Old Friends, New Faces
(Old West)

by Karen Lally

Disclaimer: This story is a piece of fanfiction containing characters which are the property of MGM, Trilogy, and CBS. I do not make any claims to these characters.


The plain was empty, excepting the cries of the eagles and the two riders they were shadowing. The shorter of the two riders leaned over to his companion a little as they followed the tracks on the ground in front of them.

"Mr. Tanner, how far do you suppose our quarry will have managed to ride since he absconded from Eagle Bend?" Ezra Standish asked the lean tracker riding beside him. The weather was quite cool, due to the recent rains, and the ride would have been nice, if not for the fact that Ezra and Vin were trailing an escaped, convicted murderer.

"Well, I spose he coulda got as far as that canyon between here and Four Corners if he rode quick enough." Vin Tanner kept his eyes on the ground, looking for the signs that would alert him as to the path taken by the man they were after. The handsome gambler shook his head in amazement at Vinís skills. Growing up with an Indian tribe, Vin had spent his childhood learning how to follow a trail, and since he had been employed as a protector for the town of Four Corners, along with Ezra and five other men, his skills had been in constant demand.

A bullet spat up dust at the foot of Vinís horse, as the hunted man tried to prevent being recaptured. Without a word being spoken, Vin and Ezra split up to attempt to surround the gunman to take him by surprise. Ezra could see the faint silhouette through the thick shrubbery as he spurred his horse into a gallop. Looking back over his shoulder, he could also see Vin trying to break though the bushes to give him a hand. Concentrating on the man in front of him, Ezra barely noticed the fading sound of Vinís pursuit as he chased his quarry.

Cursing the bushes to hell, Vin tried to break through to the other side of the thicket. Pockets of brush like this were uncommon in the area, but when you found one, it was hard to break through. Vin could hear the receding noise of hoofbeats as Ezra and the murderer, McManus, rode further away.

 

After pursuing McManus for about an hour, Ezra was surprised and instantly wary when he saw the horse heíd been chasing standing on open ground. To one side there was more of the annoying pickle bush they had just ridden through and to the other was the small canyon, leading down to the river. Cautiously, Ezra dismounted listening for McManus. Although Ezra had none of the tracking training of Vin, his eyesight for detail was keen and honed and from years of playing poker and watching for the slightest tells of the other players. Footsteps led to the brush, and Ezra paused, listening intently. The river below, in the canyon, was flowing rapidly, courtesy of the deluge of the previous days.

It was times like these where Ezra began to wonder whether it was such a marvelous career move to agree to ride with the mismatched band of men employed to protect Four Corners by Judge Travis. True, he did receive a full pardon for a bail jumping charge from his days in Fort Laramie. The gang consisted of the famous gunslinger, Chris Larabee, Vin Tanner, the ex-bounty hunter with a bounty on his own head, Chrisí long time friend Buck Wilmington, Josiah Sanchez, the philosophical ex-preacher, JD Dunne, the young sheriff of the town and Nathan Jackson, a Negro healer. Although they seemed to be just a motley mix of men, the gang combined well as a team. However Ezra couldnít shake the feeling that he was the odd man out in the gang. From a wandering gambler, intent on making some money, to suddenly working in the capacity of a lawman, was a strange shift in vocation. To have people who depended upon you as well, was a new feeling for the gambler. The most amusing aspect of his new job was that, during his life as a con man, heíd spent most of his time trying to avoid the type of men he had now become, respectable lawmen.

