What Price Freedom
Chapter 14
by Marc Carlson
Copyright 1992 by Marc Carlson
 
 

Chapter 14

     The Jenkins house sat in a moderately sized glen well off the road to the south and west of town.  There were a few out-buildings, a barn and a bunkhouse set around the loop that tied off the road.  The house was painted in a brilliant white with royal blue trim; two storied with a small steep roofed tower, and crowned by a wrought iron cuppola.  Blue bells and columbines grwe in vast profusion in window boxes and flower beds around the house.  The barn was a pastel blue and had a number of bizarre devices painted on it, just below the eaves.

     The glade blended into the side of the mountain, and steps made from old railroad ties climbed up the wildflower covered hillside to what looked like the entrance to a mine or tunnel.  The whose scene was very picturesque, and obviously this was not a working farm or ranch.

     Mrs. Jenkind drove her carriage up to the stable and climbed out.  Hopping to the ground, she called out, "Mr. Morgan!  We have guests, Mr. Morgan."  She added in an aside to Helena, "Mr. Morgan is my handiman.  I don't know what I'd do without him.  I'm sure he's around here somewhere."  Then she looked at the two physicians.

     "Well, then, why don't I see to dinner, you haven't had dinner yet, have you?  No?  Good.  Dr. Arelssyn, you will be staying in the bunkhouse over there, if that's all right with you.  If you would please bring Dr. McCoy's things up to the house with you when you are ready.  I have a darling guest room, that I'm certain you will be please with.  Mr. Morgan can see to your horses when he turns back up.  Your patients are in the barn."  With that, she sailed off toward the house.

     "Nice woman," Yuvon muttered.  "A bit odd, but very nice."

     "I like her," Helena said.

     "You're joking!  I thought you didn't like anybody."  His voice dripped cold acid, as he dismounted.

     Helena pursed her lips, and dismounted.  "Let's go see our patients."  She dropped her reins, ground-tying Nigel, and walked over to the large wooden door.  It glid open with a push.  The interior of the barn was large with a dirt floor.  There were a number of straw carpeted stalls to either side of the broad gallery that stretched down the middle.  Two of the stalls were occupied, two aging horses watched them absently.  From the light streaming through the doorway, she could see all the way back through the room to a wooden floored tack area in the rear.  The air was thick with the smells of grain dust, sweat and horse manure.

     There was a cough from her left, a stall set far back from the door.  She entered the cool darkness.  Her heart beat strongly, as she expected the worst.  Hay dust swirled up as she walked, stingin her nose.

     There were six people in the stall, sitting or lying  wrapped up in ornate quilts.  They stared glassy-eyed back at her and Yuvon.

     "Do you speak Chinese?" she asked him softly.

     "Not yet."

                          * * * * * *

     Helena tried to communicate with their new patients while Yuvon set about taking care of the horses.  While he brushed down the animals and fed them, both theirs and Mrs. Jenkins, and moved them into stalls, Helena examined her new charges.  Unlike her Chinese patients in Denver, these had no translator through whom she could communicate.  They were all very hot and perspiring.  She could see that they had been vomiting and had serious diarrhea.  They had made some attempt to keep themselves clean, but, in their weakened states had not been entirely successful.  A hopelessness filled her chest, blocking the bile rising in her throat.

     Yuvon eventually joined her.

     "What's your prognosis, Doctor?"

     She looked up at him unhappily.  "I'm afraid that the  townspeople may well ahve been correct.  I think it might be cholera."

     "King Cholera, eh?  Are you sure?  There are a lot of things that have a similar symptomology."

     "I know.  We won't know without a test."

     "So where do we get a test done?"

     "I don't know.  Denver, Central City, maybe Boulder," she paused.  "Yes, there's some sort of college in Boulder, and that's close by."

     "Yes, but can we get to there?"

     "Not with that rabble down the valley."

     "So we wait here."

     "And these people die."

     "Not neccessarily.  I think that we should treat these people as best as we can, on the assumption that it is cholera,a nd we can cure them."

     "Right," she looked at him.  "You know, of course, that Mrs. Jenkins is also infected by now?"

     "Quite likely."

     "Aren't you at all concerned?"

     "Not particularly."

     "Why not, do you have some miracle cure for this?  You just happen to be carrying the serum?"

     "Are't you?"

     "No, I'm not." She stared at him.  "You're serious."

     "Yes, I am.  In fact, you and I will receive the first innoculations."

     He rose and went over to the tack area where he had left the luggage.  She stared after him in disbelief, the man was prepared for everything?

     He returned with two glass and brass hypodermics, and a supply of needles in individual glass tubes.

