Disclaimer: Queen of Swords was created by Fireworks Entertainment, and is owned by ContentFilm. This story is NOT affiliated with the rights holders or the show's original creators. No infringement is intended and no profit is being made. This story is for entertainment purposes only.
The author would like to thank Robert Vincent for all his valuable support and input.
Chapter 6: Out Of The Bag
The morning had gotten off to a very intense start for Doctor Helm. It was 6 'o' clock when Álvar Domingo had ridden out to his office, banging on the door, crying urgently for help. His father had sent him to get the doctor. His mother had woken up with contractions. Her baby was due right now.
Robert had rode hard and fast, knowing that the Domingos' residence was a mile and a half out of town. His determination to get there in time to deliver the child had fuelled him like only an emergency of this nature could. Thankfully, López Domingo had experience and common sense, and had prepared towels and hot water waiting for Helm, and had also done everything possible to comfort his wife, Leti. Her water had broke and she was in tremendous pain. If it hadn't been for her family's quick thinking and the Doctor arriving in the nick of time, Leti could very well have ended up losing her newborn.
But all was well, and the Domingo family could welcome little Danni into the world. Smiles of gratitude and welcome cups of tea had bid Helm farewell. He knew he could afford to take his time on the ride back to town.
As the Englishman travelled the lonely path, he smiled. The fiesta two weeks ago had been a tremendous success and everyone (barring Montoya of course) had really enjoyed themselves. Robert had come second in the wine-tasting competition to Don Gaspar, but it didn't matter. He'd enjoyed himself and the other festivities so much. The fact that there was no vengeful assassin after him this time naturally helped, but there was something else about it all.
He had truly felt human again. And it was because of the people, the goodness of the community that hadn't been crushed by Montoya…and because of the Queen of Swords.
Maybe some loves should be kept secret, Helm remembered telling her a long time ago, to protect Vera from having the truth about her affair with Captain Grisham coming out. The Doctor had obviously meant something else as well. Both he and the Avenging Angel had gone through hell together. And it was by triumphing and surviving that hell, that they'd both come to realise…and express, just how much they meant to the other.
We're soul mates, Robert thought as the sight of Santa Helena came into view. And it's not just her that's afraid to fully admit that. It's me, too. Afraid that it could never work. Afraid of what Montoya or Grisham would do if they ever found out. Neither of them are going away. And what if she finally takes her mask off? Or if I finally find out who she is underneath? Things could never ever be the same.
And maybe…we'd both regret it afterwards.
Doctor Helm exhaled his anxiety and then brought his horse to the stables. He brushed him down, gave him a drink and patted him for riding so well this morning. The Doctor then left the stables to return to his office, rubbing his neck and yawning. Thankfully, he had no appointments to worry about until the afternoon. So he could afford to get a bit more rest and maybe some breakfast.
He entered his office and locked the door behind him, happy to be back home. Still tidy and organised. Robert remembered fondly about the Queen of Swords once quipping about him being a messy housekeeper and decided to take that to heart, just to show her in their game of one-upmanship.
Still…she knew what she was talking about. She always has.
Robert put his bag down and then hung his coat up. He looked at the clock. Two minutes past eight. A cup of coffee was definitely in order. But before he could even touch the kettle…
The smash of glass beakers, a stool falling over and a woman's cry of pain made his head turn sharply to the direction of his work room. The Doctor's eyes immediately widened with shock, recognising the sound of the female's pain. He grabbed the curtain and drew it open to see what was behind it.
She was bleeding badly. Her left hand was clutching tightly the stool she'd knocked over, struggling mightily to stand. Her right hand was held protectively over her mid-section where she'd been shot. And she grimaced in agony over her injured ribs. She had experienced this pain before, but she didn't recall it being this excruciating.
"Oh, my God…" gasped Robert as his friend stumbled again. He quickly dashed over to catch her and gently helped her towards the table. Those beautiful masked eyes, let loose a tear mixed of pain and fear, as they gazed deep into Helm's own eyes.
