Mother Hen Cayce

By Janet Brayden

Dr. Donald Dustin was not happy with his patient, Cody Allen. Allen had contracted pneumonia and been placed on bed rest and medication for a couple of weeks. The blond detective, however, was not responding to the treatment well. He was still wheezing, coughing and pale. The fact that the sun had not been seen in King Harbor for nearly a week was not helping.

Stepping to the door of the examination room, he opened it and called Cody's partners into the room to discuss the situation. Normally he would have discussed it with his patient only but he knew the three men were like brothers to each other and that Cody's mother lived all the way over on the East Coast and wasn't available to talk to.

"Gentlemen, please come in, I'd like to talk to the three of you together," Dr. Dustin said when Nick and Murray looked up.

Apprehensively the two younger men walked into the room not knowing what to expect.

"What's up?" Nick asked.

"I'm not happy with my patient's progress," Dustin told him. "He should have shaken that cough and regained some color in his face by now. Instead he's almost as bad off as he was when you first brought him in."

Nick and Murray exchanged concerned looks while the doctor continued on.

"It's nobody's fault," he reassured them. "I think this uncharacteristic dampness is the problem. The fact that you live on a boat doesn't help either."

The weather had been damp, and gloomy, for almost a week. It was certainly not conducive to a pneumonia patient getting the warm sunshine that was needed to help drive the infection out of their system.

"I'd like Mr. Allen to go somewhere warm and dry for about a week. Some place where he can get plenty of rest, the fluids he needs and be watched to see that he doesn't overdo. I don't mean take him to Hawaii or anything like that but there must be some place you can send him – or take him."

Bozinski and Ryder exchanged looks and grins.

"Cayce," they said in unison.

"No!" an anxious Cody squeaked.

"Cayce?" Dustin asked with raised eyebrows at his patient's reaction.

"Yeah, Cayce McKenna," Nick said. "She's a good friend – sort of a little sister. She owns a ranch up in Sunny Acres. If the weather is good she'll be more than happy to have him come and visit for a while. Even if the weather's not good she'll be happy to have him – or us – visit."

Cody grimaced and tried to protest, "Guys, Cayce's too busy this time of year…"

"Nonsense," Murray said. "She's always glad to see us and Josefina will love having someone to fuss over."

Cody clamped his mouth shut as it was obvious he wasn't going to win that argument. At least he wouldn't argue while they were still in the doctor's office. Dr. Dustin was determined to send him away somewhere. All Cody wanted was to go back to the Riptide and sleep.

"That sounds perfect."

"Can I use your phone, Doc?" the Italian asked. "I'd like to make sure somebody's around and that it's okay. She might want to talk to you directly to find out what your orders are."

"Certainly," the physician said. "Use the phone in my office."

Nick left the examination room with Cody's glare burning into his back. Cody didn't want to be shipped to the Lazy M to be fussed over by a twenty-something woman he thought of as a sister or her fifty-something Mexican housekeeper who was the younger woman's surrogate mother. However, convincing Nick – or even Murray – that he could recover just as well if he stayed aboard the Riptide bundled up and taking his medication wasn't going to work. He could see that.

Dr. Dustin saw the mutinous look on his patient's face and smiled to himself. 'This Cayce must be quite strong minded,' he thought to himself.

A few minutes passed before Nick returned to the examination room where the others waited. He gave Murray a thumbs up before turning to Dr. Dustin.

"She wants to talk to you directly, doc, just to understand exactly what your orders are for Cody. It's not that she doesn't trust us, mind you, she just figures Cody would gloss everything over and not tell her the whole truth. If you put it in writing it would be even better."

"I'll do that. Is she still on the phone?"

"Yeah. She's waiting to talk to you directly."

The physician left the examination room to talk to Cayce. He returned shortly with a written note which he handed to Nick.

"This is my prescription for Mr. Allen for the next two weeks," he told them. "Fluids, bed rest, keep warm and some sun every day for a couple of hours. Light exercise – as in walking – outside when it's sunny. Make sure he's well protected against any chills. I've given Miss McKenna the same orders over the phone and she promises that they will be followed to the letter."

Dustin handed Murray the note. "Oh, and a steam treatment now and again wouldn't hurt. Stop by the desk and schedule an appointment for three weeks from today."

"Thanks, Doc," Nick said, shaking the man's hand. "You don't have to worry. The next time you see Cody, he will definitely be recovered." With a grin at his partner he added, "He may not be in the best mood, but he'll definitely be recovered."

The doctor's office wasn't far from the pier where the Riptide was docked. Within just a few minutes the men were on board, packing bags and making arrangements for someone to keep an eye on things while they were away.

An hour after they arrived back at Pier 56 the three detectives were airborne in The Screaming Mimi, Nick's aging – and beloved – Sikorsky helicopter. An hour later they were landing at the Lazy M where Cayce waited for them not far from their designated landing point.

The three men were greeted enthusiastically by Cayce and Rusty, her Australian Shepherd. Rusty was working around the barn and the cattle pens that day but he wasn't about to miss out on greeting his favorite visitors.

One look at Cody's pale face, and hearing him wheeze, and Cayce went into her take charge mode. First of all she sent Rusty back to work. He, and Brian Hays, along with a couple of temporary employees, were branding the new bunch of cattle that the Lazy M had recently purchased. It took Rusty to keep the bulk of the herd in one place while the cowboys worked with one cow, or steer, at a time.

Then she took Cody by the arm and walked with him to the house. Once they were inside she started issuing orders.

"You have ten minutes to get to your room, into sleeping things and into bed," she told the blond. "I'll be up with some hot soup for you in a little bit. While you eat it I'll set up the vaporizer."

Turning to the other two she said, "Put your bags in your room and I'll give you some chores to do. Cody's going to take a nice long nap after he eats and you'll need to keep busy. Besides," she said with a grin, "you're always wanting to make yourselves useful. Now's your chance. There's a garden in need of weeding and firewood to be split and stacked."

They did as they were told and were back downstairs a couple of minutes later. Cayce gave Murray a straw hat to wear while he weeded and gave both men a gentle shove toward the door. There would be no sitting around fussing over Cody and watching his every move. Cayce and Josefina had him well in hand and his partners would be well advised to stay out from under foot.

Having these chores would give them something to do to keep them out of the women's hair and allow them to burn off some of their nervous energy. This was especially true for Nick who was going to be chopping wood the old fashioned way – with an axe. Cayce joked that they were learning new skills that could help them with their undercover work. If the men stopped to think about it they figured she could be right. If they wanted to go undercover on some wealthy person's estate or as a groundskeeper in a park, now they would look like they knew what they were doing instead of sticking out like a sore thumb.

As they went out Nick looked longingly toward the staircase but decided it wouldn't be a good idea to argue with the two women. Either one of them would take his head off if he interfered with them while tending to the invalid.

Balancing a tray with a bowl of hot chicken soup and a glass of orange juice, Cayce opened the door to the guest room where Cody waited for her. He was sitting up in bed, propped up by the three pillows Josefina had placed there.

"Ready for some lunch?" she asked cheerfully as she approached the bed.

"I guess," was the response.

"Cody, I know you hate being laid up in bed, but the doctor is concerned that you haven't shaken this. You're usually so healthy, and quick to bounce back, that I'm worried too."

She placed the tray on his lap and reached into her pocket for the bottle of medication. Taking the cap off, she shook out the prescribed dosage and handed it to him.

"You take this and start on your soup. I'm going to dig the vaporizer out of the closet and get it ready. After you eat you'll take a nap and then we'll start on the steam treatments. Then we'll see about getting you out in that warm air and sunshine for about an hour and then it's back to bed. The doctor said to gradually get you up and walking – when the weather is good – so we'll start on that in the morning."

