The sign on the gate read as follows:
"TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT!
1. RING BELL.
2. WAIT UNTIL ACKNOWLEDGED.
3. ADVANCE UNARMED AND ONLY WHEN TOLD TO DO SO!
4. ADVANCE WITH HANDS UP."
It was late in the afternoon when the bell at the driveway gate rang briefly, then echoed for several seconds in the clear air before fading away and falling silent. Tamer gathered up the Ruger and walked to the edge of the driveway where it dropped-off and started it's decline to the road below. Scanning the area as she went, she glanced down the hill and saw a woman standing outside the gate next to the warning sign and bell she'd rigged. The woman was accompanied by a small child in a wheeled stroller. The woman appeared unarmed. Tamer called out, "Can I help you?"
The woman called out in reply, "Are you the healer woman? My daughter is very sick. Can you please help us? Please!" Tamer told the woman to come up and instructed her to secure the gate behind her. she stood and watched as the woman passed inside the gate and then slipped the loop back over the post. This was simply to prevent her goats from getting out. It was no barrier to someone bent on harm; but then anyone on the property without having announced their presence would be assumed hostile and likely shot on sight
The woman made her way up the driveway, and clearly appeared spent. She moved slowly and with great effort. She appeared to be about 35, had tangled blond hair beneath a floppy old hat, was slender [who wasn't?], and wearing tattered jeans, a flannel shirt and a brown Carhartt jacket. She wore a large backpack with two canteens strapped to it. She'd come a ways, no doubt about it.
The child was a girl, around 4, and with light brown hair. She was asleep, and her nose was running like a faucet. In her lap she held a worn and dirty stuffed rabbit; probably a favorite toy from a happier time. She pictured the toy clean and new placed in a delivery room bassinet, maybe a gift from a new Grandmother. Tamer let out a breath, not excited at the prospect of treating some active infection.
The woman said her name was Ellen Spears and her daughter was Karen. They'd come from near Ben Lomond and had been walking since early that morning. She said people had told her about Tamer and she was desperate for help. Ellen said Karen had been sick for a week and not showing any improvement. Tamer directed her into the cabin, slipping a pocket mask over her mouth and nose and a pair of latex examination gloves over her hands.
Tamer's practice had become so active that she'd basically dedicated the living room as her office and examination area. She had Ellen move Karen to the couch and began her examination. Karen had a high fever and indications of an active infection. Her breathing was labored and her lungs noisy. She also appeared badly dehydrated.
Tamer interviewed Ellen and learned Karen had been listless and running a fever for over a week, but no vomiting or diarrhea. She'd had trouble getting her to drink water, and Karen was sleeping a lot. It could be viral or a bacterial infection, but either way, the fact it had run over a week was serious. Tamer suspected Pneumonia.
Tamer looked at her shelf and considered her options. It seemed to her the best course was to use a corticosteroid to help the child fight the infection. She had a small stock of such medication she had collected from the Veterinary Hospital, but using animal meds in humans was dicey, though it has [had] been done. It was time for her disclaimer.
"Understand, I am not a Doctor. I was a Veterinary Assistant. I cannot guarantee anything but my best efforts." Tamer explained the risks to Ellen, who agreed it had to be attempted and so Ellen started her care of Karen. She calculated dosage and administered the medication to Karen, then made her comfortable and covered her with a light blanket. She then mixed an oral re-hydration solution and worked patiently to rehydrate the child using a baby bottle. Every little sip the child took was a small victory which went on for hours.
Tamer and Ellen took turns watching over Karen and working to get her to sip fluids. At one point, Tamer stood to go and use the bathroom, but had a back spasm and crumpled slightly. She recovered, and as she did, Ellen suddenly noticed the telltale signs and remarked, "Are you pregnant?"
Tamer nodded slowly in the affirmative, then sauntered out the door to the outhouse. Later, Ellen asked her where her husband was. Tamer was silent, then hesitantly answered, "I...I don't have a husband."
"Well...who's the father?", Ellen asked.
Tamer pursed her lips, and her gaze drifted to the window. She was silent, as though recollecting, and then replied, "I don't know. It was dark. I didn't get much of a look at the man..."
Ellen's hands flew up to her mouth, covering it. "I'm so sorry. I...I didn't realize...please, forgive me."
Tamer waved her hand dismissively. "It's all right. I'm over it. You couldn't have known," and walked off to her bedroom. She laid on the bed and napped. Sleep was the only break, the only escape, from the dismal reality of life...except for the nightmares. Rape. And just when you thought things couldn't get worse...
Two days later, the fever passed and Karen began to show signs of improvement. Another 3 days and she was trying to get out the door and play with the goats in the yard. Tamer was exhausted but her diligence paid off. Karen had been saved.
After some negotiation, Ellen paid for Tamer's services with some silver coins and two 50-round boxes of .22 rimfire ammunition, which she produced from her backpack. She'd brought along a diverse amount of items, including jewelry, coinage, ammunition and even a big mayonnaise jar of pot with which to barter.
Ready to return home, Ellen filled her canteens with water, and removed an old .38 revolver from her pack and shoved it in her waistband. "A girl can't be too careful these days", she quipped.
"You've got that right", thought Tamer, rubbing her hands over her tummy.
Ellen placed Karen in the stroller, but then she hopped out and ran to Tamer and hugged her goodbye. The little girls' eyes were bright and clear, and for a moment, Tamer felt some hope for the world, albeit a fleeting moment. She walked them down to the gate and held it as Ellen pushed the stroller through. They waved their goodbyes and Ellen and Karen took the first steps of their long trek home.
Fortunately, Ellen had established contacts with a few survivors along the route and could rest and shelter up along the way; it was essentially a return to the custom of hospitality that had existed in early 1800's California when structures and families were few.
Tamer watched as they faded from view. She could have no way of knowing whether they would make it home or if she would ever see them again. Tamer slung the Ruger over her shoulder and walked back up the driveway to the cabin.
As she stepped inside, she was aware of movement from her blind spot, and as she spun she tugged at the 1911 in her waistband. A strong, rough, hand pinned her hand and the 1911 in place. She kicked, bit, and clawed with her one free hand as a rag covered her face.
Just for the briefest moment she whiffed ether...
...and then darkness closed around her, engulfing her.
TO BE CONTINUED......
Copyright © Manny Silva, 2018. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher.