By Geonn Cannon

Chapter Five -

Once Rose had tended to everyone's half-empty mugs, she grabbed a washrag and headed for the back of the room to clean up a spill. She'd never before realized just how much Katie and Wilbur helped her out until they were gone; she made a mental note to never take them for granted again as she motioned to a customer that she'd be there in a minute. She'd only started to wipe up the spilled beer when the door of the bar slammed open.

Everyone jumped at the gunshot sound, but Rose was the only one who clutched her hip. She cursed herself and focused on the disheveled outline in the doorway. He was hardly recognizable as Wilbur; his normally immaculate clothes were wrinkled and dirty and his glasses sat skewed on his face. The top few buttons of his shirt were undone and he looked completely lost.

She hurried to the bar and dipped her towel into a pitcher of water. She went to Wilbur and guided him to a stool with the towel pressed to his forehead. "Wilbur? Will, what happened? Who did this to you?"

"Katie..." he gasped.

"What is it?" Rose asked. Dread was beginning to claw at her. "Is she sick? Hurt?"

Wilbur shook his head as if in a dream. His eyes were locked on a spot on the ground and he stumbled over his words when he finally spoke. "Some... m-man... has her. Some man took her. Because she talked to Black Jack."

Rose's throat tightened and she felt the blood drain from her face. She tightened her trembling hand on his shoulder and lowered her voice. "Did he... hurt her?"

"He promised he wouldn't hurt her if she tells... if she tells him how to find Black Jack."

Rose felt her chest tighten and closed her eyes. She slipped off the stool and put the rag in Wilbur's hand. "I need you to take charge, Wilbur, okay? I need you to take over for me here."

"What?" He blinked out of his daze and finally looked at her. "W-why? What's the point? I... Katie is..."

"I know how to find Black Jack. I'll get him here and..."

"No!" Wilbur said. His eyes came to life and he rose from the stool like he'd been possessed. "No. I won't have you putting yourself in danger, too, Rose."


"Katie wouldn't want you to put yourself in harm's way, either. Please, Rose."

Rose turned to face Wilbur and put both hands on his shoulders. "Whoever this bastard is, there is no way I'm going to let him hurt Katie. If getting Black Jack to town is what it takes to help her, then that's what I'm going to do." She kissed his forehead and stood. "Call your brother. Have him watch the bar and you get some rest."

He nodded and suddenly began sobbing. He bowed his head and covered his face with his hands. Rose touched his back and scanned the crowd for someone to comfort Wilbur. Everyone in the bar was standing and staring at the broken man at the bar. "Let the man alone," she said. "Go back to your drinks."

The crowd slowly dispersed and Rose led Wilbur into the back room. "I want you to stay here, Will. I'm going to go and get Katie back, you hear me? You have my word."

He nodded and put the washrag back against his face, back in his daze. Rose reluctantly left him and returned to the bar. She scanned the crowd and spotted Albert Green, the town deputy, sitting at a corner table. No matter what the sheriff might be up to, Albie was still the law. She grabbed him by the vest and dragged him behind the bar. "Don't sell anyone any more beer. When these fine folks are done, make sure they leave. When the bar is empty, shut and lock the front doors. Got it?"

"Yes, ma'am," Albie said, apparently unaware he was supposed to be the authority figure.

Rose hurried from the bar and ran down the street to the general store. The front door was standing open and Rose rushed in like tumbleweed. Valerie was finishing with a customer, bundling their purchase in a cloth sack, and smiled when she saw Rose. "Hey, there!" Her smile wavered when she got a good look at Rose's expression. "What's wrong?"

Rose shook her head and stepped to the side as the customer left. When they were alone, she shut the door and turned the lock. "I need your help, Val. Someone grabbed Katie."

Valerie's smile widened and she winked. "Did ya have to give him the ol' one-two?"

Rose grabbed Valerie's wrist and squeezed it hard enough to let her know this wasn't a joke. "No, Val. Someone *took* her."

Valerie's face fell. "Took her? What do you mean someone took her?"

Rose closed her eyes. "He's holding her hostage because..." She hesitated and touched her lips with the back of her hand. "He's holding her because she spoke to Black Jack."

Valerie's eyes widened. "John Ball had friends besides the sheriff."


Valerie lifted a section of the counter and motioned for Rose to join her on the other side. Rose massaged the back of her neck and began pacing between the counter and the door to the back room. Valerie chewed her thumbnail and asked, "What are we going to do?"