His feelings mirroring hers.
"Robert…" wheezed the Queen, fighting the blackness that threatened to overwhelm her, "help me."
"Captain, you're injured."
"Well, duh!" Grisham had roared, punching the corporal that had tried to help him. "Get yourselves mounted and get after her!"
The Captain and his men had gathered themselves up and divided into teams. They were now scattered across the country and patrolling the roads whilst Grisham and his men rode back to town with all haste.
The gold shipment had naturally gone wrong. They had expected the Queen to show up and ergo had prepared the latest trap as per Montoya's orders. What they hadn't expected was the Avenging Angel to be using dynamite. The explosions on the cliffs overlooking the road had caught the soldiers (wielding rifles) by surprise. The next explosion had happened in the road right before the wagon, startling the horses and sending several more soldiers flying. In no time, the Queen had taken care of the marksmen from up high, and mere moments later, she and Chico had dashed down to the road and taken care of the remaining small fry.
Grisham's fury had intensified even more as he realised how it had been her trap all along. How expertly she'd turned the tables before they could even execute their own set-up. To make matters worse, the vigilante had unhooked the frightened horses from their load. They fled in fear from the confusion, leaving the wagon and shipment delivery motionless.
As Grisham now rode back to Santa Helena, he could only think about the vicious lashes on his face and his back. The bump on his head. The gash on his right arm, the boot that had nearly knocked his teeth down his throat, and the knife that had been imbedded in his right foot. The Queen hadn't been playing around this time, despite that stupid mocking grin. His injuries were still hurting him, even now.
But no where near as much as yours I'll bet, the sadistic captain smirked slightly. Weren't expecting me to get my pistol back in my hand so quickly, were you? Or that little surprise of my own.
Their fight had taken them on the back of the wagon. It looked as though she was going to triumph. Again. Montoya's threats, the Queen's mocking, and his…incident with Sergeant Williams a few days prior, all tormented Grisham's mind.
You are NOT gonna humiliate me AGAIN, you little bitch.
She'd noticed him find his pistol, her eyes widening with the realisation that he was too fast to disarm, so she'd dove off the wagon in her only chance for survival. The bullet caught her on the left side of her abdomen, narrowly missing anything major. Tessa's bodice also gave her some protection but the impact still hurt like hell. She'd landed on the ground hard, aggravating her injury even more.
Grisham had then slowly risen from the wagon, grinning like a predatory jackal. There was no additional shot left in his pistol, but that was fine for him. He removed the sheets in the back and took out the sledgehammer that he'd brought along for the 'special occasion'.
"Ooohhh…" the captain had laughed as he saw the vigilante grimace with pain and hold her midsection tightly. "That's what? Only the second time you've been shot? I remember the first. Right at the beginning."
"Surprised you like keeping score, Captain," the masked Tessa had bravely smiled. "How many times did I beat you again? I think it was something like 48 for me, and…"
Grisham remembered jumping down from the wagon, brandishing the hammer as he'd slowly walked over to her side. She'd looked up, her face turning into a scowl as he nodded, "Yeah. Shot right at the beginning. How fitting you got shot right at the end."
Almost had you! Grisham reflected here and now. Why can't you just die?
He'd held the sledgehammer up high, ready to bring it down on the Queen's head. She'd managed to roll out of the way, kicking him away from her. The vigilante had finally gotten to her feet, and made a grab for her rapier nearby. But Grisham had been faster and more determined at that point. His swing had driven the head right into Tessa's stomach, breaking some of her ribs as well as doing more damage to her previous wound.
She'd cried out in agony and fell to her knees, clutching her abdomen and ribs tighter than ever. It felt like her ribs had splintered like twigs. The pain was intense fire and breathing had become a nightmarish ordeal. Grisham brought the hammer up again, this time to swing down on her head. Quickly taking her dagger from her boot, the Queen had stabbed the murderous captain right in the foot. It had been his turn to scream that time. He'd dropped the hammer and immediately grabbed his foot to protect it. And that had given the Queen the time to grab her sword and club her nemesis in the side of the head with the pommel. The last thing Grisham could remember was the hard metal smacking him silly, and his head banging hard against the side of the wagon as he fell.
