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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Bearpaw: An Old West Tale - 13. Chapter 13 If He Ever Does

Attention, readers! I must apologize for screwing up last week. I posted the wrong chapter... I posted chapter 14 instead of chapter 13, and I am very sorry. No excuses, but as most of you know, I recently lost my almost 31 year old mare, and a week later my dear sister-in-law to cancer, and I have been extremely ill since the day Sky was buried. So, Cia deleted the wrong chapter 13 for me, and this one is the correct one. In a couple of days I will post chapter 14. I hope you will return to it and leave chapter likes and comments again, as the previous ones are now lost. Again, my apologies for screwing up the flow of the story. Gary

If He Ever Does

 

 

Jubal pushed Dinah’s speed much as he could on the smoother sections, only slowing when there be ruts in the road what could jar Lucas. The big mare weren’t comfortable at a gallop, but she be willing, listening to every movement of his reins and every encouragement his voice gave as he urged her on. He surely hoped the doctor was in town when he got there, and not off on some call to Lord-knows-where. He didn’t know what he would do if such be the case. Lord, please let him be in Bearpaw.

His head kept twisting around to keep an eye on his injured friend, but he hadn’t moved a’tall, not one inch, nor had he made a single sound. No groans. No whimpers. No breath sounds at all. For all he knew, the man had passed, but he couldn’t take the chance of stopping to check on him. Seconds could make a difference between life and death to his mind.

Only after he was on the main street did he bring Dinah down to a trot. She was blowing hard, but likely more from being excited at being asked for such speed, since she be fit enough. He’d have to walk her out once he got the chance.

Spying the sheriff talking to a fellow farther down the boardwalk, he yelled for him.

“Reid! Lucas been shot bad! He needs the doctor—needs him right now!” He slowed where he knew the doctor’s office to be and stopped in the middle of the road. Reid came running, his hat in his hand.

“What happened? I just saw you both at the farm! Who the hell shot him?” he asked as he reached the wagon. He went sickly-looking right quick as he saw his friend laying in the back.

“That Prescott fellow. Ronnie? The one what got away. He shot from the trees as we were walking towards… for God’s sake, where the doc be?”

“Is he… alive?”

“He was when I loaded him, but I don’t know. The doc?” Jubal asked, scared and impatient. “We need him now!”

“Yep. Calm yourself, Jubal. Take the wagon out back of the hotel. Doc Vance has a room with a bed for patients when he needs it, separate from the hotel. You’ll see the door right after you go round. I’ll fetch him, and drag him if I have to, I promise.”

There was now a crowd what had gathered, peering at Lucas laying so still, and it irked Jubal something fierce. “Best move out of the way,” he said to a man standing too close to the front wheel, his head practically in the wagon.

“Harry, move back for God’s sake. You men get the carrying board from my office—help carry Luke into the patient room,” Reid ordered a pair standing close. They ran off right quick, and Jubal clucked to Dinah. She lurched forward with a loud snort and then went into a gallop on her own. All Jubal did was steer.

The men arrived just after he jumped from the wagon and tied Dinah to the hitching rail. They helped him lift Lucas onto the flat wide board with carrying handles. One was young Billy, who’d done the same when they unloaded the two Prescott brothers.

It be the same board used that night for them dead men they’d brought to the undertaker, and he was bothered at seeing Lucas settled on it. Following them into the small room holding a bed and two chairs, he helped ease Lucas off the board and onto the mattress. The fact he hadn’t shit himself was the only reason Jubal thought he still be alive.

The doctor hurried in, appearing cool and calm. “My goodness,” he said as he looked at the scarred-over wound. Pursing his lips, he lifted one of Lucas’s arms and let it drop. Then he pinched the skin on his wrist and let it go. “Seems he’s still alive, but I’ll listen to his heart to be sure. You all clear out of here and give me some room. Now!”

“I ain’t leaving, Doc.”

The elder man peered at Jubal over his spectacles as he took a wooden box from his big black satchel. “Good heavens, you’re covered in blood. Is that yours or his?”

“Ah, I reckon it’s mostly his.”

“You the one with him when he got shot?”

“Yep. Jubal be my name. He’s my friend and I ain’t leaving him,” he repeated. The doc eyed him for a few seconds, his face a scowl what didn’t bother him a’tall. He was staying.

“Fine. You may remain, but the rest of you out!”

The door swung shut quickly, and the serious man ignored him after, his scowl replaced with concern for his patient. He mumbled a few words to Lucas, ones Jubal couldn’t quite hear, and he watched as he pulled out his listening contraption, placing the little bell-like end on his blood-smeared chest.

“Heart’s still pumping,” he said without looking his way. “See you cauterized the wound. Saved me a lot of work. It was one bullet straight through?”