"Not us," Rose said. "Me. I'm riding home to get the outfit. Black Jack will be here to get Katie released."

"Rose... last time was pushing it. How long do you think you can go on before someone gets wise?"

Rose stopped pacing and stared Valerie down. "And if I do nothing and Katie gets killed? It's my fault she got took. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if something happened to her because of me. Just... be ready if I need a hand. Okay? I'm gonna think of a way to let this asshole know Black Jack is in town to stay without putting anyone else in danger."

Valerie nodded. "I'll be here for anything you need."

"Thank you, Valerie." Rose squeezed her friend's hand before she ran from the building. They didn't have much time to get ready.


After confronting Wilbur, Dearborn had returned to the small house next to the post office. From the front window of the living room, he could see the road into town as well as the front of Paradise Rose. Whenever someone walked past the window, he would look up and watch them until they disappeared from sight. He had a guitar laid across his lap and occasionally attempted to strum out a song. "Your husband reliable?" he asked. He waited and, when he didn't get an answer, turned to look at the couch. "I asked you a question, darling."

Katie was on her back on the couch, hands tied behind her back. She was staring at the ceiling, her tears trailing down her cheeks. She softly replied, "Yes."

Dearborn shook his head and went back to the guitar. "I don't want to start hitting you just to get an answer out of you. Understand me?"

"I'm sorry," Katie said. "I'm not used to being held hostage."

"Yeah," Dearborn sighed. "Yes, you must take that into account, I suppose." He pursed his lips and sat forward. He put the guitar against the wall and folded his hands in his lap.

Katie turned her head slightly and hazarded a question. "Who does that belong to?"

"Me," he said. He checked his watch and stood up to begin pacing. "Come on, Davies. I don't have all day..." He hooked his thumbs in his pockets and looked out the window.

"You didn't tell Wilbur where I was. How is he supposed to..."

"He'll get Black Jack. When Black Jack gets to town... I'll hear about it."

"Wilbur doesn't *know* Black Jack!" Katie said. "That's what I've been trying to tell you. If you'd let me go, I could find him and..."

Dearborn turned and faced her. "You're not going anywhere. If Black Jack doesn't show, you'll have to be my little... insurance policy."

"Then... l-let me talk to Rose. Rose Skinner, my husband's bartender."

"Is she another of Black Jack's whores?" Dearborn smirked. "What, does the man have a stable around here someplace?"

Katie closed her eyes. "No."

Dearborn sat down next to her chair and patted her shoulder. "Don't worry, sweetheart. This'll all be over soon. Promise you that."


Rose dismounted Ezekiel at the outskirts of town and guided him off the main path. She had changed at home and couldn't risk being seen on Ezekiel in her Black Jack outfit. She brushed his mane and whispered in his ear. "I'm going to have to leave you here for now, boy. But I'll be back. Don't I always come back for you?"

He nickered and turned his head until he hit the brim of her hat. She smiled and said, "Good boy. Now here..." He stopped under an apple tree and said, "Try not to get sick." She patted him on the flank and returned to the path. With one more look over her shoulder at him, she hitched up her belt and walked confidently towards town.

*"You swing your hips too much,"* a ghost told her. *"Men don't walk like that."*

She silenced the voice of her past, but didn't ignore it. She changed her stride, moving with her shoulders instead of her hips. She tugged the bandana up over her nose and kept her chin raised defiantly.

Storm clouds were threatening from the west and she was stifling in the outfit. Sweat was beginning to pour down her back and was beading on her upper lip. She fought the urge to wipe it away and focused on the street ahead.

The walk to town only took five minutes, but in that time her feet had started aching and she felt like she'd been dipped into a lake. She passed the barbershop first and saw Winston Orr sweeping his front stoop. He paused and leaned against his broom. His jaw dropped and he breathed, "My lord." He stepped back into his shop and slammed the door behind him.

Rose continued on, seeing people out of the corner of her eye but paying them no attention. They were people she'd served drinks, people who had leered at her and left her coins to 'buy something pretty.' Now, they were running in fear at the very sight of her. She passed Valerie's store, but didn't see the dark-haired woman at the door. Finally, she reached city hall and stopped in the center of the street.

She rested her hand on the butt of her gun and waited.


The front door opened and one of Dearborn's lackeys stuck his head in. "Boss. Some kind of commotion going on down at city hall."

