Ezra grimaced, shifting again in the saddle because of the uncomfortable clothes. Unfortunately, JD wore the only outfit which could be considered “plain,” among them, clothes a doctor might wear. Problem was, JD was smaller than him. Almost two inches shorter and also thinner. The only piece of clothing he still wore that was his, besides his underclothes, was his shirt and black waistcoat, because he could just about close JD’s jacket over them.
“You keep shifting like that, doctor, you’re going to give yourself away,” Josiah muttered. Ezra had told the preacher and Hannibal to call him “doctor” as much as possible as they rode closer to the convent.
“And you keep talking like that, Mr. Sanchez, and you’ll do it for me,” the gambler replied. He squirmed again. He had placed the black bag in front of him on the saddle, to make it more obvious, but it was also getting irritating to hold.
“Wonder how JD’s treating that purple coat of yours,” Josiah continued in a whisper, smiling wickedly. “Think he’s tripped and fallen yet? Gotten mud on those nice trousers…ripped a seam in the shoulders of the jacket…torn a sleeve….”
“You’re hilarious, Mr. Sanchez. Perhaps we should focus on the job at hand?”
“Face is insane about his clothes,”
Ezra glanced at Josiah, lifting his eyebrows. The preacher frowned.
“Um…at some point we’ll have to get off the road in order to
try and appear less obvious,” Josiah said.
“Yes, of course. There is a bend in the road up ahead…we can go into the woods there, and try to get to the convent from the side. Does that sound good to you Mr. Sanchez, Dr. Standish?”
Josiah nodded, and looked at Ezra. The gambler had his head down. When he looked up again, he smiled at Josiah and rode up right next to him.
“We just passed another interested pair of eyes,” he whispered, repressing the smile and letting his horse fall back again.
Andrew Fishman nodded, leaning back in his chair in the saloon like a king on his throne. In front of him, Mr. Duval twisted his hat around in his hands by its brim. The sky purpled outside as the sun set behind the horizon, fading to black.
“The brother, as expected, and a doctor. Humph,” Andy frowned, “I thought he would have found more people to help him than that.”
“That’s all that were seen. They should be almost at the convent by now, probably hoping to sneak in under cover of darkness. The people I sent didn’t see anyone else behind them.”
“How hard did they look?” the red head mocked, eyes flicking up to meet Duval’s. The hardware store owner lowered his own eyes in response.
“It’s true more may be following, boss,” one of Andy’s hired guns suggested. “But, fact is, the A-Team has a reputation for being loners. They don’t ever get outside help. He may have just gone to get exactly what he came back with – the brother and someone to check on the conman.”
Andy grimaced, his eyes tracing the wood on the table. It didn’t sound right.
“Besides,” the hired gun continued, “you got men all over the hills, watching the convent, watching the roads and watching the camp. They’re not going to sneak anyone else in without our seeing.”
Andy sighed, then nodded. “Even so…I’d feel better if we had a little more leverage.” He looked up, “You know where the boy Miguel is?”
The hired gun nodded. “He’s been hanging around the camp. I think he’s hoping to free Murdock.”
An ugly smile crossed the other man’s face, “yes sir.”
Miguel had stationed himself just outside of the camp, watching Murdock and the hired guns, trying to keep an eye on them so that he could report to BA when the time came. Of course, the sergeant had not asked him to do this, but he needed to feel useful somehow.
He’d counted twenty-four hired guns now. Three more had ridden into the camp this night, looking for work. The Fishman’s must really believe there was a lot of gold in that camp to hire this many men. And what they needed them for, Miguel had no idea. He wished he could hear the discussions better between Andrew Fishman and his brother.
He saw Murdock sitting against the rockface, resting his head against his knees. He almost looked like he was trying to get some sleep, but the boy felt he knew better. There was tension radiating off the captain, as if he was a tightly wound coil that could spring at any moment. It was by sheer will power alone that the man hadn’t done so yet.
Movement had the boy looking back to the big tent where Andy Fishman and his brother slept. Grimacing, the kid shuffled forward, considering ways to get over there. If only he could….
A twig snapped behind him, and the boy froze.
Slowly, he turned his head and gave a choked cry as he saw three of the hired guns kneeling down to peer into the bush he was hiding in, looking at him and smiling.
“Hey kid,” one of them called softly, “figured you might be getting hungry up here. Want some soup?”
Miguel lowered his head and sighed. Over in the camp, Murdock’s head had lifted and he was staring directly at where the boy had thought he was hidden.
