Part 1. Moon
Running keep running .how long? Cant stop or theyll catch up. Who were they ..cant remember. Keep running ..legs tired ..keep running away .lungs bursting run.away. Dont stop!
It had not been a good day for hunting. Buck and Vin had caught a couple of rabbits but Buck mused, I reckon they knew there was a storm coming, Vin.
Vin smiled to himself, Yep, I reckon thats as good an excuse as we are gonna to come up with when we see the guys and nothing to show for a days hunting. He picked up another log and threw it on the cabin fire.
Dya reckon Chris will come out and break that mare tomorrow?
Morn likely said Vin, Hes bin keen to ride her. Shes a beauty but not a patch on Peso!
Hah Buck laughed but he knew how Vin loved that horse of his and there was a special bond between them. That horse of his had never let him down even saved his life once when hed been shot, by taking him back to town.
It was a break they had needed. The wagon trains passing through had not been attacked for a while and things were quiet in town so Chris had suggested the boys take a day off. Not all at the same time, just in case
Vin had not been sure. Trouble, in his experience, came when you were least expecting it. He didnt want the townsfolk to be at any risk, but relented in the end when Buck suggested going hunting. Not only was Vin a good tracker of men he could also spot animal tracks. Buck was glad he got time with Vin for that very reason but now, after a fruitless day and the sudden storm, all he really wanted was to be in the saloon in town.
In town, Buck reckoned, the girls in the saloon would be missing him. Ezra would be sitting at his lucky table trying to con people into a game of chance so he could take their money. JD, well hed have a chance to woo young Casey that kid still had a lot to learn about women but Buck was taking his time teaching him all he knew, and that was a lot. Buck had been raised in a whorehouse and he had learned a lot as he grew up.
Rain .wet ..keep running .cold ..keep running!
Rains getting worse Buck said, though not really expecting an answer. Nathan was fixing to go out to the Seminole village but Mrs Hansons baby was due so hed be watching over her. Josiah had Sunday meeting tomorrow so hed be working on his sermon. Chris, now there was a man. What would he be doing? Probably in the saloon keeping an eye on things from his favourite spot a table in the corner, back to the wall where he could see everyone coming and going and making sure Ezra didnt get into trouble.
Keep running light ..no! Its them .run ..run ..run .
Gonna be real cold tonight I reckon said Vin, better get some more logs. I dont think we should head back to town tonight. Cant have you catching a cold and passin it on to the ladies now, can we? At that he reached for his hat and shucked on his buckskin coat, pulled it tightly around him and went out into the rain.
Yeh, that Vin, always looking out for other people. He sure wouldnt miss a drink, thought Buck. Hed never seen Vin drink any more than a couple at any one time. God I wish I was at the saloon. I could even stand listening to Ezra and trying to understand what that fool was talking about!
Vin shuddered as he stepped outside. The rain was like hundreds of needles on his face. Get the logs and back near the fire as quick as I can and then sleep. Hed enjoyed the day with his friend. For once Buck had not spent all the time talking about all the women he was missing. Then suddenly the world seemed to turn up side down. Vin couldnt quite grasp what was happening. He seemed be flying through the air. Suddenly he thought, This is going to hurt, as he twisted himself in mid-air landing on his left shoulder (Got to watch the right shoulder .for shooting).
Vin found himself almost face down in a pool of muddy water still trying to figure out how he got there. In a flash of lightning he saw what he had tripped on. Looked like a bundle of rags. Raising himself onto his knees he looked closer and saw it was more than that .a woman!
Thinking a bit quicker now he wasted no time getting to his feet. The woman was slight and clearly soaked through to the skin. No idea how long she had been lying there. Buck and he had been back from hunting for a couple of hours before it went dark.
Ignoring the pain from his shoulder he scooped her up easily in his arms and carried her back to the cabin. God, shes thin.
No .who what ..a face who
A small moan escaped from her as he walked up to the cabin door. With one kick it flew open. Buck dove for his gun but pulled himself up when he saw it was Vin. Stunned for a moment he looked down to see what he was carrying - didnt look like logs.
Vin walked straight over to the fire and gently laid the woman down. Get some blankets Buck, shes frozen!
Buck reached behind him for the blankets from the cot and moved forward to his friend who was looking concerned. Where did you find her? What happened? Did you shoot her? Where did she come from? What .,
Vin wasnt listening to Bucks questions. This woman was in a pretty poor state, that he could tell, but what to do .Nathan would know but he was in town. She dont look good. he said. He didnt like this feeling. He was always in control and suddenly he didnt know what to do. Think, Vin, think!