Dearborn got to his feet and parted the curtain with one hand. "It's about time," he muttered. He grabbed his hat and turned to Katie. "You sit tight. I don't care what happens to you and, so far, that's worked in your favor. But I won't bat an eye if my boy has to kill you."

"Wait, I'm staying here?" the lackey said. "I thought..."

"You stand guard. I'm taking Pauley."

"Ah, hell," the other guard said. "Can I at least have a little fun with her while you're gone?"

Katie flinched.

Dearborn shook his head. "Kill her if you have to. But don't defile her. I don't stand for that sort of thing."

He opened a cabinet and withdrew a gun belt. "Be back in a few minutes."

Pauley was sitting on the porch with a hat pulled low over his eyes. Dearborn kicked his foot. "You ready?"

"Ah yeah," Pauley muttered. He stumbled to his feet and coughed before following Dearborn from the porch.

"A couple of these buildings have ladders on the back side," Dearborn said. "Find one, climb it and find a good vantage point for the gunfight."

"What's the plan?" Pauley asked.

"Cheating, my boy." He smiled and said, "I didn't stay alive by playing fair. Creative strategy is just another skill."


The crowd was already gathered when Dearborn strode into the center of the street. They had appeared on the sidewalks as the skies filled with heavy, dark clouds. He stopped a few paces from Black Jack and sized up the other shooter. "The infamous Black Jack. You ready for this?" He planted both hands on his hips and tilted his head. When no reply seemed forthcoming, he said, "Cat got your tongue, son?"

Rose licked her lips, tasting the salty sweat that had gathered there, and lifted her hand. She dropped it in a slashing motion in a pre-arranged signal to Valerie. From the sidelines, Valerie called, "He wants to know where Katie Davies is."

"Who might you be?" Dearborn asked as he searched for the translator.

"Valerie Monroe."

"Valerie Monroe," Dearborn repeated. "How you know what he's asking?"

"Because Katie Davies is a friend of *mine,* you bastard! Where is she?"

Dearborn smirked. "Well, if your friend here loses, you'll find out. But if he wins... well. Darn the luck, I don't know how you'll ever find her." He pursed his lips at Rose and said, "What do you say, count of ten?"

Rose nodded once.

A nervous man with a gold pocket watch stepped out of the crowd and held it up with a shaking hand. "Okay, um... I-I could do the count."

"Mighty kind of you, sir."

The man began counting down. The sweat was beginning to sting her eyes, her palms slick against her gun. She focused on Dearborn's shoulder. She saw that his eyes were locked on the sliver of skin visible between her hat brim and the edge of her bandana. She mentally planned out her movements; gun out of the holster, shoulder back, fire twice, straighten. She'd go for a debilitating shot, not a kill. The town may be small, but they had to make him give up where he was hiding Katie. It would be a strike to his ego. Maybe if she humiliated him, it would keep others from...

Something slammed into her from behind and she hit a knee, bringing a hand to her right shoulder to see what was causing the pain. Another gunshot rang out and a hot poker ripped through her side. She dropped down, heart pounding, shoulder now throbbing. There was a new stream of warm liquid inside her shirt and she realized she'd been shot at least twice. But how? Dearborn had never drawn his gun. He'd never even...

He'd set her up. That's what the delay had been. She tightened her jaw and lifted her head, watching as Katie's kidnapper walked towards her. He had finally drawn his weapon and was tapping it against his thigh. He towered over her, drowning her in his shadow. "Well, now. Mighty sorry about crushing your whole hero thing. But you understand that we..."

Another gunshot roared and Rose cringed. When the pain didn't come, she lifted her head and saw that Dearborn was kneeling in the dirt next to her. His face was twisted with a mixture of pain, anger and confusion and he was gripping his left shoulder. Rose slid backwards through the dirt, half-sitting, one hand pressed to her bloody shoulder. Valerie walked up and kicked Dearborn down, forcing him to lie on his back in the dirt.

Valerie's bullet had torn a hole in the man's shoulder. She leveled the barrel at his face and said, "You shot Black Jack. Big deal. Town doesn't need him no more. Town's got a backbone of its own." She looked at Black Jack and sneered, "Get on outta here. We don't need you to protect us anymore. We're not *children.* Go." Her eyes softened slightly and Rose saw the concern behind the angry words. "GO."