When he'd come to, he'd discovered that the Queen had long gone. The shipment was still there, abandoned. Doubtless, licking her wounds was more important right now. Grisham had wasted time with makeshift bandaging and sewing up his own injuries, but it had been a necessary evil. As had making sure the gold delivery was back up and running.
Now I've got the edge, babe, Grisham smirked as he and his men drew closer to their destination. There's only one place you CAN go. And I think FINALLY killing two birds - two LOVEBIRDS - with one stone…is gonna make my day.
And with all the patrols scouring the country and roads…the only way this story'll end, is like Romeo and Juliet.
Two weeks ago…
It had been a fun, memorable evening at the Alvarado Hacienda. The fiesta the previous day had turned out to be a tremendous success, with thousands of reales being raised to help the poor and the unfortunate. Montoya being made to swallow his pride had been amusing in the eyes of certain people, as evidenced by his declaration that the people shouldn't expect such a farce again for a very long time.
And now, the Williams family had come up to the hacienda with Tessa and Marta there to greet them. Hugs and pleasantries were exchanged upon arrival, with Tessa nearly swooning over Maria's best dress, consisting of a beautiful violet bodice, with black silk shoulder straps, a violet skirt with embroidered black patterns, a scarlet shawl made of velvet, a silver locket fastened round her neck and high-heel sandals.
Lionel was dressed not as a soldier but in his best black suit with an ochre waistcoat, white shirt, ruffled sleeves with gold cufflinks, white handkerchief and black shoes. Theresa looked adorable in her little red dress and the carnation in her hair.
Soon after, Maria and Marta had gone to the kitchen to finish cooking. Before dinner, Tessa took Theresa to the stables to see all the horses, which the six-year-old really enjoyed. She was absolutely excited when Tessa allowed her to have a supervised ride on Chico, and she couldn't help but ask how come Tessa kept the Queen's horse. The senorita laughed saying that all horses (barring colour) were the same, and the Golden Sergeant also gently corroborated this.
Secretly though, Tessa was amazed at how sharp little Theresa was. The noblewoman couldn't help but feel that Williams' daughter wasn't so easily deterred.
Dinner had been absolutely excellent, with Maria and Marta agreeing on a combination of Spanish and American dishes for the banquet. Spicy chicken drumsticks, paella, homemade burgers, barbecue sauce, mashed potatoes, oysters; it was truly a bizarre mishmash of cultures, but it made for great feasting and both Tessa and Marta found Maria's cooking nothing short of excellent. The Williams likewise couldn't get enough of Marta's food.
Later, after the wine and chocolate cake, Theresa went to bed in one of the spare rooms. Lionel had tried impressing Marta with some card tricks, but soon found himself shocked when the Gypsy saw through all of them and amazed the sergeant with card tricks of her own. Tessa and Maria showed off each other's dance moves again, Lionel cracked a few jokes and everyone was so happy, all forgetting their troubles, the pain and suffering they'd each endured…
And just focusing on what it was like to be normal.
Then Tessa saw Maria and Lionel laughing and smiling and each other, happier than they'd been for years.
And she couldn't help but feel sad.
She saw Marta take the tray of empty coffee cups away into the kitchen and decided to help her, asking to be excused. Lionel had said "Certainly", whereas Maria fell concerned for her friend. She asked her husband to wait for a moment whilst she went to the kitchen. Tessa's conversation with Marta had been stopped before it could even begin. Mrs Williams had asked Marta if she could borrow her mistress for a moment, to which the servant had been quick to agree.
As Marta returned to the living room to chat with Lionel, Tessa and Maria were outside strolling on the patio, the cool night-air proving refreshing and delightful for the two new friends.
"Thank you ever so much, Tessa," smiled Maria happily. "It's been a great night. We've all enjoyed it."
