CASTING STONES

By Barb

 

A/N: Just a little forewarning, Julian is a little harsh on Mary, Josiah, and Nathan’s attitudes in this one. I myself get irritated with them every time I watch Working Girls, because I find them all to be a little too hasty to judgment, which isn’t a good thing. If you think I was too hard on ‘em, that’s ok. I understand that some may feel that they were justified in how they acted…I’m just not one of ‘em.

 

~ ~ WORKING GIRLS ~ ~


 
   Normally, I found it irritating when my charges decided to separate for a while in order to pursue different tasks. During those times, I hesitated in choosing which charge or group of charges to follow, and I ended up spreading myself pretty thin for a day or two. However, when I had overheard where Buck had planned to take JD this afternoon, I hadn’t wavered in choosing to follow the duo for the duration of their journey. The setup had ‘grand backfire’ written all over it, and I wouldn’t have passed up the opportunity to watch one of Buck’s schemes blow up in his face for all the tea in China. The poor lad had kept trying to exude an air of confidence throughout the ride to the tent town, but Buck had kept needling JD until the young man’s façade had finally cracked. Overall, I had found the byplay to be quite amusing, and I hadn’t regretted my decision in tagging along; however, my amusement began to die off once we came within view of our destination. Although I had been in cities of vice before, having that experience didn’t prevent me from stiffening my back upon our arrival. I found the site that met us to be contemptible, and I balled my hands into fists as I suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to hit something. Or someone, I thought frustratingly as I glanced over in Buck’s direction. This whole little adventure had been his idea after all; therefore, I would be quite justified if I chose to take my displeasure out on him. I smirked at the thought but then pushed it to the back of my mind for later. It would be better if I got a handle on the situation before I let my temper overcloud my judgment, I reprimanded myself internally.


As I looked around at the various scenes of debauchery taking place, I wished that I had my flaming sword so that I could render this den of iniquity to ashes. I may not be the most prudish of angels, but places like this have always left a bad taste in my mouth ever since the days of Sodom and Gomorrah. I tossed one last scathing look at my surroundings before turning to follow my two charges into the large tent set up in the middle of the ‘town’. “I’m beginning to think that this wasn’t such a good idea,” I groused as I rubbed the back of my neck on my way inside the tent. Suddenly, seeing Buck get humiliated didn’t seem as appealing now as it had that morning. All of the anger and irritation that I felt sweeping through me just didn’t make the potential payoff seem worth it anymore.


 I wasn’t all that surprised to see Chris in the large tent, being cheerful and sunny as ever as he engaged the company of one of the working girls. As Buck and JD bellied up to the bar and began to scout around for their ‘entertainment’, I plopped down in a nearby chair and resigned myself to my fate. “This cannot possibly end well,” I mumbled through my fingers as I scrubbed my hands over my face. My attention was drawn away from my sullen train of thought and brought back to the situation at hand when I heard a loud, boisterous man address Buck and JD. So this was the man behind this…enterprise? “Well he certainly looks the part of a no-account wanker,” I snorted as I observed the man play host to his customers. He sure didn’t take long to show his true colors, I reasoned contemptuously as I watched him haul one of his employees out of the tent after the girl refused to go with a certain gentleman. “I guess that little display escaped your attention,” I called out to Buck and JD’s turned backs. “And here I thought that you lot stood up for those who couldn’t defend themselves,” I clucked disapprovingly as I slouched back in my chair. I may not have agreed with these women’s choice of occupation, but that didn’t mean that I condoned treating them like so much garbage.


