A Year in the Life. Chapter twenty.
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Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington
|Subject: A Year in the Life. Chapter twenty. Sun Oct 06, 2013 9:34 pm|| |
A Year in the Life Part one
Heyes and the Kid sat across from each other in their usual manner. Both in their own way were trying to ignore the fact that Pearson was standing behind the inmate with a loaded rifle, probably eavesdropping on everything they said. Curry was at a loss; he’d run out of conversation. Heyes wasn’t helping; he was in a mood. Stoic, depressed—silent.
“Weather's kinda strange these days,” Curry finally commented, falling back on the typical topic that people tend to fall back on when there’s nothing else to say. “starting to feel a chill in the air but we're still not getting any rain. The livestock around the barn are doing okay, but Jesse's getting' worried about the range stock.”
“Karma’s looking good,” Curry continued, and then smiled—albeit forced. “She’s startin’ to look a little plump if you know what I mean.”
Curry sighed, frustrated. “C’mon Heyes give me somethin’ will ya’? The snows are gonna be flyin’ soon. I don’t know how many more times I’m gonna be able to get here before winter sets in.”
“Yeah, I know.”
Silence. Even Pearson was beginning to look bored.
“OH!” Curry brightened up as he remembered a piece of good news. “seems like David and Tricia are expecting—finally! David’s walking around with his head in the clouds. He’s just tickled pink—if you can say that about a man!”
“Hmmm. Well he is a doctor; he oughta know how it’s done.”
The smile dropped from Curry’s face. “C'mon Heyes. What kinda talk is that?” Kid reprimanded him. “David’s one of the good guys—remember?”
It was Heyes’ turn to sigh but then he had the good graces to look a little contrite.
“Yeah, I know. I’m sorry Kid—it’s just….”
“What Heyes? What’s eaten’ at ya’?”
“It’s just….” Heyes couldn’t look the Kid in the eye. “it’s been a year.”
The rest of Curry’s attempt at pleasantries dropped from his countenance and once again silence fell between them. Heyes looked like he was going to cry—almost. But he didn’t and with a subtle cough and a shifting in his chair, he simply stared off into space focusing on something beyond the Kid’s left shoulder.
“Yeah, I know Heyes,” Curry finally said softly. “I was hopin’ that maybe ya’ wouldn’t realize it—stupid really, thinkin’ that you wouldn’t realize it. But—I was hopin’, that’s all.”
“Yeah,” Then Heyes shifted again and this time brought his eyes down to meet his partners’. “I donno Kid, I guess I just kept thinking that something was going to happen, ya’ know? Like it always does. We always seemed to be able to talk or fight or just scam our way out of these things, so I figured something was going to happen. Some miracle. I mean; surly this wasn’t it! This wasn’t going to be my life from now on! This was just a bad dream and I would get out and we’d look back on it and laugh about what a close call that had been, and how we showed them! You know—the usual.”
“Yeah. I know Heyes.”
“But now, it’s been a year and suddenly it does feel like this is my life from now on,” Heyes continued. “that this is it. There is no exit out the back. My life outside of these walls just doesn’t exist anymore.”
“Heyes, it does exist,” Kid insisted. “C'mon, don’t give up on that. I know it’s taking longer than we thought and doors keep on gettin’ slammed in our faces but we’re not giving up on ya’—you gotta know that!”
Heyes sent his partner a soft smile. “Yeah, I know that Kid,” he said and then sighed deeply. “I guess I gotta just dig in and hang on—right?”
Curry didn’t answer him. The sarcasm in his tone was subtle but obvious to one who knew him so well.
“Are ya’ goin’ to services at all Heyes? Or readin’ those medical journals? You seemed to be gettin’ quite a lot out of those things before.”
“Yeah, I know,” Heyes agreed. “I just haven’t been really interested in that stuff lately.” Then he smiled again, a little sadly. “I think I should just leave the doctorin’ to David. I don’t really have the knack for it.”
“Yeah? Well….have you been talkin’ to Sister Julia lately?” Kid was grasping at straws. “She’s a friend.”
Heyes shrugged. “Yeah. One of the other inmates was sick for a while so she was here to help with him, but since then she hasn’t been around much. I guess she’s been busy with orphans and such, what with Christmas only a couple of months away.”
“Well, maybe you could write her a letter, or write David a letter or write somebody a letter! What about Lom?!”
“What about him?”
“Well—write him a letter!”
“I got nothin’ to say.”
Curry slumped. “Is Kenny working today?”
“Why? Ya’ want me to write him a letter?”
“No!” Kid retorted, sending him ‘the look’. “It’s just that Belle sent some things for ya’. They’re actually Christmas presents, but since we didn’t want to take the chance of everybody getting snowed in, she asked me to bring them to ya’ early. You’ll probably be needing them soon anyways.”
“Oh,” Heyes mumbled. “Yeah, I think he’s here today. Just ask for him. You know the drill.”
“Yeah Heyes, I do.”
Heyes remembered something akin to manners. “I guess you should thank Belle for me. It’s good of her to put the effort in.”
“She’s happy to do it Heyes,” Curry assured him. “She’s always askin’ after ya’. She’s worried you’re gonna get sick again.”
Heyes smiled. “Tell her I’ll try not to.”
“Yeah, I will. I’d appreciate ya’ not getting’ sick again too.”
“Hmmm,” Heyes sat silent again for a moment, then… “How are the girls?”
“They’re fine,” Curry assured him. “I think Beth is going to be spending Thanksgiving in Denver, weather permitting. Then they’re all going to be coming out to the ranch for Christmas.”
“Hmmm,” was Heyes’ only comment again. He was staring off into empty space, a sadness enveloping him, a sadness that was deeper than any that Curry had ever seen before, and it scared him. Like Heyes had lost yet one more piece of himself—like he was giving up.
Then Pearson shifted his weight just slightly, but Curry had come to recognize that little bit of body language as ‘time to wrap it up’ and he was a little angry with himself for feeling relieved. This had been a difficult and awkward visit and part of him was glad that it was over with. But on the other hand, Curry felt anxious about leaving his friend when he was in this kind of mood. He was no longer sure about what Heyes was or was not capable of doing.
“I guess our time is up Heyes,” Curry told him. “I gotta go.”
“Don’t do anything stupid, alright?”
“No, I won’t.”
Curry smiled. It had been a very simple exchange, but it was enough of a reassurance that the Kid was able to relax a little and feel confident that he would be seeing Heyes again.
“Hopefully I’ll get in ta’ see ya’ one more time before winter really hits,” Curry tried to promise him as he got to his feet.
“Yeah, okay Kid—oh and Kid?”
“Yeah Heyes?” he asked, and he looked over to his partner to see a sparkle in those dark brown eyes and a dimpled grin upon his face.
“Try not to worry so much, okay?”
Curry gave a quiet laugh. “Yeah Heyes, okay. See ya’ later.”
Once out of the visitor’s room, Curry went over to the guard at reception and asked about seeing Mr. Reece.
“He’s busy,” the guard told him. “What do you need to see him for?”
“Well, I need to give him this parcel that I left here with my gun and coat,” Kid explained. “It’ll only take a moment.”
“Like I said; he’s busy,” the guard reiterated. “You can leave it with me; I’ll make sure he gets it.”
Kid smiled. Not his friendly smile, but his ‘I’m talking to an idiot’ smile.
“Sorry, can’t do that,” Curry informed him. “I have to give it directly to Mr. Reece.”
“He could be a while.”
“That’s fine. I’ll just sit over there and wait.”
“Suit yourself,” the guard smirked as he handed Curry’s belongings over to him. “but like I said; he’s busy.”
Curry went over to the lounge area and sat down, settling in for a long wait. Since the guard at reception was making no move to let Kenny know that he had a visitor, Curry was preparing himself for a really long wait. Then, twenty minutes later, much to his surprise, Mr. Reece himself put in an appearance.
Curry stood up and the two men shook hands.
“Afternoon Jed,” Kenny greeted him. “How are you?”
“Fine,” Curry told him. “How did you know I was here?”
“Pearson let me know you wanted to see me,” Kenny informed him. “I also wanted to have a word with you before you went. I had asked the receptionist to let me know when you were here, but obviously he forgot.”
“Oh,” Curry answered, sending a quick glance over to the reception counter where that guard was conveniently not looking their way just then. “Yeah, he forgot alright.” Then Jed shrugged it off and pulled his attention back to Kenny. “Well, first off I wanted to give you this so you could make sure Heyes got it. It’s just a woolen hat and some mittens, but they’re a gift from a friend.”
“Yes, okay. I’ll be sure he gets them,” Kenny said as he took the parcel. Then he sent the Kid a quick searching glance. “I guess you noticed his mood.”
“Oh yeah,” Jed answered emphatically. “What brought that on? Is it just the ‘one year’ thing?”
“Partly,” Kenny nodded, and then gesturing over to a quiet alcove where they could sit and talk in some privacy, he continued. “The one year anniversary is hard on many of the inmates, especially the lifers. It just seems to be when they start to recognize the reality of their situation. Don’t worry about that part of it too much Jed, he’ll get over it and when he does he’ll be more accepting and things will get a whole lot easier for him.”
“Yeah, okay,” Jed felt a little relieved at that. Obviously Kenny recognized the pattern. “but you said ‘partly’. Has something else happened?”
“Yeah,” Kenny admitted a bit reluctantly. “One of the other inmates, a young fella who was due to get out in six months, well he died last week.”
“Oh. What happened?”
