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by S A
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is my first Mag7 fic and I had only
seen about 4 episodes when I wrote it (in fact, I still haven't seen
all the episodes, since TNN stopped showing it). However, I kind
of like the way it plays, so even after seeing more of the show, I didn't
change any of it. Feedback would be appreciated!
"You told him what?!" Buck said, blinking at JD in disbelief.
JD shrugged. "It wasn't my idea, Buck," he said, "I told him
to hand them over, 'cause they didn't belong to him. He said I couldn't
prove that, but if I really wanted them I could try and win them. He
challenged me. What was I s'posed to do? Those candlesticks are
all Miss Grimley's got that's worth anything!"
"That's sort of beside the point," Buck said impatiently. "You don't
know the first thing about poker!"
"I know how to play poker!" insisted JD defensively.
Buck sighed. "That's all well and good, but you told this fella you
could play. If he challenged you, he must have good reason to
think he'll win, don't you think? Because I'm thinkin' card sharp. I'm
thinkin' hustler. I'm thinkin' ace up his sleeve, if you know what I
"So?" JD said hotly. "If he wants to try cheating, then two
can play at that game."
There was an amused laugh from the doorway of the sheriff's office
where the two men were talking. Ezra had just returned from patrol and
had caught the last bit of the conversation.
"Is that right?" he said, still looking highly amused. "You
are going to cheat at cards?"
"How hard could it be?" JD shot. "You stick a good card up your sleeve
and pull it out when you need it."
An indignant, almost wounded, look crossed Ezra's normally inscrutable
poker face for an instant and he stalked up to JD's desk.
"Do you happen to have a deck of cards about the premises?" he asked
in a calm, measured tone. JD reached into his desk and produced one.
Ezra took it and began shuffling the cards.
"Tell me when to stop," he told JD. JD looked at him blankly. "When
you're pleased with the distribution of the cards, " Ezra said slowly
and firmly, "invite me to stop shuffling." He paused, then added, "Allow
me as much or as little time as you like." Then, almost as an afterthought,
"Keep your eyes on the cards."
JD watched him shuffle the cards with practised ease, hardly glancing
at them himself. "Stop," JD said shortly.
Ezra stopped and set the deck down on the table. "Cut the deck," he
told JD. JD did as he was told. Ezra put what had been the bottom portion
on top of what had been the top portion and eyed JD. "Now, I assume you're
satisfied that the cards are sufficiently randomized?"
JD nodded tentatively.
"Name a card."
JD looked at him quizzically.
"Name any card in the deck, Mr. Dunne," Ezra repeated.
JD shrugged. "Seven of clubs."
"Interesting choice," Ezra drawled as he confidently pulled a face-down
card from the face-down deck and flipped it over onto the desk in front
of JD. The seven of clubs.
JD stared at the card, then looked up at Ezra. "The eight of diamonds,"
Again Ezra pulled the card easily from the deck and flipped it over
in front of JD.
"But that's impossible!" JD exclaimed. "Ezra you'd have to know the
exact position of every single card in the deck to do that!"
"How hard could it be?" Ezra said flatly. He picked up the deck and
began to shuffle it again. "And I'll have you know that I've never stuck
a card up my sleeve in my life. If someone should accuse you of cheating,
it's entirely too easy for them to prove it when you've got a royal flush
living in your jacket. Even if you're actually good at that sort
of sleight-of-hand ---- and you, my dear boy, are a rank amateur."
"So you're saying I should learn to stack the deck," JD concluded.
Ezra tried not to choke on an incredulous laugh. "Why not?" he said
archly, pulling a card from the deck. He tossed it on to the table. "It's
as easy as lying."
JD looked at the card ---- the ace of spades. Ezra put down the deck
and turned to go.
JD was still staring at the card. "That's amazing, Ezra," he breathed.
"It ought to be," Ezra answered. "It's taken me a lifetime to perfect."
He walked out of the office, the door banging shut behind him.
JD looked over at Buck, who'd remained silent throughout the exchange.
Buck straightened his hat.
"He's kinda hard to read," Buck said, "but I think you hurt his feelings."
JD looked at the Ezra had departed through. "Do you think he'll help
me now? I've really put my foot in it."
"He might if you ask him," Buck answered.
JD wandered down the sidewalk, wondering where Ezra had gone. He was
about to check the saloon when he spotted the southerner's fashionable
green jacket across the street. He was returning from the stables. JD
hurried across the street.