     "10 cc's of this should keep us from being infected, and should help them."

     "Cc's?" she asked.

     "Cubic centimeters.  You know, 8 1/10 scruples, 2 7/10 drams, about a third of an ounce; up to this line, here."  He filled one siringe and handed it to her.  "Hold this please."

     She watched him remove his coat and roll up his shirt sleeve.  She handed the needle back to him when he finished.

     "I really don't think I'm going to need this," he said.  "Having a remarkable tolerance for disease, but the extra minerals won't hurt."  He jammed the hypodermic into his left arm.

     Removing the needle, he flexed his arm for a moment.

     "And now," he paused suggestively. "For you."  He leered at Helena.

     She slipped off her jacket, tossing it over the side of the stall, and rolled up her sleeve.  He firmly grasped her wrist, carefully examined her arm. With a quick motion, he jammed the needle into the fleshy part of her arm, just below the elbow.  Helena's nostrils flared as the needle clipped past a nerve cluster and into the vein.

     Blood welled up from the wound as the needle was withdrawn.  She clamped her free hand over the wound.

     "Was that absolutely necessary?" she asked irritably.  Fire burned through her veins spreading slowly down her arm into her hand.  "I can't see how someone who can sew so wll, can't use a needle."

     Yuvon looked at her for a moment, his brows wrinkled."

     "Oh, I'm sorry."  With that he headed back towards the tack area.  He returned a moment later with his doctor's bag.  From it he removed a paper envelope that contained a bit of adhesive cloth.  Helena stared at it.  He pulled her arm straight  and stlapped the cloth over the wound.  It was obviously some form of sticking plaster.

     "There, that should hold you."

     She shrugged as he continued, "Now, as for you people."  The turned toward the huddled group.  They shied away from him.  Yuvon frowned.

     "Tell you what, Helena.  Why don't you take this stuff intothe house and give the good widow Jenkins her innoculation while I see if I can come to some sort of understanding with these nice people."

     "If you insist," her voice was steely. "But I want to remind you, sir, that I am not your nurse."

     He stared at her for a moment.  "I never thought that you were. I just don't want any witnesses."

     She took the vial, syringe, and several other items from him and placed them in her bag.

     She stepped out into the bright sunlight.  The biting sweet aroma of pine sap rode the breeze that rustled through the trees.  Helena stroda across the clearing to the house and up the porch.  She opened the door and poked her head in.

     "Mrs. Jenkins!" she called.  There was no response.  She opened the door and stepped in.

     The house smelled of rose and cinnamon overlying a subtle hint of wood oil.  The entry hall was spacious, with large archways, the one onto the left into the parlor, while the one on the right,  into a sitting room full of books.  A dark, wooden staircase led upward on the left, turned and continued up over the foyer.  A plain runner carpet lay on the steps, tacked down by shiny brass stair rods.

     Helena could see that both the sitting room and the parlor were neatly furnished with plain, but simply elegant wooden furniture.  In the far corner of the parlor sat a dark, mahogany parlor organ.  Everything in the building was immaculate, spotless.  Even the hardwood floor seemed freshly waxed.  Helena felt filthy and rapidly looked for a place to wipe her feet.

     "Excuse me?  Is somebody out there?"  The voice startled Helena.  Mrs. Jenkins came into the hall.  "Ah, Dr. McCoy.  I thought that I heard somebody come in.  I was just in the kitchen making up some dinner for you and that nice Doctor Arelssyn.  Did you and he find my other guests?"  Now that they were standing on the same level, Helena was surprised at how tiny the other woman was.

     "Yes, we did.  He is giving them some medicine now."

     "This is good."

     "Yes, ma'am, it is."  Helena proceeded cautiously.  She didn't want to alarm the old woman.  "Now, ma'am, we feel that rather than take any chances that you might have been exposed, we ought to go on ahead and inoculate you."

     "Of course.  What do you want me to do?"  Mrs. Jenkins looked a bit excited.  She added conspiratorially, I've never been inoculated, you know."

     "Shall we sit down?"

     "Of course, doctor." Mrs. Jenkins paused, then, "Will this take long?  I am baking a strudel."

     "This shouldn't keep you from your baking.  Please bare your arm."

     Mrs. Jenkins rolled up her sleeve and held up her arm.  Helena made a tourniquet around the arm.  Then she inserted the hypodermic into the vial, and filled it to the suggested amount.  By the time she was finished, the major veins on her hostess's arm stood out clearly.  Helena marked one with her thumbnail, then released the tourniquet, having no desire to see the old woman's blood splatter when she punctured the vein.

