Old Wounds New Beginnings
By Kim (KP) Pritekel
Disclaimers: These two lovely ladies may seem a bit familiar, but that's about it. You don't know 'em, honest.
Subtext: Yes, this story is of an alternative nature, what else would come from me? So, basically if you aren't old enough to buy me a beer, wouldn't buy me a beer, or live some place where they don't sell beer, go away. Otherwise, sit back, relax, and let me entertain you.
Violence: Well, folks. I'm going to be honest here. I'm not real sure how far I'll take this, but know that part of this takes place in a prison, and it's not a pretty world. There will be violence, including murder, and also some scenes dealing with rape. If this bothers you, then please move on, or cover your eyes during the scary stuff. I think it'll be more disturbing than graphic, though.
Language: Yup. Be warned.
Note: The depiction of the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) is accurate in this story, however some names and possibly some aspects have been changed to protect the innocent, and also my butt. Hey, I wanna keep my job, okay?
Note 2: I have changed LaGrange, Texas to fit into the story, so if it is not like the real thing, just pretend, and don't hurt me. : )
Thank you to Barbara. Your ideas and knowledge of the Gaelic language was beyond helpful. : ) Slan.
If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am, or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com
Pronunciations for the Gaelic terms:
nos gui (nose) (gee)
The summer heat was picking up speed as June began to almost literally melt into July. Jamie had been on the Triple M for just over two weeks now, and had more than surpassed Tyg's expectations, and that of her own. She never thought she'd enjoy such a tranquil life. The work was hard, but the hard is what made it satisfying.
Jamie stood on the flatbed that she had first found Tyg on, throwing bales of hay. She grunted as she tried to use her legs to pick them up instead of her back, like Briar had shown her. Sometimes it was hard to remember; her body wanted to go on instinct instead of common sense. That seemed to be a big problem for her in general these days. Once again her thoughts trailed off in Tyg's direction. This happened often, though she tried to keep it down to a dull roar.
Tyg continued to pick her up each and every morning just before the break of day, but the small blonde had begun to spend less and less time with the tall brunette, wanting her to get used to working with the boys, allowing the hands to meld as a family once more with the new addition.
Tyg rode up the road at a slow run sitting atop Hazelnut's back. She had missed her horse. With the arrival of Jamie, getting her settled, she had neglected the mare. She looked over the fence that surrounded the northern fields, and sighed. The boys had done a half-assed job mending last week. She'd have to get on them. Just off to the right she saw the old Ford attached to the flatbed, and several stacks of golden hay waiting to be pitched. With a gloved hand, the blonde tilted her hat back just a bit to see who was working it. Jamie. She smiled, and guided Nut in that direction.
She had noticed over the last weeks that Jamie seemed to relax a bit, even her posture was lighter with straight, strong shoulders, and a head raised high with accomplishment. She watched the tall, lean body in motion as Jamie heaved the heavy bales around. She wore a lose fitting navy tank and lose fitting denim shorts, her hair back in a tail under the black hat. Tyg noticed that the skin of Jamie's arms, shoulders and legs had started out getting red from the long days in the sun right away, but now she was turning a nice, deep bronze color. In just the short time the tall woman had been there, she was already beginning to fill out from plenty of good food, and strenuous labor.
Tyg sat upon the mare's back, and crossed her arms over her chest, a slight smile playing across her lips. The thing that she had noticed the most, however, was that when she looked into Jamie's face, into her eyes, she no longer was met with nothingness. Now a slow, but constant light was building, making Jamie glow with purpose.
Tyg clicked her tongue, urging Hazelnut on, heading back toward the corrals.
Jamie stopped, bale in mid-throw when she felt like she was being watched. She threw the hay to the pile on the ground, and turned, glancing over her shoulder in time to see a golden Palomino trotting off down the road. She knew who the rider was even from this distance. She sighed, and ran her forearm over her eyes, wiping the sweat away, and ran her fingers up under her hat, wiping her hands on her shorts. She was glad to see the boss lady, as the other hands called her, with the horse. From what she'd heard from the boys, Tyg had once been an award winning rider.
Jamie's eyes glanced to the sky as she heard a distant rumbling. The clouds were beginning to move in. Looked like they might actually get the rain that had been predicted for the last three days, but had yet to show. Part of her hoped they did indeed get the wet stuff, but then again, with the high humidity, it would make it that much hotter later.
Jamie glanced toward the main house when she heard a distant clinging of metal. Rosa sure loved to bang on that triangle at meal times. Jamie chuckled, and hopped down from the flatbed, heading toward the old Ford.
Then Jamie glanced to her right to see Tyg at her usual place at the head of the table. She was in what looked to be a serious discussion with Calvin Sanchez. Tyg leaned toward the dark man, leaning her weight on an elbow. Jamie could not help but hear the heated words that were beginning to pass between them.
"I'm telling you, Tyg, it ain't true."
"Well I hear it is, Cal. Care ta explain that?"
The dark man turned away from her, thick, dark brows drawn in building anger. Tyg waited patiently, though Jamie could see the muscles in her jaw working, her green eyes ablaze and trained on him. The tall woman looked from one to the other. What could the hand have done to make such a gentle, peaceful woman like Tyg so mad. Finally Calvin looked again at his boss.
"I didn't know who he was, Tyg." he said in a harsh whisper, obviously trying to keep his anger under control. Tyg leaned in close to him until their faces were mere inches apart, her finger digging into his chest.
"You're full of shit, an ya know it, Cal." she growled. "You knew goddamn well who that son of a bitch was."
"Then how the hell didja know who ta introduce him ta Lyle as!" Tyg yelled, standing from her chair, her fist slamming into the table. All conversation stopped, no one sure what was going on. Jamie stared, stunned, up at the blonde. Calvin Sanchez pushed his chair back, the wall the only thing stopping it from hitting the floor. He towered over the small rancher, but Tyg held her ground. "Hector is trouble, Cal. I know what I'm talkin' 'bout."
