Three Stage Attack
October 26, 2012
Answer to 1 hour fic challenge on Vin F&D list
Summary - write a story in 1 hour using the theme ‘stage’
Length: 1063 words
Vin crept past the back door of the jail and peeked in the window. Ezra was leaning back in the chair, feet propped on the edge desk as he indifferently tossed card after card into his upturned hat on the floor.
Vin smiled and retreated the way he had come, Ezra none the wiser.
JD watched for Vin to exit the alleyway beside the jail. Vin gave JD a two-fingered tip of his hat and sauntered over to the front door of the jail. JD nodded and ducked back inside the saloon.
Vin entered the jail from the front, frowning.
Ezra glanced up, bored to tears watching a jail that held no prisoners. He nodded acknowledgment of Vin’s entrance and tossed another card before Vin’s serious demeanor sank in.
“Mr. Tanner? Is there a problem?” he asked, straightening in his seat.
“Need ya to come with me to check out some unusual tracks out by Nettie’s place. Chris said he’d take over here,” Vin replied.
“Very well, allow me to change…”
“Ain’t got time for that, Ezra,” Vin demanded. “Gotta ride.”
Ezra’s eyebrows rose, but he nodded and followed the tracker to the livery. He saw Chris leaning against the post outside the saloon and received a brief nod from the man in black. Within minutes, he and Vin were on their way toward Nettie’s ranch.
Ezra rode beside Vin in silence for some time. “What sort of tracks are we looking for?” he finally asked.
“Ain’t sure,” Vin said. “Nettie just asked me to come take a look, could be cougar,” he added gravely.
Ezra nodded. A cougar coming this far into cultivated lands was dangerous. The animals usually avoided man like the plague. Only sick or injured animals that couldn’t hunt wandered into civilization in search of easier prey and they weren’t too picky about what that prey was either.
They reached Nettie’s ranch and Ezra frowned. The team of horses and her wagon were missing. The frown deepened when Vin didn’t go to the house to greet the old woman as he normally would.
“Is Mrs. Wells not home?” Ezra asked.
“In town,” Vin said, unhooking his sawed-off from its holster, “safer there til we can figure out what’s going on here.”
“Lead on,” Ezra said, pulling his rifle from its scabbard and following the Texan around the back of the barn.
“Nettie said she saw some unusual tracks out behind the barn and heard the chickens put up a fuss.”
“None of the birds were missing?”
“Nope. Think she might’ve scared it off… fired off a shot in the air,” Vin said, kneeling down to look at the ground.
Ezra looked over his shoulder, then around at the dirt and short cropped grassy area. All he could see was their boot marks and a few piles of manure.
“Hm,” Vin hummed, then scooted over and fingered another spot in the dust. “Yep,” he said to himself. “Gonna need the boys for this,” he said as he stood and dusted his hands on his pants.
“Is it a cougar?” Ezra asked, his eyes darting around the yard to every shadow.
“It ain’t something we can handle on our own,” Vin said. “Best git back to town and find the others.” With that, Vin strode back toward their horses leaving Ezra to cast yet another cautious gaze around the yard.
It only took a second for him to realize that Vin had left and Ezra jogged to catch up.
Vin dismounted, tossing Peso’s reins over the hitching post rail. “You’d best go to the jail and tell Chris,” Vin said. “I’ll get the others and meet you in the saloon,” he added then he strode quickly down the boardwalk toward the church.
Ezra shook his head to himself, but headed for the jail. “Tell Chris what?” he mumbled.
Vin looked over his shoulder, saw Ezra’s back and darted across the street to the saloon.
Ezra opened the door to the jail and stopped at the sight of the empty room. He frowned. “Now why did I have to sit in here and watch an empty cell, when Chris is, no doubt, over at the saloon enjoying his turn on watch with a libation?” He huffed to himself and left, tugging the door shut behind him.
Ezra pushed the swinging doors open and stepped into the room, pausing for a second for his eyes to adjust to the dimmer light.
A sudden shout had him stumbling back, triggering his derringer and pointing it at the room in general.
Then gasps and several shouts of ‘get down’ were heard throughout the room.
Ezra blinked, looking around at the people in the saloon. His six friends were there as well as many of the townsfolk that he’d come to know in the last few years, including Mrs. and Casey Wells, Mary and Billy Travis, Inez, the Potters and…
“Happy Birthday, Ezra!” JD said, breaking the uneasy silence as Ezra lowered his gun and everyone stood back up.
The others chimed in and Ezra ducked his head, fumbling to reposition his derringer in its rigging.
Vin stepped up beside him and touched his arm to get the embarrassed gambler’s attention.
Ezra looked up at him. “No cougar?”
Vin grinned, “Nope. Sorry, but it was the only thing we could think of to keep you out of here long enough.”
Ezra shook his head and looked around again, this time seeing the small ‘Happy Birthday” banner strung above the bar as well as the cake and other refreshments sitting on one of the tables.
“How on earth did you find out it was my birthday?” he asked in amazement.
Vin grinned. “Maude sent you a telegram and,” he paused, blushing just a bit, “well, um I sort of read it. Not on purpose, I had been practicing and…”
Ezra smiled. “Quite all right, Vin. I’ve been known to accidentally read a few things in my day as well.”
Vin chuckled. “Come on, let’s get this party going. I want some of Nettie’s cake,” he said, tugging gently on Ezra’s sleeve to get him to follow and join the others.
“Chocolate, I presume,” Ezra said, standing and once again following his friend.
“Of course,” Vin said with a broad smile. “Only the best for the birthday boy. Happy Birthday, Ez.”
Feedback is greatly appreciated. JudyL