Healing Hearts (Easton Series #2) (3 page)

BOOK: Healing Hearts (Easton Series #2)
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Hannah’s parents, and her father
in particular, had worked hard to give her an education normally reserved for a
son. She’d thrived on books and learning. It went unstated, but the message to
her was clear: She was to be a work partner, not a bed partner.

*
      
*
        
*

  
When they arrived at Rutherford’s
house the sheriff paused outside the door, pondering the doctor’s orders. He’d
said the new man was to bunk in the kitchen, where a bed had been wedged into a
tight corner. However, as there was no privacy curtain, and no space for
personal items, Roy decided this arrangement wasn’t proper for a pretty lady
doctor.

  
He shoved open the creaky door. “Doc
isn’t much for house repairs,” he apologized over his shoulder.

  
Hannah Sutton followed, declaring the
place “nice” with a false brightness, even before he had a chance to fire up a lamp
and show it off in dim light.

  
Sheriff Easton grunted and tossed
his hat on the table. He wiped his brow and ran a hand through his
shoulder-length hair. Over lighting the table lantern he thought about how he’d
best change the sleeping arrangements.

  
“You hear that?” He cocked an ear
to the ceiling.

  
“Hear what?” Hannah whispered.

  
“Flapping. There’s, uh, a bat
upstairs.”

  
She sucked in a breath. “Blast.”

  
A corner of his mouth turned up. “Dang
Rutherford! He left the window open. Wait here Doctor, and I’ll go up to fetch
the critter out.”

 
 
The sheriff had decided to assign Hannah to
Rutherford’s bedroom upstairs, and he had to play the charade to go up there
and make sure things were in order. He lit another lamp and bounded up the
narrow back steps to inspect the private space. The bed wasn’t made, and
clothes were strewn about on the floor and across a chair. Roy grabbed the
covers and pulled them up, smoothing the wool army blanket to remove lumps.
Then he collected the clothes and stacked them in the hallway hamper. Tiny
bottles and a few old photos littered a night table; Roy stacked them on a
corner of the bureau. It wasn’t a proper clean up job, but he couldn’t delay
much longer. He stomped and jumped and whooped a few times to pretend at bat
catching.

  
Roy stumbled down the steps,
winded from his hasty housekeeping efforts. “I pushed the critter out the
window,” he winked. “Your room is clear up there.”

  
Hannah smiled.
 
“Thank you. A sheriff has
interesting
duties.”

  
Easton threw back his head and
laughed. “You don’t know the half of it, but some of my adventures end up in
sheriff’s column in the
Wounded Colt
Dispatch
.”

  
“Will your bat story make it in?”
Her gray eyes danced in the soft light.

  
“Likely. It’s a small town paper.”
He paused.“You hungry?”

  
She shot a glance at the stove. “Those
cookies will satisfy me.”

  
Easton followed her gaze and saw
the treats Rutherford had left on a plate for his new guest. “Ah. Well. The doc
often gets cakes and pies as payment. You’ll be well fed here, Miss , I mean
Doc.” He walked over to the stove and wrapped his hands around a cast iron pot.
“There’s warm water in here. You can use it to wash up.” He picked up his hat turned
it in his hands. “If there’s anything else you need, come down to my office and
knock three times, hard, to wake me.” He smiled, revealing white and perfect
teeth.

  
“You’re very kind, Mr. Easton.
Thank you.”

  
The lawman shoved his hat onto his
head and moved to the door. “Goodnight, Doctor Sutton.”

   
“Goodbye, Sheriff.”

  
Then he was gone. Hannah ladled
warm water from the large pot into a bowl she found on the dry sink. Soap and
cloths had been laid out; she stripped down and washed the trail dirt off as
best she could. It wasn’t a proper bath, but the water on her skin was a great
comfort. Water was safe. Water soothed. Water gave life and chased away danger.

  
Then Hannah stuffed her clothes
into her bag, and carried it in one hand as she held the lamp in the other, She
tiptoed through the healing temple, and noted the clinic was clean and stock
was organized on shelves set against the stark white-washed walls. She was
pleased to see the signs of a disciplined practice. Even though she hadn’t met
him yet, Doctor Rutherford made a good first impression.

 
 

   

Chapter 3

  

Y
ou’re a woman!”

  
He decided
it must be another of Roy Easton’s pranks. A cruel joke was the last thing Jed
needed in the wee hours of the morning. He’d hauled his exhausted body home to
find a lump in his bed. An unmistakably soft, curved womanly form lay under the
wool army blanket.

  
The slumbering body startled,
opened her eyes, and squinted up at Jed.

  
“And you’re a man.” Her voice
croaked. “Nature is indeed a wonder, sir.”

  
The woman sat up, cleared her
throat, and stretched her naked white arms. The blanket fell away, and, through
a thin sleeveless nightgown, Jed could see the outline of full breasts. Thick
dark hair flowed to her perfect small waist. Her eyes were large and
almond-shaped, but he couldn’t determine the color in the dusty-dimness of the
small room.

  
He groaned, but he wasn’t entirely
sure it was from disappointment.

  
“Hello. Doctor Rutherford, I presume?”

