Read To Everything a Season Online

Authors: Lauraine Snelling

Tags: #FIC042040, #FIC027050, #FIC042030, #Christian fiction, #Love stories

To Everything a Season (7 page)

BOOK: To Everything a Season
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Chapter 7

A
nner Valders carefully lifted the front door latch and stepped inside. Had Hildegunn gone to bed yet? Apparently not. A light shone from the kitchen. He crossed the front room and paused in the kitchen doorway.

“So how did the meeting go?” Hildegunn was toweling a large bowl dry.

“Well, I think. We're all aware of the possibility of a robbery. Forewarned is forearmed. They're talking of hiring police protection, or at least a presence.”

“Did you stop by Toby's for the molasses?”

Molasses! Of course. He scowled, not just because he had forgotten all about it, but because hers was a rather silly question. He wasn't carrying anything, was he? “I'll go get it. If they're not up, can it wait until morning?”

“Not if you want sticky buns for breakfast. I've set the sponge.”

Mustn't waste good flour and eggs. With a sigh, he headed back out the front door and up the street. If Toby was not still up, he would pound on their door until he was. After all, they would not hesitate to pound on his door if the need arose.

Someone's dog barked as he passed the bank alley, which set someone else's dog to barking in the distance. The air hung humid, dark, gloomy. In a way he felt dark and gloomy. What if no one caught those robbers? His bank was vulnerable. In the distance a horse sneezed.

Anner stopped, listening. The sneeze seemed to come from behind the bank. There were no horses stabled near there. Was a horse really back there, or were his ears deceiving him? His hearing was certainly not nearly as sharp as it used to be. He often had trouble discerning directions.

He would check, though, just to make sure. He crossed to the bank and slipped into its shadow. Cautiously he moved to the back alley, remembering just in time about the rain barrel against the wall. He groped until he found it, stepped out around it, continued to the back. He peeked around the corner.

There stood four horses near the back door of the bank. It was so dark, Anner could barely make out a small man sitting on one of them with his back to Anner. He held the other three horses' reins. The horses seemed nervous. They moved about, their hind legs sidestepping, their ears going every which way.

They were here! Those robbers! Right now! Anner needed a gun! He needed Toby! He needed others! What to do? His mind charged off in six directions at once.

What could he do? By the time he ran to someone's house to fetch help, those men might well be done with their thieving business and escaping on their horses. Even if the townsmen could be aroused, by the time they got their horses saddled, the fellows would be long gone. Why, oh why was he not carrying a gun?

Anner was suddenly struck by a horrific, paralyzing thought: Big-city banks insured their holdings. Blessing's bank could not
afford to. Any money lost was Anner's responsibility, not some insurance company's.

On impulse, because he couldn't think, Anner slipped out of his jacket. Then he bolted forward toward those horses at a dead run, waving his coat frantically like a brakeman's flag and shrieking at the top of his lungs.

All four horses flung their heads in the air, and as one they wheeled away from him, yanking the reins out of the rider's hand. The rider's horse squealed, reared high, and dumped the fellow off its back and down its rump before galloping away after its companions.

Anner was just reaching the back door as a large man came bursting out of it. The man let out a surprised cry, more a scream, and lashed at Anner with a huge fist, then swung a large and heavy carpetbag at him. Both connected, and Anner went tumbling to the dirt.

He lay there with no breath in him, listening to the boots running away after the horses. He desperately wanted to shout
“Stop! Thief!”
He desperately wanted to breathe. None of that was happening.

From out on the street, Trygve's voice called, “What's going on? Who's there?”

Someone else shouted from what sounded like an upstairs window. Yet another voice called out.

Anner managed a feeble “Help!” The second “Help!” was stronger.

Here came Trygve. The sound of his voice told Anner he was in the alley. “Who's there?”

“Help!” Anner was finally getting his breath back, sort of.

Now Thorliff was there and someone else, and the men were lifting Anner to his feet. His neck hurt mightily, and his ribs felt like they were broken. Maybe they were. The pain was intense all over.

“The robbers . . .” he gasped.

Now several others had arrived. “The door is standing open!” someone yelled. “They were here and they're getting away!”

The pain was so bad, Anner dropped down onto his hands and knees, which only made his ribs hurt much worse. His hands landed on something like paper. “Bring a light!” he shouted with the little bit of breath he could summon. “There's money here. Bills!”

Someone was running off with a hurried “I'll get horses!”

Trygve came out of the bank with a coal-oil lamp. “Who has a match?”

Someone found a match. In the tiny flare and then the lamplight, Anner saw money lying all over the ground.

And Lars shouted, “There! There's one of them right there!”

The lamplight revealed the robber who had been thrown from his horse. He had been trying to crawl away. Now he rolled to his back with his hands out. “I give up.” Instantly, two men were grabbing him and hauling him to his feet. He cried out in pain as his leg collapsed. Then he sank between them and fainted dead away.

“Hjelmer's bringing us some horses,” Lars said.

“No moon. It's too dark,” Trygve said. “We'll never catch them. Let's gather this money that got spilled, and someone tell Astrid and Elizabeth. That fellow and Anner here will both need attention.”

Ever since those two women set themselves up as doctors, Anner had been fervently hoping he would never get sick. The very thought of women, young women, at that, tending to him . . . Cheeky women with no qualms about speaking out of turn. No, he wanted to go home, let Hildegunn take care of him. He said so. He protested. They took him over to the hospital anyway, against his wishes.

They laid him out on a bed, and he found it was easiest to simply give up. If he closed his eyes and lay very, very still, his ribs hurt less. Footsteps entered the room. He turned his head to look. Elizabeth Bjorklund and Thorliff. People he did not particularly want to see just now. He closed his eyes again.

