Title: Homecomings and Introductions
he door to the schoolroom opens and one of Dr. Loveless’ Mexican guards comes into the room, walking over to Voltaire and talking quietly to him.
Senor Voltaire, there is a rider coming in from the South. He is too far away to identify. What do you wish us to do?
Artemus looks up in the front of the room, then turns his attention back to the essay he is reading.
\Keep watching until he comes close enough to identify and then let me know.\ Voltaire signs, then walks to Dr. Loveless’ laboratory.
“Yes Voltaire?” Miguelito Loveless asks, looking up from the table.
\Rider coming in from the South, too far away to identify. What do you want me to tell the guards?\
“Keep watch and make sure there’s at least one guard on each of the children. It’s probably Josiah; his train was due in yesterday. How is Mr. Gordon treating Ezra?”
\He’s a good teacher; will the others be joining Ezra in the schoolroom?\
“I will have to ask him at dinner if he’d mind taking on a few more pupils. Maude,” Miguelito pauses to make an evil eye gesture, watching in amusement as Voltaire does likewise, “only contracted with him to teach Ezra. I will offer him more money if he agrees to teach the others as well.”
\What are we going to do about her?\ Voltaire signs, the distaste on his face leaving no doubt which ‘her’ he’s talking about.
“Has she left again?”
\Yes. She didn’t even stay to speak to Ezra after finding out that you would not allow her to take him with her again.\
“If she tries to take Ezra again, you have my permission to ‘deal’ with her. I will not allow the children to come to harm.”
Meanwhile, back in the schoolroom Artemus Gordon looks up as the door opens again and two young boys come in.
“Good morning, Mr. Gordon. Ezra, Senora Rocillos says that dinner is ready.” Nathan says, walking down the hall to tap on the door of the lab. “Father, Voltaire, dinner is ready.”
“Good morning boys.” Artemus says, looking as the young black boy and slightly older white boy climb onto the bench across from Ezra as the meal is brought in. Three other boys, scuffling in the doorway, take the other seats in the schoolroom.
“Ahh, Mr. Gordon, ready for lunch? The boys will be taking theirs in the schoolroom, but they’ll be joining us for supper later tonight.”
Artemus pauses outside the door of the schoolroom, watching the hacienda’s guards stand at the walls of the Mexican compound. Guns are never far from their hands, but suddenly they’re all put down as the doors are opened. A single rider comes into the courtyard, dismounting and pulling both Voltaire and Dr. Loveless into his arms for hugs.
“Good morning, Josiah. How was the trip from California?”
“Long, hot, and difficult. I am glad to be home for the summer.”
“And we’re glad to have you home for the summer. This is Mr. Gordon, Maude hired him to tutor Ezra.”
“The boys in the schoolroom?”
“You may see them after dinner. I have no doubt that with you home, Mr. Gordon will have difficulties getting Ezra to concentrate on his schoolwork.”
Good day, Miss Inez. Will you be serving us today? Ezra asks as the pretty young Mexican girl, daughter of their cook and one of Dr. Loveless’ guards, enters the schoolroom with one of the maids.
Mr. Josiah is back. the shy young Mexican girl says before blushing and leaving the room.
“ ‘Siah’s back?” five year old JD asks from the back of the room. He hasn’t been with them long enough to pick up much Spanish, but he’s quickly become the darling of the entire compound.
“Si, Senor Jaydee.” The maid says in lightly accented English. “He is with your Father right now. Senor Ezra, your classes have been cancelled for the rest of the day. Senor Loveless thought that with Mr. Josiah home, you might have some difficulties settling down with your schoolwork.”
“Thank you, Esmerelda.” Ezra says, smiling broadly as the meal is placed on the teacher’s table.
“You are welcome, Senor Ezra.” She says, pinching his cheek as she leaves the schoolroom.
“Damn Ez, you got to teach me how to charm the ladies like you do.” Buck mock-scowls at his younger brother.
“You either have it or you don’t.” Ezra smirks, “and Buck? Despite your much vaunted animal magnetism with the ladies, you don’t have it.”
The sound of shrieks brings Voltaire to the door. He smiles as he sees Buck sitting on Ezra tickling him.
“You take that back. I can so charm the ladies.”
“You got animal something Buck,” Chris agrees, smirking, “But I’m not sure it’s magnetism. When’s the last time you took a bath?”
“Dr. Loveless,” Artemus Gordon asks as they sit at the table digesting dinner. “Who are the other boys and will I be teaching them as well?”
“The other boys are my sons. And that was what I was hoping to talk to you about this afternoon. I know Ezra’s mother only paid you to tutor Ezra for the summer. I was hoping you might stay on and teach the others as well.”
