Western Medicine

by Kati

The feedback from my New Agent series has been awesome. Thanks Guys! I decided to give Sidney a break for a while and try something new. Let me know what you guys think. The idea about men kidnapping women comes from the amazing movie, “The Missing.”

The sun was just beginning to set in the western horizon, giving the area a break from the weeks of long, almost overbearing heat. The Indian summer had taken its toll on everybody, but winter was slowly making its way to the town. The warm air was slowly being replaced by the bitter wind that the old men were starting to fell in their bones.

The town of Four Corners was getting ready for the winter. Farmers were bringing in the summer’s crops and homeowners were patching up holes in roofs that had been allowed to get bigger during the summer. Despite the necessity to get ready, the only street in Four Corners was completely silent. The lone figure seen near the street was sitting in a whicker chair in front of the jail. The only sound was the chair being rocked back and forth.

If any passerby glanced at the black-clad man in the wicker chair, they would think that he was unaware of what was happening around him. That was completely untrue. Chris Larabee always was attentive to every movement, sound, and action. There was a common myth around town that the gunslinger slept with one eye open.

Chris turned his head as he watched the door from the general store open. An older woman, presumably in her late sixties started to walk down the street. The gunslinger never appeared to move his head, but he could tell that she was distressed by her quick gate and the look of fright in her eyes. He knew she was heading towards him, but he didn’t appear to notice her until she was right in front of him.

“Can I help you ma’am?” Chris asked looking up.

“I do not mean to bug you Mr. Larabee, but I am starting to get worried. The stagecoach was supposed to be here over three hours ago. Virgil is supposed to coming home on this run.”

A hint of a smile appeared on the gunslinger’s face.

“I wouldn’t worry too much Mrs. Watson. I have yet to see that coach arrive on time. One of the horses probably came up lame or they hit some bad weather on the way over here," he answered. “I am sure your husband is just fine. We’ll wait a little while longer and than I’ll have JD wire Ridge City to see if they know anything. I bet they haven’t even left yet.”

Chris normally wouldn’t have been this talkative to anyone in the town, but people like the Watson’s deserved some respect. Virgil Watson had been the first person in town that Vin could trust. The gruff old man had given the tracker his precious Winchester. Even through the hard times, the Watson’s had remained loyal to the peacekeepers.

Margaret Watson nodded her head. She had learned to trust Chris Larabee’s word over most people that she knew.

“I am probably just being a worry-wart. It’s ‘just that he’s been gone for over a week now and I miss having hearing he complaining all the time. I suppose I am just being silly.”

“Nothing silly about missing someone you love ma’am," Chris answered. He almost got his nose taken off as the jail door flung open. Luckily he managed to step out of the way just in time. JD basically flew out of the door. His eyes were excited and his face was red.

“Chris!" he called not seeing the man on the side of the door. When Chris took a step forward, JD blushed slightly.

“Oh," the younger man said sheepishly. There was a long pause. Chris waited for the kid to say why he was basically jumping out of his pants, but the kid seemed to be waiting for something.

“What JD?” Chris asked in an emotionless voice.

“Remember how I told you about those outlaws who were kidnapping women and selling them across the Mexican border?”

Chris nodded his head.

“I got a wire from Eagle Bend that those outlaws were headed this way.” Chris tried hard not to roll his eyes. It was not unusual for the kid to startle at something like this.

“Calm down JD, we’ll just have to tell the town to watch their backs until they are caught," he told the boy.

“No Chris, there’s more to it than that. I heard you talking about the stagecoach, so I looked to when Ridge City wired at what time the driver left. They left around ten this mourning. There were two passengers. One of them was old Virgil and the other was some girl from Denver. They’re in the direct path of those women-stealing bastards!”

JD seemed to notice Margaret Watson for the first time. He blushed even more,

“I am sorry ma’am; I didn’t know you were there.” The women gave JD a knowing smile to say that she didn’t mind in the least. She had heard plenty of colorful language over the years. She had gotten used to many things that society probably wouldn’t have called correct. But the thought of her husband in danger was one thing that any normal person couldn’t get used too. She turned her frightened eyes to Chris.

“Do you think that they met those men?" she asked. Chris didn’t answer her right away. He turned to JD.

“Are you sure JD?" he asked.

“Never been surer of anything in my life,” JD answered. His eyes were wild with fright.

“Find Vin and Ezra, tell them to saddle up and meet me outside the livery. We’re gong to go look for that coach.”

“What about me?” JD asked.

“Nathan, Josiah and Buck aren’t due back until late tonight. Somebody’s got to stay back and watch the town.” Chris saw the hurt in JD’s eyes. “Damn JD, I don’t have time for this!" he thought to himself.

“JD, I’m not leaving you behind. If those guys are really near here, they could strike the town ant anytime. I need somebody to stay and make sure that nothing happens.” The words had no effect on the kid.

“I’ll go get Vin and Ezra," he answered quietly. Without waiting for a response, JD rushed into the saloon. Chris was about to go too, but he felt the women grab onto his hand.

“Take care of my husband," she pleaded.

“We’ll do our best ma’am,” Chris said with a tip of his hat. By the time Chris got the livery, Vin and Ezra were already waiting in their saddles. Pony was standing next to Vin, throwing his head around; the horse had picked up on the other two men’s moods. He could tell by the look in his men’s eyes that JD had told them everything. Ezra wasn’t even complaining about being drawn away from his nightly poker game. Vin handed over the black horse’s reigns. Chris jumped into the saddle with ease.

