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Join date : 2013-08-24
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|Subject: Alter Ego - Part Eight Sun Dec 03, 2017 3:37 pm|| |
Alter Ego - Part eightHeyes dropped to his knees and gathered her body in his arms as burning tears hit the back of his throat. She hung, limp in his arms like a broken doll as he hugged her to him. “No—"
He stared at her as visions of her face floated around his mind, laughing, living and challenging the world to take her on.
A tangible pain ached at his core as his heart cracked at the thought of what he had lost in this life before he’d had the chance to realize what he’d found. It was a soreness which began as a knot before it spread across his chest and stomach until every nerve in his body jangled. It was one he had felt before—too often. He hugged her to him, sucking in her scent as he stared in disbelief.
"We need to get help, Heyes."
"She's not breathing, Kid. She’s dead," he darted hopeless brown eyes to his cousin, blinking back tears as his anger surged to the fore. "Her horse! Violet shot her when she stole her horse. I’ll kill her, that evil bitch—”
"She's in jail, Heyes, and she ain't worth hangin’ for. We’ll be there when they do. We’ll watch the law hang her thanks to the work Abi already did. It ain't worth you goin' down for murder too. She wouldn't want that."
He realized the Kid was right as he swallowed his helplessness. A part of his future had died with her. She was like him in a way; the good side of him, the positive, worthy, valuable member of society he could have become if things had turned out different or he had made better choices. It was too late now. Too late for almost everything.
Heyes dropped his head and nuzzled into her, his face red with her blood as his tears pooled before they tumbled down his cheeks, squeezed out by his futile attempts to blink them away.
The Kid stepped forward and laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Stay with her, Heyes. I'll go. I’ll get someone."
~~~The dark Pinkerton strode forward as his colleague delicately helped the Kid extricate Abigail's body from Heyes’ arms, his face and clothes stained with her blood. The man spoke softly with professional kindness, crouching to touch his arm. "My name’s Tom. Tom Bartlett. I used to be an army surgeon. I’m a doctor. Let me look after her. I’ll take real good care. She’s a good friend of mine too."
Heyes nodded mutely at him. Emotion swirled in the chocolate depths before he swallowed his caustic angst and handed her body over.
"Were they close?” The blond stranger whispered to the gunman as he looked at the darkness engulfing man before him.
"Not really. It's kinda complicated. Maybe? If she had lived? They kinda thought the same way. They were fond of each other. Real good friends."
The two men nodded in mutual understanding as Dr Bartlett laid her on the straw and stared to make the preliminary examinations to pronounce life formally extinct. He felt for a pulse, he pulled up her eyelids and looked into her dull, sightless eyes before he brought out a small mirror and held it under her nose.
He held it there for before his back stiffened and he examined it. "Bring that lamp over here."
He held the mirror to Abigail again before examining the surface in better light. "She's still alive."
"The mirror! The mirror misted over, faintly. It was so faint I wasn't even sure the first time. But I checked. She’s still breathing—just."
The whole atmosphere changed in an instant. The stables exploded into activity as Abigail was gathered into the doctor’s arms and carried over to the local doctor’s office.
They ran in a huddle. The doctor’s office was only a few doors away and the Kid reached it first and battered at the door with his fist.
"Can you save her?" Heyes asked, desperation lacing his voice.
"She's lost a lot of blood. Maybe too much." He paused, irritated his foot thumping at the door was getting no response from inside. "Oh, for God’s sake man. Open this door!"
"Allow me?" Kid Curry took out his gun and shot the lock off, meeting the doctor’s surprised eyes with raised eyebrows.
They stormed in, the shot finally gaining the attention of the local doctor who appeared in a ratty dressing gown, reeking of whiskey. He held a guttering candle which cast deep shadows in every line and crease of his face. "What the hell?"
The men were in no mood to pander to him.
"She's had a shot to the head, a glancing wound but she’s been lying there, bleeding out for a long time. She needs a transfusion. Why didn’t you answer the door, man?"
The doctor gazed at Dr. Bartlett with eyes swirling with confusion and mad, frizzy grey hair surrounding his bald pate. "I was asleep. Transfusion? I've never done a transfusion."
Tom Bartlett looked at the man through narrowing eyes before glancing around at the equipment in the office in disdain. "Where’d you qualify?"
Tom’s eyes narrowed. "What university? Which doctor did you become a student under? How many years did you study?"
Tom’s brow lined at the lack of response and he barked out an order, betraying his army roots. "Mike, get him the hell outta here. He ain't qualified. He's a quack." He laid Abigail out on the couch and rolled up his sleeves. He grabbed the candle from the town doctor and used the candlelight to examine the room.
Bartlett was an adherent of Joseph Lister’s new work in the prevention of infections which kept everything clean and as sterile as possible. "I need water, boiled, hard; to a rolling boil. And carbolic. Look in there, but knock every door until you find it. There's a pharmacist down the street, try there," he turned and yelled at Heyes. “Find bandages. Make them into a wad and put pressure on that wound.”
