The money called to him, like embers smoldering in his thoughts, slowly building heat and catching fire. Ten thousand dollars. Passion, greed, avarice, insanity. Call it by whatever name, he thought he had put that monster to sleep after he confronted his mother and basically told her he would rather be poor and with these six men than sitting high and rich on some gambling boat on the Mississippi, all alone. They'd given him the stability he'd never had growing up; a sense of belonging, of family. They used his talents for good rather than to con honest people out of their hard earned money.
Not that he was averse to taking money off a man stupid enough to gamble away his trail pay - as long as the only one losing was the man in question and not a wife and children living in fear and poverty. There was no victim here. No starving child or impoverished wife.
Ten thousand dollars could buy him an expensive suite on a paddle steamer and a seat at any game on-board. He could turn ten thousand dollars into twenty thousand, or into fifty thousand. He could become rich beyond his wildest imaginings, fulfilling every dream and ambition since his very first con.
They all had their daemons riding them, and Ezra could see his own daemon staring back at him in the mirror, pulling him closer to the edge, inflaming his mind with possibilities. His stared hard at himself, the heat coiling in his belly out of want and desire, daring him to reach for the fire and burn with new ambition. He let it whisper its poison into his brain until he could no longer see or think of anything but the money, until he lost his mind and stuffed every pack into his shirt, mind fixed on reaching his horse, of riding into a new life of wealth.
Halfway across the packed street a man brushed into him and Ezra caught a reflection off a glass eye. He thought of Chris and the others in danger, of losing the only people who had ever truly given a damn whether he lived or died, and the fire raging inside him died as if hit by iced water, sending the monster back to sleep as he turned back to help his friends.