 I rolled my eyes back towards the bar and noticed my two charges eyeing a pretty, young, blonde girl sitting just down the bar from them. “It would appear that Mr. Dunne has made his selection,” I remarked dryly, and I watched the girl haul him off a few moments later. Well, so far Buck’s plan seemed to be working like a charm, but I wasn’t holding my breath for a happy ending to this little tale. “You know what they say about the best laid plans, Mr. Wilmington,” I drawled, watching the man in question grin to himself over his handiwork. “They usually end up turning into rubbish rather spectacularly.” Apparently Buck must have been thinking along the same wavelength that I was, because his Cheshire grin quickly turned into a frown as he beat a hasty exit a few moments later. I looked over to see if Chris had noticed any of the goings on around him and smirked to myself when I saw that he hadn’t even bothered to look up from his whiskey glass. “Well I guess I’ll leave you to it then,” I sighed as I leisurely made my way towards the exit.


I’d just managed to step through the tent opening when I found myself walking into the back of one Buck Wilmington. “I see that you didn’t make it very…” My voice trailed off when I noticed that Buck’s attention appeared to be focused on something down the way, and I turned my head in the direction he was looking. “Merciful heaven,” I croaked in a voice barely above a whisper. That young girl that I’d seen in the tent mere moments ago was now lying in the street, looking as if she’d just been run over by a stampede. “Buck! Buck, don’t you do anything foolish,” I bellowed. By now he had already begun to make a beeline for the scene, and by the time I reached him he was involved in a scuffle with Wickes. “Now you decide to be chivalrous,” I remarked sarcastically as Chris swooped in from out of nowhere and halted the assault Wickes had begun on Buck. I stepped back and fisted my hands on my hips as JD came out of the tent he had been in with his ‘companion’ and Buck handed the injured girl up to Chris so that she could ride with him on the way back to town. “Poor thing,” I tisked sorrowfully, letting my charges precede me on the way out of the tent town. At least she’ll be in good hands when we get home, I thought ruefully as I gave Wickes and his men one last glare before following after my charges.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


I leaned against the outside wall of Nathan’s clinic and crossed my arms as I took in the scene unfolding in front of me. When I had predicted things to backfire at Wickestown, I had no idea that the fallout would bring to light certain prejudices held by one esteemed Mary Travis. “It would appear that the virtuous Mrs. Travis is quite offended by having that young prostitute in town,” I remarked whilst watching her and Chris discuss whether or not to keep young Nora here or to send her away. I thought back to the young girl’s explanation of how she came to be in Wickes’s employment and felt myself becoming angry with Mary. “Perhaps you wouldn’t be so judgmental if you knew more about the young lady’s situation,” I ground out harshly. How very Christian of you indeed, I thought to myself after hearing Chris’ comment on her attitude. The sound of a wagon approaching from up the street brought a halt to Chris and Mary’s conversation and drew all of our attentions to the group of women who were making their way into town. “Well…this will certainly be interesting.” I rubbed a hand over my throat awkwardly as I watched Chris eye the wagon full of women from Wickestown unsurely whilst Mary cocked an eyebrow at him. Yes…things are about to get a might uncomfortable for my charges if the look on her face is anything to go by.


I smirked to myself as I took in the various expressions on my charges’ faces whilst they observed Mary’s confrontation with the leader of the working girls troupe. “No, this episode won’t be awkward at all,” I crowed mockingly. For the most part, my charges were smart enough to refrain from cutting in on the women’s conversation, but I knew that they wouldn’t be able to remain neutral on this issue for long. As I turned to follow Buck into the saloon, I cast one last bemused look at the scene behind me. “It looks like you’re going to have to choose a side in this one, mates.” I shook my head wryly as I snorted, “like you haven’t already,” to myself. My men had been goners the second those women had batted their eyes and flashed their little smiles.


