Alaric Von Dietrich sat on the train opposite his brother,
Alaric shifted, then shook his head. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a small notebook and a pencil. After a moment, he started scribbling furiously.
Wilhelm looked up at the noise and glanced down at the notebook.
“What are you writing?”
“Hate to admit it, but Ezra actually said some things that made sense,” Alaric said, not looking up. “I should have thought to look for Dad’s things. Maude probably didn’t do that stabbing, so I should try and find out who did, and since she can no longer tell us her accomplice’s name….” He smiled and continued to write.
Wilhelm stared at his brother for a moment, then reached out a hand to stop him.
“I said don’t.”
Alaric frowned, “why not?”
“Why can’t you just leave it alone, Alaric? It’s been twenty-two years.”
Alaric frowned, “leave it alone? Our father was murdered, Wilhelm. I can’t just leave that alone.”
“Our father was a bastard, Alaric,” his brother replied. “He deserved to die.”
Alaric’s eyes widened, then narrowed. “What?”
“He beat me; he beat you, and he beat our mother, Alaric. He was a bastard. And, though I know you didn’t like her, you have to know he beat Maude as well. She was terrified of him. I saw it at the divorce hearing.” Wilhelm shook his head, “He threatened to cut us both off without a cent, remember? He wanted to disown me for wanting to go to law school instead of running the business, and don’t get me started on what he thought about you being a newspaperman. Everything he did was cruel. Everything. Look…leave it alone. Haven’t you done enough?”
Alaric stared at his brother, “You’d just let a murderer go?”
“Well,” Alaric sniffed, and looked down at his notebook, “then I suppose we disagree.” He started writing again.
“No. I’ll find Dad’s things. I’ll make her accomplice pay. Now, let’s see, there was his gold watch….”
“Alaric, please,” Wilhelm said. “Don’t do this.”
“And his cufflink case…the gold chain…the money clip…his briefcase….”
“Alaric, you won’t find those things. You’ll never find them.”
Alaric shook his head, “you know…I bet she knew where those things went,” he said. “I wonder if she told Ezra?” He looked up, his eyes sharp. “Maybe I should go and ask him. And, if Maude is still alive, perhaps I should ask her as well….”
“No! Damn it, Ric! You’re not going to go back there. You’re never going to go near Ezra, Maude or that town again.”
“Why? That stupidity about them arresting me? They won’t do it. They don’t have the balls.”
“No…you’re not going because I want this over with. I’ve watched you obsess about this for too long, brother. And now I’ve seen you kill because of it. It’s gone too far.”
“Too far? But we’ve barely begun! Just because we caught one snake….”
“Alaric, listen to me,” Wilhelm gripped his brother’s hand, “our father was the snake. He was a lying, cheating, weasel of a man. I’ve never regretted his death. I’ve only regretted that you can’t let it go.”
Alaric snorted, “you’ve never regretted his death? What the hell does that mean?”
“It means I’m glad he died, Alaric. And so should you have been. For Christ’s sake, Ric…he killed our mother. Whatever else…he deserved to die.”
Alaric stared at his brother, his eyes growing colder.
“Alaric…let it go. Now. Even if Maude doesn’t die, I want you to stop chasing her. Do you understand? Let it go.”
When his younger brother didn’t respond for a while, Wilhelm let go of his arm. As the silence stretched on, the older Von Dietrich picked up his book again and started to read. Alaric still stared at him.
“Wilhelm…you once told me that you didn’t think Maude killed him. That was why you never joined me when I went after her. But this time, you came. Why?”
Wilhelm glanced up from his book, “Honestly…I suppose because I have a morbid curiosity for your obsession. I’ve never seen you wield it. And, now that I have, I never want to see you do it again.” He ended with a nod, and looked at his book again.
Alaric’s eyes narrowed. “But…why don’t you think she killed him?”
Wilhelm shrugged, not looking up, “because she didn’t. She couldn’t have. For all the reasons her son told you.”
“Funny…everyone else seemed to think she did it.”
“That’s because you told them she did.”
Alaric shook his head. “But you didn’t believe me.”
Alaric took another breath, “why?”
Wilhelm put the book down again, and looked at his brother. There was an odd knowing in the older man’s gaze, and Alaric Von Dietrich went dead inside.
“Wilhelm,” Alaric asked slowly, “did you kill him?”
Mary walked into the saloon, her step slow and her eyes deep in thought. At the bar, Buck and JD turned to look at her, the younger man tipping his hat.
“Something the matter, Mrs. Travis?” JD asked.
She looked up at him, almost through him, then looked around. “Are Ezra and Chris here?”
“Well, Ezra’s upstairs sleeping,” Buck said, “seeing as it’s still not quite noon, and Chris is probably over at the stables with Vin.”
