The Magpie



Chapter Seven


Kite walked into the saloon, nudging his way through the already thick crowd to where Jay had established himself at the bar.  It was barely ten o’clock in the morning, but the crowds were already pouring in for tonight’s concert.  He’d nearly been run over twice by surreys coming in from heaven knew where, carrying dressed up ladies and pompous looking men in suits.


“Any luck?” he asked Jay as he signaled the woman tending the bar.  The Mexican senorita walked over, her eyes questioning.  “Coffee.  Black,” he ordered.  She nodded and went to get another thick ceramic mug from somewhere off to the side.


“Ne’er do wells, mostly.  None of them look like they’ve just stolen anything…even if they could,” Jay said.  “There’s loads of people here, Kite.  I checked out some of the other bars and café’s in town.  I looked for the look…that cat who just ate the canary look…but no one seemed to have it.  There’s lots of gossip about the stolen brooch, but that’s it.”


“Yeah,” Kite nodded.  “I checked out the slightly more upscale places…not that there are many…and I got the same impression.  And the Law don’t seem to be getting anywhere either.  I did get the impression from talking to one of the bellboys, though, that they’re pretty sure the thief is still in town.  Hiding in the crowds.”


“Makes sense.  Be much easier to leave when everyone else does, in the morning, after the concert is over,” Jay nodded.  “That’d be real smart.  Escaping with the crowds.  After all…that’s what we were gonna do.”


Kite nodded.  “Yeah…but why not steal it tonight instead of last night.  Then no one would have been looking for them at all until too late.”  He threw a couple of pennies on the bar as Inez gave him his coffee, and she took them with a polite smile.  Turning around, he took a sip out of the mug and surveyed the room.  He straightened as two newcomers entered the bar.


“Here…that’s the law,” Kite hissed, turning his head away from the door as Chris and Buck pushed through the great double doors, talking to each other in low tones.  Jay’s eyes widened, and he spun around to hunch against the bar.






“That’s Buck Wilmington.”


“Buck who?”


Jay looked at him, then leaned forward, “Bastard was a Texas Ranger.  He tracked me once all the way into Indian Country and took me back for trial.  Sent me up for my first time.  I escaped, of course, but I thought I was out of his territory.  Damn.  He’s worse’n a dog with a bone.”


“The other one’s no better,” Kite added.  “Name’s Larabee.  Chris Larabee.  Black-hearted, so they say.”


“I need to get out of here,” Jay said, looking around nervously.  Wilmington sees me, he’s bound to think I stole the brooch.”


Kits sighed, but nodded.  “All right, go.  But stay close.  We need that brooch.  Watch everyone who leaves…if anyone does.  Maybe we’ll get lucky with one of them.  Might as well have a look for any familiar faces in the folks camping outside of town too, while yer at it.  You never know….”


Jay nodded, stood, and sidling past Buck with his head down, scuttled out of the doors.  In moments, he was headed into the livery, looking over his shoulder every few moments for a tall man with a moustache.


Being so one track minded, he never saw the sharp brown eyes of the kid, watching his movements from the bench in front of the saloon, where he was still waiting for Ezra to return. 


“Furtive,” JD said, using one of Ezra’s words that he’d liked, “definitely furtive.”  He stood up and stole over to the livery, watching as the dark headed man saddled up his horse through the slats.  As Jay led the horse out, JD went in the back and saddled his own horse, intent on following the stranger out of town.


Ezra reached the saloon just as JD spurred his horse into a canter out of town.  The gambler lifted his head, watching until the kid disappeared, vaguely wondering if JD had a lead.  Then, with an abrupt shake of his head, he decided he didn’t care.  After all…he was no longer on the case.  Right?


Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his timepiece and noted the early hour.  Perhaps it was too early still to….


Now, hold on.  What was he thinking?  It was never too early to make money. 


As he pushed through the batwings, he pulled out a deck of cards.



