Teresa’s Quest by PatriciaG

Word Count – 6,522

WHN for The Knot

Beta – Raian

Chapter 1

“Murdoch?” Teresa queried as she walked into the Great Room, wiping her hands on her apron.

“Hm? Do you need something, Teresa?”

“I know you’re busy, but I want to talk to you about the medicine for the Paiutes that still needs to be delivered.”

“I’m kind of busy right now.”

“Oh, I know, but they really need the medicine.”

“Darling, I realize that, but it’s not safe to go there right now.” Murdoch continued to rummage through the papers on his desk, stuffing some in his saddlebags.

“Oh, no. There aren’t any more escaped convicts loose are there?”

Murdoch chuckled as he stopped sifting through his papers. “No. I read a newspaper article that the Modoc Indians are fighting with the army somewhere in this area. Their Chief, Captain Jack, doesn’t want to relocate. So…you understand why it wouldn’t be safe to go, right?”

“But, Murdoch, the sick Paiutes – ”

“Look, Teresa, we can discuss this when I get back from the regional Cattle Growers meeting. I’m trying to find the article from the Chicago Tribune that I wanted to take – ”

“It’s right there under your ledger.” Teresa pointed to the left corner of his massive desk.

“Thank you, sweetheart. Now, I’ve got to hurry if I’m going to catch the stage to Stockton.”

“Why is Johnny going and not Scott?”

Exasperated, Murdoch stopped to explain. “I wanted an extra vote and Johnny won the coin toss. Or maybe he lost. I don’t know with those boys. Anyway, Johnny went on ahead to meet up with some of his friends beforehand. Now, I really have to leave. We’ll be back in a few days.” Murdoch kissed her on the head as he rushed out the door to his waiting, saddled horse.

Teresa walked back toward the kitchen mumbling to herself. “Well, he didn’t actually say no.”

A few hours later, Scott rode back to the hacienda leading his limping horse, Charlie, toward the barn.

“What in tarnation happened?” Jelly asked as he strolled out of the barn.

“Lost a shoe. I had to walk a few miles before I ran into the work crew repairing fences.” Scott explained as he dismounted. “Walt lent me his horse. He said he’d get a ride back with the supply wagon.”  He pushed his hat to the crown of his head as he looked down at the handyman.

“Here. Let me have that beast. I’ll take care of him. You go get you some lunch.” Jelly reached out to take the reins from Scott.

“Thanks, Jelly.” Scott replied as he handed the reins of both horses to the handyman.

Scott used the basin outside the kitchen door to clean up before entering the kitchen. He stopped and stared from the doorway, appreciating all the work the women did to keep Lancer running.

Maria looked up to see Scott smiling. “Señor Scott. Come. Sit. I’ll make you a sandwich.”

“You look hot, tired and thirsty,” Teresa piped in.

“Teresa, you know, you’re very observant,” Scott answered sarcastically.

Teresa shook her head at her big brother as she brought him a cool glass of lemonade.

“Scott … why don’t we eat together on the veranda? It’s shady and there’s a cool breeze … I need to get out of this hot kitchen.”

“All right.” Scott sighed. Even though he’d been outside all day, he gave in to Teresa’s whims.

Teresa’s mind was racing as she made small talk with Scott. Finally she got to the point. “You know we still have that medicine we were supposed to deliver to the Paiutes.”

Scott nodded in mid chew. After he swallowed, he replied, “So, what are you thinking?”

“Well those sick Indians are needing those medicines desperately. So,” Teresa paused, “I thought we could go first thing in the morning and be back by late – ”

Scott interrupted, “Did you discuss this with Murdoch?”

“He was busy getting ready to leave for the meeting. Besides, you said ‘you’d get really angry if I ask anyone else.’”

Scott had a feeling he was being had, but nodded his head in agreement. “OK, we’ll leave right after breakfast.”

Teresa smiled her biggest smile, hugged his neck, and gathered their empty plates to take back into the kitchen.

*****

Scott feelings were confirmed when he came down for breakfast the next morning. Teresa had made his favorite breakfast of blueberry pancakes. The girl was definitely up to something. “Oh my, this looks delicious. My favorite.” Scott looked carefully at his sister. “What’s the occasion?”

