowly replaced the shock that had been written all over Chris's face. He knew that the anger was not because of him leaving. It was because he knew that he was not going to win the argument.

"The Judge will be back before you are. He is going to find out." He knew that he had no hope of stopping Ezra. He saw the smile on Ezra's face and it told him that he was going anyway and nothing that Chris said was going to stop him. It also told him that he was wasting his breath arguing with him because he was not going to win.

"Perhaps you can cover for me until I return." Ezra suggested knowing that they would because they would be in more trouble with the Judge for letting him go than he would be for going.

Chris gave up. "Fine. Whatever. I'm not going to win this fight anyway am I?" He threw his hands up in the air as he stepped aside to allow Ezra access to the saloon doors. "Just telegram us when you get there will you and before you come back."

Ezra had walked past him but he turned around to face Chris. The smile had gone from his handsome features. "Do you think that this is some kind of ruse so I can get away from here and not come back." his voice held no anger but he still regretted the words instantly.

"No Ezra I don't. We’re all going to be worried about you and we want to know that you got there okay that's all. And we would want to know when to expect you back." Chris allowed the concern show on his face. Ezra knew that the concern was real, as it had also reached Chris's steel blue eyes. "You know what happens to you out there." It was Chris's turn to smile.

"Alright Chris, I'll telegram you when I get there and before I come back." Ezra tipped his hat to him and walked out of the saloon into the bright sunlight. He felt the sun hit him and he stood there for a few minutes enjoying its warmth. He had felt a lot better over the last few days as his dreams had finally left him and he had returned to his normal dubious self. He had already packed a bag, it was attached to his saddle, and his horse was standing in front of him waiting to go. It had not taken him long to find a good horse to replace the one that had been killed. He mounted his horse and headed out in the direction of Hampton Creek.

Chris stood at the door and watched him leave hoping that they would not have to ride out after him because something had happened to him. He stayed there until he could no longer see Ezra's red jacket. He then went back into the saloon for a drink and to try to work out what he was going to tell Judge Travis when he returned, as he was serious when he told Ezra that he would put him in jail if he left the group and he may consider that it was what Ezra had done. Neither of them noticed the young woman who was watching Ezra as he left town.

***

Christy had been watching Chris Larabee for more than a week trying to find a way to get him on his own, preferably away from his six associates but she had not been able to come up with a plan. She had also watched his friends hoping that she may be able to use one of them but failed in that area also. She wanted to seek revenge against Larabee but knew that it would be difficult. She had gathered a small group of outlaws to help her but they also knew that it would be a difficult job to do what Christy wanted. She wanted revenge but she also wanted to get away with it.
Christy had then found out that Ezra Standish was leaving town to visit a friend. She had become close to the owner of the telegraph office, and quite a few other people in town but only the ones that would be able to give her information that she would be able to use against Larabee. A plan had begun to form in her mind, she was going to get her revenge and she would use Standish to help her get it. She followed Ezra out of town knowing that she would meet up with her gang who were camped on the outside of town hidden from the seven lawmen as some of them were wanted men. They would then follow the gambler to his destination at a distance, as they knew where he was going and once they got there, they would find out the direct location of his friend.

***

Ezra had telegraphed Jean to let her know that he wanted to visit and if that would be all right. She'd sent him one back telling him that she looked forward to seeing him. He still needed to talk to someone about the things that had happened in the last few weeks and he remembered how easy it was to talk to Jean but they had lost contact over the last couple of months because of everything that had happened and he was worried that she would refuse to see him.
It was going to take nearly a week to get there and he decided that he was going to enjoy the outdoors for a change. He was not normally a person who enjoyed being stuck outside but sometimes the jobs that the seven had to undertake gave him no choice. He looked up into the blue sky and saw the clouds beginning to form in the distance and hoped that it wasn't going to rain. If Vin were here, he would be able to tell him if it was as he had an uncanny ability to tell the weather. There were times when the sky was cloudless and in a confident tone, he would inform everyone that there was a storm on its way and he could usually tell you when to expect it. Ezra chuckled to himself at the thought.