“Pneumonia,” Kenny stated. “Thing is, by rights he shouldn’t have died. He was young and healthy; never been sick a day the whole two years he was in here. He should have been able to fight it off. Heyes was looking after him in the infirmary, was with him when he died. He took it kinda hard.”
“Aww jeez!” Kid groaned looking back towards the door to the visitor’s room. “Why didn’t he tell me? Dammit! He mighta’ felt better if he’d talked about it!”
Kenny shrugged. “Who knows?” he said. “Maybe by not talking about it he could just pretend it didn’t happen.”
“Yeah,” Jed reflected. “I suppose I can remember thinking along those same lines myself not too long ago. It doesn’t work.”
“No, it doesn’t,” Kenny agreed with a smile. “He cares about people. I’ve seen so many convicts come through here and most of them don’t give a damn about anybody but themselves—especially the lifers. That’s why they’re lifers, most of them are sociopaths and they just can’t function ‘out there’. But not Heyes. I mean, he comes across as being dispassionate doesn’t he? But it’s just an act; he really does care about people.”
“Yup,” Jed agreed. “Losing that young fella would have been hard on him.” Then Curry became contemplative for a moment. “He’s also used to being in control of things. I guess in here that control has been taken away from him. Maybe working over in the infirmary and just having a better understanding of how things work made him feel like he had some say again in things that happen around him. Losing a fella like that, a fella who was young and strong and as you say; shouldn’t have died in the first place—yup, that would have been real hard on Heyes. Always was; losing a man he has taken responsibility for—he takes it personal.”
“Yeah. I mean, it’s obvious isn’t it? The man is not a sociopath. It kind of makes me wonder why he was given such a harsh sentence,” Kenny commented.
Jed smiled. “Yeah, it do don’t it.”
The two men locked eyes for a moment and it seemed to Jed that a whole conversation passed between them. For that to happen between him and Heyes was normal, but considering that Jed had not known Kenny for very long, it was an unexpected occurrence. Kenny nodded and then continued with the verbal aspect of their communication.
“I was hoping—again....” he began. “that since you do know him so well, that you might have some insights as to how to get him to engage like he did when he was first introduced to the infirmary. He was doing well for a while and I hoped we’d had it beat, but now he is withdrawing more and more into himself and becoming more violent just like he was when he first came here. He’d stopped going to services a while back and now with what happened to that young man, well he doesn’t seem to be getting much satisfaction out of the infirmary anymore either.” He sighed reflectively. “Bad timing, really—that incident happening right on his first anniversary here.”
Jed sat quietly for a moment, becoming reflective himself and thinking back on the Hannibal Heyes he knew way back when.
“The problem with having a mind like Heyes’ is that it needs to be constantly doing something,” Curry explained. “It needs to have new and challenging problems to deal with or it starts to create its own problems and then gets itself into trouble.”
“Yes, I’d noticed!” Kenny emphasized. “I never know what to expect from him. He can be volatile, unpredictable—explosive even, and then at other times he’s thoughtful, inventive and creative. Then all of a sudden, he’ll turn around, and be sullen and moody or, like now; downright depressed. I’m at a loss!”
“You can hardly blame him—being stuck in here!” Jed pointed out. “Heyes has always been a doer, always something on the go. He can’t stand being cooped up and you’re surprised that he’s unpredictable? I know you’re trying to help him—far more than I would have expected anyone here to be willing to do and hopefully once he is passed this ‘one year’ hurdle he will be more accepting of things like you say. But he is still going to need things to challenge his mind or he’s going to end up retreating deeper and deeper into his own mind just to escape the boredom.”
“I agree. That was mainly why Doc and I worked so hard to get him in at the infirmary. Keep him interested and challenged and then hopefully he would stay out of trouble.” Kenny smiled ruefully. “It partly worked,” then after some thought, he continued. “I had hoped that he would find some interest in the lectures that our minister delivers here after services. She’s very knowledgeable on many subjects and puts every effort into getting the inmates to engage,” Kenny commented, then shrugged and shook his head. “But again, he seemed interested at first and gradually became bored with it all and eventually stopped attending all together. Dr. Slosson herself is feeling quite frustrated with him.”
Jed nodded. “I wouldn’t be surprised if anything your minister had to offer up as an education would have just been child’s play to Heyes. Especially if she was directin’ it more towards the average inmate. Ya’ gotta understand that Heyes really is a genius. I’d always tease him about it,” Curry smiled in recollection. “he could just be so arrogant sometimes, he needed to get knocked down a peg or two or his head would explode. But he had to understand numbers an’ stuff in order to pull off a lot of the jobs that we did. That is what put us above the average outlaw—if you get my meanin’.”
“Uh huh,” Kenny nodded. “I remember reading about that robbery in Denver, when Heyes blew that Pierce and Hamilton without so much as singeing the contents.” He smiled in admiration. “That was nothing short of brilliant.”
Curry beamed. It always pleased him to hear others recognize his partner’s abilities. But then Kenny suddenly looked slightly embarrassed, realizing that he was practically condoning an illegal act.
“Ugm hmmm,” he coughed slightly to cover it up. “anyway. I know that Sister Julia has already discussed this situation with Dr. Slosson, perhaps if I suggested that she make the lectures more challenging for him, give him something to latch on to. At least until this mood passes and he finds his footing again.”
“Yeah,” then Curry became reflective once more, trying to think of alternatives. “Or maybe Dr. Slosson should try somethin’ completely different. Like I said; Heyes is already real familiar with numbers and science and stuff. Maybe he needs somethin’ completely new. After all, that’s what drew him in to the infirmary—medicine was totally new to him, that’s what made it challenging.”
Kenny nodded. “Alright, thank you Jed. I’ll discuss this with Dr. Slosson and maybe she’ll come up with something. She’s nothing if not inventive—and tenacious—and determined—and tireless—and fearless…..”
Curry smiled broadly. “Sounds like someone else we know.”
Kenny laughed. “You’re right,” he agreed. “we need to get them both on the same track.” Then he nodded again and stood up. Jed followed suit. “Thank you again. And now I’d best be getting back to work. I’ll see that Heyes gets his parcel.”
And the two men shook hands and parted company.
Once Heyes was let loose back into the prison proper he decided to head outdoors for a while in the hopes of clearing his head and lifting his spirits a little bit. Even before he arrived out in the yard he was starting to feel a little guilty over the way he had treated his partner. Curry made the trip from Colorado every month just to spent one hour talking with him and then Heyes sits there all sullen and moody and was even downright rude. Damn it! He’d tried to lighten it up at the end there, but ‘too little too late’ as they say.
Unfortunately going outdoors didn’t really help him to feel any better. At least Curry got to leave here, got to go home, back to a life that meant something. When Kid would start talking about events back at the ranch, even minor ones it just reminded Heyes all the more of how he was stuck in here. So now there’s David and his wife expecting their first born—normally that would be happy news but now it was just another time piece, ticking away the months, and now the years.
There was nothing like children to make the passage of time so apparent. Last time he had seen Jay, the boy was still an infant in arms, now he was sampling solid foods, making attempts to walk and talk. Kid was like an older brother to him, or an uncle—a member of the family. Heyes was a stranger, a nobody as far as Jay was concerned. Just a name that got mentioned from time to time but had no real substance.
Now David and Tricia were expecting. Another little time piece coming in to the world. Bridget and Steven were courting and by the way things were going they would be betrothed soon. Then married. Then more children would be arriving. And time would tick on and Heyes would still be here walking around the perimeter of the territorial prison. Where time stood still.
Why did Billings have to die? God Dammit!! He should’na died! He was so young—barely twenty and he was going to be outta here in six months! He had a life waiting for him—and Heyes kicked a pebble and watched it bounce across the yard and then bang into a wooden bench. Deep sigh. He felt responsible. Sister Julia had been there as usual, tending to the sick man, helping him through the fever and the coughing and the nightmares. She was so diligent and never left his side.
Then Heyes had come into the infirmary for his day on the job and he had taken over for her so she could have some well earned rest and a meal. He had sat by the young man’s bedside, holding his hand and keeping the cold compresses caressing his forehead and neck, trying to keep the fever at bay. Billings seemed to calm down during the late morning. Morin had given him something to ease the coughing and to help him sleep and he really did seem like he had turned the corner and was going to get better.
Then all of a sudden the fever spiked again for no apparent reason and he became distressed and it just seemed that no matter what Heyes did the young man would not quiet down and the fever would not back off. Heyes thought he knew what to do to break a fever, he’d read all about it in the medical journals, he’d even helped other inmates go through it and come out the other end. He’d had all the confidence in the world that he would see Billings through this just as he had the others.
But Billings wasn’t improving and eventually Heyes had gotten a little scared. Then he had just been about to call for Morin, for him to come and take a look and make some suggestions when Billings finally calmed down and seemed to be settling. Heyes had breathed a sigh of relief. Then, totally unprepared for it, he heard the death rattle and the young man died right there, with Heyes holding his hand and staring in disbelief at the silent face on the pillow; willing it to move, to breathe, to do something! Silently pleading with the young man to give any kind of sign at all that life still lingered so that Heyes would not have to admit that he had failed.
That’s how Morin found them when he returned to the ward ten minutes later. Heyes was sitting beside the bed staring blankly into space and still holding on to the dead man’s hand. The Doc came over to them and did a quick check on the patient’s vital signs even though one look told him that it was already too late. Then he sighed and put a consoling hand on Heyes’ shoulder.