“I am going to set a fast pace to the East, keep your eyes open for anything out of the ordinary. Holler if you see anything," he told his men.

During the ride, Chris gave Pony his head. He trusted his horse would stay on the right path. He was able to direct his full attention to looking for the lost stage. It was beginning harder and harder to see anything as the dark night clouds were slowly replacing the light from the setting sun.

“Stop!” Ezra called. Chris pulled hard on his horse’s reigns. Vin did the same next to him. They both turned in that saddle to look Ezra. The gambler was pointing to something on a hill above. Both men could just make out a small orange light. There appeared to be a fire coming from the hill.

“That might possibly be of interest,” Ezra said nonchalantly.

“Good eyes Ezra,” Vin complimented. “I even missed that one.” Chris dismounted from his horse.

“That climb is to steep for the horses. They’re so tired. They’ll never make it.” He tied Pony’s reigns on a nearby tree.

Soon the three men were climbing the hill. The scene that awaited them was nothing that they had ever seen before. The coach was lying on its side. The fire that Ezra had seen was burning a few feet away. The only remaining wheel left on the stage was still spinning furiously. The stench from carcasses of the dead horses was already beginning to fill the air. Flies were buzzing around the bullet holes on the poor beasts’ shoulders.

Chris took a step forward, and then quickly took a step back when he realized that he was not stepping onto sandy ground. He looked down to see an arm. The owner of the arm was laying a few feet away. The bloody and mangled body was lying in unnatural position. Chris recognized that man as the driver of the stage. His heart skipped a beat.

Chris, look at this,” Vin pointed to three more bodies lying on the ground. Each one had been shot clean through the heart. The darkness seamed to make the scene all the more gruesome.

“What the hell happened here?” Ezra asked loudly. He answered by the cock of a gun and

“If you stay here any longer, none of you will get the chance to find out.”

All three men jumped and turned around. A brown-harried girl was pointing a rifle at them. There was a deep gash across her check.

“Get out of here now, or you’ll be joining your friends on the ground.” She pointed the gun slightly to the pile of three bodies.

“I don’t know what you think we are Miss, but I can assure you that I have never seen these men before," Vin said. The comment didn’t seem to have any effect on the girl.

“Vin?” a different voice croaked. Chris would have recognized that voice anywhere.

“Virgil?” Chris called. “Is that you?” It sounded like the man’s voice was coming from under the wagon.

The man started to laugh. “Thank God! You can put the gun down, Miss Rogers. These men are friends.” The girl hesitantly lowered the gun. Chris was more confused than ever.

“Please, his legs are stuck under the coach and I can’t get him out!" the girl pleaded. None of the men waited for answers. They rushed to the other side of the stage. The familiar white haired man was pinned under the cart from the waste down. His white beard had been matted with blood. Chris could see only one way to free the old man.

“Alright, all three of us are going to have to lift together.” He took his place on one side, while Vin and Ezra went to the other.

“Wait!" the girl said. She grabbed a loose rope lying on the ground.

“Bite on this, there’s no use having you bite your tongue off too.” She placed the rope between the man’s teeth. She nodded her head towards the men.

“Alright, go ahead.”

Chris fumed. Since when did he or his men take orders from a strange girl? Now wasn’t the time to think about it though.

“One the count of three," he told Vin and Ezra, “One…Two…Three!” The three men lifted up with all their strength. They were all surprised by the weight. No matter how hard they tried, the coach only lifted up a few inches and Virgil was in no position to slide out himself. Before Chris could say anything, the girl had slid under and moved the man’s legs out. The howl of pain that Virgil let out echoed across the dessert for a few seconds.

They all let go of the coach and it hit the ground with a loud Crack!”

“What do you think you were doing?” Chris looked at the girl. “What would have happened if any of us had lost our grip? You would have been smashed!”

“Excuse me sir, but none of you seemed to have been able to come up with a better solution," the girl shot back. Her attention was immediately drawn back to the old man who was moaning in pain.

Virgil’s left leg was in bad shape, but his right leg was ten times worse. A large gash went up the entire side of his leg. New blood and puss were pouring out onto the already dried blood. Chris looked closer and could see small bones protruding out of the leg. He had never wished Nathan had been with them more than at this moment. Virgil seemed to notice the look of terror in all the men’s eyes. He gave them a slight smile. He broke the silence.

“Lucky thing we got a doctor with us huh?” He tried to laugh through his obvious pain. The three men looked at him with confusion.

“I regret that Nathan did not come with us sir,” Ezra told him.

“Not Nathan,” Virgil continued, “Katherine was just telling me how she just graduated at the top of her class from Medical School in Boston.”

The girl blushed slightly. “I was in the top five. Besides I am not trained to handle injuries out in the wild like this. Everything I have ever done has been on an operating table.”

“Well, now’s a good time to learn. You don’t have to worry if you screw up on an old coot like me.” Chris couldn’t believe the look of complete trust in the man’s eyes. Seconds later the man passed out from the pain.

“It’s probably better this way. At least he will be relived of the pain for a little while," she said quietly, more to herself than anybody else.

“You’re really a doctor? Vin asked in surprise. The girl nodded her head.

“I can stop the bleeding, but the leg will have to be set until I can get somewhere to operate on it. “ She said intending for everybody to hear. The old man’s trust seemed to have given her confidence.
“I’ll need my bag. It must still be inside.” She stood up. Chris scrutinized the girl fully for the first time. She stood up to Ezra’s shoulder. Strands of long brown hair were flying freely from her bun. A buckskin jacket and a pair of pants hung loosely on her thin frame. Chris wondered where she gotten the clothes that obviously were not hers.

