Updated: Sep 7, 2020
Hi everybody! My last post was the prologue to the story that I've been working on, this post is the first chapter. It is here where three of the principal characters first meet. Please let me know what you think. ;-)
Chap 1 The New Wild West-
Three years after the Great Wave-
The Three First Meet-
She was all packed up for the day; all that was left was to get her daughter ready. Siah caressed Sharlie’s golden curls.
“Come on baby, it’s time to get up now.” She picked her Huerita up out of their bed and carried her to the bathroom. Sharlie clung to her in the frigid air. Siah dressed her still very sleepy three and a half year- old and loaded her up into her carrier. Putting it on and shifting the weight on her back, she carefully climbed out of her hatch to make the treacherous trek to work. She hated having to get Sharlie up before light like this, or take her out in this weather but there was no choice. She was grateful Sharlie usually slept until she arrived at the clinic. There were things she didn’t need to see.
Her mind drifted as she took her usual roundabout path to work. Halfway to the clinic she leaned against a building to catch her breath.
In the last eight months Siah had only made it to The Trading Post once and called twice. The last time no one had answered. She hoped it was because Manaen and Elaine had gone on that business trip they’d been planning and Holsun hadn’t gotten to them. She shook the thought away. She would’ve heard if he’d done anything to her friends. She sighed, aside from Mason; the Carvers were the last friends she had in Tinplate. Despite her loneliness, she hoped they stayed gone, that they stayed safe. They had little Candice to consider.
She knew the Carvers and Mason would help her if they knew, but she didn’t dare draw them into what she was doing. She was tired. So tired.
In the dim predawn light she looked down the street ahead of her and watched as two teenage boys in hoodies were surrounded by a gang of men. One boy was very big, man sized, the other was small and they stood back to back as the little one clutched the strap of a backpack behind him. She recognized the men surrounding them as being Holsun’s enforcers. They called themselves, “law enforcement”, which was a joke. She and everyone else knew they were just thugs, the size of their ample waistlines evidence that working for Holsun gave them privileges others in this town could only dream of. She treated the result of their handiwork at the clinic regularly. Now the bullies were picking on children? Really? She didn’t know what she would do but she had to try. Those thugs relied on her for medical care as much as anyone else in town. She calmly walked to the crowd. If she could just calm everyone down…
One of Holsun’s goons leaned into the smaller ones face and said something she couldn’t make out. Siah gasped as the boy went ballistic, screaming as he jumped the brute in front of him, toppling him to the ground and plunging a knife into his neck in one fluid movement. An instant later, the rest jumped the boys, holding the bigger one down as they beat him.
She was running to the fray but stopped short when she heard the gunshots.
The two men kick beating the little one suddenly fell on him. He shoved them off and they writhed away, leaving a trail of blood on the pavement. In the moment their attention was diverted, the big one reared up and kicked the one beating him in the face. He twisted himself free and punched the ones who’d held him, knocking them out with a single hit.
The whole scene looked like something out of an action movie. The tables now turned, the boys took turns viciously kick beating each man. She swore she could hear bones cracking. She reacted before thinking. “Stop!” She shouted as she ran to them. “Stop it.”
Both boys looked up, each lifting a gun at her. She stopped in her tracks, palms up at chest level. The boys’ hoods had fallen back in the fight; only now did she see what they looked like. The smaller one had extensive burn scars on both sides of his face and neck that partially melted his features and disappeared into his shirt. The older one had raised dark brown birth marks in streaks and splotches across his face and gouge scars on his cheeks that looked to have been made by a human hand. Their bone structure was distinctly Native American; their fierce features accentuated by the blood on their clothes that wasn’t theirs. Siah absently noted a distinct family resemblance. The older one spoke with a voice that didn’t belong to him, a voice like silk.
“What’s it to you lady?”
She took a breath and spoke in a soothing tone. “You’ve beaten these men enough. You’ve won the fight; you’ve made your point. Just. Stop.”
