Secret Service recruit
Posted - 07/09/2020 : 21:04:00
| The Night of The Chase
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters or anything pertaining to The Wild Wild West. Just taking them out to play.
Author’s note:This story was originaly posted in 2009. I never added the ending to this story and forgot to post it here. So, I revamped a few things and added the ending.
Gun Drawn, West breathlessly urged his stallion into a faster gait as he pivoted around a sharp bend. The stallion half rearing, pushed off with his back legs to continue his gallop up a small incline. Once back on straighter terrain, West stole a glance behind him and let out his breath as his partner's horse practically plowed around the same bend. With a second glance back, West grimaced at the sight of the bloody froth covering the mare's chest and nose. Artie's horse was injured and at the point of exhaustion but she still poured her heart and soul into her full out gallop.
Minus an injury, West's mount was also on the verge of collapse as he put every drop of energy, he had to keep up his lead. West could feel every labored heave the stallion produced as he struggled to keep his bearings. Knowing the over tired stallion had been run too hard the past couple days; he had no choice but to urge him on. "Just a little further boy" West soothed as he rubbed the horse's withers.
West was jerked from his thoughts as another bullet whizzed past his head. Ducking, he quickly fired back. He heard a cry, then the sound of a horse dropping and knew he had hit his mark.
"Three down five more to go" Artemus yelled as his horse faltered. Artemus rubbed his mare's withers, encouraging her to continue. "Easy my sweetheart, we're almost out of this mess. Keep going for papa" Artemus soothed. He knew his horse had been hit and prayed she could keep up the dead run. She was already slowing down slightly and had a hard time keeping up with Blackjack. "You will have extra grain in your bucket for this" Artemus promised her as she faltered again.
Thinking fast, West turned his mount left at the next fork and continued up a smaller trail, slowing his horse down enough to maneuver across the uneven ground. As Artemus also reined his mount down the new trail he pulled a small ball from his vest and tossed it behind him. With luck the smoke screen would hide their change of trails and would slow down the bandits enough for them to find a place to hide. When the gunfire ceased, West took a sharp right onto another trail about half a mile up and signaled for his mount to quicken his pace as the terrain widened.
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The leader of the gang pulled his hand up to stop his comrades as his horse came to a screeching halt. The smoke screen dissipated, showing a fork in the road. Letting his horse prance around impatiently, the bandit studied the ground. Turning in a tight circle the wild-eyed appaloosa snorted impatiently at his rider's indecision. Looking right then left, the bandit gritted his teeth before yelling, "This way!" Then letting his mount have his head they continued to the right.
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With as much speed as the tired stallion could muster, he thundered down the new trail heeding his rider's signals to dodge holes and brush. The stallion tried his best to keep up with the hills that ended just as fast as they began but he was too tired to get them to cooperate. With another burst of energy, the stallion ascended the next hill, but the hill slanted downward too suddenly for him to catch his own weight and he stumbled to his knees. With all his weight behind him, he couldn't stop his speed from somersaulting him down the hill.
West never knew what hit him as his stallion's head disappeared and horse and rider instantly became a blur as they continued down the hill head first.
Carefully navigating the trail, Artemus slowed his mare to watch Blackjack's lead in hopes of missing all the hazards. As his mare picked her way over the hills, Artemus was horrified when he saw his partner's horse ascend the next hill and falter. As if in slow motion the black stallion in front of him flipped head first causing both horse and rider to merge as one. Artemus immediately tried to slow his mount but that last request was too much for her. Letting out a shrill cry, she skidded on her back haunches in an attempt to miss her companion and his rider. With the extra weight of her rider and her rate of speed she was unable to stop in time. With a sickening thud the mare collided into the stallion, pushing him and his rider further. Luckily Artemus was able to clear his legs from the saddle, just barely missing them being crushed.
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Three hours earlier.
Jim West sat half dozing outside a Saloon with his hat pulled down to cover his face. He just spent the last four days trailing an outlaw almost 550 miles from Topeka, Kansas to Denver, Colorado. His sources were that the outlaw was to meet up with his gang and knock off a federal gold shipment. Instead of his usual blue/green suit, he sported a cowboy's usual brown vest, blue jeans, and black chaps. Completing his look was a brown hat covering his unshaved face to try and conceal his identity.
Vaguely listening to voices around him, he perked up when he heard deep footsteps walk from the saloon. He watched the man look around before walking up to a large Appaloosa. The man signaled something to a shorter man in the door of the saloon before mounting and riding off. After a minute or two the shorter man mounted a bay and rode off slowly in the same direction.
Within another minute, West heard the familiar steps of a drunk walking from the saloon. The drunk roughly tripped over West's feet and let out a loud bellow. "Yung whippersnapper" he slurred. "I consider that an insult. Thisss is a free democracy. I Insisssst you apologize." The drunk slurred. West got up and quickly removed his hat. "Sorry sir, completely my fault.” The drunk crossed his arms and staggered. "James my boy you have just seen an employer gathering his minions.” Artemus whispered.
"Any Information?" West questioned as he made a point to dust the drunk off. "Name is Gregory Montove, has about seven men in his employ. They are gathering for a job as we speak."
"I will meet you a mile outside town in ten minutes" West said quietly. "Well old timer" West said loudly. "I apologize again" "Yung man your nots so bad after all.” The drunk said as he staggered off into an alley.
Within ten minutes West halted his stallion next to Artie's mare. "They just met up and went over that rise" Artemus informed Jim as he pointed east.
Jim looked in the direction, Artie was pointing. "The government stage comes through within the hour any idea where they are going to hit."
