Back in the safety of the barn, where Tom was pretty sure he wasn’t going to shoot someone, he shook his head and checked on the dying man. He refused to think of the fellow as his patient. He didn’t have patients anymore, he was hardly a doctor anymore by his own thoughts. The moaning man was little changed, maybe a touch weaker and Tom eased his head up to dribble some of the strong liquor past the parched lips. There was little other comfort to be offered, short of a bullet to the head.
When he was satisfied that there was nothing left for him to do, he checked on his horse. Fortunately, Billy treated animals better than skinny boys. The dapple gray was content, clean and warm, his soft nose nuzzled Tom’s hand and he figured he’d have to name the creature soon.
Since he could find nothing lacking for the beast, Tom untied his bedroll from his saddle that hung over the door to the stall. He shook it out and made up his place by the fire before moving to shutter some of the windows for the night. Once the sun had gone down, a lot of the spring warmth had faded in the chilly rain.
From the house came a banging crash, the sound of tin hitting wood and following closely came a protesting cry. The voice was too high pitched to be from the men, Tom stood in the door to the barn and glanced up at the slight glow seeping from the house. He heard one of the brothers cursing Alice out and the child crying for mercy again. They weren’t happy sounds.
Tom pulled the barn door shut and went to the bedroll. He sat on it and checked over his pistols, a nightly ritual that eased him before falling asleep. It wasn’t enough to settle his mind and he found himself glancing to the barn door.
“It’s not my place.” He muttered to the fevered man. “It’s not my concern what sick bastards you are.”
Stubbornly, Tom laid down and pillowed his head on his arm. The firelight crackled as he lay on his back, eyes open, waiting for sleep to come. He waited a long time and was still awake. He found the flat surface oddly lumpy and turned to get more comfortable. There was nothing he could do, Abe was a dead man, he’d ride out at first light. The sooner he was away from this homestead, the happier he’d be. He wiggled to settle in under his blanket and his eyes fell on the slip of soap.
“Aw, damn it.” He cursed as he sat up and pushed the blankets off of him. He checked his pistols again before pulling his coat and hat back on.
The rain outside had slowed from dumping to a steady drumming but it was cold and wet crossing the yard. He should have been dry and warm, soundly asleep. It wasn’t any of his affair what other folk did, but the words weren’t comfort enough to let him sleep. He pushed the cabin door open.
The blanket door did nothing to muffle the sounds from behind. Grunts twisted with giggling, the wet slapping of flesh into flesh and quiet, heart wrenching sobbing. Tom’s jaw was clenched so tightly his jaw ached but before he could push his way into the back room, Adam came out. The suspenders were loose at his hips now and from the contented grin on his face he’d already taken his turn. The grin turned to a knowing smile.
“Come in for that ride after all?”
The sounds and the smile urged Tom to start hitting the other man. “No. There’s nothing more I can do for your brother. If you care for him, you’ll end his pain, otherwise he’ll linger, two, three, maybe four more days. I’m riding out first light and I’m taking that boy with me. See to it his things are packed up and he’s ready.”
Adam shook his head. “I don’t think you’ll be wanting to do that, doc.”
“Oh, no, I’ll be doing it. That child isn’t going to be spending another night under your care.”
“It ain’t got to be this way. Go, try Alice out, ride it until you’re happy, but that skirt stays here. I won’t let any man steal my horse, and I sure as hell won’t be letting any northern slick doc run off with my whore.”
“The boy will be riding out with me tomorrow morning.”
Adam shrugged and quick as a bird taking to wing, reached for the rifle he kept propped against the wall. The shot fired before Tom even knew he’d drawn his pistol and Adam slumped back, stunned, gurgling red foam. There was no giggling now from the other room, the blanket dividing the cabin pushed aside. Billy, his pants still open, had just enough time to glance at Tom standing the door way and his brother laying dieing before Tom raised his pistol.
“Aw, no, no doc, you killed Adam, why’d you go and kill Adam.” It sunk in slowly that the gun that had cut down his brother was aimed at him. “Naw, aw don’t do it doc, don’t, I don’t want to die!”
Tom squeezed the trigger. The cabin was starting to smell like gun smoke now, smoke and blood. Billy stumbled back, eyes wide in panic and pain. His hand going to the blood pouring from his chest and he stared at the red stain in shock.
“You shot me.” He sobbed out, his face going angry. “I’ll kill you!” He staggered toward where Adam had knocked over the rifle. He didn’t even get a full step away before Tom raised his gun and put another piece of lead into the man’s head. Adam had stopped gurgling against the wall, the bloody foam was still, his eyes open and unseeing as Billy’s body convulsed backward into the hidden room. The blanket tore down with him and he crashed to the ground in a heap.