He pressed the gun close to her head. O Lord Jesus… Suddenly, she felt an eerie calm.
“I said, what, is it, to you?”
Hold your ground. Do not back down, show no fear.
She slowly exhaled.
“I work at a clinic. I know how much damage a beating can do. Please, just leave these men. They’re not worth it.”
“You’re a doctor?”
Behind her Sharlie started to babble. Both boys peered around her and seemed only now to take note she had a baby on her back. The big one lifted his gun to the level of his eye, the smaller one following suit. He stared her down, taking full advantage of the height difference. He was at least a foot taller than her.
“Next time Doc, stay out of our business.”
He held the gun at the ready as he and the little one picked the men over, stuffing their weapons in their back pack before running down an alley.
Siah trembled. She had come to within a hairsbreadth of leaving Sharlie an orphan twice over. She could not do that again. She could not put her baby at risk. She checked the pulses of the men on the ground. The one the little one had stabbed was dead where he’d landed, his throat stabbed clean through. The two he had shot off of him were alive but unconscious and seriously wounded. The ones the big one had knocked out were alive, one was coughing up blood. The damage done to them would be more internal from the kick-beating.
She hurried to the clinic. She would have to send someone to go pick them up.
“You’re late. What happened?” Mason shouted, looking worried as she walked in. She held up a gloved hand. “I’m okay. Listen an assault took place out on the street. There are a bunch of men on the ground. One dead, five wounded.”
She told him the intersection and went to settle Sharlie into her closet, listening as Mason called it in to the volunteers who went out and brought people to the clinic. She wondered if they might leave the men on the street when they saw it was Holsun’s goons. She settled Sharlie in, shed her denim overcoat and gloves and scrubbed up for the day. She had five incoming patients to prepare for.
The injured men had concussions, fractured skulls, broken ribs, multiple bruises and lacerations. One had a broken jaw. Those were the two who were alive; two of the three the older one had knocked out with a single punch, the one he’d kicked had been D.O.A with a broken neck as had the one the little one had stabbed in the neck. She’d done her best to save them but the two the little one had shot, died shortly after arriving at the clinic.
Brutal as the attack had been, she had seen enough of their own handiwork to know they’d had it coming. That little one, the boy though, he had drawn first blood. He had stabbed that man’s neck with an ease that was downright practiced. There was only one way to attain that level of skill. She shuddered to think what had led to that level of brutality… and yet, they had held back when they’d seen her. They’d actually lifted their guns when they’d seen she had a baby. They were not amoral. The little one couldn’t have been more than thirteen, the bigger one didn’t look much older, and those scars, on both of them… what kind of life had those children led? During moments between patients, she found herself praying for the boys; that the scars on the inside would heal even if the scars on the outside couldn’t.
When lunchtime came she made her and Sharlie the oatmeal she’d saved. Her paycheck was late again so she was going to have to skimp where she could. She got to play with Sharlie a bit before Mason called her back.
“Okay Honey, I have to go now in three minutes.” She played one more game of tickles with her.
“Okay Sharlie, one more minute.” She played one more game of tickles before she reluctantly pulled away.
“Okay sweetie, I have to go back to work now.” She kissed her on the head. “Be a good girl and stay in here okay.”
“Okay.” The little girl moaned.
Her little face filled with hope. “Be back for snack time?”
“Yes sweetie, I’ll be back for snack time.”
But as she shut her daughter back in the closet, she didn’t know what she was going to feed her. That oatmeal had been all she’d been able to bring with her today.
“Hey Mason, any ETA on our paychecks?”
“Nope, but I do have a bonus for everybody. This just came in. It’s your share.”
He handed her two canvas bags. One had jerky and a few potatoes and carrots; the other had several cans of soup and vegetables and a little sack of dried fruit.
“Wow, this is great! Somethings something.”
“Yeah, even El Jefe knows not to press his luck.”