He had gotten her name was Katherine Rogers from Virgil. JD had said that she was from Denver, but her eastern accent told otherwise. The girl made a move towards the coach, but Ezra grabbed onto her arm.

“Where do you think you are going miss?" he asked.

“I told you that I needed my bag that is stuck inside at the moment.”
“God forbid that I allow a lady to go inside that mess. Please hold on a moment while I obtain the bag for you.” Chris watched as Ezra crawled into the stage. He walked over to the girl.

“Just what to you intend to do?” Chris growled at the girl. Vin noticed the girl shake slightly at the tone in the man’s voice. “I’m planning on cleaning on the wound. It’s important that I do this as soon as possible; otherwise we risk the chance that infection and gangrene will set in. I am pretty sure that the left leg is broken, but now isn’t the place to investigate farther. The leg needs to be set as if it is a break, until somebody can look at if more thoroughly.

“And you know how to do all of this?” Chris’s voice was full of doubt. The girl looked up with fire burning in her green eyes.

“If you doubt my medical skills sir, I will gladly show you my diploma as soon as friend brings me by bag," the girl shot back. Vin shook his head. The young lady had no idea what she was getting herself into.

“If you want to help this gentleman, I will need something to act as a splint. You could make yourself useful, and go find some wood, instead of just standing around here. Vin saw the anger flare up in Chris’s face. He put a strong arm around Chris’s shoulder.

“Just listen to her Pard. None of us have any idea of what to do. She knows what she’s talking about.”

Chris shrugged of Vin’s arm and stumbled into the woods.

Ezra pulled himself out of the window. He dragged a large black bag with him. They all noticed the words, Katherine Rogers MD, embroidered on the side. Ezra handed the bag to the girl She took it gratefully.

“Thank you Mr. ummm, I don’t believe I know any of your names," she said. Ezra smiled revealing his golden tooth.

“My name is Ezra Standish Miss, and the gentlemen, for lack of a better word, in Vin Tanner.”

“I’m Katherine Rogers, but please call me Kate.”

“Shouldn’t it be Doctor Rogers?” Vin asked.

‘I hate titles like that, besides I only been a licensed for a few months.. I haven’t even done any real surgeries yet. It’s a pleasure to meet both of you. I don’t know if I can say as much for Mr. Sunshine over there.”

“Let me give you a word of warning Miss Rogers, It is best not to get in the way of Chris Larabee,” Ezra said quietly.

‘Than it would be best if he not stand in the way of my patient and me," she answered. Vin and Ezra looked at each other with raised eyebrows. They both had to admit that girl had spunk.

Kate pulled out a small glass bottle from her bag. She sighed in relief.

“Thank God for small favors," she said to no one in particular, “This would have been much harder if this had broken. She turned to the men.

“Do any of you have a small cloth I can use? A handkerchief perhaps?”

Ezra pulled the piece of cloth out of his pocket and handed it the girl. She looked at the fancy embroidery and smiled.

“You ordered these in Boston," she stated. Ezra looked at her in surprise.

“My Grandfather uses the same ones," she answered. She unscrewed the lid and poured a small amount of the clear liquid onto the handkerchief. Ezra and Vin’s faces revealed strange looks when the poignant smell reached their noses.

“What is that stuff?” Vin asked.

“Hydrogen Peroxide," the girl answered. “It’s an oxygen compound that acts as an antiseptic,”

Vin turned to look at Ezra for clarification. Ezra just shrugged his shoulder

“I haven’t the slightest idea what she is talking about Mr. Tanner,” Ezra answered.

“I will show you what I am talking about," the girl smiled. She placed the cloth on the wound. She rubbed the cloth on the dry blood. It slowly disappeared to reveal the open wound. Ezra and Vin looked on in amazement.

“That stuff is like magic,” Vin whispered.

“This ‘stuff’ was discovered two years ago. Doctors across the country have been using it to clean out the wounds since. We are lucky that Mr. Watson has passed out. This substance hurts worse than a hornet’s sting.” She took the old shirt that Vin had gotten for her. She wrapped it around Virgil’s leg.

“This will have to do, until we get somewhere clean to operate.”

By the time Chris had gotten back, Kate had already fallen asleep. Ezra had laid out the bedrolls.. Virgil had woken up again and was sitting between Ezra and Vin. Chris noticed that he was trying to hide his pain by smiling an awful lot. Chris sat down next to Vin. Virgil didn’t stop telling his story when Chris walked up.

“Said she was originally from Missouri, but she moved in with her Grandparents in Colorado when her father died. She mentioned something about him being in the war, but she seemed really hesitant to talk about her parents. That’s all we got to before the driver started to scream that there was somebody following us. JD told me about that group of ten men who were kidnapping women. I figured that it might be them. I had one my smaller suitcases in the stage. I gave her a pair of my clothes to put on. Knew it wasn’t gong to save her, but it would create a distraction for at least a little while. Those bastards are good shots. They got the horses before we knew what happened. The coach rolled over. I got pinned under, but I broke the little lady’s fall She was able to get out of the other side. I told her get the gun away from the driver. She told me she wasn’t a very good shot, but I wasn’t exactly in the position to do any shooting.

We lucked out though. There were only three men following us. Their bodies are the ones that you already saw. Even the girl can shoot when she’s got point blank shots. The girl made the fire to send a signal for anybody to find us.”

