Read His Bundle of Love / the Color of Courage Online

Authors: Patricia Davids

Tags: #Fiction, #Religious, #Romance, #General

His Bundle of Love / the Color of Courage (20 page)

BOOK: His Bundle of Love / the Color of Courage
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Chapter Two

rian watched in horror as the woman and her horse went down directly in front of him. The next rider was so close behind that he couldn’t turn aside and his horse fell on top of the downed pair. In a split second the precision-riding exhibition had turned into a melee.

Brian hurried toward the pileup even as the other members of the team leaped from their horses to race toward their fallen comrades. One horse scrambled to his feet and limped a few feet away. His rider sat on the ground looking dazed, with blood oozing from a cut on his forehead. The first horse that had gone down was struggling to rise but couldn’t gain his feet because the rails and the pillar of the jump were tangled with his legs.

Brian didn’t see the woman until he reached the horse’s head, but he heard her bloodcurdling scream. She was lying facedown with her right arm pinned beneath her mount. He grabbed the horse’s bridle and spoke softly. “Easy boy. Miss, lie still.”

She dug the fingers of her free hand into the thick turf. “!”

Each word sounded as if it was being torn from her throat by unbearable pain.

Brian sank to one knee, his stiff leg stretched awkwardly out in front of him and pulled the frightened horse’s head into his lap. He knew the animal’s struggles could inflict more injury on the trapped rider. He stroked the gelding’s cheek until he quieted. “I can’t move him yet. Help is coming.”

“Is he hurt?” Her voice was muffled, but her concern was unmistakable.

“I can’t tell.”

She raised her head to look at him. Her hat had come off. Bright auburn curls framed her oval face in stark contrast to her frightening pallor. One cheek was smeared with dirt and scratches. When she met his gaze, her eyes gleamed with anguish and unshed tears.

“Why...isn’t he...getting up?” She moaned, then bit her lip.

“His legs are caught in the jump pillar. Don’t try to move. We’ll get you both free in a minute.”

Brian saw with relief that medical personnel were swarming onto the field. A soldier from her unit dropped to his knees beside her. “Lie still, Lindsey. How badly are you hurt?”

* * *

Lindsey dropped her head back onto the turf and sucked in a series of quick breaths. The scent of trampled grass and loamy dirt filled her nostrils. Dakota’s weight was crushing her arm. Trying not to scream, she gritted her teeth and dug her fingers into the thick grass again. Screaming would only frighten the horse and make him struggle.

“I think my arm is broken.”

“We’ll get you free in a minute.”

Please, God, let them hurry.

She felt Shane take her hand and she gripped it tightly. Don’t scream, she thought, be brave. Act like a soldier. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to stay calm. Only it was so hard. It hurt so much.

Through clenched teeth, she managed to say, “We tripped Avery...and Socks. Are they okay?”

Shane said, “Socks is up. Avery looks a little shaken, but I think he’s okay. Hold on, kid.”

“Dakota is all right, isn’t he, Shane?” She panted, trying to block out the merciless agony. “Please, tell me he’s all right.”

“I’ll check him over once we get you free.” She recognized the voice as the grouchy vet who had suggested Dakota wasn’t sound. If only she had heeded him instead of resenting his interference.

Pride goeth before a fall. Dear, Lord, why did I have to find that out the hard way?

She raised her head once more to look at him. “This is my fault. I should have listened to you.”

* * *

Two men in EMS uniforms reached her, saving Brian from having to reply. For that, he was thankful. As they attended to Lindsey, soldiers from the unit quickly dismantled the jump and pillar, making room to move the stricken horse. With their help, Brian coaxed Dakota to roll off his side and onto his stomach, but kept the horse from rising. The move freed Lindsey’s arm, but tore a scream from her that ripped into his heart.

While the medics worked on her, she kept asking about her horse. Others offered her reassurances, but Brian remained silent and avoided her pleading eyes. When she was finally placed on a stretcher and taken off the field, he breathed a sigh of relief. She obviously cared a great deal for the animal. The last thing he wanted was to have her see the brave fellow put down.

For the horse was being brave. Brian’s admiration of the bay gelding grew as the big fellow remained still in spite of the activity going on around him. Even though his eyes were wide, with the whites showing all around indicating pain and fear, he didn’t struggle or thrash the way most horses would have.