“Are the two of you seriously playing the finger-pointing game?” I laughed as Chris and Buck attempted to shift the decision to let the working girls stay in town onto one another. It would seem that they had not been as nonchalant about Mary’s opinion as they had tried to appear. I squeezed myself between them and threw an arm over each one’s shoulders. “You know what this scene reminds me of? Two little schoolboys who’re afraid of telling the teacher that she’s wrong,” I snickered as I switched my gaze back and forth between them. When Buck finally declared that the women could stay in town, I was in the process of slapping him on the back in approval until I heard Mary make herself known. “I’ll just let you gents explain matters to the lady.” I patted both of my charges on the shoulder uncomfortably before I beat a hasty exit from the building, all the while praying that the two men wouldn’t succumb to Mary’s browbeating. I’d made it halfway down the boardwalk when I saw Vin fly past me and head towards the saloon. “I doubt he has any good news,” I commented derisively, slowly retracing my steps to follow the man. The next time I think an idea will backfire this badly, I’ll make sure I do more than just twiddle my thumbs and wait for the laughs, I vowed silently.  

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


I couldn’t help but snigger as I watched Wickes’ goons ride out of town. I hadn’t been sure that events would run as smoothly as they did when I had first overheard my charges discussing their plan to hide all the women, but I must say that they all had ended up doing an admirable job. I hadn’t expected Nathan to be able to pull off a believable con job with his inability to lie worth a damn, but I had been pleasantly surprised by his display at the clinic. Of course that little scene wasn’t quite as amusing as the one I had walked in on in the church, I thought bemusedly. I don’t think I’d ever seen someone run from a church so fast before until I watched three of Wickes’ men hightail it from Josiah’s resounding, fire-and-brimstone speech. It’s a good thing he doesn’t employ such tactics when he normally talks about my beloved Father, because projecting my Father as a hothead isn’t exactly the best way to save a person’s soul from damnation, I mentally tisked. My attention was brought out of my musings and back to the present when I spotted the various working girls emerging from their hiding places. Although this little victory was pleasing, I had a feeling that those men would be back and that they might not be fooled a second time around.


“What in the world,” I muttered as I watched Chris stalk across the street, looking like a man on a mission. My puzzled frown quickly turned into an expression of amused incredulity when I noticed that he was heading to the bathhouse and that he didn’t intend on using its facilities. “You can’t just barge in there like a Neanderthal,” I bellowed, rushing to intercept him. What could’ve had him so riled up that he would risk walking into a bathhouse that could potentially contain bathing women? “I stand-corrected,” I choked out with an amused chuckle, once I had discovered the bathhouse’s lone occupant. “I think I’ll just wait outside the door,” I laughed nervously as I motioned to the doorway behind me with my thumb and began to backpedal slowly. Once I was outside, I covered my mouth with a hand in an effort to stifle my giggles and leaned my head closer to the doorway so that I could hear what was being said inside. I grinned as I caught some of the conversation between Chris and the prostitute named Lydia and tried to imagine the look on my charge’s face when he realized that he wasn’t going to win the argument with the woman. “What were you expecting? That they would simply up and leave just because you said ‘pretty please’?” I couldn’t help but let my sarcasm run wild as I watched Chris trod out of the bathhouse looking very unlike his normal, confident self. “I could’ve told you that they weren’t going to leave just because you asked them to, mate,” I chuckled, watching as he informed Vin that they would need to think up a new plan to protect the women. Truth be told, I was secretly pleased that these women were just as stubborn as my charges. They were safer here than if they were forced to continue alone, and I couldn’t fault them for choosing to stand up for themselves even in the face of ridicule.


Upon hearing high pitched laughter drifting over from across the street, I turned my head to find Ezra sitting on a bench in front of the local hotel surrounded by the working girls of Lydia’s troupe. My lips twisted into a wry grin as I listened to him tell of his idea to turn them into mail-order-brides for rich gentlemen whom he would graciously set them up with for a small fee of course. I was pleased to see that at least one of my charges was attempting to find a way to free the unfortunate women from the dangerous life they were embroiled in even if his motivations were partially self-serving. “Leave it to Ezra to capitalize on a situation,” I drawled with a grin. Despite the seemingly distasteful aspect of his latest scheme, I couldn’t fault the man’s logic. “At least he’s trying to remove them from a life that could result in who knows what kind of maladies or perhaps even death and instead set them up with some respectability,” I muttered. As I listened to the conversation, I caught sight of JD ogling the blonde girl he had been with at Wickestown whilst he propped himself up against a wagon across the street. “Oh this should be good,” I whispered through a maniacal grin as I spotted Buck sneaking up on the young man from behind. However, a few minutes later, I found myself wishing that I’d just left well enough alone and hadn’t bothered to eavesdrop on the two’s conversation. “I guess that would explain your extensive knowledge of the fairer sex,” I mumbled quietly, watching Buck amble away. Just when I thought that it wasn’t possible for me to feel like an even bigger git, I have to go and step in this milk bucket. One thing was for sure, I’d be more careful when griping about Buck’s escapades in the future.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