“That was a bad idea. You could have attracted the attention of the dead men’s friends," Chris snorted.

Virgil glared at Chris. The other men had told him about the treatment of his traveling companion. He wasn’t very happy about it.

“It looks like we attracted you didn’t it? Seems like it was a pretty good idea to me," the old man shot back. He winced in pain as he moved his leg.

“Perhaps we should try and obtain some sleep,” Ezra suggested, trying to avoid the confrontation from getting any worse.

“Tomorrow Mr. Watson, one of us will ride back to Four Corners and retrieve a wagon for you.”

Without waiting for Ezra to say anything else, Chris laid down on his blanket without a word. Vin sighed. It wasn’t hard to see that relationship between his friend and the stubborn doctor was off to a very rocky start.

+ + + + + + +

The sun was just beginning to rise. Kate awoke to a noise coming from the other side of the wagon. She noticed that the three men who had come to their rescue the night before were already awake. Their guns were drawn and they were prepared for whatever was coming. The look of intensity on their faces scared the girl.

Ezra was the first one to notice that she had just woken up. He gave a genuine smile and put a finger to his lips. Kate hadn’t planned on saying anything anyway. She wondered what would happen if the remaining six men from the outlaw band had come back to search for their friends. She had complete trust in these men, but they would be outgunned two to one.

“Anybody home?" a cheery voice called. The three men smiled and put away their guns. Vin stood up.

“We’re over here Buck.”

A few seconds later, two men appeared on foot. One of them was a broad shouldered man whose mustache took up his entire face. The other was a tall, lean black man.

“What the hell happened here?” Buck cursed as he looked over the scene. He saw Ezra helping Kate up.

“Sorry miss, I didn’t see you there," he said tipping his hat. Kate smiled at the cheeriness in the man’ voice. With his nose for injuries, Nathan had immediately found Virgil. He had gently unwrapped the bandage to get a look at the wound.

“This shouldn’t be this clean," he said looking up at Vin. “What did you guys do?”

“We didn’t do anything Mr. Jackson. Mr. Watson was fortunate to be traveling with a doctor. May I introduce Doctor Katherine Rogers?"

“Miss Rogers, this is Nathan Jackson. He had patched us all up on more than one occasion.” Nathan shook the girl’s hand.

“What did you use to clean out the blood?” Nathan asked. “I never seen a wound this clean before.”

“Hydrogen Peroxide,” the girl answered.

“I have only read about that stuff in medical journals. It seemed to good to be true.”

“I will gladly show it to you as soon as this gentleman is taken care of.”

“Josiah is already on his way with a wagon,” Buck said. “JD told us what happened. We figured we’d need a wagon for something," he said with a shrug of his shoulders. “Only problem is, we’re gong to have to carry Virgil down the hill. The wagon isn’t going to make it up without blowing a tire.”

Virgil sighed heavily, “Can we at least eat something before I am dragged down the hill like a baby? I haven’t eaten anything since yesterday morning.”

About a half an hour later, a light breakfast was being passed around. Buck handed the girl a cup of coffee. She politely declined.

“You don’t drink coffee?" the man asked in surprise.

“I don’t like the bitter taste," she answered. Buck drank her coffee too.

“Cat got your tongue Chris?” Buck asked. Chris stood up.

“I’m going to head back to town. You guys can handle this whole thing from here.” The tone in his voice left no room for argument.

“What was that all about?” Buck asked.

“I don’t think your leader cares for me that much," the girl answered.

“Don’t worry about it Kate, Chris is just giving you the old Larabee welcome,” Vin told her.

Vin wasn’t wrong about a lot of things in his life, but this was one of the few cases where he was. He tried to push the thought out of his mind as he watched Kate and Nathan prepare to operate on Virgil’s leg. He stood in the back, ready to help it either one of them needed it. He watched as the girl put a cloth over the old man’s mouth. Virgil quickly fell asleep.

“Chloroform?” Nathan asked. The girl nodded her head. Nathan sighed. “Could have saved many men a lot of pain during the war, but most of the doctors were too afraid and stupid to use it.”

“I’ll give you a bottle before I leave," the girl told Nathan.

“Let’s use your tools Kate, I’m sure they are in better shape than mine.”

“Vin, can you get the blue case out of bag?" she asked. Vin got up and walked over to the black bag that was sitting on a chair. There was one light blue case and another darker blue one. He held them both up.

“What one do you want?" he asked.

“Sorry. The darker one,” Kate said. “God, I hope we don’t have to use the lighter one.”

Vin handed Nathan the case that the girl had asked for. He looked into the other set curiously. He had seen plenty of these kinds of tools before and knew why the girl didn’t want to use them. The light blue set contained the tools needed to perform an amputation.

He sat down in the chair and waited. He hadn’t realized that he had fallen asleep, until he felt Nathan shaking him.

“Hey Vin, we’re all done.” Vin opened his eyes. Virgil was still sleeping.

“How did it go?" the tracker asked.

“Better than I expected. The old geezer should be up on his feet before long” Nathan laughed when he saw Vin yawn. “When you wake up, I’m going to head down to the saloon and get something to eat.”

+ + + + + + +

“Doctor Rogers, you are a gift from God,” Margaret Watson hugged the girl. Kate blushed.

“It was a pleasure Mrs. Watson. I was simply returning the favor.”

“Will you be staying with us long?" the older woman asked.

“For as long as it take it get on another coach. I have to report to Camp Davis in Texas in a few weeks.”

