And There Came A Cry For Help
Disclaimer: I do not own M7. Mirisch Coorperation does. I'm not making money off them.
Ezra was riding calmly, his horse trotting briskly beside the wagon that held Mary Travis and her son, Billy. It was cold, even in Texas, and close to nightfall. The chill in the desert at night got to about 35 degrees. He pulled his sheepskin coat a little closer around him and lowered his hat some on his eyes.
"Well, Mr. Simpson, we're almost back to Clarion. I must thank you for escorting us back safely." Mary said.
Ezra nodded. He had ridden out early that morning from Clarion on strict orders from Chris that he was to bring Mary back safely with Billy. Billy had been staying with a friend overnight for a couple of days fifteen miles away. Ezra had laughed at Chris' absolute attitude to which he should take his job. He's really falling for her, he thought with a grin to himself.
"Well?" Mary asked.
"Well what?" he countered, knowing exactly what she was talking about.
"Why are you sitting there smirking like that?" she demanded.
He grinned again. "If I told you, you'd kill me," he said.
She looked at him for a moment, confused, then her face reddened with embarrassment. "Oh, dear," she mumbled.
Ezra laughed out loud. "Don't worry." He grinned.
"I'd would very much appreciate it if you wouldn't say anything about my love interests in this town," she said, just to get the meaning across.
"Well, madam, I would really love to sit here and continue our repartee, but we really must step up the pace to get back before dark comes," he warned.
She nodded and clucked to the horse. The bay pulling the wagon broke into a long trot and Ezra nudged his chestnut, Chaucer, into a lope to keep up.
Billy was asleep in the back of the wagon. Ezra looked at him with a slight smile. He really is a cute kid, he thought to himself. He pulled Chaucer up, though, when they got to the Bright Springs bridge. He peered down at the water. It was swelled, but there wasn't much of a current.
"Mary, wake Billy up. I want him alert when we go over this thing." Ezra said.
Mary leaned over and touched Billy's shoulder. He awoke with a start. "Wake up, sweetheart, we're going over the bridge," she said quietly.
Ezra dismounted and surveyed the bridge. It was old, rickety, and very narrow. Only one wagon could go across at a time and he saw another wagon approaching from the other direction. He walked Chaucer across carefully. "Good boy," he murmered to keep the horse calm.
Mary clucked to the bay and they rolled quickly over the bridge. The horses' hooves made hollow clops on the old wood. In only a few seconds, Ezra was across and Billy and Mary followed a few beats later.
"Well, that's the last obstacle we will be encountering on your sabbatical, Mr. Travis," Ezra told the boy dryly."
"What's a sabbatical?" Billy asked.
"A vacation," Mary said.
"Exactly," Ezra smirked.
"Mom, can I have a horse?" Billy asked.
Mary shot Ezra a glare. He returned her look innocently. How was he supposed to know that the kid was a stickler for horses? He'd taken one ride on Chaucer and had happily told Ezra that he wanted a Tennessee Walking horse just like him.
"Don't look at me, ma'am," Ezra said. "I did nothing to promote this child's whim."
At just that moment, they passed the other wagon. It was driven by an older woman, perhaps in her thirties, with four children. There were two older girls, about five and eight, and two babies, about a year old. The mother gave a tired nod to Ezra which he returned.
"Anyway, as I was saying, I didn't do anything--." His answer was cut short by a child's scream. He turned in the saddle and saw—nothing. "Stay here!" he shouted and wheeled Chaucer. They galloped to the bridge. He leaned over and looked down. There lay the overturned wagon. The mule pulling it was dead, lying half in and half out of the creek. He heard no sound.
"Mary!" he yelled. He rode back to the wagon. "The wagon's overturned and those people are probably trapped underneath. Billy," he said, shifting to face him. "I need you to do a very big job, something that is the difference between life and death."
Billy nodded, his eyes wide.
"I need you to ride Chaucer back to Clarion and get as many men as you can to come help. Tell them the wagon's overturned and we need help getting the people out. Be sure to bring Nathan." He dismounted quickly, grasped the boy around the waist, and lifted him up into the saddle. "Go!"
Billy turned the horse and urged him into a fast lope. Ezra didn't even bother to see if he had gone the right way or not but was already speaking to Mary. "I need your help."
Together, they ran to the bridge. "What should I do?" Mary cried when she saw the condition.
"Stay here. I'm going down there to see if I can get anyone out."
He pulled his boots, jacket, and shirt off and waded into the icy water. He gasped as the shock hit him and immediately felt pain in his entire body. He shrugged it off, though, and swum out toward the wagon.