The rain had held off and Ezra was able to enjoy his journey. He didn't run into any sort of trouble or any other people but he did see a fire a fair distance behind him on a couple of the nights when there was not a part of the land to hide it from him. He wondered if it was his friends following him. He realised that he used the term friends a lot easier now than he had been and he thought that he even enjoyed the term more. He had finally begun to accept it and made more of an effort not to push them away. He still found it hard to talk about things though but he knew that it would come in time. He decided that it wasn't his friends, as they would not have given him such an indication that they were following him. It had to be someone else who was making the same journey. Little did he know that the people following him were going to endanger not only his life but Jean and Chris's lives also.

Ezra rode into the small dusty town of Hampton Creek. It had been named after the man who had founded it six years ago but the creek that the name also referred to had dried up last year when the area went through a seven-month drought. Jean had told him in the telegram that she had returned to him that she would meet him in front of the saloon as she assumed that it was where he was going to stay for the week that he was going to be in town for. As he rode through the town, he noticed that some of the buildings had been boarded up. He didn't see many people wondering around the dirt lined main street but the few townsfolk who were around looked upon him with distrust.

Ezra looked ahead and saw the reason why he had come. Jean had not changed at all since he had last seen her, which would be nearly six months now. Even from a distance, he could see the smile forming on her face, which was still framed by the same light brown hair. He stopped his horse and looked down into her bright blue eyes. He hadn't realised how beautiful she was as when he had seen her last he was recovering from an injury and sickness. He got off his horse not sure how to greet her but he did not have to worry as Jean took him in her arms and gave him a bear hug. He could not help but return it.

"Ezra it is so good to see you. And look at you, your healthy to." she smiled at him as she looked into his green eyes, she had missed those eyes terribly.

"And you my dear are more beautiful than I remember." he smiled back showing his gold tooth. Jean was wearing brown trousers and a blue shirt but they did not hide the curves of her feminine body. He knew that he had made the right choice to come here.

"And you are more handsome now that I have seen you standing on your feet." she laughed at him. "Come on your going to stay with me and not in this dirty saloon." Jean grabbed his hand and started to lead him away. But he pulled her back and took both of her hands in his and looked into her blue eyes.

"I'm glad you allowed me to visit you Jean, I wasn't as sure as I have not returned your letters." he looked at the ground then not sure, how she was going to respond.

"Josiah sent me a letter about a month ago telling me what happened. I wanted to come and see you but he thought that it would be best not to and that he would let me know when the best time was. But then I got your telegram saying that you were coming."

"Josiah wrote to you?" Ezra was shocked to say the least.

"You have good friends that care for you Ezra."

"Indeed I do." he agreed with her. She made to lead him away again but he still stayed where he was. "I cannot stay at your home Jean. What would the town folk think of you?"

Jean tried pulling him along but she soon stopped and took his horse instead. He had no choice but to catch up to her.

"There are not enough people here to worry about it. It's becoming a ghost town and even I will be leaving soon."

"What about your family then, what would they think?" Ezra was trying everything to change her mind but he did not realise that she was stubborn as well as beautiful.

"They left a couple of months ago but I decided to stick it out a bit longer." She stopped and turned around to face him. "You're only going to be here a week Ezra and we have a lot to talk about, you have a lot to talk about." she watched as his face took on an expression of sadness. "And we have a lot of fun to get through as well."

"My dear I believe that you are just as stubborn as I am but I will allow you to win this one argument but no more." his smile returned but held a hint of a challenge.

"We'll see about that Ezra Standish. Now come on my horse is at the livery." she took his arm and led both himself and his horse to the stable.

On the way out of town, they stopped at the telegraph office so Ezra could send a telegraph to Four Corners to let his friends know that he had arrived safely in Hampton Creek and he added a quick thank you to Josiah.

***

Five hours later Christy and her gang rode into the town and like Ezra, they noticed how it would soon be lifeless. They also stopped in front of the saloon. "Dave you go into the saloon, Pete you go to the stable, Jack the telegraph office. You know what to ask, I'll wait here for you."

"Sure boss." said Pete as he noticed her hazel eyes turn that strange green colour which they always seem to do when she was close to getting what she wanted. He knew never to cross her when her eyes had changed colour. He and the other guys did not mind taking orders from a woman particularly one as beautiful as Christy and she also paid them very well. Thirty minutes later, they rode out towards Jean's home.