“Oh well,” Margaret sighed. “I suppose we are in capable hands with Nathan Jackson.”

“Believe me Mrs. Watson you are. I may know the new techniques that are being taught in the big cities, but Mr. Jackson knows old-fashioned medicine. Many times that works better. Please excuse me, but I do have to see about a hotel room for the night.’

Margaret watched the girl walk to the hotel. She imagined what it would be like if both Nathan and this new girl would be in town, but she knew it would never be. Chris Larabee had made that point firmly. The gunslinger had never said it, but the townspeople had all seen the way he had shunned the newcomer when she had arrived in town.

+ + + + + + +

JD was in the process of grooming his horse, Maverick. He was supposed to be on patrol, but Buck had said he would take it tonight. The older man needed to clear his mind. He heard a loud CRASH from the end of the stalls. He gave his little sorrel mare one last pat and headed out of the stall to see what had caused the loud noise.

He saw the new girl struggling to pull a large trunk with her. The trunk had been set in the wagon with Virgil. Kate had left it the livery to attend to Virgil. Now she needed to bring it to her hotel room. Most of her processions that she owned were in the trunk. She had forgotten how heavy it was.

“Could you use a hand, miss?” JD asked. He saw the look of pure gratitude in the girl’s eyes.

“If it would not be to much trouble.” JD remembered what Buck had told him to say in this situation.

“It is never to much trouble to help a lady with umm with umm.” He looked at the girl who was smiling in amusement. The young man started to blush.

. “I am Kate Rogers," the girl said trying to break the awkward moment.

Oh! You are that doctor Buck was telling me about,” JD exclaimed. “I am JD Dunne.”

“You mean Sheriff Dunne, don’t you?" she asked noticing the golden badge. JD tried hard to keep himself from smiling with pride.

“JD is fine, Doctor.”

“I will call you JD, if you call me Kate,” the girl answered. JD smiled.

“Sounds like a good idea to me.”

The two carried the trunk across town and into the hotel room. They both set it down. Kate’s stomach started to rumble. She looked at JD with an embarrassed smile.

“I guess doing surgery makes you a little hungry," she said.

“I know where there is some great food if you would like to join me,” JD said. He was rewarded with a huge smile.

They were halfway to the saloon when they heard a voice roar behind them.

“What the hell do you think you are doing?” JD turned to face the wrath of his leader.

“I was going to take our guest to get something to eat," he answered in a sheepish voice.

“Aren’t you supposed to be on night patrol?” Chris’s voice had not lost its iron tone.

“Buck said I needed a break. He was going to do it for me tonight.”

“You and I both know Buck is in no shape to be out on night patrol. He was up at the crack of dawn to find us. If you want to continue to be sheriff of this town JD Dunne, I suggest you concern yourself with your job not flirting with some silly girl.”

JD hung his head. “Sorry Chris. I’ll go get Buck right away.” The younger man ran to the livery amongst the whispers of the townsfolk who had stopped to listen.

Kate clenched his hands and she felt her anger rising. She turned to face Chris. Chris hadn’t realized that he had taken a step back.

“You don’t have to like me Mr. Larabee, but don’t take your hatred out on the others that do!" she yelled.

Ezra and Josiah were standing in the doorway of the saloon, both watching the scene.

“I will do what I damn well please,” Chris growled. “What I do with my men is no business of yours. Actually nothing that goes on this town as anything to do with you”

“Well, maybe you should treat your men with a little more respect," the girl shot back.

“What does a stupid woman know about handling men or about medicine for that matter?"

The comment stung the girl and Chris knew it. He felt an evil smile rise to his lips. He had publicly embarrassed the little brat.

Kate sighed heavily and reached for something in the pocket of her red skirt. Chris instantly reached for his gun. He aimed it straight at the girl. He heard the townspeople gasp in fear. The defenseless girl held up her hands. She had taken a piece of paper out of her pocket.

“I don’t know much about the western frontier Mr. Larabee, but I do know that killing an unarmed woman isn’t looked to highly upon. I sincerely hope that I did not frighten you Mr. Larabee.” There was mock concern in her voice. Chris realized that the girl had gotten the better of him. He tried to think of a comeback, but none came to mind. He glared at the girl and turned his heel.

“Either that girl had got guts or she is just plain fool hearty,” Ezra whispered into Josiah’s ear. He saw the girl standing in the street alone.

“Would you care to join us for dinner Miss Rogers?” Ezra called. The girl met them at the doors with hesitation.

“I must say Ms. Rogers, that is the first time that I have seen Chris Larabee turn red around the ears.” He was glad when she smiled up at him.

Ezra led the girl to their usual table. Vin and Ezra were already sitting down. Ezra pulled out a chair for her. She sat down.

“We took the liberty of ordering roast chicken. I hope that suits your tastes," the gambler asked.

“I haven’t had decent roast chicken in a long time," she answered.

“Now that there is a little time for talking Kate,” Josiah looked at her. I think we would like to hear the story about how a female doctor is traveling out west alone.”

“It’s a long story that will probably bore you all to death," she said.

“We’ve got a while before diner is finished. Believe me, we haven’t had any form of good entertainment for a long time," Vin told her.

Kate sighed and began her story.

I took the coach out here from Denver, but I am not originally from the Colorado. My grandparents live in the city, but I was originally from a little farming community in Missouri. My parents were farmers and horse breeders. I was seven years old, when a cholera outbreak broke out. My father and I healed quickly. My mother was not so lucky. I will never forget the look of agony on his face when there was nothing he could do, but watch my mother die.