Chapter Eight


Kite rubbed his roman nose, and settled back on his chair to keep watch on the saloon.  The gamblers in particular kept drawing his eye.  At least three of them seemed professional types, and the one with his back to the wall in the navy coat appeared to be lording over them.  Must be the resident king of the tinhorns.


Kite arched an eyebrow. 


Might be useful, getting to know someone like that. 


Standing up, he grabbed his glass and wandered over to join the collection of people watching the game.  The head gambler considered him out of the corner of his eye as Kite settled against the railing to the man’s left, as one professional seeing another.  Kite didn’t hide his guns anymore than the gambler hid his profession by his flashy clothes, even if this one seemed a little more subdued in his attire than most.  He smiled and took a sip from his glass.


He stiffened suddenly as he realized that he wasn’t the only one who had headed over here.  Chris Larabee had also left the former Ranger at the bar and ghosted up to the table.  The man’s granite eyes glanced at Kite before focusing on the head gambler.




“Mr. Larabee.”


Kite leaned back at the cold greeting, and his smile grew…well now, wasn’t this was interesting….


“I want you to know that I didn’t find out anything new at the hotel.”


“What a surprise,” the gambler drawled mockingly.  Larabee grimaced.


“Doesn’t mean I was wrong about you and the kid.”


“Uh huh,” Ezra passed to cards to the gambler on his left.


Larabee sighed, “I want you to tell me what you know about the brooch.”


Ezra glanced up at the gunslinger, then shrugged.  “Why don’t you ask Mr. Dunne?”  He changed three cards for the man opposite him.


“I get the feeling the kid won’t talk to me.”


“Probably right.”  Ezra passed three cards to a man to his right.


Chris pursed his lips, then leaned over to whisper in Ezra’s ear, “Listen, don’t make this harder than it needs to be.  Just tell me what you know, or think you know.”


Ezra gave a tiny smile, then changed the cards in his own hand.  He put the remaining deck to one side and turned to look fully at the gunslinger.


“Mr. Larabee, if I have anything to say to you about any missing brooch, I will do it at a time more convenient for me.  Right now, as you can see, I’m rather busy.  Now please…go away.”


Kite’s eyes widened, especially as he saw Larabee’s right hand clench into a fist.  Then the same fist unclenched, and Larabee straightened up.


“Ezra…,” he began.


“Do not tarnish yourself by consorting with known thieves, Mr. Larabee,” Ezra replied coldly.  “People might talk.  Now,” he looked to the man on his left, “I believe it is your bet, Mr. Cassowary.”  The professional gambler  on his left smiled cordially back, pretending deafness to anything he may have heard prior to being asked to bet, and tossed a five dollar chip into the pot.


Chris’s eyes smoldered, but he didn’t reply to the jibe.  Why had he listened to Mary?  Instead, he just shook his head in irritation and walked away.


“This isn’t over, Ezra,” he promised over his shoulder.


Ezra ignored him, simply asked one of the less professional men at the table to return his attention to the game.  “Your bet, sir?”


The man nodded nervously, and tossed the required coins into the pot.


Kite wanted to applaud.


Yes…he wanted to get to know this man better.


Especially if he knew where the brooch was.



Chapter Nine


Jay headed out at a brisk clip, then slowed after he had crossed a couple of rises.  There were people and horses scattered everywhere, hanging out and waiting for the concert, all of whom Jay ignored as he sought out a good secluded spot where he could watch the road…and maybe get a kip.  At least, that had been the initial plan….


A mixture of paranoia and experience told him that he was being followed, and the thought that it might be Wilmington scared the hell out of him. 


Up ahead, he saw a small thicket of juniper bushes crowding some large boulders.  Riding up to them, he swung around behind them and quickly dismounted.  Leading his rented horse up until it was practically inside the bushes on the far side, the thief crept back and jumped up into a crack high enough to unseat the next rider that came around the rocks.


He didn’t have to wait long -- the sound of a horse trotting towards the rocks greeted his ears and he tensed up in anticipation.