"It's been a pleasure, Maria," smiled Tessa warmly. "Ever since you all came to Santa Helena."
Maria then stopped abruptly, puzzling the young Alvarado enough to also stop. The sergeant's wife then turned to the aristocrat, sporting a sympathetic smile and asked, "So what's wrong?"
"Wrong?" asked the confused noblewoman. "What could possibly be wr…?"
"I - SAW - YOU…looking at me and my husband…and you left 'cos you felt sad seeing the two of us together."
Tessa immediately pretended to be shocked and went into self-defence mode.
"Maria! I do not have feelings for Lionel! I would never make any kind of move on a married man! I…!"
The American's smile remained as she gently put her index finger to the Spaniard's lips to hush her.
"You're a great little actress. I mean it. You really are. But just because that ditzy rich girl act works on Colonel Montoya, Captain Grisham, Doctor Helm and most people, doesn't mean that it works on me or Lionel. I don't know why you feel the need to act like that most of the time, and you don't have to tell me. You just don't have to think that either of us are dense."
"How can you…?"
"Experience," explained Maria, eyebrows raised in modesty. Tessa gave a conceding smile and nodded, "Fair enough, Mrs Williams."
Maria paused for a moment before continuing, "As I was saying…I recognised that look earlier, as I do every time I see it. And it's the look of someone who feels lonely…when they shouldn't be."
"I know I'm never alone, Maria."
"Yet you feel as though you won't find anyone to spend the rest of your life with. Am I right?"
Tessa sighed painfully and she looked to the ground then away from her new friend.
"Tessa…you're a babe. And you've got a great brain and a great heart to boot. A person who radiates such goodness shouldn't be alone. They don't deserve to be alone. Which is why you WILL find someone…and live happily ever after."
"Maria…" began Senorita Alvarado anxiously. "I'm scared."
"Not of love. But of being alone. And worse…having no choice but to be alone. The reason why…I am the way I am…is because people don't know me. Not really. And…whenever I've lost my heart to someone…or people have discovered who and what I really am…bad things have happened. And they've scarred me and ruined lives forever. So I go back to hiding…because I dare not risk going through that kind of pain again."
Maria thought back, knowing all to well what that kind of feeling was like. She clutched her silver locket tightly, breathing in deep over the memory it carried.
"Believe me, Tessa," she sighed, holding her friend's hands in consolation, "I DO know. You don't have to tell me exactly what…but I'm sure it must have been beyond terrible. And I know because that's what happened to ME. I fell in love with a soldier. And you don't get involved with that kind of life without expecting to suffer the consequences.
"But looking back at it all now…seeing how my life's turned out in the end…I would've been so much worse off if I had never loved or even found Lionel. Personally, all the pain and suffering that our marriage has faced was WORTH IT. I found my soul mate, we have a beautiful child and we've survived the greatest horrors imaginable for better, not worse."
Tessa's mind became seized by the clarity Maria's words had given her. She looked back at her, her face showing the utmost sincerity as she expressed her beliefs.
"If I didn't have Lionel by my side…I truly believe I would've caved in. No one can survive alone, Tessa. When you find your soul mate, don't be afraid. Because that will just condemn you to a life of suffering worse than any other pain. If you KNOW he would trust you, understand you and love you implicitly, that he would give his life to protect and serve you - and vice versa - then follow your heart.
"Because I believe…that the heart is always right."
Here and now…
The masked Tessa continued to fight off the unconsciousness that drew nearer and threatened to drown her. After knocking Grisham out, she'd cut off some of the canvas in the wagon and fashioned herself some makeshift bandaging to try and protect her broken ribs and stop the bleeding. Riding back to town the way she had had aggravated her condition even more.
But it had been a chance she'd had to take. The Queen knew she couldn't go home. Aside from fearing Marta's reaction, she needed proper medical attention. And there was only one place she could go to get that.