“No, I’ve killed you.” Tom shook his head and put the gun away, his lips pressed into a thin, unhappy line. Two men dead and not a scratch on him, some how it didn’t seem right.
He stepped carefully around the growing pools of blood and moved to the back room. What remorse he might have felt for killing the two men faded at the sight that greeted him. There were no beds, just piles of bedding tossed over rough mattresses. The boy was tied at the wrists and the rope bound him to a small iron ring placed on the wall, low enough that the child couldn’t stand and with virtually no slack to allow movements. He was curled up against the wall, brown eyes wide, face pale and frightened. He glanced to Billy’s dead body than up to where Tom stood cold and deadly in the door way and acceptance settled on the delicate features. Those expressive eyes lowered and the boy slowly backed away from the wall. With clumsy movements, he raised himself up, his body stretched out between hands braced against the wall and his knees, ass in the air, waiting to be used.
The sight made Tom painfully hard and just as painfully ashamed. He was grateful the child’s skirt was covering him, torn further in whatever fight had been made earlier but intact. Dirty, underfed, terrified, in spite of all the things that should have repulsed him, Tom wanted the boy. Even the sheer knowledge that the child was so young didn’t stop his instinctual responses.
“Jesus!” Tom cursed and the boy glanced over his shoulder. The coffee warm eyes weren’t afraid anymore, they looked inviting.
Tom drew a knife from the side of his boot, the boy’s eyes went wide.
“No, no, please, no, I won’t fight you, I’ll be good, I swear, oh please no.” The child begged in that soft Southern accent and curled up against the wall again. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, please no, please, I’m sorry.”
His boot steps sounded like gun shots in the silent cabin, accenting the child’s painful begging. “I’m not going to hurt you.” Tom’s voice was frustrated, angry at his desire and the fact that even for a second he’d considered using the boy. He knelt down where the child was huddled, the pretty face tucked away into too skinny arms but the begging didn’t stop. “I said I’m not going to hurt you!” He yelled back, wanting to smack some sense into the boy’s head.
The yelling only reduced the begging to wordless whimpers which only pissed Tom off more. “God damn it!” Tom snapped again and shoved his knife forward. The child cried like a kicked dog and pulled away, the rope cut free and the boy tumbled back.
The child sat, stunned silent as Tom slipped his knife away. “I told you I wasn’t going to hurt you!” The voice boomed, the boy’s eyes were impossibly wide, he looked from Tom towering over him to his freed wrists and promptly fainted. “A damned fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into, Tom, damned fine. Couldn’t just ride away, oh no, you got to stick your stinking nose in where it don’t belong.” He shook his head, ready to turn around and ride out then and there.
But the child slumped where he’d fallen. The face of an angel under the dirt. Too skinny bones sticking out with an obvious sign of long time neglect, wrists now red from pulling so hard against the rough rope. Everything about the boy screamed of vulnerability and Tom cursed himself again but he knew he wasn’t going to be riding out and abandoning the child.
The child was limp when Tom tried to rouse him, stressed to far, obviously exhausted, the boy was out cold. He scooped the limp body up, tossing it over a shoulder the same way he would a sack of potatoes and carried the child out to the main room. The table had been cleared so Tom dumped the boy onto it. The room was warm and well lit. He found a battered tin pot, nearly as large as the first one the child had boiled water in for him, in a wood box near the cook stove. Tom filled it from the waiting water pail and set it on the cook stove to heat.
The rain outside had slowed even further and showed real signs of letting up well before morning but Tom still hurried back to the barn. Inside, he drew his gun and fired one more shot, ending the life of the third brother and startling the two horses in their stalls. He gathered up the sliver of lavender soap and his medical bag before he tromped back to the house.
The child hadn’t stirred and showed no signs of waking anytime soon. Tom moved past him and began searching the small house. He found food supplies in one small cabinet, nothing impressive but speaking to a supply greater than their forced starvation of the child had indicated. In a wooden box in the sleeping room, he found extra blankets and sheets. He pulled the pile out, mindful of the blood near by and sorted it into two piles, one serviceable and one that should just be burned. From the serviceable pile he tugged out clean sleeping blankets for the child and any useable sheets he could use to restore his supply of bandages. Both arm loads were carried back to the front room and set away from Adam’s body.
Corpses held no fear for Tom, he’d seen them his entire life, but there was something disconcerting about searching the still warm bodies of men recently murdered by his own hand. Billy held nothing of value or interest, no money, not even a flint but confirming the man’s slower nature, Tom found a few well battered marbles. Adam’s body provided more useful supplies. Not only did Tom find an old, iron knife, the antler handle was worn smooth and the blade was thinning from countless sharpening, but he also found a tobacco pouch and pipe.