The approaching horse slowed down, the rider perhaps sensing that something might be wrong.  Nevertheless, the horse still came.


JD came around the rocks slowly, his eyes squinting in the bright sunlight, evidencing his sudden unease.  A shift of the rocks to his right had him suddenly look up, but it was too late.


Jay slammed into him, throwing him from his seat to land brutally on his side in the dirt.  The kid’s yell of pain was swallowed as all the air was forced from his lungs, and his head slammed hard into the ground. 


Jay grimaced at the now unconscious young man, not recognizing him.  There appeared to be nothing special about the way he looked – except that he dressed like an easterner – which made the dark headed man even more curious.  Reaching over, Jay went through the kid’s pockets, pulling out a piece of string, a half written letter (“Dear Casey, how are you? I’m good.  How’s Ms. Wells?  By the way, I was wondering if, when you came to town next, maybe, if you’re not too busy, you might like to go riding up to blackberry farm, not that I mean anything by that….” Aww, how cute, Jay thought, realizing it was to a girl), and a dollar and some change.  Not much.


“Okay kid,” he said, standing up and staring down at JD, “Who the hell are you?”


“No mister,” Vin’s voice said, accompanied by the ratcheting sound of his Mare’s Leg being readied to fire, “who the hell are you?”



Ezra stared acidly at the gambler to his right as the man set down a full house.  


“Aces over fives, my friends,” Mr. Cassowary said, grinning. “Looks like I’ve gone done it again.”  He reached for the pot with both hands, only to suddenly find a well manicured hand grab his left hand.  Ezra crushed the hand, and the man yelped.


“Hey!  What the hell are you….”  The strange gambler grunted in pain as Ezra twisted the hand over, grabbed the man’s sleeve with his other hand and pushed the soft black material back.


The spring loaded card holder spewed three aces out.


“Get out of here,” Ezra hissed darkly as the rest of the table started to mutter angrily at finding the cheat, “or that hand of yours is going to suffer a permanent lack of fingers….got it?”  Hands started resting on guns around them.


Cassowary shot up from his chair in a flash, the spring loaded car holder bending as he did so, and backed away from the table, looking at Ezra and the other gamblers, who all regarded him with undisguised malice.


“No trouble, mister,” he said, both hands raised, “no trouble…”


Ezra tilted his head to one side, green eyes glittering like icicles in the sunshine, and ejected the derringer under his sleeve into his palm…He smiled as he lifted the tiny gun to point directly at the man’s forehead.


The man ran out of the room like a shot, not even bothering to look back as the batwings slapped close behind him.  The saloon, which had instinctively gotten very quiet at the first sign of a cheater, erupted in laughter.  Ezra sighed, tucked the small gun back, and stood.  Smiling at the others, he started dividing the pot…and the money Cassowary had left behind…into equal piles for the other players.  The gambler to his right patted him on the back, while the others laughed at the good fortune at suddenly finding themselves a little richer.


Another pat on the back had Ezra glancing to his left, only to find a strange blond man with a hawk-like nose smiling at him.  There was no question…the man’s dark eyes gave definition to the word “beady.”  Ezra gave him a nod.


“That was well spotted, mister,” the stranger said.  “I’m impressed.  Man had me fooled and I consider myself an excellent judge.  Can usually spot a cheat from miles away….”  He smiled again.  Ezra resisted the urge to roll his eyes, and instead indicated the seat.


“Would you like to join us, sir?  We do have an empty seat.”


“Ah, no…poker has never been my art.  I’m more of a dice man myself.  But I would like to buy you a drink.”


Ezra shrugged, “I’d never deny a free drink.  Be my guest, sir.”


“Good.  Waitress!”  Kite waived to Cherise as she navigated the floor below.  She glanced up and he held up two fingers.  “Scotch, single malt, if you have it.”


She nodded, and disappeared into the throng.  Kite smiled back at Ezra, but the gambler was already back at his table and shuffling, telling the others to ante up.