"Just an educated guess but I'd say they will probably corral them by that ravine over there. Seems sound enough, at least, that is if it stops in time to miss going over."
"Yeah" West agreed as he surveyed his surroundings. "Let's follow our leader and see if we can change their minds.” West said then nudged his mount into a trot.
Jim and Artie followed the trail until they came to a split in the road. Stopping, Jim grabbed his canteen and took a long swig before handing it to his partner. "Thanks James." After taking a few drinks Artemus handed the canteen back to Jim. As he was putting the lid back on, he stopped. Dismounting Jim took off his hat and filled it with a little water. His tired stallion sighed then gulped down the water in the hat. Jim repeated the process with Artie's horse. Mounting again, West secured his canteen then urged his mount to the left trail.
After close to thirty minutes of riding Jim raised his hand to stop their progress. He had a feeling he was being watched and he didn't like it. Artemus came up to Jim's side. "Look outs?" "Possibly Artie… could just be a passerby." "Out here in the middle of nowhere, doubt it Jim." "Yeah, probably a trap" Jim touched his horses’ sides to move him into a walk. After a few steps, Blackjack stopped and snorted. The hairs on the back of West's neck rose. Without thinking, both Jim and Artemus spun their horses and kicked them into the opposite direction. Bullets began to rain down on the agents as they charged out of the clearing.
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The bandit let his horse charge on for about a mile before the trail opened into a large prairie. He swore under his breath when he saw no sign of his prey. He took a wrong turn at the last fork, thinking the agents would stay on the more even trail. Pivoting his appaloosa, the bandit spurred him back down the trail in hopes of finding the two federal agents.
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Artemus couldn't believe his eyes. Both horses were entangled in one another, and in the midst of all the chaos was his partner, sprawled across his stallion's neck with both legs running across the saddle. By some miracle he had cleared the saddle and missed both the collision and the crushing weight of his own mount. Artemus was brought out of his stunned state when the stallion lifted his head just enough to look over his shoulder. Thinking the stallion was going to try and rise, Artemus quickly went for the reins but was surprised when the stallion snorted and laid back down. "Easy. That a boy. Just stay still." Artemus soothed as he slowly approached the stallion's heaving side. Reaching for his friend, Artemus grabbed underneath both arms and pulled with all his strength until Jim was a safe distance away.
Only after his rider was safe did the stallion start to get up. In one awkward movement, Blackjack rose to all fours and just stood there huffing for a minute before nuzzling the mare that had not yet moved.
"Jim…Jim can you hear me" Artie questioned nervously. He almost fell over when a soft moan emitted from his partner.
"Artie" Jim struggled to sit up and put a hand to his head when the world around him started spinning. Taking a moment to orientate himself, Jim let his partner give him the once over. When all Artemus found were a few bumps and bruises, he reached a hand out to help his partner get to his feet. "We better get out of here before our welcoming committee finds us."
"Good idea" Jim agreed and slowly got to his feet with the help of his partner. Once confident that Jim could handle his own, Artemus made his way to his downed mare. Caressing her soft muzzle, he fought the lump in his throat. A bullet would not be needed. "Sorry my sweet, rest in peace."
Jim looked on in dismay knowing his partner was not a fan of horses. He was delighted when he found a gentle mare for his partner that could be rode with ease. She had a gentle disposition and seemed to float at a quick trot. His partner had come to cherish the mare and often would take Jim up on pleasure rides during their free time. She would be hard to replace.
Jim turned to his mount and stroked his forehead. His stallion's sturdy frame had prevented him from receiving more than a few scrapes and bruises.
"We better head out before they learn we took this trail" Artemus said as he walked up to Jim.
Jim nodded as he tightened his cinch. Placing a hand on Artie's shoulder he turned to mount. Just as he straightened in his saddle a shot rang out.
Jim slid from the saddle head first. Holding onto the saddle horn, he pulled himself up at the last second allowing him to land on his feet. Within a split second he was sprinting alongside his partner. Bullets flying rapidly, Blackjack reared to cover them as they ran for safety.
Dashing uninjured into the brush, Jim and Artie pulled out their guns and began firing back. As the gang started scattering, Jim took careful aim and downed one man. "Correction Artie, four more to go" Jim wise cracked as he fired again. "That's encouraging" Artemus shouted back as he downed one more.
"Three!" A deep voice boomed. At the new voice both Jim and Artie turned around. "Drop the guns gentlemen" the raspy voice demanded. Jim dropped his gun as he glanced at his partner. "Now get up and move" Jim motioned for Artemus to go first as he gave the bandit a deadly look. At first Artemus wasn't sure he wanted Jim behind him but proceeded anyway. As they were walking from the brush Jim stopped abruptly causing the bandit to run into him. With the second of indecision on the leader's part, Jim grabbed the gun and rammed it into the man's stomach causing it to discharge. Artemus followed his lead and grabbed the closest outlaw, throwing him off balance into his companion.
The leader doubled over but recovered quickly. Grabbing Jim by the arm, the outlaw pulled him into a punch causing Jim to fall to the ground. Jim got up slow and landed a right to the man's jaw then followed with a punch to the stomach. The outlaw stumbled back then swung catching Jim in the side. Landing hard Jim just laid flat on his back stunned. His vision blurred causing him to blink rapidly. He was vaguely aware of his side being on fire.
Artemus finished off his second man by running him head first into a tree. He spun toward his partner but stopped short when he saw the gun once again aimed at him. Artemus glanced to his partner's prone form as he raised his hands.