Siah snorted. She and Mason were on the same page about their mutual boss. He looked in on Sharlie when he had the chance and was one of the few she trusted to do so. Stashing her sacks in the closet with a thrilled Sharlie, she went back to work with a bit more hope. The food wasn’t much, but it should last two or three days. She prayed it would be enough until her paycheck came in.
How were those boys eating right now? Had they been carrying food in those sacks?
“Show those boys how to eat well and honestly father. In Jesus name, Amen.”
She went through her day mechanically, dealing with one crisis after another. In the rare quiet moments when she got to go to the bathroom or stopped to sign a form; the events of the morning would replay in her mind. Why had Holsun’s men been surrounding them? Why would they bother with two teenagers? Were they trying to recruit them? They had taken some serious hits themselves, how were they now? She put the pen down and rubbed her face.
“Lord Jesus, hold onto those boys, somehow please bless them with the help they really need.” The day wore on and she managed to see several patients check out actually better than when they’d come in. Something’s something.
She managed to break away from the chaos long enough to have snack time with Sharlie. Though she had to chew the jerky and fruit a bit for Sharlie to eat it, the child ate with gusto. When she came back to the sick room, several patients who had been bad off before, took turns for the worst; she and what was left of the rest of the staff dealt with the crisis and by the time it was over she was exhausted. Two of those who had just gotten worse probably wouldn’t make it. Realistically she gave them until tomorrow.
When each patient was stabilized, she went up to Masons room and used his satellite phone to call her contact. She needed to update him on what had happened with Holsun’s goons. Only then did she finally leave.
She packed Sharlie back in the carrier and half stumbled out the door. Every day was like this now, from sunup til long after sundown she was working at this place, shutting Sharlie up in a closet. It wasn’t healthy for a toddler, but she had no choice. Tinplate was nearly a ghost town now; there was simply no one able or trustworthy to ask to provide childcare. She skirted her usual roundabout path home, doubling back in some places so she wouldn’t be followed. Those boys entered her thoughts again. “Lord God, bless those boys, show them your love.” She looked up at the dark cloudy sky and wondered what God was doing. She felt no power in her prayers anymore. She was too exhausted to feel much these days. Why had he told her so clearly to turn down that job offer? The clinic was shutting down anyway, why not move somewhere safer? Again the thought niggled in her mind that she was needed here. But hadn’t she given all she could to the people who came to her for care?
There are more.
“Then please Lord God,” she prayed out loud, “just bring who or what- ever this ‘more’ is and let me move on. I am so tired Father, so tired…”
She shook off the thought as she put her key in the lock and walked into her little den. Relocking everything behind her, she set Sharlie down and let her run around as she got the fire going and heated up two of the cans of soup, diluting it with a bit of water. It wasn’t bad for canned; then again when you were hungry anything was good. Sharlie ate almost as much as she did. Whenever she had the chance, that little girl could eat. Siah took joy in the little girl’s appetite. It was a sign of good health. She took her time playing with her before getting ready for bed and reading her, “Their story”. The child needed some attention and honestly, most days, their bedtime routine was the best part of her day. As soon as she tucked Sharlie in and laid down next to her, she fell into an exhausted sleep.
From the shadows of an alley across the street, Nathan held an arm around his aching ribs, eyeing the place suspiciously. “I expected a doctor to live better.” Eric crossed his arms and tried not to wince at the pain in his chest and shoulder. “There must be something more going on. Doctors make good money, there’s no reason she should be living in that dump.”
“Maybe it’s better on the inside than it looks on the outside.”
He grunted. “Just keep the location in mind. Knowing where a doctor lives could be useful.” They both turned and walked away from the dilapidated building. “I’m surprised she was so stealthy; thought she heard us a couple of times. You could tell she was tired but still wary.”
“Yeah, I picked that up too. Don’t underestimate her.” They walked away in silence. “Why do you think she has that white kid? No way it’s hers.”
“Yeah, good question. No way a black chick had a white baby.”