Kite hid the annoyance, but settled back against the post.  “What is your name, sir,” he asked. 


Ezra glanced at him, already dealing, “Standish.  Ezra Standish.”


“James Kite.”


“Pleasure, Mr. Kite.”


“All mine, Mr. Standish.”



“Oh Mr. Larabee!” a sing-song voice called. 


Chris closed his eyes.  He’d been dreading this.  Slowly, he took a deep breath, and turned around just as the enormous, beribboned blond woman reached him.  Gwendolyn Pigeon placed her hands on her ample hips and attempted a scowl.   “Mr. Larabee, am I to understand that you are now in charge of the investigation into my missing brooch?”


“Yes, ma’am, I am,” Chris said.  “I’m afraid my associates, Mr. Standish and Mr. D….”


“Oh, please,” she shook a dismissive hand, “I have heard all about Mr. Standish.  To think that such a nefarious character had me so fooled.  I am embarrassed to know that I ever trusted such a person.  In any event….”


“Ms. Pigeon,” Chris interrupted sharply, “I don’t know what you heard, but Ezra is a respected member of the law here.  He is only not working on this case because I’ve asked him to deal with something of greater importance.  Now, if you’ll excuse me…” With a tip of his hat, he turned around.


Mrs. Pigeon screeched.  Literally…screeched.  With her volume, trained by years of stage presence, the sound rightly should have shattered every window on the street.  The fact that they only wobbled was only evidence that she hadn’t chosen too high a pitch.


It was enough, however, to cause Chris Larabee to bend over in agony, his hands on his ears.  He turned and looked back at her with wild eyes.  He didn’t think human beings could make that sort of sound!


“I will not,” she huffed, “be dismissed in such a manner!”  She walked up close to him, her height seeming to match his – although it might have just been the hat, the long white cockatoo feathers and pink ribbons on which tickled his nose – and stared him in the eyes.  “Greater…importance?” she repeated, stressing the words.  “Right now…unless the Queen of England herself steps off a coach onto the filthy streets of this backwater…there is nothing, understand me, NOTHING, of more importance than my brooch.   I warn you, Mr. Larabee, if that brooch is not found by the time I sing tonight….”


“Don’t tell me,” he said, backing away from the feathers…and the hellacious perfume she was wearing…eau de skunk?..., “you’re not going to sing.”


She smiled coldly, “Oh no, Mr. Larabee.  I’ll sing.  I’m a professional, and the show must always go on.  However,” and her smile grew evil, “I will destroy this town in the press, and sue the pants off of you and everyone in it.  By the time the damages are paid off, the only thing left here will be the dust.” 


She turned then, her multitude of skirts creating a mini tornado around her feet, and she stormed away, back to the hotel.


Chris watched her leave, then glanced upwards as three magpies swooped over head, heading for the large tree at the end of town. 


“Guess they were disappointed,” Buck whispered at his left.  Chris glanced at the ladies’ man, who, it seemed, had materialized out of thin air. 




“The birds.  That screech probably sounded like a mating call to them,” Buck grinned roguishly.  “And with all them feathers she was wearing….”


“Hell, Buck,” Chris sighed, “your mind…I’d really hate to live there.”


Buck’s grin grew, and he slapped his oldest friend on the back.  “Drink, stud?”


“Several, I think, and all doubles.”



Chapter Ten


Jay grimaced, annoyed at his treatment by the buffalo hunter.  The kid was going to be fine – just had the wind knocked out of him, but this long haired man acted as if he’d nearly killed him.  After stammering out an explanation about wanting to ambush the kid because he’d been following him, the buffalo hunter had tied him up and sat him on the ground within easy sight as he checked on the kid.


Now, as the sun hit its zenith, the kid started moaning and the buffalo hunter was finally distracted.  Jay considered his chances of getting away.  If he could just undo the bindings….


“Don’t even think about it,” Vin hissed, watching Jay out of the corner of his eye.


