Prodigal Son
Chapter 3

Copyright© 2020 by UtIdArWa

“Sheriff better come quick. They’re coming.”

The Sheriff looked questioningly at the Doc. “Go ahead, Pete. There’s nothing you can do for them. As soon as I can, I’ll be over to look at the boy.”

“Ok, Doc, but you know these folks will want some answers. Is there anything I can tell them?”

“Tell them that the young lady is alive and not likely to die. Both of the women are in shock. I don’t have anything else until I can talk to them. The boy I don’t know. Won’t know until I can look him over.”

The Sheriff was unsatisfied with that answer. “God, that ain’t going to be enough Doc. Please don’t waste any time. I’ll need your help.”

“I’m doing the best I can, Sheriff.”

As the Sheriff stepped back out onto the main street, his biggest fears were realized.

The dust was settling and Colonel Joshua Anderson was at the center of the main town square. With him was a burly black man with Sergeant Major stripes. He seemed as big if not bigger than the horse he was sitting. On the Colonels, other side was a young Hispanic boy. He was the direct opposite of the burly man. Not more than 5 foot and 100 lbs. He carried in his right hand a gleaming bugle. In his left, a 3-yard-long pike topped with a diagonal red and white guidon. In the center of which a gold R had been embroidered. The butt of the pike was fitted into a bracket on the boy’s stirrup.

To the Colonels left and right, both directions of main street held a double column of horse riders. To his rear was another double column of riders, that stretched down first street.

Not a sound was made beyond the restlessness of the horses and the rattle of equipment.

The Colonel turned to the young boy, “Pablo, scouts out if you please.”

“Yes, sir.” The boy raised the bugle to his lips, moistened them, and blew a military tattoo on the bugle. Up and down the columns, individual riders wheeled their mounts to the left and right and galloped out of sight behind buildings. Within minutes figures started appearing on rooftops up and down the main roads and, in particular, the town square. All of these men were armed with rifles that they carried at the ready.

The Colonel had spotted and ignored the Sheriff as soon as he stepped out of the Doctors office. Not raising his voice, he asked “Where are they?”

“The ladies are being tended by the Doc in his office, Colonel. He says they’re unharmed in shock but will survive.”

A brief moment of relief crossed the Colonel’s face quickly it faded. “The boy?”

“In my office. I felt it best to put him into a cell for his protection. He’s in bad shape, Colonel.”

Leaning back over to the young man, “Pablo, sick call.” Again, the boy moistened his lips and blew on his bugle.

As the riders in the ranks heard the bugle call, a murmur arose in the riders.

The burly rider on the other side of the Colonel whirled his horse around and faced the columns. In a voice that expressed both anger and projected a demand for obedience, he bellowed, “Silence in the ranks.”

From the center column, a white painted hard-sided wagon with large red crosses centered on each side came galloping down. Pulling up to one side, the older man riding in the jump seat asked “Where to Joshua?”

“In the jail, Julian. His condition is unknown. The two ladies are in the physician’s office being tended by him. I’ve met him. He seems competent. They are said to be ‘in shock’ but expected to survive. I suggest you look to the boy first.”

The older man, followed by a younger man in a white smock, dismounted the wagon. Another followed them from inside the wagon.

Two women dressed in nurse’s smocks also dismounted and headed into the Doctors’ offices. As they hurried on their mission, Julian called out, “A welfare report as quickly as you can Agnes, Thank you.”

The older of the 2 called out. “Yes, Doctor.” As they disappeared into the physician’s office.

The Doctor and his medics entered the jail, and immediately the older man came back out. “Sheriff, how the bloody hell do you expect me to treat my patient when he is inside of a locked goddamned cell?”

The Colonel turned and glared at the Sheriff, and another murmur ran down the ranks. The burly rider didn’t correct them this time.

Hurrying into his office, “My apologies, Doctor, I felt it best at the time.”

Quickly the cell door was unlocked and the Doctor brushed past him, followed by aides. When the Sheriff turned, he was face to face with the Colonel. “Colonel. I couldn’t be in two places at once, and I thought the women needed me more than the boy. I locked him up to keep the mob away from him more than anything else. He isn’t under arrest or anything.”

The Colonel brushed past the Sheriff and approached where the Doctor was tending his patient. “Doctor?”

“It ain’t good, Joshua. I can’t say anything other than I hope. And I’m hoping a whole hell of a lot.”

“Very well, Doctor keep me updated as permissible.”

Turning to the Sheriff, “If you would sir, I require a report concerning the abuse that has been made on my people. 2 women one under 16 years. And a young boy just past his 14th birthday.”

“Please, Colonel, don’t blame the townsfolks. It appears that when your ladies and the young man were finishing their business with the shopkeepers well, the boy was dragged behind the saloon, and four or five assailants started beating him. The two ladies tried to come to his rescue but were also attacked. There was some question about the condition of the little girl. Her clothes had been torn during the attack. And she was unable to answer any questions. The boy was beaten unconscious and unable to answer questions. Because voices were being raised that the boy had assaulted the little girl, there was talk of a lynching. I thought it best to safeguard him in one of my cells until I could get better control of the situation. I’m at a loss as to how you heard about it so quickly.”

Ignoring his question, “And what about the true perpetrators? Why aren’t they in custody? Who and where are they?”

“Colonel, I’m not sure they were in town earlier and have disappeared since then. But the women aren’t talking, and the boy can’t.”

“Sheriff, you are trying my patience. Either you have suspects, or you don’t. Which is it?”

“Well, and remember, I have no proof I think it might have been Billy Jackson and his bunch.”

Before he could continue, the Colonel turned and walked out of the jail.

“Pablo, officers call please” “Yes sir,” Followed by a bugle tattoo.

From various points in all three columns, 12 individuals came galloping to the town square. Dismounting and gathering around the Colonel, he quietly started talking. When the Sheriff tried to approach, he was intercepted by the burly Sergeant Major. “Apologies sir, this is a private conference. If the Colonel wants you to know something, he’ll tell you what you need to know.”

“Gentlemen, the two ladies appear to be alright. But we won’t know the full details until the surgeon can see to them. My desire is to get them safely back home as quickly as possible. Depending on the surgeon’s recommendations. The boy has been badly beaten. Again, I want all our people home and under our care. With young Hans, we may have to wait. Until he is ready to return, I want a security detail here. Sergeant Major 8 of the best if you please. 4 on four off. Quarters in the livery. See Clive for details.”

“Next, I want a tracking party. This will not be a posse, nor will it be a lynch mob. I’ll require an experienced team. Your most even-tempered if you please. This will require a gentle touch. Sergeant Major, I’ll need our best scouts. Correction, our best trackers.

The Sergeant Major spoke up, “Sir, if I may suggest. Lieutenant Hobson has already formed a tracking unit. I think this would be a good opportunity to test their abilities.”

“Are they good, Sergeant Major? Once again, I rely on your expertise?”

“They’re a bit rough, sir. But tough, able and proud. This would be a good time for them to shine.”

“Very well, Sergeant Major, we have our tracking party.” Turning to the officer on his right. “Troop A, Jack, you will escort the ladies’ home. I shouldn’t have to tell you to ride easy they have had a rough go of it and don’t need any more abuse. When you get back to the Hacienda, the Regimental ladies will take over. See that any and all requests are satisfied.”

“Troop B, Alan, you follow behind Jack. Provide him with a loose security curtain. Flanks and rear if you please.”

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