Disclaimer: The characters from Mag7 belong to MGM, Mirisch, and Trilogy.
Author's notes: Thanks to Sherri and Kris for beta'ing this story.
Summary: A mysterious stranger helps Ezra get back to Four Corners.
Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for
Vin looked down at the cards in his hands, seeing nothing but a blur of
shapes and colors. His mind was miles away from the game, worrying about
his missing lover. It was nearly midnight and Ezra had yet to arrive from
Cedar Ridge. He should have been back sometime during the afternoon but
there was no sign of him yet.
Thinking Ezra had fallen prey to his trade and was involved in a high
stake poker game in the local saloon, Chris had sent a telegraph to the
Sheriff in Cedar Ridge. An hour later the reply had come through; Ezra had
already left. And still, he had never made it to Four Corners.
By the time they had realized Ezra would not be returning on his own,
the winter sky was already darkening and there wasn't enough light for a
search party to ride out. They would have to wait 'til morning.
Vin felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to look into Josiah's
warmth-filled eyes. "We'll go look for him at first light," the
ex-preacher promised him softly.
The tracker nodded, refraining from saying that by that time it would probably be too late. The night was cold, too cold, and everything in him was warning him of the snowstorm approaching. His heart grew heavy as he understood that Ezra might not be able to survive the harsh elements.
The night seemed to become colder and colder, and though he tried to
walk faster, he found it impossible to keep warm. He had lost sensation in
his hands and his feet were ice cold. He was panting from the exertion,
his body becoming clammy with perspiration in spite of the chill in the
Ezra stopped and shouted, hoping someone was close by and would hear
him over the howling wind. Hoping someone would come to his aid. But he
was all alone in the vast nothingness.
Trying to control his panic, he chided away thoughts of a slow death,
swearing at his bad luck. He had traveled to Cedar Ridge the day before to
deliver a runaway boy back to his family. The fifteen-year old child
dreamt of living an adventure in the Wild West, and had escaped his
progenitors' watchful eye in hopes of seeing the world.
The Seven had stumbled upon the young boy, managing to talk him out of
his foolish plans and Ezra had volunteered to return the child to his
parents. He had not counted on being attacked by robbers on the way back
to Four Corners. Two men had ambushed him, killing his horse and leaving
him stranded halfway from home. He had managed to get rid of both
miscreants, but their horses had run off before he could even approach
them. Thus his current situation.
There wasn't a star in the sky, nor the barest glimpse of the moon. Not
a sound could be heard, save for the fury of the wind and the rapid
crunching of the earth beneath his feet. He had never felt so alone in his
He thought about his lover. Vin would be worried sick about him by now,
wondering what might have happened. He smiled as he thought back on the
They had told the others about their relationship and surprisingly the
five men had been extremely supportive. They had even helped find a small
house in town that he and Vin could live in together. He had finally found
a home with the other man and their friends. No matter how many times
Mother tried to get him to leave, Four Corners was now his home and he had
no intention of going anywhere.
He felt his heart lurch as the first white flakes fluttered down. There
was nowhere he could hide from the coming snowstorm; no caves, no rocks
where he could at least escape the biting wind, nothing. He walked faster,
humming a tune he had heard Vin play on his harmonica. When that didn't
distract him from his looming fate, he played a mental game of poker,
trying to anticipate all the imaginary players' moves.
He suddenly felt the little hairs at the back of his neck stand up. A
feeling of uneasiness settled over him and he knew he was no longer alone.
Swallowing hard, he turned around and gasped. A few feet away from him
stood a stagecoach; the driver muffled to the eyes in capes and blankets,
four grays, all wrapped in the soft haze of a lamp.
"Thank God!" he blurted out at the vision before him.
He frowned as he realized he hadn't heard the coach approaching, but
then, the wind was still howling fiercely and his mind had been elsewhere.
All that mattered was he was saved.
He approached the stagecoach, noticing that the glass windows were
covered with a thick coat of mildew, the leather fittings were crusted
over with mold, and literally rotting from the woodwork. The whole machine
was foul with damp and had evidently been dragged from some outhouse, in
which it had been moldering away for years, to do another day or two of
duty on the road.
Shaking his head, he climbed beside the coachman, the wood almost
breaking away beneath his feet. "You, sir, are a life-savior," he stated,
ignoring the degradation surrounding him and the strange smell coming from
the man and the coach. Beggars couldn't be choosers.
The coachman lifted his head, looked at him from behind the blankets,
but made no reply. At any other time Ezra would have felt some annoyance
at his silence, but he did owe his life to the man and wasn't about to be
ungrateful. Besides, he knew it was probably close to midnight, if not
past it, and the man didn't know him. He had been lucky to be allowed such
It didn't take long to reach Four Corners, the coachman stopping right
in front of the saloon.
"Kind sir, I must show my appreciation for your good deed. May I offer
you a libation? Something to warm you on this harsh night?"
The coachman shook his head, the blanket slipping from his face and
allowing Ezra to see his features for the first time. His eyes glowed with
an unnatural lustre, and his face was pale as the face of a corpse. His
bloodless lips were drawn back as if in the agony of death, and showed the
gleaming teeth between.
"I-I..." Swallowing hard at the ghostly vision before him, Ezra moved
away and climbed down from the coach, unable to take his eyes away from
He watched the man snap the reins, and soon the stagecoach was
disappearing behind a cloud of dust back down the road where they had come
from. He remained frozen there, ignoring the falling snow and the cold
wind torturing his unprotected body.
"Ezra?" he heard call from behind him.
He turned to see the other six men's stunned expressions.
"What was that?" Buck whispered.
"You..." Ezra licked suddenly dry lips. "You saw it?"
"Yeah," JD replied with a shudder. "No stagecoach was supposed to
arrive at this hour and the man's face..."
"It was ol' man Johnson," Nathan said firmly.
"Who's ol' man Johnson?" Vin asked, dragging Ezra back inside the
saloon and wrapping him carefully in his jacket.
Ezra smiled gratefully at his lover, hearing the others following
behind, all Seven sitting at their usual table. Chris poured him a cup of
freshly made coffee, steam still coming out of the pot. He sighed
contentedly as his hands settled on the warm cup, looking back to Nathan
to wait for his reply.
"I heard Mrs. Potter telling this story a few hours ago to Billy and
some of his friends. Nine years back, when Four Corners was just a few
houses come together, they had a coachman, Tom Johnson, who used to drive
to other towns for supplies," Nathan began. "One night, as he was coming
back to town, he had an accident. Nobody knows what happened, but they
found the stagecoach the next morning at the bottom of a fifty feet
valley. Johnson was dead and so were the horses."
"And?" JD breathed, eyes open wide as he listened to the spooky
"And it is said that every year, at the anniversary of his death, he
can be seen trying to finish his ride back to Four Corners."
Ezra took a sip of his coffee. Only now did he realize he had never
mentioned where he wanted to go. The road where he had been stranded led
to at least three other towns besides Four Corners. And yet, the coachman
had drove him straight home. He didn't really care if it had been old man
Johnson trying to get back home. He didn't really care if it had been a
ghost or a man.
All he cared about was being back home, with his lover, with his
friends. All that matter was he was alive. He exchanged a lustful look
with Vin. It was all they could do not to kiss passionately, but they were
in a public place and definitely not alone. His lover sighed and the
wanton smile he sent Ezra's way told the gambler he would make it up to
him when they were alone. Life was definitely good.
Author's notes: Highly based on the short story "The Phantom Coach" by Amelia B. Edwards