Ezra sank deeper into his chair in front of the jail, the coffee cup at his lips hiding his smile.
He continued to ignore the voice coming from around the corner of the jailhouse, enjoying his coffee and watching as the town woke up around him.
"Ezra, god damn it, I know you can hear me!"
Tilting his head back, Ezra said, "I am sorry, Buck, were you speaking to me?"
Curses floated out from where Buck was hidden. "Get your ass over here!"
He sighed dramatically. "If you insist, Mr. Wilmington." Taking his time, he stood up, placing his mug on the seat, and then stretching out the kinks in his back before brushing off his clothes with his hands. Then he strolled around the corner of the building, leaning against the wall and crossing his arms over his chest. "Is there something you required?"
"What do you think?" Buck demanded.
"I'm sure I don't know," Ezra replied innocently.
"I'm not wearing any pants, Ezra," Buck pointed out, practically whispering now.
Ezra slowly surveyed his compatriot - who was wearing a union suit, shirt, and boots - from head to toe and back again. "Why, my lord, you aren't, are you? Tell me, Buck, is there some reason you are not fully clothed this fine morning?"
Buck looked around before leaning down to say, "Someone stole em."
"How bizarre." Mimicking Buck's behaviour, Ezra glanced around warily. "And you own only one pair?"
"No," he hissed, "course not, but it's Wednesday."
Ezra shook his head. "Wednesday?"
"It's wash day," Buck explained as if it should be obvious. "All my spare duds are at Mrs. Smith's laundry."
"Be that as it may, Buck, I fail to see how your pilfered apparel is my concern."
"Well you were the one on duty when they was stolen now, weren't ya? So you should be the one ta catch whoever done it and get my pants back!"
Ezra smiled lazily, picking a nonexistent piece of lint off his plum jacket. "I would love to help, of course, but as of now, I am off duty. Perhaps you should seek the aid of Vin in tracking these most foul evildoers."
The ladies man sighed gustily. "Can't; they done got Vin's too."
Raising a brow, Ezra tapped the tips of his fingers together. "Do tell."
Buck looked around again, taking Ezra's arm and pulling him deeper into the ally. "See, that's what I thought, go see Vin. I mean, at first, I figured one of the ladies just wanted a souvenir from ol' Buck, if you see what I mean." He winked broadly.
Groaning, Ezra replied, "Please, Buck, I'd rather not."
"Not only were my pants missing, but there was a carnation left in their place. So I headed ta Vin's wagon, thinkin' he could give me a hand figuring out which of the ladies had done it. Then I could get em back real nice like, since it was kinda flattering."
"But I got to the wagon, and there was Vin, nearly naked as a jaybird. They got his pants and his union suit. And since it's-"
"Wednesday," Ezra supplied.
"Zactly! Way I see it, ain't no way the culprit is an admiring lady, now is there?"
"I'm afraid I don't follow, Buck." Ezra waved a hand, encouraging him to explain, though he was sure he was going to regret it.
He rolled his eyes. "Well it's obvious, ain't it? Why would a lady be stealin' Vin's duds? Not as if he has a way with the ladies like I do, what with my animal magnetism and all."
Ezra licked his bottom lip, choking back laughter. "After you put it that way, I can see your point. Tell me, was a similar flower left at the scene of Mr. Tanner's theft?"
"Uh huh. And I gotta tell you, stud, it's got me a mite concerned." Buck was whispering again.
"And why is that?"
"What if it's, one of them, you know…stalkers?" Buck stooped down, his mouth at Ezra's ear. "Could be after us, all of us. Some poor deranged soul that read that Jock Steel book maybe. Obsessed. Who knows where it could all end?"
"Where indeed," came Ezra's hushed reply. "On reflection, I believe your concern is not without merit, Buck. I suggest you repair to your room and allow me to begin my investigation."
"Knew I could count on you, Ez!" He seemed relieved.
"But be wary, Buck." He looked around surreptitiously. "They could be anywhere, be anyone."
Buck nodded. "Right! I'll see you later." Hunching, he pulled his hat farther down on his head, scuttling down to the back of the alley before turning the corner and disappearing from Ezra's sight.
Ezra brushed his hands together, a wide grin breaking out on his face.
From behind him, a voice said, "And where exactly are Buck and Vin going to find their pants?"
Turning, he replied, "Why it's Wednesday, after all, Chris. Where else would our compatriots' clothing be?"
The gunslinger stepped away from the side of the building where he'd been hidden in the shadows. "So Mrs. Smith will deliver their wash, and there they'll be. It'll drive those two crazy, trying to figure it out."
"I know," the gambler said gleefully.
"The carnations were a real nice touch," Chris told him, a twinkle in his hazel green eyes.
"Since I smelled like one after those two reprobates put that disgusting perfume into my bath as I dozed, it seemed only fitting." He grimaced, remembering the smell and how it had lingered on his skin for nearly a week no matter how much he'd scrubbed.
"Not to mention being told how pretty you smelled for days after," Chris reminded him.
"I have not forgotten, Chris; believe me. By the time I am done with those two, they will be jumping at their own shadows," he promised darkly.
"Like the way your mind works, Ezra." Chris slapped him on a back. "And if you need any help…."
"Why, Chris, that is most generous of you! Perhaps you'd care to join me for breakfast, where we might further discuss the topic of sweet smelling vengeance."