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Calvin Anspach heard loud clumping noises across his front porch. Had some damn fool ridden a horse onto the planking? He stormed through the parlor, filled with righteous wrath. Just as he reached for the knob, the front door flew open and three burly figures stamped into the house, hunched over, carrying something. Then Calvin saw the blood.

A fourth man entered. His long black coat and wide-brimmed hat in silhouette against the brightness outside sent a chill through Calvin. But when the apparition spoke, Calvin recognized the voice of Doctor Robert. “Your boy’s been shot, . These men found him alongside the road near Burnside’s Bridge. Took him for dead and threw him in their wagon. Brought him to Deagan, the undertaker, but Billy started breathing, so they brought him to me. He’s not dead, but close though. Where’s your bedroom?”

Calvin pointed and the three men lugged their cargo down the hall. Calvin and Doctor Robert followed like the tail of a comet.

Calvin Anspach had once been a religious man. He wondered if a vengeful God was now repaying him for his many sins. Wasn’t that the way of God, to smite down the things one cared about?

The trio laid Billy into Calvin’s bed. Doctor Robert took off his coat and dropped it on the floor. He set his hat on the pile and then pulled a short four-legged stool next to the bed. From his black leather satchel, he extracted scissors with which he cut away Billy’s shirt.

“Pistol ball. Small hole, but it sure made a mess of him.”

“Who did it?”

“No idea.”

“He gonna make it, Doc?”

“Can’t rightly say.”

As Doctor Robert probed the hole for fragments, the three bearded men backed toward the door. One of them said, “Hope he pulls through. We’ll leave you to your business.” In an instant, they disappeared.

“Cal, help me roll him. Hold him for me.” They pulled Billy halfway over, revealing his left shoulder and a ragged exit wound. Doctor Robert felt into it with his fingers. “Shoulder blade is broken. This is a mess. The only good thing is it looks like the bullet went all the way through him. I have to close him up whether there’s a piece of bullet in him or not. He’s lost too much blood.”

For the next half hour, Doctor Robert sewed shut Billy’s wounds and applied thick layers of bandage both front and back to stanch Billy’s bleeding. “Normally, I’d splint up that shoulder, but we need to change his bandages twice a day. It’s going to hurt him like hell, but we have to leave that shoulder free.”

As Doctor Robert wrapped his bloody utensils in a cloth and set them inside his satchel, Calvin said, “Doc, how bad is it?”

Donning his coat and hat, Doctor Robert replied, “Bad, but not as bad as it could have been. There’s no blood in his mouth or nose and he’s breathing regular, so I don’t think his lung was punctured and that’s a blessing. But his shoulder is smashed and he’s lost a lot of blood. That’s the biggest danger. He might lose use of that arm, but only if he survives the blood loss.”

“What should I do?”

“If he wakes up, give him plenty of water. Other than that, keep him still and send for me if those bandages soak through. Otherwise, I’ll stop by this evening and bring some laudanum. He’s going to need it.”

Sheepishly, Calvin Anspach said, “How much I owe you, Doc?”

“What’s my bill at the store come to?”

“’Bout three dollars and maybe six bits.”

“How about we just call it even?”


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