***

JD came running into the saloon with a telegraph in his hand and headed straight towards Chris who was sitting at a table in the corner with Vin and Buck. They were enjoying a game of poker and the reason they enjoyed it was that Ezra wasn't there to win every hand that they played. They were actually able to win money off each other. Whenever they played Ezra, they lost but for some reason they kept playing every time he challenged them hoping that one-day one of them would actually beat him. But that day was a long time to come.

"JD what are you running for? Is Casey chasing you again?" asked Buck not looking up from what he thought was a winning hand.

"No of course not, why would I run from a girl!" he argued with Buck.

"JD what's up?" asked Chris who believed that he had a winning hand for a change.

"I’ve got good news and bad news." he watched as they all looked up at once.

"Ezra?" asked Vin as he put down his winning hand.

"Yeah. The good news is that he sent a telegram letting us know he got there fine." He handed the telegram to Chris.

"And the bad news is that Judge Travis just arrived back."



"What he wasn't supposed to be back for another week!" yelped Buck. Chris had told him and the others that they were going to have to cover for Ezra but it was going to be hard. It was going to be harder now that the Judge was back two weeks before Ezra was due back.

Chris stayed calm though. But he knew that going up against the Judge was going to be worse than facing a gunslinger. "Okay guys plan A." They all nodded and then continued with their game of poker. JD sat down to join them.

"Finally got a good hand there Buck." JD ducked as Buck tried to hit him across the back of the head.

***

Ezra couldn't stop laughing at Jean's jokes. He had spent most of the morning telling her what had happened since he last wrote to her. He had become upset when he spoke of Rochelle and then angry when he told her what his friends had done. She showed concern and gave him every sort of comfort that she could both verbal and physical. She would use words when they were needed and she would use her hands at other times by placing them on his hands or arms or she would wrap them around him and now that he had gotten it out of his system, she tried to cheer him up by telling him jokes. The laughter stopped though when she tried to tell him the one about the three legged dog who wanted to know who shot his paw.

"JD told you that one didn't he." he asked her with a serious look on his face.

"That bad was it?" she thought that she had said something wrong.

"Not if you’re drunk at the time of being told the joke." he smiled again.

She slapped him across the arm and watched as he pretended to be hurt so she hit him harder. "Ow!" he grabbed his arm in protest. Jean laughed at him and her eyes sparkled.

"You are going to help me get some fresh vegetables out of the garden and then help me make dinner and don't give me any of that not being made for menial labour stuff." she got up and made her way to the door and stood with her hand on her hips waiting for him.

"My dear Jean I have no idea what you are talking about." he stood and walked across the room to join her. Jean's home was not large but it was comfortable and clean. She opened the door for him and he stepped outside only taking a moment to register the beautiful woman standing on the porch before the butt of her gun hit him on the side of his head.

***

Chris looked up as the Judge walked into the saloon, he turned to the others noting that they too knew that he had come in. Buck threw down his hand frustrated that he wasn't winning. He thought that he was the next best poker player after Ezra but it was Vin who had all the money in front of him.

"Good evening gentlemen." The Judge looked around the room. "Where's Mr Standish?"

'He gets right to the point.' thought Chris. "He's in bed sleeping." answered Chris.

"Isn't it a bit early for him?"

"We all had a long day." Vin yawned. "Think I'll turn in myself." he collected his winnings thinking that he would have to tell Ezra about this when he got back and then got up to leave. Chris, Buck and JD also stood up each giving their own yawn with JD overdoing it as usual. Buck grabbed him by the arm and pulled him away. The Judge watched them walk out of the saloon and shook his head.

They stopped outside and watched the Judge just in case he decided to check up on Ezra, they wouldn't have put it past him but he went to the bar and got a drink. "Tomorrow it's plan B, you know what to do Vin and JD let Mary know so she can do her part." Chris told them.

"Ezra is going to owe us big time for this." Buck growled.

"It's the least we can do for him Buck." JD said to him.

"I didn't say that I wasn't going to do it JD." Buck started to walk away from him but JD went with him.


"Well that's not what it sounded like to me Buck." Chris and Vin shook their heads at each other as they listened to JD and Buck argues as they walked down the street.