With an effort that almost knocked her out, Rose got to her feet. Blood and sweat pooled inside her shirt, sticking her flesh to the cloth. Her entire right side felt like it was on fire, but she somehow managed to turn on unsteady feet and start walking. Her vision was blurring and her knees felt like they wanted to bend in every direction at once. But she could walk. She could walk, if the horizon would just stop tilting every thirty seconds...

She slipped into an alley and weaved between the buildings in the hopes she wouldn't be spotted. It felt like someone had dropped a weight into the center of her back. Every few steps, she had to fight the urge to drop to the sand and sleep. She lost her balance and slammed her shoulder into the wall, a surge of nausea rising in her chest. She fought it down just as the snake-thin man reached the bottom of the ladder a few feet away from her.

There was a revolver stuck in his belt and he was giggling like a child. He turned and spotted her, eyes wide and lower lip dropping. Rose knew who he was immediately and realized how Dearborn had managed to get the drop on her. She pulled her gun free with her left hand as the second shooter reached for his weapon. Her reaction time was delayed enough that he was able to bring the gun up before she fired.

He dropped his gun and dropped to his knees, blood tainting the collar of his shirt. He fell backward and Rose let her gun drop. The strength had gone out of her arm and she let it hang by her side like a limp rope.

Drenched with sweat, blood now dripping from her clothes, she wearily continued on her journey. Couldn't go to the town doctor. Anyone getting treated for a gunshot wound the same day Black Jack got shot, even if she was a woman, would be a little too easy for people to put together. She needed a doctor, a doctor no one would be likely to question. A doctor whose silence could be bought or coerced.

She only had one option.


Ada Odell's house was on the northern edge of town. It was a simple, square house with a porch running along the north and western side. The house had a low roof, the eaves hanging over the window and door, and bore the mark of shoddy workmanship. But Ada had taken care, planting a garden that dominated the fenced-in back yard and painting the old, gray wood white.

The storm clouds hung heavy but refused to spill and ended up drowning everything with humidity. The heat was unbearable inside, even with all the windows open, so Ada lounged on the porch and watched the butterflies and birds swarm in her little slice of heaven. A pewter-colored mockingbird perched on the waist-high picket fence that bordered her property. He looked at her, shrugging his wings in a flashy display of white feathers.

Ada gathered a handful of seed in her hands and tossed it lazily onto the footpath that ran between her budding flowers. The bird dove for it, chirping incessantly as it gathered the spilled food. She'd been in Paradise Rose when she heard of all the drama unfolding; Katie kidnapped, the man who'd stolen her demanding to see Black Jack. It seemed unreal, like something in a dime novel, so she had retreated here, to her sanctuary, in the hopes the peace and quiet would calm her mind.

She was reaching for the seed to toss another handful to the birds when something crashed loudly against her fence. She was on her feet as the mockingbird took flight with an irritated cry for his unfinished lunch. As Ada stumbled off the porch, she tried to understand what she was seeing. A man, dressed all in black, was struggling with bloody hands to undo the latch on her fence door.

"Get out!" Ada shouted. She prayed for some kind of weapon, but all she had was her birdseed and her rocking chair. "Go!"

"Ada," the man in black rasped, his voice... her voice? That couldn't be right... weak and pained. Ada approached cautiously as the intruder collapsed outside the fence. Against her better judgment, she unlatched the gate and knelt next to the broken body. She tugged the mask away and froze.

Rose's face was pale, her eyes half-lidded and swimming unfocused. She was panting, sweat making her pale face shine like a moon through the clouds. Ada had seen faces like this in her husband's office. Usually, they prompted a call to the undertaker. Rose's eyes finally focused on Ada's face and she whispered her name.

The spell cast by her shock finally broken, Ada tugged the bandana away with trembling fingers and felt Rose's throat for a pulse. She found one and tried not to look stricken at how slow it was. "Rose, why are you dressed like this?" Ada whispered. There was no answer; Rose had already gone slack in her arms. She wrapped an arm around Rose and half-carried, half-dragged her towards the house.


Katie closed her eyes and hunched her shoulders up in the hopes it would drown out the sounds. Dear God, why weren't they stopping? There had been three gunshots already, all of them coming from the direction of downtown. The last time, Rose had just drawn and fired. Three shots meant something had gone wrong. What if Dearborn really was as good as he claimed? What...

Another gunshot.

She was trembling now. The man Dearborn had left with her seemed overanxious to get out and see what was going on. He moved from the window to the open front door and kept moving towards the couch. Katie cringed every time he got close, but he seemed to remember Dearborn's admonishment before he ever got too far. He pushed the curtain aside and laughed. "Ah, I knew it. I knew it."