“Scott, I wanted to show my appreciation for taking time away from your busy schedule to escort me today.”

Again with the big, sweet, Teresa smile. Scott knew he was in trouble, but didn’t know what … yet.

It didn’t take long to get saddlebags loaded, pack horses packed, and horses saddled.

“Well, ya finally gonna deliver those medicines, are ya?” Jelly wandered over to the two who were mounted up ready to leave.

“Why ask what you already know?” Scott replied with a chuckle.

“When do ya think you’ll be back?”

Scott looked at Teresa before answering, “We should be back before dark. Why don’t you have dinner ready for us when we return?” The two laughed as they rode away.

“What do I look like, your personal chef?” The handyman mumbled. “That’s what I should’ve said.” Jelly looked up, watching them ride off, as he grumbled to himself while walking back into the barn.

Dewdrop honked at Jelly. “What do you want?”

*****

The couple had ridden for several hours with Teresa still making small talk. Finally Scott stopped them to take a break. “OK, Teresa, tell the truth. Does Murdoch know what we’re doing?”

Teresa considered how to answer him without lying. “Well, not exactly. He didn’t say no, I couldn’t go.”

Scott was disappointed in his sister. He realized they were closer to the Paiute’s camp than they were to the ranch. “Teresa …” Scott sighed. “I don’t appreciate being used. We’ve started this and I plan on finishing it, but don’t ever … ever do this to me again. Do I make myself clear?”

Teresa looked down, but then forced herself to look her brother in the eye. “Yes. I’m sorry, Scott. Thank you for offering to help.” She smiled shyly at him. She knew that she shouldn’t have treated her brother like this. He was a good man and he’d forgive her, but she also knew she’d never deceive him again.

Scott gazed at his recalcitrant sister. “Let’s go take care of those sick Indians.” 

Teresa nodded with a weak smile then turned to give her horse a kick. The pack horse followed behind the couple as they increased to a canter.

Scott and Teresa reached the Paiutes around noon. They rode into a quiet camp, wondering where everyone was. After dismounting, they tied their horses to a make-shift corral made of rope. Standing by their mounts, they saw an older man come out of a wickiup. Teresa immediately recognized him as the medicine man from the tribe, Grey Wolf.

“Grey Wolf, we’ve finally brought the medicine.” Teresa cheerfully exclaimed.

“Where were you?” The medicine man’s voice shook with anger at Teresa. “Why you not come? My people died from white man sickness. My daughter and her baby died. Many have died. You not bring white man medicine. Why you not come?”

Scott stepped in front of Teresa and spoke firmly to the old man. “We came as soon as we could. We are sorry that you have loved ones who died. We’re here now. How can we help?” The blond hoped his words had defused the situation. Regardless of the outcome, his priority was to protect his sister.

Teresa stepped out from behind him. She walked calmly over to the wickiup she had seen Grey Wolf exit from moments earlier and pulled open the tent flap. Teresa saw the structure was where the sick were kept while the medicine man prayed over them. She turned toward her brother. “Scott, bring the medicines in here.” Then, she turned back to go inside.

While Scott was working on the ropes on the pack horse, several women and young children gathered around to help distribute the much needed medicine. The Bostonian had opened one pack when he heard a group of horses arriving at a gallop. A group of six angry Indian braves had arrived. Their apparent leader, leapt from his horse to confront the medicine man. Angry words were spoken between the two Indians. While the confrontation continued, one of the braves led their mounts into the shabby corral.

Great Eagle, the braves leader, turned toward Scott. “What are you doing here, white man?”

“We’ve brought medicine.”

The angry Indian strode over to the medicine man’s wickiup. He disappeared inside before Scott could take a step. Screams erupted from inside. Teresa was dragged by her hair out of the tent and thrown to the ground.

“White man gave us sickness and let us die! Now you come with white man medicine! My wife and son died! You deserve to die!”

Scott reached back to grab his rifle off  his saddle. He pointed it at the braves. “Drop your weapons!” Only three of the Indians had rifles and they complied with his request. “Teresa, move away from them.” The blond calmly motioned for Teresa to move toward him. She crawled a few feet before she could stand and walk toward the horses.