We need Nathan. Will you go?
In this? Buck said in half-hearted objection, Yeh, sure. Even in this rain he had to go - it was clear they could not be sure of doing the right thing. No idea what was wrong with her. Couldnt just leave her as she is. One of us has to go and maybe I can get a drink he thought and then chastised himself for thinking it. OK, no problem pard, Ill go and be as quick as I can. With that he was dressed and gone.
Alone in the cabin now, Vin was still uncertain. The woman was soaked through, she was breathing (hed seen Nathan check before) but it was shallow and he felt helpless. Again that feeling .. What to do?
He looked down as steam started to rise from the blankets she was wrapped in. Ive known cold he thought and his heart began to ache for this poor soul who must have seen the light from the cabin and headed for it ..but from where?
Another uncomfortable feeling came over him. These clothes are no good. That much he knew. It was better that they came off but .could he, should he? What if she died, right there, because he did nothing, all because he was feeling bad about taking her clothes off.
Slowly he started peeling off the wet clothes then covering her quickly with dry blankets as he did so. She tried to resist but was too weak. As he removed her shirt her saw he back was covered with black and blue bruising. He drew in his breath when he saw them, then his heart began to beat wildly as he saw the rope burns on her wrists. Her bare feet .covered in blisters. My God, what did they do to you?
There was no clear sign that she knew what was happening but she seemed more peaceful now. His conscience was eased, hed done the right thing but she was still cold. He picked up her slim hand and felt the skin. Still cold but maybe the fire would help.
Damn, the fire is dying! He rushed out into the night again this time collecting some logs from the dry store and getting back into the cabin quickly.
Cold ..cold .who . where am I the face again .not clear ..no ..maybe its THEM ..but the warmth not THEM please!
As he booted the door this time he saw the womans eyes were open. Grief gripped him as she appeared for a second to be in fear of him. He opened his mouth to speak. Its OK, youre safe but she passed out again before the words left his lips.
Things were getting no better. Vin felt worse than he could ever remember feeling before. He desperately wanted this woman to feel that she could trust him. It was clear she had been through a lot and he wanted to tell her it was going to be OK now. He wanted her to know nothing would harm her here.
He thought back to when hed felt cold. All the cold winters in the Comanche village hed grown up in, but hed gotten used to it and now he could stand lower temperatures than most men. It was handy because so often hed been called upon to be out in snow, hail, rain and wind, tracking throughout the coldest times of the year. In the village hed been used to sleeping close to others, sharing body heat.
Maybe it might work for her.
He considered this thought for a while. What if she woke up again, shed be scared. What if he did nothing what if she died right there and he could have prevented it. He had no idea how bad she was. He only knew he had to do something. It was better than sitting here wondering and feeling helpless.
He eased her into his arms and cradled her head. Feeling more relaxed now he had time to look at her. She was young, maybe in her twenties, an Indian woman from her clothes but her eyes were a light blue and against the long black hair looked out of place. 'Maybe shes white and bin raised by Indians, like me. He stroked her hair gently and relaxed a bit more trying to figure what could have happened to her. Shes beautiful he thought. How could anyone hurt her? Anger welled up in him. Hed lived with Indians, learned a lot from them, tracking, hunting, surviving they had it hard. Moving farther west as the white man pushed in and took their land. The local tribes would not have done this! So she must be a long way from home.
The face again no ..but .soft gentle .maybe cant be a smile ..why ..
He looked back at the womans face just as she opened her eyes again. He smiled and kept stroking her hair gently away from her face. She looked straight into his eyes. He looked back trying to convey that no harm would come to her. Who are you? What happened? he asked. A little recognition passed between them. She tensed and relaxed in his arms afraid and then not as she stared back, too weak to do anything but lie there. Slowly her eyes closed again.
Vin awoke with a start as he heard Nathan and Buck came up to the cabin. Hed not been aware of falling asleep and was disturbed to have allowed them to get so close to the cabin without him hearing their horses he must have been more tired than he thought.
Nathan looked down at him with the woman resting in his arms. Buck looked shocked. Made yourself quite comfortable eh? Vin blushed .he actually blushed, Buck thought.
Nathan was checking out the woman. He felt her head, her hands, her breathing. Hmmmm He looked around. The fire was good, blankets good warmth good. I cant be sure .. shes cold.
Not as cold as she was said Vin. I tried to warm her up.
I can see that said Buck. Again Vin blushed. Buck was on a roll! Ha!
