(Old West)

by GemsPegasus

Disclaimer: These Cowboys don't belong to me. I'm only borrowing them for a 'ride' or 3. I will return them to MGM, Mirisch, Trilogy Showtime and John Watson when we're done. No copyright infringement intended. Written for fun. No profit made.
Warnings: Slash (male/male pairing) in a romantic/sexual relationship. Some language, angst, violence and hurt/comfort. Heavy reference to the pilot episode, "Ghosts of the Confederacy."
Pairing: Ezra & Chris
Category: Established relationship, romance, action-adventure, angst, hurt/comfort.
Rating: R eventually
Summary: It's been three years since the Seven banded together to fight "The Ghosts of the Confederacy." The gambler and the gunslinger have been together for six months when Ezra and Chris visit the Seminole Village for one the Seminole youth's manhood ceremony. A band of train robbers running from a posse invade the village during the ceremony. One of the thieves is a former associate of Ezra's. How will Ezra and Chris capture the bad guys and defend the Seminoles once again? Ezra and Chris are the main characters but Buck, JD, Josiah, Nathan and Vin will also make an appearance or two during the tale.
Feedback: Yes, please at gemspegasus@yahoo.com
Author's Notes: Thoughts denoted by / /
Flashbacks: denoted by +++++++
Dialogue from M7 episode denoted by /// ///
"Absquatulate ~ to take leave, to disappear."
"Beef ~ to kill. (From killing a cow to make beef to eat.)
"Curly Bill beefed two men in San Antonio."
"Chisel, chiseler ~ to cheat or swindle, a cheater"
"Don't care a continental ~ Don't give a damn."
Definitions found at: 19th Century Slang http://www.campchase.com/Slang/Slang-A-F.htm and at G.M. Atwater's "Old West" Slang site at: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~poindexterfamily/OldWestSlang.html
All the characters of The Magnificent Seven and "The Ghosts of the Confederacy" belong to the above-mentioned but since they didn't name all of the Seminoles, I used creative license and named some of the Seminoles Ezra interacted with in GOTC. 'Dyami' is the boy that Ezra is spinning around at the end of GOTC. 'Kohana' is the second boy that Ezra pulls onto his lap and asks the boy about the goldmine. 'Aponi' is the little girl who helps Ezra with his card trick in GOTC. 'Apenimon' is the Indian holding Ezra's reins during Ezra's goodbye to Dyami in GOTC's final minutes.
'Dyami' means eagle. 'Kohana' means swift. 'Aponi' means butterfly. 'Apenimon' means worthy of trust. 'Enapay' means brave. 'Akecheta' means fighter. 'Lootah' means red.
The Powers That Be also don't give us the ages of the children in GOTC. I'm assuming they were about eight years old during GOTC and the boys are now about eleven years old. And the little girl who I assumed was about four in GOTC is now about seven years old.
The Seminoles are related to the Creek Indians and speak the Muskogee language. But during my research for the story, I found a lot of Lakhota or Sioux Indian names and they appealed to me so I am using them for this fan fiction.
A Green Corn Dance, is a Seminole special spiritual event held to show gratitude to the Creator for providing food. At the Green Corn Dance, Seminoles participate in purification and manhood ceremonies. The gathering will include hours and hours of "stomp dancing," the methodical, weaving, single file style of dancing traditional to Seminole Indians. Following behind a chanting medicine man or "leader," a string of male dancers will "answer" each exhortation, while women dancers quietly shuffle with them, shakers tied to their legs.
Smudging is a ritual way to cleanse a person, place or an object of negative energies, spirits or influences. Herbs used for this ritual are considered sacred. Some of the herbs used are cedar-infuses atmosphere with positive energy; sage- removes negative energy and Lavender has a calming energy.
"Medicine shields were used by Native American men for spiritual as well as physical protection. Physical safety was aided by the size of the shield, and the material used to make it, which was a hard rawhide from the hump of the buffalo. The rawhide was cured, making it dense, so that no arrow could penetrate it. Bullets from early flint rock rifles didn't always go through the rawhide, although more powerful bullets did.
For spiritual protection, the shields were circular, and decorated with power symbols and objects of personal significance. They might draw a picture of an animal or an insect that they felt close to, for instance, a buffalo, an eagle, or an ant. This would come to the man in a vision or be given to him by someone else. The animal or insect would give the warrior further power and protection by allowing him to see where the enemy was. Sometimes parts of animals would be attached as well, such as eagle feathers. Smaller shields, known as replica shields, were made by the men too, and worn for spiritual protection from evil."
"To numerous North American tribes, this staff is a significant symbol of reverence for all of life and for the Creator. The Eagle Staff depicts the supernatural "Thunderbird Spirits" who look after the physical world populace. The qualities of vision, vigor, swiftness, dignity, and benevolence are embodied by the eagle."
"The Bummers" Gang really existed in Colorado but during an earlier time period.
Reference to episode "Inmate 78" and firearms information obtained from IceHunter's website.