     Mrs. Jenkins gave no sign when Helena gave her the injection, she just turned her head away.  Helena withdrew the needle, a single drop of blood oozed out.  She covered it with one of Yuvon's adhesive bandages.

     "There now, that wasn't too painful was it?"

     "No, childbirth was much worse."

     "I wouldn't know," Helena muttered as she proceeded to pack everything back into her bag.

     "I'm terribly sorry."

     "Oh, don't be.  Having children would be terribly inconvenient right know, what with my being unmarried and all."

     "I'm surprised.  A lovely young girl such as yourself.  I would think that you'd be having all manner of young men banging down your door."

     "Wouldn't you just."  Helena remembered how she had treated Yuvon.  It was really no wonder that men left her alone.

     "Well, ma'am." I need to be rejoining Yuvon, er, Dr. Arelssyn.  So I'll let you know, please if you have any unusual sensations, feel dizzy or nauseous, tell us please."

     "Should I feel anything like that?"

     Helena wondered how the Hell she should know.  "No, of course not.  It's just that sometimes the unexpected can occur, and its best to be prepared for it when it does happen."

     "That certainly makes sense.  Thank you, Doctor.  If you must leave, please let that nice Doctor Arelssyn know that dinner will be ready in about an hour."

     Helena left the house, and was heading across the yard when she saw an old man some around the barn.  He was dressed for farm work and carried a shotgun under his arm.  The shotgun swung in line towards her.  It was not pointed directly toward her, but the threat was strongly implied.  Helena frowned at the weapon; it looked to be an 8- or 10-gauge, not terribly large as field artillery went, but still, they were sufficient unto the task thereof.

     "You there!  You hold on right where you are young lady."

     Helena stopped moving, wondering what he had loaded in that thing, and if her corset would deflect any of it.

     "Are you Mr. Morgan?" she asked when he had gotten close enough that she wouldn't have to shout.

     "Yeah, I'm Lester Morgan, and who in the blue blazes are you?"  He stood about five foot eight, and was bone skinny, but he had a sense of power in his slitted brown eyes, that suggested that if he weren't one of Doc Holliday's killer elite, he could at least hold his own.

     "I'm Dr. Helena McCoy.  My associate and I are hear to take care of the people in the barn."

     He eyed her even more suspiciously.  "Mrs. Jenkins bring you here?"

     She stared back at him, and said firmly, "Yes, she did.  Would you please point that thing elsewhere."

     He looked down at the weapon for an instant, then the tension she had been feeling was gone, he was just an unpleasant old man.

     "Oh, yeah. Sorry.  Thing's been a might jumpy 'round here since them chinamen showed up."

     "Yes, I understand that the townspeople are a bit stirred up."

     "You might call 'em stirred up.  Like a cattle stampede's more what I'd call it.  I been expectin' 'em out here any time now, to try and burn us out."

     Helena nodded, thinking wryly that a potential epidemic always seemed to bring out the worst in one's neighbors."

     "Be that as it may, Mr. Morgan, we need to see about getting you inoculated so you won't catch the disease."

     "What's 'noculate?"

     "I'm going to give you a medicine that will stop you from getting the disease."

     "How you goin' to do that?"  He seemed wary.

     "You're going to come with me, an I am going to give you a shot."

     "The Hell you say!  If you'll pardon me for sayin' so, miss, but I don't take no doctorin' from no woman."

     Helena closed her eyes and counted to ten.  She told herself that she should be used to this by now, and besides, she didn't have anything to prove.

     "Would you take the shot from a male doctor?"  Her voice struggled to remain calm.

     "A Man doctor?  If I got to have this here shot, I suppose that'll be all right."

     "Then it will please you to know that my associate is an honest to God Man doctor.  He can give the damned shot."

     Helena dragged him into the barn.  Yuvon was sitting on the floor by the stall that held their patients.  He was calmly playing his guitar, making the worst atonal sound Helena could recall coming from a musical instrument, but, as she got closer, she could see that the patients seemed to tolerate it.  They were watching Yuvon with a mixture of admiration and stark terror.  He finally looked up at her and Morgan.

     "Hello, Helena.  How did it go?"

     "I was about to ask you the same question," she glanced at the six in the stall.  "How did it go with them?"

     "They were a bit resistant at first, but we have come to terms.  The old gentleman, Chan, speaks a few words of a dialect related to Korean, a language with which I have a passing familiarity."

     "Well isn't that awfully convenient."

     "It has been more than once," he replied jovially.  "Are you going to introduce me to your friend?"

     "Certainly.  Dr. Arelssyn, I would like to present Lester Morgan.  Mr. Morgan, Dr. Yuvon Arelssyn."