"He ain't trouble ta me."
Tyg's eyes blazed, and she took a step toward him. Jamie immediately saw the danger that the blonde was putting herself in, and grabbed the edge of the table with white knuckles, ready to push back and pummel the man if she had to.
"I'm warnin' you, Cal. Stay away, or get out." the dark man stared into fiery green eyes, his hands clenching and unclenching until finally he walked away from the table, headed toward the front door. Tyg swung around, yelling after him. "You keep goin', Cal! Off my land!" she was answered by the slam of the screen door. Silence echoed through the kitchen, no one sure what to do or say, so opted to say nothing. Jamie stared at Tyg's back, the small blonde's body was tense, anger and frustration oozing out of every pore, pouring off her in waves.
"Honey, you okay?" Rosa said quietly. Jamie jumped at the sudden noise. Tyg took a deep breath, and walked out of the room, muttering a "fine" as she went, followed by the second slamming of the screen door. Jamie turned back to the boys with wide, curious eyes. Most were looking down at their half-empty plates, or out a window. Jamie jumped again when she heard the sharp clap of two hands. "Okay, boys, shows over. Eat up or get out."
The hands filed out one after the other, followed by Jamie. She could see the heavy rain falling as she neared the front door, Tyg nowhere to be seen. She stepped out into the deluge, immediately pelted with what seemed to be buckets of water, her hair and clothes plastered to her. She ran a hand through sopping hair when it dawned on her that yet again, she had forgotten her hat.
"Damnit." she muttered, as she made her way back into the house. She spotted it right away on the back of her chair right where she'd left it.
"You know, I think Tyg should staple that thing to your head." Rosa said as Jamie turned to head back outside. The large woman turned away from the sink, and a bolt of laughter erupted from her. "Why ain't you dressed for this weather?" she asked, pointing to the window, and the storm beyond. Jamie gave her a lop-sided grin, and looked down at herself. "You know we don't have no wet t-shirt contests here." the older woman threw a towel at the tall woman. "Now, you march your behind up them stairs and grab one of the long rain coats we got up there. Go to the second door you see on the left." Jamie nodded obediently, and headed for the long staircase.
Jamie felt strange, like she was an intruder as she made her way up the creaky stairs that led to the second level of the two story house. She looked at the dark wood paneling that rose from the hard wood floor to half way up the wall. The same dark wood framed the doorways and made up the heavy doors to the rooms that lined the dim hall. She saw the door that Rosa had directed her to, and had her hand on the crystal knob when she glanced over her shoulder and noticed a room just across the hall with the door partially open. Glancing back down the hall where she'd come, she watched to make sure that no one was coming, and crept over to the room, slowly pushing the door open. She was curious, and had the feeling that the room belonged to Tyg. She could smell her, that mixture of Lady Stetson and Tyg. She looked down the hall one last time, then stepped across the threshold into a world that was filled with the little blonde.
The room was on the medium side with the bed off to the right, the headboard of the large brass bed against the right wall. An emerald green quilt covered the bed along with many fluffy pillows incased in green and burgundy that appeared to be hand made, that were scattered across it. Her eyes traveled to the two large windows that nearly took over the wall directly in front of her filling the room with the gray light of the rainy day. She figured that on a sunny day the incoming light must be nearly blinding through the lacy, white curtains that covered the panes. She smiled at the hat rack behind the door that was loaded down with baseball caps, big floppy hats, and tons of cowboy hats, and even a bowler.
Under one of the windows was a long hope chest made of dark cherry wood, and a soft-looking afghan was folded on top of it. To the left was a tall dresser with what looked to be a collection of small, glass bottles arranged in a corner. Three large horses carved from wood stood near them. A smaller, long dresser was against the wall next to the bed, and Jamie strolled over to check out the collection of horses atop it. She chuckled as she saw the My Little Pony with a purple and white striped mane and tail protruding from the white plastic body with silver stars painted on the butt. She glanced at the other horses, some standing, a foal laying down with a concerned mother bending her powerful neck down to nuzzle her baby. Others stood, yet others still were frozen forever in a dead run. The horses were made of wood, plastic, glass, and even one made from what looked to be ash. She had once seen a lamb like that, though the ash had come from the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens. She ran her fingers over the detailed horses, glancing up to see framed awards and pictures on the wall. She squinted to read the small print of one. It was an award for outstanding academic merit dated 1990, and awarded to a Rachel Christine McClure. She drew her brow. Who was Rachel Christine McClure? That question was answered when she saw the framed diploma from LaGrange High School, class of 1992, and a picture of a very happy Tyg dressed in her cap and gown, green eyes brilliant in the bright sun that she always seemed to suck up in them. Sure enough, the diploma was awarded to Rachel Christine McClure. Hot damn. Jamie grinned to herself, feeling like she'd uncovered a secret as she stared at the woman who looked the exact same, though her years of working out in the weather had given her a few extra lines around her eyes that she probably wouldn't otherwise have. Jamie did a quick calculation in her mind, and figured that Tyg must be around twenty-five, twenty-six. She hadn't been sure. The blonde looked young, and was filled with the life and vigor of youth, but she possessed such wisdom, such age. Jamie often thought of her having an old soul. She reached out a hand, and ran the tip of her finger over the smiling image of Tyg, wondering why such a special woman would be on her own, which made her think of the confrontation at lunch. Jamie had never seen the little blonde display such anger, such emotion, and so fast. She could not help but think that if Calvin tried to do anything to the rancher, she'd have his balls in her hand so fast his head would spin.