"Hello?" he called, once he had reached it. "Can anyone hear me?" There was no sound, so he took a deep breath and dove under.
Billy struggled to maintain his grip on Chaucer as he galloped like a madman back toward the town. Chaucer was a big "Walking horse" Ezra had said, brought "All the way from Tennessee". It had been said with so much pride that Billy had very much wanted one for himself.
But now he was beginning to see just what a handful Chaucer really was. The big gelding was dashing madly, pulling the reins from Billy's hands and the bit into his teeth. It would be a miracle if anyone were actually able to stop him.
Vin saw the cloud of dust coming from a half mile off. His eyes widened and he jumped out into the street calling for Chris.
"What?" Chris called, running out from the saloon.
"Look!" Vin yelled, pointing.
Another look was passed. It was the same as when they had first met trying to save Nathan's life. In a moment, there was an understanding. Vin jumped onto his horse and Chris ran to his mount. Together, they rode out from the town to find out what had happened.
As the horse approached, they saw it was Chaucer.
"Ain't that Ezra's horse?" Vin called.
"Yup," Chris replied, worried. At first, there seemed to be no one riding, but as he drew closer, they saw the boy clinging hopelessly to the pommel of the saddle.
"Whoa!" Vin yelled. He pulled up to Chaucer and paced the lathered horse. It wasn't hard to do, considering that he'd been running for three straight miles at a dead gallop,was exhausted, and wasn't bred to handle long runs.
Chris pulled up as well and reached out for the bridle. Once Chaucer felt the touch of a man's hands, he slowed. It only took a few more seconds to pull the weary horse to a stop.
"Billy!" Chris called to the boy.
Billy opened his eyes from where he'd been lying across the saddle. "Huh?"
"What happened?" Vin asked, patiently.
"Oh!" Billy said, jumping off Chaucer. Chris dismounted, as did Vin. He knelt in front of the boy and asked again. "What happened?"
Billy stared at Vin. Then he looked at Chris. He took a deep breath and dove in. "The wagon'stippedover andthere'skidstrappedunderneathit andEzra'sunderit andmother'sdowntheretryingtohelpgetthemout and--,"
"Wait a second!" Chris cried. "I didn't catch that. Slow down." He put double emphasis on the last two words, being sure to get his meaning across.
"The wagon's tipped over and there's kids trapped underneath and Ezra's under it and mother's down there trying to help get them out and Ezra said hurry because there isn't much time and to get as many men to help ‘cause it's bad." He took another deep breath and waited.
Vin looked at Chris worriedly. "Chris, if there's kids under there, we gotta help."
Chris nodded. "C'mon."
Ezra felt the shock of cold water and almost opened his mouth. He clamped it shut before he could drown himself and focused on the task at hand. In another moment, he was under the wagon.
He surfaced and saw that there was a small air pocket under the wagon. He also knew it wouldn't last long. "Hello?" he called. It was too black to see anything.
"Help!" came a strangled cry to his left.
He turned. It sounded like a woman. "Ma'am?" he called.
"Help me!" she screamed. "I can't get out! My children, where are my children?!" she was screaming and crying at the same time.
"Ma'am!" Ezra yelled. That silenced her. "I'm going to help get you out of here. Do you understand?"
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Regina," she gasped. "My children are Tonya, Tina, Tammy, and Roger. Please, help them first." She pleaded with him.
"I have to get you out first before you freeze. Then I'll come back, I promise."
Her eyes showed fear but she obeyed for the moment and looked at him. "All right," she whispered.
He placed an arm around her. "On three, we're going to duck under here and swim out. Can you hold your breath?" She nodded. "Okay, one, two, three!" They ducked under and swam back out.
They surfaced and he coughed up some water, as did she. "Mary!" he yelled.
Mary ran over immediately. "Help me get her out!" he cried. She stepped into the water and together, they pulled the half-unconscious woman onto the ground. Ezra helped lay her down and said, "Mary, you've got to warm her up. Get a blanket out of the wagon and cover her up with it. I've got to go back."
Mary's eyes widened. "Ezra, you can't!" she said. "You're turning blue!"
His lips had indeed lost some of their color and he saw how pale his skin was becoming. "I have to, Mary! I can't wait until the others get here." He turned around but his legs gave out and he sank to the ground with a low moan.
Mary looked at him. "You're freezing. We can't have you getting hypothermia, Ezra. They'll be here soon. Trust me."
He winced as he felt his now numb legs. "I hope you're right," he muttered.
"What can we do then?" she asked him.