The captain frowned. He’d wondered how long they were going to let Miguel “hide” there.
“Hurry colonel,” he muttered.
Sister Frances nearly jumped out of her skin when someone
tapped hard on the window in the kitchen.
The moon was even smaller tonight, and the world was as black as pitch
outside of the brightly lit kitchen.
Nervously, she leaned forward and looked down, then relaxed as she
“Sister,” Josiah greeted, standing and brushing himself off. “How is my sister.”
Josiah looked surprised. “Calm?”
“She…uh…,” she looked at
“BA Baracus?” Josiah asked. “The huge black man?” The thing he remembered most about BA was the sergeant’s ability to scare the hell out of everyone merely by looking in their direction.
She nodded. “We don’t really understand it ourselves.” She looked suspiciously again at Ezra, who winked at her. She jumped a little and frowned.
She nodded, then smiled again. “Your young man woke up a little earlier. Not for very long, but we got some water into him. He asked for you.”
The colonel grinned at the news, “Is he still in the same
“Where is my sister?” Josiah asked curtly, and
“Where she usually is. In the back room. Painting.”
“And the sergeant?”
“He snuck out earlier, in order to go check on his friend Murdock again. He’ll probably be back soon.”
“He’ll probably run into the others then,” Ezra said
conversationally. As he spoke, he took
off JD’s jacket, happy to be rid of it.
The shiny black waistcoat hidden underneath made
Josiah frowned, mulling over what
“Oh…yes, of course,”
Josiah stopped in the doorway, and turned around. “Why not?
I have a few things I’d like to say to her.” There was a gruffness to the words, but
He grinned at her. “Hi darling,” he said, raising an eyebrow and doing his best Buck impression, “Come here often?”
“Um…are you a doctor of some kind?”
“No ma’am, not unless you want to play a nurse.”
“By the way,” he said, sidling closer to her, “do you mind if we keep this back window open? We’re expecting a delivery.”
He leaned over the table and cupped his chin in his hand, “Yes ma’am, about six foot four inches of manhood, goes by the name of Nathan. I think you’ll like it.” He blinked up at her, green eyes bright.
Ezra had to cover his mouth to stop himself from laughing out loud.
“What do you see?” Chris asked, sliding up next to Vin on the same ledge that BA had occupied earlier that morning.
“Plenty of the guns.”
“Yup,” Chris shifted back. “See Murdock?”
“Straight down, against the rock face. Looks healthy enough. There’s a boy there as well.”
Chris frowned, “A boy?”
“I met him once before. He helped me get into the convent to see Hannah when I first came here. He’s older, taller too.”
Chris snorted, “Yes, boys do that. Two years is a long time in a child’s life.”
Vin rolled his eyes, knowing that was a jibe for not telling Chris about Hannah earlier.
“Think it’s the famous Miguel?” the gunslinger asked.
“Probably. C’mon, let’s find the others,” Vin inched away from the ledge and turned around. And stopped dead.
Sergeant BA Baracus stepped out from behind a tree, his arms crossed defiantly.
“It’s about time,” the sergeant growled.
Then he grinned.
Josiah kissed his sister’s head, which she barely noticed, then backed away. She returned to her painting, this time drawing what looked an awful lot like a dark-skinned angel…with a mohawk.
Smiling, he shook his head and backed away, turning around only when he reached the door.
Sister Ethel was waiting for him, a chagrined look on her face.
“Mother,” Josiah greeted coldly.
“Hello Josiah,” she took in a breath, “so…how have you been?” she tried to look innocent. He just stared at her for a moment, not answering, and pointed out the door. She sighed and nodded, walking out of the room with Josiah on her heels. He shut the wooden door and turned a glare on the nun.
“Why didn’t you write to me for help?” he demanded.
“To you?” she looked surprised, “But…you made us promise
never to contact you at
He raised his eyebrows at her.
“I mean,” she raised a hand to explain, “an emergency with Hannah.”
Josiah crossed his arms. Ethel licked her lips.
“Yes, I realize that this probably qualifies, but I…honestly thought…that we could resolve this. We just needed to have the dam rebuilt. And by the time it was, I was certain either the governor or the church….” She trailed off, and lowered her head.
“Next time, you write to me first. Understand?”
She grimaced, and anger flashed across her eyes at his tone. “Is that an order?” she asked.
Josiah shrugged, pursing his lips. Her eyes narrowed.