As I watched Wickes and his group of men ride into town, I cast one last anxious look over to where my charges stood at the ready in the middle of the street and prayed that things ran as smoothly now as they had yesterday. “I sure hope this works,” I mumbled, crossing my arms as I prepared to watch the interaction with bated breath. After hearing about Buck’s personal feelings towards men like Wickes, I was hoping that he would have the sense not to say anything stupid that might ignite the powder keg that was this little standoff. “You sure know how to instill confidence in an angel, don’t you,” I snorted sarcastically after I heard him say something about a pig on a horse a few moments later. I could tell that Wickes was fit to be tied by my charges’ defiant manner, and I began to glance down the street to see if Vin was ready to play his part in this scheme that my charges had cooked up. “You’re bloody lucky that Vin timed his distraction just right otherwise you’d be eating those words, Bucklin!” I growled at the man before moving to follow Vin. I knew he had to make this chase look good, but I’d learned to expect things to get bolloxed when it came to my charges. “There’s no bloody way that I’m letting him out of my sight during this bloody stunt,” I mumbled as I leapt up onto the driver’s seat next to Vin. The others would be relatively safe from their positions riding behind Wickes and his crew, but Vin would be in a very precarious spot when it came time for him to bail out of the wagon. “You just make sure you time things right,” I hollered to him as we raced towards the cliff up ahead. Because if you bollox this, I’m not sure I’ll be able to save your arse. I kept that thought to myself as Vin spurred the horses to go faster; there was no need to add to my charge’s nervousness.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


“I must say that your ruse worked out rather well, gentlemen,” I drawled, looking down at the display of straw bodies that were strewn about amongst the wreckage of the wagon at the bottom of the cliff. I could hear them congratulating each other behind me, and I couldn’t help but shake my head in disbelief at their cavalier attitude. “Wickes and his men aren’t gone but two minutes and you’re already celebrating,” I ranted as I flung a hand in the departing men’s direction for emphasis. “And you two,” I barked harshly, rounding on Buck and Chris. “I suggest that you morons learn to bite your bloody tongues. There’s no need to go antagonizing your enemies by shooting off at the mouth.” I thrust my index finger at them to punctuate my words as I continued walking until I was right in their faces, ending my rant by stabbing my finger into each man’s chest in time with my words. Those two hotheads were going to be the death of me, I just knew it.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


The scene that welcomed me upon my entrance into the church had me snickering in disbelief. I’d been looking forward to viewing this ‘charm school’ ever since we got back to town, and if this current display was a sign of things to come, I had a feeling that I’d be enjoying myself immensely.  “Do any of the women you’ve been with know just how full of it you really are, Buck?” I asked with mock puzzlement as I stood behind the man in question with my arms crossed. As I watched him spin his web of charm on the working girl he was ‘practicing’ with, I began to snigger. “You know, I actually feel a bit sorry for her,” I whispered in his ear, pointing to the woman in front of him. I crowed in amusement when Ezra seemed to voice my thoughts out loud a few moments later, but my laughter was abruptly cut off when I heard Nathan enter the church. “Ah hellfire,” I mumbled. I had been afraid that a confrontation like this might happen, and I had never wished to be proven wrong more than I had at that moment. I could only watch in silent admonishment as Nathan vented his own version of righteous anger at the conman, and Josiah added his two cents to the discussion. The others might not have caught the wounded look on Ezra’s face but I did. “For men who confess to be followers of God, you sure are quick to cast stones at those you believe are in the wrong,” I stated solemnly, shaking my head in disapproval. Why was it so easy for humans to see the speck of wrongdoing in another’s eye whilst ignoring the plank of error in their own? I cast one more distasteful look about the church before hastily leaving the scene, the changed atmosphere sapping all the humor from me and leaving a simmering rage in its place. I could only take so much hypocrisy before my anger got the better of me, and my charges couldn’t afford for me to do something stupid just to spite them.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