Chapter 1

The elder Seminole Chief, Tastanagi smiled at his youngest son, eleven year-old Dyami who played with his three year-old nephew Osceola on the ground of the Chief's adobe hut. The ebony-haired youth cocked his head slightly and impatiently asked his father "Do you hear their horses yet, Father? They promised they would come today." "So they shall, if the Great Spirit grants it. You know that Ezra and Chris care deeply for you and would not miss visiting you on the day of your Green Corn Dance if it is at all possible." Dyami's onyx irises shone with memory as he rose up from his squat, going to stand by his father.

Dark orbs glanced at the empty mountain trail outside his home. The boy's mind flew back to the first time he had seen the white men who would become his protectors and friends.


Dyami stared wide-eyed at the six men dismounting from their horses. From his vantage point of inside the open doorway, the boy saw the slim, black-clad man talking to his Father the village Chief. /He must be their leader and those bone-grip guns holstered around the dark-blond man's waist look scary./ Thought Dyami to himself. Then his dark eyes observed the long-haired man dressed as a buffalo hunter join the conversation between Tastanagi and the other white man. Suddenly, the eight year old's attention was caught by the vivid 'Lootah' coat or red jacket worn by another one of the white men hired to defend his people.

The young Seminole was fascinated by the way that the man's chestnut horse pranced to a stop. Dyami loved horses and he was curious about this animal, so he cautiously stepped out of the shadows and made his way over to the 'Lootah' or red clad man who was petting his horse's shoulder when the Indian boy slid to a stop in front of them. "Hello there, young man. Is there something we can assist you with?" queried Ezra. "May I pet your horse?" asked the boy. A tanned, slender hand stretched out toward Chaucer's flank.

+++++++End Flashback+++++++

A horse neighing brought the boy back to the present. The youth's long legs carried him quickly outside and he saw the whinnying chestnut and snorting big black geldings.

"'Enapay, Akecheta, you're here." Dyami cried excitedly as he stroked Chaucer's mane. "We promised we'd come, if our duties as regulators of Four Corners allowed it," drawled the Southerner as he dismounted. The young Indian raced by the dark-clad, blond man greeting his father, and Dyami threw the gunslinger a huge smile. It was returned by a half smile slashing across Chris Larabee's usually stern face. Tastanagi and Chris spoke of how rapidly the boy had grown in three years. Dyami was almost as tall as Ezra and very smart.

The auburn-haired man hid his smile as the young man skidded to a halt in front of him, impatiently anticipating Ezra's next move. The gambler turned around towards Chaucer and his strong hands pulled the heavy saddlebags off of his chestnut gelding. Slim, eager hands helped him unhitch the bags. Dyami staggered under the weight of the bag he held, stumbling a few steps backwards. Chris sidestepped the boy, plucking the sack from the young Seminole's arms. Then the blond walked into the Seminole chief's home and placed the saddlebag on the bare, wooden table in the center of the room.

With the other saddlebag thrown over his shoulder, Ezra strode over to the trio waiting for him. "Mr. Larabee if you would be so kind to open the saddlebag you just set down. It might contain some items in which Dyami may be interested." The hazel-eyed man grunted in agreement as he opened the bag. "I don't know Ezra, you think Dyami will like what Vin sent him?" teased Larabee as he unwrapped a wicked- looking, sharp-edged blade up for the young man's inspection. Tastanagi held back his laughter as he saw his son carefully snatch the fine hunting knife from the hazel-eyed man's capable hands.