     "I'm most pleased to meet you." Yuvon said, rising to his feet.

     "Sweet Jesus, a foreigner."

     "Mr. Morgan needs his inoculation, Yuvon."  Helena's voice was silky.

     "Why didn't you give it to him?"

     "Because, I am a woman."

     "I don't hold with no damned women doctors.  Beggin' your pardon ma'am."

     "Of course, Mr. Morgan." she smiled sweetly.

     "Ah." Yuvon said. "In that case, I would be delighted to give you your shot."  He opened up his medical bag, and began to prepare a very large hypodermic.  "Please lower your trousers."

     "What?"

     "I must give you your shot."  Yuvon explained reasonably.  "You've been exposed to the disease, and without the proper medicine, properly given, you'll die."

     "I understand that, but out here?  In front of her and them?"

     "You can go into the back room if you like."  Helena said.

     "Fine," Morgan said grimly.  "Let's just get this over with."

     Yuvon shrugged.  They turned to leave, and Helena crooked her finger at Yuvon.

     "A question, doctor, if I may?"

     "Certainly.  Mr. Morgan, if you don't mind, I'll be in a just a moment."

     Morgan left, muttering.

     Helena leaned over at Yuvon.  "I thought the injection had to be in a vein."

     "Don't worry, I'll find one."  The gleam of mischief in his eye made her nervous.

     "You know Yuvon, this sort of abuse isn't necessary."

     "Helena, he wants a male physician.  That is not merely insulting to you, but inconvenient to me as well."  With that he turned and left.

     Helena shook her head sadly, hoping that he wouldn't hurt the old man too badly.  She knelt down next to their patients and began to examine the bedclothes they were huddled in.  These would have to be changed as soon as possible.

     A scream of mortal agony erupted from the back room.  Helena leaned her head against the wall and winced at the noise.  The oldest of the patients, Chan, turned to the rest and muttered something.  They all nodded grimly.

                          * * * * * *

     Dinner was a large meal that consisted primarily of a slightly sour spiced beef dish, long string shaped dumplings covered in a brown sauce, and sourish shredded cabbage.  It was all very unfamiliar to Helena, but in her state of hunger, it was all delicious.  Yuvon dug in quickly.  Mrs, Jenkins, Mr. Morgan and they were seated in the dining room.

     As they began to feel sated, Mrs. Jenkins looked at Helena and spoke conspiratorially, "My grandson is a doctor as well.  He is off in the Navy, on a ship.  I have many letters from him.  He worries so about my living here all by myself."

     Helena nodded understandingly.  "Don't you have any other family?"

     "Oh yes.  My daughter and her husband live in Pennsylvania, on the farm my great-great-grandfather built.  My husband, the old fool, died in the War, and the son in law had taken over the farm.  But he and I do not see eye to eye on all things.  So when my grandson, Franklin, went into the Navy, I had no reason to stay in that house.  So I packed up my things and came out West, to be a pioneer.  I have been very happy here."

     "This doesn't seem to be a working farm," Helena asked, embarrassed by her curiosity.

     "Mr. Morgan and I have some chickens and some cows, and we sometimes find a bit of gold up in the old mine.  We get by."

     "Gold?"  Yuvon asked. "Doesn't that attract people wanting to dig on your land?"

     "Did you know that Mr. Morgan was at one time a sheriff?  He keeps us safe."

     They paused in one of those momentarily uncomfortable silences when no one can think of something to say.  Mrs. Jenkins jumped back in.

     "Dr. Arelssyn, I have been wondering.  Your name and accent.  Are you a Boer?"

     "I'm sorry ma'am, I try to be entertaining."

     "No!" she laughed. "I meant Boer from South Africa."

     "Oh, that kind.  No, ma'am, I'm not.  I've never been to South Africa, however ..."

     Further discussion was cut off by the sounds of gunfire from outside.  Yuvon was out of his chair and through the door into the conservatory and out the french doors to the rear before the sound of the first shot had finished echoing off the walls of the canyon.  He was followed closely by Morgan.

     "Excuse us, ma'am," Helena said as she rose.  "But perhaps you might want to stay in here, and lock the doors behind us."

More shots sounded through the canyon, the loud booming echos making Helena's ears hurt.  She was terrified, but she knew she had to do something.

     "Don't you want to stay in here where it's safe?"

     "I'd love to, but someone is going to have to watch out patients."

     "But Dr. Arelssyn is out there."