“And where might you be headed, Mrs. Travis?” I murmured quietly, watching the woman walk across the street with a breakfast tray. My puzzled frown deepened when I saw her go into Nathan’s clinic a few moments later. “Delivering breakfast to the injured prostitute?” I cocked my head as I tried to figure out why Mary would be performing such a benevolent gesture for a woman whom she clearly had a bias against. “It’s probably for Nathan,” I snorted derisively and gave the clinic door a dismissive shake of the head. I was about to take a walk about the town when I heard the clinic door open again and someone step out. “Huh, I guess someone’s as displeased with Mrs. Travis’s attitude as I am,” I chuckled as I spotted Nathan coming down the stairs with a pleased grin on his face. He probably talked the woman into delivering the breakfast to Nora, I reasoned. “I hope your little ruse works, my friend; these girls need all the support that they can get.” I gave the clinic one last look before I followed Nathan to the saloon, but if I had known what was going to happen whilst my charges were eating breakfast I would have staid and kept watch.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


“I would not want to be in your shoes right now, mate,” I clucked as I turned my head to look over at Vin. I could tell by every wince he made that my charge was beginning to regret his ‘plan’ for rescuing Mary from Wickestown as the two of us waited by the door of Ezra’s bedroom and listened to the man’s struggles inside. At first, I had thought that Ezra would strangle Vin with the man’s own bandana when the Texan had brought up his idea for causing a distraction in Wickestown. I would have been more than happy to oblige him the pleasure of doing so, but it was as if a wave of reluctant resignation had washed over him when Vin had pointed out that they didn’t have much in the way of options if Ezra refused. “At least the others were smart enough to keep their distance,” I snorted as Vin continued to shift his position against the wall he leaned against. Well, I suppose comparing Vin’s behavior to that of my other charges was a bit unfair. He may have found his idea to be funny when he had first thought it up, but I could see that he was feeling guiltier about putting Ezra in this position the longer he observed the effort that had to be put into this ruse. “Just make sure you thank him profusely when this is all over,” I stage-whispered as Vin let out a deep breath. I heard the door open next to me, and I grinned at the steely look Ezra shot towards Vin. “You might want to brush up on your flattery techniques, because you’re on your own on this one, mate,” I chuckled, clapping Vin on the shoulder on my way out.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


“Well I must say, things worked out better than I had expected,” I drawled from my place against a support post as I watched the wagon of prostitutes pull out of town. It appeared that Mrs. Travis had corrected some errors in her judgment since returning from her tenure at Wickestown; an action that I hoped to see repeated by Nathan and Josiah. I spotted Vin attempting to make a hasty escape out the back of the saloon and smiled to myself. At least someone had thanked Ezra for his role in the rescue. “Although, I think groveling would’ve gone down better than a ‘thank you’ said with a less than straight face,” I chuckled as I remembered just what sort of ‘hell’ the gambler had gone through during his ‘distraction’. Man deserves more than a bloody ‘thank you’, I mused distastefully. As I thought about all that had transpired over the last several days, I found myself growing apprehensive. “I just hope all of you can learn to not judge each other solely by your faults,” I sighed loudly before my grimace turned into a rueful smile. “Because each of you has a list of them, and the supply of rocks that would be needed for you all to throw at each other would be extensive to say the least.”

 

 

 

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