The Doctor had managed to get her up onto the table and then quickly locked the doors and drew the curtains before returning to aid the Avenging Angel. He'd told her to stay still and that he would have to remove her bodice in order to treat her. The Queen nodded her agreement and cried out painfully as her gunshot wound and broken ribs flared up again.
"I'm sorry," Robert soothed, trying to be quick and careful as possible as he untied the laces.
"It's okay," seethed the masked Tessa, trying to keep still.
"Tell me what happened. Keep still and for God's sake try to stay awake."
The Queen of Swords proceeded to tell the Doctor the full story, about the shipment, how her trap had gone wrong thanks to Grisham surprising her and how she'd ultimately had to leave the gold and run for help. As Helm listened, he carefully removed the makeshift bandaging and exhaled sharply. Her bleeding had almost been completely soaked up by the canvas and she was still bleeding now. The imbedded bullet had then been safely removed from her body, amidst even more unwelcome agony.
"I'm going to have to treat your gunshot wound first," explained the Englishman, quickly grabbing some cotton wool and iodine. "I've got to stop the bleeding. Can you still feel anything?"
The vigilante gave the surgeon such a look, putting every ounce of pain and frustration into the expression.
"Just double-checking," Robert said defensively, as he soaked the iodine into the cotton. He then looked back up at his friend and warned, "This is going to sting a lot."
The Queen's nodding was followed by a seething grimace. She fought down the scream that wanted to escape her lungs. The Doctor soothed her again and then told her to keep her hand pressing the wool against the wound for the next few minutes.
"If that bullet had gone half a centimetre closer to your left, you'd have been dead instantly," Robert explained getting some more bandaging. He then angrily remarked, "You're bloody lucky to be alive! Do you understand that? And that's not even taking into consideration that dirty canvas you used or the way you rode back to town! Risking further infection and damaging yourself even more!"
The Queen didn't come back with an angry retort of her own. Not this time. She just wheezed, trying to remain conscious and gave the Doctor a weak smile.
"Guess we're both lucky to be alive, Doctor," conceded the vigilante tiredly. "After everything we've gone through. Alone…or together."
Robert stared at her, feeling regret and clarity.
Why am I like this? he thought. Why am I always looking for a fight and she just wins instantly, trouncing me every single time? Deflating all that negativity with such well-chosen words.
"Maybe luckier than we deserve to be, Your Highness," reflected Helm, nodding. He then threw the blood stained canvas away and prepared a new adhesive bandage to cover the gunshot wound.
"Thankfully, that bodice of yours helped save your life. And your bandaging skills were good enough, I suppose."
"You taught me well, Doctor," blinked the masked Tessa, shaking her head free of the heavy disorientation. "Certainly needed it when Don Ricardo was shot."
"I can teach you more, I promise," Helm urged, noting her dizziness. "So long as you stay awake, please."
The Queen genuinely felt like crying when Robert said that. Maria's words from two weeks ago repeated themselves in her head.
"I believe…that the heart is always right."
Tessa's heart was reminding her just how much she really felt for Robert. His confession that the Queen was possibly the most amazing woman he'd ever met had taken her completely by surprise. Then she'd kissed him for saving her life. He'd stayed in Santa Helena for her. Through all the turmoil and intensity they'd gone through, all the heated arguments and dangerous situations, they'd become true friends, who both wished to be more.
Why don't I just tell him? the tormented vigilante thought. He's revealed so many of his secrets to me. I've revealed nothing to him. It's nothing like how it was with Antonio. We worry about each other all the time. We're both in danger all the time.
Why don't I just tell him?
"Robert…" began the Avenging Angel, her eyes brimming with emotion. Helm secretly wished he could appreciate her calling him by his first name for the second time this morning. It was such a rarity for her to do so.
"Queen…" the Doctor urged, putting his hand on hers, still holding the cotton wool over the wound, "I need to put this bandage on before I can tend to your ribs."
Agreeing that now wasn't the time or the place, she nodded weakly, "Yes, Doctor."
Helm cleaned up the wound a little more and then placed the adhesive bandage.
"Right, hopefully that should do it. How are you feeling?"