     "Dr. Arelssyn is going to be far to busy shooting people to keep track of anyone."  Helena ran out of the dining room, through the sitting room, and into the darkened front hall.  She slipped through the front door and stepped into the shadow next the door.  The air stank with the bite of powder smoke drifting across the clearing, burning Helena's eyes and parching her throat.  She waited a moment for her eyes to adjust, then looked around.

     The dim moonlight lent a surreal quality to the scene before her.  She could see Yuvon crouching near the corner of the house, and through the haze, Morgan was hiding behind the corner of the bunkhouse.  A splat-cracking sound, accompanied by a small rain of wood splinters on her cheek drew her attention to the flashing like lightning-bugs in the darkness of the trees.  The dream-like bubble burst and the roaring of rifle fire flooded her ears.  Helena dropped to her hands and knees and began to crawl over to Yuvon, fighting to quiet the urge to run and hide.

     Yuvon was reloading his pistol when she reached him, sliding to the bright, shiny cartriges into the obviously rebuilt Lemat cylinder.  He turned to her as she slid down next to him beside the porch.

     "Get back inside!" he shouted.

     "No! Someone's got to look in on our patients."  She was equally determined.

     "What?  Are you nuts?  They're not going anyplace.  Get the fuck out of the line of fire."

     Her only response was to sprint across the yard towards the barn.  She tried not to notice the small puffs of dirt blossoming around her.  Her heart was pounding as she stopped herself be slamming into the wall of the building.  The wood of the door jam exploded as she reached for it, sending more splinters showering over her.

     Once inside the relative safety of the building, her legs gave out in a flash of pain, and she dropped to the ground.  As she lay there, trying to roll over, she wasn't certain if she hadn't been hit by a bullet, the pain was so intense.

     She forced herself to sit up, wincing with each movement.  Gently pulling up her skirt saw signs of bullet wounds.  Her legs were just cramping up.  Adjusting her skirt, she shakily forced herself back to her feet, willing the reluctant limbs to operate.  She knew she had to protect her patients.  It was unreasonable that only two men could protect this building from and unknown, but obviously large group.  Eventually Yuvon and Morgan would go down before the massed rifle fire, or else they would be flanked by their attackers.  Then the townspeople would come here.

     She staggered back to the tack area.  Her carpet bag sat on the floor nexto to the wooden burro holding her saddle.  She dug into the bag and extracted her pistol.  A brief check told her that the cold, heavy weaapon was still loaded.

     Helena made her way back to the stall where her patients sat huddled.  She looked at the six oriental faces peering up at them, and she realized that they were as frightened as she was.  Looking around the barn, it was obvious that the only living things not frightened by the noises outside were Erishkigal and Nigel.  Helena slid down and sat with her back pressed against the post that formed the end of the stall.  She held the pistol under a fold in her skirt as she waited and watched both exits.

     After a while, the gunfire pick up in intensity.  A few moments later, a man burst through the door of the barn.  He slid to a halt, looking around desperately, then scrambled for the safety of the first stall.

     He wore more dirt than clothes, from his stained grey hat to Levis and muddy boots.  He looked to Helena as though he could have been a nice man, a good man, under most any other circumstances, but the gun he held said that he was here to kill the six strangers under her protection.

     Using her left hand, Helena pulled herself to her feet, trying to keep her pistol concealed.

     "Get out of here!" she commanded, as she stepped into the gallery.

     "Where are they?"  His voice was a harsh gutteral.

     "It doesn't matter.  You can't have them."

     His eyes shifted next to the stall next to her.  He took a step forward.  "Move aside, woman, if you don't want to get hurt."

     "No."

     "Chinaman loving bitch," he snarled, and leveled his pistol at her face.  She could see his trigger finger start to twitch, and she realized what Yuvon had meant by 'live or die' situations.

     Without thinking, she relaxed her knees as she brought up her pistol, took aim and fired.  The force of her shot knocked her backwards, and beneath the level of his weapons blast.  His shot smashed into the wall of the tack area, while hers tore through his right arm, severing nerves and blood vessels, shattering the humerus, before exploding out through his shoulder.

     He screamed, dropped his pistol, and clutched at his arm with his left hand.  Helena stood and slipped her still smoking pistol into the waistband of her skirt at the small of her back, the heat searing through the cloth.  She ran over to him and kicked his weapon into Erishkigal's stall.

     She looked at the man, screaming in agony, his blood gushing everywhere.  She frowned at the intensity of the wound, and went back for her medical bag.

     "Oh be quiet, you big baby," she said as she staggered back over to him.

     She was struggling to stop the bleeding when Yuvon came rushing through the door.  He froze and looked at her.  She looked back up at him.

     "There are always alternatives to killing."