By the time Cayce had the vaporizer set up and ready to go Cody had finished his soup. His foster sister took the tray and placed it on the dresser while she ensured that he was comfortable, on two pillows instead of the three, and well covered. After a quick kiss to his cheek she took the tray and quietly departed the room as Cody started to doze off.

Down in the kitchen she found that Josefina had lunch – hot dogs, beans, chips and drinks – ready for the rest of them. She went outside to fetch Nick and Murray and was pleased to see the progress that the two men had made on their respective chores.

Murray, on his hands and knees, was finishing up in a row of beets. His hands were grubby and the knees of his jeans were caked in dirt. The thin man, however, seemed to be enjoying himself immensely.

"You've done well, Boz," Cayce complimented the computer whiz. "For a guy who didn't know a carrot from a weed, you're getting good at his. Josefina may want to hire you full time!"

The skinny scientist beamed with pleasure. It was rare when he could do something that required physical effort, rather than his brains and his computer, but he found that he rather enjoyed weeding the big kitchen garden when they visited. As long as Cayce let him ensure that her bookkeeping was up to date and she had the most current computer equipment to manage the books and such for the ranch he would do anything else she – or Josefina – asked him to.

Nick had his shirt sleeves rolled up and the top two buttons on his red and black plaid shirt were undone. He had a considerable pile of wood ready to stack. He'd been working hard and it showed. He was sweating and his jeans and shirt showed evidence of his having been at it for a while. There were almost as many woodchips on his shirt as there were on the stump where he'd been splitting the logs into fireplace sized chunks.

Turning to Nick she said, "I see you've made some progress on the woodpile. That's good. The men have been busy doing other things and I've been tied up with riding lessons and training sessions – for horses and riders." She smiled, "I wouldn't wish for Cody to be sick but I sure am glad I've got you two to handle some of these little chores. And just think – next time you need a cover you can pretend to be groundskeepers or gardeners. You actually look like you know what you're doing."

"How's Cody?" Nick asked when she was through speaking.

"He's asleep right now. He's had his medicine, some OJ and a big bowl of soup. When he wakes up we'll start doing steam treatments. You don't need a sauna, or a steam bath. All you need is the menthol, eucalyptus or whatever and a bowl. With a towel over his head to trap the vapors he'll get the same benefits. At night we'll run the vaporizer to help him breathe a little easier, then tomorrow we start getting him out in the sun for a couple of hours at a time with short walks to help him regain his strength."

The trio headed inside to clean up before sitting down to the noontime meal. It was Josefina who first noticed that Nick's hands were blistering and Murray had apparently not worn his hat the whole time he was working in the garden.

"Ai yi yi yi!" she exclaimed. "Look at your hands, Nicholas! And Seňor Murray – you did not wear that hat you were given all the time you worked in the garden. I can tell. You are burned from the sun."

"What's all the fuss about?"

Everyone's heads turned as Cayce's cousin, Erika Laasanen entered the kitchen.

"Hi, Erika," Cayce said as the lovely brunette came to join them at the table.

"Erika, it's nice to see you again," Murray said as he reached to shake her hand. He was greeted with a kiss on the cheek.

"Erika, my love, my only…"

"Can it, Nicholas," Erika told the Italian. "I've heard it all before."

The others laughed when Nick subsided with a presumably hurt look on his face. Nobody was buying it but he gave it a good try.

"What brings you to the Lazy M?" Murray inquired.

"I heard that one of my favorite people was here to recover from pneumonia. He needs to be monitored by a professional once a day. Cayce recommended me to Cody's doctor since I live close by and already know the patient," the nurse said. "I'll be stopping in at least once a day to check on the patient and report my findings to the doctor. If worse comes to worse, Dr. Winter will advise on whether to put Cody in the hospital or not."