When the area had been cleared, Brian gave up his position to a color guard member and rose awkwardly to his feet. He leaned heavily on his cane until he was sure he could take a step without falling on his face. He then moved to check out the horse’s leg. There was already serious swelling below the delicate ankle joint. It didn’t look good.

Several of the football officials in black-and-white striped shirts approached the group. One of them asked, “How soon can you get him off the field? We have a game to play.”

“Your game will have to wait.” Brian didn’t bother to hide his ire.

The man Lindsey had called Shane remained crouched beside Dakota, keeping him still with a hand on the horse’s neck. He ignored the officials completely. “Should we let him try to get up?”

Brian shook his head. “Not with the way that leg is swelling. We don’t want him to do more damage. Let me get a splint on it first. My truck is parked outside the gate next to your trailers. It’s white with College of Veterinary Medicine in purple lettering on the side. I’ve got first-aid equipment in there.”

“Private Gillis will get what you need if you’ll give him your keys.”

One of the soldiers stepped forward and held out his hand. After giving him a detailed list of what he wanted and where it was located, Brian waited impatiently for the private’s return. It seemed to take forever, but in reality only a few minutes had passed when the breathless soldier raced back and handed Brian his kit and the supplies he had requested.

With the help of the other color guard members, Brian soon had the leg encased in a cotton wool wrap. He applied a lightweight but sturdy aluminum splint and secured it with Velcro straps.

“All right, let him try and get up, but if he doesn’t make it on the first attempt, we’ll need to get a lift in here.”

“We’ll get one, but I sure hope we don’t need it. Do you think he has a fracture?”

“I do, but I can’t say for sure until we get him to the clinic and X-ray the leg.”

With a gentle tug on the reins and some quiet words of encouragement, Shane urged Dakota to stand. After a brief hesitation, the horse lurched awkwardly to his feet. The crowd in the stands broke into loud cheering and applause. Brian looked up in surprise. He had forgotten he had several thousand onlookers watching his every move. No doubt some of his students were in attendance. Perhaps he’d present a pop quiz on splint application on Monday to check if they had been paying attention.

“If you can get your trailer in here, I think he can be loaded. The ride to the clinic isn’t far. You’ll need to wedge him in securely. I don’t want him moving around at all.”

“Thanks, Doc. It is
isn’t it? I’m Corporal Shane Ross.” He held out his hand.

Brian took it in a firm grip. “Yes, I’m Dr. Brian Cutter, Professor of Equine Surgery for the College of Veterinary Medicine here at K-State.”

“Then it sounds like Dakota will be in good hands. I sure hope this isn’t a serious injury. The horse belonged to Lindsey’s brother. She’ll never forgive herself if he has to be put down.”

* * *

Lindsey endured her examination at the fort hospital in stoic silence, answering between clenched lips only the questions posed to her. The pain she could deal with, but the fact that her arm hung useless against her side had her truly frightened. She couldn’t even move her fingers—they had no feeling at all. Thoughts of Danny’s paralysis crowded in her head. She fought down her rising panic as she addressed the physician attending her. “Sir, why can’t I move my hand?”

The gray-haired doctor sat on a stool beside her narrow bed. “Your humerus is fractured, that’s the bone in your upper arm. I’m going to splint it for now and send you to see an orthopedist. This is a nasty break.”

Like she needed anyone to tell her that. “I still don’t understand why I can’t move my fingers.”

“The nerve that controls hand movement runs in a groove along the bone of the upper arm. When a break occurs the nerve is often damaged. You should recover full use of your hand in a few months.”

“Months?” She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“You’ll be on restricted duty until then. I’m giving you some pain medication. Take it regularly, don’t try to tough it out. I’ll write some instructions on icing the arm and have the nurse make an appointment with the specialist. Do you have any questions?”

“How soon can I ride?”

“Not for at least eight weeks, maybe longer depending on the nerve damage.”

She turned her face away, not wanting him to see the distress she knew was written there. The Inauguration was only ten weeks away. Did this mean there wouldn’t be a trip to Washington, D.C., for her?

No, she wouldn’t accept that. She wouldn’t let her chance to honor Danny and all he had stood for pass by without a fight. Besides, even if she couldn’t ride, Dakota could make the trip. Danny could still watch him striding down Pennsylvania Avenue. Every recent phone conversation with her sister-in-law had been filled with stories of Danny’s determination to attend the parade in person.