“Teresa, go release their horses. Then, I need you to mount up.” Scott kept his rifle pointed at Great Eagle while Teresa followed his instruction and let the Indians horses out of the corral. Finally, she got on her horse and gathered the lead rope from the pack horse around her pommel. “Teresa, leave the pack horse.” She dropped the rope.

“We’re sorry for your losses. We only came to help. We will leave the medicine and go.”

“White man, when we meet with Captain Jack of Modoc tribe we will hunt you down. You will die for killing our families.”

Scott climbed onto his horse, keeping his rifle trained on the Indians.

A young boy by the medicine tent bent to pick up his bow and arrow. As Scott and Teresa kicked their horses into a gallop, the Indian boy let the arrow fly.

Chapter 2

Johnny leaned back from the table and patted his belly. He and Murdoch had enjoyed a delicious steak dinner at the best restaurant in Stockton. “I wonder what’s going on back at the ranch?”

“I’m sure Scott’s got everything well in hand. Probably tired of covering your work for you.”

“Ah, Murdoch, I’ve done his work when he’s been gone. It always seems to even out in the end. I bet Teresa’s got him doing some grunt work, though. She always finds something for us to do while you’re away and threatens to tell you what we’ve been up to, if we don’t do it.”

“Well, young man, what could she possibly tell me?” Murdoch grinned as he watched Johnny squirm a little.

“What time does the stage leave tomorrow?” Johnny changed the subject.

Murdoch chuckled, “We’re leaving on the morning stage at seven. I think I’m going to need to have a talk with Teresa when we get back.”

“I’m gonna go pack my saddlebag so I’ll be ready to leave in the morning and I think I’ll go ahead and turn in.” Johnny stood up to return to their hotel room, but stopped to look at his smiling father before he continued upstairs. He was ready to go home. It had been an enjoyable trip and even the Cattle Growers meeting hadn’t been too painful.

Breakfast with the old man was pleasant. Johnny ordered pancakes because he didn’t get them at the ranch very often. Murdoch stuck with his traditional: ham and eggs with biscuits.

“I wonder what Teresa’s making Scott do while we’re gone?”

“What do you mean, Johnny?”

“Well, any time you’re gone, she thinks she’s in charge. We try to get out on the range before she can catch us, but sometimes she gets kinda sneaky.” Murdoch laughed. “One time she had us fix up her chicken coop with fancy overhanging boards for ‘shelter from the sun.’ Then, she made us white wash it, ‘to make it look pretty.’” Johnny continued, “Oh, and there was the time she sweet talked Scott into painting the bath house a pale blue. She said it would be ‘soothing.’”

Murdoch smiled. That’s why it was blue when I came back from San Francisco. I thought Jelly painted it.

Johnny went on telling stories in between shoving bites of food into his mouth.

After breakfast, they stopped by the hotel front desk to retrieve their saddlebags. They were standing at the stage depot when the stage rattled to a stop. There was one other man waiting. He was heading to Green River while the Lancers were continuing on to Morro Coyo where their horses had been left in the livery stable. Johnny let the man get on the stage first. The stranger chose to ride sitting backward. Murdoch climbed in next and decided to sit facing forward.  Johnny sat next to his father leaving plenty of legroom for the ‘ol’ man.’

The stage traveled through a few small towns with brief stops in each. By the time they reached the relay station stop for the overnight layover, Murdoch was grimacing and rubbing his back. Johnny wondered if they should stop in Green River to have Dr. Jenkins look at Murdoch’s back, but decided against it because he thought the old Scotsman would argue he didn’t need to see the doctor.

It sure would be nice to be back home in a nice soft bed tomorrow evening, both men thought.

*****

Scott yelled in surprise and shock as the arrow embedded itself into the back of his upper thigh. Teresa turned toward her brother. “Are you all right?” Teresa’s concern showed in her worried voice.

“Keep going!” Scott gasped.

The pair rode until almost dusk. By then, Scott was leaning over, holding on to the saddle with his left hand and grabbing his leg with his right. Every bounce or misstep Charlie made felt like a knife to his thigh. Blood slowly dribbled down his leg and onto his horse’s side.

Teresa didn’t think Scott could make it much farther. He looked all done in. She was going to suggest they stop when she saw an old cabin up ahead. There was light shining through the window and smoke coming from the chimney. She led the way toward the cabin.