His horse seemed anxious, and trusting the animalís instinct, Ezra waited. Mentally Ezra cursed himself for wearing his red jacket today. Although he quite liked the jacket, it made him extremely visible to the man he was trying to locate. Fully expecting the onslaught from McManus, Ezra felt his derringer slip into his hand. The little pistol had saved his life on numerous occasions, and its weight was comforting. He turned suddenly as he heard the footsteps coming towards him to face the murderer. Thanks to his quick reflexes, Ezra only received part of the blow that had been aimed at his head, but it sent the small gun flying off into the dirt. Slightly dazed, Ezra grabbed McManus by the neck and struck him across the temple with a well-aimed punch. McManus fell to the ground, taking Ezra with him. The two struggled, each trying to get a decent grip on the others throat. McManus was able to land a couple of successful punches across Ezraís chin, stunning the gambler. This was quickly followed up by a kick to his chest, which left Ezra gasping for breath. Before McManus could get up off the ground, however, Ezra managed to knock his legs out from underneath him, sending the criminal crashing to the ground. Ezra regained some ground and retaliated forcefully. Neither of the men realized how close they were to the edge of the canyon until it was nearly too late. When Ezra felt himself falling, he grabbed a hold of a rock, with his free hand, as the two rolled over the edge. McManus realizing he was falling, grabbed the gambler around the waist and tried to climb back onto solid ground, using Ezra as a ladder. The weight of the men, combined with the rain-loosened dirt, was enough to wrench the rock from the ground it was embedded in. Ezra and McManus plummeted down the steep canyon wall.

Ezra felt the sting of the gravel stones as they bit into the flesh of his hands, and the rocks as they cascaded down around the tumbling bodies. Sharp pinpricks of pain behind his eyes made their presence felt as the rocks stuck the hapless gambler. His dazed mind registered the cold river water as he rolled into the surging river to be carried downstream, and he had the sense to grab onto a tree branch as he mercifully lost consciousness.

*******

After back tracing for about half a mile, Vin found the tracks made by McManus and Ezra, in their race through the scrub. Urging his mount on, Vin hoped Ezra was okay, as he recalled to himself some of McManusí previous doings. Amos McManus had killed no less that eighteen people in cold blood, using whatever devices were at hand. Guns, knives, glasses, bottles and he was rumored to have murdered one man with nothing more than a chair leg. Vin wanted to find Ezra as soon as possible, and hoped that the loquacious gambler had not become McManusí nineteenth victim.

*******

"Hey! Masters, come over here!" A shabbily dressed gunslinger called over to the gang, who had made their camp at the bend in the river. Masters wandered over to where Coot had been filling canteens when he saw what Coot had seen. There was a coat, floating in the water, obviously washed downstream as a result of the flooding. It was a red coat, muddied and torn, and it appeared to be tangled in a log. Curious, Masters waded out to the beached log. Pulling the jacket, he got the shock of his life, when the jacket pulled its wearer out of the tangled shrubbery.

"Holy Mother!" Coot exclaimed beside him, bending down to get a look at the pale, mud streaked face of the man theyíd pulled from the river. Groaning softly, the man tried to sit up, but Masters gently held the man down. He was hurt.

"Whatís your name, fella?" Masters asked, as he and Coot slid their arms underneath the manís shoulders, and began dragging him back to the camp. The man, with his eyes barely open, didnít reply.

"Hey Masters, you reckon itís McManus?"

"I donít know Coot." Upon reaching the small camp, consisting of a jumble of tents around a campfire, the rest of the men came out to gawk at the new arrival. Masters, the leader of the outfit, motioned for Coot to start lowering the injured man to the ground.

 

Masters was supposed to meet Amos McManus here, a thief, murderer and good friend of Mastersí, now deceased, brother. McManus was going to lead the gang on a robbery in Four Corners, where they would also have the opportunity to knock off the seven gunslingers protecting the town at the same time. Having never met McManus, Masters hoped that if this fella was the notorious bandit, he wasnít too badly hurt.

"Looks about the right size, from what Art told me," Masters told his gang. The ten men crowded the prone form while Coot and Masters began to check him over. The act of rolling the man onto his side caused him to groan again and come to.

His head was killing, the pain attempting to smother him. He looked up into the eyes of the men around him. He had no idea who they were.