"That's it, nice and high, don't try anything" the leader sneered. Artemus set his jaw. This day can't get much worse. "Move over there." The outlaw motioned toward his men, not even worrying about the agent on the ground. Just before Artemus turned from his partner he took one last look and noticed his partner's eyes close slowly and not reopen.
With his gun still trained on Artie, the outlaw nudged one of his men with his boot. "Hey! Carlos! Wake up." He growled. With little patience the outlaw reached down and grabbed the man's sleeve. "Carl…" The statement was never finished as the leader fell to the ground unconscious.
Artemus sighed and turned to his partner. Jim had his arm protectively wrapped around his side; he stepped toward the tree and leaned against it for support. His face was flushed and it looked as if he would fall at any minute. Artemus stepped forward and grabbed his arm. "Jim you ok" "Yeah I'll be fine. We better get out of here."
Indecisive for a minute, Artemus reluctantly accepted Jim's answer and steered him toward the horses. With a little difficulty from his side, Jim was able to mount quickly and turned his stallion toward the trail as his partner mounted a small bay. Within a few seconds both agents were once again thundering full speed down the trail.
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Coming to, three of the outlaws staggered to their feet. Realizing the agents were gone they ran to the horses, mounted quickly, and sped off in hot pursuit.
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West felt his stallion slow a bit and urged him to keep up his speed, but the stallion was too tired. He had run franticly too long over the past week and his reserves were spent. West's stallion slowed a bit more and Artemus matched his speed. He was worried his partner was injured worse than he had let on. We got to find a place to hide. Trying to figure out what to do, Artemus looked back to see if they were being followed. His heart sank. The outlaws were already gaining ground. Lady luck's not on our side today. As if to prove his point Artemus felt more then heard a bullet graze his hairline. Pulling their guns, both Jim and Artie simultaneously fired back.
Within a few minutes the rocky trail opened up into a prairie about a mile long. With no more twists and turns to throw off the bandits aim, Jim and Artie leaned heavily into their saddles. Their only hope was that they could make it to the other side where an obvious cropping of rocks formed another trail that led into the mountains. The incline would slow them down but it would allow them some good hiding places.
A little more than three fourths of the way across the prairie, Artemus started to think they would make it when their luck turned from bad to worse.
Artie's stomach lurched when he saw Jim take a bullet in the chest, while he was turned to fire at the approaching bandits. As he spun and slumped forward in the saddle, Artemus saw the horse swerve in the same direction to center his rider. With no direction from his limp rider the stallion charged for the nearest rock outcropping and preceded to hide himself in a cave. Artemus headed for the same crop of rocks but quickly perched himself behind one for an ambush.
Knowing time was not a luxury, Artemus aimed high and accurately. As the bandit fell from the saddle dead, Artemus took aim again and plugged the last one before he even knew what hit him. When no other bandits rounded the corner, Artemus dashed for the cave he had seen the stallion take cover in. When he took in the sight of his partner his stomach turned.
The stallion was leaning up against the wall to try and keep West in the saddle but wasn't having much luck. With his hand clasped just below his shoulder, West started to slip from the saddle. Artemus was there in a flash as he grabbed his friend and eased him to the ground. 'Jim…' Artemus called as his partner started to close his eyes. 'Stay with me...' Artemus choked. He had to admit he was terrified and close to tears. The thought of losing his partner was horrifying. They had only been partnered for a few years, but the tie they shared was one of close brothers instead of associates. Artemus felt for a pulse and was relieved to find one albeit weak.
With Jim unconscious, Artemus doctored the chest wound the best he could; luckily the bullet had struck just below his shoulder and gone clean through. What worried Artemus more was the bullet wound to his lower abdomen. Artemus had no clue he had even been shot before, until he checked Jim's side. Explains why he was cradling his side. With closer inspection Artie grimaced when he saw the angry red welts over the wound. Artemus groaned. Turning his partner on to his side Artie wasn't surprised to see no exit wound. Have to cut it out.
Dropping his head onto one hand, Artemus couldn't believe their luck. His partner was already fighting infection and he didn't have the tools to dig into his partner's side to retrieve the bullet.
"Artie?" The single word came on a breath of air, insubstantial, not at all his partner's normal voice.
Artie eased over Jim so he could hear his words. Jim gazed at him blearily, through pain-filled eyes. "Where are we?" "We are in a Cave, roughly 10 miles from town." Jim closed his eyes. "Too far . . ."
Artie grabbed at his shoulders, fear churning inside. "James? James, you stay with me! Don't you leave me, you hear?" Jim shook his head slightly. "Not if I can help…" Grimacing he broke off with a low moan of pain.
Artemus grabbed the canteen next to him and poured a bit of water over his handkerchief, then dabbed at Jim's forehead. He could feel the heat of fever rising from Jim's skin. "I'm going to get you to a doctor, James my boy; don't worry. We will get you well again."
Once he double checked to make sure West was taken care of, Artemus went to check the horse but saw no immediate injuries. From the amount of blood covering the stallion, Artemus was sure the horse had been wounded but he could find nothing. Running his hands down the last leg, Artie stiffened when a click echoed through the cave. Artemus ducked as a bullet just barely missed his head. How could he have forgotten about Montove? He chastised himself.
With quick reflexes, he dodged the second bullet with ease as he ran towards the entrance. This time though he wasn't as lucky as a bullet dug through his thigh muscle, causing him to trip and fall. His gun fell from his holster a few feet away. Grasping his leg, he turned his body to face the bandit, cursing himself for letting his guard down. Without saying a word, the bandit took aim again. Just as he was going to fire a round into Artemus' skull, the black stallion reared and pushed the man off balance.