***

The first feeling that Ezra had was the throbbing pain coming from his head so he didn't even bother trying to move it. He kept his eyes closed as they felt too heavy to open. He could hear voices around him and realised that they were both woman, he recognised Jean's voice as she argued with someone but he did not know the other woman's voice. He tried to remember what happened but he couldn't concentrate as he felt too tired so he allowed himself to go back to sleep.

The next thing he felt when he woke was the cool cloth that someone held to his forehead. He noticed that he was lying on his side. He tried to open his eyes again but they felt like they were glued together. He tried to say something so Jean would know that he was okay but it only came out as a moan. He heard her say his name and someone else asking if he was awake but he did not hear the answer as he fell asleep again.

He opened his eyes but his vision was blurry. He looked around the room squinting at the sunlight that came through the windows. He was still in Jean's home. He saw Jean sleeping in one of the chairs and noticed the other woman standing across the room looking at him. He wanted to ask her why she hit him but he was still too tired and his eyelids fluttered closed.

"Jean?" Ezra whispered, he needed to know that she was okay.

"I'm here Ezra." she pulled the bucket closer.

"What are you going to do with the bucket?" asked Christy.

"He's got a concussion which means that he will throw up and probably more than once." Jean did not look over her shoulder at her. The woman had still not told her why she had hit Ezra and what she wanted with them. She did not see the woman when she had opened the door and neither had Ezra. He didn't even have time to react before she hit him. Jean had watched as he collapsed to the floor and as the woman had two of her men drag him back inside and put him on her small couch. She had to argue with her to allow her to take care of him. Jean had she finally won the argument and when she checked his head wound she found that the skin had not been broken but there had been a large lump on the side of his head. She then put him on his side so he would be able to breathe easier and put some blankets over him to keep him warm so he would not go into shock. She wasn't able to stop them from tying his hands behind his back though. He had woken a few times but had not been able to stay awake and she knew that this was a symptom of concussion.

"Ezra its okay I'm here." he opened his eyes and looked for her. His vision was still blurry but it had improved since the last time he had woken.

"What happened?" he asked her.

"I hit you, that's what happened." Christy said from across the room. She hadn't moved any closer because if he was going to throw up she didn't want to be anywhere near him.

"And why did you do that?" he was beginning to feel sick.

"I felt like it." was her simple reply.

"Jean I think I'm going to be . . ." but he didn't finish. He felt her hand on his back guiding him to the side and threw up into what he hoped was a bucket. Even after his stomach was empty, he muscles continued to contract. Jean used the damp cloth to wipe his mouth and then eased him back onto the couch. His head felt even worse and he fell back to sleep.

"How long is this going to go on for." asked Christy the anger showing in her voice. Dave who had been standing to the side looked at her and noticed the change of eye colour.

"He's like this because you hit him too hard." she moved the bucket away knowing that the smell of it could cause him to be sick again.

Christy stepped forward. "That didn't answer my question."

"He could be like this for hours or for days, it depends on how bad the concussion is." Jean did not like the look in her eyes. She was a beautiful woman but the look would be enough to scare any man.

"He's got till the morning then we're going to back to Four Corners." Christy's eyes soon turned their normal hazel colour as she began to calm down. She moved closer to the couch and watched Ezra's pale face. "I didn't realise Mr Standish was such a handsome man. I have never seen him so close before." she ran her hand across his forehead feeling the slight temperature.

"What are you going to do to him?" Jean stood up and faced her as she was beginning to get angry herself. She would defend Ezra to her death if she had to.

"It's not what I am going to do to him, it's what he is going to do for me." Christy smiled enhancing her beauty even more.

"And what is that?" Jean's own beauty shown through even more as the anger showed on her face.

"I'll tell you both at the same time when he is more alert." she walked away then leaving Jean to wonder what sort of plans she had in mind for Ezra.

Jean continued to look after Ezra through the rest of afternoon and night seeing to his needs. And when he woke in the morning, he had improved quite a bit. "You feeling better Ezra?" Jean asked him as she saw he had opened his eyes and was looking at her.

"A lot better thanks Jean, sorry to be any trouble. My head still hurts though." he tried to smile to reassure her.

"Do you think that you’re up to travelling?" she looked at around at Christy who was still watching them. She'd been there all night.