“Now you listen to me, Josiah Sanchez, we take care of your sister because we care about her and you…but you do not think you can order us around because of it. I made a mistake, yes. But, honestly, what could you have done? Come in here with all your friends, shooting up the town and causing your sister even more pain? I was trying to do what was best, and which would involve the least violence. Do not fault me for that.”
Josiah frowned, “Come in with my friends and shoot up the town? That’s what you think I’d do?”
“I hear what happens in
Josiah stared at her, then shook his head. “I may not have the right to make your
decisions for you, mother, but I have a right to want to know when someone is
threatening my sister’s home and happiness.
And do not assume things about my life and what I do in
Ethel grimaced, staring up at him, her jaw shifting as she tried to think of a rebuttal. As her mouth opened, the realization of what she was doing occurred to her. She shut it again, and blushed, annoyed at herself for entering into such a useless argument.
“I’m sorry, Josiah,” she shook her head. “I don’t mean to argue with you. I think I’m just a little…tense.”
He grimaced, his body aching for a fight, but he sucked in a breath and released it. “Ethel, I know that you still think of me the way I was…before…but I’m not that man anymore. When you’re in trouble, you can come to me, especially if it affects my sister.”
“Josiah,” she smiled weakly, as if she hadn’t heard a word, “I think that’s enough, don’t you?”
He sighed, shutting his eyes. She was one of the most small-minded women he had ever known. When he opened them again, she was already walking away from him, heading back into the heart of the convent. He repressed the urge to lash out at the wall in frustration and followed her. Why did she always make him want to hit something?
Nathan knelt down, lifting the dressing gently from Face’s abdomen, checking for infection. He nodded and set it back in place. Standing, he walked over to where Ezra had placed his bag on a dresser and opened it up, pulling out some small stoppered bottles and bags of herbs.
The gambler himself was resting against a wall, having changed into a pair of Face’s trousers from the conman’s bags, and otherwise wearing just a white shirt and a black waistcoat. He was happy to discover that the sandy-haired conman was exactly the same size he was, and he quickly took off JD’s scratchy trousers. Now though, he just watched worriedly as Nathan set out bottles and small bags of herbs.
“Wound is clean; he’s been very well taken care of,” Nathan answered, looking at the colonel. “But I won’t lie to you. The bullet was well placed to cause a lot of damage. I don’t like that he’s still mostly unconscious and that I can feel some rigidity in his abdomen. He may need surgery if he’s bleeding internally, and he’s already lost so much blood as it is since you cut him before….” He frowned, then indicated his things. “I have some items which may help prevent infection and help him heal faster….” He shrugged, “but if that swelling in his abdomen doesn’t go down….”
“When do you think you’ll know,” the colonel asked through his hands.
“Tomorrow, maybe, but I honestly don’t know. I’ll stay up and watch him tonight.” The healer stood up and walked over to stand
“Colonel, look, you need rest. Those few hours last night couldn’t have been enough.”
The colonel released his hands, “No,” he agreed, a hint of anger in his voice replacing the sadness. “It wasn’t. But my head is too full to sleep. I’ll sleep once we’ve got the plan in motion.” He looked up at Nathan, then over at Ezra.
“I’ll get Josiah,” the gambler said, straightening up and heading towards the door. He needn’t have bothered, as, at that moment, the preacher opened it and walked inside with Sister Ethel.
The mother superior looked at Nathan and then Ezra, and annoyance crossed her eyes for a moment. Then she took in a deep breath and looked at the colonel.
“So many men in our convent,” she deadpanned, “my, how people will talk.”
She smiled back, then cleared her throat. “Well, what are you planning to do now?”
Ethel couldn’t hide her surprise, “Tonight? But we have two more days.”
“He won’t wait that long, not since he knows that I went to
“Kill you?” Ethel shook her head, “No, he said….”
“He can’t afford to let us go, mother. He’ll try to bring us down when we swap for Murdock, probably up near the dam.”
“I don’t understand. How can you know….”
“Because men like Andrew Fishman know the rules of empire building, mother,” Ezra said from his corner. “You can’t let any threats or potential threats go free. You are not a threat. We are.”
She frowned at the stranger, then lowered her head, shaking it, “I should never have defied them. We should have just left when they first threatened us. Such a fool. I’ve put you all in danger. And the poor lieutenant and captain….”
“You did not set this in motion, mother” Ezra interrupted, his voice strong. “They did.”
“But I could have….”
“We all know the value of hindsight,” Ezra said, “but in this case, you’re wrong. You do not have anything to fault yourself for.”
