DARK TRAIL HOME

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CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

When next he opened his eyes, he was laying in a bunk. He vaguely remembered someone carrying him inside and voices around him, calling his name.

“I’m freezing.” Tyree whimpered. Someone wrapped blankets around him, and he drank something bitter that Manny forced on him.

“You kill that bear?” Malone asked.

“I dunno. He was running when I seen him last. I got two shots into him,” Mark said.

“Go tell someone to find it and finish it. We don’t need a rouge grizzly on a rampage.”

These were just flashes of things he remembered. He saw the bottom of the top bunk. Mark sat beside him in a chair. He didn’t know how he’d gotten there. He felt bandages on his head, wrapped tight. His right arm was tight up against his side, which was in agony.

He had nightmares about Jace, waking with his hand clawing for his gun, sweat dripping from his face.

When he woke, Marcie was there. She held a bowl of soup and spooned it into his mouth.

Sweat beaded on his face. His fever had broken, and he tried to push off some covers.

“If I’d knowed, you’d feed me soup, I’d have fed myself to a bear a lot sooner.”

“You’re ridiculous,” she said.

Lonny stepped in for a minute. “Hey half-breed.” He had something dangling from his hand above Tyree’s chest. Bear claws hanging on a leather cord. They were easily six inches long.

“I can’t believe I still have my scalp… and my arm.” Tyree told him.

“Bear got a piece of scalp. But you got the better end of the deal. You gonna have some hellacious scars.” Lonny pulled a chair up beside the bed and Tyree heard him recounting what had happened as some of the ranch hands stood around.

“He saved Marcie’s like. Then Mark saved his life.” Lonny said with what sounded like reverence.

“Mark took holt of the situation, stopped most of the bleeding before we got him up on the horse.”

Tyree vaguely remembered the two of them shoving him onto his horse, Mark throwing himself behind him. He remembered blood running down his arm, dripping off his fingertips into the snow.

Mark had kept talking to him as they rode, keeping him hanging on.

His arm was in pretty bad shape. Manny changed the dressings twice a day and added a fresh poultice with herbs in it. The swelling was going down, but it was had some infection in a couple of places. It was going to take a while before he could use it again. He was just happy he was left-handed.

“Women love scars,” Tyree said. He was excruciatingly tired. He winked at Marcie. She shook her head and waved them off as she walked away.

“Get some sleep, Tyree,” said over her shoulder.

“Well, while you’re laid up, I’ll be taking long rides with my girl. No bears this time. But we’ll come check on you, time to time.”

“You know she’s two-timing you. I talk to her every day.”

“I told her to come see you, keep your hopes up.”

“Ugly toad. Your ma dropped you on a tree stump face first a few times I reckon.”

“You should see a mirror, Injun,” Lonny grunted.

“I asked my future wife to bring me a mirror. She said you broke it.”

He wondered what his face did look like. The bandages covered the whole top of his head and came down over one eye. He fingered the cloth, finding it came down over his right ear too.

“Do I still have an eye and ear on this side?” He asked Mark later.

“I reckon so. There’re stitches everywhere. It was hard holding you down to put them there. I practically had to sit on you so Manny could sew you up.” Mark told him.

“I don’t know about that. I don’t think you’d have to hold me down now, and I feel some better than I did.”

“Get healed up, huh? I need someone to clean stalls.” Mark smiled.

“You saved my life. I owe you.”

“Tyree. You don’t owe me shit. Marcie would be dead if you hadn’t been there. Lonny and I, we froze.”

“You shot the bear. You didn’t freeze.”

“The bear was so damn big.” Mark’s voice shuddered, and he reached out to squeeze Tyree’s hand. “I don’t know how you did that. I was terrified.”

“Me too.” Tyree acknowledged.

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