“Don't take it too hard Heyes,” he tried to comfort the younger man. “sometimes that’s just the way it goes.”
“But why?” Heyes asked in a quiet, shocked voice. “He was young and strong, he should have been able to fight it off. It’s like he just gave up.”
“There’s no rhyme or reason to it,” Morin rationalized. “why one person pulls through and another doesn’t. I could never figure it out.” Then he started to walk away, mumbling as he went. “Why do ya’ think I drink so damn much? Could use a fucking drink right now, I tell ya’.”
Heyes hung his head, still holding onto the lifeless hand. Even though Morin hadn’t meant it as an accusation his comment made Heyes feel guilty, since he was the one who told Morin to get rid of his stash in the first place. Now more than ever he could understand completely why Morin always had a bottle on hand ‘cause now more than ever, Heyes felt like he could do with a drink too.
Heyes stood out in the prison yard, staring up at the walls and thinking absently about how impossible it would be to scale them. It had nothing to do with the barbed wire that was strung along the tops of them, or with the ever watchful guards up in the corner towers with their ever ready rifles always on hand. No; it was the walls themselves that defied any attempt to scale them. It was like they knew it too, standing there all rigid and stark, towering over the inmates, closing in on them, suffocating them. Laughing at them.
“What ya’ thinkin’ about convict!?”
Heyes just about jumped out of his skin! Dammit! There he was again allowing his mind to wander and not watching his back. He really did need his partner in here with him—how could he be so bloody stupid all the time?! He was startled into eye contact but then quickly looked away and down. It was one of the new hires; a younger guard named Thompson. He was a bully in the making and it riled Heyes that he had to submit to him knowing that in his own element Heyes would have chewed this youngster up and spit him out before breakfast.
“Nothin’ sir,” Heyes answered to the guards shoes. “wasn’t thinkin’ about anything.”
“Sure as hell looked to me like you was thinkin’ about somethin’!”
“No sir, just daydreamin’.”
The end of the bully club caught Heyes in the mid-drift and caused him to catch his breath and stagger, but he didn’t go down.
“I don’t recall askin’ you a direct question! Was that a direct question Convict!?”
Heyes was trying to unclench his jaw and start breathing again when the club came in for another blow because Heyes wasn’t fast enough to answer the question about it being a direct question. Heyes’ lips pulled back in rising anger both at himself and at the young guard. Of course that hadn’t been a direct question! The guard had thrown the bait out there and Heyes had walked right in to the set up like some green newbie! What an idiot! Surprisingly enough though, he was able to keep his anger in check which was quite a feat considering the foul mood he had already been in. He answered the ‘direct question’ as meekly as he could.
“No sir, it wasn’t.”
“Good,” Thompson gave mock praise. “I was beginning to think you were so stupid you didn’t know the difference. A little word of advice; you wanna be out in the yard, that’s fine. But don’t be standin’ around, starin’ at the wall like you’re makin’ plans. You understand me Convict?”
“Good. Nice ta see ya learnin’.”
Then Thompson sauntered away, swinging the bully club like he was just out for a Sunday stroll. Heyes stood where he was for a moment, clutching his gut and reprimanding himself for his own stupidity. He really was beginning to lose his mind.
Although, in some ways, he mused, having to cow down to that ‘boy’ really did kind of bring some understanding as to how it must have been for Wheat. All those years ago in another place and another life when Heyes had ‘jumped the cue’ and taken over command of Devil’s Hole. How that must have rankled the older man who had been in the gang longer and ranked higher while Big Jim had been the boss. Then that little ‘up start of a know it all’ with his gun slinging partner had decided that they were going to run things. The fact that the gang had then prospered better than ever before had only made it a more bitter pill to swallow.
Yup, Heyes got a little more insight as to how that must have rankled the older man and now Wheat just might be thinking that Heyes was getting his just desserts. Or maybe Heyes was just feeling so down on himself that it would stand to reason that everyone else must be feeling the same way about him to.
Finally Heyes took a deep breath and slowly made his way towards the entrance to the cell block, making sure he didn’t send a fleeting glance back towards the walls again. Thompson was probably waiting for him to do just that and would love a reason to justify inflicting another beating on the inmate. Heyes made sure he didn’t give him one.
A quick trip down to the kitchen for a coffee and then spend the rest of the afternoon in his cell with the hopes of lifting his spirits with a good book. Yup; that was the plan. Then when he got to his cell he noticed the forgotten about parcel that Curry had brought and that Kenny must have delivered and left on the cot. Heyes smiled briefly and putting his coffee down on the side table, he settled into his pillow and opened up the parcel.
Sure enough it was a hat and some mittens, but also more socks and a scarf as well. There was also a tin container with some of Belle’s wonderful Christmas baking inside and Heyes smiled even more—some of those cookies would go perfect with his coffee! Have to keep those hidden, though he might take some over for the Doc and maybe brighten his day a bit. These days they could both use some Christmas Cheer, even if it was a little early.
There was also a letter apparently from Belle, which was a nice surprise as Heyes hadn’t heard from her for some time now. He settled himself even more so into his pillow that was between him and the wall and tried to get comfortable—not an easy feat as he rubbed his bruised rib cage. He was certain; if he ever got out of here he would be sporting a permanent array of bruises made by those damn clubs. It seemed as though every new hire or latest transfer just had to prove himself to the boss and apparently the only way they could think of to do that was to beat up an inmate. Somehow it just seemed to go with the territory.
Finally having settled in, Heyes laid the letter out on his drawn up knees and with coffee cup in one hand and a tasty Christmas cookie in the other, he began to read.
I have been meaning for some time now to sit down and write a letter to you as I’m sure things must get very dreary there. So finally this afternoon I have taken some time to do just that. I’m sure I’m only repeating what Thaddeus has already assured you of, but the truth does not suffer from repetition. Just know that we all miss you very, very much and look forward with much anticipation to the day when you can come home and sit around our dinner table again and enjoy this family that is yours.
I’m not sure if Thaddeus will have told you (since this is hardly news that young men would find of interest) but David and Tricia are expecting their first child which is due in early spring. Both young people are very excited and insist that they can hardly wait for the big day. I can’t help but smile to myself at their joy and think playfully that I should loan them Jay for a week just to give them a taste of what they are heading in to. But common sense prevails and I continue to keep young Jay at home! Don’t want to scare the new parents-to-be out of their joyous anticipation!
As for Jay himself, he is growing in leaps and bounds—I’m sure you would not recognize him, all brown eyes and blonde hair! And mischief! Now that he is crawling everywhere, nowhere is safe! I am still amazed at how different he is from the girls—so much more of a handful. But thank goodness Beth enjoys him so much as she does take a lot of the strain off of me. And believe it or not; so does Thaddeus. He has taken quite a fondness for the boy and will often play with him and even take him for rides around the yard on his ever patient gelding! In return, Jay just loves him to pieces and pesters him no end!
The ranch is doing alright, and better than most considering this drought that just won't seem to let up despite the change of seasons. Jesse quit his teaching job some time ago and is focused totally on running this business. He is thinking now that perhaps he was too precipitous in this decision as the drought has been very hard on the range stock and we may not get the price at market that we are accustomed to. He and Beth often spend the evening with their heads together, going over the finances just to be sure we'll be alright.
Karma is also doing well and seems to be blossoming with her pregnancy. She is loving all the extra attention that Beth dolls out on her and of course is happy with the extra feed she is receiving. She is such a lovely mare Joshua and I can certainly understand why you are so fond of her. Rest assured that she is well looked after here and seems to be quite content with her lot.
Beth will be spending Thanksgiving in Denver with Bridget and your friend Clementine and I know that she is very much looking forward to it. I do hope that Miss Hale doesn’t mind being invaded by our two daughters! She seems to be a very energetic and agreeable young woman and I’m sure has a life of her own, so having two young maidens suddenly dropped into her guardianship must have been quite a shock.
Still they do all seem to enjoy one another’s company and I have heard no complaints so hopefully she is alright with the current arrangement. She is invited to join us all out here for Christmas in any case and I am hoping she will attend. Another full house!
Dear Joshua—I know you must be feeling very frustrated by now that no progress has been made towards your pardon but please let me assure you that no one here has given up. We are at a bit of a stalemate now, but I’m sure that this is just temporary. Goodness knows, whenever Steven is out here the after dinner conversation always focuses around you and what the next step should be. Even David gets involved whenever he can.
I must admit though, that there are times that I fear for Thaddeus. He gets so frustrated just sitting back and waiting for the legal system to start working. I suppose he is so accustomed to taking whatever measures are necessary to achieve his goal whether they are legal or not, that having to do things by the book is very infuriating for him. Jesse, David and Steven (not to mention your friend Lom Trevors) have done a lot of talking to him over the months to keep him from giving up his own amnesty in a bid to ‘break you out’ and then head to Mexico! So far we have been able to keep him focused on our combined goal but we can all tell that the enforced inactivity is wearing on him.
All I can ask of you Joshua, is that you keep the faith and know that we all love you and that we are still doing all we can to bring about your pardon. And please stay safe. The little that Thaddeus has told me of your life in that horrid place is enough to send shivers down my spine! Every night I pray for your continued safety and well being—and please, keep your strength up! Your illness last winter was a trial for all of us!
With all my love and warm thoughts;
Heyes sat back with a sigh. He took a nibble of cookie and a sip of coffee and contemplated Belle’s letter and wasn’t sure if it made him feel any better or not. Again, hearing about all the things going on at home was very frustrating for him; it was all just more reminders of how life was carrying on without him.