Moving on, Jamie saw other awards, and then a bunch of blue and red satin ribbons in a group between the windows. She read the mostly first place blue for excellence in rodeo and, the red second place, though the wall was dominated by blue. The dates on the ribbons were scattered throughout the years from the late 1970's clear to 1997. She felt the softness of the ribbons, then noticed another framed award near by. It was again for academic merit, but as a freshman. She studied the award closer, and realized that it was awarded from Brown University in New York, 1993. Wow. Impressed, Jamie looked around for a degree from the prestigious school, but saw none. She drew her brows in confusion. Surely if Tyg had all these other things hung up from so long ago, something like that would be, too?
She was shaken from her thoughts at the sound of terribly hacking and coughing. She quietly made her way our of the bedroom and looked to the right. The last door at the end of the hall was opened just slightly, and she raised a brow as the coughing continued. She knocked slightly with her knuckles, and slowly pushed the door open. She poked her head in, and looked around the dim room, noticing the large window on the far wall with heavy velvet curtains drawn. She looked to the massive bed off to the right, and the figure lying in it. To her surprise, she was met by sparkling green eyes, the twin pair to Tyg's.
"Well, ya comin' in, er ya gonna stand out there all day?" asked a surprisingly strong voice. Jamie grinned and walked fully through the door. The old man sized her up, jutting his lower lip out as he did, as if in deep thought. Finally he nodded with a smile, the leather skin of his face crinkling, looking like it would snap in two. "Jamie Madden." he wheezed, pulling a large, age and work gnarled hand out from under the sheet, extending it in Jamie's direction. Jamie quickly walked up to the bed, taking the hand and shaking it. "Good. Nice, strong handshake ya got there." he grinned. Jamie looked away, stepping back a bit from the bed. Why did everyone keep telling her that? The old man seemed to be able to read her thoughts, and chuckled deep in his throat. "I'm Larry McClure, and that one down there full of piss an wind is my granddaughter."
"You're the one I talked to on the phone?" Jamie asked, shoving her hands into her pockets. The old man nodded.
"That ya did. Ya do real good work 'round here, Jamie. Real good work."
"Thank you, sir." Jamie muttered. The old man's face scrunched up as another coughing fit began to attack him again.
"Wa-...wa...water." he managed to push out. Jamie looked around until she spotted the pitcher on the night stand next to a glass. She quickly filled it, and brought it to the old man's lips. He sipped, and swallowed, closing tired eyes with a nod. "Thank ya." he breathed. "So damn tired of coughin'." he growled. Jamie glanced over at the oxygen tank near the foot of the bed with a brow raised in confusion. "Now, don't ya ruin yer fine start here by hollerin' 'bout no air." Jamie glanced into fiery green eyes, and couldn't help but laugh, long and hard. Larry McClure looked at her like she'd lost her mind, but then fell into his own laughter, swatting at her through the air as he swiped a finger through the tears that seeped from old, tired eyes. "You are one strange mare, Jamie Madden, but I like ya." he chuckled. "Open them curtains, will ya?" he asked, sitting up a bit straighter in bed. Jamie shook her head at the old man, still grinning as she made her way over to the heavy drapes, pulling them open to allow the light of the afternoon to spill in and fill the room. She grabbed the widow, and with a grunt pushed it open. Fresh air met her face, laced with the slightest bit of moisture. A loud, angry voice also rushed in. Jamie stared down into the yard to see Tyg standing with the boys, her hands on her hips, shoulders pulled tight.
"I know ya'll ain't stupid!" she yelled at the stunned hands.
"Shit." Jamie whispered, turning from the window, and heading toward the door.
"That Tyg down there?" the old man asked, his brows drawn in disapproval.
"Yup." Jamie hurried from the room, nearly running Rosa over in the hall.
"What's that all about?" the housekeeper asked as she entered McClure's room with a tray holding the old rancher's lunch.
"Donno. Tyg's havin' a hissy down there. Think Jamie's gonna try an git her to calm." he pulled weak legs out from under the sheet, and turned his body with a grunt. "Help me, woman." he barked at Rosa. The old woman turned to him, a brow raised, her hands on her ample hips.
"Excuse me? 'Cause I know you didn't just order me around." the old man glared up at her, any reply he may have had taken by the coughs that began to wrack his thin body. Rosa narrowed her eyes, and spotted the oxygen tank that Larry was supposed to be hooked to, and she knew he probably hadn't been since she'd checked on him around ten that morning. "Okay, Wheezer, you see that burrito over there on that plate?" McClure nodded, eyes narrowed. "You put that damn air hose in your nose before I beat you with it!" Larry McClure opened his mouth to say something, but was stopped cold as Rosa put her hand in the air to cut him off. She walked over to him, and helped him lower himself into the wheel chair, and pushed him toward the window. "Now look down there, gramps. What do you see?"
"Yeah, and who runs that ranch?" McClure glared up at her, following the older woman as she noisily knelt down beside his chair, knees cracking from age and extra weight. "Larry, that girl is all you got, and you're all she's got." Rosa turned dark, pleading eyes up to the old man. He sighed and glanced down at her, then out at the light of his life. Silently he nodded. He wasn't ready to die yet, yet he knew that that's exactly what would happen. Doc Nussen had told him just that. He wanted to make sure that Tyg was happy first. Only then would he be truly at peace.
Jamie ran down the stairs and out the front door to jump the three stairs that led to the yard. Tyg was in BJ Adam's face.
"You know better than that half-assed shit, BJ!" the kid took a step back, not sure how to handle the fiery little blonde. Tyg followed. "Ya'll've been her for two goddamn years! You wanna start lookin' for a new job? Fine by me! I-"
The little blonde whirled around to see Jamie standing about two yards away. Her green eyes almost immediately lost their burn as she took in the hard blue stare, pensive stance of the tall brunette. The rancher realized to her surprise, that she was ashamed that Jamie had seen her lose her head like that. How long had the hand been standing there? Tyg's shoulders slumped, and she glanced over her shoulder at her boys who looked terrified. Should they stay? Go? Look at her? Look away? Tyg felt emotion rising in her throat, and she took a deep breath. What have I done? These boys don't deserve this shit from me....