“Tell me about your other children.”
“Josiah is the oldest, he’s seventeen and just came home for the summer from the University he’s attending in California. His mother was a young woman I knew briefly years ago. I wanted to marry her when we found out she was expecting, but her father wouldn’t allow it. She married the local preacher instead. They were killed in an Indian attack when Josiah was seven. I brought him here when I found out about the attack.”
“And I’ve never been happier.” Josiah says, burping softly, “My stepfather was not the kindest of individuals. I suppose I’d better go check on the others before they get into any mischief waiting for me.”
“Christopher and Bucklin are the next oldest. They just turned ten last month. Bucklin’s mother was a ‘working girl’ from San Francisco. She died of the fever, leaving him an orphan living on the street. He tried stealing from my carriage. Voltaire caught him at it, and brought him to me. Christopher is mine; his mother was one of my associates. You may remember her, Mr. Gordon, my dear Miss Kitty.”
“You did recognize me, then.” Artemus says, sitting stiffly in his chair as he hears Voltaire cock a gun behind him. He’s thankful that Loveless had waited until the children were nowhere around.
“Of course I did, Mr. Gordon. Now why don’t you do us both a favor and take off that awful disguise. It does nothing for your face and that mustache looks like a mouse died on your lip.”
Artemus peels off his disguise under Dr. Loveless’ gaze.
“Now Mr. Gordon, would you please tell me what has brought me to the attention of the you and your partner yet again? It must be important, you have no jurisdiction in Mexico.”
“I was contacted by a Mrs. Maude Standish, she said that you had murdered her husband, kidnapped her son and was holding him to force her to do something for you.”
“Well, now that you have seen Ezra, do you still believe that I have kidnapped him? Ezra is my son, Mr. Gordon, and Maude Standish is a conniving, bold-faced liar. She’s a con woman of the first order, with a record as long as Voltaire’s arm. She doesn’t have any use for him except for whatever scam she is running, and I have grown tired of it. Ezra is going to stay right here until he’s old enough to attend the university. What did you plan on doing, sneak away with Ezra in the middle of the night and reunite with his frantic, loving mother?”
Dr. Loveless snorts at the look on Artemus’ face.
“Figures, Maude always has been one for theatrics. Tell me, when is James West going to make an appearance? Tell me, if I had kidnapped him, would I have allowed his mother to hire a tutor for him?”
“That had been unusual. What are you going to do with me?”
“Well, you have been hired to tutor Ezra for six weeks, you might as well do the job. I’m sure your dear partner will come riding to your rescue sooner or later when you fail to contact him. When you get back to the states, the grieving mother will have mysteriously vanished.”
“Tell me, Mr. Gordon,” Dr. Loveless gestures out the window where six boys are tussling under the amused eyes of the guards. The sounds of their happy laughter is clearly audible through the thick adobe walls, “does Ezra sound like he’s been kidnapped and is being held against his will?”
“No, he doesn’t. Will you tell me about the others? I’d like to know what I can and cannot teach the boys.”
“Nathan will be nine next month. He’s been with me his entire life. His father was a free man who was my bodyguard before Voltaire. He died in the in a bandit attack nearly ten years ago. He left behind a widow who was expecting their first child. She didn’t survive childbirth, but fortunately I was able to find a wet nurse who was willing to care for the boy. Nathan’s the reason why we live in Mexico full-time, I do not want him to become involved in the situation between the states. I fear America is going to find itself at war over the idea of Slavery.”
“Vincent is nearly eight. His father was Apache, his mother a white woman. They were both killed in a raid, and the boy ‘rescued’ by his maternal grandfather. He did not want an ‘injun’ grandchild and sought to ‘turn the child white’. He ran away from the man and became my ward two years ago.”
“JD is my youngest son, he just turned five. His mother was my associate Antoinette. He knows his alphabet, but can’t read or write yet. Neither can Vincent. I’d like you to teach those two to read and write this summer, I’ll give you lesson plans for the others later.”
“I assume I’m going to be under armed guard and locked in my room the entire time I’m here?”
“Why? There’s nowhere for you to go, the nearest town is two days by horseback. The entire compound is under armed guard the entire time, and you’d no more hurt one of the children then you’d shoot your beloved partner.”
“Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to round up the children for their afternoon Siesta. It gets rather hot here after lunch, you might want to take a nap yourself Mr. Gordon.”
Dr. Loveless briskly walks outside, clapping his hands loudly. All six boys stop what they’re doing immediately and look up as their father approaches.
“Boys, time for our afternoon naps.” Miguelito says as Voltaire picks up an already yawning JD. JD buries his face in Voltaire’s neck, closes his eyes, and is asleep before Voltaire straightens up.