But then that comment of Kid thinking about breaking him out and the two of them disappearing south of the border—well, that just wasn’t acceptable! Heyes would have to have a word with his partner about that next time they got together. No way was Kid going to throw away his life now in order to save Heyes—that was not going to happen! Trust his partner though, to be thinking along those lines. He didn’t know anyone who was as bullheaded and stubborn as Jed was but he was just going to have to learn self-control and patience and start getting used to doing things the legal way.
Then Heyes groaned a little as he again regretted his sullen mood during the Kid’s visit earlier that day. It was one thing for Heyes to be feeling that way, but he really needed to try harder to hide it away when the Kid came to see him. All this stuff was hard enough on his cousin without Heyes making him feel guilty at not getting things moving faster. It wasn’t Kid’s fault, Heyes knew that, but he also knew that Jed would feel it as such and that just might make him throw all their hard work to the wind in order to get Heyes out.
This was all so frustrating! Why did all these things have to come at him at once? The one year anniversary of being stuck in this place was bad enough, but then Billings had to up and die on him and that had just knocked his confidence so far into the floorboards that he didn’t even want to go back to the infirmary anymore. Now, here’s Belle stating that Curry was actually contemplating an illegal act in order to get him out of prison.
Now it was going to be another month before he would be able to speak to the Kid again and there was nothing Heyes could do about it. Hopefully the other, calmer heads in the group would continue to talk sense to his cousin and prevent him from undertaking such a desperate maneuver. It was almost a good thing that the colder weather was approaching and that it would be almost impossible to attempt such a rescue!
Heyes sighed again, finished his cookie and then his coffee and stretched out, thinking about what his next move should be. He knew he should probably write to David. Not so much because of his pending state of fatherhood, although Heyes would of course offer his congratulations along those lines, but more so because Heyes needed to discuss with his friend what had happened in the infirmary.
Morin, of course had assured him that it wasn’t his fault. Sister Julia had offered comforting words and solace, but they had all sounded empty to Heyes, like they were simply patting him on the head and placating him as though he were a child who couldn’t have helped it simply because he didn’t know any better. Heyes couldn’t help but feel that if Dr. Morin had been in the ward at the time then young Billings wouldn’t have died. Morin of course, denied that but Heyes still felt it was his own inexperience that had allowed it to happen and for a man who was usually so confident in his own abilities, this was a crippling blow to his ego.
So he would write to David, knowing in his heart that it was simply because he needed reassurance; needed someone whom he respected and admired to tell him that these things happened and that he shouldn’t blame himself etc. etc. Indeed, all the things that Morin and Sister Julia had already reiterated to him but that just didn’t seem to mean anything until David said it too.
Then, since Heyes was only allowed to write one letter a week, he would include comments to Belle and a lecture to Curry all in the same transcript and instruct David to pass them along. ‘There!’ Heyes thought as he stared up at a ceiling he could see. ‘Kill three birds with one stone and that’ll be everyone taken care of!’
Then Heyes thought he had lost his mind when he heard a woman’s voice calling his name.
Heyes jumped and looked over to the door of his cell, then instantly scrambled to his feet at the sight of Kenny escorting a very unexpected visitor!
“Dr. Slosson—Ma’am!” Heyes suddenly felt very self-conscious and vulnerable and he didn’t quite know where to look. Finally he looked down, which is of course the most acceptable stance for a convict.
“Mr. Heyes, please don’t be concerned,” the reverend assured him. “and I do apologize for disturbing you during your leisure time.”
“That’s alright ma’am,” Heyes stammered. “it’s no disturbance at all.”
Dr. Slosson smiled. “I hope you will not be offended when I tell you that Sister Julia and I have been discussing you.”
“Discussing me ma’am?”
“Yes. We have both been very concerned about you,” the reverend admitted. “You have stopped coming to services even though you seemed to greatly enjoy it when you were coming. Especially the singing. You do have a very fine singing voice on those rare occasions when you allow it to come forth.”
Heyes' awkwardness increased and he continued to stare at the floor with his hands behind his back, not quite sure what he was supposed to say.
“Ahhh, thank you ma’am,” he finally stammered out.
She smiled. “Why have you stopped coming to services Mr. Heyes?”
“Ahhh,” Heyes stood there with his mouth open, but his silver tongue had gone into hiding. He glanced over to Kenny but there was no help coming from that quarter. “Ahhmm. I just….I, ah had been given some books that I wanted to read so was staying here to read them.” Even to him that sounded lame.
“Sister Julia fears that you are depressed and becoming withdrawn,” Dr. Slosson explained. “Mr. Reece here has made the same observation and has suggested that we offer you something new and challenging in order to assist you through this difficult time.”
“I don’t think that would be necessary….”
“On the contrary Mr. Heyes, I feel it would be a good idea.”
Heyes sighed resignedly. He was being ganged up on, he could tell. He couldn’t help but send a subtle but accusatory glance over to the guard. Kenny chose to ignore him.
“Why don’t you come and join us at our next service?” Dr. Slosson continued. “I can’t help but feel that you will be pleasantly surprised.”
Heyes sent another glance towards Kenny and a quick, silent conversation took place between them. Kenny broke eye contact with a slightly raised eyebrow. It was an unheard of occurrence for a guard to look away from an inmate, but it was Kenny’s way of telling Heyes that the decision to attend chapel was totally up to him. But the raised brow added in no uncertain terms that he had better make the ‘right’ decision.
The left corner of Heyes’ lip twitched in a slight smile that he tried to hide.
“Yes ma’am,” he agreed. “I will certainly attend the next service ma’am. I’ll look forward to it.”
“Good! I’ll look for you there.”
Then, with one last glance back at the inmate, Kenny escorted the good reverend out towards the exit. The smile dropped from Heyes’ face and he went back to looking dejected. ‘Crap!’ he thought. ‘Why couldn’t people just leave him alone!?’
As soon as Jed Curry stepped off the train in Brookswood, he knew something was wrong. When you finally get the chance to put down roots in a place you slowly begin to get to know it just as you would get to know a new friend and just as with a person, in time you get to recognize the moods. It’s a subtle shift in the feel of a town when something tragic has happened and a drifter just passing through might not pick up on it. But Jed was no longer that drifter and he knew; something had happened while he was away.
He stood on the platform of the train depot and tried to get an inkling of what was wrong. He watched the people moving up and down the boardwalk going about their daily business and there was nothing apparent in their moods or expressions to suggest anything amiss, and yet….
He furrowed his brow and thought on it for a moment. Where was the best place to go to get information? The Sheriff’s office was always a good start—well, hadn’t been ‘always’ until recently, but now—yeah. Then there was the telegraph office or the Mercantile, they generally knew what was going on in town. Hmmm. He started to walk. The telegraph office was the closest so may as well start there.
“Hey Clayt,” Curry greeted the man behind the counter. “How’s everything going?”
“Fine, fine,” came Clayt’s non-committal answer. “Nothin’ for you today though. Ya’ wanna send somethin’?”
“Nope. Just checkin’,” Curry commented. “Anything new in town?”
“Nope,” Clayt answered with a bit of uncomfortable shuffling. “everything’s quiet.”
“Uh huh,” came the suspicious response. “Ya’ sure?”
“Okay, see ya’ later,” and Jed turned and left the office much to the relief of the other occupant. Those kinda things, well, men just don’t talk about them. That’s what women folk are for, dagnabbit!
Well, that was a lost cause so Jed headed over to the Sheriff’s office. Surely Sheriff Jacobs would know what was up and wouldn’t be all squeamish about discussing it either.
“Oh—Mr. Curry,” Jacobs acknowledged him. “You’re back huh?”
“Yeah,” Curry looked at him suspiciously. “What’s goin’ on? Everything alright out at the Jordan’s place?”
“Oh, yeah, everything’s fine out there,” Jacobs assured him.
“What then?” Curry was starting to get frustrated. “I know something’s happened, but no one will tell me what!”
“It’s just not something people want to talk about is all,” Jacobs tried to explain. “You’re friends with the doc ain’t ya’?”
“Yeah,” Curry agreed suspiciously.
“Maybe you should just go talk to him,” Jacobs suggested. “Actually that might be a real good idea. I’m pretty sure you’ll find him over in the saloon.”
“At the saloon?” Curry questioned. That was odd. David wasn’t generally a drinking man and it got Jed a little worried if that’s where the doctor was to be found.
“Yup,” Jacobs reiterated. “At least that’s where he’s been all night and most of this morning so I expect he’s still there. Might not be sober though.”
“Right,” Jed nodded and feeling very much on edge now, he left the Sheriff’s office and headed over to the drinking establishment.
It was early afternoon, so the place was still quite quiet but one quick glance around at the tables did not produce the desired result, so Jed made his way to the bar and waved Bill over.
“I was told that the doc might be in here, but I don’t see him,” Curry explained. “Is he around somewhere’s?”
“Oh yeah,” Bill answered with a nod. “he’s sittin’ at that table over in the corner there. You know, the one that ya’ can’t see from the door.”
“The one under the staircase?”
“Ya’ want a beer to take with ya’?” Bill suggested. “You could be a while.”
“Oh, yeah okay.”
Curry collected his beer and then headed for the disclosed table that was settled in the shadows under the staircase. Sure enough, there was David sitting quietly by himself, staring off into space with a distant expression on his face. There was a half empty whiskey bottle on the table by his arm and an empty shot glass still being held in his hand and the whole scene just dripped with oppression.