"Pray," he said simply and began reciting the Lord's Prayer. "Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses,…"
Chris, Vin, Nathan, Josiah, JD, and Buck rode quickly out of town. They had left Billy back in the town in the company of Mrs. Potter.
"Chris, what's happened?" JD yelled.
"Yeah, Chris, what've you got us riding out here in the middle of nowhere for?" Buck cried indignantly.
"There's a wagon overturned in the creek and there's children trapped under it," Chris yelled over his shoulder, silencing them.
JD and Buck exchanged and look and spurred their horses faster.
Ezra was sitting, shaking, wrapped up in a blanket from Mary's wagon when the others rode up. He raised his head, but they saw that his eyes were glazed and he was freezing. Regina was lying in the back of the wagon.
"What happened?" Chris yelled.
"They're still under there!" Ezra cried. It took only a moment for the others to dismount and for Vin, JD, and Chris to jump in the water. Buck, Nathan, and Josiah sat up with Ezra and Mary and Nathan checked on Regina.
"She's cold, but she'll be all right," he announced finally and turned his head toward the water.
Vin surfaced first. "I can't see anything!"
JD came up next. "Damn, it's cold!"
Chris surfaced as well and shook his head. One by one they went down again. Finally, Vin broke surface and held a child up. "I got one!" he called.
Ezra, who could walk again, staggered over to the creek. "Get out before you freeze," he hissed at Vin. He hauled the child and the man out and saw that it was a girl. She was breathing, but freezing cold. They carried her up to Nathan who took her and began to rub her arms and legs, desperate to get her warm again.
JD and Chris staggered out, Chris clutching one of the babies in his arms. They were both pale and blue and moving stiffly. Chris carried the child up to the wagon and Buck and Josiah took their turns in the water.
Ezra turned over his blanket to JD and slipped into his shirt and coat. JD smiled gratefully and began to walk around to keep feeling in his legs. Chris took the third blanket from Mary and did the same.
Nathan raised his head. "The girl will be okay, but the boy," he said, motioning to the baby, "He's…" he trailed off and took off his hat. Ezra squeezed his eyes shut, willing the pain away.
"Dammit," Chris whispered. JD stopped and lowered his head. Ezra walked away and sat on the ground, willing himself not to cry. Chris walked up. "You okay?" he asked.
Ezra thought about nodding and brushing him off but he shook his head. "No," he whispered.
Chris kneeled beside him. "You did what you could," he said. "You can't forget that. Remember, there are two more kids we've got to save."
Just then, Buck and Josiah came up, each clutching the last two children, both girls, in their arms. Chris, Ezra, JD, Vin, and Mary ran up and helped them from the water. They turned over the blankets to their wet friends and took the children.
"Give them here!" Nathan yelled. He sat and took each child's pulse. It was only a second before he looked up at them again and shook his head. "I'm sorry," he whispered.
The rest of them stood in shock and Mary choked back a sob. Chris quickly put his arms around her and held her. They stayed silent until Ezra said, "We need to get the others back to town."
The others nodded and they mounted the horses. Mary and Nathan climbed into the wagon and Ezra mounted Nathan's horse. They rode back in utter silence.
"How are they?" Vin asked Nathan as he stepped out of the ‘sickroom'.
"They'll be all right. It'll just take time." Nathan stared past Vin at Ezra who was sitting quietly on his bench outside the saloon.
"He keeps replaying it in his mind," Vin said softly, noticing Nathan's gaze. "He thinks there may have been something else he could have done."
But Nathan shook his head. "The two girls, they hit their heads on the bottom. They died instantly. The other one, the boy Chris brought up, he drowned. He was only a baby. There wasn't anything anyone could have done to save them."
Vin frowned. "Then how did the little girl survive?"
"Miracle of God?" Nathan asked. "I don't know. I wouldn't have given any of those kids a chance. But she's here, alive."
Vin kept silent. He looked at Ezra again, slouched over miserably on the bench. "It'll just take time," he said and walked off.
"Exactly," Nathan whispered.
Author's Note: This is based on a true story. On February 3, 1998, a woman went over a bridge with her three daughters and a neighbor’s son. Two of her daughters and the friend’s son died. The woman and her youngest daughter survived. Her tires were bald and the grass was wet. There was no way to avoid going over.
I myself witnessed this wreck. It was so horrible that I had to write it down. I didn’t want anyone to forget what happened to these poor kids. Please, please, if you drive, check your tires and the mechanics of your car and slow down at bridges. This wreck could have been prevented had this woman done that.
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