He vowed that he would never watch another person suffer without being able to do anything again. He started studying medical books at home. I learned to share his passion. When the war broke out, my father was drafted as a doctor for the Union Army. During this time I was sent to live in Denver. My father was honorably discharged soon after. He was shot in the leg at Gettysburg and could no longer work. We moved back to our farm in Missouri. My father was murdered a few weeks later. I had no chance to find out who did it.”

Josiah was the only one that noticed the guilty look in the girl’s eyes, but he didn’t interrupt.

I moved back to my grandparent’s house where I raised in the rich society of Denver. My grandparents were wonderful. They realized that as I got older, I would never really fit in. I would never be content just to be some rich banker’s wife. My father’s medical passion never died. I knew that my calling was to become a doctor.

My grandfather went to talk to the Dean of the medical university in Denver. He was almost laughed right out of the establishment. The Dean quoted Harvard Medical’s stance on women. “Women have just enough brain power to love, but not much else.”

Of course I wasn’t going to listen to that. Boston had just opened up a conservatory for female doctors.

I graduated from the school with the dreams of opening up my own practice. Of course that proved harder than I had originally thought. It seams that many people share the same idea as the men form Harvard. Women could make fine nurses, but they couldn’t handle the strains of being a doctor. My dreams were shattered. I returned to my home in Denver with a broken heart.

Mt dear Grandparents couldn’t stand to see me that way. They searched near and far for a place that would hire me. I received a letter in the mail from Fort Davis. The Fort is one of the best medical facilities in the Southwest. They decided to give me a trial attempt. Neither of my grandparents wanted me to go to the dangerous land, but they recognized that I needed to follow my dream.” She paused. “And this is where I am today.”

The door to the saloon flung open. A distraught man came rushing in. They recognized him as a field hand from Stuart James’s farm.

“I need to talk to the healer," he gasped out of breath,

“I’m right here,” Nathan said getting up. He walked over the man. “What’s wrong?”

“People on the farms are getting really sick. They all have high fevers and are seeing things. Many of them are too sick to even get out of bed. Miss Nettie Wells is gathering as many sick ones as she can in her living room. She sent me ahead to get you.”

The man passed out on the floor before he could say anymore. Nathan leaned on the floor. He felt the man’s high fever. Kate knelt down next to him.

“Do you know what it is?" she asked. Nathan shook his head.

“I didn’t get enough information out of him," he answered.

“Do you have any Quinine?” Kate asked.

“I’ve heard that it doesn’t work. I only have a small bottle of it in my room,”

“Sometime it’s effective and sometimes it’s not. Right now, I’d say it’s the best shot we’ve got.”

Nathan nodded his head, “Ezra, bring this man back up to my room. Give him the liquid in the blue bottle. It should be marked with a Q.” Ezra nodded his head. He and Ezra lifted up the unconscious man and helped carry him out of the saloon.

“Will you come out with me to see the others?” Nathan asked. The girl nodded her head.

About an hour later, just as the last rays of the sun could be seen, Nathan and Kate jumped off the horses. Kate grabbed her heavy bag. The Quinine seemed to have helped the man. She had brought every last bottle of the substance that she owned. The smell of the rotting crops filled the air.

“Dies it always smell this bad?" she asked. Nathan shook his head.

“Only at harvest time,” Nathan answered. He swatted a mosquito that was biting his arm. He couldn’t wait for the weather to turn cold and kill off the bloodsuckers. There were certainly a lot of them this summer.

“Nathan! Thank God you came,” a voice called from the doorway of the house. Kate followed the man to the door.

“Miss Nettie, I would like you to meet Doctor Katherine Rogers. She came here under some unfortunate circumstances that can be explained later. Where are the sick people?”

Nettie led them into the living room area. At least thirty people were laying on the ground groaning. Casey got up and walked over to her aunt.

“Are there any more blankets?" the girl asked.

“Check upstairs,” Nettie told her niece.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” Nettie said. “People haven’t been feeling good for quite a while, but the last few days people have just been getting very sick. All of them have shaking chills and fevers. Half of them are seeing things that aren’t even really there.

Nathan thought for a moment. He had seen outbreaks of this thing before. He looked at girl. “Could it be intermittent fever?”

Kate thought for a moment recalling what she knew of the frontier disease. “It would make sense. Intermittent Fever is caused by bad smelling air. The air out there smells terrible. I think we should treat these people like it is. Quinine had been proven to help the disease. The doctor and the healer spent the rest of the night administering the drug.

The next morning everyone was feeling a little bit better. Nettie wouldn’t let anybody go home until she was sure they were healthy. Kate and Nathan ended up spending on more night at the Wells home. They sat talking quietly with Nettie and her niece by the fire.

“These fevers are really caused by smelly air?” Causey asked.

“That’s what the medical experts say, but it doesn’t seem right," Kate answered.

“I’ve seen lots of people sick like this in my day,” Nettie said. “”People get sick all year around. Not just when the crops are rotting.”

Nathan hit a mosquito that had landed on his arm. He had noticed lots of bites on the arms and legs of some of his patients. Could it be the nasty bugs? He wondered. He smiled to himself. No it couldn’t be.

Nathan never gave the mosquitoes another thought. The first frost happened overnight killing the bugs for another year. He rode away from Nettie’s house renewing the respect that many of the townspeople already had in him. They also had developed a new trust and respect in his companion.