Last edited by Keays on Sat Feb 01, 2014 8:33 pm; edited 1 time in total
Posts : 1467
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 63
Location : Camano Island Washington
|Subject: A Year in the Life. Chapter twenty. Sun Oct 06, 2013 9:39 pm|| |
“David?” Jed quietly spoke to his friend as he approached the table. “What’s wrong? What’s happened? Is Tricia alright?”
David looked up at his friend as though suddenly realizing he was there, and then he looked over at the whiskey bottle and decided to pour himself another drink.
“Yeah, Trish is alright,” he answered non-committedly.
“Well what then?” Jed asked as he sat down and put his beer on the table without having taken a drink. “What’s the matter?”
David looked over at him with a sad and dazed expression in his eyes. Jed had never seen his friend looking so distraught and it scared him a little. Jeez, first Heyes and now David—was it a full moon or something? David always seemed to be so much in control.
“I don’t….I don’t really want to talk about it,” David said and he looked away.
“Oh no ya’ don’t!” Jed countered him. “You never let me get away with that and now I’m gonna return the favour! What the hell happened David!?”
David looked at him again, and suddenly tears spilled from his eyes and rolled down his cheeks. He gasped in his breath and quickly wiped the tears away.
“Awww David,” Jed said quietly. “c’mon, tell me what happened.”
David sighed deeply and then relented. “You remember the Robertson’s? They were expecting a baby, due right around Thanksgiving.”
“Yeah, I know who you mean,” Jed acknowledged. “They have that small spread just five miles south a’ here.”
David nodded. “Two days ago Wendy started having contractions.”
“Eww, that’s early,” even Jed knew that wasn’t good.
“Yeah,” David agreed and downed his whiskey, then poured himself another. “I knew as soon as I got out there that something was wrong—not just that it was early, but something was really wrong. Wendy was just in agony; the contractions were strong, and she was bleeding but nothing else was happening. The other two kids were scared and crying and poor Floyd was just beside himself trying to keep it all together.” Down went the next shot of whiskey, and another one poured. David took a deep shuttering sigh. “Turns out the baby was breech. I’ve delivered breech babies before, but this one was bad and in distress.”
“Breech? What’s that?” Jed asked quietly, his own beer forgotten.
“Feet first,” David answered. “The baby hadn’t turned around the way it should have and it was hung up and wasn’t moving. Of course Wendy was pushing, the contractions were strong just like they should be, but nothing was happening. I knew we were running out of time; the baby was going to suffocate if I didn’t get it out quickly but the birth canal wasn’t wide enough and I couldn’t get in there to maneuver the baby into position. I was preparing to do a caesarian…”
“It’s when the birthing canal is blocked. You make an incision in the woman’s abdomen and get the baby out that way.”
“Ohh,” Jed went a little pale.
The next shot of whiskey went south and David poured another one.
“So,” David continued. “I was just getting prepared to do that when Wendy screamed and suddenly the baby was born. But it wasn’t right. It was small—well that’s not surprising really considering how early it was, but it had a bluish tinge so I knew it hadn’t gotten enough oxygen. I got hold of it and cleared his mouth and tried to massage his lungs to get him breathing, and he did! You know, he coughed a little and started to squirm and he took a couple of breaths and then….”
“What David? What happened then?” but Jed had a dreadful feeling he already knew what happened.
David shook his head and the tears rolled down again.
“He just died,” David whispered. “One minute I was holding this small precious little life in my hands and the next it was just gone.”
“Aww David, I’m sorry.”
“But then I had to just put him aside and tend to his mother,” David continued. “Wendy was bleeding something awful. She was torn up inside and by this time she was really weak. Poor Floyd was in shock—he was holding on to her hand and trying to comfort her but she had passed out by then. The two other children were screaming. I was doing everything I knew how to do to stop her from bleeding out but nothing was working.” Another shot of whiskey disappeared. Another shot was poured. “I kept hearing Hannibal yelling at me; ‘you’re a doctor! You’re supposed to save people! Save him!’ And I was trying to! I was doing everything I knew how to do to save her!” Then he turned imploring eyes over to Jed. “Please tell Hannibal I really was trying!”
“No, David,” Jed tried to comfort his friend. “Heyes didn’t mean any judgment on you when he said that. You told me yourself that he was terrified—he was just grasping at straws, at anything. He didn’t mean to imply that you weren’t trying.”
“Yeah. And I was trying.”
“And you saved my life David.”
“Yeah,” David acknowledged that, but then he sobbed and the tears came forth again. “but I didn’t save hers!”
Jed felt his heart break. He didn’t know the Robertson’s very well, but they seemed like a decent enough family. He put a hand on his friends shoulder and tried to offer what solace he could but he knew that it was far from being enough.
“I lost both of them Jed!” David stated through his tears. “With her husband and her children right there waiting for me to save the day and to make everything alright. I lost both of them.”
Jed sighed and then got up and walked back over to the bar. He returned a moment later with another bottle of whiskey and a second shot glass. This was going to be a long afternoon.
The two men sat quietly together while David worked his way through his misery. Jed poured himself a drink and re-filled David’s glass from the bottle that was already open. May as well finish that one up before starting on the second. At least David lived within walking distance of the saloon so both men could sit here and get drunk and not have far to go to find a bed to sleep it off.
Half an hour later Sheriff Jacobs entered the saloon, and doing a quick scan of the premises, figured that they were sitting in the corner and sauntered over to check up on them.
“I see ya’ found him alright,” Jacobs stated the obvious.
“Yeah,” Jed answered. “I think we’ll just be sittin’ here for a while.”
“Well, okay,” Jacobs answered. “Not going to be any trouble is there?”
“No Sheriff, no trouble,” Jed assured him. “I’ll make sure I don’t get quite as drunk as he does.”
Jacobs chuckled. “Yeah, okay. At least ya’ know where he lives.”
“Yup,” Jed commented. “Does his wife know he’s here?”
“She did last night, but I'll go over and just let her know that he still is,” Jacobs offered. “I’ll also let her know that you’re with him and that she should expect both of you to stagger in together at some point during the evening.”
Then Jacobs tipped his hat and headed out of the establishment to accomplish his errand. Jed sat back and poured them both another drink.
“What if I lose her Jed?” David suddenly asked out of the blue.
“What? Lose who?”
“Tricia!” he stated. “What would I do if I were to lose her like that? She’s my life. I’d be lost without her.”
“David you can’t be thinkin’ on it like that,” Jed tried to be reasonable. “Look at all the babies you have delivered and they’re doing fine! Things happen. Like you said; the baby was early and a breech and there was probably a lot more things wrong with it that you don’t even know about. It died so quickly after being born; it must have had other things wrong with it. Trish is young and healthy—you’re going to have a beautiful baby, just you wait and see!”
“I’d rather not have a baby at all if it’s going to mean losing her,” David mumbled as he stared off into space. “We were so happy; finally! A family—finally! But now…..” David shook his head. “I’m scared to death I’m going to lose her.”
“Yup. I suppose I can understand why you’d be feelin’ that way right now,” Jed sympathized. “but ya’ can’t let that hold you back. Bad things happen and life just ain’t fair sometimes but ya’ just gotta keep on tryin’.”
Jed sat quietly for a few moments then, wondering if he was giving that pep talk to David or to himself. Goodness knows he’d been feeling pretty hard done by lately, that life just hadn’t handed Heyes a fair shake at all and Jed had been feeling pretty angry about that. But sometimes ya’ just gotta keep on pushin’. Jed sighed and shook his head a little; what happened to the Robertson family did kinda put things into perspective a bit. Not that what was happening with Heyes wasn’t bad enough, but Jed couldn’t even imagine what it must be like to lose your wife and your child like that. Devastating just doesn’t even begin to describe it.
He remembered back to that first ‘conversation’ he’d had with Rick Layton out in the barn at the Jordan’s place. Rick had commented, almost nonchalantly that he had lost his wife and child the same way. Jed recalled stating even then that it must have been a tough thing to go through and Rick had agreed and then promptly changed the subject. Something like that—well, it’s just not something you can walk away from.
“C'mon David,” Jed suggested while he poured out more whiskey. “what do ya’ say we get drunk and put all this misery behind us?”
Fortunately David already had a head start on getting drunk and by the time early evening rolled around Jed was helping his friend to his feet and they were heading for the exit of the saloon. A few of the regular patrons had ambled in by that time, hoping for a couple of beers and some social time before heading for home. Many of them glanced up when the odd couple made their move, but to a man they all quickly averted their eyes once they saw who it was.
No body wanted to acknowledge the tragedy that had taken place—it made for awkward conversation and though they all felt bad for Floyd losing his wife and child like that it really was up to the women folk to do the consoling. But nobody really knew how to console the doc. On the most part all the sympathy and kind words went out to the bereaved family, and the doctor who had attended was a non-entity. But now, seeing that doctor—who was by the way, well thought of by most of the citizenry—drunk and being assisted home by his friend, well it just kinda made everyone a bit uncomfortable.
It was a rather chilly evening when David and Jed exited the saloon and though David didn’t feel the cold, Jed certainly did. He hurried them along towards the Gibson residence just to get into the warmth again. The stove was going and the lights had been lit when Jed hauled David up the front steps and through the front door and into the kitchen. Tricia was on her feet instantly and came over to help get her husband settled in.
“Thank goodness you’re home,” she told Jed. “I wasn’t quite getting worried yet, but not far from it.”