Artemus made a dash for his gun as the stallion reared again pushing the bandit further back. Before Artemus could aim, the stallion aimed a swift hoof towards the man's head, causing him to crumple and fall the short distance to the ground. Cautiously, Artemus limped over and checked for a pulse. There was none.
Turning to Jim's stallion, Artie couldn't help but laugh at the strange scolded expression the stallion was wearing. Limping toward him, Artie was touched when the stallion whinnied then nudged his arm affectionately. "You're a Smart boy… Thanks" The stallion nickered quietly in agreement.
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Artemus staggered at the pain that erupted from his leg, as he slowly lowered himself next to his partner. Just my luck, a bullet wound in the muscle I use the most. Artemus groused as he tore more fabric from his torn under shirt. Making a small square Artie placed it over the wound, then used a long strip to tie it in place. It would have to work for now, it was all he had. Satisfied that he wouldn't bleed to death just yet, Artie moved to check on his partner.
Jim's face was now completely flushed of color and showed a light gleam of sweat. Feeling his cheek, Artie wasn't the least bit surprised to feel a slight fever. Infection's setting in fast. Grabbing his canteen, Artie wet another small piece of cloth and placed it on Jim's forehead. At least the coolness would help. Pulling out his pocket watch, Artemus noted the time to be around two o'clock. Well Artemus old boy, mustn't waste precious time. His mind made up, Artie slowly got to his feet and limped to the entrance. The area was littered with dried brush. It wouldn't be too hard to construct a Travois for his injured partner. He seriously doubted Jim would be able to mount, let alone ride the ten and a half miles back to town.
The process was slow with his bum leg, but finally Artemus had a sturdy frame with branches joining the middle. To make it a bit more comfortable Artie gathered the bandit's horses and used their blankets to cover the bottom. Tying the small bay mare to a shrub, Artemus unbridled the two remaining horses and shooed them away. As they ran across the prairie, Artemus hooked the travois to the old mare before painfully limping back into the cave.
Cautious of his own injury, Artie slowly kneeled down to his partner and shook his good shoulder. "Jim?" A bit startled, Jim jumped awake and blurrily stared into Artie's eyes. Blinking rapidly Jim tried to clear his vision. Artemus couldn't help noticing the glossy appearance of his partner's usually bright blue/green eyes. "Jim it's time to go. I need your help getting you outside." Jim just groaned. "I know James but we got to get you to a doctor." He pleaded.
Comprehending his friends concern, Jim started to sit up but immediately fell back. His whole body was weak and ached more than he could ever remember. "Easy Jim let me help you" Artemus soothed as he placed his arms under his friend's back. Lifting up, Artemus paled at the pain in his leg. Steeling himself he grabbed Jim's good side and slowly helped him to a standing position. Catching Jim as he swayed, Artemus slowly steered him toward the cave entrance.
When Artie had Jim comfortable on the travois, he returned to the cave and gathered what supplies he had and led Jim's stallion from the cave. "Alright boy, take it easy on me. I'm not up to a bunch of rough riding" The stallion shook his head and whinnied. Not sure what the jester was supposed to mean, Artie pulled the stallion up alongside the mare. Grabbing her reins, he painfully mounted the black. "Alright let's go" Without protest Blackjack started into a smooth walk.
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After about four miles, Artemus jerked in the saddle as he felt his body sway to the side. The stallion snorted in protest, but unlike his normal behavior he tolerated the rough handling of the reins. "Sorry boy, guess I dozed." The stallion bobbed his head as he continued walking along quietly.
Feeling a bit feverish, Artemus put his hand to his forehead. He could feel the heat radiating from his own body. His whole leg was aching along with his head and he knew without a doctor he would soon be fighting an infection and lead poisoning. He wasn't sure if he wasn't already fighting either one.
After another mile, Artemus swayed causing Blackjack to stop. A bit disorientated Artie took a large drink from his canteen. Pouring some in his hand he swiped it across his face and for a second he felt a little better. Figuring his partner was probably needing water too, Artie slowly dismounted. As soon as his leg touched the ground he hissed at the sharp pain.
Unable to get past it he fell to the ground, rolling on his side and grasping for his leg. For an eternity he laid as still as possible until his leg returned to a dull throb.
Slowly rolling to his stomach, he took a deep breath then rose to his knees. His leg came alive again and he was beginning to wonder if dismounting was a good idea. As the pain intensified even more, Artemus found his world spinning out of control until all at once everything went black.
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About an hour later.
A young boy of about ten drove a spanking pair of black percherons down the dirt road at a slow pace. His dad had taught him to drive and this was his first outing alone. His mission was to get supplies from town. If he passed this test, his dad would allow him to start riding his chestnut mare to school alone. His father figured if he could be trusted with the wagon then he could be trusted with almost anything. The boy smiled at this thought.
Paying close attention to the road so as not to hit a pot hole, the boy urged the horses forward with a light tap of the reins. When he rounded a small bend, the boy pulled back on the reins. "Whoa Cinder, Whoa Rocket" Standing so he could see over the horse's heads the boy frowned and pulled the break. Tying off the reins he jumped from the wagon.
Cautiously the young boy walked up to a dark-haired man lying in the road. Reaching for his arm the boy gently pulled him onto his back. "Mister?" When he got no response, he tried again. "Mister, wake up." This time the boy was somewhat relieved when the man shifted.
Opening his eyes slowly, Artie blinked several times when he saw a blurry shape in front of him. His vision clearing, he was surprised to see a young boy in front of him.