"Whatís your name, fella?" Masters gently asked the man again. Thinking hard, the man closed his green eyes and tried to recall just what his name was. In a soft, southern accent he replied, sounding confused.

"I... I donít know." In fact his name wasnít the only detail missing from his memory. He couldnít remember his name, where he was from or anything like that. It was all just blank. "What happened?" he asked, hoping that one of these fellas would know more than he did. At this point, that wouldnít be real hard.

Coot was the first to reply. "Donít rightly know. We just drug yíoutta that river, yonder. Got yourself a bit banged up, huh?" The man nodded slowly, so as not to upset his head. Other than the fact that his head was throbbing painfully, he felt pretty good.

"Does the name Amos McManus mean anything to you at all?" Masters asked. It was a shot in a million but he tried anyway.

"Amos McManus..." The name did have a familiar ring to it, the man thought. "It is kinda familiar, but I donít know why. I canít remember anything."

 

By now a couple of the gang members had rustled up some dry clothes for the new fella, an old shirt, some trousers that looked about the right size and a warm, well worn buckskin coat. The gear had belonged to one of the men who used to ride with the gang, but heíd died recently, after picking a bad fight, and no longer had any use for his things. Once Masters was satisfied that the man wasnít going to pass out, he pointed in the direction of a tent where he could change his clothes. After that, they could all find out if he was McManus or not.

*******

Approaching the clearing, after carefully following the tracks of the two riders for almost an hour, Vin was instantly worried about Ezra. His horse was still standing in the clearing, but the tracks showed that a scuffle had recently occurred. Ezraís hat lay in the dirt next to the horse. Vin dismounted quickly and followed the tracks to the edge of the canyon. There was a body lying at an odd angle at the base of the drop. Dammit! That best not be you, Ezra! Vin hoped madly as he slid his eyeglass out of his pocket. He breathed a short sigh of relief when he saw that the body was that of McManus. Now he just had to find the gambler. Turning around to study the tracks again, Vin noticed the flash of sunlight on metal. Ezraís derringer. The gambler rarely went anywhere without his hidden pistol, and would never leave it lying on the ground. Something must have happened to Ezra for him to leave his gun, Vin decided.

Vin heard a noise out in the scrub. Mareís leg rifle in hand, Vin prayed that it was the missing con man. "Ezra! Is that you?"

"No it ainít Ezra," Buck replied, parting the bushes to get out into the clearing. Behind him was the rest of the gang.

Josiah called from the back; "You were late getting back to where we agreed to meet, so we followed the horse trail to here."

"Where is Ezra, anyway?" JD asked, as they all dismounted and filed into the clearing. "Did you find McManus?"

Chris looked at the tracker. Vin looked as though heíd aged five years in the last couple of hours.

"Found McManus. Heís right there at the base of this little cliff, dead. Me aní Ezra got separated chasing him, aní by the time I got to here, McManus was dead and I canít find Ezra. All I could find was this." He held out the derringer and the hat. If anything had happened to the con man, Vin felt that it would be entirely his fault. "I reckon they musta had a fight and gotten too close to the edge."

Without a word being spoken, everyone mounted up and began riding down stream, searching for any sign of their missing friend.

"He was wearing his red jacket today, wasnít he?" JD asked, his hazel eyes searching the river and the banks for any splashes of color. Buck shook his head at JDís question.

"Honestly JD, I donít know how you could forget what color jacket that man wears. Theyíre all so goddamn bright!"

Chris rode alongside the tracker. "Reckon heíd have a chance of getting downstream, donít you?" Chris knew Vin all too well and knew heíd be blaming himself for Ezra going missing.

"Yeah, I guess he wouldíve." Vin didnít add, if he survived the drop. Scanning the edges of the rapidly flowing river from the edge of the canyon, the six men continued looking for their friend. Chris knew where the river could be crossed, about two, maybe three miles down river. Maybe Ezra had made it that far, or at least Chris hoped he had.