“You won’t be able to drive,” the doctor said gently. “Do you have someone who can get you home?”

She nodded. Captain Watson was waiting for her. Exactly how she was going to get back and forth from her off-post apartment to her duty station until she
drive was a worry she’d put aside until later.

After they applied the splint and sling and gave her some pain medication, she managed to walk out of the room under her own somewhat shaky power. She found Captain Watson perched on the edge of a chair in the waiting area. He looked nervous and ill at ease. Her heart sank.

Bracing herself to hear the worst, she asked, “How’s Dakota?”

Captain Watson sprang to his feet at the sound of her voice. “I haven’t heard. How are you?”

She gave a rueful glance at her big blue sling. “My arm is broken. The doctor said I’ll be on restricted duty for at least eight weeks, but it may be longer than that before I regain the use of my hand.”

“If you’re released, I’ll drive you home.”

“I need to find out how Dakota is.”

“Shane and Lee are with him. As soon as they know something, they’ll call. You are going straight home and that’s an order.”

“With all due respect, sir, I need to be with him. Please?” For a moment, she thought he was going to refuse, then his shoulders slumped in defeat.

“All right. They took him to the veterinary clinic at K-State. I’ll take you, but only because I want to see how he is doing myself.”

“Thanks. I just need to get these prescriptions filled and then I’m ready.”

Half an hour later, they pulled up to the large, white stone buildings on the outskirts of the college campus that comprised the veterinary teaching hospital. Signs at the entrance to the driveway directed them to the Large Animal Clinic at the back of the building. Lindsey’s pain pills were making her woozy, but she tried to hide it. She suspected that the Captain would drive her straight home if she showed any sign of weakness. Inside the building, they found the waiting area. The long, narrow room had panels of fluorescent lights across the ceiling that seemed to glare back painfully into her eyes from the shiny, beige linoleum floor.

The far end of the room was taken up by a wide reception desk where a pretty, young blond woman was talking on the phone. An American flag stood proudly displayed near the front of the desk. Lee and Shane were seated on the one of several mauve utilitarian chairs with bare wooden arms that lined the walls. They both rose and saluted when they caught sight of their captain. They were all still dressed in their exhibition uniforms and they were gathering odd looks from the staff and clients waiting with them.

Captain Watson returned the salute. “Any word yet?”

“No, sir. The doc hasn’t been out to talk to us.”

“That doesn’t sound good.” Lindsey settled gingerly on the couch but still took a quick, indrawn hiss as pain shot through her arm and shoulder. For a second, the room spun wildly and she grabbed hold of Shane’s arm.

“Easy, kid. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“The pain medicine they gave me is making me light-headed, that’s all.”

When the room stopped spinning, she looked up to see the vet from the stadium crossing the room toward them. His thick blond hair was still mussed, but he had traded his sport jacket for a white lab coat.

He stopped in front of the group, but his gaze rested on her. Frowning, he said, “I’m surprised to see you here. How’s your arm?”

The unrelenting, throbbing pain was almost unbearable. “It’s broken,” she snapped. “I want to hear about my horse.”

Shane laid a hand on her good shoulder. “Lindsey, this is Dr. Brian Cutter. He’s been looking after Dakota. Doctor, this is Sergeant Lindsey Mandel. I don’t think you two managed introductions with all that happened earlier.”

Lindsey realized that she must have sounded rude. The fiery agony in her arm wasn’t helping her disposition. She rose to her feet and was pleased when she stayed upright. “I’m sorry, Doctor. I’m just really worried about Dakota. How is he?”

“He has a fracture of the plantar proximal eminences of the second phalanx.”

Lee glanced around the group, then said, “Do you want to try that again in English for those of us who are new to all this horsey stuff?”

Dr. Cutter looked confused by Lee’s statement. “I assumed you are all expert horsemen.”

Captain Watson smiled in amusement. “My soldiers come from the ranks of ordinary units assigned to Fort Riley either as volunteers or as transfers. No previous riding skill is required. The men receive instruction from manuals used by Civil War cavalrymen. Private Gillis has only been with us a few weeks.”

BOOK: His Bundle of Love / the Color of Courage
6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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