In an accusing voice, Thorliff asked, “Why didn't you go for help?”

Anner did not sigh. That would have caused more pain. “I really have no answer for that.”

“Oh good! You're here!” Elizabeth's voice. “He is clutching his side. Would you undress the top half of him, please? I'll go make certain Astrid doesn't need me.”

Who was there?

Hildegunn's voice. “Of course.” He looked at her. Yes, indeed this was Hildegunn, and her face was tear-streaked. She began fumbling with his waistcoat.

Thorliff sounded excited, and he was not an excitable sort. “I just talked to the sheriff. He wants me to get some information from you and call him back. What did they look like?” Another silly question.

“Dark gray shapeless forms. A small one and a large one.”

“Only two?”

“Four horses, so probably not.”

“What do the horses look like?”

“Dark gray shapeless forms.”

Thorliff was beginning to sound impatient. “Were they armed?”

“I've no idea.” Anner shuddered. What if they had been? He could be dead now, a bullet in his heart. What could have possessed him to do such a fool thing as to give chase?

“Trygve said he heard someone shriek. Did you wound one? Was one of them slumped over in the saddle or something?”

“The miscreants and their horses departed the scene separately.”

“Sep—” Thorliff hooted. “So that was the shrieking! You drove the horses off! Wonderful! Anything else?”

“The large person was carrying a heavy valise or carpetbag. He swung it at me, struck me with it. I would surmise that it was stuffed full of bills, and when he hit me, the clasp gave way and it gaped open, dumping its contents. Or some of its contents.”

“And you've no idea how much was taken?”

“If they broke into the till chest, perhaps a hundred, a hundred fifty dollars. It seemed to be mostly small bills on the ground, so that would be the till chest. If they managed to compromise the safe, heaven knows.”

Heaven knew. God knew. Or maybe not. Right now, Anner did not know, and the pain and frustration and sorrow weighed him down so horrendously, he doubted God knew or cared.

Astrid stood near the head of the operating table, watching the boy's breathing become slower and deeper. The anesthetic was taking hold.

Annika Nilsson, the only student nurse at the time, stood ready to assist, and over in the corner, Daniel stood with arms folded. “In case you need help,” he had said. Help as a doctor or help keeping the boy from attempting to escape? She didn't ask.

A boy. Fourteen at most, certainly not near his full growth. A boy. Robbing banks. She wasn't sure she could deal with this. Any of this. She so wished she were treating Anner instead, but she and Elizabeth had dashed into examining rooms at random, and the men who brought the two in happened to put the boy in here.

He was under far enough. She asked Annika to cut his trou
sers leg open. It was worse than she'd feared, much worse—a compound fracture that could kill, if the bleeding didn't kill him first. The lower end of his broken right femur was visible. It had pushed through muscle and skin and now protruded over half an inch, and its shattered, bloody end was drying out. If the bone end of a compound fracture dried out, it would die. It would not knit as a normal broken bone would do. It would cause infection, then gangrene, and invariably would be fatal. This child not yet a man faced an agonizing death within the week.

And a horrible thought flashed through her mind. Keep him anesthetized, keep him on heavy morphine, allow him to die comfortably. That would be the most merciful treatment. Medicine is all about mercy, for the patient and for the relatives, assuming there were any.

No. She would amputate the leg. This boy-child would go through life—and probably through jail after jail—with only one leg. But she could do no less. “Get the bone saw ready, please.” She wrapped a tourniquet around the thigh above the break and tightened it down.

The amputator's maxim:
Save as much of
the leg as possible.
That wasn't much. She poised her scalpel.
Dear Lord, guide my hand.
She paused. Fourteen. Or younger.

Maybe . . . possibly . . . why not? “Daniel? Can you run to the shop, quickly, and grind the head off a six-penny nail? Sharpen both ends. Please?”

He looked puzzled for only a moment and then ran out the door.

Annika looked puzzled too. “You aren't going to nail his leg back together, surely.”

“Not exactly.” Astrid picked up the scalpel. “While Daniel's gone I want to remove the dried portion of this bone end. It will
take some doing, and we're going to have to dig into the flesh here. I will cut; you irrigate.”

“I haven't done much in surgery.”

“You're here to learn. If my idea fails, you will have learned a way of treating a compound fracture that simply will not work. In any case, you'll learn how to assist a surgeon.”

But please, merciful Lord, help this to
work!

When Daniel came rushing in with a six-penny nail sharpened at both ends, Astrid was ready. They had exposed the broken bone end down to live, moist bone and sawed off the dry dead part. Annika did a fine job of keeping the whole wound wet with water, then with diluted carbolic acid.

“Now I need that hammer in the bone drawer.” Astrid pointed. Annika slapped the hammer into her hand. It was a graceful little hammer—steel, all one piece, and possibly too delicate for the job. With the hammer, Astrid drove one end of the nail up into the femur above the break.

Annika watched, wide-eyed. “Oh, do you really think it might work?”

“If it does, all thanks go to God.” She pressed the sawed-off lower part of the femur onto the other sharp nail point. “More carbolic acid.”

Annika again irrigated the wound.

“Now we close the wound, splint it, and keep on praying. Suture.”

Elizabeth came into the room. “I just taped poor Mr. Valders' ribs— What are you—” She gasped. “Oh, my word!” She watched fascinated as Astrid drew the rectus muscle together above a shiny six-penny nail. Even Daniel was bent low, watching.

“Annika,” Astrid explained, “this muscle, the vastus, has three bellies. The bone end tore the lateralis here, so I cut it to get to the bone, since it was damaged anyway. Now we reconnect
here and here. Then we put his leg in a traction splint. I'll show you how it's done.”

BOOK: To Everything a Season
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