"I hope it doesn't come to that," Cayce said. "He's supposed to be resting right now. I gave him his medication and some soup along with a glass of OJ. The vaporizer is all set to plug in later. I thought I'd give him a steam treatment – with either eucalyptus or menthol – and then let him sit out in the sun for an hour."

"Let me look in on him first," Erika said. "I'll let you know what to do next after I check him over."

"Ok. I'll either be here or in the office."

Fifteen minutes later, Erika found her younger cousin in the office.

Cayce smiled as Erika entered. "How's the patient?" she asked.

"Grumpy. Wanting to go home."

"I'm sure. From what Boz told me he fought the idea of coming up here. Presumably I'm 'too busy' to take care of him and have them visit. As if I'm ever that busy."

"He says he slept after you left the room and just woke up now. How long would you say he was asleep?"

Looking at her watch Cayce made a guess, "Probably about an hour and a half or so. If he fell asleep right away closer to two hours."

"That's good. Dr. Dustin said he was to get fresh air and sunshine."

"Yup. And steam treatments. You want to do the first one?"

"Yes. I'll do one now and you do one just before bedtime – say around ten o'clock. The rest of the day should be spent getting light exercise and some sun and air followed by another naps. He tells me he had a cold and that cold turned into pneumonia. " The nurse frowned, "Sometimes I think their odd hours and working conditions are as hazardous as the men they sometimes have to deal with – the criminal types."

"My personal feeling is that they tend to try and be too macho, and don't take care of themselves like they should."

The two women shared a laugh. Brian McKenna was just as bad and that was why Cayce was such an expert at caring for the sick and injured in her family – including her adopted brothers. Erika left to put the water on to boil and got a bowl, a large heavy towel and the eucalyptus leaves that Cayce kept on hand. The McKennas were big on natural cures as much as possible. There was always a good supply of herbs and spices around for cooking and for medicinal purposes. Josefina saw to that and planted a big kitchen garden every spring.

"Breathe deep, Cody," Erika told him.

The blond did as she told him and promptly started coughing.

"That's good, keep breathing like that. The more you cough up the better. It's that congestion that's keeping you down."

Erika worked with the oldest detective for about half an hour. When she was through she helped Cody back to bed where he was to wait, and rest, until somebody came up to get him and take him outside. It was, at this point, about two o'clock in the afternoon. Erika was on duty at the Sunny Acres Hospital starting at four o'clock. She needed to go home and change into her uniform.

Nick escorted her to her car and saw her off before returning to the house. He found Cayce and Murray gathering a couple of blankets and pillows and moving a chair and ottoman into a sunny spot in the yard.

"Go on upstairs and get the invalid," Cayce told him. "We'll have this ready for him in just a minute."

Five minutes later Nick returned with Cody. The blond was wheezing but not as badly as before Erika's steam treatment. The eucalyptus seemed to be helping.

"Have a seat," the young woman told her "brother".

When he was settled she placed the blanket over his lap and made sure that he was well covered and the pillows in the right place to make him comfortable.

"I've got a training session in the corral over there," Cayce told him. "I'll come and check on you when we take a break. You just sit here and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine for the next hour or so. After that it's more soup – with a special treat – and then back to bed with you. " As she finished fussing with the pillows she told him, "Erika said to give you another steam treatment around ten o'clock tonight."

She left him, there, with his two friends, for a moment while she went to the house.

"Guys, this really isn't necessary," Cody said. "Why don't we just go back home, to King Harbor, while I recuperate?"

"Because the doctor ordered sun, fresh air and everything else you're getting here that you weren't getting at home," Nick told him.

"That's right, Cody. You simply weren't recovering." Murray threw his two cents worth in. "Dr. Dustin was quite concerned – that's why he approved this trip. Cayce, and Erika and Josefina will make sure you get your medication and everything else the doctor prescribed – in the amounts you need when you should have it.