The woozy Queen shook her head again, determined to remain awake.
"I'm fine," she assured him through gritted teeth.
"Right, let me examine your ribs."
But before his hands could touch her undershirt…
"Knock, knock!" came an ominous banging on the door. "Is there a doctor in the house?"
The horrified Helm and Queen of Swords knew that all too familiar voice.
"Grisham…" realised Robert, turning to the vigilante, whose inevitable pursuer had condemned them both.
"Doctor…" exhaled the masked Tessa with such remorse. "I'm sorry."
"Come on, Doc!" smiled Grisham sadistically, banging hard on the door. "I've been injured severely in the line of duty!"
The captain winced slightly as the lashes on his face still stung like blazes. He then put it aside as his confident demeanour returned.
"I know you're in there, Helm!" shouted the captain, determined to get them both this time after all the humiliations he'd suffered at their hands. "After all, you're the early bird that catches worms!"
Silence was all that the corrupt soldier received. Grisham's smile turned that extra bit nastier.
"Ah, well…this way's so much more fun. Break it in!"
Grisham's men battered the door down in no time at all. The captain entered to see that the curtains had all been drawn, and everywhere was tidy as can be. It was as though he either hadn't surfaced or hadn't been here for hours. All the items and instruments were in their proper place, all cupboards and drawers were shut, everywhere was so disgustingly pristine to the point where everything could be mistaken for being completely untouched…
It was just like any old clichéd English household.
Grisham would have found it nauseating if his mind wasn't solely occupied with the thrill of the hunt.
"Nice try, boys and girls!" he yelled again, really enjoying this, despite the stab wound on his foot reminding him not to stride too confidently. He reached over to the drawn curtain that obscured the passage to the work room and ripped the whole cloth right off the rail. Grisham tutted as he surveyed the mess. Soldiers continued to search the Doctor's home.
The captain saw the stool knocked over, the assorted mess of medical tools, bandages, cotton wool, medicine, the hasty, unfinished attempts to remove evidence…
And the piece de resistance.
The Queen's waist scarf, bodice and blouse, all removed and draped over a clothes rack.
"Come out, come out, wherever you're bleeding!" sang Grisham evilly as he drew his sword and then swung it wildly, smashing some glass beakers in an effort to up the intimidation ante. He looked around, knowing that there was only the obvious places left to hide. Grisham's predatory eyes then turned to the wooden screen. His sadistic grin couldn't possibly grow any wider, his victorious chuckle was that of ecstasy.
He could smell them both, see them both. All smug bravery and wit long abandoning the would-be lovers to a most deliciously, agonising death. Both the Doctor and the Queen, cuddling and cowering, then hanging from a tree.
D - Y - I - N - G.
The captain's eyes cast down. He saw the trail of the Queen's fresh blood leading right behind the screen. His fingers slowly grabbed hold of the giant folding frame's edge, his other hand raised his sword up high, ready to behead them both.
"I can't begin to tell you guys how much I've been lookin' forward to this moment," confessed Grisham before he made his move. "So, I'll just kill you and give your heads as a present for Montoya."
"CAPTAIN! THEY'RE ESCAPING!"
The furious Grisham turned to the sounds of the gunfire and screams of runaway horses coming from outside. He ran out to the back door to be greeted at the sight of his men firing at a horse galloping for the border, leaving a heavy trail of dust in its wake.
"DAMN IT! GET AFTER THEM, YOU IDIOTS! MOVE! MOVE! MOVE!"
Grisham and his men all dashed back to their horses to pursue the runaways. The captain also ordered some of his men to report to Colonel Montoya immediately over what was happening and to call upon the other sergeants for reinforcements. He then split his remaining platoons into two groups. One to remain in town just in case, the other to join him on the manhunt.
This time, it was an angry sneer on the murderer's face as he thought, I HAD them. I HAD THEM!
The wounded animal became lost to the rage and pain that was starting to overwhelm him, fuelling his deadly nature, and allowing him to become more cunning and lethal than ever before in his life.