"Ezra!" he called as he caught up. Ezra turned. JD looked at him slightly
shame-facedly. "Sorry 'bout what I said back there," he said. "Truth
is, I got myself into a bit of a situation and I can't get out of it
without your help."
Ezra regarded him a moment. "That was most gentlemanly. I accept your
"Will you help me?"
"We'll see," Ezra told him. "Let's remove ourselves to your office
and en route you can explain the details of this situation you've become
After JD finished explaining the mess he was in to Ezra, Ezra leaned
thoughtfully against the wall of the sheriff's office and looked at JD.
"While I agree it's very noble of you to want to help Miss Grimley
regain her property, I feel the need to ask you to clarify something:
JD shrugged. "Like I told Buck ---- that was his idea."
"That was your first mistake," Ezra told him. "You allowed him to
dictate the terms. To lure you into his territory."
"What could I do? He had the advantage!"
"Only because you allowed it. You could have suggested a race instead.
Or a shooting contest. Something you do possess some measure of
skill in. But nevermind, it's too late to worry about that now. How good
"I don't know."
"You don't know? Am I to understand you haven't seen him play?"
"Not close up. I mean, I've seen him in the saloon;"
Ezra rolled his eyes. "This is ridiculous. Who did you say this cretin
"Mathers. Cal Mathers. You know ---- the big guy with the curly blond
hair and the fancy belt buckle on his hat."
"I know who he is."
"Is he any good?"
Ezra shrugged. "Not bad. Not as good as I am, but not bad."
JD stared at him. "That's not saying a lot, Ezra," he commented.
"No, I quite agree," Ezra replied happily.
JD sighed in exasperation. "So what do we do?"
Ezra didn't answer right away. He was studying the far wall with a
pensive look on his face. Suddenly he broke into a broad grin. "Bend
your ear, young man, and I'll tell you exactly what we're going
JD entered the saloon that evening to meet Cal Mathers as planned.
As he entered, he spotted Ezra at the bar where he said he'd be. He gave
JD a small encouraging nod when he saw the young sheriff looking in his
direction. JD took a deep breath, then walked over to a table where Mathers
and one of his goonish friends were sitting.
Mathers looked up as JD approached. "There you are. Why don't you
sit down, Sheriff, and we'll get started," he said, grinning wickedly
at his friend.
"Oh, I'm not playing," JD said as though he had understood
that to have been clear all along.
Mathers frowned. "What do you mean, you're not playing?" he demanded.
"One of my colleagues is going to handle this duty," JD told him,
waving Ezra over from the bar.
"I understand you've proposed a small wager," Ezra said to Mathers
with a sly smile.
Mathers looked at Ezra in slight disbelief, then looked at JD.
"Standish? NO!" he said fiercely. "I agreed to play you for
"Actually," JD said, sticking to the 'script' Ezra had suggested,
"as I recall, you just suggested a card game to settle the ownership
of the candlesticks. You didn't specifically state that I was
the one that had to play. I mean, you don't think I'd have agreed to
that, do you? How would that look, the sheriff playing cards and
gambling out in full public view? Though I can understand why you're
scared to play Mr. Standish, here. You can just forfeit if you want to
save yourself the humiliation."
Mathers got up and, after shooting a cursory glance at JD, stood toe
to toe with Ezra. "How stupid do you think I am?" he growled.
"Do you want an honest answer or was that a rhetorical question?"
Ezra asked laconically.
Mathers narrowed his eyes. "You didn't expect me to believe that the
kid came up with something this dirty and underhanded, Standish. This
little scheme has you all over it. It reeks of you!"
"I'm sure I haven't the slightest idea what you mean, Mr. Mathers,"
Ezra said innocently, his face an unreadable mask.
Mathers nodded ruefully. "Alright. You wanna play? We'll play."
"Suits me," Ezra answered.
"Does it? It won't for long."
"Do you think so? Well, seeing as you're suffering from such an abundance
of confidence today, why don't we make it double or nothing?" Ezra said
JD gaped at the two men in mild horror. He didn't remember this
being in the script. Neither of the gamblers was paying him any mind,
"Double nothing is still nothing," Mathers said.
"Your personal charm is matched only by the staggering power of your
intellect," Ezra commented wryly.
Mathers looked keen to punch Ezra in the face, but restrained himself.
"What've you got to put up against my candlesticks?" he asked through
Wordlessly Ezra produced a wad of bills from his coat.