Cody sulked. He hated feeling like an invalid as much as his partners did and was just as bad a patient. Having a young woman, twelve years younger than he as his hostess, little sister and nurse (babysitter he thought was more like it) was not his idea of fun. And Erika was Nick's girl – sort of. If it had been Cayce's cousin, Sarah Knox that was the nurse looking out for him, he would have played it to the hilt and his partners well knew it. As they were debating the merits of home versus the Lazy M, for Cody's recovery, Cayce returned with a pitcher of lemonade and a glass.

"Here, while you're sitting out here you can drink this. The Vitamin C in the lemonade will do you good." She handed him a glass already poured.

Turning to Nick she reached into her back pocket. "Put these on," she said as she handed him a pair of leather forester's gloves. "They'll protect your hands while you're swinging that axe. You're not exactly used to doing that kind of work so you haven't got the calluses you would have if you did this on a regular basis. We've already got one invalid – I don't want any torn up hands or infected cuts."

Turning to the youngest of her adopted brothers she said, "And you, Murray, keep that hat on while you're working in the garden! I don't want you getting sunstroke! I'll give you some ointment to put on your sunburn later. Erika recommends it very highly – it's got aloe in it."

Ensuring that Cody was comfortable she shooed the other two off to their respective chores telling them that they could help load hay in the loft when they got through. They had just cut some, and baled it, and had a load delivered so the men who were putting it in the loft were quite busy moving the old hay around to the front of the loft and stacking the new hay in the back. There would be the need for at least a couple of bales when it came time to feed the horses and the ponies she was boarding for a couple of her 4-Hers at evening feeding time.

She settled her dark brown Stetson on her head and, after giving Cody a kiss on the cheek and an admonition to be good, went to the small corral where she would spend the next few hours with several of her barrel racing and reining students. In between sessions she would check on Cody.

"I'll time your run while I watch you," she told her student, a young woman in her early teens. "When you finish a couple of runs we'll see how you did and I'll tell you how you can improve your times."

As Cody dozed in the warm sun, well protected against the cool breeze that was blowing, Cayce worked with Sharon Valente, her student. It was fairly peaceful thee in the yard. Occasionally Cody was roused by the hoof beats or the sound of Cayce's voice, but mostly he drifted off.

During a rest break for her student, Cayce came over to check on him. He seemed to be fine but she roused him long enough to make sure he drank the lemonade she'd brought out for him. It was important to keep pumping the Vitamin C into him and keep him hydrated against the slight fever he was still running.

She also took the time to make sure that Nick was still wearing his gloves and that Murray had kept the hat on she'd given him. Both were making good progress on their original chore. Nick had the firewood stacked up neatly in the woodshed next to the house and was just putting some in the wood box outside the back entry when she found him.

"How's Cody?" he asked.

"He seems to be doing all right," was the answer. "I woke him up to drink some lemonade. When I finish with this student I think we should move him upstairs to rest in bed again. He's a little warm but not too bad – and it may be partly to his lying out there in the sun with a blanket over him."

"How's Murray doing in the garden?"

"He's actually just about finished. Why don't you call it quits on the wood for now and take him out to the barn. I'm sure Smokey and Frank will be more than happy to have your help with all those hay bales."

"Do you want to move Cody inside first?" the Italian asked.

"No, we'll let him stay out for another hour and then move him inside while I clean the upstairs hall closet. I've got some things in there that I need to get rid of. If I get them together, in boxes, you and Boz can take them to the Salvation Army Thrift Shop tomorrow."

The two of them parted company at this point. Cayce went to check on Cody one more time before returning to the corral to wrap up the training session with Sharon. He was resting comfortably and reading a book on the Revolutionary War that Cayce had lent him. She thought the topic might interest him as he had an ancestor who had served under Nathaniel Greene – the Fighting Quaker - who had been kicked out of his church for joining the army since the Quakers were pacifists by then.

"You doing ok?" she asked.

"Yeah. I'm fine," he replied. "Is it time to go back in yet?"