Ezra grinned when he heard the playful note in his lover's voice. The Southerner's irises glowed a deep emerald because he was one of a few privileged men that knew Chris Larabee the man, and not just the legend.

The Southerner's drawl bantered back "From the young man's reaction, I would say that he does indeed like it." Ezra flashed a gold- toothed smile at the relaxed blond and at the silver-haired Tastanagi.

Dyami was thrilled that his two friends were here to see his ceremony into manhood. His father and his clan had prepared him well for his "Purification" ceremony and the "Stomping Dance" ritual. Tomorrow he would go on his first real hunt.

The young Indian youth was bouncing with excitement as both the blond gunslinger and the auburn-haired gambler unearthed more treasures from their saddlebags. Elegant hands drew a finely carved tomahawk with wings and claws drawn into the handle out of one of the bags. "Messrs. Wilmington and Sanchez sent you this gift." drawled the gambler.

Standish was facing Dyami and the young boy was facing the door of his home. Two other children sidled in through the door. The chestnut-haired man was encircled by Dyami's best friend, Kohana and Aponi, Kohana's younger sister. The dark, long-haired little girl giggled when her slender arms curled around the Southerner's leg. Dyami handed off his knife to his father to look at his new present while Kohana whistled his appreciation of both items.

Chris's callused hands pulled out a twined-up bundle of Sage, Sweet Grass, Lavender and Cedar smudge sticks and a beautiful, smooth, abalone shell smudge bowl. The gunslinger held them while the young Seminole finished ogling his new tomahawk. Golden green orbs gleamed with good humor and love when Chris thought about how he would emulate Aponi and wrap himself around Ezra later today. Knowing emerald eyes glowed at him mischievously as the shorter, auburn-haired man stepped closer into the blond's personal space and whispered, "Patience, Chris." Then Standish bent down and scooped up the little girl still attached to his leg. The hazel-eyed man flushed while Tastanagi who stood on the other side of the blond chuckled quietly.

Onyx orbs staring fixedly at the items in his square hands and the question "Are those for me?" brought Larabee's attention back to the young Seminole youth. "Yes, Nathan and JD wanted us to give you this." And the black-clad man passed the things he was holding onto Dyami. The bubbling young man decided that he would use these sticks and bowl as part of his purification ceremony.

Ezra finished spinning the young girl in his arms around and set her back on the ground. She walked over to stand by the Seminole chief. The youth who was going to have his Green Corn Dance later today, put the bowl and sticks to one side of the wooden table and stared expectantly at the man in the red jacket and at the man in black. The chestnut-haired man and the blond man smothered their grins and both peacekeepers impassively returned the young man's gaze. Dyami was too proud to ask but his friend Kohana wasn't. "Do you two also have gifts for my friend?" Ezra and Chris exchanged glances, then asked Dyami and the others to come with them. The gunslinger and gambler led the way toward the hut next to the one housing the Seminoles' cannon.

Before he followed the two white men out the door, Tastanagi picked up Aponi who had wandered off to play with Osceola in the other corner of the abode. Osceola's mother cradled the toddler in her arms as she too followed two of the men who had protected her village three years ago. The two Seminole adults were intrigued by Enapay and Akecheta's actions.

Enapay and Akecheta were the Indian names, Tastanagi had bestowed upon Ezra and Chris a little over a year and a half ago. Enapay meant brave and Akecheta meant fighter. /All of the seven men whom protected us have visited the village. A few of them have visited more often then the others. Nathan came to learn about herbs and medicine, Josiah came to enrich his wisdom. Vin came to find quiet. Enapay came because he had connected with the children and Akecheta came because he wanted to connect with Enapay. Then the blond came to find balance,/ flowed through the Indian elder's mind.

When Tastanagi entered the hut, he found that Dyami and Kohana were both gaping at the gifts that Ezra and Chris had made for Dyami. There was a gorgeous, jade-carved eagle talisman perched at the end of a soft, black, cord. The braided cord hung from on a wall hook that was to one side of the room by the table. On the table was a spread out "replica shield." The circular shield was made of cured rawhide from the hump of a buffalo.