"Carbolic? I'm on it!" yelled the Kid, running into the darkness as Mike heaved huge stockpots out from a kitchen cupboard and put all the water he could find on to boil.
Dr Bartlett fixed Heyes with determined eyes. "She needs blood. It’s not always successful but it's all we got. I can give a pint. Can you?"
Heyes looked at her broken body on the table as he let out the breath he hadn't realized he had been holding. "Blood?" This concept was new to him and the doubt flickered over his face.
"Yes. She’s lost a lot." Bartlett wrapped rubber tubing around his own upper arm, pumping his fist until the veins stood out. "We use our blood to replace hers. It’s our only hope. She’s nearly gone."
Heyes didn't hesitate for a second. "I'll give you as much as you need, Doc. Anything. Do me first."
“A pint. We can only take a pint.”
~~~Tom Bartlett walked into the kitchen and poured himself a cup of coffee, his face tired and drawn as he turned to the men sitting around the kitchen table. Heyes still looked grey and harrowed, but had washed her blood from his face at the Kid's urging.
"She's better. Her breathing is stronger and her pulse is regular. She has a long way to go yet and she ain't out of the woods but she has a chance. A small one, but it's still a chance. The bullet didn’t penetrate her skull. It hit the superficial temporal vein. She was knocked out and left to bleed out in the stable. God willing, she’ll pull through. She had defensive injuries on her hands and arms. I’m guessing she caught Violet sneaking off and they had a fight.”
He turned and leaned against the range, his face etched with weariness. "She's reacting well to the blood transfusion so far. It's a desperate act and it’s usually the last resort because most people die of them. We don't even know why." He sighed, "but we might have got lucky. A couple of soldiers had their lives saved that way in the war, but most died. I’ll have to keep an eye on her to see if it took. If she turns yellow and gets a fever there’ll be no hope. It’s given her the strength to have some fight so far."
"Thank you, Doctor."
"You're welcome, Mr. Heyes."
The Kid’s hand darted to his gun as the blond man smiled and he sat back and folded his arms. "We ain't idiots, Mr. Curry, and Abigail told us everything." His eyes drifted to the outlaw's gun. "Leave that. We’re all here for the same reason; to stop McCully and now, to save Abi. Relax. We ain’t interested in you two." He sat back and smiled at both of them. "Not this time. Tom would be dead now if it wasn't for you. He was sitting right in front of that window. Sure, McCully's gun had been tampered with by Abi, but he would have gotten his sister’s and used it. None of us knew about her. Dear God, we'd never have left Abi alone with her if we had. She's a treacherous witch. Who knows how many innocent people she's killed in cold blood to help her brother make a dirty living?"
The dark-haired doctor continued. “I saw something in you, right from the start. Real humanity, at the cabin and again at the stables with Abi. You saved my life so you get a chance. All anyone needs to know is bounty hunters who knew Abi stepped in to help then disappeared. Go. You gave her the best chance of life anyone could."
The Kid scowled. "You mean that?"
"I sure do. I’m not even sure we’d have checked the stables at all. If she wasn’t found until morning she would definitely have died. You didn't do this to stop McCully catching you. You cared about the lives he took. I can see that."
Heyes darted an anxious glance at the dark man who looked so similar to him in coloring, but had a Roman nose as opposed to Heyes’ smaller, pert version. "Doctor Bartlett, how will she be? If she lives? It’s a head injury. Will she be normal?" His eyes glittered with intensity, but the question was asked through a haze.
"The bullet only grazed her. I think she fought and that stopped it being fatal. It hit a major blood vessel near her temple, that's why she lost so much blood. She’ll have one hell of a headache but I doubt there'll be brain damage. It didn't penetrate the skull." He smiled. "There's nothing to be gained by you staying here. Her biggest danger now is infection and a reaction to the transfusion. That’s my job. Get yourselves to safety. More agents will be arriving tomorrow and they may not be as philosophical as us."
The blond Pinkerton smiled at them." She was always impressed by you two. Now we know why. The best advice I can give you is to get out of here while the going is good."
The doctor’s eyes glittered across the room at Heyes. "She's got a discerning eye, Mr. Heyes, and I have to say I share your excellent taste in women. Go—before we change our minds."
"Wait," Mike smiled at the Kid before he turned to the doctor. "I can't see why they couldn't leave after a night's rest. Can you, Tom?"
Tom Bartlett’s trained eyes glittered across at them, noting the men slipping into fatigue before he nodded. "I think it's a good idea."
”No, I think we should leave," the Kid’s voice was underscored with determination.
"Listen,” Tom insisted. “You saved my life. The least I can do is let you have a night's sleep. Go. Rest and you can look in on her in the morning before you go. I’m a fair man. Besides, it’s what she’d want me to do."