Jed smiled. “He’ll be alright. Just needs to sleep it off.”
“Hi Babe!” David slurred. “Juss havin’ a drink wi’ ma’ friend ere.”
“I know David,” she answered her husband. “Do you want anything to eat?”
“Naw. How ‘bout ‘nother drink?”
“I think you’ve had enough to drink dear,” Trish informed him. “Why don’t you go lie down?”
“Sure!” he slurred. “You join me.”
“Not right now. I’ll come join you later.”
At which point Jed helped Tricia shuffle her husband down to their bedroom and then he left them alone and headed back to the kitchen. He poured himself a cup of coffee from the ever present pot on the stove and sat down at the kitchen table to await instructions. Fifteen minutes later Tricia returned and poured herself a cup of coffee as well.
“He settled in okay?” Jed asked her as she sat down at the table with him.
“Yes,” she said with a sigh. “I think he was asleep before I got his boots off.”
“Good,” Jed answered. “Kinda rough couple a days huh?”
“Yes,” Tricia answered again. “Thank you for watching out for him today. I was worried about him until the sheriff came by and said that you were with him. I knew he would be alright then. Thank you.”
Jed smiled. It was nice to be trusted with precious cargo.
“That’s okay,” he said. “Glad I could be of help. Funny thing is; Heyes is going through something similar himself right now.”
“Oh? How do you mean?”
“Well, you know he’s been working in the infirmary at the prison.”
“Yes,” Tricia confirmed with a smile. “Hard not to know it! The letters that have been flying back and forth between Hannibal and David on that very topic have been keeping the delivery service in business!”
“I think it’s about to get swamped again!” Jed announced with a laugh. Then he turned serious at Tricia’s questioning glance. “Heyes had a young fella up and die on him a while back. He’s taking it kinda hard. I’m hoping he’ll write to David about it, maybe give him some perspective.”
“Oh,” Tricia responded. “I am sorry to hear that. It is difficult to deal with. Some doctors get hardened to it and just don’t feel it anymore, but I don’t think David is ever going to be one of those. He takes it so personally.”
“Yeah, Heyes too,” Jed agreed. “Maybe it’ll do them both some good to talk it out between them.”
“I hope so!” Tricia said emphatically. “David has lost patients before, and children are always the hardest. But to lose a newborn and then the mother as well…it’s going to be a while before he’ll be able to look Floyd Robertson in the face again.”
“Yeah, I suppose.”
Then she thoughtfully ran a hand across her belly which was only just beginning to show signs of her own pregnancy—if you looked real hard.
“Bad timing too,” she commented quietly. “He was so excited before, but now I know he’s worried. He’s tried not to show it around me, but I can tell. He’s scared that the same thing is going to happen with us.”
“Yeah,” Jed admitted. “he did bring that up.”
Tricia looked up and met his eyes. “It won’t though,” she insisted. “We’re going to have a healthy happy baby and everything will be fine.”
Jed just nodded. It wasn’t exactly a topic that he was comfortable discussing, but he was doing his best.
Then Tricia pushed herself away from the table. “I’ve got some stew I can heat up for supper and then of course you’ll spend the night. Your old room is all set up for you.”
“Jed, don’t be silly,” Trish insisted. “It’s too dark now for you to ride out to the Double J and I’m sure David would like your company tomorrow when he wakes up.”
Jed smiled. He hadn’t actually been looking forward to the ride out to the ranch at that point anyways—not only was it dark out now, as Tricia had said, but he’d had a few to drink as well so the invite to stay in town had been tempting. Then, on top of that, to be able to settle into a familiar bed rather than amble over to the hotel made it even more so.
“Yeah, okay,” he agreed.
Jed ended up staying with the Gibson’s for most of that week simply because David seemed to appreciate his company, and Tricia seemed to appreciate his support. Jed also knew that the Jordan’s never expected to see him until he showed up when he headed out on his monthly trip into Wyoming since he would often stop by to visit Lom or even go and try to harass the governor for awhile. Lately though his trips to Cheyenne had been pretty much a waste of time since Governor Warren generally shut him out and nothing was accomplished by it anyways.
There was a somber funeral service held for Wendy Robertson and her tiny son, Caleb Floyd who had only known barely a minute of life. Just about everyone in town who could attend, did. The Gibson’s joined up with the Jordan’s there and ended up having lunch together after the service but it was a sad affair on the most part. David felt uncomfortable as though he was an imposter on the family’s time of grief and he and Tricia did not stay long.
Jed stayed a little longer to visit with Jesse and to fill him in on what was happening with Heyes but nobody really lingered. Aside from close friends who stayed to help the Robertson’s deal with life as they knew it now, most families departed early and headed for their own homes. Jed returned to the Gibson’s home for a few more days until David had begun to find his footing again and then he too headed back to the Double J and everyone began to look ahead to Thanksgiving.
A few days after Jed had gone home, a letter from Hannibal arrived for David and the good doctor wasn’t sure if he was ready to read it yet or not. He suspected what was going to be in it and he was afraid that reading about Han’s difficulties would cause his own wounds to open again and he didn’t feel up to dealing with all that just yet. Finally though, his natural compassion for a friend in need won him over and he settled in to his comfortable arm chair, with a cup of evening tea and opened the letter.
I have been sitting here for over half an hour now, staring at this blank sheet of paper trying to think of what to say and how to say it. How do I even begin? First off I must ask you to please apologize to Kid for me as I was in a foul mood when he was here and I very much regret it now. He is good enough to come all the way here to spend time with me and I want him to know that I really do appreciate it. Although, knowing Kid, he probably already does know this.
Belle also mentioned in her letter that Kid has been making noises about breaking me out of this hell hole and both of us then heading for Mexico! She also assured me that everyone else was doing everything they could to convince him otherwise. I just want to include my support to your endeavors! Goodness knows I would give just about anything to get out of here, but my cousin’s amnesty is not one of those things. So if you have to tie him down and gag him to prevent him from acting irrationally, you have my permission to do it. You may also feel free to inform him that I said so!!
Now, that said, if you could also send my thanks to Belle for the wonderful Christmas gifts she sent, they will come to good use for sure. The cookies were certainly a delightful change from prison food and are already gone!
I also want to offer congratulations as I hear that you and your wife are expecting a new addition to your household. I’m sure you are both very excited at the prospect of becoming parents and I have no doubt that you’ll be a natural at it!
At this point I am almost tempted to close the letter off and leave it at that, but then I will berate myself for being a coward and will have to wait another week before being able to write to you again. So…here goes.
I’m hoping that Kid told you what happened here as I really don’t feel up to going into great detail about the incident, and knowing Kenny Reece (one of the guards) he filled the Kid in on all the details. Let it suffice for me to say that a young man who was in my care passed away from pneumonia a couple of weeks back and I suppose I’m having a hard time accepting that.
I certainly don’t presume to be any kind of a doctor and certainly not one of your caliber, but I thought that I had learned enough to be able to help someone get through a fever. Goodness knows I’ve spent many a sleepless night helping Kid get through his bouts of illnesses over the years—and that was before doing any studying up on the subject.
How is it that I could have lost someone so easily? He was a young man, David! Young and strong, and before the fever hit him, healthy. What did I do wrong? Morin insists that it wasn’t my fault, that there often is no apparent reason why one person will survive and another not, but I still can’t help but feel that I should have been able to do something.
At this point I’m feeling like I should just stay out of the infirmary, that Dr. Morin should find himself another assistant. I just don’t think I’m any good at this. I’m used to things working the way they’re supposed to work. With dynamite or nitroglycerin you know what you’re dealing with; you do things a certain way and certain things happen. When you follow a mathematical calculation the end result will always be the same and if it’s not then you did something wrong! So what did I do wrong?
Anyway, I’m running out of paper so I guess I should wrap this up. I feel kind of silly burdening you with this nonsense. I am sure you are shaking your head at my incompetence and thanking the fates that I’m not a licensed practitioner going around and letting people die from the most common of illnesses! I just don’t understand what I did wrong.
David sighed and stared off into space for a few minutes, thinking about what he had just read. Hannibal’s feelings of inadequacy really brought home to him how he himself had been feeling about his own recent failure. Far from opening up those wounds and bringing forth the pain again, seeing those feelings written out in black and white actually helped to clarify things in his own mind and to deal with them more realistically.
Obviously Han was feeling very lost and his self-confidence had taken a beating. The fact that he had repeated a number of times his insistence that he had done something wrong indicated how deeply he was feeling remorse over it. In fact, Han’s feelings so perfectly mirrored his own that David knew that responding to his letter would be a healing process for himself as well.
Having realized that, David also realized that it was not something to be taken lightly so he decided to leave the letter for now and allow himself to sleep on it. In the evening of the following day he would settle himself at the table and do some soul searching for himself and thereby, hopefully help to heal them both.
My dear friend, your letter could not have come at a more appropriate time for me. I am glad that you plucked up the courage to write it, not only for your own sake but for mine as well. I just recently lost a young woman and her infant during childbirth and found myself in a depression and filled with the same self-doubts that you have expressed in your own narrative. So please understand and appreciate that what I say to you now comes from my heart and is what I know to be true but still need to reiterate to myself at times like this.
Though pneumonia is a common enough ailment these days, especially for those who are already weakened by their circumstances, it is never a sure thing that the person suffering from it will survive. I know that Jed has had bouts with this infection in the past and has always come through it, much due to your insistence that he do so, but there are many young and strong individuals who do not.