Ethel looked at him like he had two heads, “Are you blind? Just look at this room!”
“You were protecting your home and the people under your care. You could not know the nature of those men, or how easily they would twist the town against you. Not even Colonel Smith, a trained officer, could have predicted this. If he had, Lieutenant Peck would not have been shot.”
“But,” she shook her head, “I could have stopped it.”
“No, I don’t think so,” Ezra shook his head. “You can’t fight men like the Fishmans, mother. But we can. We will finish this. You just have to trust us.”
“Trust you,” she looked at him with wide eyes, “I don’t even know you.”
“What do you need to know?” Ezra asked, uncrossing his arms. His eyes never blinked as he captured her gaze in his.
She looked at him, then swallowed, “Even if I did trust you…what would you do?”
“What we have to,” Ezra answered. “To put those men behind bars for what they have done, and to make this town safe again. Will you let us do that?”
She looked at the gambler, searching his face.
It seemed hours, but presently she began to nod slowly.
Whatever she saw…she believed.
He sat down next to Face again, resting a hand on the young man’s shoulder.
“How do you want us to leave?” Ethel asked, now focused on Ezra.
“We’re going to sneak you out. We don’t want the Fishmans to know you’ve left here. Nathan came in undetected, and he thinks he knows a way to get two or three of you out at a time.”
“That’s right,” Nathan said, “And Miguel’s sister will be ready with a wagon and some horses that she’s borrowed at a rendezvous place we set up north of here. Now, how many are you again?”
“Twenty. How many can you fit on the wagon?”
“Maybe a dozen,” Nathan said, frowning. “We’ll have to get another wagon.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Ethel said, waving a hand. “I’m more concerned about where you want us to go after we’ve left here.”
Ezra frowned, looking at
“I take it you haven’t figured that out on your own yet?” the colonel asked.
She shook her head.
“No. We were just going to rent some wagons and ride north. Towards
“Block,” Face’s voice whispered softly.
“Block. Ranchers. Good family. Three hours…west….” Face’s eyes closed.
“Unless you’ve been ordained while I’ve been asleep, I don’t
think that appellation works,” Face whispered back, opening his eyes again, contrariness
in the tone.
“Yeah, kid, I know. Listen, stay with us. Don’t fall back asleep.”
“Give him this,” Nathan ordered suddenly, sticking a tin cup
of something foul smelling in front of
“You have to drink this,” he said, slipping an arm under Face’s head and lifting him. The conman groaned, not happy with this unwanted movement, but the colonel ignored it. “Come on Face, stop whining.”
“I didn’t whine,” Face muttered, half lidded eyes catching
the colonel’s, “I groaned. Entirely
different sound.” But he dutifully took
a swallow of whatever it was that
“Tell me about it,” Ezra agreed. “And that’s probably not even full strength.”
The healer smiled wryly, “No…not really.”
“Do you know that ranch he mentioned? Or this family, the Blocks?”
Ethel shook her head, “No. Do you really think they would have the room and the heart to take us all in for…however long you think we need to stay there?”
Face lifted a hand and pushed the cup away from his
“They…they have enough room.
And…they’re good people…that’s where,” he coughed, looking at
“You mean the wood for the dam?” Ethel asked.
“I wouldn’t mention that to them,” the colonel told her. Ethel frowned.
“I don’t like lying,” she said.
“I didn’t ask you to lie,”
Her pale lips pressed into a thin line. Face coughed, and
“Follow…follow the trail back…to
“It’s the medicine doing that, don’t worry,” Nathan said.
“It’s just burning his throat a little.”
“At the barn,” Face continued, as if no one had spoken, “veer right and…head up over the hill. You’ll…head straight…into them….” He smiled, “they…probably…find you first….” His eyes closed again.
“Give the medicine a
chance,” the healer advised. “I’m glad
he woke up, and that he was cognizant. Those are very good signs.” He smiled, but
“Well, the directions seem simple enough,” Ethel agreed. “If they will take us in, then we will go there. For how long?”
“We’ll come get you,” Ezra promised. She looked at him again, and nodded.
“Then I’ll leave you gentlemen to your plans. I need to get my sisters moving.” She turned and left, shutting the door behind her.
“Good woman,” Hannibal muttered, leaning back on his chair. “A little narrow minded, but good.”
Josiah chuckled, happy to hear his own opinion echoed, and moved to sit on the only other chair in the room, near the window, “Yes,” he agreed, “she is.”