"I'm sorry." she whispered, and quickly made her way out of the yard, heading toward the corrals.
Jamie met the shocked gazes of the other hands who stared at her, almost asking her what to do. Jamie took a deep breath and walked toward BJ who was pale, and looked near tears.
"I'm sorry, Jamie." he said. "We didn't mean ta do such a bad job on them fences. Didn't think we had." Jamie placed a large hand on his shoulder.
"Why don't you guys head over there and start on repairs, okay?" the hands nodded, looking relieved to have someone take over. "Take some extra wire."
Rosa and Larry McClure watched the show, both in utter shock at Tyg's actions, as well as Jamie's. The housekeeper turned dark eyes to the old man, and slowly a wide smile spread across her thick lips, mirrored by that that crossed Larry's face.
Jamie, unsure what she should do, decided to follow Tyg. She wasn't sure how the smaller woman would react to it, but what the hell. The worse that could happen is she'd be told to go away.
Tyg made her way to the barn, her vision blurred by tears that she could not make stop. Hazelnut glanced at her, whickering and nodding her golden head at the rancher. Tyg opened the stall door, and grabbed Nut's brush from the wall. Without a word, she began to brush the mare with slow, even strokes, trying to calm herself. She had never in her life treated anyone like she had treated her boys today. Especially BJ. She thought of the unusually sensitive young man, and felt a fresh wave of tears begin. She cared about those boys who worked so hard for her, and would never, ever unnecessarily get on them. Not before today. They trusted her, respected her because she trusted and respected them. Hector and Cal were her problem, and she had no right to take it out on them.
Jamie entered the hot, stuffy stable area, immediately the tell tale sound of brushing. She walked to the end where Hazelnut was housed, and sure enough, Tyg was there. The Palomino snorted as she stood at the door to the stall. Tyg did not look up from the brushing, couldn't stand the thought of meeting those blue eyes that she just knew she'd see so much disapproval in.
"Tyg?" Jamie said, her voice quiet. Tyg's only answer was a quiet sniffle. "Tyg, look at me." slowly watery green eyes met blue. Tyg could not believe the amount of understanding she saw in Jamie's gaze. She swiped at an errant tear, and sighed. Jamie took a step forward, resting her hand on the open half-door of Hazelnut's stall. "You okay?' Tyg nodded.
"I'm sorry." she said, her voice barely a whisper. She hung Nut's brush back on its nail, and turned back to Jamie, her fingers nervously tracing the lines of a knot in the wood of the wall of the stall.
"It's okay. They know you didn't mean it, Tyg." Jamie said gently.
"I've never raised my voice to them before." fresh tears began to fill the blonde's eyes. "I can't believe I did that. I was just so mad at Cal." she finished lamely.
"Wanna talk about it?" the rancher shook her head, but the tears continued to slowly streak her sun kissed skin. Jamie felt her heart swell with her own unchecked emotion. She took another step forward, raising a hand, gently wiping away the salty wetness with the tip of her finger. Tortured green eyes looked up at her, pleading for understanding, for forgiveness, for... something. Jamie sucked in her breath as she felt her body beginning to respond to Tyg's closeness. She quickly dropped her hand, and stepped back. "I've got work to do." she mumbled, turning away from the beautiful blonde. "I sent the boys out to the fence." she said, just before she left Tyg standing alone in the barn, one hand resting on the top of the door where Jamie's had been seconds before, the other hand touched the heated skin of her face before it dropped to her side, burying itself in a front pocket of her shorts.
Jamie was about to yank open the old, squeaky door to the Ford when Marty ran up the road, heading for the tractor barn.
"Gonna start to bale before it gets too dark." he yelled as he disappeared inside. Jamie nodded, and climbed into the cab of the old truck. She loved the smell of the old vehicle. It smelled of well used leather and vinyl, old dirt and sweat. As she backed out of the yard she saw the green and yellow John Deere tractor pulling the baler behind it. Marty waved, and headed out toward the south pasture to gather up and bale the excess hay.
Jamie pulled up to the flatbed, and climbed on top to finish with her own bales. Her body began to work on auto-pilot, as did her mind. She saw Tyg's expressive eyes again, so full of sorrow and hurt. Jamie knew the little blonde would never do anything to hurt anyone, especially her boys. Those men were her family, and she cared about each and every one of them. That was why she had gotten so angry and upset over Cal. Jamie knew Tyg felt betrayed by the hand. She just wished she knew what the hell was going on.
Then she thought about just how close she had come to doing something really, really stupid. Looking down into that face, those full lips ever so slightly parted, god, it had been so tempting. Far too tempting. Jamie felt like a coward running from the blonde, but that had been her only choice. Tyg was not interested, and neither could she. She-
Jamie's thoughts were interrupted by an earth-shattering scream that filled that late afternoon. Her head jerked up, and her eyes narrowed on the tractor that rested about a half mile from where she was set up. Without thinking, Jamie jumped full speed off the flatbed, running toward the baler, her heart beating as fear sunk heavy claws into her gut. The screaming continued, guiding her to Marty who lay on the ground, one arm inside the moaning teeth of the baler.
"Jesus Christ!" Jamie breathed as she ran to the cab of the tractor searching frantically for an OFF switch to the baler. Nothing. She jumped down and saw a long, black cable that led to the power source. She grabbed it, and with everything in her, yanked until with a spark, it came lose, and the machine whistled to a stop. Marty had stopped screaming, but his dark eyes were glazing over, and Jamie could tell he was beginning to go into shock.
"What happened?" someone yelled as Jamie heard footsteps approaching.. Jamie ignored them, and turned to the gruesome scene before her. She swallowed as she reached toward the bloody mass that was at the end of Marty's arm. She tugged until it came lose, and she stared at the meaty stump. "Ah, jeez!" Wilbur Martin cried as he skidded to a stop next to the fallen man. "Ahh, jeez, Marty," he breathed.