Your young patient could have had any number of health problems before developing this infection that you know nothing about. He could already have had weak lungs, or a heart condition that would easily have gone undetected until such a time as this. I know you blame yourself, but please try not to—easier said than done, I know, but you must keep in mind that a human being is not a stick of dynamite or a mathematical equation. There are just way too many variables to be able to accurately predict how a patient is going to respond to treatment. Your friend Dr. Morin is correct; there is just no way to tell who is going to survive an illness and who isn’t.
Why did my young mother bleed to death? She’d had two previous children with no problems, she was healthy and strong. There was no logical reason for it, but none the less we buried her and her infant son last week and I have to live with the fact that her husband is now without his wife and their two older children are without their mother. Believe me, I felt like packing my bags and heading for Alaska where I wouldn’t have to look that family in the eye again!
But of course that was impractical! I am a doctor, it is what I love to do and I will keep on doing it. Besides, I don’t think Tricia would have let me go anyways. You seem to have shown an aptitude towards helping people in the infirmary and I’m sure that Dr. Morin would greatly miss your assistance if you insist on leaving that position. I hope that you do not. You cannot allow this one failure, which indeed was not a failure at all to push you away from something you obviously take pleasure in doing. And if it helps you to stay sane in that insane place, then all the more reason to stay with it.
It was not your fault Hannibal, you did not do anything wrong! Please believe me when I say this and keep in mind that I am saying it to myself just as much as I am to you. Somehow, if you don’t believe it then I won’t either, and we both need to believe it, okay? So I am asking you for my own benefit as well as yours that you accept what I am saying and that you pick yourself up and get back to it!
As for your other requests, I will indeed let Jed know that you regret your mood when he was last there. I also agree that, knowing Jed, he already knows that you meant nothing by it, and far from having to forgive you, never took any insult from it in the first place. Still, even if unnecessary, an apology is never wasted.
I’m not sure if I’m willing to make an attempt to tie him down though. Even with a stiff shoulder he is still the fastest gunman I have ever seen! But rest assured that those of us here will continue to empress upon him the importance of patience and that he must not take the law into his own hands. Indeed, from what conversation I have had with him on this topic, he has indicated that he is well aware of the foolishness of such an attempt and that you would not go for it anyways! I don’t believe you need to concern yourself about it, or to expect a rescue from that quarter!
I agree, Belle’s Christmas cookies are the best I have ever tasted (don’t tell Tricia)! And I am sure that once I tell her that your supply is already gone she will get busy and bake you some more—which also means more for the rest of us!! I am also glad that she knitted you some more clothing as I am sure the winters get terribly cold in that place. Be sure to eat a lot—even if you don’t feel hungry, eat as much as you can and stay as warm as you can and by all means stay as dry as you can! As I’m sure you are well aware, especially now, pneumonia can not be taken lightly so stay healthy!!
Parenthood!! Yes, what a terrifying but glorious event! I have delivered many babies and have always been thrilled by the arrival of new life, but I never once considered the overwhelming changes that come into one’s life once that new little bundle arrives! I must admit to being scared to death, especially now after what happened, for the well-being not only of my wife but also of our child! And now Belle tells me that those feelings of absolute terror only increase once the little creature is out and walking about! How will I ever survive this?!
Still, I am thrilled and am pushing my fears away so as not to let them ruin this amazing experience. Tricia really is glowing, and despite some queasiness during the mornings is looking wonderful and happy and we are both so looking forward to being parents. Though I have noticed that Belle tends to laugh whenever we comment on this—I don’t quite understand why.
I will close off now Hannibal. I hope this letter helps you to find your footing again and that you continue to do whatever you need to in order to stay sane and safe and healthy! It seems inappropriate somehow to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas, but I do so anyways in the hope that you will keep them in your heart as we all do you—on those days as on all days. Take care.
Then David folded the letter, and got it prepared to send off with the next mail run in the morning. He hoped that it would help his friend get back to his usual self assurance and that it didn’t come across as too preachy! He knew he could be a pest sometimes—everyone told him so! But that was the problem with caring about people so much; it was really difficult to just back off and let them find their own way. Especially when they can be as stubborn and bull-headed as….well…stubborn!
Trish had headed off to bed some time ago, so with the night closing in and cooling off, David shut down the stove, took the light and made his way off to bed himself. Tomorrow was another day.
Heyes was grumbling. His mood had not much improved and though he put in his time over at the infirmary, he felt like an imposter, like he really had no business being there. But Morin was supportive and kept him busy doing menial tasks until his self-confidence had a chance to re-assert itself. Doc knew that it would. Heyes was far too egocentric and vivacious for it to not do so; it would just take some time, and let’s face it, Heyes had a lot of that on his hands.
Still, when Sunday rolled around all Heyes really wanted to do was sit in his cell and read. He did not want to go to services! He did not believe in the doctrine and he found the lectures boring and elementary though he had to admit that he did enjoy the singing. Still, he was in no mood for song at that time and would probably just sit in the back row and send out dark vibes to anyone within range! So why bother?
He had pretty much decided that he was going to skip the sermon even though he had promised to go and was going to just do what he felt like doing; sit in his cell and read. Then a guard was standing in his open doorway and Heyes looked up to meet Kenny’s eyes. Briefly. Dammit!! Doesn’t that man ever take a day off?
“Convict! Follow me.”
Ohhh, grumble, grumble, grumble. Heyes reluctantly got to his feet and did as instructed. He had no choice now, he had to go. And off to the chapel he went. Kenny stayed with him long enough to make sure he got seated and settled in and then sent him a look that told him that he better stay put. Then the guard turned on his heel and walked away to carry on with his other duties. Yeah, fine for him! He could just leave! But Heyes had to sit here and listen to this rhetoric and he was determined to be miserable.
Dr. Slosson shortly arrived at the pulpit and began her lecture. She had such a manner about her when speaking to the assembly that each convict was sure that she was speaking to him alone. She made her sermons rousing and sometimes rambunctious, filled with tidbits of humour and references to everyday occurrences. She would often quote from well known authors of the day and use examples from their adventurous stories to make her point more plausible. Indeed, if Heyes hadn’t already decided to stay in his foul mood he might actually have enjoyed himself.
But then Dr. Slosson did something new and Heyes couldn’t help but have his interest piqued. She brought out a music box and set it up on a desk so that the sound would carry throughout the chapel and everyone who wished could stay and listen to her selection.
Heyes enjoyed music when he could get it but there hadn’t been too much opportunity to indulge in that pastime in the lifestyle that he’d led. So seeing the music box being set up and the discs being prepared to send forth their melodious tones he suddenly found himself sitting up straighter and leaning forward in anticipation.
Then Dr. Slosson made an introduction that Heyes would never forget simply because of the whole new world it opened up for him, so unexpectedly.
“I am now going to play for you a violin concerto in D major, by Pyotr Tchaikovsky.”
And then the music—grainy and tinny at best, but still glorious and impossible washed over Heyes and it enveloped him and assaulted his senses in a way that he could never have imagined. He had never heard a violin played in such a manner before, would never have thought that it could be played in such a manner! The notes were so stringent and harsh and grating on the nerves and yet wonderful and overwhelmingly chaotic!
How is it that an instrument could be pushed to such ear shattering heights and yet be so soothing to the soul? His heart raced when the tempo plunged ahead and then soared with the floating lace of the bow and then the crazy notes would jump in again and spiral you down to the depths. Then catch you and bring you back up to the height of ecstasy to leave you floating in the clouds, your senses aware only of the music in your mind.
Heyes would sit and listen to that music being played on the old music box and imagine himself hearing it the way it should be heard; being played by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra while making its North American Tour and coming to the large acoustically designed auditorium in Denver.
Heyes could easily see buying tickets for himself and his friends, Jed, David and probably Steven too and of course they would all have their wives with them and they would go and listen to Tchaikovsky. To listen to his music the way it was meant to be listened to—being played by a live orchestra and using instruments of the finest quality in a concert hall designed specifically for that purpose!
And Heyes could picture himself sitting back in his cushioned seat with his eyes closed, his fingers laced and a small smile playing about his lips. That was where he was meant to be; that's when he would truly be at home. He would be surrounded by his friends and family, by those who had helped him to find his way back from the abyss and he would be happy again, and content. And he would remember back.
Remember back to that day in the chapel of the Wyoming Territorial Prison, when Dr. Slosson, the lady reverend introduced him to the most wondrous sounds he’d ever heard; sounds and notes and melodies that would stay in his mind and keep him sane. And in those times when the loneliness and the fear and the pain of his existence would become almost too much to bear he would let his mind disappear into that music and he would go somewhere else and he would be free.
Heyes started going back to Sunday services just about every week after that. Dr. Slosson brought in other recordings of the classical masters; Beethoven, Mozart, Bach and Chopin. But Tchaikovsky remained his favorite and given the chance he would sit for hours and listen to the violin and piano take his reality away for just a little while.
Then, to give Heyes even more incentive to keep on coming back, Dr. Slosson decided to give him something a little more challenging for his intellect than what her normal lectures could offer.
One Sunday after the service was completed, she once again had Kenny escort her to Heyes’ cell, and once again that inmate was startled into scrambling to his feet. And he found himself yet again feeling awkward with this woman who seemed intent on singling him out and not allowing him the option of sinking into despair.
“Mr. Heyes,” she greeted him with a warm smile. “I trust you got something out of the sermon today.”
“Oh, yes ma’am,” Heyes answered her.
“And what did you take away with you from the lecture this time?”