“Yes, just the one hit him, and I burnt him if that’s what you’re meaning? Used a poker from the fire. Burnt his other side too.”

“That is what I meant,” he answered, all his attention on his patient.

Jubal’s legs began to feel weak as he thought about the moment Lucas had dropped. It all started coming back. “Did I do right by such?”

Doc Vance held up his hand for quiet as he listened through those things stuck in his ears. Jubal turned his head to see Sheriff Barnes and some others peering through the large window. After a deep breath, the doctor answered his question. “It might possibly have saved his life… if he does manage to survive such a wound.”

The door opened and Reid slipped inside. “Sorry, Doc, but he’s a close friend as you know.”

“Yes, yes… you can stay too, for the time being, but no one else comes in here, you hear me?”

“I’ll make sure,” Reid said with a quick glance at Jubal.

“Doc? Will he?”

The man turned and peered at him. “Will he what?”

“Do you think he’ll survive his wound?” Jubal asked, afeared of the answer.

“Oh… right.” Took more time before he spoke again as the stooped man moved his contraption around. “You’re asking a question I can’t answer with any certainty, lad. Ah… all I can tell you is his heart is working hard, too damn hard… struggling to keep his circulatory system going. I expect there was quite significant blood loss?” His gaze left his patient and turned to Jubal, who was struggling hisself. “He’s young and he’s got a strong heart, so we can have some faith,” he added.

“I do, sir, I do have faith,” Jubal said, trying his best to believe in it.

“Good, because we might be needing a miracle from the good Lord. So, can you answer my question? Was there a lot of blood lost?”

“Ah… it seemed like. There be a big pool of it on the floor.”

“This happened inside? Close range?” The doc appeared surprised.

“No, sir. I carried him inside after he got shot. Bastard kept shooting, but them other ones missed.”

“I see. Well, that was fortunate. Fortunate too you had a poker hot enough to do the job. How big was that pool?”

“Real big.”

“More specific, please. Would it fill a canteen?”

“I reckon closer to two of them. Sorry, but it be hard to tell. Seemed an awful lot to me.”

The man nodded. “Were both wounds bleeding when you cauterized them?”

Jubal was having trouble standing, but he focused on the man’s face. “Yep. Front one was. Back one never really bled much a’tall, but it did if I pushed on it. Some would drip out steady-like. Did I do it right?”

“Time will tell, my boy. When blood is flowing at the time of cauterizing, there is far less chance of the wound turning sour… so yes, you did it right. Even did a neat job of it, at least on this side. It was a very wise thing to do. Help me turn him, please, so he’s facing this way.”

Jubal stepped close and with as much care as he could, shifted Lucas onto his side, needing no help from the doctor. He was relieved it was something he could manage considering he wasn’t feeling steady a’tall.

“Hold him right there. This wound looks good too,” he said after he leaned over Lucas. He spent more time listening, this time all over his back, pausing the contraption every so often in one spot, before moving on to another.

A sound, something like a sigh came out Lucas’s mouth, getting Jubal excited. “Is he coming to?” He turned his head towards Reid, but he was standing hard-faced, still just inside the door.

The doctor shook his head and continued what he was doing. After a couple of minutes going back and forth and all around, he pulled the bell thing away. “You can set him flat again. That sound was air pushed from his lungs because of the position he was in. It was involuntary… just part of the breathing process.”

Jubal’s confusion must have showed.

“It means he is not regaining consciousness, and to be frank with you, if he ever does, it won’t be for days at least.”

“If he…?”

“He’s in a bad way, but the best news I can give you for now is that while it’s possible his lung was grazed, judging by the path of the bullet, I don’t hear any whooshing sounds that would indicate liquid present in either one. That is a concern I no longer have. Now I’ll examine his organs, just to see if any might have been affected.” He began to prod his stomach all around the wound.

Jubal was feeling right dizzy again, so set hisself down on one of the chairs. He closed his eyes and felt the burn behind them. “If he ever does” was circling around in his mind. Lucas might never wake? What the hell did that mean? Exhaustion hit him, and he could feel himself slide to the floor. Next thing he knew he was laid out flat and Reid was talking to him.”

“How do you feel? Jubal? Can you hear me?”

“Uh… yep. What happened?”

“You passed out. Not surprised… you look godawful.”

“Oh bugger! Is Lucas still—”

“The same. Only been a minute or so.”

Jubal looked past his head and saw the doctor still examining Lucas’s stomach area. He sighed with relief, embarrassed to be taking attention from his friend.

“What happened to you? You’re tore up bad.”

“I am?”

“Yep, thought that was Lucas’s blood, but can see now it’s yours.” Reid’s gaze went to his chest.

“It is? Don’t matter. Ain’t nothing… just some scrapes from the roof and such. Can you help me up?”