"Fair enough," Mathers said and sat down at the table.
Ezra sat across from him and JD tried to look casual as he strolled
up beside him. "Ezra!" he whispered frantically.
Ezra waved him off. "Not now. I'm busy."
Summarily dismissed, JD stood back from the table a bit. Mathers had
produced a deck of cards and Ezra was shuffling it.
I'm watching you this time, Standish," Mathers said in a warning tone.
"Like a hawk."
"Feel free," Ezra said mildly, unruffled.
JD sighed and went over to the bar.
About half an hour later he heard the ruckus behind him and he warily
turned around. The table that Mathers and Ezra had been sharing was overturned,
as was Ezra's chair. Ezra himself was on his back on the floor and Mathers
was standing over him with a revolver pointed at his face and a foot
on his right wrist. He must have known about the Derringer Ezra kept
"Cheater;" he growled.
"I suspect you'll have extreme difficulty in proving that," Ezra purred
"Nobody's born with that kind of luck," Mathers told him.
"I really don't believe that would hold up in court, Mr. Mathers.
I happen to have been born under a very lucky star."
"Who's worried about court? I told you what I'd do if you ever cheated
me again," Mathers spat.
"Would you mind repeating it? I'm afraid I wasn't paying much attention."
Mathers pulled the hammer back on the revolver with a distinctly angry
'click'. JD jumped up and quickly pulled both guns, pointing one at Mathers,
and one at his goon of a friend (just in case he got any ideas).
"I'll tell you what your choices are," JD said in as Chris a tone
as he could muster. "You can leave now, or you can go to jail," he said.
Mathers glared at JD, but holstered his gun and stepped back a bit,
freeing Ezra's wrist. The moment that Ezra was free, he picked up the
money and the candlesticks from where they had fallen when the table
overturned, then stood up, dusting himself off.
"There are few things I despise as much as a sore loser," he said,
smirking at Mathers.
"Ezra," JD said firmly, his eyes still on Mathers and his goon, "go
wait for me in the office."
Ezra's face assumed a slightly incredulous but highly amused expression.
He raised a bemused eyebrow at JD, but walked out of the saloon without
It was about twenty minutes later that JD returned to the office after
seeing that Mathers and his friend did, in fact, leave town. Ezra sat
with his feet on the desk, perusing an old copy of the Clarion, and pretending
not to notice that JD had come in. JD cleared his throat.
Ezra looked up. "I'm gratified you could make it, Mr. Dunne. I've
been bored to tears." He leaned back in the chair. The candlesticks sat
on the desk in front of him. "What was this matter you wished to discuss
with me?" he asked in a tone that implied he was generously gracing JD
with an audience that he'd managed to fit into his busy schedule as a
special favour. It was an impression heightened by the fact that he was
sitting in JD's chair.
JD didn't quite know where to begin. In fact, he hardly ever knew
quite how to deal with Ezra at all. "Ezra," he began, his voice full
of exasperation, "what the hell was that?"
"That?" Ezra said, gesturing vaguely in the direction of the saloon.
Ezra smiled. "That is generally known as 'Everything Going
According to Plan'."
"Including the part where he nearly blew your head off?" JD asked.
"He knew you!" he added accusingly.
Ezra nodded gravely. "I'm afraid my reputation sometimes precedes
"'I told you what I'd do if you ever cheated me again'," JD quoted.
"Tell me I'm jumpin' to conclusions, but that sounds like personal experience
"Perhaps," Ezra conceded, pulling his feet off the desk. "What difference
does it make?" He picked up the candlesticks and set them down closer
to JD. "You got what you wanted."
"You didn't tell me he had a grudge with you," JD said with
"I don't recall you inquiring," Ezra answered.
"But you used the situation for personal gain!" JD practically shouted.
His earnestness in this matter struck Ezra as particularly funny.
He laughed loudly. "My dear child," he said in the tone of someone pointing
out the ridiculously obvious, "I use every situation for personal
JD stared at him for a second. It wasn't disbelief, but rather the
con artist's utter lack of shame that stupefied him. "But that's; but
that's;" he sputtered, searching for just the right word to counter Ezra's
ten dollar vocabulary. "That's unscrupulous!" he finally burst out with.
Ezra stood up and straightened his jacket. He shrugged with a grace
and dignity usually absent from shrugs. "I don't pretend to have scruples,"
he replied, then walked out of the office, letting the door bang shut
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