"Nope. You can stay out while I finish up with Shari. We'll move you back inside in about an hour." Patting him on the shoulder she said, "Relax. Enjoy the air and the sun while you can – and the book. I see you've made pretty good progress in it."

She replaced her hat on her head, having taken it off for a few minutes, and went back to finish the lesson with Shari. An hour later, she had put Shari and her horse, Taz – short for Tasmanian Devil – through their paces and showed her student a couple of tricks she'd learned that would help make tighter turns and how to properly shift her weight in the turns.

By the time Shari loaded Taz onto her trailer and left for home, it was time for evening feeding. She went to the barn to take care of Doc and Tam – her champion barrel racer and the now retired barrel racer she boarded for elder actress Helen Howell herself. When she was finished she went and got Cody and sent him inside while she retrieved the pillows and blanket he'd been using. She put them in the hall closet so they would be ready for use the next day. Cody was sent to his room and told to take a nap. They would be eating dinner in about an hour or so.

"You lie back and try to sleep a little," she told him when she entered the room to check up on him. "I'm going to be in the hall cleaning out that closet and packing some stuff for the Salvation Army. That's Nick and Murray's job for tomorrow – loading it in the truck, or the wagon and taking it over to Shelburne. We'll be eating dinner in a little bit."

"More soup?" Cody made a face.

"More soup," she confirmed, "but also a nice custard for dessert. After your dinner has had a chance to settle we'll do another steam treatment and then you'll hit the sack for the night. Tomorrow we'll get you out walking a little – around the yard, down the driveway to the road, out to the barn or whatever – just like Dr. Dustin ordered. The weather is supposed to be like this for the next few days – if not longer."

She left the room then, and went to the attic for some boxes. Then it was on to the hall closet which she cleaned out as quickly, and quietly, as she could so as not to disturb Cody. Within an hour, just before Josefina called her to dinner, she had a dozen boxes, of various sizes, packed and ready to go to the Salvation Army. In them were clothes, shoes, boots, belts, a few games that she never played and some costume jewelry that had been left behind by students over the last few months and never claimed. All of Cayce's students knew that they had six months to ask about lost items or they would find it on the shelves of the Salvation Army Thrift Shop.

Dinner, that night, consisted of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob and a green salad made with lettuce, tomatoes and such from the Lazy M's garden. In a couple of days Murray would be sent to search for ripe tomatoes and other vegetables. He had yet to quite learn the herbs though he could tell some by their smell. He was after all, as Cayce pointed out, a computer scientist – not a horticulturalist or a botanist.

Cody was allowed to sit at the table with them, although he was still stuck with soup for his meal. Cayce promised him he would have eggs for breakfast because they were light and nourishing. He was showing signs of fatigue so he was quickly sent upstairs to relax for a bit before Cayce gave him the medicinal steam treatment.

Clad in her faded jeans and an oversized tee shirt, she entered the room – Nick on her heels – with a tray that was laden with a large bowl of boiling water, a spoon and a jar of eucalyptus leaves. A large towel was thrown over her right shoulder. She set the tray on Cody's lap and added two tablespoons of the leaves. She instructed him to drape the towel over his head and breathe in the steam from the leaves. Nick stood by with a basin for Cody to spit into as he coughed up the mucus that was creating the congestion in his lungs.

The pair worked over the sick man for half an hour. When they were done Nick disposed of the contents of the basin by pouring it into the toilet in the guest bathroom and flushing it away then brought it downstairs to be washed in boiling water. Cayce ensured that Cody, now worn out from the coughing spell she'd subjected him to, was comfortable then left the room with the rest of her equipment to return everything to the kitchen to be used the next morning. Erika would be by shortly after lunch to check on his progress and report it to Dr. Dustin.

It didn't take long for the blond to fall asleep. He never heard his partner come in and climb into bed himself – not before he assured himself that Cody was as comfortable as he could be and not running a high fever. The dark-haired man soon fell asleep himself. Cayce's "little chores" were physically demanding and not what he was used to.