*******

Sitting on a log, waiting for Masters to finish organizing the gang to leave the camp, the man tried to sift through his mind. Who am I? he wondered. His memories were totally blank, de nada, nothing there. Okay, what do I know? Iíve got a southern accent, according to the boys here, I floated down a river and I had a red jacket. Great, he could sum his whole life up into one sentence! He could understand basic Spanish, because a couple of the other gang members had spoken in the language and he could understand what they had said. That was a start, he supposed.

"You know who you are yet?" Masters asked, sitting down on the log. The man just shook his head.

"I appreciate the clothes and all," the man said to Masters.

"Ah, thatís alright. The fella whose they areís dead anyway." For some reason this struck the man as hilarious, and as he chuckled, he smiled revealing a gold tooth. Masters eyes widened. It had to be McManus! From what his brother, Art had told him, McManus was very proud of his lucky gold tooth.

"I reckon you are McManus," Masters told the man.

"Whyís that?"

"Well, for starters, you got a gold tooth, just like I know McManus has. Youíre here and weíre expecting McManus and you said the name was a bit familiar. You must be Amos." Mastersí logic was good enough for the man, and it felt good to have a name.

"Fine then. Iím Amos McManus. Who are you and why am I here?" McManus said with a grin, offering his hand to shake.

Masters offered McManus his hand back and replied. "Iím Angus Masters, and youíre here because youíre the most lethal man around and weíre gonna rob a bank and kill some lawmen." Masters pointed to Coot, who was holding three horses. "Weíre pulling out of this camp to head for Four Corners, where weíll do the robbery and all. Feel up to the ride?"

McManus felt fine now. His head had stopped aching, and he thought the ride might help to shake out the cobwebs in his mind." Sounds fine to me. Would you mind filling me in on what you know about me as we ride?" he asked Angus, who placed the reins of the bay horse in his hands.

"Not at all, Amos. Okay boys. Letís get outta here!" The gang of thirteen men rode off, towards the unsuspecting town of Four Corners.

*******

It was nearly dusk when Vin noticed the torn, red jacket laying on the edge of the river. Off his horse instantly, Vin held it up for the rest to see.

"Thatís Ezraís coat, all right," Nathan said, a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. Nathan, the healer in the gang, knew better than anyone did how quickly a wet man could die of exposure at this time of year, with or without a warm jacket. "If we donít find him soon..." the healer didnít want to finish the sentence, but everyone else finished it in their minds.

"Looks like there was a bit of a camp here, fresh tracks. They couldnítíve left more than a couple of hours ago." Vinís expert eyes assessed the tracks.

JD asked Vin, hopeful that the talented tracker could distinguish Ezraís footprints in the mess of tracks, "You reckon they mighta taken Ezra in?"

Vin studied the tracks. Someone, presumably Ezra, was dragged from the river. There were some tracks that could have been the gamblerís, but he wasnít totally sure. He told the group as much.

"Well, thereís no dead body or freshly dug holes anywhere," Chris told them all, walking back from where it appeared a bunch of tents had been rigged up. "I reckon we can assume Ezraís alive." This drew a collective sigh of relief from everyone. Where there was a chance, these men would never stop searching, especially for one of their own.

Following that trail left by the gang of outlaws, led by McManus and Masters, Vin noticed that they were headed for Four Corners. The lifted the morale of the lawmen no end. If Ezra was getting them to go towards Four Corners, then he must have been okay. Chris quietly asked the tracker if he thought the group they were following was going to Four Corners. Vinís instincts told him they were, as it was the only town in the general direction they were headed.

"Reckon we oughta make camp for the night?"

Vin answered Chris. "Well, I reckon they are headed to town. We might as well, itís getting too dark to see the tracks anyway."

It was a long night for the six gunmen.