"You ok, Mister" the young boy asked, as he reached for the stranger's hand. With more strength than expected from a ten-year-old, the boy hoisted Artie into a sitting position.
Head spinning, Artie placed a hand to his head and let out a groan. "My name is Kaleb" The boy introduced himself while extending a hand. "Artemus" he rasped, taking the offered hand. "You bad hurt mister?" The boy questioned.
"You can call me Artie, if Artemus is too hard" Artie offered. "Kay mist…I mean Artie." Artemus chuckled then turned from the boy to get up. About halfway up, Artie hissed and fell back to the ground. "Easy Artie" The boy cautioned. "Hang on" running to the wagon the boy grabbed a white stick before returning. "Here this might help. It was my grandpa's walking stick." "Thanks" Artie took the stick and found it much easier to keep his weight off his injured leg. Of course, it didn't stop the pain but Artemus was able to make it to his feet easily enough.
"Is your friend hurt too" the boy asked as he caught sight of the other man for the first time. "Yes, he is worse than me, he was shot twice." Artie explained as he limbed towards the travois.
The young boy followed Artemus to the travois and looked on as the older man checked the younger man's forehead. "His fever is higher." Artemus said sadly as he picked up his friend’s hand. "I have a wagon" the boy piped up trying to be of help.
Artemus looked to the boy. He seemed so much more mature than his age. With a small smile Artemus patted the boy on the shoulder.
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Unable to sit up straight anymore, Artemus had long since resigned to dozing in the back of the wagon. His body didn't ache as much in his reclined position and he could keep an eye on his partner easier.
Jim hadn't even so much as flinched since Kaleb and Artemus had carried his dead weight into the back of the wagon. Opening his eyes briefly, Artemus saw Jim's stallion trudging haphazardly behind them. He had left him untied so he could walk at his own pace, knowing he was past exhaustion but would loyally follow his master. His vision blurring a bit Artemus let his tired body relax into a deep sleep.
The young boy slapped the reins against the team's sides urging them into a faster trot.
Within thirty minutes, Kaleb pulled his weight against the reins and the team easily slowed to a stop in front of a small white building. Pulling the brake, he tied the reins rapidly then jumped from the wagon. Running up the steps, he almost plowed through the door as he came to a halt before knocking loudly. When there was no answer the boy banged on the door again before calling out. "Dr Rollins!"
This time the boy sighed as the door unlocked and opened to reveal an elderly gentleman. "Kaleb my son, what's the matter?" The old doctor asked worriedly. "Is your family well?"
Out of breath, the boy pointed to the wagon. "Yes, sir but I found two men who are hurt pretty bad." The doctor looked over his glasses toward the wagon. Patting the boy on the shoulder, he rushed to the side of the wagon and took in the two men. "Kaleb, this man's been shot" the doctor looked to the boy confused. When no answer was forth coming from the boy the doctor continued. "Kaleb go get Rob and Kelly." "Yes, sir.” the boy chimed as he ran back up the steps.
Taking the pulse of the younger man the doctor frowned then moved his vest to look at the wound. The wound in his chest was infected but the bleeding had stopped. Seeing the other stain just above the man's hip, he lifted the shirt enough to take a quick look. The doctor was not surprised to see the dark gunpowder stain surrounding another bullet hole. Hmmm, must have been close range. This one was more infected than the first so the doctor lifted the patient up onto his side. His frown deepened when he saw no exit wound. Just as he turned to check his second patient Rob and Kelley came into the yard.
Without turning the doctor addressed the man of about twenty. "Rob Get a stretcher." Immediately the man turned to do as the doctor asked. As the old doctor turned to his other patient, Kelley stepped up to her father's side. "Kelley, I need you to prep for surgery. This young man has a gunshot to his side and the bullet is still there." The girl turned to go back inside but was stopped short.
"Kelley…Make that two trays. This man has a bullet wound to the leg.
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At first, Artie fought consciousness as it returned; pushing it from him as it insistently nudged the edges of his mind. He was feeling warm and no longer in pain. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to ignore the muffled voices that seemed to be drifting to him from somewhere far away. He didn't care what they were saying, he just wanted to sleep.
Voices? His eyes sprang open at the sudden realization. Confused, he ran a hand across his face and glanced around. Where was he? The room he found himself in was suffused with the soft glow of daylight which filtered through drawn curtains, giving his surroundings a slightly hazy appearance.
He now realized that he was lying in a bed. His gaze wandered down over the warm quilt covering his body. How did he get here?
The voices grew louder now, and he heard the sound of footfall as someone approached. Artie turned his head towards the door to his left as it was opened moments later.
"Well Mr. Gordon, I hope you are feeling a little better today""Wh-what happened...how'd I get here?” His mouth had difficulty framing the question, and his voice sounded hoarse and strange to him.
"You were brought in last night with a gunshot to your leg; we had to perform surgery to remove the bullet. You’re fighting a nasty infection, but with a little time I expect you to make a full recovery." Doctor Rollins explained as he checked his patient's vitals.
Trying to rise, Artemus fell back as his world spun. "No, No Mr. Gordon, your body is still weak from infection and you must allow yourself time." The doctor explained as he set the bed into a sitting position. "My daughter will be in every couple of hours to check on you. If you need anything just give this knob a turn. It sends a chime through the house. Someone will be with you shortly." The doctor made a quick note on his chart before placing it on the table then turned to leave.
"Doc, Wait!" Artemus panicked as his memories of what had happened flooded back into his brain. "My partner, Is he ok?" The Doc kept his face neutral as he turned back towards the man in the bed.