The encounter with Sergeant Williams, Montoya's putdowns, the defeats the Queen had given him, the near-misses were all finally starting to shape the captain into the soldier he could be.
The one that he felt he deserved to be. And everyone else refused to acknowledge.
I'm going to get the respect that should've been mine from the get-go, thought the captain. I'm sick of being treated like a loser. And when this is all over…it's FINALLY gonna be my turn to laugh.
In Colonel Montoya's office, the governor had finished listening to the report the soldiers had given him. The news of his captain's actions - though admittedly satisfying to hear - created such a sense of urgency. The gold had, for once, managed to get through to its destination, but the shipment was now completely irrelevant. The Queen was gravely injured, with Doctor Helm obviously doing everything he could to keep her alive and safe. Very rarely had the military had a chance as good as this to get the vigilante. They couldn't afford to make any mistakes here and now.
"They cannot have gotten far," realised Montoya, rising from his desk to make way to the armoury. "She's injured. Essentially dead weight that will slow the doctor down. Continue searching the town, every building, every possible hiding place. I want all of Santa Helena in lockdown. No one and nothing gets in or out, no traffic, no deliveries, no visitors…nothing at all. Do you understand?"
"Yes, sir!" saluted two of his soldiers as they moved to put word out on the street. The colonel then turned to the other three.
"Tell Sergeant Williams he will lead the separate hunting party to scour the rest of the country. Sergeant Hernandez will lead the search of all haciendas outside of town. She will doubtless try to retreat to wherever her rich hideout is. Everyone else will rendezvous and join with Captain Grisham. Now go! Move it!"
As his grunts all carried out their orders, the colonel couldn't help but concede to himself, Not bad work at all, Grisham. There may be hope for you yet.
"Colonel Montoya!" yelled Sergeant Ruy with his men in tow. "We've just checked the stables! Two horses and a wagon have gone missing!"
The governor's face became etched with fury. It's them. It's got to be them! They've already escaped the town!
"Why did no one see anything?" he roared at his sergeant. "Why did no one try to stop them?"
"We only just got word from Captain Grisham, sir."
"Idiots!" Montoya punched Ruy right in the face, sending him down to the floor. "Get on their trail! I want them both! Dead or alive!"
Ruy's scared men quickly helped their bleeding commanding officer to his feet before fleeing like rats to avoid more beats from their master. Montoya shook his head in disbelief and calmed himself, knowing that now was not the time to lose control.
Now was the time to seize the providence God had given him.
And be thankful that he now had a Golden Sergeant in his arsenal.
It had been far too risky Doctor Helm had warned…
But it had worked.
The Queen had insisted on moving the screen to the area where she'd trailed blood upon entering Helm's office, just to toy with Grisham. The discarded clothes had also served to whet the dog's appetite to keep him busy while she and the Doctor quietly snuck out the back. She'd told Chico to run as a distraction and find a way back home, whilst they hid behind some barrels. If Grisham and his trigger-happy men had bothered to pay attention, they would've seen that no one was riding the Queen's horse at all. Thankfully, the idiots were too busy scrambling to consider this, and had left the fugitives with the opening they needed.
Moving quickly, Helm told the Queen to remain hidden as he went back into his office and recovered her waist scarf, bodice and blouse. He also grabbed his doctor's bag and threw in the necessary medical supplies to treat the Avenging Angel elsewhere. Urging her to stay awake, Robert then helped her move (as fast and as carefully as possible) to the stables, and helped the Queen to lie down on the back of the wagon, covering her with canvas sheets to hide her. The Doctor had made sure to cloak himself as well so no one could recognise him.
Thankfully, Grisham's men were scattered and in disarray. While they were trying to get reinforcements organised, report to the Colonel and cover all possible escape routes, Helm had been able to act with greater freedom and efficiency.
Who was going to care about a lowly old man transporting goods out of town when there was an infamous bandit and renowned surgeon on the run?