The front of the shield had an eagle, Dyami's animal totem and a buffalo, Tastanagi's animal totem etched into it. On the back of the shield, Ezra and Chris's animal totems, a red-tailed hawk and cougar respectively were also drawn on the protective shield. The two sides of the shield were corded together by a flexible braid. Dyami was entranced with the eagle talisman. Reverent fingers traced the jade talisman gently. Meanwhile, Kohana avidly studied the shield. Tastanagi and his daughter-in-law now knew why the two men had spent many hours in this hut when they had visited.

Dyami respectfully lifted the eagle talisman off of the hook and onyx irises looked questioningly into another pair of ebony eyes. The father nodded at his son. Cradling the talisman in his hands, the Indian youth turned to Ezra and Chris. The two regulators were on the other side of the wall hook, near the only cot in the abode. The russet-haired man and the blond stood next to each other and watched on in silent pleasure. Dyami spoke quietly, but you could hear it throughout the hut. "Akecheta and Enapay, you honor me with this eagle. A slim hand grasped Chris's forearm in a warrior's grip as he had seen the long-haired tracker do. The black-clad man returned the youth's hold and nodded his fair head. As Dyami turned and faced Ezra, tears of joy and gratitude fell down the boy's cheeks.

Hoarsely, the young man asked, "Enapay would you put this eagle around my neck so that it may connect me to the Great Spirit and help me be as brave a warrior as you were in defending our village three years ago.

Ezra swallowed past the lump in his throat and mentally ordered his hands not to shake as he placed the talisman around Dyami's neck.

Chapter 2

Once Ezra had placed the talisman around the youth's neck, the hands of the gambler landed upon Dyami's shoulders. Standish's hands then squeezed the broadening shoulders underneath his palms once. Ezra took a step back at the same time that the young Indian stepped forward and pressed a quick kiss against the gambler's smooth cheek. Standish went stock-still with shock as the youth danced away from him. The russet-haired man raised a hand to his cheek. His emerald eyes widened as he gazed at Dyami, then at the boy's father and finally at Chris.

Larabee's grin lit an answering smile on Ezra's face. Tastanagi approached the two regulators and thanked them for their thoughtful gifts. Chris and Ezra replied that it was their pleasure and honor to return in some measure the friendship, etc. that the Seminoles had shown the peacekeepers during the past three years. The men had moved through the door of the hut and back outdoors.

As the trio passed the hut that housed the cannon, the Indian Chief asked the russet-haired Southerner to check the weapon. The Seminoles had tried to keep the cannon in good condition but it didn't hurt for Ezra who knew more about the "big gun' than anybody else, to look at it. Standish agreed. Ezra squatted by the "Napoleon" and examined the weapon. There was a small problem with the barrel of the cannon. The gambler commented that he could fix it tomorrow. Today was Dyami's day and the youth deserved their undivided attention. The other two men nodded.

Tastanagi's daughter-in-law caught up with the men as Dyami, Kohana and Aponi raced past the adults. Her quiet chuckle blended in among the men's. The Seminole Chief invited Ezra and Chris to help with the finishing preparations for Dyami's ceremony. So the blond man found himself brushing the coat of a docile, handsome Pinto pony. The Pinto was a surprise gift from Dyami's father. At the other end of the camp, Ezra was immersed in grinding up bits of Biscuit root, Butterfly Weed and Yucca flowers to make a paste for Dyami's ceremonial mask.

To achieve this task, the dapperly attired gambler had removed his jacket and rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt Aponi was also helping to make paste.

When Chris found his mate a little while later, the blond's lips curled upward slightly at the sight of his lover. Yellow and white splotches streaked Ezra's chestnut-brown hair. Paste smudged the Southerner's cheek and Ezra's muscled forearm but the gambler continued to spread the paste as evenly as he could on the mask. Aponi's white-covered hand patted Ezra's already stained cheek. Chris swallowed a laugh at the gambler's long sigh. The emerald-eyed man mouthed a few soft words to the little girl. The little girl nodded and ran out the door of the hut, skirting around the black- clad man in the doorway. Standish laid the finished mask on the table and then turned to face the blond.