"Shut up." Jamie hissed at the black man. "Don't scare him anymore than he already is." within seconds a crowd had gathered around the tractor. Marty was out cold, his arm clutched tightly to his chest. Jamie glanced over at Bobby, and spotted the open flannel he had on over his t-shirt. "Give me that." she snarled. The hand quickly stripped out of the shirt, and threw it to her. Jamie pried the mutilated hand out of the death grip Marty had on it, and tied the shirt around it tightly to try and stem the bleeding. "Someone go get a truck." Jamie hollered, and heard someone run off.
"Oh my god." Jamie looked up from the young boy to see green eyes staring with disbelief. "What happened?"
"The baler." Jamie said, and lifted the nearly lifeless body into strong arms, and stood, walking toward the truck that was pulling up in front of them. Jamie opened the door to the half cab in back, and laid Marty on the narrow seat, climbing in with him. "Let's go!" she shouted to Tim Russo who sat behind the wheel. The man, turned pale, nodded, and gunned the engine.
"Wait!" Tyg tore the door open to the passenger side, and slammed it behind her. She glanced back over her shoulder and met concerned blue eyes. "Go." Tyg said, and the truck took off.
The truck came to a screeching halt at the entrance to the ER. Tyg jumped out of the truck, and yanked open Jamie's door so the tall woman could climb out, and gather the young boy in her arms.
Tyg's heart was beating out of her chest as she watched Marty being taken away on a gurney. Jamie watched the blonde carefully. She walked up to her, laying a hand on her shoulder.
"He'll be okay, Tyg." she assured softly. Tyg turned watery green eyes on the tall woman, and to Jamie's surprise, folded into her. At first Jamie was hesitant to return the hug, but then laid her cheek on top of soft, blonde hair, pulling the small woman close as the rancher began to cry. Jamie said nothing, knowing there was nothing she could say. She knew that Tyg was blaming herself for the accident because of what had happened earlier. She felt strong fingers dig into her back, and tightened her embrace even more.
Rosa rushed into the ER followed by four very eager men. Just past the front desk she spotted Timmy who sat in a chair, chewing on a fingernail nervously. Then she saw Tyg who was wrapped in strong arms. A slight smile of thanks crossed her lips as she glanced at Jamie. Suddenly her gaze was met by blue. Jamie looked over Tyg's head, seeing the housekeeper, and smiled back.
Rosa slowed her pace as she made her way through a small crowd that had gathered around a nurse until she finally reached the trio.
"Any news?" she asked. Tyg pulled slowly away from the warm body of Jamie, and turned to Rosa, wiping at her eyes and nose. She shook her head, long bangs falling into green eyes. Rosa reached out, and gently pushed the hair aside, just as she'd been doing since the blonde had been a child. Just then a man in green scrubs and white lab coat pushed through the swinging double doors, a chart in his hand.
"Marty Jiminez?" he asked, looking around at the expectant faces. Tyg turned to walk toward him, followed closely by Rosa. The doctor's gray eyes turned to them. "Hello. I'm Dr. Zwick. Well, Mr. Jiminez's injuries to the nerves of the arm, and bone was quite severe and extensive." he began. Rosa put a hand on Tyg's shoulder. Jamie stepped back to stand near the wall, leaning a shoulder against it. "We are going to have to amputate part of the remaining arm." Tyg sucked in a breath, and the housekeeper squeezed her shoulder in support.
"How much?" the blonde asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.
"Well, just below the elbow." the doctor said, placing two fingers on his own arm to show the exact area. Tyg glanced down at it, not sure what to think. "He'll be fine, though, let me assure you." Tyg glanced up into kind gray eyes, and nodded, feeling numb. The doctor smiled at the group, and pushed back through the doors. Tyg turned to Rosa, her eyes conveying everything that she couldn't make her mouth say. The older woman took the small blonde into warm, familiar arms, rocking the sobbing woman.
Jamie looked on as the hands gathered around their boss until it was one big hug. She sighed quietly as she realized just how alone she felt.
She wiped her hands on a towel, and opened the little fridge near the back door, grabbed a bottle of Guinness, popped the top on the counter, and took a long drawl, closing her eyes as the cold, stout brew slid down her throat.
"Oh, yeah." she breathed as she lowered the beer, and walked over to the table, plopping down in one of the chairs, propping her booted feet up on the edge of the table. Jamie closed her eyes, leaning her head back, arms dangling over the arms of the chair. She cleared her mind of all that had happened that day, needing to not think, not care about anything. Caring was just too damn exhausting.
Jamie cracked an eye open at the soft tapping at her door. With a deep sigh, she threw her feet to the floor, and stood to head toward the door, opened it to see Tyg smiling shyly up at her. Jamie raised a brow in question.
"Howdy." Jamie answered. Tyg looked down at the covered plate in her hands, and looked up into blue eyes, shadowed by the harsh glare of the porch light.
"Rosa sent me over here with this. I, well, she figured you hadn't eaten since lunch, so, well,..." Tyg's confidence began to falter when Jamie said nothing, and made no move to accept the offering of thanks. "I'm sorry. I'm sure you're tired-"
"No." Jamie shook herself from her stupor, and moved back from the open door to allow the rancher in. Tyg stepped by the tall woman, glancing around the small main room. She noted the bloody shirt in the sink, set the plate on the table.
"I'm sorry 'bout your shirt, Jamie." the blonde said quietly. "I can get ya a new one."
"Nah. Don't worry about it." Jamie plopped down in her chair again, taking a long swig from her beer. Tyg looked around, not sure just how welcomed she really was. "So, what's ya got?" Jamie asked, leaning forward in her chair, nodding at the plate.