+ + + + + + +

JD never remembered the wind being this fierce before. He had to hold onto to his hat to keep it from blowing away. He looked over to see Kate struggling more than he was. He opened his mouth to talk, but the wind took his breath away.

Kate had asked him earlier that day to walk with her. She wanted to look for some of the herbs and plants that Nathan had told her about before the snow started to fall. JD had suggested that they go on foot, because it would have been easier for them to spot the plants. He was regretting the decision now. The wind had been blowing all day, but it had really picked up about fifteen minutes ago. Kate yelled. JD turned to see her fall to the ground. He offered her hand and pulled her up. The two had no choice, but to push on. Finally, the tops of the Four Corner’s buildings could be seen.

They both were gasping for breath by the time; they reached the outskirts of town. The saloon seemed so far away. JD pulled on the girl’s hand and pointed to an old rotting building. It was the first building coming into the town from the West side.

Kate nodded her head that she understood. The two rushed up the rotting steps and swung the door open. JD slammed the door closed.

“All are winters out west like this?” Kate asked.

“It gets cold out there, but the wind has never been this bad before. Unless you count the time we had a tornado," JD answered.

Kate looked around room. It was old and smelt terrible. The place looked like it might collapse at anytime.

“Who owns this place?” she asked.

“Nobody, there was an old couple that used to own it. But they moved back East a few years back. Kids will sometimes come in here and play, but I don’t think anybody has really been in here since.”

Kate continued to look around the room. An idea crossed her mind. “This would be the perfect place to open up a practice,” she mused. JD gave her a funny look.

“Here?" he asked.

“It would need a lot of work, but it has a lot of potential. Here I’ll show you.” She pulled a notepad and a pencil out of her bag. JD sat down next to her. She sketched out the room and began to add things to the room. About an hour later, the wind had died down and the house and stopped shaking.

JD was a little disappointed. The two of them had been having such a nice conversation. The two of them got up grudgingly. They had started to walk down the street when Nathan and Josiah came running up to the two of them.

“Where were you?” Nathan asked with a red face. “I thought you guys were still out there. Do you know what might have happened to you? You could have gotten blown off course and gotten lost or a tree could have fallen on you...” Nathan would have kept on listing possible outcomes if Josiah hadn’t interrupted.

“But the important thing is that you made it back safe and sound," he laughed.

“Nathan, I did have a doctor with me,” JD said with a smile.

“Yes you did, but I know that Kate can be just as hard headed and stubborn as you.”

“Nathan!" a voice behind Nathan called. They all turned around to see an African American women dressed in Indian clothes running towards them.

“Rain?” Nathan asked in surprise. The women ran straight into is arms. “What are you doing here?”

“We were traveling to town to buy supplies when the great wind started to blow. Cheveyo got blown off his feet and hit a tree branch. The tree branch went straight through him," she answered with a look of terror in her eyes.

Nathan and the others paled when they thought about what the man might look like.

“Where is he Rain?” Nathan asked grabbing onto her hands.

“I brought him up to your room Nathan. He is in much pain right now.”

“Rain, go somewhere and get something to eat. I don’t want you in the room to see what I’m going to have to do.” Rain shook her head.

“I have seen much in my life. I am the only one that Cheveyo knows in this town. He will need me by his side to provide strength. “

Nathan sighed and nodded his head. He admired the strength of the women that he loved.

“Alright go up there and tell him that I will be up shortly. Try to help him be as calm as possible.”

Rain nodded her head. She kissed Nathan on the cheek and headed up the steps.

“She’s not an Indian is she?” Kate asked. The venom in her voice surprised every one of them.

“She lives with the Seminoles now,” Nathan responded. “Kate, I am going to need your help. You are trained to deal with these kinds of things. I don’t think I can handle this kind of surgery alone.

Hatred and anger flashed in the girl’s eyes. “I wasn’t trained to help evil monsters like that! That man deserves to go back to Hell where he belongs!’ Kate’s voice had taken on a whole new tone. Every single of the men froze in surprise. This wasn’t the Kate Rogers that they had known.

The girl turned around to run, but she felt a strong arm grab onto her shoulder and spin her around. She found herself staring into the angry face of Chris Larabee

“What kind of doctor are you?" he growled. “You are going to help that man in there.”

With surprising agility, the girl used her other arm and aimed a punch at the man. It hit him square in the jaw. It wasn’t really that hard, but it caused it enough surprise for Chris to let the girl go. She took of sprinting down the street. She stopped a few feet away. Only Josiah noticed the pain in her eyes and the tear stricken face.

“I left my bag up your office, use anything up there you want too," she called before running again.

Chris looked like he was going to run after her, but Josiah placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Let her go Chris," he said quietly.

“Did you hear what that little bitch said?” Chris yelled hoping the girl would hear him.

“I heard the same thing you did.”

“That is the attitude I was warning all of you about. She won’t help any of those that she considers to be under her," Chris growled. Josiah thought of the pain and remorse he saw in the girl’s eyes.

“I think there is more to the story than that,” Josiah answered calmly.

“Well I don’t want to know the rest of the story. That little brat has been here long enough. I am going to put her on the next stage back to wherever she cam from!’

“I wouldn’t lay a hand on that child if I were you, Chris.” Chris started at the tone in the man’s voice. It was the same voice that the older man reserved for the people that the seven men protected the town against. Chris turned and saw that Josiah was dead serious. He didn’t say anything as Josiah took his arm off of his shoulder. He simply turned and started to head for the saloon.