He hurried to the door and yelled, "Mr. Dearborn!" He whooped in victory and ran down the porch.

Katie began to sob.

"What's going on?"

"Get back inside, Tom," Dearborn said.

"Who are all these people?"

"Damn it, Tom, get back inside the house!"

She heard boots on the porch and pressed against the back of the couch. Dearborn sounded mad, sounded fit to kill. So Rose had shot him, probably just made him mad and then he'd killed her. Rose was dead. Oh, God, Rose had died for her.

"Get up," Dearborn hissed. He sounded like he was right on top of her and she squeezed her eyes tighter.

Another voice said, "You heard the man, Katie. Stand up."

Katie's eyes opened and she peered skeptically over her shoulder. Valerie was standing in the doorway with two handguns, both apparently brand-new from the stock of her store, aimed at Dearborn and his lackey. Katie gasped and rolled off the couch, rushing to Valerie's side. She saw out the front door that the entire town seemed to have followed Valerie from the shootout.

"Katie!" Wilbur called.

Katie broke away from Valerie's side and rushed out of the house. As soon as Wilbur appeared at the front of the crowd, she leapt and was caught in his arms. Valerie backed out of the house and motioned at the edge of the porch. "You fellas sit down there. Nice and calm. And we'll wait for the sheriff to show up."

"Sheriff?" Tom asked.

"That's right," Valerie said. She lowered her voice so only Dearborn and Tom could hear her. "I'm sure he'd be hard-pressed to find a reason not to arrest you. What with all these witnesses."

"You said we couldn't get arrested," Tom hissed at Dearborn.

Dearborn ignored him and pressed his hand tighter against the bullet wound in his shoulder.

Wilbur untied Katie's hands and embraced her properly. Valerie leaned against the doorframe of Dearborn's house and waited patiently for the sheriff to wander by.


Sheriff Jones checked his watch as the doctor stumbled up the steps of the jailhouse. Ben Tyler was ancient, his curly white hair clinging to his skull like an unruly wool cap. He wore a bushy mustache, his beard allowed to flourish in fits and spurts on his cheeks in places the razor never really reached. His cotton shirt and vest tried valiantly to cover a hunch in his left shoulder, but he didn't let the deformity slow him down. The liquor did a good enough job of that. The collar of his shirt was dark from sweat and he clutched a soiled handkerchief that he kept touching to his forehead.

As the hunchback doctor shuffled through the door, Jones sniffed and checked his watch; 10:32 in the morning. "Bit early to be drinking, don't you think, Tyler?"

"Beer's there and the beer's cold," Tyler sighed. He ran a hand through his hair, only contributing to the mess. He turned. "You gonna start arresting people for drinking now, William?"

"Nope. Not *just* for drinking."

The doctor grunted and spit, shaking his head as he moved towards the open cell door. "How's the patient doing?"

"Still shot," Noah Dearborn said.

Sheriff Jones let Tyler into the cell and stepped back. He was as pissed off as Dearborn looked. He'd stumbled over the impromptu mob and his hand had been forced. If Black Jack was to be considered a criminal, so must Noah Dearborn. He cuffed the man and his accomplice and brought them to the prison.

The newspaper had already gone into special printings, hailing Valerie as a true hero while Black Jack was a mere coward; a gunslinger with a bit of skill and a lot of ego who liked to throw his weight around. No one knew where he'd gone after he was shot by an unknown third man, but good riddance to him.

He still couldn't understand Valerie Monroe and Katie Davies. They'd slipped away as Dearborn was being arrested and looked distraught over something. He knew they'd both been attached to Black Jack. He wondered if they knew where he'd run off to. He made a mental note to question them further as he watched Tyler tend to Dearborn's shoulder.

They had found Dearborn's other accomplice shot dead in one of the back alleys of the town. The consensus was that Black Jack, on his way out of town, had found the man and dispensed quicker justice than the law would have allowed. Desperate for direction, Scott had contacted the man they had been sending payments to, a crime boss in Chicago that had given them Dearborn's name. They hadn't gotten past a secretary who claimed absolute ignorance. "No, sir, no Dearborn on our payroll. Must be someone else. Have a nice day, thank you."