"Oh!" Tyg said, happy to do something. She took the glass lid from the plate, steam wafting up to curl into the air. Jamie glanced at the dish, and immediately her mouth began to water just at the smells that were filling her kitchen. Three pieces of fried chicken, their spices filling the room and her nose. A little dish of coleslaw made fresh, and a large pile of mashed potatoes smothered with brown gravy made from the chicken broth, and two fluffy, golden biscuits.
Tyg grinned at the expression on the hand's face.
"Look good?" she teased. Jamie nodded absently. Tyg placed the plate on the table in front of Jamie, and turned back toward the kitchen. "Where ya keep the silver?" she asked, glancing over her shoulder at Jamie who had already began to dig into the chicken. She chuckled. Jamie pointed with a very greasy finger toward a drawer, her mouth too full to answer. Tyg pulled it open to find the small tray of tarnished spoons and forks and knives. She grabbed one of each, and placed them on the table next to Jamie's plate. Jamie smiled a thanks, and pointed toward the other chairs at the table. Tyg sat, and rested her chin in the palm of her hand, staring at the quickly disappearing food. Jamie swallowed the big bite she'd just taken, and drew her brows at the blonde.
"You didn't bring any for you?" the tall woman asked, sipping from her beer.
"I already ate, honey." Tyg said with a small, tired smile.
Jamie nodded, and looked down at her plate, her appetite slowing down some, allowing her to pick more at her food rather than inhale it. She hadn't realized that she'd been so hungry.
"I came by not only ta feed ya, but also to thank you." Tyg said quietly, sitting back in her chair, crossing her arms over her chest. Jamie glanced at her before digging into the coleslaw. "You were a fine leader taday, Jamie. I know my boys sure 'preciated it. I did, too." she finished quietly. Jamie put her fork down, and looked into the troubled green eyes that suddenly refused to meet hers. A heavy silence fell over them both.
"Want a beer?" Jamie finally asked. Tyg met her gaze, and nodded with a smile. Jamie stood and walked over to the fridge, pulled the brown bottle up just over the top of the door with a raised brow. Tyg nodded, and the brunette popped the top, handing it to the blonde.
"Thanks." Tyg said, taking a long swallow. "Ahhhh. Good, cold beer. Love it before I hit the sack." Tyg leaned back in her chair, feeling more relaxed. She studied the hand, watching as she finished her dinner, and pushed the plate away with a pleased sigh.
"Thank you. And give my thanks to Rosa." Jamie wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, and leaned back in her chair, and looked at the small rancher through hooded eyes. "So what's really on your mind, boss lady?"
Tyg chuckled at the term her boys often used. She sighed deeply, and stared into Jamie's blue eyes, trying to read the tall woman. Their azure depths were open, ready to hear. Deciding she could trust the hand, she took another sip from her beer, and set the bottle down on the hard wood of the table.
"Ya know Cal worked for me for three years? Three years." the small blonde leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table, burying her face in her hands. "I never thought he'd betray me like that, Jamie." Jamie said nothing. She had no idea what Tyg was talking about, but figured she'd give her some space, let her tell the story. "When daddy was gamblin' he messed with the wrong people, and got all mixed up with this basta'd, Hector. He don't play for money. He plays for land." Jamie nodded her understanding. "My father went off to prison when I was just a girl, and when he got out, he still owed Hector a lotta winnin's. He's still collectin'." Tyg pushed away from the table and walked to the back door, staring out toward the stream that flowed behind about thirty yards away. "Ya got such a pretty view from here, Jamie." she said quietly. Jamie glanced over her shoulder at the other woman, but remained silent. Tyg sighed and turned away. "It's late." Tyg grabbed her beer from the table and walked to the front door. She stopped, her hand on the knob. "Thanks for listening, honey." she said quietly before opening the door, and heading out into the muggy night. Jamie stared at the door for a moment, surprised at Tyg's sudden exit.
Tyg leaned back against the wooden door, closed her eyes before staring up into the vast, star-filled night. She had to get out of there. Jamie's quiet, unassuming nature was too much. She had never realized that too much understanding could be a bad thing, but for some reason around the tall hand, that is exactly what happened. Tyg just wanted to spill her guts, cleanse her soul that her father had tainted so long ago, taking her trust with him when he disappeared. She felt so much shame when she thought of her father, which was one bitter spoonful of medicine to be sure.
Tyg pushed away from the door, and headed for her truck. She needed to get some sleep. Things would be clearer in the morning.
Candy had only been thirty-five when she had been struck with breast cancer, the disease wiping her out within six months of diagnosis. Jamie had gone to school during the day, a sophomore in high school, Johnny in the third grade. She'd run and pick him up, stop to get them something to eat, then they'd head to the hospital where they'd stay until nine or ten at night. It had been a hard, mentally exhausting six months watching their mother fade away to nothing before their eyes, lying to the nurses and doctors that they had a grandmother in the area that they were staying with, and that they'd be fine.
Jamie could remember endless days sitting in the hard plastic chair next to her mother's bed, and she'd read her homework out loud to the skeletal woman whether Candy had been asleep, awake, or just simply out of it from all the medication they had had her on to ease the pain as the life was quickly eased from her body, until finally one day she had gotten a call at school. The school nurse, Mrs. Mallory, had walked down to Jamie's forth period American History class, and had escorted her out into the hall, and had told her that her mother had died. Jamie stared up at the woman with dull, expressionless eyes. The nurse had pulled the girl into a tight embrace, and Jamie had stared over her shoulder, staring at a poster on the opposite wall the read: JUST SAY NO.
Jamie found room number 203, and stepped into a small, white room with a bathroom off to the left, and a small closet next to it. The narrow bed was to the right with a plain, wood nightstand next to it littered with a blue carafe of water and plastic cups, and a tray of half-eaten food. Marty lay on the bed, his left arm resting over his chest, his bandaged right out next to his body, ending just below his hip.