Thats not all, Nathan. Look! Vin gently rolled the woman over and pulled back the blanket a little to show her back. Nathan drew a deep breath at the bruising on her back. And this .! He pulled up the bottom of the blanket covering her feet then showed Nathan her wrists. Nathans eyes narrowed.
God, what happened? said Buck. Nathan and Vin shook their heads and shrugged.
How is she? Asked Vin.
My best guess is the cold, exhaustion and, by the look of her, lack of food. Youve done the right thing Vin. That made him feel better . for now. He couldnt shake the anger he felt though.
Nathan opened his bag and set to work doing what he knew best healing. He washed her feet and let them warm by the fire. The blisters looked painful but had not opened so there was of risk of infection. Next he set to work on her wrists. A rope had cut deep into the skin. Shed not gone easily, put up a fight as long as she was able, Nathan thought to himself.
Satisfied that he could not do more to help the healing there he turned her over and pulled down the blanket just enough to see the damage on her back. He had some salve that helped the bruising come out and ease the pain. As he worked he noticed that not all the bruising was new. Some was yellowing and fading. This must have happened over a long time. Oh God!
Best thing we can do I reckon is keep her warm and see whats what in the morning. Vin Vin! Vin looked at his friend, startled out of his anger. Wrap her up by the fire, get some sleep yourself and Ill watch her.
Well take it in turns this from Buck. Yeh from the others in agreement.
Part 2. No way out
The sun came up and with it better weather. Chris arrived early, having heard from JD that Vin had found himself a woman and he was out at the cabin with her. This he had to see!
Buck, Vin and Nathan had taken turns watching the woman in case she woke up. She slept on. During the night the woman had slept mostly but had mumbled in her slumber while Vin was keeping his eye on her. It sounded like she was running away from something, scared and running.
They were sitting together now outside. What do you reckon Nathan? Chris said.
Dunno. Shes been tied up by the wrists. Been runnin far and fast but I cant think from what.
Or who. Chris added.
Nothin we can do but wait and ask when she wakes.
You reckon you know what tribe?
Nope but shes not full Indian, she has blue eyes. Vin offered.
Its a puzzle.
At the full sun of the midday the woman woke. It was Nathan who was with her at the time. She woke slowly looking round weakly then seeing Nathan she gathered up the blankets and shied away as if trying to pass right through the wall of the cabin at her back. Her eyes darted round the room looking for a way out.
Nathan put his hands out palm upwards to show he was OK, saying, Stay calm, I aint gonna hurt ya! but her eyes opened wide in fear. She was shaking with fear still looking round wildly for some way of escaping.
Hes not THEM but they wont be far away Oh no! No way out!
The black man struggled to tell her she was safe and tried to reassure her.
Only way was to play THEIR game what game? .what was it THEY wanted give in ..wait ..maybe get free again ..from what ..from THEM .who? Questions filled her head until it hurt, memories wanted to surface but she held them down, no time now for that, time to get away . given the chance. She raised a hand to her head to take away the pain that was pounding through it, dulling her senses.
The black man was holding out some clothes now, laying them on the floor where he stood. You can put these on. He turned and left.
Nathan had seen such fear in a face before, back when he was a slaves son. Those faces never left his memory and haunted him in his darkest times. His only choice in there had been to give her some space to find her feet and feel safe feel safe, would she ever feel safe? JD had come out to see the woman and being the smallest his friends had persuaded him to give up some spare clothing for her. His boots wouldnt fit her but she wasnt going anywhere soon, not in the state she was in. Maybe that would help. Maybe.
Whats up, Nathan? It was Chris. He was sitting outside the cabin as his friend came out.
Shes awake and scared to death lookin fit to bust out of here said Nathan, I gave her JDs clothes and left but Im just not sure shed get far once she gets em on. Shes still weak.
Vin and Buck were over at the corral looking at Chriss mare. They saw Nathan come out of the shack talking to Chris and came over.
Nate? She awake? She say anythin? they asked.
Yep, shes awake but looks like she wants to be anywheres else than here
No surprise there said Vin. The others looked at him. Well considerin what she might have bin through it figures she might think she aint got away from whatever it was yet.
Mmmmm from Chris. Better give her some space. Room to move and feel safe.
Nathan thought on that word SAFE again. How can they show her that she has nothing to fear from them? Yeh, probably best. he said.
Chris stayed where he was leaning back on the old chair he kept on the porch for mulling things over and watching the world go by. The others wandered over to the corral again and viewed the scene from there, just far enough to hear if anything passed between Chris and the woman.