“Look, I told you,” Jay said, “I don’t know why the kid was following me.  I was just off riding, and when I realized he was chasing me…I decided to turn the tables.  Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.”


“Then why don’t you tell me your name,” Vin replied quickly.


“Because it ain’t your business.  And, besides, you ain’t told me yours.”


Vin gave a noncommittal grunt, and nudged JD.  The kid was bruised, but there was nothing much else wrong with him. 


JD opened an eye, saw Vin, and groaned. 


“Wake up, JD,” Vin commanded.


“Damn, Vin…can’t I sleep just a bit longer?”


“No.  Up.  Now.”


JD opened both eyes, blinked a few times as he took in his surroundings, then groaned again, touching his head.  “What happened?”


“You were ambushed.”


“By who?”


“By that fella there, who won’t tell me his name.  Who is he?”  Vin pointed at Jay.


JD rolled over, looked at Jay, then rolled back.  “No idea.”


Vin looked confused for a moment, “What?”


“I told you!” Jay said.  “He had no reason to follow me!  I was jest doing my own thing….”


“Kid,” Vin knelt down, “if you don’t know who he is, why were you following him?”


“Dunno,” JD pushed himself up on his elbows, peered at Vin, then back again at the stranger.  “He looked suspicious, so I followed him.”


Jay gave a laugh, and Vin glared at him.  Then he spoke again to JD, “suspicious, why?”


“Thought he might know about the brooch.”


Jay froze, then tried to appear relaxed as Vin glanced at him again.  The buffalo hunter grimaced.


“What brooch?” Vin asked.  JD pushed himself all the way up to sitting position.


“The opera singer’s.  It was stolen last night.”


Vin looked down, then shook his head.  “JD…I saw this one and his friend arrive this morning.  They weren’t in town last night.”


JD looked at Vin, then over at Jay, and sighed.  “Oh.”


“You were following me because you thought I had stolen a brooch?” Jay asked.  He wanted to laugh at the irony.  Instead, he maintained a straight face as the one called JD nodded.  Jay shrugged.  “Well, I don’t have it.  Sorry, son.  I’m not the one you want.”


JD grimaced, looked at Vin, then sighed again.  “Man, my head hurts.”


Vin looked at Jay, sensing probably the same thing JD did.  Something smelled wrong about this man, but he couldn’t pinpoint what. 


“Want to tell me your name now?” Vin asked.


Jay stared at him, then shrugged.  “Jason Blue.”


“Vin,” Vin said, then nudged JD, “and this is JD.”


“Nice to meet you,” Jay replied perfunctorily.  “Can you untie me now?”



Ezra stood up from the table, thanking the men there for an “enjoyable game” and pocketed his winnings. 


Kite had stayed the whole time that Ezra had played, stifling his impatience as the game progressed.  With the cheater gone, it became more a matter of skill, and he had to admire this Ezra Standish.  There was no question he was the best player at the table, though he didn’t make much more money than what he already had.  Eventually, however, as the clock struck one, interest among the players appeared to wane as the lunchbell was rung in front of several of the local food halls, and the green eyed gambler had decided to call the time.


Kite followed him out of the saloon.  Ezra stood on the boardwalk…waiting for him.


“Why didn’t you just clean them out?” the stranger asked conversationally.  “More than once, I saw you fold on the winning hand.”


“To make sure they came back,” Ezra replied.  “The money on the table at this time merely represented an appetizer.  Even a dice man should know that the best money is made at the end of the evening, not at noon.  Night is when people are the most desperate…and the most foolhardy.  Filled with the belief that they have a chance to win, they’ll return, with their friends, and with more cash tonight.”  Ezra pulled down his cuffs, straightened the lace as he spoke.


Kite smiled.  “Mr. Standish…why is a professional such as yourself in this town?”


Ezra smiled back, but he didn’t answer.  Kite nodded, adding the silence to the image he’d created in his head. 