“The roof? Lord and tarnation, you’re going to have to explain to me what happened.” Reid turned to the doctor. “Can he get off the floor now?”

“Only if he sits in the chair. Don’t let him stand up for a time. Expect he’s reached his limit, that one.”

Jubal scoffed at the doctor’s words, knowing what his limit be.

“You heard him,” Reid said as he helped him up.

He felt some of that dizziness again, but it passed once he sat down. “Is there any change, Doc?”

“No, but that could be a good thing. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

“What about his organs you were checking on?”

“No distention.”

“What?”

The doc turned to face him. “It means there is no swelling or hardness indicating injury. Upon palpating—feeling around gently—everything seems normal near as I can tell. Hopefully it will stay that way because I would hate to open him up again.”

Jubal’s stomach churned at the thought of that happening. “You… you might have to do such?”

“It’s not something I anticipate, no, so don’t fret or you’ll hit that floor again. Frankly, my biggest concern is the loss of blood. Our bodies produce new blood to replace any loss, but the loss itself could cause irreparable damage. The strain on a heart trying to pump an inadequate supply throughout all his extremities…his arms and legs… could cause it to fail. We have to hope he has enough to keep everything functioning, because I can’t give him any, and I can’t predict anything at this point. It’s all up to him now.”

“Is that what you meant when you said ‘if he ever wakes up’?”

“No, not exactly. When a body suffers such trauma, it has a tendency to shut down. Think of it as a way of protecting itself… saving energy in order to stay alive. We refer to that as being comatose, but the thing about comas is that some patients never wake from them.”

“So… he could die from a coma?”

“No, not from the coma, but he would waste away. We can get some sustenance—liquified food and water—into him, but that will only work for so long. If a patient doesn’t wake after couple of weeks… it’s most likely they’re never going to, so it’s best to let them pass.”

Jubal wasn’t prepared for such news. The man had said to have faith, for God’s sake. He had to believe Lucas would pull through. He hadn’t died yet, had he? His gaze moved away from the doctor and settled on his friend’s face, almost as white as the wide blaze on his new mare. He couldn’t help it. Tears came and he was powerless to stop them from spilling. He wiped quickly before his blurry gaze met Reid’s. He didn’t look so good either.

“He’s a tough son-of-a-gun, Jubal. Don’t be thinking the worst just yet. You got him here and sounds like he hasn’t lost any blood for an hour or more, right?”

He nodded before turning towards the doctor who was packing up his listening contraption. “Could he still be bleeding inside?”

The man turned. “Highly unlikely. The bleeders in that area are near the surface, and the cauterization would have closed enough of them for clotting to occur. That is when the blood thickens and prevents further bleeding. There can certainly be internal bleeding with some major injuries to organs, but I don’t believe so in this case. Palpating the area indicates I am correct.”

“Thanks for explaining such,” Jubal said, meeting Reid’s gaze again. He saw the man’s sympathy, and felt the same for him. He was shook bad too.

“Ready to answer some questions?” he asked, suddenly sounding like the sheriff he was.

Jubal nodded, forcing down his fear for Lucas’s fate. “Oh damn, I forgot Dinah… she needs walking out. She was blowing hard when we got here.” He went to rise, but Reid gently kept him in place.

“Billy’s doing it now. He’s good with horses, so don’t worry for her. She’s being looked after, and she’ll be hooked back up to the wagon when he’s got her taken care of.”

Jubal nodded, closing his eyes as he took a deep breath.

“So, what happened to the gunman?”

Jubal’s eyes opened. “Ronnie Prescott?” He practically spit the name from his mouth. “Shot him dead… bullet straight through his miserable heart, and another one to make damn sure he didn’t ever breathe again.”

“Good. Where is he?”

“Between the old cabin and the new one, laying on his back… probably with his gun still in his hand… or near it,” he answered, rubbing his tired, burning eyes with his hands. “Suppose I can go get him and bring him in for you. Don’t want him on Lucas’s land a’tall.”

“No need. I’ll have Billy and Sam come with me and we’ll bring him back. I need to look at the scene for my report. You stay here with Lucas. Plain to see you don’t want to leave him.”

“No… no, I surely don’t. He’s my friend and I should be here in case—”

The doctor interrupted. “You’re welcome to stay the whole night, but you badly need cleaning up… a good soaping of those scratches on your face and chest. That is a priority, and I don’t expect a change in Lucas anytime soon, going by what I see now. Certainly not in the next handful of hours.

“Hear that?” Reid asked.

“Yep. Suppose I need to do some chores too. Animals need looking after.”

“I can do them if you want? You just worry about washing up.”