"Why are we going somewhere?" he tried to sit up and realised that his hands were tied behind him. Jean pushed him back down again.

"You're going back to Four Corners Mr Standish." Christy came to the side of the couch and crouched down on the floor. Like Jean, she also wore trousers. She looked into his greens thinking that he was indeed a handsome man.

"You're going to do something for me and before you argue let me tell you that you are not going to have a choice." she looked across at Jean and Ezra saw her eyes change colour. He did not like the look at all.

***

"You want me to what!" Ezra was angry.

"You heard me Ezra I want you to bring Chris Larabee to me." Christy had begun using his first name the day before.

"And if I refuse?" Ezra had heard her plan but he could not believe what she wanted of him.

"Then your friend here dies." she pointed at Jean who had been listening. She was as shocked as Ezra was. Christy watched Ezra's reaction and could see the anger burning in his green eyes. She had waited for a few days to tell Ezra what she wanted. He hadn't fully recovered from the blow to the head that she had given him which had caused them a few problems such as falling off his horse so they ended up tying him to his horse so that he would not fall off it again. He had thrown up on the first night when Jean had gotten him to eat something but since then he had been able to keep the food down and with the amount of sleep that he had gotten during the night and the food that he had eaten during the day he was nearly back to his normal self.

Christy nodded to Pete who then went to Jean and placed a gun against her temple. "It's quite simple Ezra. Jean is now my hostage and if you want her released unharmed then you will bring Larabee to me. Do you understand?"

Ezra slowly nodded his head in understanding. He looked over at Jean not knowing what to do. His hands were now tied in front of him but there were six of them and he knew that if he tried anything that he would only get Jean and himself killed. He decided to wait to see if he could come up with a plan. He had plenty of time as they were still two days away from Four Corners.

"Good we'll go into it in more detail when we get there." she smiled at Ezra and left him sitting there watching her back as she walked away. Ezra had begun to understand Christy's mood swings more as he had noticed that her hazel coloured eyes turned more of a green colour when she became angry. And when she spoke of Chris, her eyes turned green. But when she smiled at him, they went back to their normal colour. He worried about both of these moods.

***

Mary stepped out of the Clarion and straight into the path of her father in-law. "Judge, I'm sorry I didn't see you there." she smiled at him as she placed her hand above her eyes to shield them from the sun. She could tell already that it was going to be another warm day.

"Good morning Mary and how are you today?" he wasn't going to ask her straight away as he thought he would ease her into the conversation, which is something that he did so well. The other hired gunmen had been avoiding him and he was beginning to think that something was wrong as he had still not seen Ezra Standish around the town.

"I'm fine thank you. It's going to be another beautiful day don't you think?" she knew what he wanted and she had been told what to say. Mary was willing to go along with Chris's plan to protect Ezra from the Judge as she had known what Ezra had been through. She looked over the Judge's shoulder and saw Buck duck into the saloon.

"Yes it is." he turned to see what she was looking at but he missed it. "Mary do you happen to know where everyone is?"

Here it comes she thought. "As far as I know Vin and Ezra rode out of town this morning to help Nettie Wells and Buck just went into the saloon but I don't know where the rest of the men are."

"Thank you Mary." he tipped his hat to her and headed towards the saloon to look for Buck but when he went in there, he was gone. He stepped back outside to talk to Mary again but she too had disappeared. "What the hell is going on here?" he said to no one.

***

Christy had brought everyone to a stop two hours outside of Four Corners so she could explain the plan in more detail to Ezra. She had two of her men drag Ezra from his horse and while he was under gunpoint, they untied his hands and then tied them again behind his back. They then forced him to sit down a short distance from Jean. Christy then sat down opposite Ezra.

"One of my men is going to go into town with you Ezra to keep an eye on you to make sure that you don't try anything stupid. You’re going to leave now and you should get there by nightfall and I want you back here with Larabee by lunchtime tomorrow. Is that clear?" she watched as he nodded and then continued on. "My man is going to follow you back and from where we are I will be able to see you coming and if I don't see my man behind you then I will kill Jean there and then. Do you understand?" he nodded again as he looked over at Jean. She was watching them sitting opposite each other and knew what they were talking about. "When you bring him back I will then let you and Jean go."

