Stone Cold Cowboy

By: Jennifer Ryan


Rory paced outside the hospital room door Dr. Bell Bowden shoved him out of five minutes ago, trying to hold on to his sanity. She’d let him stay while they cleaned, dressed, and stitched Sadie’s wounds, but not even his good friend’s wife let him stay while they photographed Sadie’s many injuries and examined her to see if she’d been sexually assaulted. He hadn’t even considered it when he found her nearly naked. He didn’t want to think about it now. The way he found her, the pain inflicted on her was enough for any one person to bear. To think whoever did that to her touched her, hurt her in that way made the rage roiling in his gut feel like a ticking time bomb about to go off.

He turned back toward the room on his journey back and forth down the short corridor just as Bell stepped out of the room with a nurse, carrying several metal instruments on a tray. The nurse walked away, but Bell stood staring at him, a serene look on her face and in her blue eyes.

He let loose his fisted hands and raked his fingers through his hair and held the back of his head. He stared at the floor, trying to pull himself together as the wave of relief washed through his system.

“The sheriff’s deputy just walked in, Rory. I’ll speak to him and give him the details. Because of doctor-patient confidentiality, I can’t share the information with you.”

“You don’t have to. As I’m sure you planned, I can read it on your face. Whoever the fuck did this to her didn’t rape her.”

Bell didn’t say a word to confirm it. Her eyes softened on him. “You can sit with her if you’d like. I gave her a sedative to keep her calm. She probably won’t wake up for hours.”

Rory walked right past the deputy and straight into Sadie’s room. She lay in the bed, covered by a sheet and blanket up to her chest. Her hands lay at her sides.

The bandages around her wrists hid the ominous cuts and bruises but not her swollen hands and fingers. The many red nicks and scratches all over her arms, chest, and shoulders made her look like a gruesome pincushion.

Afraid to touch her, he stood at the edge of the bed staring down at her.

“Hey Sadie, it’s Rory. I’m back. You’re not alone. I’ll keep you safe.” He didn’t know why he spoke the words. She was passed out and probably couldn’t hear him, but if she did, he wanted her to know. He meant it.

She flinched in her sleep, her eyes squinting and her lips drawing into a tight line. Caught in a nightmare, her eyes rolled beneath her closed lids.

Disturbed by her distress, he reached out and touched her hand. She flinched, then settled again. “Shh, you’re okay. You’re safe.”

Rory didn’t so much sit in the chair beside her as fall into it, exhausted in both body and mind. He scrubbed his hands over his face, scraping his palms on his rough jaw. He needed a shave, a shower, food, and for Sadie to wake up and be okay. He dropped his hands back to his thighs, hitting the sore spot on his palm. He held up his hand and stared at the deep gash. He’d washed his bloody hands in the restroom, but the cut still stung. He’d ask one of the nurses to bring him some antiseptic to clean it out.

Sadie got a tetanus shot to go along with her dozens of stitches. Bell did a fantastic job taking care of her. Seeing Sadie laid out on a hospital gurney came a close second to the worst thing he’d ever seen. Right behind her hanging from a tree. Thank God for the new private rooms at the recently opened clinic. He’d have hated to make her endure the long drive to the Bozeman hospital.

Rory answered the tap on the door. “Come in.”

The sheriff’s deputy stepped into the room, his gaze shooting from Rory to Sadie in the bed beside him.

“I’m Deputy Mark Foster. Rory Kendrick?”

Rory nodded.

“Dr. Bowden filled me in on Sadie Higgins’s condition. I’ve been out to the site where you found her. Gathered all the evidence. Mind telling me what happened?”

Rory ran his free hand through the side of his hair. The other he kept on Sadie’s swollen one on the bed.

“I understand it’s difficult to talk about it.” The deputy glanced at the marks marring every bit of skin not covered by the blankets or bandages and grimaced.

“You should see the rest of her.”

“Unfortunately, I saw the pictures.”

“I was out checking the cattle this afternoon. Just a normal day.” Then it turned to shit. “The herd I had grazing in the south pasture was missing. One of the fence lines had been cut, not pushed down by the cows. I spotted the horse tracks and figured out what happened.”

“They took the wire with them and used it on her,” the deputy guessed.

“Yes,” Rory bit out. “I followed the tracks that led across my land and two neighbors’, straight for Miner’s Road. I figured if I could catch up to them, maybe I’d find out who’s been stealing cattle from me these last months.”

“How many cattle did they steal?”

“They started off small, which is why I didn’t really notice right away. They’d take three, four at a time. By the time I realized what was going on, twenty-two cattle were missing. Today, they took ninety-seven.”

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