  
He leveled furious eyes on her. “I
told Cole to send me a doctor! Not a nurse!”

  
She rested on one elbow and peered
up at the scowling face. “Doctor Hannah Sutton, at your service.” Leaning
forward, she held out a small hand. The nightgown gapped open at the neck, and
he caught a view of soft hills down to a perfect, flat valley.

  
“You’re a woman!”

   
“Yes, you said that already.
Excellent call, sir. Your powers of clinical observation are laudable.” She
arched one lovely eyebrow and smiled.

  
Jed staggered back against the
bureau and barely suppressed a second groan. This time it definitely wasn’t
disappointment talking.

  
Yet the woman ignored what she
perceived to be his theatrics. “While the sexual function differs between us,
in this moment it appears I am your superior in brain and emotional stability,”
she proudly proclaimed. “Cross my heart, Doctor, I won’t hold your natural deficits
against you, sir.” Her smile grew.

 
The woman’s sweet voice enveloped him
like warm water in a relaxing bath.
No
!
Rutherford’s palm hit his forehead. “No . . . no. This won’t do. It will not
work.” He paced the floor like a caged animal in front of her. The woman was
too pretty and frail for Montana life. Besides, no woman could tolerate life
under the cloud of his cruel disposition and eccentricities. A woman simply wouldn’t
do.

  
“What do you mean no? I’m a
doctor. Isn’t that what you sent for?”

  
“You’re a nurse. Women aren’t
doctors.”

  
She glared. “Surely you’ve heard
of Mary Walker, the war surgeon.”

  
“Of course, of course, but ---“

  
“Sir, I have the same training. I
am not lacking.”

  
He hacked out a coarse laugh. This
woman was too young, and too . . . too pretty for frontier life. Her skin was
soft, her eyes those of an innocent. “Walker didn’t look like, look, it’s that
I was unprepared for – “

  
“You dismiss me, but my training
is recent, and with the best minds. Walker was a regular, no doubt like you.”
Her words carried a sarcastic tone. “I’ve learned all that’s new to medicine.”

  
He rolled his eyes to the ceiling.
“God save me. You’re a homeopath?”

  
“In truth, I lean to the eclectic
philosophy. I’m a pragmatic, sir. I use observation and science. I was the best
in my class at curing infections.” She punctuated her points with a bobbing
fist.

  
“Fine. Fine,” he bit off, as he
noted how her eyes shone through the dim space like silver coins. “Miss Sutton,
I’m spent. I’m in no mood to battle with you about approaches to practicing
medical arts. I’ve just now come from a grueling sixteen-hour birthing, and my
head feels like it’s been hit with an iron skillet. I’m going down to the
kitchen to sleep, and when I wake I hope to find this was all a bad dream.”

  
Jed turned on one heel and stomped
down the stairs, his temples pounding with every step. He stumbled into the
surgery for a dose of laudanum before wandering to the kitchen, where he kicked
off his boots and dropped his body onto the wooden, canvas covered cot. The
makeshift bed was narrow and too short for his over six-foot frame. He turned
onto his side and brought his knees up, but they hung over the side and the
wood frame cut into his leg.
Damn.
What had he done to Cole to deserve this?

  
With rain pelting the roof he drifted
off, and it felt as though five minutes had passed when he heard banging at the
back entrance.

  
Jed rolled over, deciding he’d
shoot the coyote who was interrupting his sleep.

  
Before he could think about where
he’d hid his pistol, the woman named Hannah Sutton flew past him and let the
varmint in. A gust of wind and water assaulted Jed as the door opened, and he
saw the outline of a small man clinging to a larger as they crossed the
threshhold. The shorter man was clearly injured. He was moaning, and his arm
hung askew. Both men were soaked to the skin.

  
“Sheriff!” Hannah Sutton exclaimed.

  
“Doctor Sutton! I have your first
patient. Name’s Pete Cochran. His horse spooked and threw him.”

  
“Bring him this way Mr. Easton.”
Hannah, dressed in a wrapper thrown over her nightgown, took charge and led
them past Jed, who was scrambling to his feet and grabbing for his boots as he
hurried to join the group in the surgery.

  
Cochran staggered to the
examination room before he lost consciousness. Roy Easton laid him out for
examination. Hannah gently removed his soiled shirt, and muttered with disdain about
how he smelled of whiskey.

  
“Drunken riding is a dangerous
business, especially in a storm,” she chastised the man who was passed out on
the table. “At least the bone didn’t pierce the skin,” she observed. Hannah hunted
for splints.

  
Jed swayed and hovered behind her.
“I’ll take over now.”

  
“I’ve done this before,” she
argued. She pulled up her shoulders and waved an arm as if to fend off a pesky
horsefly.

  
Great
, Jed thought. He’d have a talk with her about the chain of
command after the sheriff left. Easton, for his part, was holding Pete Cochran
on the table but now he looked like he’d rather be anywhere else. “If I’d known
I was going to cause a spat, I’d have treated him myself at the jail,” Easton
drawled through clenched teeth.

  
Jed opened his mouth to continue
his protest, but he was interrupted by another fist pounding on the door.