“Hello in the cabin!” Teresa yelled. “Hello!”

The two old men in the cabin couldn’t believe their ears. “Is that a woman?”

“Couldn’t be.”

“Only one way to find out.”

The two men got out of their chairs and walked quickly to the door. The skinnier brother, Thurber Finley, picked up his scatter gun and opened the door. “Who’s out there?”

“My brother has been shot. Could you help us?” Teresa pleaded.

The old men talked to each other for a moment before turning back to Teresa. “Who shot him?”

“An Indian. Please, he can’t hold out much longer.”

Thurber shut the door and turned to his brother. “What do you think, Mingus?”

In response, Mingus nodded his head. Thurber opened the door again.

“Come on in, little lady. Of course we’ll help ya,” Mingus proudly stated.

“Could you hide our horses? We’ve got renegade Indian braves after us.”

Mingus led the horses into their lean-to and hid them behind their mules.

Thurber ‘helped’ Scott dismount, but being as he was fairly short, he wasn’t much of a help.

Scott stumbled into the cabin and was led to one of the two cots in the room. He lay down on his left side and reached back to grab his throbbing leg. He could feel the warm blood oozing onto his glove.

Once Mingus returned from taking care of the horses, he and Thurber stood to the side in a quiet conversation.  Scott glanced over his shoulder at the two men.

“Just get it out!” Scott yelled. What the hell are they waiting for?

“We can’t do that.” Mingus Finley shook his head. “We ain’t no doctors.”

“They know we aren’t doctors. We wouldn’t be living way out here if we were,” Thurber replied. “But I seem to remember reading somewhere that you’re not supposed to pull an arrow out, for some reason.”

“There ya go. Showin’ off your edd-i-cated ways. I can tell ya why. Cuz it’d hurt.”

Teresa interrupted their musings. “You don’t pull it out because it could be keeping him from bleeding to death.”

“That’s right.” Thurber smiled at being proved right. The smile faded to a frown. “So, how do you want us to help you?”

“If we cut the shaft off close to the skin and bandage it tight to his leg, it wouldn’t be as painful and could slow the bleeding,” Teresa suggested.

“You know what, brother, I think the little lady might be right.” Thurber turned to his brother, “Get some water boiling while I get some bandages.”

“Just ’cause you’re the oldest, doesn’t mean ya need to boss me around. I know what needs to be done.” Mingus hurried outside to the well while Thurber gathered together what little medical supplies they had. The younger Finley brother returned with a bucket of water which he placed on the wood burning stove.

Teresa would’ve laughed at the two old brothers if the situation wasn’t so dire. They’d laugh about it all later. Much later. She turned to see how Scott was doing. He was white-knuckle gripping the blanket with one hand and his leg with the other. He had almost bitten through his lip to keep from crying out. His groan signaled to the group it was time to get started doctoring.

“OK, Scott, this is going to hurt some.” Teresa tired to prepare her brother.

“I know that!” Scott realized his words had come out rather forcefully. “Please, just do something,” the injured Lancer spoke as patiently as he could.

“Hold it. I just remembered we have some Laudanum from the last time the doctor came out here.” Thurber rummaged through their medicine basket. “Here it is. Hey, how come it isn’t that full?”

“Well, ya see I had this hurt arm – ”

Thurber interrupted, “You know we have to use this sparingly. The doctor only comes around – ”

“Gentlemen, … gentlemen, please.” Teresa got their attention. “Now is not the time.” They all returned their focus back to Scott.

Mingus stirred a spoonful of Laudanum into a glass of water for Scott to drink. “Ya alright there, young feller?” Scott nodded. “Now, I’m gonna be holdin’ your leg, while your sister is gonna be holdin’ that arrow and Thurber will be cuttin’ it off.” Everyone took their positions. When Teresa grabbed the arrow, Scott let out a forceful moan.

Thurber started to saw through the shaft, but Scott was writhing so much that he stopped cutting. “Wait a minute. I think I have a better idea.” He rushed over to the tool box by the door and pulled out a large pair of wire cutters. “This should work better.” He positioned the blades and cut through it in one swift motion, leaving about an inch of shaft sticking out of Scott’s leg. The blond let out a sigh.