"I believe ablutions are in order, could you bring the saddlebag with my extra provisions?" asked the Southerner. Larabee nodded and brought Ezra his things.

Ezra regretfully nixed the idea of Chris joining him at the stream. He knew that if both he and Chris ended up at the stream, it would evolve into a delightful, intimate tryst between them. The tryst would cause them to either be tardy to Dyami's Green Corn Dance or to miss it all together and Ezra did not want that to happen. The scowl on the hazel-eyed man's face lightened as Ezra explained his reasoning for not wanting the blond at the stream. /Ezra was right. If they both went to the creek near the village, they would miss the boy's ceremony. / Spun through the blond's mind. A large, callused hand stroked Standish's unblemished cheek as the black-clad man smiled into jade green orbs. The smile lit golden green irises when Ezra softly pressed his lips against Chris's. The gambler and gunslinger pulled away from each other slowly at their need to breathe.

Chris nodded and told the Southerner to look for him at the Seminole Chief's abode when he returned. The blond then strode off toward Tastanagi's house. Ezra admired the lithe figure stalking out of the hut then he shook his head and headed to the creek.

Later that day

Content, hazel eyes glanced at gleaming emerald eyes and warmed to a dark honey gold as the blond noted the look of pure delight lurking in those sparkling jade orbs at Dyami leading the "Stomping" dance of the Seminoles. The dark-haired, slender youth stomped his feet in time to father's chanting. The Seminoles weaved and danced in a single file. One of Dyami's brother-in-laws, Apenimon pounded behind the youth. Tastanagi weaved and sang from the rear of the line. The dance snaked around the bonfire in the center of the camp.

As the line came around them once again, Tastanagi tugged both Chris and Ezra up to join the dance. The two lawmen of Four Corners were startled but rose easily to their feet only to whirl around at the sound of horses plunging through the opening of the canyon leading into the Seminole's home. Chris's colt 45 peacemaker boomed as a bullet whizzed by his ear. Ezra's own Remington 1875 barked. and two men toppled lifelessly off of their horses. Shots rang into the air amid the cries and screams. Seminoles scattered and dove for cover. A bearded horseman re-holstered his weapon and shouted, "We don't want any trouble. We just need to lay low for a few days, then we'll leave you in peace." The flinty-eyed, square-jawed, huskily- built man glared at his motley-looking gang. "Boys put your guns away." ordered the leader. Thirteen out of fourteen men immediately obeyed. "Now, Johnny!" Sullivan growled at a defiant, thin young man still pointing a Colt 45 at the group in front of them. The ferret-looking man finally put away his gun.

Ezra's quick-silver mind had registered the identity of the bearded outlaw as soon as he heard the man's deep voice. Jade orbs fleetingly gave hazel eyes a "Let me handle this," look. Chris's gimlet stare remained impassive but Ezra could read the slight softening in the amber irises. The blond knew he would probably not like the Southerner's plan but he trusted Ezra. Tastanagi had also seen the lightening glance exchanged between the two regulators and decided to follow their plan whatever it might be.

Ezra's Southerner drawl sang out, "Charles Sullivan."

Chapter 3

Ebony irises squinted at the russet-haired man. Disbelievingly he said, "Ezra Miller is that you?"

Before either man could say or do anything more, one of the Seminole warriors grappled one of the intruders to the ground and wrestled furiously until Tastanagi roared in the Muskogee language. "Enough! We do not want blood shed or lives lost like when we fought Anderson and his men. 'Enapay' and 'Akecheta' are here. They will help us as they have done before. Let us follow their lead."

The silver-haired man then signaled his son-law, Apenimon to attend to the warrior who had been fighting. Several of the warriors grumbled amongst themselves but could not dispute their leader's words so they stood back.

Apenimon had firmly been holding a quivering-with-rage Dyami by the shoulders. Imala's wife grabbed a still shaking Dyami by the forearm when the other warrior strode off to do the Chief's bidding. Jet black eyes pierced emerald green ones as Ezra and Dyami's glares collided briefly before the Southerner turned his attention back to Sullivan. Stormy hazel eyes then locked onto equally turbulent onyx ones. Chris's stare had Dyami's mind flashing back to three years earlier.