"Your partner is alive…but his chances aren't good." Gauging his patient's mental status, Doctor Rollins continued.
"We removed the bullet from his side and had to repair some damage to his lung. Both wounds are dangerously infected. Frankly…if he doesn't develop gang green, we can count ourselves lucky. But with his fever rising and the complications from his lung he may not make it through another night.
Artie's face drained of what little color it had left. He remembered his partner being bad off but it still hit harder coming from a doctor.
"My nurse is bandaging him up now. When we are finished Mr. West will be transported to this room. But remember Mr. Gordon you both need complete rest."
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Artemus sat in his favorite armchair reading a book when his partner sauntered in from the stable car. Looking up he noticed his partner seemed a bit pale. Placing his book down, Artemus jumped up to catch his partner as he swayed. Lowering Jim onto the couch he quickly grabbed a glass and poured it halfway with Brandy. "Here Jim, you don't look well, take a sip of this." Artemus offered the glass. Jim took a sip then pushed it away. His face turned a shade whiter as he broke out into a sweat. Grasping his shoulder, Jim groaned before passing out on the couch. Artemus was appalled. Grabbing his partner once again, he eased him onto his side. Reaching for a wrist, Artemus desperately searched for a pulse. Finding none, he quickly started CPR in hope of reviving his partner.
After what seemed like hours Artemus had yet to regain a pulse and was losing hope fast. Deciding to try one last time, Artemus froze. Suddenly his hands wouldn't cooperate and he stared helplessly into the vacant eyes of his partner. His world started to fade in front of him causing Artemus to lose his breath. He desperately wanted to go to his partner's side but he was being pulled away. Suddenly the scene in front of him changed.
The sense of dread overcame him as he saw a tombstone materialize in front of him. In large bold letters, he read James west. Blanching Artemus hit his knees and started to weep. 'This is my fault' He screamed in agony as the memories of the shooting flooded his mind.
In deep despair Artemus haphazardly got to his feet and fled. Everywhere he turned he saw the same Tombstone. Running as if the devil himself was after him, Artemus made a bee line toward what he thought was the end of the cemetery, but the line of tombstones just grew longer and longer. Suddenly he heard a crack and the earth below him opened up. With desperation he grabbed for anything he could to keep himself from falling. When nothing was forthcoming, he skidded into the hole and began to fall into what he could only imagine to be a grave. Hitting rock bottom, Artemus rolled over in agony as he tried to catch his breath. What he saw when he turned made his chest ache. There in front of him was the pale form of his lost partner. Eyes vacant but accusing. Artemus let out a horrified scream.
Startled awake, Artemus sat trying to breathe slowly to return his rapidly beating heart back into a livable pace. The loud thump of his heart helped to fuel his cold sweat as he desperately tried to forget the dream he had just endured.
“Mr. Gordon are you ok?” young Kelly asked as she checked his pulse. "Yeah "Artie croaked before clearing his throat. He looked to the bed next to him and was grateful to see his partner still among the living.
Smiling, Kelly pulled a syringe out of her pocket and checked the dose. "Would you like to talk about it?" She offered politely.
"No Thanks" Artie declined as he looked to the syringe. "Wait please, May I talk with the Doc first" Artemus pleaded. Unsure what to do she paused then placed the syringe on the table. "Sure" She smiled and turned to exit.
Within a few minutes, Artie looked up as the door swung opened. "Well Mr. Gordon, It's nice to see you awake. How are you feeling this morning?" "Still hurts a bit" Artemus admitted. The doctor frowned then looked to his chart. "I'll have my intern up the dose a bit, your infection is under control and you should be on the road to recovery. You will still be laid up for some time though."
Artemus frowned at the thought of being stuck in a chair for longer than a day and the thought didn't hold well with him. "How's Jim?"
The doctor gave an understanding smile and walked to the other bed. "Not too bad, Mr. Gordon. Your partner has a good strong will. His infection is almost gone and although his fever is still a bit high, it has receded a bit.” The doctor explained as he read the chart. "I won't lie to you Mr. Gordon, with the amount of blood loss and the extent of his infections, your partner never should have made it out of surgery. I don't think he would make it this far then just give up. My prognosis gives him a full recovery, of course he will have to go to rehab for his shoulder."
Rolling the information around his brain, Artie looked at Jim's face. It was still ashen with a light gleam of sweat, but his features seemed more alive than the ones from his dream. "Thanks Doc" Artemus whispered "Oh I was only part of it. Kaleb is the one who found you."
Artie's brow furrowed as he looked to the doctor. How could he have forgotten the young boy with the wagon? "Kaleb?" "Yes, he came in here like his pants were on fire. If he hadn't of gotten you here when he did, you and your friend over there would be history. By the way, he wanted me to give you this." The Doc pulled a small letter from his pocket and handed it to Artemus. "He said it was top secret and only you were to read it." The doctor laughed. "Young boys and their imaginations, He has it in his head you two Gents are top secret Agents. I guess it was something you said in your sleep." Artemus smirked and took the offered piece of paper.
Just as he was about to open it a knock came at the door. "Excuse me Mr. Gordon, but there is a Colonel Richmond at the door. Said you know him, should I let him in?" Kelley asked politely. The doctor just looked at his patient quizzically.
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Artemus sat in his favorite armchair reading a book when his partner sauntered in from the stable car. Looking up he noticed his partner seemed a bit pale. Placing his book down, he instantly remembered his dream and jumped up. "Jim! You feeling ok" he asked a bit shakily.
Jim glanced worriedly at his partner. "Yeah should I not be?" "Sit down Jim" Artemus insisted as he pushed Jim into the armchair, he had just vacated.