“The hard part’s done, Scott. Now we’re going to wrap this up,” Teresa informed him. She noticed that his grip on the blanket had relaxed a bit. After the bandaging was completed, they slipped Scott some sleeping powder in a glass of water to help him rest.

Teresa waited until Scott’s breathing evened out and he was sleeping peacefully before she spoke to the Finley brothers, “How far is it to Green River?”

“About two, two-and-a-half hours,” they replied in unison.

“We appreciate all you’ve done for us, but could we stay here tonight? We’ll get you some more medicine while we’re in town.” Teresa thought the brothers would allow them to stay, but good manners required her to ask.

“Yes, miss. We wouldn’t throw you and your brother out. Not after all the trouble we’ve already gone to for him. You can have the other bunk. Mingus and I will take turns keeping watch. Brother, lie down by the fireplace, I’ll take the first watch.”

Teresa checked on Scott one last time before she turned in for the night. He was sleeping soundly and hopefully would sleep through the night.

Chapter 3

Breakfast at the relay station was simple. Ham, eggs, and biscuits. With the look on Murdoch’s face, Johnny knew that his father hadn’t slept well.

“Ya know Ol’ Man, when we stop in Green River we could get Sam to look at your back.”

Murdoch simply groaned and gave his son a hard stare. “I’ll feel better when we get back home. No need to bother Sam.”

“OK, but if Sam’s not busy, I’m sure he’d be happy to help you out.”

Murdoch simply shook his head meaning the conversation was concluded.

The stage driver peeked his head into the cabin door. “The stage is about ready to leave, folks. Finish up eating. We’ll be leaving in five minutes.”

The stranger immediately picked up his bag and wandered out to the stage. He boarded before Murdoch and Johnny had even left the building. The man took his same seat, facing backward, that he had used the previous day. Once everyone was on board, the stage driver yelled for the horses to get underway. They had only traveled a short distance when the stranger decided to start a conversation.

“Gentlemen, I hated to eavesdrop on your conversation, but I think that I could offer some valuable information. My name is Dr. Martin and I have to agree with your son that you should let Dr. Jenkins adjust your back after this two-day stage coach ride. I assume the ‘Sam’ you were speaking of is Dr. Jenkins.” The Lancers both nodded their head. Johnny smiled at Murdoch with the ‘I told you so’ look.

“I’m traveling to Green River to meet with Dr. Jenkins so I can share some new procedures that I’ve used in my practice in San Francisco. I hope you don’t mind me giving you my opinion, especially since you never asked for it.” Dr. Martin smiled, leaned back against the wall of the stage, and closed his eyes ending the conversation. He hadn’t given Murdoch a chance to argue. Johnny smugly leaned back, closed his eyes, pushed his hat down, and softly chuckled.

*****

“Scott.” Teresa softly shook his arm. She spoke a little louder, “Scott, it’s time to wake up. We need to get on the road. Do you want something to eat? Coffee?”

Scott shook his head and simply mumbled, “Coffee.”

He felt groggy and struggled to sit up. A sharp pain radiated down his leg. Without thinking, he grabbed at his thigh, but his hand jostled what was left of the arrow. He suddenly bolted up off the bed as a cry was wrenched from his body. Teresa rushed to his side to help him sit back down on the cot.

“Scott, sit still and don’t touch the arrow. You’ll start bleeding again,” Teresa admonished.

Scott mumbled a reply, “I just forgot.” Between the Laudanum and the sleeping powder it’s a wonder I even remember my name.

Thurber scraped off his boots before entering the cabin. He had just finished saddling the Lancer horses when Teresa walked over to him and put her hand on his arm. “Thank you so much for your hospitality. Do you think you’ll be safe out here from the Indians? You could always go into town with us. We’d be happy to have you stay with us at Lancer until this blows over.”

“Little lady, that’s mighty nice of you to offer, but we ain’t going nowhere. Them Indians don’t bother us and we don’t bother – ”

“But they’re joining up with the Modoc tribe,” Teresa interrupted, “and they threatened to kill us!” She looked at the old man with a worried frown on her face.