*******

Masters had done a wonderful job of weaving a tale of McManusí exploits, over the past few days. He had taken all of the stories heíd ever heard about the man, plus what his brother had told him, and convinced the McManus that he was in fact the man the tales were based upon. The bandits had decided to ride straight to Four Corners and camp in a small valley about five miles out of the town, for a few days to assess the situation. They would look around the town to find out what sort of firepower they were up against and go for the bank. Killing the seven famous gunslingers protecting the town would be an added bonus.

*******

Vin was exhausted. Heíd spent the day searching for the tracks of the group that he and the boys had thought mightíve taken Ezra in. Unfortunately, another heavy downpour had swept away any sign of the tracks. The past two days felt like a blur to the tracker, who hadnít stopped except when Chris told him to get some rest before he killed himself. Everyone with a horse had joined the frantic search and canvassed the area around the river and the trail back to Four Corners. Mary Travis, the editor of the local newspaper, had insisted that the six gunslingers take a few hours of rest and head back to town before going out again, an idea they sensibly accepted. They were on their way back to town when McManus and his gang rode in.

Walking around the town, McManus was struck by the feeling that something was familiar. He dismissed the feeling as being his mind wanting desperately to remember anything about his past. Masters, Coot and the rest of the boys had been helping him, by regaling him with stories of his past deeds. He could almost visualize the acts of random violence, but his memories still stayed closed. Looking around, it was a nice enough town, on the verge of increasing in size. New shops appeared to be going up all along the street. A regular little boomtown, McManus thought to himself. Letís see how well they go without their money and their protectors.

As McManus and his men were wandering around the town, Chris and his gang rode in, dusty, tired and hopeful that Ezra would be sitting in the saloon hustling some fool out of his money. Most of the boys made a line straight for the saloon, except Chris, who went to ask at the telegraph office if there was any news about Ezra.

McManus entered the saloon. Memories began stirring in his confused mind, but he shut them out. He had a job to do. JD, who was moving back to the table where the rest of the gang sat, worrying about Ezra, had noticed the new arrival, and was struck with a feeling that he knew the dusty rider standing before him. Despite the dust and the stubble of beard that masked the manís face, there was something so familiar about him. Turning to Buck, JD saw that his mustached friend was also trying to place the face. Buck approached the newcomer.

"Howdy, friend!" Buck greeted cheerfully, hoping this man was indeed a friend, "Nameís Buck Wilmington. I donít know you, do I?" he asked. Buck wasnít sure if it was the color of the green eyes staring coldly at him or the intensity of the stare that helped, but when the man spoke Buck knew instantly who it was.

"The nameís McManus," the man drawled in a natural southern accent. "Donít think I know you, friend." Or did he? He knew that heíd lost his memory, and something here was familiar, something in the eyes of this Buck, he thought he might have seen him before, somewhere.

"Ezra?" Buck looked though the dust, past the worn buckskin coat, into the eyes of his friend. "Ezra it is you, ainít it?" The rider looked at Buck, a bewildered expression on his face.

"I donít know," he admitted. "Maybe..." McManus thought to himself, Why the hell is that name so familiar? He couldnít think of anyone called Ezra, mind you he was having enough trouble remembering his own name. "I think youíve got me mistaken with someone else." McManus touched the brim of his hat and walked away.

Excited Buck rushed to his friends. "That was Ezra! It had to be."

"Well he does look familiar but..." JD was cut off by Buckís rantings.

"Of course itís him. Did you see the way he touched the brim of his hat, just like Ezra." Buck had a feeling that he knew he was right.

Josiah had been thinking. "If that was Ezra, how come he didnít recognize you and he was dressed like a ranch hand?"

"Maybe the man just lost his memory, or somethiní. The point is, thatís Ezra!"

Vin was inclined to agree with Buck. The accent, he was the right size, the hand gestures... It seemed fairly strange to be just a coincidence. "Youíd best let Chris know. Weíll see if we can talk to him."

Walking out of the saloon, McManus couldnít shake the feeling that he knew this town. To take his mind off his memory problems, Masters and Coot appeared from behind the stable.