"You expect me to believe that?" Ezra asked her.

"It's not you or your friend that I want Ezra."

"You won't want any witnesses left behind and that's what we'll be."

"Well you do have a point there Ezra." she smiled at him as her eyes changed back to hazel. "Why don't you bring him back and then well decide what to do. And if you don't do what I say, then I will kill Jean and then you will have to live with her death. Do we have an agreement?"

"Yes." Ezra did not have a choice at the moment. When he got to town, he would talk to Chris about this first as he would not be able to bring him here without telling him why and maybe together they could come up with a plan.

Christy leant forward and brought her face closer to Ezra's. She ran her finger down the side of his jaw, along his bottom lip and then ran it down under his chin. Ezra moved his head away but she cupped his chin in her hand and drew his mouth closer to hers. She closed her mouth over his. Ezra did not return the kiss but then he felt her tongue asking for an entrance to his mouth, he opened it slightly not realising what he was doing. He felt her tongue against his but she withdrew it just as quickly as it had entered his mouth and then he felt a sharp pain as she bit his bottom lip drawing blood. She leaned back slightly and then used her tongue to wipe away the blood that had begun to trickle down his chin.

"Dave come and untie him." she couldn't help but laugh at the expression on Ezra's face. "And bring his horse." she waited until Ezra's hands were untied and watched as he wiped his chin with the back of his hand. "We will see you back here at lunch time tomorrow Ezra."

Ezra looked at the back of his hand and saw the blood. He couldn't believe what had just happened. He got on his horse and looked across at Jean who gave him an encouraging smile. He didn't want to leave her here but he had not been given a choice. He turned and headed off to Four Corners hoping that Chris would be able to come up with a plan.

***

"He's not here." Buck tried to tell the Judge.

"Well where is he then?" Judge Travis had been looking for Ezra all day and he was beginning to think that the others had been giving him the run-around. He now believed that Ezra had left which is something that he told him not to do.

"You just missed him." said JD. Buck turned to him with an expression that said 'What are you talking about boy.'

"Where was he going?" the Judge turned to JD but Chris stepped in his way.

"He's doing a job for me." Chris explained to him. He had no idea what to say. JD had put his foot in it and now he had to get them out of it. They had been successful in making the Judge believe that Ezra was still in town for the last week but now he was becoming suspicious and they still had another week to go. "I asked him to go and help Mary with something."

"And what can Mr Standish help Mary with?"

"A story." Josiah said suddenly thinking of something. "She needed help with a story and Ezra knew something about it so Chris told him to help her."

"Well then I will just go and ask Mary." The Judge turned to leave the saloon but Buck stepped in front of him this time.

"Judge why don't you just sit down here," he pulled up a chair and tried to lead the Judge to it, "and we'll have a drink, maybe even a friendly game of poker perhaps."

"Mr Wilmington, please step out of my way or you will find yourself in jail." Buck stepped back from him. "Now if you will excuse me gentlemen I intend to find out if Mr Standish is still in town."

"Are you looking for me Judge Travis?" They all turned around at the sound of the southern drawl.

***

It was dark when Ezra rode into town, fires already lined the main street. He felt a slight chill but was not sure if it was caused by what was happening or if he was still suffering from the head wound as, the weather was still quite warm. He looked behind him and saw Pete following him at a distance. He continued onto the saloon silently praying that Chris was still in town. He tied his horse to the railing and watched as Pete did the same thing, he then walked through the doors with Pete following to find the other gunfighters arguing with the Judge and that he was the reason for the argument.

"Are you looking for me Judge Travis?" Ezra moved forward putting on his best smile, which caused him to wince at the pain in his lip. Everyone turned at the sound of his voice and the only mouth to stay closed was the Judge's. Ezra watched from the corner of his eye as Pete moved to one of the tables. They all saw the injury to his lip but Nathan saw more. He noticed that Ezra was pale and slightly flushed at the same time, which was typical of a fever.

"Mr Standish you have finally decided to show yourself. Did you help Mary with her story?" asked the Judge.

"Her what?" asked Ezra he was too worried about Jean to understand what was going on.