Thurber smiled at Teresa like she was a simple child that he was trying to placate. “Alright. I’ll talk it over with my brother and if we decide to leave we’ll meet you at the Lancer ranch. How’s that sound?”

Teresa hugged the brothers before she went to help her brother limp out to the horses. Scott mounted and groaned as his wounded leg hit the side of the horse. Teresa began to worry, but Scott let her know he was all right with his attempt at a smile. She turned to wave goodbye as they rode off toward Green River.

*****

“Green River!” The stage driver yelled as he brought the stage to a grinding halt. Johnny and Dr. Martin had managed to snooze most of the last two hours. Murdoch, on the other hand, couldn’t find a comfortable spot. He let Johnny and Dr. Martin climb down, before he attempted to untangle his body from the cramped coach. Murdoch couldn’t even stand up straight. Johnny looked behind his father at the doctor. Almost in unison, Dr. Martin took one of Murdoch’s arms while Johnny took the other.

“I’m all right. We can get a buggy to get us home. I don’t need to bother Sam.” Murdoch tried to wrench his arms free, but they both had a tight hold on him. “I’ll take some medicine when I get home. Scott can give me an adjustment!” His voice was hitting a higher pitch with each sentence. “STOP!”

“Is he always this stubborn?” Dr. Martin questioned.

“It’s a Lancer trait.” Johnny laughed. “Come on Murdoch. If Sam’s not there, we’ll go on home. Deal?”

By this time, the three were standing on the boardwalk outside of Sam’s office. Murdoch started to notice that they were attracting quite a bit of attention.

“OK, son. Deal.”

The three walked into Sam’s office. “Murdoch, what have you done to yourself now?” Sam exclaimed.

Sam took Murdoch’s arm and led him back to his examination room followed behind by Dr. Martin and Johnny.

“Sam, this is Dr. Martin from San Francisco,” Johnny introduced the two doctors.

“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you. You’ve already met two of my three biggest clients, the Lancers.” Sam smiled as he shook Dr. Martin’s hand. “I can’t wait to talk with you about any new procedures I can try out on this family.”

Johnny started to have second thoughts about this new doctor and Murdoch didn’t think Sam was very funny.

“Murdoch, you know the routine. Lay down on that table. Johnny, go heat up some water and put some towels in the water for us to use on his back.”

*****

The two or two-and-a-half hour ride to town turned into over three hours. A few miles outside of Green River, Scott was about done in. He leaned forward over the front of the saddle holding on to the pommel with his left hand. He gripped his injured leg with his other hand trying to stop the consistent throbbing pain. Teresa had taken over his reins about three miles back and was leading his horse into town. The bandages were bloody and starting to leak blood down the side of the horse. Teresa silently prayed that Sam would be in his office when they arrived.

By the time they reached the town limits, Scott was barely conscious. Teresa led them directly to the doctor’s office. She jumped down off her horse and tied both horses to the hitching rail before running up to the door. Their was a sign on the door that read, Gone to Dinner. “No!” Teresa screamed and stomped her foot. She pulled herself together. At least he’s somewhere in town. Where could he be?Hotel, Cafe, Cantina, Saloon?Where is everyone? Did everyone go to dinner?

As she stepped off the boardwalk, she noticed movement out of the corner of her eye. She turned in time to see Scott slowly slide off the side of his horse. “No, no, no, no!” She ran to her brother and knelt at his side. How can there be no one around?  Teresa was exhausted and having a hard time making decisions. Do I leave Scott in the dirt to look for Sam? I can’t lift him. Tears welled up in her eyes. I can’t lose it now. Scott needs me.

Teresa took a deep cleansing breath and made a plan. She carefully laid Scott down in the dirt while she  retrieved a bedroll off the back of Scott’s horse. She unrolled the blanket behind her brother, then she rolled him onto his left side. Finally she moved the blanket over closer behind Scott and rolled him back down onto his back on the blanket. She made the decision to stay with Scott. Teresa put his head in her lap as she ran her fingers through his sweaty bangs. “Hang in there a little longer, Scott, please.”

She kept repeating the same phrase over and over, “I’m so sorry.”

What felt like hours, were only a matter of minutes. She couldn’t be sure in her dazed state, but she thought she heard voices.