Jubal nodded, thinking he should agree to the help, but then he thought about that big pool of blood on the cabin floor. It had to be cleaned up, and it needed to be him what did it so when Lucas came home, he’d not see it and always be reminded. It didn’t belong in his home, one Jubal played a small part in building. “You go get that bugger off Lucas’s land and I’ll take Dinah home to get settled. Lucas always puts his stock first. I’ll ride my mare back in after chores and cleaning up… and stay here with him.” He didn’t mention the blood.

“You got another shirt?”

Jubal looked down at his bare chest and saw what a mess he was. “Yep, I got one all washed. Britches too,” he added after seeing the condition of the ones he wore.

Reid’s hand settled on his shoulder. “He’ll survive this if anyone can, I truly believe that. I care for him too, I think you know that, and any other thought ain’t worth thinking. If you need to do something then you do it. He won’t be alone. I’ll be by plenty and the doc here is the very best. Came all the way from out east, and he’ll give him all the care he can.

“I’ll be here the next couple of hours, checking his vitals and watching for changes, so now might be a good time to take care of your own injuries. I have a salve here you must apply to your cheek, chin and chest after a good soaping. I’ll check tomorrow to make sure everything’s healing well.” He reached into his bag and handed Reid a small tin which he passed on to Lucas.

“Far cry from my heart, Doc.”

“I understand your concern is for Mr. Rush, but a small injury can become something bigger, and quite quickly, so you do as I tell you and put that salve on once you’re well cleaned.”

“Yes, sir, I will.”

“Glad that’s settled,” Reid said. “I’ll be back after we pick up Prescott’s body. “Try my best to get him gone before you get back to the farm. I reckon you ain’t wanting to see his like again.”

“No, I reckon I don’t. He was worse than any animal, and I don’t feel the least bit bad for taking his life.”

“Best you tell me the whole story later, but am I right in thinking you saved Lucas again?” Reid asked.

“Reckon I saved us both from a coward who tried to murder unarmed men. Lucas would have done the same if he hadn’t been the one to catch the bullet.”

Reid nodded, and squeezed his shoulder again before leaving the office. He heard him rounding up some of the men outside for the job ahead. When Jubal went to stand, the dizziness returned for just a few seconds. The doctor stared at him like he knew it had happened, but didn’t mention it.

“You need to take care of yourself, lad. Shock can be hard on a body, and you’ve had one. “I’ve got some powders for you in my office. You stay here and I’ll be back in about ten minutes… maybe fifteen. You’ll be right as rain soon, but stay seated… that is not me asking you. Anything changes with Luke before I return, yell through that door into the hotel and someone will come get me.”

“I surely will.”

There were still some folks outside, but most had gone after the sheriff left. Three men were smoking and talking, likely speculating on whether his friend would live or die. It was clear there was concern in town for the man, and that didn't surprise him a'tall. Jubal slid his chair close as it could get to the bed, and with his back to the window, took Lucas’s hand.

“I reckon you can’t hear me, but that sumbitch paid for what he did. I shot him dead, a bullet from you, and one from me, but I be afeared I was too late. Prove me wrong, Lucas. You got to fight to stay alive, cause we got wildings to catch and break. You didn’t care to do it alone, and neither do I. Won’t do it without you.”

He watched Lucas’s face the whole time he spoke, but there was no reaction a’tall. Bowing his head, he said another prayer, this time a silent one. When he raised his head, more tears had formed. It didn’t look good… he understood that, but he would hold onto his hope and picture how alive the man usually looked.

His tears had dried by the time Doc Vance returned, twenty minutes later, and he drank the powders mixed in a cup of water as ordered. He watched him use his contraption again, sitting patiently a few feet away. It be a relief to have him back in the room, and he wasn’t surprised when he said there was no change, to the good or the bad, but he’d been hoping.

“Let’s see what rest does for him, and don’t you worry, he won’t be alone even if I’m called away for a spell. You best go take care of yourself now.”

Jubal heard his words but stayed sitting until the doctor lost patience and told him in clear terms to git. “Get up, lad. Off you go, and do as I tell you, otherwise I’ll be treating you when Lucas needs you healthy to look after his farm. You hear me?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then clear out while there’s some daylight left.”

Reluctantly, he stood up, finally feeling the full pain of his messed-up chest. “I reckon it could take me a couple of hours to get chores and such took care of. You think he will….”

“I think there’s absolutely no need to rush back,” the doc said in a softer, kinder voice. “I’m sure it’ll be a long night for all of us.”

His feet felt extra heavy as he walked to the door. Before pulling it shut behind him, he heard the man say, “Come on, Luke.”

Jubal repeated the doc’s words as he walked towards where Dinah and the wagon be hitched. “Come on, Lucas, you just got to live. You got to.”

 

 

*

Thanks for reading. Again, I am sorry for posting the wrong chapter last week. This has been a really tough month for me. Cheers!
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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