Nathan stepped towards Ezra and while he moved him towards a chair, he quickly looked him over looking for an injury that would cause him to have a fever. He removed his hat for him and noticed the dark purplish bruise above his left ear. Ezra reached up and took his hat from Nathan giving him a look at the same time.

"Her story Mr Standish, Chris said that you were helping her with a story." the Judge frowned at Chris thinking that he had been given the run-around again.

"Oh yes her story," he was trying to push Nathan away from him and give the Judge a story at the same time. "A gambling story, she needed some of the finer details of poker."

"Where have you been all week?"

"Around Judge, around." he took one last swipe at Nathan who finally stepped back.

"Well I expect you to see around more. And that is an order." The Judge then left the saloon intending to confirm this with Mary.

Nathan waited for the Judge to leave and then sat down next to Ezra. Chris had noticed the way Nathan was giving Ezra a quick examination. "Is there something wrong Mr Jackson?" Ezra asked him.

"Isn't that a question that I should be asking you Ezra?" he pointed first at the cut lip.

"Oh that." Ezra looked down at the floor.

"Jean a little too rough was she?" Buck laughed. Everyone saw the look that shut Buck up.

"And this?" he touched the tender area above his ear and Ezra winced and moved his head away from Nathan's steady hand. Ezra looked across the room and saw that Pete was watching them.

"Could you gentlemen please sit down as we are being watched." Ezra groaned as JD looked around the saloon.

"Buck could you please take our young associate here for a walk?"

Understanding what Ezra wanted Buck lifted JD off his chair and gave him a look that said not to argue and led him out of the saloon. Once they were outside the argument started.

"Mind telling us what's going on Ezra?" Chris watched as Nathan tried to feel Ezra's forehead and try was the correct term. He forcibly pushed Nathan's hand away from him.

"You got a bit of a fever there Ezra." Nathan told him but he was ignored.

"Mr Larabee do you know of a woman called Christy, I don't have a last name but she is about Mary's height, brown hair and her eyes are a hazel colour but they turn green when she is angry." Ezra watched as the recognition came over Chris's face.

"She did this to you?" Chris asked him.

"This and more Mr Larabee." he looked around the table. "Please do not react to what I am about to tell as I said before we are being watched." he took a breath to gather his senses together. "She has taken Jean hostage. And she wants to exchange you for her. She wants me to take you to her by tomorrow at lunch time or she will kill Jean."

"Well then we better give her what she wants." Chris smiled a cold smile.

Everyone did their best to keep their faces neutral and they were also glad that JD was no longer there. "Who is she Chris?" asked Vin while he watched Ezra, he could see the worry and concern for Jean etched on his face. Ezra usually had no trouble hiding his feelings but under these circumstances, he was unable to and no would blame him.

Ezra also watched but he was watching Chris seeing the concern on his face and this made him worry even more for Jean.

Chris looked up at Ezra and knew that he should not hold back what he had to say. His eyes took on a distant look as he relived a memory that he thought would not come back to him but it did and it had put an innocent person's life in danger and possibly more lives as well. He picked up the empty glass in front of him and twirled it around in his hands seeing the distant memory in the glass.

"I put her in jail. She must have gotten out." he looked back up at Ezra seeing the question in his eyes. "She was a bank robber, killed a few people as well. I stopped at a town called Bitters Hill about six years ago and stayed for a while. Christy was staying there as well and I got to know her, we became friends and then one day out of the blue she asked me to join her gang, said that she was bank robber. I thought she was joking and laughed at her. She got mad, it was the first time I saw her eyes change colour. When I next saw her she was robbing the bank, killed the teller and tried to kill me but I shot her. Didn't kill her, couldn't kill a woman. She survived and was sent to jail. I visited her once but she seemed to have changed. It was as though there was something wrong with her, like she had become crazy. She must have gotten out." he looked down again. "Sorry Ezra."

"It is not your fault Chris. Now I assume you have a plan because under these conditions I can't think of one." Ezra said to him.

"As always Ezra." he smiled again. "Where is this man who is watching us and why is he watching?"

"He is behind your left shoulder, brown duster and he has a moustache." Ezra noticed that Pete was not looking at them anymore. "You can turn and look at him now." he waited for them to turn back to him. "He is supposed to keep an eye on me and then follow us back to the meeting place and if they don't see him coming up behind us she will kill Jean." Ezra pulled his coat closed as he was beginning to feel colder.