~~~Heyes stared aimlessly ahead as they rode out into the bright expanse of the verdant valley. Mountains provided the rocky walls around the rich meadow, topped by a vault of jewel-blue sky. A spine of dotted clouds swept off into the far distance. It was a beautiful, bright clear day with a mellow touch of autumnal loam in the air and gentle breeze kissing the flesh with an ethereal balmy breath. The temperature was perfect; warm without any of the oppressive burning heat of recent days. Birds chattered and sang their little hearts out as they darted about catching insects and selecting only the juiciest berries and plumpest seeds before winter’s icy grasp shriveled and wizened nature’s bounty.
It was easy to be alive on a day like this—at least it was for most people. Not for Hannibal Heyes.
The Kid darted an anxious glance at his cousin. He’d barely said a word in the last twelve hours. He wanted to help, but he had his own problems. He had sworn to protect Abigail and he had stayed with the man he had thought was dangerous instead of guarding the victim. It was a stupid mistake and one he would regret to his dying day if she didn't pull through.
Guilt sat in his belly like a ball of lead but he tried to present as positive a front as he could to encourage the man who had been plunged into more emotional involvement than either of them had realized. It had snuck up on him, ambushing him totally and completely. One thing was sure, there was no denying the depth of his feelings for the woman he left behind in Everlasting.
"How you doin', Heyes?"
His answer was an indifferent shrug accompanied by an incomprehensible grunt.
"Look, she'll be fine. She was even stronger this mornin’. The doc said so."
Heyes shook his head. "It's too early to tell. He was being kind. That blood could still turn bad on her."
A flicker of a smile flickered over Kid Curry’s stony face satisfied Heyes had broken the silence at last. "It's Abi, Heyes. She's a fighter. If anyone can get through this it's her."
"Yeah? And how will we know? Can we contact her family or her friends? How about we wait for someone to write to us?"
The Kid paused, knowing he was right. The possibility of never knowing whether she was alive or dead weighed heavily on Heyes’ mind. "She'll let us know. She'll find a way."
"So if we don't hear? Is she dead or she can’t find us? How would we know?"
They continued in silence as he tried to find a way to put a positive spin on the situation. "If we don't hear it'll be because she'll have seen sense and gone home to her mother’s. She’ll surely quit this world after this. God knows I feel like walkin’ away and livin’ like a normal person. I’m sick to my stomach with this life. I wish I had a proper home to go to."
"Maybe she will, but maybe she won’t. She might never be the same again if she lives. She might be fit and happy. We’ll probably never know."
"She won't do that, Heyes. She’ll find a way."
He shook his head. "How? We found her by accident. Either way it's over. It’s all behind us. Part of her will always be dead because I’ll never see her again, no matter what."
"I know,” sighed the Kid. “I'm just tryin' to help you. There’s hope though and we need to credit her with the fight to see it through. Then you get on with your life because either way it’ll carry on for you. You can fight or go down. That’s all you got."
Heyes nodded. "I'm sorry. I’ll shake this off. It was the shock; thinking she was so safe at the boarding house. Everything she's done and it happens that way, just for a horse. There was no other reason. Violet didn’t know why she was really there. She was stealing a horse. It’s so pointless. You never know the minute."
"Nope, you don’t. But she'd want you to live life to the full until it does."
"I guess," he paused. "I feel so responsible. She was there to stop McCully killin’ us."
The Kid bit back the thoughts swirling around his mind. He wanted to talk more about how Heyes really felt and what had really happened between him and the woman he had known for such a short period of time; but he couldn’t find the words. Part of him knew the answers, and most of him didn’t want to face the possibility that Abigail provided a window on the world Heyes could have had if he’d had a better start in life. She rejected Heyes because he was a criminal, and the Kid felt responsible for being complicit in Heyes’ dishonest career. He’d never tried to turn him back on the right path. Heyes might have listened, but he’d run right along with him, egging him on every step of the way.
He had seen Heyes this morning, sitting on the bed staring at her blood on the shirt he had worn the night before. His eyes had been as black as midnight, as though recalling the nightmare could change things. He had hurriedly put it away when he realized the Kid was awake.
It hadn't hit him in the same way as Heyes. It wasn't even close. Had anything more happened between them or was it only a meeting of two mercurial and cunning minds? Kid Curry desperately wanted to break the silence to find out more. But he didn’t. It didn't feel right to intrude there. It felt too intimate.
He stared off into the distance, feeling impotent and powerless, little realizing his solid, ever reassuring presence was exactly what Heyes needed right now. The fog of bereavement was as debilitating for those trying to offer support as it was for the person in the eye of the storm.
Heyes kicked his heels into his horse and cantered off before the Kid urged his own horse forward to join him. They rode into one more day of many under acres of sky, and into one more day of wondering why they always chased the wrong prize.
Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight Old Scottish proverb