“Ohh! Uhmmm,” Heyes had to think about that for a minute. “Well,” he began, matter-of-factly. “that apparently even Christians enjoy sex, ma’am.”
The Doctor’s smile broadened. Kenny rolled his eyes.
“Yes! You’re right,” she agreed with a laugh. “That is certainly one way of looking at it!”
“Oh. Yes ma’am.” and Heyes smiled back.
“I thought I might offer you another opportunity to exercise that rather brilliant mind of yours Mr. Heyes,” she informed him and Heyes tried to look serious again. “Dr. Morin tells me that you like to play with words and that you easily retain most of the complex medical information that you read in the journals he loans you. Obviously you have quite the thirsty intellect.”
“Ahhh, yes ma’am,” Heyes creased his brow, not really sure where this was going.
She reached into her pocket and brought out a single, folded sheet of paper.
“I thought that I might help you to quench that thirst and perhaps have a bit of fun at the same time,” she explained. “If you would like, I can give you a new word every week or so and then the following week you can return the word to me with the definition and a sentence with that word being used. Does that sound like something you might find interesting?”
“I don’t know,” Heyes admitted, having been caught flat-footed. “If I don’t know the meaning of the word how am I supposed to use it in a sentence?”
Dr. Slosson smiled. “There-in lays the challenge, Mr. Heyes. You must use your resources to discover the definition.”
“Ohh, I see,” Heyes smiled.
Dr. Slosson offered him the folded sheet of paper and Heyes accepted it and opened it up to take a look at the word written up on the top of the page. ‘Impecunious’.
“Im-pec-u-ni-ous,” Heyes sounded the word out. Both he and Kenny looked confused. “What does that mean?” Heyes asked and then laughed. “OH! Ha ha, right.”
“So, next week, after service, I expect you to be able to tell me what it means,” Dr. Slosson reminded him. “Have fun with it, Mr. Heyes.”
“Yeah, ummm hmmm,” Heyes nodded, and looking down at the word and rolling it around in his mouth a few times he didn’t even notice that his company had left.
That evening after supper, Heyes lay back on his cot with an arm behind his head and looked up at the ceiling without really seeing it. David’s letter lay open on his side table and Heyes was contemplating the words of comfort and support that his friend had sent him. He had to admit that they did make sense and that if David himself, who was about the best doctor Heyes had ever come across, could lose a patient for no apparent reason then who was Heyes to think he should be able to do better?
He also appreciated the ingenious way David had turned things around to put the responsibility onto Heyes himself to help both of them recover from their similar experiences. It kind of made them equals, each helping the other rather than David coming across as superior and the one who was in control. Heyes always knew that David was a smart man.
David was right of course; Heyes did enjoy being over at the infirmary. There was the constant learning curve which Heyes found exciting and it was also satisfying to some degree to see how medical techniques were applied and how they (usually) worked. Now he had even more incentive to carry on at the infirmary; Dr. Morin and his stash of books were about the only resource he could think of to help him define his new words! David could probably help him, but a week wasn’t long enough to send a letter to him and get the response, so he would have to rely on resources that were here at the prison. Heyes smiled; he was feeling better already. This was going to be fun.
Then Heyes sighed. A year in the life. He still found it difficult to wrap his mind around the fact that he had been in this place for a year. Part of it seemed as though it were just yesterday that he had first arrived and received his ‘instruction’ on what the rules were. But then another part of him felt as though he’d already been here for an eternity and that his previous life was just a dream.
It didn’t seem logical that these walls could contain him; it felt as though he should be able to walk out the front gate and leave here whenever he wanted to, just like the Kid did. So why couldn’t he do it? Why couldn’t he just leave? Then he gave a soft snort. Maybe it had something to do with the locked doors and all the guns pointed in his direction.
Yet it just didn’t seem real. It felt like a nightmare—a dream-scape. But it was one that he was trapped in and all the conning and silver tongued bantering wasn’t giving him the golden key that would allow him to unlock the dream and ultimately escape from it.
He sighed and shifted a little bit to get more comfortable. It was starting to get chilly at nights again and he contemplated getting up and pulling on his sweater but decided against it for the moment. He reflected back on this past year, on all the things that had come and gone that had made the days turn into weeks, the weeks into months and now that big leap of the months dragging into years.
He thought about the friends he’d made here—something he never had anticipated before his arrival; who would think that one could actually make friends in prison? But he had. Kenny was the oddest example—a guard?! And were they actually friends? No, not really. Allies? Hmmm, again; no, but—well, maybe. A comrade in arms perhaps, standing on opposite sides of the line, but living under a truce? Maybe again. But Heyes trusted him and in here, that meant a lot!
Doc Morin—yeah! He had become a friend and a bit of a mentor for that matter. Certainly not someone whom Heyes would have been drawn to on the outside of these walls, but in here they had been two lonely souls attracted to each other. Now there was a bond between them, one built on trust and mutual respect. Morin didn’t treat Heyes like a prisoner; he treated him like an equal and Heyes reciprocated.
The Reverend Mrs. May Preston Slosson—now there was an oddity! She had come forward to help Heyes find his footing again, even if he hadn’t wanted her to. She just wasn’t gonna take ‘no’ for an answer. So, in a way, perhaps she was a friend of sorts. A very distant and ‘out of reach’ type of friend but still, in here you took what you could get!
Sister Julia—most definitely a friend! But then she had known Heyes before he came to this place, but still she hadn’t turned away from him once she learned his true identity. In fact it didn’t seem to have made any difference at all in her feelings towards him. She had still been willing to stand by him and give assistance wherever she could. And if Doc Morin were to be believed, it was the Sister who had pulled Heyes through his illness. So yes—most definitely a friend!
His enemies were a lot easier to identify. Carson was the biggest thorn in Heyes’ side. There was just no telling what that guard was going to do and Heyes always got the shivers when the senior guard got too close to him. The man enjoyed being a bully and he had the power and position to exercise that right whenever he chose to do so. As far as Heyes was concerned that made him more dangerous than anybody else here—himself included!
Murrey and Pearson, well they were more like non-entities. They were too junior to have any real power—they just followed orders. It was who was giving the orders that dictated what actions those two would take. Heyes figured they weren’t bad fellas, just working for a living. Heyes hadn’t forgotten that one of them (couldn’t remember which one now) had given him and Kid extra time during their visit because Kid had obviously been feeling the need to talk. Although Murrey did tend to be a bit of a brown-noser. Oh well.
Thompson! Now there was a young man worth watching out for! Another one who had obviously hired on as a guard so he’d be able to exercise his need to beat people up without ending up behind bars himself! Heyes dreaded to think what life could become if he and Carson decided to buddy up! Jeez—no self-respecting inmate would be safe!
And of course, Boeman and Harris could not be counted out. Just because they had backed off for now didn’t make them harmless. Boeman wasn’t going to accept being trampled by Heyes and sooner or later that convict would be after his own form of retribution. Heyes kept his eyes on those two.
And then there’s the warden. Well, if ya’ gotta have enemies ya’ may as well start at the top! Heyes was still throwing tidbits at the man, but he could tell that the warden was losing patience. He knew Heyes was just playing him and Heyes wondered what would happen the first time he got wind of something really important but kept the information to himself. But then, what would happen if he got wind of something important and he snitched?
Another sigh. This time he did get up to pull his sweater on. He wished he had more cookies. It was beginning to get dark inside the prison now, though the lights out in the isle way were still lit and it would be a while yet before the night time lock down. The prison was quiet, just the occasional cough floating up from somewhere, and the ever present footsteps of one of the guards making the rounds.
Heyes considered lighting his own candle but decided to save it for when he felt like reading or writing a letter. He settled back onto his cot again and allowed his mind to wander. Much safer in here to do that than out in the yard—he didn’t have to watch his back when it was lying on the cot.
Yes, he had definitely made some enemies in here, but he knew who they were. And he knew who his friends were as well and that was equally as important. He had learned the rules and he had learned how to circumvent them. He had also learned how to manipulate the punishments as a means to an end. How to use them to send out the message loud and clear that he was a force to be reckoned with, that he was actually someone to be feared. He’d learned how to weigh the pros and cons; knowing that if he broke any of the rules then he could expect certain punishments and was accepting the punishment worth breaking the rule?
It was a game of strategy and Heyes played the game well. He still knew how to exact his own form of retribution on other inmates if they got on the wrong side of him, but the longer he was here, the less times he had to do it. The other inmates got the message and pretty much left him alone.
Yes, the past year had been quite a learning curve for the ex-outlaw leader but he had learned the rules and the subtle strategies and he’d learned them well. And even though, through his own bull-headedness and his strong sense of loyalty he would suffer the indignities of other punishments, it would be some time before Hannibal Heyes found himself in the dark cell again. But on that occasion it would not be for punishment, it would be for revenge.
TO BE CONTINUED
Posts : 483
Join date : 2013-08-31
Location : Madrid
|Subject: Re: A Year in the Life. Chapter twenty. Sun Jan 26, 2014 8:52 am|| |
Heyes seems to have discovered how to survive but it's still a tightrope and one slip can be really dangerous. You have created a wonderful character in David and he is a very caring doctor. He was so upset at the deaths. I'm not sure religion could help a man like Heyes, but I think the time taken by religious people on his behalf will be greatly appreciated. I will have another afternoon's reading another time but I think that today's reading will stay with me. It has been very gripping.
|Subject: Re: A Year in the Life. Chapter twenty. || |
A Year in the Life. Chapter twenty.