It's NOT a romance. It's not very funny, there just wasn't much comedy to be mined for me in Andersonville Prison.
It's not even a real story
Part #5 of 13 episodes of how my heroes from Trouble in Texas met and how they became so loyal to each other.
Book #3 Stuck Together --Vince's story--releases in June 3.
Closer Than Brothers
|He didn't ask to be a doctor|
Click to Buy
“I can’t believe they made you a doctor.” Vince came just as Dare threw a blanket over a man’s head who had just breathed his last.
Dare turned, did his best not to show how tired he was of being a failure. “Tossing a blanket is about the limit of my skill, leastways with the medicine we have here. I can hack off a man’s leg mighty slick, don’t want to forget that.”
“Well, they won’t even let me near 'em. Which is insulting when you consider how bad you are at it.” Vince always was quick to jab at a man with his mouth, but it was all talk. Vince was a man Dare wanted fighting at his side and he’d gotten to be good friends with the smooth talking Yankee from Chicago. Invincible Vince was also the one who could find a man a piece of bread when he hadn't eaten all day or bandages when there was an open sore to cover.
“I think it’s because I talk nicer than you. Why, I’ve been known to coax them back from the edge of death with the sweet tone of my voice. It’s a gift, I tell you. Something about you, Yates, makes them all eager to curl up and die.”
Vince managed a grim smile as he took up his usual place by the door, leaning back, looking casual with his arms and ankles crossed, he stood guard as always. Dare wondered what job Vince had been given in the war that had taught him to stand guard all the time.
Luke Stone, his weight about equal to a corpse, came in with his bedroll in hand. “I got fired.”
“High time.” Dare puffed out a breath of relief. “You are about the worst doctor I’ve ever heard tell of. One of my patients heard you say ‘when a patient dies we’re just thinning the herd, culling out the weaklings.’”
“You did not say that.” Vince scrubbed his face with his palms.
“I didn’t mean nothin’ by it.” Luke shrugged. "They offered to let me do some record keeping for the office but I can't hardly read nor write."
"You oughta learn," Dare said. "It's right handy."
Luke shrugged. “Jonas is teaching me some since he got back the Bible the Raiders stole. Don't see much use for it on a ranch. A little ciphering, but I probably know enough of that already. So the bookkeeping job didn't work, now I’m on kitchen duty. Guess I’ll be cooking, and since there ain’t no food, I won’t be working overly hard, and I might even get a bite or two to eat out of it.”
“Doubt it.” Dare looked at Luke. The Kid was a tough one. Starved down to gristle and bone but he could still stand tall and didn’t have an ounce of back up in him. And he had the coldest blue eyes Dare had ever seen. One mean hombre if he got crossed, but Dare had no need to cross him. Luke wasn't a kid who bent. Dare hoped that didn't mean he'd break. The Kid hadn't been in here as long as Dare and Vince, but he'd been sick a time or two. He kept beating whatever sickness caught him, but he had Dare worried.
“You going to church later?” Dare took a quick look at the man he’d just covered up. If it wasn’t for Jonas’s quiet wisdom and the deeper faith Dare had found, he didn’t think he could keep going at this gruesome job. “Jonas is holding services twice a day every day and there are more men attending now, since the hangings.”
"I reckon all three of the girls I'm sparking are staying in tonight." Luke seemed overly sarcastic for one so young. "My pa said he doesn't need me for the cattle round-up, and I can put off riding into town to buy myself a new pair of boots a while longer. So I'll go to Jonas's service."
“I’ll be there.” Vince clapped Dare on the back. "See you."
Dare watched his friends go. Luke was probably the toughest of his friends, a natural warrior—not counting Big John who was tougher than all of them combined. Vince was the unofficial leader of Dare's small unit of the Regulators.
Things had been better since the hangings. It was hard enough to starve to death or watch men die of whatever illness was bred in filth and foul water. But for a band of outlaws to harm their fellow Yankees was about as low down as a man could get.
Dare had taken vicious satisfaction in helping round up the ring leaders. He’d enjoyed watching those men hang so much that he’d started praying harder for his soul.
Watching those men hang had turned a lot of the inmates here toward Jonas’s church, even some of the Raiders were in the mood to repent. Getting your soul right with God was a good idea in a prison where men died every day.
Dare looked around the room. Calling it a hospital was laughable. Men lying with only inches between them on the floor—just enough room for Dare or Doc Kerr or whoever else was in here helping to pass between them to help them die. Plenty of men almost as sick were left outside for pure lack of space.
He scanned them all, moaning, feverish, many unconscious men. A creak of wood was his only warning.
A sharp blow knocked him forward. He yelled as he went down under the weight of one of his patients.
"Vince!" Landing on the body of the man who'd just died, Dare recognized the pain. He'd been stabbed.
"Luke!" Dare hoped his friends hadn't gone out of ear shot. The slide of hot blood soaked his back as he knocked the man off of him. He felt the knife still embedded. At least that meant the man was unarmed.
Dare rolled to his feet and faced his attacker. He tried to not stomp on any of the poor sick men he was trying to save.
"God told me to kill you, traitor." The man's face with red from fever. He had open, weeping sores all over his face and neck. His unwashed body reeked.
"I'm not a traitor." Dare's voice faltered and he hoped the knife wasn't in a lung or his heart. A man didn't heal from that. "I stopped men who were killers."
"You sided with the Rebs over your own. You killed Union soldiers."
"I'm in here every day trying to save Union soldiers."
Dare heard pounding footsteps. Help was coming. The furious man stormed toward him. Dare swung a fist and sent him stumbling back. Even stabbed, Dare was tougher than this poor sick fool.
"You're in here living high while the rest of us starve."
Dare hadn't had a decent meal since he'd stepped through the gates and working in the hospital hadn't changed a thing. "Living high?"
The man didn't go down. He staggered toward Dare again. A wave of dizziness threatened to send Dare to the floor.
Luke came through the door at a sprint. He dived at the man and they slammed to the ground,
plunging onto more
|Click to Buy Invincible Vince's Story|
"Careful, Luke." Dare would've said more but his knees gave out. He did his best to land between patients. His best was a miserable failure.
The world was fading to black as Vince's face loomed over him for just a second, before he was rolled face down. Vince said a word he shouldn't, then yelled, "Get Jonas."
More pounding footsteps. Dare thought Vince might be beating on him. Not nice at all. Hadn't Dare been hurt enough? Or maybe, Dare tried to gather his thoughts, maybe Vince was pulling the knife out of his back.
Vince was shouting orders, taking charge and everyone obeyed without question. The man would have made a fine general and Dare wasn't sure how he'd managed to avoid being an officer.
Suddenly Dr. Kerr was there. Dare had no idea how that had happened because the doctor was so overworked he was nearly impossible to find, and never in a hurry, but Vince always made things happen.
There was a flash of bright white light and a twist of ugly pain. He heard more shouting, all Invincible Vince, then Dare thought how nice a nap sounded.
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