He'd thought it to be a cruel joke. It had to be a joke. This couldn't happen.
But the telegram didn't change. He kept looking at it, praying for it to alter.
It never did.
TO VIN TANNER - STOP - MAUDE STANDISH RAPED AND SHOT - STOP - FT LARAMIE POLICE INVOLVED - STOP - SHES ALIVE BUT DONT KNOW SHAPE SHES IN -STOP- TELL THE BOY IM SORRY - STOP - ORRIN TRAVIS -FULL STOP
How was he going to tell Ezra? What was he going to tell Ezra?
In the end, it was taken out of his hands. Ezra saw the yellow of the telegram and picked his pocket. He read it before Vin could stop him, and paled. He looked up and whispered, "What's raped?"
And Vin had to explain the ugliness to him. The boy's next words had him literally sitting down and crushing the 11 year old close.
"Oh. It was one of her marks, then."
Vin allowed Ezra to make the decision to go. Ezra chose to wait till there was more word on her condition. Together they sent a telegram to Travis informing them of Ezra's decision.
And the waiting game began.
Three days later a second telegram arrived.
EZRA TANNER - STOP - REGRET TO INFORM YOU MRS STANDISH DID NOT SURVIVE SURGERY TO REMOVE BULLET -STOP- IM SORRY SON -STOP- NEED YOU FT LARAMIE FOR NEXT STEPS -STOP- ORRIN TRAVIS -FULL STOP
To Vin's horror, Ezra did not cry when he read the letter. An emotionless mask settled over the child's face -- one Vin hadn't seen since those troubled early days. He watched as Ezra sat and thought -- and folded his hands in prayer.
And Vin was by Ezra's side when he sent the return telegram.
JUDGE TRAVIS -STOP- THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONCERN -STOP- SHE MEANT NOTHING TO ME BEYOND AN ACCIDENT OF BIRTH -STOP- BURY HER AS BEFITS A LADY -STOP- GIVE HER EFFECTS TO THE POOR -STOP- LIQUIDATE ANY ESTATE SHE HAS AND SEND MY FATHER HALF -STOP- GIVE REST TO THE POOR -STOP- THANK YOU AGAIN FOR YOUR CONCERN AND TIME -STOP- EZRA PATRICK TANNER -FULL STOP
Once it was sent, Vin told him, "You left a name off there."
"No. I didn't." The boy's shoulders straightened. "Standish died with my mother. I am your son. It's your name I bear, and I'm proud of it." He looked at Vin. "Can we leave town for a bit? Just you and me -- just for a day or so?"
They prepared and left town. And it was at their campsite -- alone with his father and perfectly safe -- that the emotionless mask fell away.
And Ezra wept for his mother.
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