"I'm fine, really!" Jim insisted wondering what had gotten into his partner. "What gives Artie?" Jim asked a bit annoyed.
"Don't move; let me get you some water." Better not get Brandy, He thought, remembering his dream. "Here drink this" Artemus said as he returned.
Jim took the glass and took a small drink for his partner's benefit. "Thanks Artie" Pushing the glass away Jim looked at his partner. The fear he saw on his face was unsettling. "Artie, are you ok, you look like you've just seen a ghost."
Puzzled, Artemus suddenly realized his dream was in fact not coming true. Turning a bit red, Artie took the glass and turned from his partner. His mind was confused; he had had the dream several times a night since the shooting and it haunted him. The scene seemed to match perfectly and his heart skipped a beat at the thought of losing his friend. "I'm sorry Jim" Artie whispered.
Jim got to his feet and put his hand on Artie's shoulder. "It's ok Artemus; I appreciate your concern. I'm fine, just a bit tired. My energy seems to come in short waves. Nothing a little nap wouldn't cure."
Artemus looked into his friend's eyes and saw how tired they looked. "How about a small lunch, first? It will make you feel better." Artie offered. Thinking of refusing, Jim turned the thought down. "Sure Artie, as long as it's not soup. I was shot in the side not the stomach. How about something solid?" Artemus smiled. "But Jim you love soup." He teased.
Jim scrunched his face. "Yeah, but not for three meals a day, for a whole month. Come on I can't survive that. My stomach is going to eat itself. "Jim half complained and half joked. As if in agreement, Jim's stomach growled loudly. "See!" Artemus just stared at his partner's pleading expression for a second before busting out laughing.
Shrugging Jim joined in the laughter.
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Jim west couldn’t contain his excitement. It had been 2 months since his partner, and he were shot. He was finally allowed to take short rides on Artie’s mare. Technically it was a bandit’s mare but Artie claimed her after her owner was killed by the two agents. The Mare was a small, plump bay with black zebra stripes on the legs. Her mane was cut short to her head and matched the short bob cut of her tail. Artie had used this mare to escape when his own mare was killed.
Jim stopped about a mile from the Wanderer and just looked out at the prairie. He had missed this. The freedom to get out and go wherever he wanted.
The only thing that would have made it better was for him to be cleared to ride his own stallion. Unfortunately, after being off for 2 months, Blackjack was antsy. West wasn’t quite sure he was up for one of his full out sprints yet. So, he settled for this punchy little mare. “You’re a good girl,” He soothed as he patted her neck.
Artie wasn’t in full agreement, but Jim thought she was a great mare. A little stubborn and hot headed at times, but for the most part she was laid back. Jim pivoted her around and urged her into a brisk canter, on the way back. He wanted to see how he could handle it so he could gage if he could ride Blackjack for the next outing.
The wind was amazing. What a beautiful day he thought. Then, suddenly the mare bucked. Jim laughed at her halfhearted attempt to unseat him. “you will have to try harder than that!” he chuckled.
A few more strides and he pulled her up short at the stable car. Artemus stepped out in time to see his partner lose his seat and grab the horse’s neck to keep himself from flying over her head. “She has a nice stop, could definitely make a good cow horse,” He told Artie as he jumped down without a beat.
“I think I will try my hand at Blackjack.” He said as he led the mare up into the car. His stallion nickered and stomped his foot with anticipation. He so wanted to run. Jim took his saddle and placed it across his stallions back. “Hey, Boy! Want to go for a run!” Blackjack whinnied and pranced in his stall.
Artie looked at his partner incredulously. “I don’t…” Artie was cut off by Jim
“Alright boy, let’s go.” Within minutes Jim had the stallion ready and down the ramp.
“Jim!” Artie warned. “I’m not sure this is the best idea.” Artemus had a worried expression. “I really think we should let someone else ride him the first time.”
“Nonsense! it will be fine Artie” Jim was in the saddle without hesitation. He winced slightly at the pain in his side. Tapping the rim of his hat towards his partner, He lightly urged the stallion forward. Black jack needed no more encouragement as he took off into a gallop. Dust came up from the ground as he dug his feet in.
Artie cleared the air with his hand, as he looked on in awe as the two rapidly distanced themselves from the train. His partner had always been an amazing rider and would look for reasons to practice his riding skills. Blackjack being a challenge is what Jim loved most about him. Artie on the other hand preferred a nice walk. Or better yet, a nice wagon with two old, been there, done that type horses that needed to be urged just to make a faster walk. Artie was not into spirited animals.
The black poured his heart into the gallop. He had been locked up for so long. With a whinny he called to his master as he picked up speed. With a huge grin on his face, Jim let him have his head. They covered about 2 miles before he felt the stallion slow a bit, so Jim eased him into a canter. “Not too much too soon.” He soothed the stallion
The stallion moved down easily into his famous prance. Still smiling, Jim struggled to keep his side from jarring each time he came down into the saddle. He let out a small grunt, followed by a laugh. Jim winced. Pulling up on his mount, Blackjack slowed to a steady walk.
“Good boy!” Jim patted the steed on his neck. The stallion bobbed his head barely out of breath. Blackjack had a lot of steam left but he sensed his master was not quite his usual self. He stayed at a brisk walk as he pointed himself toward home. The last quarter mile, Jim let Blackjack have his head again. The stallion went into a soft lope as he anticipated a treat once he was back home.
Artie reached his hand up for the reins as Blackjack skidded to a stop in front of him. His partner once again slid forward into the saddle and used his hands on his mounts withers to slow his forward progression. Jim winced again and grabbed his side as he leaned forward.
