NEXUS

Missing scene for "The Search"

10/7/11

"Take this…"

Mrs. Kihlgren thrust a towel into her hands – it was cold and wet. "Try to keep him cool while we get ready."

"He's – he's…" Dulcey could barely catch her breath.

"It's a bad wound, dear. He's lost a lot of blood."

Yes, the blood. It'd smeared her palms, slick and wet – all those hours ago. His life force, draining from him. The bullet, killing him…

They bustled about her, talking in a strange, jumbled language shock-muscular deterioration-organ penetration-hemothorax-pneumothorax-renal damage-fracture-infection while the horrible gunshot wound in Jim's side gaped darkly at her, and the surrounding flesh covering the nearest rib glowered with swollen bruising. They piled things at his side – bowls, bottles, batting, bandaging and towels, metal clamps and long and slender surgical tools, some with points…others with blades. How one bullet could create such terrible harm. All she could do was stand there and stare helplessly. It was up to Teo –

Shame heated her cheeks. She'd chided the man for his fear over saving a life, and now he was being asked to do the very thing. Something had shattered him, made him lose faith in himself, hide behind a bitter and drunken façade to keep out the world. And yet…he'd been the only one to try and help her truly search for Jim, despite all his scornfulness. Something still existed in him…

Teo was the only one who could do this, otherwise…

Jim would die, Dulcey knew. They all knew. He'd die before Dr. Kihlgren could return from Guymon. The bullet was still inside him, he'd lost too much blood, there might be internal damage. He'd die. The town and the Territory would lose a Marshal and the Vardemans would win.

And she'd die, too…

"Dulcey, dear…" Mrs. Kihlgren guided her hand, cloth clenched tight. "Like this…" and pressed it onto Jim's forehead to quell the heat rising off the skin there. Sweat streamed in little rivers down his face, pooling on the large quivering muscles of his arms and chest. He was breathing uneven fast-fast-fast-slow-fast-slow waiting for the terrible probing and digging for that bullet that was buried somewhere in him…

"Jim…" she got out, blinking over a re-swell of tears that blurred her vision and burned her throat. He's dying…

He turned his head, sought the coolness of the towel she pressed against his burning cheek. His eyes, nearly black with raw pain, squinted at her. A sound tumbled out of him. "Dulcey…"

"It's all right," she cried softly to him. "You'll be all right now– Doctor Teo is going to operate…"

His dry lips twitched into a faint grin. "Worried – for me – Biscuit…?"

"Don't call me that," she softly admonished, passing the cloth over the other cheek and down under his throat, trying to sop up the awful, running sweat. Keep him cool…

Don't let him die…

Jim's hand brushed hers, his sweaty fingers entwining into her cold, trembling ones. "Won't – be pretty," he breathed, shoving a groan back behind his teeth. "You should-"

"I'm staying," she told him softly, fiercely, still wiping, finding some strength for him, for this. "Besides, I've seen much more of you than this, Marshal Crown, if you'll remember?"

His little laugh became a deep grunt. "And I thought – you were just – praying…for divine intervention…" he pushed out.

"And my only answer," she smiled over her clogged throat, "Was MacGregor, and a blanket."

He ghosted a smile that was too tight. "Dulcey…"

Teo stepped up, his long face pinched and pale. "Ether? Morphine?" he barked, wiping his hands on a towel.

"No." Jim closed his eyes.

"Just how steady do you think I am?" Teo snarled, then corrected softly, "Just how strong do you think you are?"

"I'll hold still," Jim confirmed, "if you will."

"I'll be working around a broken rib…"

Jim managed a nod. "Stop jawing… and get to it, Doc."

But Teo only slapped the towel down and turned away. He began to pace the room.

Mrs. Kihlgren stepped up, separated Dulcey's hand from Jim's, thrust her gently back. "Stand quietly dear, please. We can strap him," she suggested to Teo's hunched back.

"I don't think he'll take kindly to that, Mrs. Kihlgren," Teo told her, coming to a stop at the table. He frowned down at Jim. "We'll do it his way. And may God help us both," he muttered under his breath.

"Doctor-" Dulcey took a step, but pulled back under the older man's withering glare. She wanted to tell him how much – thank him for…

"I can't perform miracles, Miss Coopersmith," Teo growled over the anguish creeping over his features.

She nodded. "I know. I – I just – thank you…"

"Hold your gratitude," he admonished, and she understood. You can do it, Doctor – you can…

"You!" Teo called over to the slight, unkempt man hovering and all but forgotten by the far bookcase.

"Me?" The poor fellow jumped and tottered forward. Lummy, Dulcey recalled. Mrs. Kihlgren said he'd brought Jim to her door. "Yes, sir, Doc…what can I do for you?"

"Ease him out – flat and straight." Teo pointed to Jim.

The other man swallowed hard, passed a nervous look between doctor and patient. "Me? You – you want me…?"

"That's what I said."

The other man fairly trembled but put his hands on Jim's bare shoulders. "Sorry if this hurts, Marshal," he stammered.

"No worse than that – wagon of yours," Jim hoarsely replied, already trying to shift.

Lummy worked him flat against the table, reached down, slowly straightened his knees. Jim grunted deeply, clenched his fists; fresh sweat streamed, but then it was done.

"Now get going," Jim shoved out to Teo on a hitching breath, holding himself in place.

Mrs. Kihlgren pressed an instrument into Teo's hand. He made a muted sound of protest but then snapped his lips back together. His long fingers fitted themselves around it. He frowned, placed his other hand onto smooth, taut skin just above the purpled bullet hole…

Please, please…Dulcey prayed, as it began.