Dyami and several other boys sat entranced by Ezra's nimble hands expertly shuffling a deck of cards. Smoke from the Celebration dinner of their victory against the "Ghosts" drifted around them. Standish's hands dealt some cards face down on an upturned gray crate. His Southern drawl floated out, ///"Your fate is in the cards, gentlemen. Remember that."/// Dyami excitedly asked Ezra, ///"What's my fate?"/// The green-eyed, chestnut-haired man turned over the card and placed it on the crate. Ezra's finger beckoned to the boy. ///"You shall grow to be a great warrior. Big, strong and fearless."/// Answered the Southerner. Tastanagi's son grinned happily as he replied, ///"Like you./// Dyami wondered at the pained look on his friend Ezra's face. Standish swallowed and began, ///"There are two kinds of people in this life, my friend: those who seek battle and seem not to fear death-- like them--"/// The boys turned in time to see the blond man dressed in black and the tall, mustached man walk past their semi-circle. Dyami and the other boys returned their attention to Ezra who continued to speak. /// "And those who avoid battle but will stand and fight to the death if their loved ones are threatened-- like them./// Once again the boys swiveled their heads to look back and saw their families and friends. Standish kept on, ///"That is true courage."///

Tastanagi's son thought to himself that the fancily dressed man was also courageous but the man did not recognize it in himself. Perhaps the man had Coyote medicine. Coyote was a trickster and liked to fool everyone even those that had its medicine. Dyami had heard his father say so. The little boy's thoughts were interrupted when Ezra said, ///"Now... you have lost to me at poker and I have read the cards for you. The time has come to pay. You see... I've heard tell of a gold mine in these parts."/// The Southerner hooked an arm around Dyami and pulled the little one up to sit on his sturdy lap. Ebony orbs gazed into jade green ones and the child replied, ///"We're not to speak of it."/// Ezra said, ///"Well, good. Then it is a valuable secret. One such secret could wipe out all your debts." The gambler sat Kohana, Dyami's best friend on the other side of his lap and commented, ///"So... let's talk about this mine... shall we?"/// They did talk about it and other things until the boys were rounded up by their families.

The Next Day:

Splintered boulders and other debris rained down into the village as the cannon boomed from the cliff above. The deadly blasts had the Seminoles and the white men scattering in all directions. Shouts filled the air. From inside the abode, Dyami crawled out from the overturned pallet. He cocked his dark head and thought //Was that his father yelling for him?// The dark-eyed little boy raced out of the trembling hut. His legs pumping as hard and fast as he could go but he tripped. The slender child sprawled, coughing the dirt out of his mouth. Suddenly, long, strong arms scooped up the scared little boy and held Dyami close to a black-clad chest. An explosion rocked the earth behind them, the hut in which he had been in had been destroyed. Fierce, amber eyes looked into jet black ones as the blond man rushed toward the shelter. Larabee let the boy down by Rain and Nathan. Dyami scampered into safety, under the bluffs. A silent prayer fell from his lips when he saw that his father was still out there. The blond man was also still out there and he helped Tastanagi into the shelter. The raven-haired boy hugged his father when the Chief crouched at Dyami's side.

About an hour or so later, Dyami hid his slender body within a crack between two of the bluffs surrounding the Seminole village. He squinted as he stared upwards at the cliff to his right. Where was he...? There, Ezra was by the cannon. The red-jacketed man was smoking a cigar. Then the man squatted by the 'big gun'. Ezra lit the fuse of the cannon with the glowing orange tip of the cigar. The cannon blasted that flag which the Gray-coated men had placed in the middle of the village. For the next few minutes, all Dyami could see was smoke and dust swirling about. Then seven men stalked through the smoke and dust. The raven-haired boy stared at them and then up at Ezra. The Southerner stood next to the 'big gun' and saluted those below.

+++++++End Flashback+++++++

Dyami saw the same courage in the two men today like he did three years ago. The Seminole youth burned with determination to help his two heroes because the young man just knew that Enapay and Akecheta would defeat these white men whom had interrupted his manhood ceremony.