Inside, the woman looked at the clothes the black man had left. Confusion crossed her mind. More questions filled her head but things were too jumbled to sort them out. Now the black man had left, she looked round. Nothing familiar here. Her back was sore and her feet hurt like hell. She looked at her wrists. Theyd hurt bad before, but the pain had eased and she saw the bandages round each one. Curious. Who did that?
Couldnt do anything with no clothes on. For a moment she sat there trying to remember but it would not come. How did she get here? Where had she come from? Where was here?
She put on the clothes sitting down heavily as dizziness threatened to overcome her delicate balance. She was weary and wanted to rest but couldnt stay here. No matter what, she had to get away. Maybe it is THEM, maybe its not, but she had to get away and figure it all out. Needed room to think.
She walked slowly to the door feeling slightly dizzy. Worse than I thought! Got to make it!
The cabin door opened slightly. Chris remained still, looking out at the others leaning on the corral fence. The door opened more and her head looked out. Seeing the men by the corral she thought they were all there, not noticing the man in the chair to the left. She stepped gently out. With nothing on her feet they hurt like hell but she had to get away.
Taking the next step into the sun, fire rose up from her feet. It was like stepping onto burning embers. She moved slowly forward holding the door frame for support finally letting go when she could touch the frame of the porch. It was a step too far. Waves of dizziness washed over her and she almost fell. Sliding to the step of the veranda she sat down.
You wont get far like that! Chris had resisted the need to help the woman as she sat down. He wanted to go over and support her but from what Nathan said she probably jump out of her skin.
The woman startled suddenly and looked round like a frightened animal. THEM! She looked into the mans eyes but saw no hostility only a kind gentleness the same look in those blue eyes that shed seen in her dreams or was that real? This man was dressed in black and wore a shining pair of guns on his hip. Dangerous man!
Resigned now, he was right, some of the tension and desperation left her. She was going to have to take what was coming again. She was in no fit state to get any further. She tensed suddenly waiting for the bite of the kick she knew would come (where from? Who?) but the man just sat there, watching the others at the corral. She drew her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around herself, tucking her chin down, closing herself off.
Nathan reckons youve got some healing to do. Youre safe here. Take your time, stay as long as you need. No-one is going to hurt you. We wont let it happen. Kay? Chris tried to sound his reassuring best. He hoped it would work. Hed seen the tension rise in her and, even without seeing her face, he could see she was troubled.
This cant be THEM. THEY would not speak to her so kindly, so soft, THEY wouldnt say that kind of thing. No .it would be, Get on yer feet, bitch! or Walk! then another kick or dragged along by her hair or She shuddered trying to bury the memory again.
Nathan! The black man whod offered the clothes. That was his name!
For a long time they just sat there. The silence was good, almost comforting, but strange all the same. The men at the corral stayed there watching, listening.
Who are you? Chris asked.
Who am I? It wasnt that she didnt want to answer it was more that she couldnt. The words wouldnt come because she was not sure she could trust these men. And .she couldnt answer because she didnt know.
She sat there, not looking at him.
What happened? Another question she couldnt answer.
The man waited. SOkay, take your time. Tell us when youre ready. No rush. Again the softness and understanding in the voice. This must be a dream ..it cant be real.
The day wore on the sun was soothing. One by one the men by the corral wandered over, understanding the need for quiet and gentleness, saying nothing, just being there, quiet, not talking. As each man approached the cabin, the woman tensed and gradually relaxed. These men kept their distance from her, not far, not close, just there. Blue eyes came over. She looked up quickly and saw into those blue eyes and looked away. Yes they were the ones shed seen in her dream. Once again she saw they were different from THEM, the ones who who what? There was a sadness but also a self assurance in those eyes.
Feelin better? The blue eyed man asked, smiling. She looked down suddenly, not answering. She remembered a touch not the bad kind, not the kind that stung you, but soft, on her face and on her hair.
Once there had been water as blue as those eyes. Where was that? No memory would come. It was buried deep along with the others .the nightmares.
The one with the moustache and the young one finally left before sundown leaving the black man, Nathan, and the two others who had spoken to her. Food was brought out, a thick broth and some bread. It tasted good and filled her.
She couldnt remember falling asleep but later she found herself on the cot again, warm and comfortable. Looking round she saw the three men talking in low voices by the fire. They saw her eyes open and Blue Eyes came over. She moved away from him into the corner but he only offered a cup of water, left it by the bed and walked back to the fire. She reached for the cup and drank. Closing her eyes she was asleep again.
Cant figure it, Chris. Vin said, Whatd make someone so scared?
Dunno! But it sure makes a man angry to see it.
If I meet the one who . Vin said clenching his fists.
Chris and Nathan nodded, understanding Vin even before hed finished.
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