“Jim! Are you ok?” Artie asked, concerned for his best friend. With a moment’s hesitation, Jim pulled himself straighter in the saddle. He had the look of a 10-year-old boy that just won his first race.
Artemus, with reins in hand, reached up for his partner. “Come on, buddy.” Time to go sit down. I will make sure Blackjack is taken care of.
Jim winced again with his arm around his side. “I’m fine.” He half chuckled. “Just forgot how bouncy his prancing is! He didn’t even get all the jitters out.”
With Artie’s help, Jim dismounted and leaned into his friend. “That was awesome!” West said. “I missed that so much...” Artie’s worried expression softened. “I know, Jim. Let’s get you inside.”
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About 2 years later
Jim led both his stallion and Artie’s horse down the ramp with a renewed energy. Handing the reins over to his partner, he briskly mounted his stallion. The two men had a date with a young boy and his family. It had been a little over 2 years since young Kaleb found the two agents in the road on the way to town.
Kaleb kept in correspondence with Jim and Artie through the years. After visiting them frequently in the hospital, Kaleb was sad to see them leave. He would miss their exciting stories and adventures as secret service agents. He was delighted when the two agents regaled more stories by letter. It was like receiving a new book. Kaleb kept every letter and would reread them often.
The two agents headed their mounts in the direction of the farm at an even lope. Unbeknownst to Artemus, Jim also had a surprise for his partner. Under Jim’s instruction, Kaleb had sent Jim West a few private correspondences. It took some work but Jim was able to keep the letters secret from his partner. Artemus had no clue what the visit was really for.
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After dinner, Kaleb bounced up and down as he led his two friends to the barn. He was eager to show Artemus the mount his father had bought for him. This was a step up to his current mare.
Artemus chuckled at the boy’s enthusiasm. “remind you of anyone?” he said to his partner with a gleam in his eye. Jim smiled. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Artie!” Jim knew it was a jab at his love of horses.
As they walked in the barn, there stood a tall silver thoroughbred with a dappled blanket, four dark gray socks, and a peppered black mane and tail. Jim whistled as he walked up to the stall. “Now, that is a horse!” Jim gasped as he moved to get a closer look.
“Dad is going to allow me to start riding him full time, now. I have been training him for the past year.” The boy beamed with pride. “He is fast and prances like a prince!” the boy added at the end. Kaleb could barely contain his excitement.
Artemus jabbed his partner in the side. “I’m picturing a young Jim, right now” Artie teased. Jim just gave him an innocent smile before saying. “Let’s take him out for a spin!” The boy jumped in anticipation. “Yes! Yes!” Kaleb could barely contain himself as he started to grab his tack. Jim pulled his partner over to the next stall. Artemus peeked in at the Chestnut mare with the peculiar star on her forehead. The stall had a small wood sign with the name Mesa carved into it. Artemus gazed at the mare as his partner entered the stall. He grabbed a saddle and started saddling the mare.
Confused, Artemus looked quizzically at his partner. “Blackjack is going to be jealous!”
Jim smiled. “I won’t be riding this mare…You will be riding her.”
Artemus looked indignant. “I’m good, Jim. I like to stick with what I know.” Jim gave his partner a pleading look. “Please. You won’t regret it, I promise.”
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As Jim and Kaleb raced across the prairie, Artie was sweet talking the gentle mare. “Thatta girl. Nice and easy.” As he tried to convince her not to do anything drastic, the mare nickered at her rider and kept her pace slow and reassuring. With curiosity, Artemus nudged her into a smooth trot. He was pleasantly surprised at how smooth she was. For a Quarter horse she floated with ease.
Artemus was just getting comfortable, when he realized the thunder of hooves had become a blur of white noise and was increasingly getting louder. He looked up to see his partner and the young boy laughing as they urged their horses faster straight towards him. Artemus pulled Mesa up short as Jim and Kaleb raced past him. Mesa snorted and slowly turned towards the horses that had just raced past her. Gently she came to a stop and bobbed her head.
Eyes wild Blackjack and Sport dug their hooves into the ground. Both horses came to a screeching halt within a few yards of Artie and the mare. “I win! I win!” Kaleb chimed. Jim bowed in defeat. “you got yourself a nice gelding, there.” Jim said impressed. “He gave Blackjack a run for his money! We were so close to winning!” Jim looked towards his partner. “What do you think of your mare, Artie?” he asked curiously.
Artie gave a pleasant smile. “Well, she is definitely a change of pace from that old bay grump I have now.” He said honestly. “she reminds me of my old mare.” His face flashed a small amount of regret as he thought of the loss of his last mare. Jim saw the face and interrupted his thoughts. “Well, I’m glad you approve because I don’t think she is returnable.”
With a confused expression, Artemus looked to his partner. “She is all yours, Artie.” Jim said with affection. “Mesa was a startup horse for Kaleb. He has outgrown her and she needs a good home. I already wired the money. She is all yours!” He explained.
Artemus was speechless. He looked down at the mare and placed a hand on her withers. His eyes misty, he whispered “Mesa” as he gave her a light pat. Mesa nickered in pleasure. “I think she likes you” Kaleb added. “She is a good mare. Smooth as honey, bomb proof, and a heart of gold. I trained her myself” the boy said proudly.
Artemus smiled a huge smile. “I would be honored to give her a home…What do you think Mesa? Do you want to be my new girlfriend?” He wooed her in his most charming voice. Mesa bobbed her head and whinnied. The trio laughed in unison as they turned their mounts towards home. This would be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.