Once he was safely locked away in his cell, Dearborn had calmly and quietly turned the tables. He casually explained to Jones everything that he knew. He listed it all out, names and dates and plots. He had enough to take down both Jones and Mayor Scott. He calmly detailed how he would tell anyone and everyone, at the top of his lungs, just why he had targeted their town. "These fine folks led me through town at gunpoint," Dearborn wondered idly. "I wonder what they would do to you and your boy Scott."

Jones had immediately become accommodating, offering to call the doctor and bring him by as soon as possible. Dr. Tyler was the only man inside of sixty miles even halfway qualified to deal with a wound of this nature. Despite Tyler's love of drink, he had sure hands and a confident manner.

Jones was snapped from his reverie by Tyler knocking on the bars. "All right, he's all wrapped up."

"You aren't leaving yet!" Dearborn snapped. "I need more pills. These aren't doing anything."

"You gotta give it time, son," Tyler said. He barely moved his lips when he spoke, his eyelids hanging so heavy Jones kept thinking he was about to fall asleep. Tyler gathered his things and headed for the exit, stopped by a hand on his shoulder. Jones stepped close, so Dearborn wouldn't overhear, and said, "You treat anyone else like this lately, Doc?"

"Anyone else with a bullet or anyone else who's a pain in my ass?" He scoffed and shook his head. "Nope. Ain't had one since the Land Run. Been kind of nice." He thought for a moment and said, "That Black Jack feller, if he's still alive, most likely headed to Guthrie."

Jones shrugged. "Could be. Or he could've headed to Fort Reno."

"And explained to all them government doctors and US Marshals how he happened to get a bullet in his shoulder? Sure, son. Sure. Trust me. Black Jack headed towards Guthrie, if he has any sense in his head. He either found a doctor there, or a vulture will find him between the two places. But the one thing I'll tell you for free is that you will not find the man in my office." He pushed Jones' hand off his shoulder and said, "Now, I have to go pick up my patient's medicine."

"The scotch and whiskey?"

Tyler tapped his watch. "Pharmacy ain't open all day!"

Jones shook his head and watched Tyler shuffle out the door.


Ada managed to get Rose into the house and onto the bed, already sweating from exertion. She wiped her sleeve across her forehead, leaving smeared blood in her wake. She tore Rose's shirt open with her bare hands and revealed the wound. The first shot had come from above; the bullet had entered her shoulder at a sharp downward angle. Judging from the angle of the second bullet wound, there had either been a second shooter or Rose had twisted after being shot the first time. Ada was betting on the latter.

Ada put pressure on the second wound and felt a slight suction. She kept one hand on the wound and started digging in her night stand for anything that she could use as a compress. She'd watched her husband do the same thing countless times, had even assisted him once. But now, with Rose's blood seeping between her fingers...

She gave up her search and grabbed a handful of the sheet. She pressed it against the bloody hole and used her free hand to gently slap Rose's cheek. "Rose? Rose! I need you to hold this tight. Okay?" Rose's eyes fluttered and Ada slapped her harder. "Rose!"

Rose's eyes opened and her fingers tightened against Ada's.

She took Rose's hand and pressed it against the compress. "Hold this tight! Okay?"

Rose nodded and squeezed her eyes shut from the pain.

Ada stood and ran from the room and tried desperately to remember where she'd put her husband's medical bag. She ignored the pounding of her heart in her ears and focused, finally finding the bag next to the back door. She bent down and snatched it up, not missing a step as she turned and darted back towards the bedroom. A slick, thin trail of red led from the back door into the bedroom. Ada, knowing the blood was from Rose, swallowed her fear and forced herself back into the bedroom.

She resisted the urge to scream at what she saw. Rose's hand had gone limp and the blood was flowing freely from her side. "No, no, no, no," Ada gasped. She practically flung herself at the bedside and pressed her own hand against the bloody sheet.

Rose groaned and tossed her head to the side. "No."

"What?" Ada said.

"Duh-on't," Rose gasped.

"It's all right, Rose," Ada said. "I know it hurts. It'll get better once I..."

"Don't... save me..." Rose said. Her face was pale and drawn, her features pulled tight in pain. Her eyes flashed and Ada saw that Rose was definitely lucid. "I don't... deserve it..."

Ada opened her bag with one hand and said, "You wanna die? Well, then you shouldn't have come to me."

Rose's eyelids fluttered and her body sagged against the mattress. Her reluctant patient unconscious, Ada went to work at dressing the wound.

To be continued in Chapter Six

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