  
“Excuse me,” Jed growled. He
turned, and he thought about finding his pistol again. This time he’d shoot the
coyote
through
the door.

  
“I’ll get that,” Sheriff Easton
cut him off at the pass, and he ran to the kitchen like a wolf racing for cover.

  
Jed backtracked to hold Pete on
the table, and before he could get much farther in asserting his dominance, he
heard the rapid fusilage of boots on the wood floor. It was Roy Easton, returned
with another patient, and he was visibly upset.

  
“Doc, you gotta help Elijah.” A limp
man leaned against the sheriff. Blood trickled from a gash on his head.

  
Jed wearily turned to the publisher
of the
Wounded Colt Dispatch
, the
town newspaper. Elijah Jones had seen his share of dust ups with angry readers,
but it was usually threats or nicks and bluster. This, however, looked bad.

  
“He took it in his head to break a
cheating husband in the paper, and the man broke him instead,” the sheriff
explained.

  
Jed nodded, recalling Elijah’s
thinly veiled slap at the adulterer in his weekly morality column. Damn it, why
was Elijah bent on cleaning up the town?

  
Jed sat stout, middle-aged Elijah
in a chair along the wall. “You smell of blood and brawl, man. You’re getting
too old for this nonsense,” Jed admonished. He examined Elijah’s head wound as
he shot a glance at the woman who’d competently set an arm and was now
splinting it. “I’m busy here. You’re driving your own coach, Dr. Sutton.”

  
“Yes sir,” she called from her
station at the table. She was nearly finished with her efficient wrapping of
boards on the broken limb.

  
The sheriff set his hands on his
hips and cleared his throat. “Jed, with this crowd it’s a darn good thing
you’ve got Doctor Sutton.”

  
“More like a darn good thing I
sleep with my clothes on,” Jed grumbled.

   
The sheriff grinned and
Hannah’s cheeks flamed red.

  
“Hell. I meant so I can be ready
to treat patients at any hour.”

  
“Yah, sure.” Easton’s chest began
to rumble with laughter.

  
“Often I do the same,” Hannah
interjected, “because a doctor has to be ready to serve at a moment’s notice.”

  
“Hmmm, that keeping-the-clothes on
scheme explains the mystery of why you doctors don’t have mates or children,”
Easton teased.

  
The flush on Hannah’s face
deepened.

  
“We’re too busy taking care of
everyone else’s wives and kids,” Jed barked.

  
Easton raised his hands in mock
surrender and laughed. “Whoa there, Doc. That’s my excuse for neglecting
marital duty.”

  
Roy Easton proceeded to move
between Hannah and Jed as his services were needed. He fetched bandages and
water, and he held back Elijah’s hair as Jed sat on a three-legged stool,
facing the patient, preparing to stitch the man’s cut head.

  
“You got whiskey for the pain?”
Easton asked.

   
“I gave him morphine, “
Hannah shot from behind.

  
“I’m talking about Elijah,” Easton
clarified.

  
Jed looked up from his work. “Top
shelf, left side.”

  
Easton searched and found the
bottle as Jed cleaned the wound with carbolic acid.

  
Hannah’s patient was drifting off,
and she turned to observe Jed’s case.

  
“Will you give him the cure-all pill?”

  
“What’s that?” quipped Jed.

  
“Calomel. Mercury chloride. The
blue mass. Don’t you regulars use it for everything?”

  
He paused his stitching in mid air.
“I did studies on it for Hammond.”

  
Her gray eyes flew wide. “William
Hammond? The Surgeon General?”

  
Jed noted her delicate lashes and
wondered how she’d hold up if she had to travel in a dust storm. “The same. He
came around every now and again. We struck up a correspondence. He was
concerned about the drugs.”

  
“Wasn’t Hammond court martialed
and fired in ’64?”

  
Jed nodded. “The calomel we
prescribed to sick soldiers gave them diarrhea. In truth, it made them sicker.
I observed the bad effects on patients. I did a trial on it. Some I gave the
drug and some I didn’t. Those without recovered faster. I sent my results to
Hammond. Same thing with antimony.”

  
“Antimony makes them retch to
choke a horse,” Hannah noted.

  
“Yes, but the purging did more
harm than good. When Hammond removed the drugs from the Union medical corps
supply list he was fired.”

  
“I heard about it.” She wagged her
head in disbelief.

  
“Yes, well. The regulars would
have none of it, and Hammond was caught between the regulars and sectarians and
the drug company interests. By that time there were over 300 companies making
drugs and war profiteering. You could say I’m a regular who now demands
evidence to prove any potion works. During the war my positions often put me at
odds with my colleagues. After the war I worked for a brief time with a doctor
in the Minnesota territory, and he also believed in using what was practical
and proven.”

  
Hannah clapped her hands together
and her expression was suddenly animated. “Good! When I learned you were an
army surgeon I knew you had to be a regular, because all the Union docs were
regulars who believed in the established, orthodox ways. I worried you might not
accept my new thinking which bases treatment on observation and scientific
methods.”

BOOK: Healing Hearts (Easton Series #2)
12.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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