Tom tossed the pipe aside and untied the leather cords of the pouch. He enjoyed a good smoke occasionally but even he wouldn’t stoop to smoking a dead man’s leaf, not yet anyway. He rummaged inside and among the brown leaves he found a gold coin, a wooden match safe, and an iron key. Since he hadn’t seen a single lock anywhere on the homestead, Tom was betting what lock the key fit. He pocketed the coin, tossed the match safe on the pile of blankets and palmed the key, leaving the tobacco to scatter over the dead man.
There were advantages and disadvantages to approaching the child while he was still unconscious. The advantages were clear, he could examine and treat the boy’s wounds with ease and no fuss or modesty. He was free to just do his job and not worry about soothing the boy’s fragile emotions, which wasn’t something he was very skilled at. The disadvantages were simple, undressing the boy felt more perverted than clinical, treating his wounds made him feel far more the dirty old man than the doctor.
“Damned fool.” Tom sighed and worked the rope off of the child’s wrists, torn between taking care not to wake the boy and needing him alert to put the boundaries firmly back in place.
The skin over the thin wrists was red, bloody in spots and showed signs that tonight wasn’t the first time the rough rope had held the boy still. He flipped the iron key in his hand and moved to the child’s ankles. The lock turned uneasily, but it sprang open on first the one ankle, than the other, releasing the pale legs from their heavy burden. The skin under the iron was raw, torn apart, and it showed signs of early infection. He’d guessed the boy had worn those shackles for weeks, if not months. The thought disgusted him and he tossed the rattling iron onto the dead body.
The urge to stall was great, Tom took off his coat and hat and set them aside. He rolled up his sleeves slowly and took time to make sure the water he’d heated was warm. Rather than dumping it out, he ladled it into a wash basin, refilling the pot on the stove in the same slow manner. He took too long in selecting which sheet to cut a wash rag from and longer to cut an even square of fabric free. Too soon he ran out of tasks to stall with and he moved to undress the boy.
The rag doll limp body was easy to manipulate. Tom pushed the child to sit up and pulled the ragged blouse over a lolling head and limp arms. The child’s starvation was even more pronounced bare chested, ribs cut sharply into skin, the ridges and valleys too deep. The boy’s waist dipped starkly down to his sunken stomach, the tops of his hip bones stuck out where the skirt hung loosely.
“Jesus.” Tom whispered, appalled at the sight displayed for him. He moved to clean the boy, dipping the rag into the warm water and lathering it was a small amount of soap. He wasn’t even going to tackle the hair for now, he swiped the cloth over the dirty, still face, full expecting the child to wake.
The boy remained soundly asleep, murmuring lazily at the touch but it wasn’t a sound of fear. Carefully, Tom washed the down the slender neck, feeling more than seeing the round sharpness of an adam’s apple, too distinct for a woman but not the angled bulge most men developed. He washed across shoulders and the thin chest. The cloth teased over the pink nipples, they hardened at the touch and the boy moaned a little. Tom swallowed hard, took a deep breath and shut his emotions off. He was a doctor, this was just another body. Clinically, he looked in vain for any signs of breast development, still seeking any signs the child was abnormal or maybe even secretly female.
As the dirt washed away, the pale skin was revealed and with it an impressive collection of yellowing, healing bruises and fresh, purple pink ones. As he washed the side of the child, he found a tender welt, thick as his finger and swollen. He traced it by feel to the boy’s back and that had him sitting the child up again. Only this time, he stood behind the boy and saw his back. Criss-crossing it were inch wide, three or four inch long welts. None deep enough to break the skin but each a painful, slowly healing reminders of a solid switching. Welts decorated the boy’s shoulders, down his back and disappeared over the curve of the small of his back under the skirt.
Tom lowered the child back down and spat at the corpse. “Lucky bastard, if I’d seen this you wouldn’t have died so easily.”
He rinsed the soap from the rag, using cleaner water he swiped quickly over the cleaner, but not quite, clean skin. The soapy, dirty water he tossed out the front door and took his time refilling the basin from the pot on the stove and than refilled the pot from the water barrel. There was no point in stalling, he was a professional. Sadly, he was a professional that had no clue how a woman’s skirt came to be fastened. He had to slide his fingers along the waistband until he found a drawstring. It took a little work but he got it unknotted without having to cut the strings and carefully worked the skirt off.
There was no doubt now the child was male and perhaps older than Tom had originally thought. His limp sex wasn’t one of a child, but of a teenager, a later teenager from the nest of soft downy blond curls it lay against. Tom required no mental reminders of his position, seeing the bruises and scratches on the child’s hips, thighs and even his sex was enough to settle any lingering desire he may have felt. The only emotion that was in him now as cold anger.