“Mr. Standish, may I buy you lunch?  There’s something I’d like to talk over with you.”


Ezra’s smile grew.  “Of course.  I’m never one to turn down a free meal.”


Inside the batwing doors of the saloon, Chris Larabee watched them cross the street with a dark expression.



Chapter Eleven


Vin eyed JD speculatively as the kid rubbed at his head.  Jay was rubbing his wrists where the ropes had made them sore, and looking about ready to head off again.  He started looking around where he was sitting to see if he had all his things.


“What’s this about a brooch, kid,” Vin asked suddenly. 


Jay stopped moving.  Trying not to seem interested as he listened, he tried to find an excuse to stay seated.  He continued to rub at his wrists.


“Oh…someone stole it late last night.  Right out the hotel window.  Say,” JD looked up, “you were up awful early, Vin, did you see…?”


“Nah.  I was up early, kid, not late.  There weren’t no one moving when I cracked my lids.  You talk to Ezra and Josiah?”  The two were the only ones who ever stayed up late, unless one of the other seven were on watch.  No one was on watch last night.


“Josiah was still sleeping when I left.  I suppose I could go talk to him.  And Ezra…well….”


Vin didn’t miss the sour expression on JD’s face, “What?”


“Chris thinks Ezra has something to do with it.”


“What?” Vin almost choked on the word.  “You’re kidding?”


“Wish I was.  Ezra was helping me this morning, trying to find who did it, and Chris got all mad and ordered him to stop.  Shoulda heard him -- almost accused Ezra of stealing it himself.”


“JD, are you sure….”


“He brought up Hopewell.  And the ten thousand that Ezra almost stole.”  JD glanced at Vin, seeing the knotting of the tracker’s brow at the news.  The kid nodded, seeing the comprehension. “Guess he still don’t trust him.  Not when it comes to money.”


Vin’s eyes narrowed.  It still didn’t sound right.  He’d thought Chris had begun to trust Ezra again.


“It was wicked embarrassing, Chris,” JD said, his eyes angry again.  “Called Ezra suspicious.  Like he wanted to lock him up for it or something.”


“Look, kid, I’m not nay saying, but,” Vin shook his head.  “Chris…he’s not gonna just accuse Ezra unless…..”


“Well he did.  I was there.  And so was Buck.  You just ask him.” 


Vin’s jaw clenched, and he suddenly remembered the other man sitting nearby.  He turned his head to look at the dark headed man and lifted his eyebrows.


“Mister…you got some reason to still be here?”


Jay’s eyebrows shot up.  “Me?”


“Yeah…you.  Go on, get outta here.”


“Sure thing,” Jay smiled, standing up and backing away, heading for his horse. 


“Now, kid,” Vin said, looking at JD, “tell me everything.”



Jay reached his horse and swiftly mounted.  In a moment, he was headed back into town.  He had news.



Chapter Twelve


“You’re interested in Mrs. Pigeon’s brooch?” Ezra asked, sitting back in his chair, the food on his plate barely touched.  Kite shrugged.  He’d tried to be subtle about asking, but clearly without success.


“To put it bluntly, yes.”




Kite’s smile grew, “Because…well, frankly, my partner and I intended to steal it.”


Ezra’s own smile grew.  “You’re joking.”




“Amazing.  Have to admire your honesty,” the gambler took a sip of the wine in front of him.


“Do you have it?” Kite leaned forward on the table, looking directly at the gambler.  Ezra’s mouth rested on the lip of the glass, tasting the edges of the merlot, his green eyes watching Kite carefully.  Finally, he put the glass down, and shook his head.


“No, Mr. Kite, I do not.”


Kite watched him a moment longer, not breaking eye contact.  Then, slowly, he nodded.


“I believe you.”


“Thank you.”


“Do you know who has it?”


“Not the foggiest.”


Kite lifted his own glass, and twirled the wine around in a circle, watching the legs form as it settled down.


“Then…why does Chris Larabee think you do.”