The doctors, Murdoch and Johnny were strolling back from the cafe where they had enjoyed a wonderful meal and lively conversation. Sam was regaling Dr. Martin with all the wounds that the Lancer family had endured. Johnny kept correcting Sam that some of the injuries the doctor was crediting to him were actually Scott’s.

“Teresa! Scott!” Murdoch bellowed as he saw his ward and his son lying in the street in front of Sam’s office.

Johnny ran and knelt down beside his unconscious brother.

Sam rushed to unlock his office door. “Bring him into my exam room.” Two cowboys appeared to help Johnny and Dr. Martin carry Scott into the office, using the blanket as a makeshift stretcher.

Teresa stood up on shaky legs before running into Murdoch’s arms. “It’s all my fault. I’m so sorry.” Tears streamed down her face as she hugged the man she never wanted to disappoint, but knew she had.

“Shh, Scott is strong. He’ll pull through. You know he’ll be just fine.” The patriarch was leading his ward into the waiting area speaking softly as he tried to calm her down.

Johnny came out to join his family, stopping to thank the two cowboys for helping, as he sat down on the chair across from Murdoch and Teresa. The cowboys nodded as they left to go about their business.

Johnny was dying to know what had happened, but he waited for Murdoch to take the lead.

“Teresa, darling, what happened to Scott?”

“Murdoch, it’s all my fault, I should’ve listened to you.”

“We’ll worry about that later. Right now, tell me how Scott got injured.”

Teresa took a deep breath before answering. “An Indian boy shot him with an arrow in the leg.”

“There were Indians at Lancer?” Johnny asked. He was confused, as was Murdoch. Then it dawned on the Lancer patriarch.

“Darling, did you and Scott take medicine to the Paiutes?”

Teresa hung her head in shame and she nodded. She couldn’t look her ‘father’ in the eye. Murdoch was furious, but he’d keep his anger banked until they got home.

Tears slid down the young girl’s face. “We … we stopped at a cabin last night and two old miners helped doctor Scott. We came straight here, so Sam could take care of him. Scott held on as long as he could. It just took so much longer to get here than we thought it would.” Teresa was just babbling. 

Murdoch finally took her into his arms, whispered calming words that only she could hear, as they sat back to wait for Sam to come out.

*****

Instead of Dr. Martin teaching Dr. Jenkins a new procedure, it was the other way around. Dr. Martin had never seen an arrow injury before. He administered the ether while Sam operated. Dr. Jenkins cleaned the shaft of the arrow that stuck out the back of his patient’s thigh. Then, Sam sliced a wide opening in the front of Scott’s leg down to where the arrow head was located. The two doctors turned Scott onto his left side propping him up with pillows. Sam used forceps to grip the arrow head and pull, while Dr. Martin used them to push the shaft through Scott’s leg. Scott had been very lucky that the arrow had missed the bone.

The doctors used carbolic acid to clean the wounds on both sides before stitching up the holes. The last step was to place squares of gauze over both wounds and bandage his leg. Since Scott was already feverish, they knew he had an infection. The doctors hoped that Scott’s leg had been cleaned of any remaining infection and that his fever would dissipate. They rolled the injured Lancer onto his back and covered him with a sheet, before they went to speak to the family.

Johnny was pacing by the time the doctors entered the waiting room.

Murdoch stood to address the medical men. “How is my son?”

Dr. Martin let Sam be the one to answer the anxious father. “We got the arrow out without too much trouble. He already had a fever before we operated, but we’re hopeful that we got rid of all of the infection. We’ll just have to wait and see. Scott’s a strong young man and he should pull through without any permanent impairment. He’s resting now. Johnny, Murdoch, could you come help us move him to a bed? Then you can sit with him if you want.”

Teresa collapsed down onto the sofa to wait. Murdoch returned rather quickly. “Teresa, have you eaten?” She shook her head, no. “Why don’t you and I go get a couple of hotel rooms. We can get you some room service.” Teresa nodded her head in agreement. Murdoch put his arm around his ward as they walked across the street. “Johnny’s going to stay with Scott for a while. We can go over to relieve him in a few hours.” She already felt bad about the role she had played in getting Scott hurt, so Murdoch didn’t want to add on to her guilt.  Murdoch knew that he and Teresa would need to have a long talk about what happened, but that would have to wait.