Meanwhile, the leader of the "Bummers Gang," Charlie Sullivan was cuffing one of his men because the red-headed man was still trying to go after "that dirty injun" who had attacked him.

Once the ex-riverboat captain had 'conversed' with his man, he returned his attention to the dapperly-dressed man.

Sullivan heartily slapped the red-jacketed man on the shoulder. "Well, I'll be hog-tied, if it ain't Ezra from St. Louis. What are ya doing here? You left the riverboats to try your luck out here did you? They catch ya chiselin' again?" Standish winced when his old associate whacked him hard. The auburn-haired man still had twinges in that shoulder from an injury a few weeks back. Sully grabbed two saddlebags from Dawson, his second in command. Nimble hands grasped a slippery bag sliding off the outlaw's shoulder and adjusted it. The ex-riverboat captain nodded at Miller then turned and told the Seminole Chief to show him where they could leave their bags. Dawson and the other men each had two bags. All of the gang plus Ezra and Chris followed Tastanagi to Imala's large, empty hut. Charlie and his men piled several saddlebags and a few silver bags in a corner of the abode. The leader ordered Dawson and Johnny to guard the ill-gotten gain. While the outlaws did this, Ezra whispered to Chris and the Seminole Chief if they had noted that the charcoal gray bags were marked "Property of Kansas Pacific Railroad."

They had noticed it. Both Chris and Ezra remembered that yesterday, JD had received a telegram about a big train robbery, near Kansas City. Ezra brushed his shoulder against a lean one as he pushed back the crown of his black hat and chuckled softly. The gambler played a hunch by asking the husky outlaw leader, "You migrated to Kansas at the end of the war and have been there all this time? You also changed professions and became a thief of bounty transported by locomotives?" It took a few moments for Sullivan to suss out what the green-eyed man said.

Charlie shook his head. /Ezra and his fancy words. The Southerner could talk circles around anybody and usually had. He had been the best chiseler on the "River Belle," which happened to be Sullivan's ship for a while. The ex-captain and the gambler had an arrangement to split a percentage from Ezra's poker winnings if the winnings happened to be from marks that the captain sent to the card-sharp./ "Ezra, you and your fancy words. Yeah, I've been in Kansas. I found that train robbing was more 'lucrative' than sailing down the Mississippi." Charlie grinned cheekily. He'd picked up that word 'lucrative' from Miller all those years back. Ezra just nodded. Sullivan continued, "We lost the posse chasing us by Damn kid, you always had sharp eyes to match that sharp mind of yours." responded the husky man headed to the bonfire. He then waved the chestnut-haired man in front of him. Onyx irises looked Ezra up and down then quickly patted a red-coated shoulder. "You filled out pretty good, Ezra. You were scrawny when we worked on the 'Belle.' The Southerner shrugged his shoulders dislodging Charlie's huge hand and made an offhand comment about growing up.

Chris's hazel eyes speared the man that had touched his Ezra. Obsidian orbs got a close look at the black-clad menacing figure at Ezra's side. Sullivan recognized the blond. "Chris Larabee?" whistled the surprised, bearded man. Larabee's harsh, "Yeah" coincided with his right hand skimming the butt of his 'Peacemaker' "Saw you in Dodge City when you beefed Jackie Pinder. The fool kid called you out. You're still here and he ain't. Don't want any troubles with ya, Larabee. I don't give a continental why you're here," replied the robber. While the outlaw leader spoke with Chris, Ezra's emerald eyes closely observed the gang's movements, and the gambler noted that some of the outlaws dragged away the two bodies of their fallen comrades. "We are glad to hear that, Charles since my associate and I absquatulated from a dusty burg not far from here after an altercation with some of the town's citizens and regulators. They took exception to how I liberated them of their assets. Ezra inclined his head at the blond and said "Mr. Larabee just happened to be at the saloon when trouble arose. Chris interrupted, "And I don't cotton to anyone interruptin' my drinking by shooting someone in the back. Even if that someone is a grifter." Hazel eyes flashed quickly to emerald ones and then back to Sullivan.


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