Josiah turned to look at Nathan.

“Go fix that man up, Nathan. JD, go with him in case he needs help. I’ll be there shortly. There are some things that I need to tend too.”

+ + + + + + +

Kate sat on a rock staring into the small lake. She was freezing, but she didn’t care. She deserved the punishment.

“How could you have said such terrible things," she said aloud to herself. “You were just starting to earn those men’s trust. Now you’ve just shattered it. You learned a long time ago to keep your feeling to yourself. Why didn’t you just keep your mouth shut? You should have just kept those memories buried forever.”

“Sometimes memories refuse to say hidden so matter how hard we try to forget them,” a voice said from behind the girl.

Kate turned around to see Josiah and Vin walking towards her. She tried to wipe the tears away from her eyes, but was unsuccessful.

“How did you find me?" she asked, trying to act as if nothing was wrong. She wasn’t fooling anybody.

"I’ve got useful friends,” Josiah smiled and pointed to Vin. “Mind if we sit down?”

“Sure, but there’s nothing to say. I can’t apologize for a real emotion that I feel," she said. It was a harsh comment, but the harsh edge to her voice was gone.

“Nobody is expecting you apologize. We were just looking for some sort of explanation on why you have shown such hatred towards that race of people," Josiah said.

Who says there has to be a reason? Maybe I’m just a terrible person.”

“You aren’t a terrible person Kate,” Vin brome in. “I’ve seen you help the people in town. The compassion and care that you show to your patients and friends is real. You can’t fake something like that.”

“We are just here to listen to you Kate. You don’t have to tell us anything, but we’ll sit here as long as you do," Josiah told her.

There was a long pause before Kate responded.

“You remember how I told you that my father was murdered right before my thirteenth birthday?" she asked. The two men nodded their heads.

“Well I didn’t tell you the complete truth. I don’t know the name of the killer, but I did see his face. I watched it while he stuck a knife in my father’s chest.”

Josiah and Vin were both good listeners. They knew now wasn’t the time to talk to the girl. She was in her own world reliving the memory that she was telling them. It was best to let her tell her tale.

“My father had just gotten an honorable discharge from the army on account of his being shot in the leg. We had just returned to our farm two days before. We decided that we wanted to go for a ride. We only had one horse at the time so we both squeezed into the saddle. Our neighbors had warned us that there was a tribe of Apache Indians around and they were slaughtering anybody who strayed to far from the safety of their neighbors. We didn’t listen. We were about five miles into the woods near our farm, I heard their yells and saw them start to chase us. We tried to outrun them, but are old horse was just to slow. It seemed like the yells were coming at us from all corners.

My father climbed off the horse and told me to climb a tree and not come down no matter what. They probably hadn’t seen me because I was sitting in the front. I protested of course, but I saw the pleading look in my father’s eyes. I did as he told me.

It couldn’t have been more than five minutes before they were on him. There were four of them. The first one jumped off his horse and ran at my father with the hatchet in his hand. My father never even had the chance to defend himself.

The blow from the hatchet didn’t kill him. I saw him fall to the ground in a pool of his own blood. The Indian men seemed to enjoy his groaning. They laughed and spoke to each other in a language I didn’t understand.

God how I wanted to climb down and kill them all, but I listened to my father’s wishes. They soon grew tired of my father’s groans. The man with the hatchet took out his night and stuck it into the Papa’s head. My father’s groaning ended. The Indian stuck my father’s scalp around his belt.

After that, they got back on their horses and galloped away. They just left my father’s body lying on the ground.

I didn’t dare climb out of that tree; I just sat up on that branch, to scared to even cry. I probably never would have come down if our neighbor wouldn’t have come along and looked for us. The rest of the story is like I told you. I usually am not a prejudice person, but every time I look into the face of a male Indian, I see the man who murdered my father.” She stopped talking. She left the world that she had been living in for the last ten minutes. She didn’t want to look Vin a d Josiah in the eye, terrified at what she might see.

“Kate look at me,” Josiah said. The girl reluctantly raised her head. “I am not saying you have done the correct thing, but I think no less of you as a person. I owe you a degree of respect for telling me the story.” He got to his feet.

“But now I must return to town. There are some things that need to be taken care of there. I think Vin might be able to help you sort this whole thing out.” Josiah got up and walked away. Kate hesitantly turned to Vin.

“I suppose you hate me right now. After all, many of those Indians are your family.”

Vin moved a little closer to the girl. “We all suffer from own prejudices Kate. Some of them are learned from others. Some of them we get from life experiences. Until a little while back, I wanted to kill every man I saw wearing one of those blue Union uniforms.” Kate looked at him questionably.

“I had a little trouble with a certain sergeant,” Vin said. The important thing is that I learned that not all union soldiers are the monsters that I made them out to be. After all, your dad was a Yankee and he must have been a pretty good guy if you are anything like him.”

Kate blushed slightly.

“The same goes with the Indians Kate. There are bad white people in this world, so there’s bound to be bad Indians too. We both just happened to meet a couple of rotten apples.”

There was a long pause.

“The important thing is that you want to change those prejudices.”

“What can I do Vin?”

“Well I know of a certain healer that could probably use some help right now. And I was thinking about heading to the Seminole village for a few days. I could use a traveling companion.”

“Vin I don’t think I can…”

“Kate, the only experience you’ve ever had with Indians has been warring parties. Seeing them in a village setting will change your mind, I promise," the girl sighed and thought about it a moment.

“Alright, when do we leave?”