"You ready to get rich, Amos?" Masters asked his new friend. Coot was eager to set to work. A quick profit was naturally appealing to all of the men, and so they decided to hit the bank earlier than planned.

"Yeah, Iím ready." Amos tried to concentrate all of his thoughts onto the task at hand.

Masters placed to equipment they required into a leather satchel and handed it to McManus. "Weíll be waiting in the alley and out the front."

"Just be ready to ride," McManus said. He and Coot walked towards to bank, anticipating the riches to follow if they could pull of the robbery.

 

The bank was empty as McManus and Coot entered, save for the bank manager and the teller. The teller smiled as the dusty rider approached the counter.

"Good afternoon, sir. How may I be of assistance?" The teller asked McManus. The steely glare of the rider worried the teller. Coot had just shut the door of the bank.

"Iím looking to make a withdrawal," McManus drawled. The teller didnít like the evil smile that played across McManusí lips.

"Certainly sir. How much would you like to withdraw?" The teller was fairly sure of what was about to occur.

"All of it." Coot and McManus aimed their pistols at the teller and the bank manager.

"Youíd best git back there aní open that vault, mister." Coot called to the manager. The bank manager was a proud man. He would sooner die than open up the vault for scum like the men before him.

"Youíll have to kill me before I open that vault." There, heíd said it. Now he waited to feel the thump of a bullet entering his body. Coot began to pull the trigger.

"No, Coot!" McManus roared. Coot was confused. He had thought McManus wouldíve liked the manager shot. McManus leapt the counter. "I figured you might notíve been cooperative, so I bought this, just in case." From out of the bag he was carrying, McManus produced some sticks of dynamite. "Coot, blow the lock."

"With pleasure, Boss."

While Coot was busy wiring up the dynamite, McManus wondered why he hadnít let Coot kill the bank manager. It just hadnít felt like the right thing to do.

"Sheís a goer, Boss!" Coot yelled as the fuse began burning. McManus leapt over the counter again, and Coot ran around it. They huddled at the base waiting for the explosion. The teller and manager used the diversion to run like hell out of the bank.

BOOM!

The street facing windows shattered, stopping the town of Four Corners. As the dust settled the manager and the teller ran though Main Street shouting, "The bankís being robbed! Get Larabee! Theyíre robbing the bank!"

Coughing and smiling at the same time, Coot swatted away the dust and debris to get to the vault. The explosion had blasted the door clean off its hinges. McManus let out a rebel yell, as he helped Coot fill the bag, which had held the dynamite, with sacks of money.

"Thatíll do Coot. Letís get outta here!" Coot followed the order. He closed the bag and raced out the bank door... into the ring of lawmen who were gathered at the entrance.

"Youíd best put that money down, before we do something youíll regret," Chris Larabee said. The smile on his face was like that of a mountain lion, about to pounce on its prey. Coot dropped the bag and his guns. He didnít feel like dying yet, and McManus would get him out of this mess. Nathan retrieved the weapons and the money.

"Is McManus with you?" Vin asked. The six gunslingers were certain that the mastermind behind the robbery was their missing companion.

"Maybe." Coot was a stubborn man. "So what if he is?"

"We just want to talk to him."

Coot was giving McManus as much time to get out of the bank as he needed. He was shocked when the man appeared at his side.

"You. Larabee. I hear youíre fast." McManus stated. Chris looked into the eyes of the man before him. There was no mistaking it. He was Ezra Standish. True, he was hard to recognize, covered in dust and wood splinters from the explosion in the bank and with a couple of days stubble on his face, but it was their gambling friend. The last thing Chris wanted to do was have a showdown between him and Ezra.

"Maybe I am. Maybe Iím not." Chris felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to face Josiah.

"Iíve got an idea," the ex-preacher whispered to the gunslinger. "Sometimes if you remind a man about his past, it all comes back to him. We ought to try it."