Jamie stared down at the sleeping boy who reminded her so much of Johnny in many ways. His sweet, simple disposition, and curious nature. He was a good kid, and did not deserve this.
"Hey." a quiet voice said. Jamie looked down into dark eyes, barely open. She smiled down at the hand.
"Hey, kid. Sorry if I woke you."
"Nah, I was only half sleepin'."
"Mind if I sit?" Jamie asked, indicating the chair that was against the wall behind her. The boy shook his head, slowly trying to sit up a little. "Wait." Jamie piled some pillows behind him, and helped him scoot back. "'Kay?" Marty nodded. Jamie grabbed the chair, and drug it to his bed, plopping down. She looked around the small room. "Nice place you got here." she said with a smile. Marty smiled, but it was gone quicker than it came. "How you doin'?" she asked quietly.
"Okay, I guess. Hurts some." the boy said, glancing down at the pale arm that lay useless at his side. Suddenly the boy looked away from Jamie, hiding his eyes from her. She could hear him sigh deeply, trying to keep the emotion down. This was the first time he'd been lucid since the day before. They had kept him doped up to keep the initial pain of the injury, as well as the surgery, down. He hadn't thought about the ramifications of things yet, and now it suddenly hit him like a ton of bricks. Marty felt like a child as a sob burst from his throat before he could stop it. Jamie was up in a heartbeat, pulling the boys head to her chest, cradling him.
"You have any parents, Marty?" she asked softly, and felt the boy shake his head.
"They're all dead." he said, his voice muffled from Jamie's embrace. She sighed, and stared out the small window. "What am I gonna do, Jamie?" the tall woman felt the boy pull away, and she let him go, taking a step back to gaze into watery brown eyes, so filled with fear and panic. Jamie sat in the chair again, allowing him the space to wipe his eyes and blow his nose.
"Well, my guess would be you're going to do exactly what you've been doing for the last year." Jamie said, her voice soft, gentle, yet firm.
"How! I ain't got no arm!" Marty cried, lifting the stump.
"And your point would be?" Jamie asked, leaning back in the chair, one jean-clad leg crossing over the other knee. She swung her booted foot at the ankle. The boy looked at her stunned, not expecting her to say that. He felt his anger build.
"Hell, Jamie, I'm only half a man now, half anything! Who'd want me ta work fer 'em?" he exclaimed passionately. "I ain't worth nothin'!" Jamie raised a lazy eyebrow.
"Well, my guess would be Tyg McClure."
The heavy soles of the boots made a dull thump on the hard floor as Tyg made her way down the long hall heading to Marty's room. She balanced the warm dish of a homemade burrito smothered with Rosa's famous green chili, and side of Spanish rice. All the boy's favorites, on the other hand as she neared the room. She stopped when she heard talking, and immediately recognized Jamie's low, velvety voice followed by the thin, frightened voice of her worker.
Tyg walked to the doorway of the hospital room, and stopped when she heard a loud sob. She peeked around the corner, most of her body still in the hall. She listened to what was being said, feeling a bit like a Peeping Tom, but couldn't move if she had wanted to.
"But, why would she want me workin' for her now?" the boy said, his voice filled with desperation. "What in hell can I do fer the ranch now!"
Jamie knew that she was speaking for Tyg now, but she knew deep down that the rancher would back her up one hundred percent in reassuring the boy.
"Well, Marty, lots of things. You can paint. You know all those out buildings could use a new coat. I hear you're real good at tooling leather, could help with the equipment for the horses. Hell, man, the possibilities are endless. Hell, maybe even Rosa could use some extra help."
Tyg stifled a chuckle at the thought of Marty working with the feisty older woman. She could hear the boy laugh at the idea as well, and then heard Jamie's low chuckle.
"Well, you catch my drift." Jamie grinned.
Tyg was genuinely touched by Jamie's efforts. She had not expected to see the taller woman there, but then again for some reason it did not surprise her. The last two days the hand had more than shown she was full of surprises.
Tyg stepped away from the wall and stood in the doorway, knocking lightly on the open door.
"Boss lady!" Marty smiled, then the smile faltered, and his face fell. Tyg gave him and Jamie a winning smile and walked in to the room.
"How goes it, honey?" she asked, setting the plate unceremoniously in his lap. Marty drew his brows, then reached down to take the foil off the plate. A wide smile spread across his pale face.
"Rosa's?" he asked hopefully.
"Who else?" Tyg said, looking around for another chair.
"Here. Take mine." Jamie said, standing and moving to the side. Tyg looked up at her.
"I'm not taken' your chair, honey."
"Well, I was just about to head out anyway." Jamie took a step toward the door, and looked back at the boy who was beginning to dig into the Mexican food. "See you around, kid." she said as she walked out of the room.
Tyg watched the tall woman leave, almost sorry to see her go. She had such a quiet, calming presence. With a quiet sigh, she turned back to the boy with a wide smile.
The bike started up with a roar that made an elderly woman walking through the parking lot jump. Jamie chuckled, then pulled out of the space, headed for the open road.
The bike purred along the main street of the town which was HWY 77, glancing at the small business; clothing stores, cafes, feed stores, pottery barns, candy shops, a barber, and a shoe store. She thought about how ironic life was. Once upon a time during her days in Denver and Arvada, the big life had been her thing. She had had to keep it somewhat low key to avoid suspicion from the wrong people, trying to stay out of jail, and Johnny from ending up in some strange people's house. Her smile was full of self-disgust. Look how good that had turned out. She never did get caught for her own dealings, but ended up behind bars covering up for her brother's. Look at her now. A tiny town filled with simple people, good, hard-working people who want to keep things simple.
