I had met Buck Wilmington some years previously, during the War. It was good to see him again when my wanderings brought me to this small, dusty backwater of a town.
It was not so nice to see him come in after I had been incarcerated after having a scam I was trying to get started blowing up in my face -- unraveled by the most unexpected of things.
Wilmington smiled at me. "Well, well. Didn't expect to see you in here."
"Yeah, yeah," I snorted, matching him grin for grin. "I could have gotten away with it, you know."
His grin grew. "Not if they have anything to say about it."
I snorted again. "That pair of boys -- my word, those two! That Tanner kid is a miniature con artist -- better than me, that was proven adequately -- and that Potter boy..." I shook my head. "As a team? Damn, they're unbeatable!"
"That they are," Wilmington laughed. Then he sobered. "You doin' okay, Sutton?"
"Oh, yeah." And I meant it. "I know I'm lookin' at jail--"
"Yeah, but not for long. Nothing happened, and we'll all put in a good word for you."
"I know," I sighed. "But that's okay. If I'm stupid enough to be beaten by two eleven-year-olds, I deserve to be here!"
He reached through the bars and squeezed my arm. "Take care of yourself, Patrick."
"I will." As he pulled the hand away, I said, "Don't take this the wrong way, Buck -- but I think I'm gonna give this town a pass next time."
"You do that." He tipped his hat and left me alone in the jail.
I looked out the window of my cell and watched those two boys that had been my undoing playing in the street. Something about the way the Tanner boy moved caught my attention.
For a moment, he reminded me of myself as a boy.
But I shook myself out of it. No -- that was not my Ezra.
My boy was somewhere with his mother -- being warped from the warm, sweet child I had known into Maude's image. She never failed to remind me of that fact whenever she contacted me.
I hadn't heard from her for nearly three years. She and my son both vanished off the face of the earth.
I still hated Maude -- even seven years on -- for leaving me and taking my four-year-old son from me. I will never forgive her for that. And if she's gotten herself and my Ezra killed by her avarice, I will never forgive her for that either.
I will never forgive myself for giving her those skills that she turned on me.
And the fact that the Tanner boy who brought me down was also named Ezra? Well, that was just a strange coincidence.
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