"What do you reckon boys?" Chris was game. If it meant not shooting one of his own men, he was for it. They all agreed.

"Whatís going on, Larabee? You making your funeral arrangements" McManus taunted Chris, as his men congregated on one side of the street. They all wanted to watch Larabee die at the hand of their leader.

"Iíll go up against you, Ezra. But I donít want to."

"You got me confused with someone else, Larabee. That ainít my name." McManus didnít like the look on Larabeeís face. The man was plotting something with his own gang. Amos walked out into the middle of the street watching Larabee walk to the other end. The Larabee gang was standing on the opposite side of the street to the McManus crew and both groups were tense. Both men stood facing each other, hands at the ready. No one knew who was faster, Chris Larabee or Amos McManus. Chris had told his boys that no matter what happened, he was only going to try to wing Ezra. It was the best way to end the confrontation. He just hoped that Josiahís idea would work before it got down to bullets flying through Main Street.

JD started the attempt to reclaim Ezraís memory. "Ezra, donít you remember that you were my first arrest as sheriff? Judge Travis recognized you as a bail jumper from Fort Laramie aní made me arrest you. He even knew about your derringer. Donít you remember, Ezra?"

"Stop calliní me that, kid. That ainít my name."

"Sure it is Ezra," Buck chipped in. "Ezra Standish. Canít you remember goiní into Wicks Town weariní that purty purple dress and singiní in that purty voice of yours? Chris and Vin set you up to do that after you teaching those Wicks Town ladies how to be real ladies."

McManus looked towards Buck and the rest of that gang. They were trying to put him off, he decided. He turned back to face Larabee, the famous gunslinger. Then the Negro healer spoke up.

"We had our share of differences of opinions, Ezra, but one thing you are good with is children and cards. Remember those kids at the Seminole? Their whole world was beiní turned upside by that maniac Anderson, but you sat down aní made them smile aní feel like children by doiní card tricks." Nathanís voice softened, trying to reach through Ezraís clouded mind to his memories. "Aní Olivia. She impressed you because she was eight years old and could spot a double dealer. You remember what she said when you asked her what game sheíd like to play?"

The words five card stud, deuces are wild ran through McManusí mind. He shook he head as if that would clear the phrase from his mind.

Nathan continued, "Five card stud, and deuces were wild. You told her she had the gift with cards. Remember?"

McManus tried to ignore what the dark skinned healer had told him. But the phrase stuck in his mind.

"Címon McManus, just shoot the son of a bitch so we can all get outta here," Angus called out to McManus.

"Ezra, donít you recall the day an angel appeared in town?" Josiah asked, his deep voice almost hypnotic in its tone. "You shocked us all when you realized that the person we were talking about was your mother, Maude Standish. Actually I think her appearance shocked you more than her identity did us. But she was your mother all right, cleaned us out at the poker table just like you do every night." Josiah looked at Ezra, who had a confused expression on his face. Josiah felt sorry for the man, having to be retold his own past in an attempt to remember who he really was.

The man McManus was facing started to talk. "Hey Ezra, donít you remember doing a favor for me not so long back?" Chris Larabee asked.

"No but if yíall donít shut up Iíll do us all a favor and shoot you while youíre talkiní." McManus called, receiving whistles of approval from his gang.

"You helped get me outta prison by using your Ďsubtletyí and getting one of the Jericho men so drunk, he passed out."

 

Images were flashing through McManusí head, although he couldnít make any sense of them. Someone putting his dislocated shoulder back into place... the feeling of anticipation riding after someone... images of people, of the men who thought his name was Ezra, of other things. He was becoming more and more confused. Once again he turned to face Larabee. "If youíre all tryiní to put me off shootiní this fella, it ainít workiní," McManus snarled, ready to finish this confrontation. Finally Vin Tanner spoke up.