Throughout the years Jamie had wondered what had really happened that night. When the police arrived they had found an ounce and a half of uncut cocaine on Carson Lincoln's body. That had gotten her more time. If it hadn't been for the drug charge, her attorney was going to get her sentence plea-bargained to second degree with a three year sentence with a year parole. The self-defense plea had been shot down because Lincoln had not had a weapon. It didn't happen that way, unfortunately. Jamie had never gotten the chance to ask Johnny or talk to him about it. She never mentioned it in any of her letters, and neither did he. Incoming mail was gone through at random, and she did not want her little brother condemning himself.
Carlos had mentioned to her at one time then that he had heard a rumor that the younger Madden was getting involved with the drug circuit, making money. Jamie had not wanted to believe it, and had asked her brother about it. He had denied everything, so she believed him, and it was never brought up again. Carson Lincoln was known as a bad boy. He had come from a very well known family with lots of money, and Lincoln had seen himself as invincible. And nearly had been until he'd decided to fuck with Johnny Madden.
The business' were getting far and few in between as the town gave way to the outskirts and spread out into wide, green, hills dotted with large heads of cattle, or wild, running horses. She sped by, absorbing the peace of the day, some of the farmers and ranchers waving as she passed. She waved back, letting everything that had happened wash over and out of her, left behind with the exhaust from the bike. The hot wind blew through her hair like baptismal fingers, cleansing her soul.
Off in the distance, just past the line of rail fence, Jamie spotted a side road, dirt, that climbed a hill, and disappeared down the other side. Curious, she slowed, and headed down it, the back tire kicking up gravel as she roared up the small hill. She slowed and stopped at the crest, stunned by what she saw on the other side. The valley was wide in its expanse, seeming untouched by the corrupting hand of man, and kissed by God. The lush, green hills gave way to a long, wide river that reflected the natural wonder around it, Tall, green trees were spaced throughout the area, birds singing and flying from branch to branch, tree to tree.
Jamie smiled, unable to stop it. Feeling the need to be ensconced in the magical place, she brought the rumbling bike to life, and headed down the embankment slowly until she reached the grassy shore of the river, and killed the engine. The tall woman plopped down in the grass next to the water, legs spread, knees raised, hands dangling off the tops. She set the walkman she'd grabbed from one of the saddlebags on her bike aside for a moment, and stared out over the river, the water softly gurgling like a child. Everything smelled so fresh, so alive. She absently ran a hand over the top of the long, wild grass, the stiff blades tickling her palm. If ten years ago someone would have told her this is where she'd be at twenty-nine, and this is the kind of place she'd fine peaceful, she would have laughed in their face, utterly miffed by such an outrageously boring place.
Jamie reached over and grabbed the headphones, tucking the small ear pieces into her ears, and hitting play. Soon the soft, riveting drums of the beginning song on the soundtrack of 'Last of the Mohicans' filled her ears and mind, and the tall brunette laid back in the grass, closing her eyes as images passed through her mind's eye to match the music. Images from her life, images from her dreams and nightmares, both real and imagined. She saw people from her past that had been guiding lights to a lost, afraid child. Especially those people she knew for the first ten short years of her life with her father. A small smile spread across full lips as Jamie stared up into the blue sky above.
Ryan O'Reilly, or Big O as he was known, had been her mentor from the time she'd been born. O'Reilly had taken Jamie away from the rest of the gang one day when they'd been set up in New Mexico. They'd walked along the riverbank, much like the one where Jamie was now, and he'd told her the story of his ancestry, and that of hers. Big O and Jamie's father had been born next door to each other in the slums of Dublin to parents who either died when the boys were very young, or didn't give a damn about them, and left them to fend for themselves. As young boys they had headed up north until they had met with members of the IRA, and had been taken into the fold, happy to be accepted, and take revenge for a life of the forgotten.
John had been born to the family McFadden, an old Irish family of royal roots, as well as the O'Reilly's. O'Reilly had told Jamie of the time that him and John had been running from Dublin in the cloak of darkness, and had been visited by a vision of an ancient Druid who had come to tell them not to take the fiery path that they were speeding down like a runaway horse. To stop, and follow the path of their fathers before them. Jamie had looked up at the large man in stunned silence, her mouth hanging open.
"Wow." she'd breathed, truly impressed. Then her brows drew. "But you didn't listen to it?" she asked.
"No that. We sure didn't." he had said, sadly shaking his head. She smiled at the slightest bit of accent that he could not shake. Her father had managed to lose just about all of his, not wanting to be reminded of his roots. "To this day I'm not sure if it were really there or not. Your father says no, but I say tis. I regret that now, little Jamie. The Ancients don't come round just to hear themselves speak." Once they had gotten north, they had done terrible things to their fellow countrymen for a cause which they themselves did not believe in.
"Then why'd you do it?" Jamie had asked.
"'Cause we could, I suppose." he sighed. "Funny that. We left Ireland to get away from that, and look at us now?"
At the time Jamie had not understood what he meant by that, but now, nearly twenty years later, she understood the power behind his words, and their meaning. They had traded one life of violence for another.
Big O had taught Jamie Gaelic until she could speak it fluently, and after awhile he would talk to her in no other tongue. When Mad Dog Madden had gotten wind of this, he'd been furious.
"I left that goddamn place to get away from it, Ryan, not have to listen to that shit all goddamn day!" John had yelled at his close friend. Big O had agreed to stop, but he hadn't. He told Jamie that on entering the United States in their early twenty's, John had changed his name from McFadden to Madden. Yet the last piece of his homeland to shed like you would a coat. He had shaken his head sadly. He had told her he wanted to go back, and she often wondered if he ever had. The last words Big O had spoken to Jamie had stayed with her;
"What a shame. Look where my family started, King of the mountain, Lords of the land. Now I'm a traitor. Not even fit to lick their boots."
Jamie sat up, looking around. The sun was lower in the sky, and she realized that she was hungry. It was time to head back to the ranch.