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Sheriff Cooper led Rebecca away from the clearing. and gently tried to question her. She offered no resistance as her took her arm. She cast furtive looks back to where Cassie lay with Maude by her side. Her attention was scattered which made questioning harder.
"This was not supposed to happen." She mumbled.
"What was not supposed to happen?" The Sheriff asked when they reached the trees.
"It was all my fault. I did it."
"What did you do?"
"I only did it so that Cassie would love me again. It is my fault she got hurt."
"Miss Rebecca, I understand. You did not mean for anyone to get hurt." He said softly. "Can you tell me what you did?"
"I sent the telegram. I brought them here."
"You were the one to let Victoria's father know she was here. He brought Corrigan. Did you know they were back in the area?"
"Yes, but he lied. He hurt Cassie. He said he would not hurt her. I heard him tell the old man he would not hurt either of them. He was only supposed to take Victoria and leave. He lied."
"How long have they been in the area?"
"I don't know for sure. I noticed them a few days ago and I watched them. I was late today because my horse needed to have a shoe replaced. I could have stopped this."
"Why didn't you tell me they were back?" "We might have been able to stop this from happening."
"I could have stopped this." she repeated.
"No miss. By yourself you would have only given them another target. These men were going to get what they wanted no matter what the cost. You would only have given them a third woman to assault. What did you do when you found them gone?"
"I knew where they were headed so I went there also. I saw the tracks in the dirt by the lake and knew they belonged to Cassie. So I followed them. A third horse joined them and the dog went back in the other direction. I followed the tracks." She stopped.
"Then what did you do?"
"Can I see Cassie?"
"Maybe after Doc has finished. Now you follow the horses. Then what?"
"I saw where they left their horses and I went on foot. I heard them laughing and some one getting hit." She shuddered as if chilled. "That was Cassie they were hitting. I looked for a way to surprise them. I heard a scream. When I got to the clearing, they were both on the ground naked with scum bastards on top of them. Cassie was all beat up and the men were holding her down. I shot the animal on top of Cassie first then the other two. I think I killed them."
"Yes you did."
"I had to. They hurt Cassie. Don't you understand, I had to kill them."
"What about Corrigan?"
"He was... I surprised him. He jumped up, and his... He didn't even try to cover up. He said to get out or her would teach me too. So I shot him too. Is he dead?"
"I don't know."
"He deserved that, you know. He lied to me and hurt Cassie. Told his men to hurt her. To... to... What about the others?"
"They will be taken into custody and tried for their part in the attack."
"I should killed them all. I would have if you had not stopped me."
"There is no doubt in my mind that you would have. I hate to do this, but I have to arrest you also. You killed at least three men."
"They deserved to die for what they did."
"Yes they did, but that was not for you to decide. That is what the courts are for."
"When can I see Cassie?"
"That depends on what Doc has to say. I will take you back and ask him." He led her back to the clearing.
Doc finished his examination by the time they had returned. He tied bandages around Cassie's ribs and eyes. He wanted to prevent any further damage in case she woke up before they were home. Sheriff cooper led Rebecca over to Cassie. Maude stood in front of her daughter and faced Rebecca with her fists balled in anger.
"Get her away from my daughter. What were you thinking?" Maude ordered as she jumped to her feet.. "She is the one who caused this to happen."
Rebecca took a shaky breath. "Mrs. Jones, I am very sorry that this has happened. I did not..."
Maude interrupted her. "I do not want to hear another word from you. You caused this to happen. Your possessive jealousy caused this. Sheriff get her away from my daughter. She has done enough damage. Get her out of my sight before I do..."
Doc grabbed her arm. "Maude calm down. This is not the time for anger. Cassie needs you." Maude looked up into Doc's sad eyes, took a deep breath, before she knelt back down at Cassie's side. She watched the Sheriff lead Rebecca away.
The first wagon had been brought around the hill and was as close to the trees as possible. Cassie and Victoria were both gently lifted into the wagon bed. The dog jumped into the wagon and placed her head on Cassie's leg. The men help Maude and Granny into the wagon with the injured women. Doc climbed up behind them to tend his patients.
The second wagon was brought up. The captives were tied up and put into the wagon after the dead men were dumped into the back. Rebecca was allowed to ride her horse into town. The injured were brought back to the ranch. Many of the men went with the Sheriff to help guard the prisoners.
The ride back was slow in deference to the injured women to spare them any additional pain. It took almost an hour to get the wagon back to the house. Maude held tight to Cassie's hand the entire journey. Her tears fell unimpeded into her lap. Granny softly her healing prayers. The rest of the men had returned from their night in town and helped carry Cassie and Victoria into the house. Neither woke on the journey. The men gently laid Cassie in her bed and started to put Victoria in hers when Granny stopped them.
"They must be together." She commanded. They did not question her command and gently laid Victoria next to Cassie. "I will return with a drink for them both." She left the room.
The men left behind her. Ellie brought water to help Maude clean their injuries and put them both into clean sleep shirts. Once they were cleaned and comfortable, Maude sat by Cassie's side and held her hand again. She looked at the battered face of her beloved daughter. The tears that had stopped started fresh. She remember how often Cassie had gotten hurt as a child. This was the worse she had ever been hurt. The thought that Cassie might lose her eyesight was more than she could bear. She knew her daughter. How independent she was. The loss of her eyesight and independence would drive Cassie crazy.
When she woke and found out... what? Doc said it could happen, not that it woul d. She told herself. Don't go looking for more trouble. Granny said she would face darkness. Is Granny right? Wait until Cassie wakes up before you panic . She looked at Victoria. What about Victoria? How will she handle the knowledge that she was violated? Where the Hell was her father during the attack? Didn't he return with the monsters? If he did where is he? Did he know what was going to happen? Did he condone the attack? He couldn't. No father would allow that to happen to their daughter.
"Maude did you say something?" Ellie asked.
"I am sorry. I did not realize I spoke out loud. I was thinking about Victoria's father. Where is he? did he come back? Did he know about the attacks? I hope he didn't. I can not bring myself to think he knew and allowed this to happen. Did that bastard kill him?"
"I don't know, Maude. He was not in the clearing. Want me to ask the hands to go out looking for him?"
"Yes please. If Corrigan turned on him, he could be hurt or dead. We need to find out. Victoria would want to know."
"I will take care of that. The men are all waiting for orders or word of their condition." She left the room.
Granny came back with two cups and herbs. She mixed the herbs they had prepared that morning and placed them into the cups. She added water to the herbs and stirred the mixture. She placed one cup on the table next to Cassie.
"We need to get all of this into each of them. Because of her broken ribs, Cassie can not be raised while we do this. We will have to be careful she does not choke. Miss Maude see if you can tip her head back a little." She said as she finished mixing the herbs. When Cassie's head was in position, Granny sucked some of the mixture into a straw. She placed her fingertip over the top of the straw and placed it in Cassie's mouth. She removed her finger and the straw emptied. She rubbed the side of Cassie's throat until she swallowed. She repeated the procedure until the cup was empty. They did the same with Victoria. Soon both women were once again laying side by side.
Granny took the empty cups. "If they do not wake up in an hour, I will get them something to help."
A thought came to Maude. "Granny, what about," she stopped. "What if either one become pregnant from this?"
"That will not happen." Granny answered.
"How can you be so sure?"
"There will be no child for either of them because of this."
"Miss Maude, the medicine we just gave them will prevent that from happening."
"I am sorry, Granny. I should have known better to question you." Maude said contritely.
"That does not matter, Miss Maude. I would have worried about that also if I were in your place. I will bring back a poultice for Cassie's ribs." She left the room again.
To be continued...
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