"Ezra, I know it ainít easy for ya to go through all oí this, but weíre just tryiní to help you. Do you think weíd do this every time there was a showdown here, try to convince the fella against us that he ainít who he says he is? You reckon we could all make up the things weíve just told you off the top of our heads? This is all my fault anyways."

"I donít see how that could be," McManus answered. He was becoming bored with the ramblings of the lawmen.

"Well if I hadnít lost sight of you and McManus, the real McManus, when we were goiní after him, the other day, you wouldnítíve gone over the edge of that canyon and you wouldnít be in this mess." The bounty hunter paused, hoping something would trigger in Ezraís mind before he aimed his guns at Chris.

McManus looked from his gang to the group of lawmen and back again. Tanner had a point. Why would they make up all that stuff? Then it hit him. Ezraís memories came flooding back like the river that had carried him downstream. He could remember singing "Red River Valley" in the tent at Wicks Town, wearing a black and purple dress, being arrested by JD, Chris warning him to never run out on him again. He remembered the falling sensation as he and the real McManus went over the side of the canyon. It all came back. "Good Lord," he whispered to himself. He looked into Chrisí eyes, and saw a look of resignation. Ezra often asked himself after that day if the gunslinger would have fired his gun. Ezra grabbed at his pistols with speed that astounded the group of lawmen and, instead of aiming them at Chris, leveled his guns at the gang of outlaws.

"McManus, what the hell are you doing?" Masters yelled. Surely Amos wasnít buying into this load of bull. Then he looked into the eyes of the man before him. Gone was the look of confusion that had haunted his eyes for the past couple of days. His memory had returned. "You really are..."

"Sorry, Angus. I guess I am who they say I am." The rest of the lawmen had begun to round up the McManus gang. Buck had started to get rough, as always, with Coot.

"Buck, leave him alone." The tone of Ezraís voice was frightening. Buck looked as bewildered as Coot had done earlier, when heíd been told not to kill the bank manager. Ezra explained, "They helped me out, Mr. Wilmington. There is no need for you to treat them in a degrading manner. Make sure the judge takes that into account when they go up for trial" Buck complied with the gamblerís request.

As the gang was placed in the jail, Ezra sat down on the bench outside of Mrs. Potterís store, contending with his newly recovered memories. He felt terrible. Heíd robbed the local bank, threatened the lives of his friends after gaining their trust. How could anyone trust him now? Just as he had decided, much to his regret, that he would have to leave Four Corners, Chris walked over and sat down by the gambler.

"You realize that none of this was your fault, Ezra." Ezra simply stared at the ground. Chris tried again, but was cut off by Ezra, who had a troubled look in his eyes.

"Mr. Larabee, in the past few days I have succeeded in blowing up the local bank, terrorizing the people of the town I am employed to be protecting and trying to kill you and my other associates." The gambler and the gunslinger locked eyes. "Iím not the most trust instilling person at this present point in time."

Chris knew what to say next to help.

"You were there when we needed you." In that simple statement Ezra realized that this meant that his friends did not doubt his loyalty, and maybe Chris had even forgiven him for leaving the Seminole village, at a time when he was needed. Chris got up to leave and added before he walked off, "Nathan wants to check you over, make sure youíre okay." He smiled a rare smile. "Itís good to have you back."

The drifting con man mulled over what Chris had said. He was glad he didnít have to leave the town. After years of wandering and sometimes fleeing from town to town, he realized he felt at home in Four Corners.

Finding himself walking towards the saloon, looking distastefully at his current state of attire, he saw his friends, a commodity of which heíd had few of in his life, sitting down to a bottle of whiskey. Sitting down at the table where his friends had congregated, Ezra was handed a small parcel by Vin. The tracker had an apology ready, but Ezra waved it away. Knowing Vin would feel responsible for the accident that wasnít his fault, the gambler shook his head. Vin understood; it wasnít his fault. After unwrapping the paper parcel to see the familiar red color of his rescued jacket, Ezra knew for certain; it was great to be back amongst his friends.

THE END

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