Voltaire waves the others in front of him, grinning as Buck and Chris continue to push each other as they walk down a long hallway to the boys rooms. JD is laid down on one bed in the first room and Buck settles on the other bed as Voltaire opens the high window in the room. Chris, Vin and Nathan head to a second room while Ezra settles in the third room. Josiah grins as he sees the trunks he’d sent ahead last week sitting at the foot of the second bed in the room.
“Boys, if you behave I’ll give you your presents when we get up.” Josiah calls from the doorway of his bedroom.
“Presents?” Five voices chorus from the other rooms. Voltaire smirks as he watches Josiah wrap his younger brothers around his little finger.
“Yes presents, but you have to lay down and rest for the next couple hours. No horsing around allowed, or you have to wait until Christmas or your birthdays, whichever come first.” Softly muttered complaints and a soft ‘but that’s forever’ from one of his brothers is replaced by the sound of even breathing as everybody either falls asleep after their meal or lays down to think about what Josiah brought them from California.
Josiah settles down on his bed with a sigh of relief. “I missed this while I was in college.” He tells Voltaire who’s standing in the doorway of his room after making sure the younger kids are actually lying down, “They don’t believe in siestas in California, you work the whole day no matter how hot it gets.”
\And they complain that Mexicans aren’t civilized\ Voltaire signs, rolling his eyes, \No civilized person would willingly put themselves through that.\
Josiah smiles at Voltaire, closing his eyes as a breeze from the high window in the room cools the room. A soft snore from the other bed alerts Voltaire to the fact that Ezra is asleep as well. Looking in the other rooms, he sees the boys have all fallen asleep and grins before leaving the boy’s wing, nodding at the guard standing at the only door that leads to their rooms, then joins Dr. Loveless in his lab.
“Are the boys settled in?” Miguelito asks, standing at the top of the stairs leading to his private room.
Voltaire smiles. \I believe Josiah’s threat of ‘settle down or you won’t get the presents I brought until your birthdays or Christmas’ was the reason they settled down without arguing.\ Dr. Loveless smiles at how easily his oldest son can manipulate the other kids and shuts the door behind him.
Meanwhile in the room Dr. Loveless put him in when he first arrived in the compound Artemus Gordon lays down on the bed, places his hands behind his head, and looks up at the ceiling.
/Well, this is definitely not what I was expecting to find./ he thinks, thinking over the assignment he and his partner had been given by their boss. /Instead of finding our old enemy Miguelito Loveless had kidnapped a young boy to force an innocent woman to do something for him, I find that he’s the father of the boy, who’s not in any kind of danger instead he’s being raised by his father along with his six brothers, his distraught mother is nothing of the kind, and Jim is waiting for me to bring the boy back to the train. I’ll have to ask Dr. Loveless if there’s a way I can get a message to him that the mission is off./
Artie sits up an hour later, surprised to find he’d fallen asleep so quickly when somebody knocks at his door. He sits up on the side of the bed when the door opens and James West, his shirt and jacket ripped and his hands loosely tied behind his back, is shoved into the room by two of the guards.
/Too Late/ he sighs, standing up to untie his partner and tell him of the latest developments.
“So what you’re telling me,” James West says an hour later, his voice muffled by the thick compress held against his temple, “is that we were given false information, the boy we were sent to rescue is in no danger from Dr. Loveless, his FATHER no less, and we’re free to leave anytime we want to, right?”
“Exactly.” Artemus says, laying back down on the bed to read the file of information on Maude Standish Dr. Loveless had brought him when he had checked James over for any injuries during the capture. “Except that we’re not going anywhere.”
Jim West slowly, wincing as his head lets him know in no uncertain terms that moving is not a good idea, turns to look at his partner.
“And why aren’t we going anywhere?”
“Three reasons, This,” Artemus waves a paper at him, “is from Washington letting us know that the assignment is cancelled and we’re on leave until further notice, there’s not a town within a day’s ride so we can’t go anywhere without supplies, and I’ve agreed to teach the boys for the next six weeks.”
“So we’re just staying in Dr. Loveless’s compound for six weeks, eating his food and teaching his sons, and he’s just going to let us leave in six weeks.”
“Of course not, Mr. West. When you are ready to go, I’m going to load a wagon with supplies and my men will take you straight to your train.” Dr. Loveless says from the doorway, “I was wondering if you wanted to join me in the schoolroom, Mr. Gordon, so we can go over the boys classwork.”
“Certainly, Dr. Loveless. James, you stay put until I get back.” Artemus orders, getting up and following the little man out the door, leaving Jim West wondering if he’s fallen through a rabbit hole or if this is just a strange dream and he’s really unconscious.