"If all I get is soup and juice and lemonade I'm either going to starve to death or drown!"

It was noon ten days later and Cody was tired of the invalid diet he was being fed. He was making his feelings well known much to the amusement of his partners and little sister. Cayce was not fazed in the least by his attitude. She continued to bring him soup, juice, lemonade and other light foods and watched while he ate, or drank them, to make sure he didn't just get rid of it down the sink or something.

"Like it or not, Cody Allen, you're going to eat all that soup and drink that lemonade," Cayce told him. "If you don't then the next step is willow bark tea and I guarantee you'll like that even less!"

"You're too bossy," he complained. "How would you like to be given nothing but soup?"

"Sure I'm bossy, but you're a lousy patient! You've been complaining ever since you got here!" she shot back at him. "I'll bet you were like this when you were a kid, too." The young woman glared at her recalcitrant patient.

"If you want to get her – and Josefina and Erika – off your back, you'd better cooperate," Nick told him. "Erika could arrange for you to be in the hospital you know."

Cody pouted, but finished off his soup and the lemonade.

"Steam treatment in an hour and a half," Cayce informed him. "So get some sleep while you can."

The rancher and the two junior detectives left the guest room. Cody drifted off to sleep much to his chagrin for he would have preferred to be up and about.

"How's he really doing?" Nick inquired.

"Not too bad," was the answer he got. "He's really coming along pretty well considering how imbedded that infection was. We'll know better once Erika sees him later."

"Are you sure?" asked Murray doubtfully. "He's still sleeping an awful lot – and wheezing."

"I'm sure. He's not wheezing quite as much as he was, his temperature is down to one-hundred, from one hundred and two, and he's grumpy besides. When you guys first got here he didn't have the energy - or the breath, to be grumpy."

Murray pondered that for a minute.

"You're right. When we first got here he could barely make his way up the stairs. Now he's complaining and his voice is stronger."

"He's also able to walk a bit further every day without getting out of breath so quickly," Cayce pointed out. "Remember he made it half way down to the end of the driveway before he had to stop this morning to catch his breath."

To most people a walk down Cayce's driveway wouldn't be much but it was a long driveway and very tiring when one wasn't well. She'd once estimated that it was almost a half mile long.

"And he's grumpy," Nick added with a grin. "Classic signs that he's feeling better."

"It takes a grump to know one," Cayce kidded him.

"Hey!"

Nick's outrage was barely heard over the giggles of Cayce and Boz. They trooped down the back stairs to the kitchen and outside to do some work around the house and the barn. Murray was assigned the lawn mower and shown which parts of the yard to work in. Nick was assigned the task of pulling weeds along the edge of the sidewalk – and keeping an eye on Murray that he didn't get into trouble with the mower. Cayce liked to let the computer whiz try his hand at different skills but always with someone on the alert in case he ran into trouble. In this case the lawn mower could become difficult for the skinny scientist to handle. Cayce had a riding class – beginners this time – to work with.

So it went for the next few days until, after two and a half weeks of steam treatments, soup, custard, and other light meals, combined with juice and lemonade as well as daily sunning and light exercise in the clean, fresh mountain air, the color came back into Cody's face, the fever (at long last) was eliminated and much of his energy and stamina was restored. He'd even regained about five pounds of the weight he'd lost.

"Thanks for everything," Cody said as he hugged Cayce before boarding the Mimi for the trip back to King Harbor."

"You're more than welcome, Cody," she said. "Next time let's make it a visit just to visit. Nursing you guys is a full time job for anyone …"

"Especially a mother hen," he grinned as he, rather than Nick, gave one of her braids a tug.

"– and exhausting besides," she said disregarding his "mother hen" crack.

The three men boarded the Screaming Mimi and headed back, Southeast, to King Harbor. Cayce waved them off and headed back to the house where she had things to catch up on – like her reading.