"Looks a bit like Buck doesn't he?" Chris smiled at Ezra.

Ezra smiled back. "I never noticed that before." he shivered slightly but enough for Nathan to notice.

He stood up and leant over Ezra. "Come on Ezra you are going to bed and I am going to get you something so that fever doesn't get any worse.'

"I assure you Nathan that I am fine." he leaned back as Nathan towered over him.

Josiah joined Nathan. "I don't believe you have a choice Ezra." smiled Josiah.

Ezra looked up at the two of them a look of stubbornness on his features. "After we work out what we are going to do." he growled at them.

"I'll let you know the plan in the morning Ezra." Chris nodded at Nathan and Josiah and they both took one of Ezra's arms and forced him up the stairs towards his room. Chris and Vin laughed at the protests that Ezra was voicing at his two friends. They then got up and walked towards the man that had followed Ezra into the saloon. They both stood either side of the man just as Nathan and Josiah had stood next to Ezra. The man looked up and choked on his whisky when he realised who it was standing next to him. Chris did not even bother asking the man any questions, he just took his head in his hand and slammed it against the counter. The man dropped to the dusty floor of the saloon. Vin quickly took off the man's duster so it would not get any of the blood that was bleeding from his head wound on it.
They dragged the man out of the saloon with only the strangers who were in town watching them as the townsfolk had gotten use to this as it had become a regular occurrence and they knew that the men would have a reason for what they had done. Chris found Buck and JD waiting outside of the saloon. JD had a look of annoyance on his young face as he had realised what he had done. They were not surprised either by the man that they had between the two of them.

"Buck you and JD take this guy to the jail and then come back and I will let you know what's going on." Chris told them.

"Sure Chris, come on JD you heard what the man said." They took the unconscious man from Chris and Vin and continued to drag him to the jailhouse. The man's head had bounced off the steps of the Saloon as they were not being to gentle with him.

Nathan came through the doors of the saloon then with a smile across his face. He enjoyed these moments with Ezra as it was the only time that he could get the better of him.

"How is he Nathan?" asked Vin.

"He took a nasty blow to the left side of his head which would have probably given him a concussion, the bruise looks about a week old and he has a slight fever, I'm going to get something for him now." he made to walk away from them.

"You and Josiah okay?" smiled Chris.

Nathan laughed. "Yeah but Josiah might be able to use some help though until I get back." he shook his head at the thought of all of Ezra's protests but Josiah's strong hands had won in the end.

"I'll go up and tell him what I have planned for tomorrow, might help him relax a little if he knows what’s going on." said Chris as Nathan began to walk away.

"Do you really think that she will kill Jean if you don't show up tomorrow?" asked Vin
Chris's expression became serious. "Yes I do."

They walked quietly into Ezra's room to find him lying on the bed on his side but his eyes were open so they knew that he was not asleep. "How are you feeling Ezra?" asked Chris.

"As I keep telling this man," he nodded at Josiah, "I am perfectly fine." he tried to sit up but Josiah pushed him back down on the bed.

"Why don't we let Nathan decide that Ezra." Josiah smiled down at him.

"Mr Jackson did and I disagree with his prognosis." he tried to get up again but it was a futile attempt as Josiah was there to stop him every time.

"You do as you are told Ezra as you are going to need your rest for tomorrow." Chris ordered him.

"And what is your plan for tomorrow." asked Ezra. Instead of trying to sit up, he snarled at Josiah.

"As I said we are going to give her what she wants and instead of her man following us Buck will be. She shouldn't be able to tell the difference at a distance." Chris had sat down on the bed so he could look straight at Ezra instead of down at him. "We won't let Jean get hurt Ezra be sure of that."

"She has another four men apart from herself, do you think that we can take them without Jean getting hurt?" asked Ezra.

"She won't be hurt Ezra. Now do as you are told and get some sleep." Chris got up and left the room with Vin.

They passed Nathan on the stairs and then headed towards Buck and JD as they entered the saloon. Chris told them what happened and what the plan was for tomorrow. Buck agreed to the plan as Chris had once told him about Christy and he would also do anything to get Jean away from her safely.





Part One | Part Two


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