Once Santa Helena faded out of sight, Helm had shook the reigns to make the horses go faster, knowing that once the rabble had gotten organised, they'd pick up their trail in no time.
The Englishman had chastised himself for being so reckless. The trail was rougher than usual, and if he wasn't careful, he'd end up harming his patient even more.
No…Helm realised. She's so much more than just a patient.
The Queen had told him the best place to temporarily retreat to would be the Old Ruins. Out in the countryside they'd be too exposed and too vulnerable. The Ruins were the best chance they had to regroup. Knowing that they had no time to argue, Helm did as she told him to. All the while he prayed that the Queen would hold on just long enough.
The last twenty minutes had been far too arduous for Helm's liking. He'd made himself remember that the Queen was amazing, that it was just another day in her life to triumph over. Then he'd made himself focus again on getting his patient to safety. Again and again, the doctor focused on nothing else to guide him.
But they'd made it to the Ruins without being followed. Helm had parked the wagon behind what was left of the derelict stone walls. He'd removed the covers and sighed in relief. The Queen was still alive and smiling, albeit weakly. The doctor had immediately checked on her gunshot wound. The bandage was still safely in place and the bleeding had long stopped.
Now he'd finished examining her broken ribs. Three of them had been cracked badly by the sledgehammer, and the Queen still gasped in pain as the Doctor's hands felt the damage. Again, the bodice had provided some protection, but nowhere near as much as she would've liked.
Robert applied the necessary bandaging around the lower half of her torso, to realign the bones and keep them set in a position to heal. Once he'd finished, he asked her with genuine concern, "How are you feeling?"
The Queen of Swords, her breathing starting to feel less of a struggle, looked up to him and smiled warmly. "I'll live. Thanks to you. Again."
Helm looked down momentarily, also smiling. When he looked back into the vigilante's eyes, the Doctor replied, "As I've said to you, Your Highness. So many times."
The Queen then turned her attention to the hills, hoping that Chico would be alright in escaping Grisham and his men. And what of Marta? Tessa dreaded to think how she would suffer over hearing the news. The first time the Queen had been feared dead had caused Marta such pain, and it was still a sensitive subject to this day.
Please forgive me, Marta. thought Tessa guiltily. You don't deserve to go through any of this.
She then felt Robert's hand gently touch her hand. The Avenging Angel looked back to see him look at her with a concerned face.
The vigilante lowered her head, thinking about it all one more time. Thinking about everything she and the Doctor had been through together over the last year and a half. She thought about Maria's words, her marriage with Lionel.
When the Queen looked back up to face the Doctor, to look him right in the eye…she had decided.
She had decided that she had never been more sure of anything in her life.
"Robert…" the Queen of Swords began, pausing and breathing in deep before continuing, "thank you. For everything. For saving my life. Again. And again."
"We're not out of danger yet," Helm pointed out shaking his head. "We've still got to figure out how to get back to town undetected and all clear. Grisham only really suspects…"
"You told me so much," she continued, ignoring his warnings. "You trusted me and opened up to me. About your past, about the war, about Camilla…"
"That's because you earned my trust. And my friendship…" Robert halted to choose his own words carefully. "My admiration. You saved me so many times, you taught me how to move on. That's why…"
"That's not the point. I haven't shown you anywhere near the same level of trust that you've shown me."
Robert Helm let her words sink in deep. The moment when she'd kissed him flashed back in his mind. The day he knew that his feelings for her were reciprocated.
"After all this time…" said the Queen regretfully, "I still haven't shown you."
Robert snapped out of his trance.
And saw the Queen reaching up to her mask.
Realising what she was about to do, he reached out to grab her hand, stopping her. She looked at the still uncertain Helm with confusion.
"Queen…" assured Robert Helm, having decided for himself, "you don't have to do this for me."
"Yes, Doctor…" declared the vigilante resolutely. "I do."
She removed his hand. And then took her mask off.
To finally reveal to the shocked Doctor Robert Helm that the Queen of Swords…was none other than Senorita Tessa Alvarado.