After a few hours, Murdoch left Teresa sleeping in the hotel room as he wandered back to Sam’s office.  Murdoch overheard the doctors discussing medical procedures in the exam room as he walked into Scott’s room. Johnny was sitting in an overstuffed chair, his head had dropped down to his chest, and he was lightly snoring. Scott’s deep and steady breathing meant he was getting some restful sleep, too.

Murdoch left his sleeping sons’ room and strolled into the kitchen for a cup of coffee.

“Mr. Lancer, didn’t you get a hotel room? You’ve got to be exhausted.” Mr. Martin queried.

“Oh, Dr. Martin, you don’t know Murdoch,” explained Dr. Jenkins. “If any of his children are hurt, he doesn’t rest. Murdoch, my old friend, your boys are sleeping and I’m sure Teresa is sleeping too. Dr. Martin and I will take turns watching over Scott. Go! Go back to the hotel. I can send you with a sleeping powder, if you want?”

“No, thank you, Sam. I think I will go back over to the hotel to rest. Thank you gentlemen for taking such good care of my son. I am indebted to you both.” He shook Dr. Martin’s hand, patted Sam on the shoulder, and returned to the hotel. Doctor Jenkins thought he knew his friend quiet well, but was pleasantly surprised by Murdoch’s answer.

Epilogue

A month had gone by since the whole Paiute Indian fiasco. Scott was supposed to be getting around with a cane, but he just kept ‘forgetting where he left it.’ Teresa and Murdoch had a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting about her disobeying his orders. Her consequences were extra chores and she was confined to the hacienda for three months. Johnny was pleased that he wasn’t in trouble this time.

Murdoch sat in his usual ‘tune caller’ position at his desk in front of the massive picture window. Scott walked purposefully into the Great Room to talk to his father.

“Murdoch, could I discuss something with you that’s been weighing on my mind?”

“Certainly, son, have a seat.”

Scott clasp his hands, palms together, and decided to get right to the point. “I’d like to take some medical supplies out to the Finley brothers cabin to replenish – ”

Murdoch interrupted his son, “I forbid you from going – ”

“You forbid me? I’m not some child you can order around!” Scott knew how to bellow as loud as his father.

By this time, both men were standing on either side of the desk glaring at each other. Murdoch calmed down first.

“Scott, I’m sorry. That came out wrong. Please, sit down.” Both men sat down, but Scott was still obviously furious.

“I think that you shouldn’t go to the Finley’s cabin – ” Again Murdoch was interrupted.

“I’m a big boy. I can take care of myself, as you’ve said so often!” Scott started to rise.

“Scott, let me finish!” Murdoch took a deep breath. “I don’t think you should go there alone. I think that we should all, you, me, Johnny and Teresa, go to the Finley’s cabin together. I would like to meet these brothers that helped take care of you … and it will be safer to travel in a larger group.”

Scott sat quietly mulling over what Murdoch had suggested. “All right. I would love for you to meet Thurber and Mingus. They are very ‘colorful’ brothers.”

“Let’s ask Sam about getting some medical supplies to take with us,” Murdoch suggested.

Sheepishly Scott replied, “I already did.” Murdoch simply shook his head as his independent son got up to walk away.

*****

As the group neared what was left of the cabin, Murdoch turned to halt Teresa’s horse. “Teresa, stay back here.”

Scott, Johnny and Murdoch rode forward toward the smoldering ruins. There was no need to look for the Finley brothers. It was obvious they were gone. The Lancers looked around trying to figure out what happened.

“Scott!” Johnny got his brother’s attention and then pointed at the broken medicine bottles scattered about.

“There’s nothing we can do here, boys. Let’s go home.”

They turned their horses around and rode back to collect the distraught young lady. Tears were streaming down her face. Teresa had learned a valuable lesson.

The End

June 2022

Notes: https://www.californiaindianeducation.org/famous_indian_chiefs/captain_jack/

Oh, and Thurber and Mingus are actually names of small towns in west Texas.

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5 thoughts on “Teresa’s Quest by PatriciaG

  1. Wauw, this was a beautiful story. Was a little sad for the Finley brothefs, it would have been nice if they met the Lancer family.

    Like

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