“Oh,” she nodded, “do you think you could fetch them for me? And meet me over at the church? And any of the others as well, if you see them.” Turning, she walked out as slowly as she came in. Buck raised an eyebrow and looked at JD.
“Flip you for Ezra,” the kid grinned. Buck growled, but pulled out a coin.
Maude sat up in the bed in Josiah’s back room, leaning against an enormous amount of pillows. She managed to look sickly, despite not actually having anything wrong with her, but her eyes were very alert as Mary paced the small room. Josiah sat on the edge of Maude’s pallet, waiting patiently, while Nathan leaned against a wall.
In a matter of moments, a yawning Ezra walked in with Buck, and, a little while later, Vin, Chris and JD joined them. Maude lifted her bed sheets higher, uncomfortable at the suddenly cramped quarters.
“Mary,” Chris asked, leaning against the doorframe, “what’s going on?”
“There was an incident,” the journalist began, her eyes
still downcast. “I received a copy of the headlines from the Lone Star Dispatch
“Wilhelm?” Maude said softly. “Alaric thinks Wilhelm did it?”
Ezra just let out a held breath, speechless for once.
“Well,” Chris crossed his arms, “That’s that then.”
Mary looked at him, surprised at his tone. “Doesn’t this bother you?” she asked.
Chris shook his head, “No. not really.”
“Mrs. Travis, I thank you for that information,” Maude interrupted, sitting up straighter. “Most kind. Now…I’m a little tired, so, if you don’t mind…?” she raised her eyebrows. Mary frowned, but nodded.
“Of course,” she headed towards the door, frowning even more darkly as none of the others seemed to be following her out. Instead, Chris just moved aside so she could pass. She shot him a black look, the exited.
“Wilhelm,” Ezra breathed, when he heard the front doors of the church shut in the distance. “I can’t believe it. He was so damned uptight about right and wrong growing up….”
“I don’t know,” Maude admitted, looking at him, “Claus treated his boys no better than his wives. He was repeatedly cruel to them, threatening to cut them off whenever they disobeyed. And then…there was the fact of what Claus did to Wilhelm’s mother.” Maude shivered, and Josiah took her hand.
“So…Wilhelm gets shot, while his brother goes to the asylum,” JD said.
“It’s almost what they call poetic justice, isn’t it,” Vin mused. “No one will ever believe Alaric’s words again, now, will they?”
“No,” Ezra gave a small smile at that fact.
“And neither will ever come back here,” Maude added. “However you look at it, baby, Alaric will never come looking for you again. You’re free of him at last.”
Ezra lowered his gaze, his smile fading. For the first time in his life, he felt pity for the man who’d tormented him.
“Oh come now, Ezra,” Buck said, smiling wickedly, “don’t tell me you’re sad because you don’t have an excuse to leave us now.”
“Oh, well, I admit, it would have been a good excuse …” the gambler shrugged, his smile returning.
“No,” Chris said, “he’s just upset because he’s realized that, now that its over, he’s going to have to compensate Mr. Conklin for the damage the stage did to his hardware store.”
Ezra’s eyes shot up, shocked. “What?”
“At least fifty dollars worth of damage, I think he told me,” Chris said. He started counting the amounts off on his fingers, “twenty-five for the corner of the building, twenty for the damage to the walls and the things he was storing in the alley, and five for emotional distress.” The gunslinger looked up, his gaze innocent.
Ezra stared at him, then his eyes narrowed. “You’re not serious.”
“I’m afraid so,” the gunslinger said, smiling.
Ezra continued to stare, then sighed. “Well…then I think there has been some mistake. Obviously, as a favor to the poor, tired driver of that stage and at the request of the handsome Russian gentlemen – who happens to be good friends with my mother, by the by -- I was merely attempting to direct his clearly unstable horses forward to the boarding house to let out when certain malcontents, strangers no less, created a ruckus and spooked them. Well, because of that, the horses instantly got out of control, as any normal beast would. They were in fact, aiming directly towards the front of Mr. Conklin’s store and, had I not diverted them into the alley…which, by the way, I’m not sure was of regulation size and clearly contained a number of fire hazards that are probably punishable by fairly hefty fines…they probably would have completely destroyed the store itself. Frankly, I believe Mr. Conklin owes me a reward for my quick thinking. Compensation for a job well done…and, combined with the fines I imagine he owes…yes. All in all, he probably owes me money, don’t you think?”
Chris grinned, and Maude and the others started to laugh.
“Gotta admit,” Chris shook his head, “if you pull this off, Ezra, you’ll officially be my hero for the day.”
Ezra blinked at his words, and looked at his mother in surprise. Maude just continued to laugh.