“Ah,” Ezra nodded, understanding a little better.  “You are speaking of the conversation we had in the saloon.”




“Mr. Larabee and I…have a past, Mr. Kite.  You misunderstood our words.  Let’s leave it at that.”


Kite shrugged, and reached for his glass again.  After a moment, he swallowed the whole glass down in one gulp.  He looked at Ezra again, peering up at the man through his eyebrows.


“Listen,” he hissed, “I think you’re telling me the truth that you don’t have it.  I do not, however, believe that you don’t know who does.  Or where it might be found.  So, I’ll make you a deal.  Tell me what you know…and I’ll pay you a thousand dollars.”


Ezra had been taking another sip of his wine, and nearly choked.  His eyes lifted, green eyes bright. 


“I’m sorry?”


“You heard me.”


Ezra shook his head, “Mr. Kite…you really…your offer, while tempting, has been given in vain.  I really don’t know where the brooch is.”


Kite’s brow furrowed, “I’m not offering again, Standish.”


“Believe me,” Ezra shook his head, “If I knew, I would tell you.  That is unquestionably the best offer I’ve had in a long time, particularly considering that I plan to leave here soon, and that money would be a great boon.  But I can’t help you.”


Kite’s jaw tensed, his teeth gritted.  Then, abruptly, he leaned back and lifted his hands, an amicable smile on his face again.


“All right, if that’s how you want it.”


Ezra’s eyes narrowed slightly, reading something more in the man’s face.  “Mr. Kite, I do not know anything about the brooch.”


Kite nodded, “Of course you don’t.”  Standing, he pulled a couple of bills from a wallet in his coat and slapped them down on the table.  “Thank you for the meal, Mr. Standish.”


Ezra nodded in response, then watched with a furrowed brow as Kite turned and left the hotel restaurant.    As soon as the man was out of sight, Ezra grabbed the still half full bottle of wine on the table, he poured it into the glass in front of him until it was full…


And downed the entire thing in one gulp.



Kite looked down at the note that had been slipped under his door, along with a packet of cash, recognizing the handwriting of the same person who had told them that the brooch was going to be here.  He frowned at the words, confusion knitting his brow.


Congratulations on stealing the brooch.  The gambler you had lunch with is the one.  Put the brooch in his room.  Once he has been arrested, the rest of the money will be yours.


“Huh?” he muttered, looking up. What the hell?  Walking to the window, he checked out the street.  With some interest, he spotted Ezra Standish walk out of the hotel, his hands behind his back, head bowed in obvious thought.


“What is going on here,” he said.  Then his eyes lifted again as he saw someone ride swiftly into town, almost hitting several people as he came in past the church. 


Jay rode up to the boarding house, glanced up at the window, and gave a thumbs up when he saw Kite watching him.


The hawk-nosed man moved away to sit on the bed, waiting for his partner.  He didn’t have to wait long.  Jay stomped up the steps and threw the door open with a bang.


“I think I know who’s got that brooch,” Jay said breathlessly.


Kite waved at him to shut the door, his expression only mildly annoyed at the other man’s thoughtlessness.  Jay ignored the look and shut the door.  Then he moved to sit next to his partner.


“There’s some fella in town named Ezra.  Larabee apparently thinks he did it.”


Kite gave a half smile, “Yes.  I know.  But look at this.”  He handed the note to Jay, who’s smile only lessened slightly as he read the note.


“The rancher thinks we stole it?”




“And he wants us to frame a gambler?”


“Yup,” Kite’s eyes were still narrowed in confusion.  “And not just any gambler.  He’s talking about Ezra Standish.”


“Ezra…the same Ezra that probably stole the brooch?”


“Yup.  Except I’m not sure he stole it.  He knows who did though, I’m pretty sure of that.”


“Something’s weird here, Kite.”


“I know, Jay.”


“So what do we do?”


Kite’s eyebrows lifted, and he went back to the window.  “Watch him,” he said, indicating the gambler as he headed towards the livery.