He washed the boy gently, some of the scratches were raw. The legs were strong, slender, lean, far too skinny, but the boy was used to being active. Tom had always been a leg man, long, lean legs had always been his undoing. The boy would be able to break hearts with just a glimpse of his well shaped limbs, the soft, sparse blond hair only adding to the beauty. Those were thoughts for another day, Tom only touched the child to examine him, running quick, sensitive hands across those long legs, feeling for any signs of breaks or damage under the skin and purpling marks. He really felt like a lecher when he had to check the boy’s genitals. The bruising around his groin was too extensive to ignore and if the child had been damaged, he needed to know now.
Tom drew a breath and quickly slid his hands over and than between the child’s legs. His earlier erection returned and he knew he was going to hell for getting even the slightest bit of pleasure out of cupping between the child’s legs. He palpated, and probed, his touch, if not his cock, stayed clinical and Tom was more than happy to withdraw his hand, grateful the boy hadn’t woken up in the middle of that part of the exam.
He rinsed the soap from the rag and wiped the child’s body down with the damp cloth. “Good thing you aren’t awake. I don’t mean it, boy, it’s just been a damnable long time. A long, long time.” He brushed a stray curl off the resting forehead before turning the child over.
The welts extended from the boy’s neck to the middle of his thighs. His buttocks and thighs had scratches and bruises as well. Tom washed the wounds carefully with fresh water, running his hands along the child’s body to check for injuries, than he rinsed the boy off, ignoring the softly slumbering face as well as the rounded, abused ass. Tom dug in his bad once the boy was clean and found the tin of salve. It was his own recipe, something he’d been proud of once.
He popped the lid off and scooped out a tiny amount, letting the warmth of his hands thin the thick cream. Once it had softened, he carefully began rubbing the slave into the welts and scratches. The boy mewed softly, low and quiet.
“Shhh, it’s okay lad, it’s just to help you heal.” He knew the boy couldn’t hear him but maybe he’d just know in his sleep that the voice wasn’t connected to a man that was a danger to him. Tom hoped he wasn’t a danger to the boy, he was aching now from having to rub so much of the exposed creamy skin. The child settled down and drifted back into deeper sleep, so maybe speaking did help.
The welts were treated easily, but there was another potential wound that should be checked. He rested a hand on the boy’s ass and raised his eyes to heaven seeking a sign that proceeding was a worse idea than he suspected. He was a doctor, he’d done this plenty of times before, he tried to remind himself of all the hairy, dirty asses he’d had to examine over the years. None of them had looked like the round bottom below him.
He let his hand part those tender cheeks. The child moaned again in his sleep. “Shhh,” he said softly into the sound of the rain. “It’s okay, lad, it’s okay, I just have to make sure they didn’t hurt you. Shhhh, I promise, I’ll try not to hurt you.”
He imagined the worst. He’d washed the boy off so he knew the brothers had been using some form of lubricant, maybe lard from the feel and smell, but all the grease in the world wouldn’t keep the child from harm. There was plenty of evidence to suggest that they hadn’t been the slightest bit gentle with the boy.
The boy flinched ever so slightly when one of Tom’s fingers slid into him, but he spoke soothingly and the boy settled down. “Aww lad, these weren’t the first men to hurt you were they?” He sighed and shook his head, there was evidence of past scarring on the child and the passage was far to accustomed to being invaded. There was some damage there, but minor and certainly not the raw, bleeding wounds he’d feared he’d find.
He removed his finger with deliberate care. “That’s it lad, that’s it.” He stepped away to wash his hands and switch out the wash water again. When he returned to the table he turned the boy back over, wrapping the chilled, nude body into a blanket as he did. Only, as he flipped the child over, the soft sex between the boy’s legs wasn’t so soft anymore. It wasn’t fully hard but it was firm enough that it drew his eyes right to it. Tom had a violent urge to bend over the child and take that half awake erection in his mouth, to suck in and warm the flesh to full awareness with his tongue.
The tip of his tongue slipped out to wet his lips and he knew he was breathing too hard but Tom swaddled the boy into the blanket, tucking it firmly around him and leaving only the boys face and head out. “Too damn long.” The choice was an easy one to make. “Don’t roll off there, boy, it’s a long way down. I’ll be right back.”
He escaped out onto the porch and the fluttering rain’s uneven fall matched the same pattern of his heart. The cooler air did nothing to settle the raging lust he felt but he was not going molest anyone who was unconscious let alone a child. Sadly, he wasn’t so naïve to think he could wash the boy’s hair out while in his current state. He leaned against one of the porch’s support beams, near the corner of the house and found his free hand already rubbing at his aching need through the fabric of his pants.
The buttons of his britches opened easily and he pulled the hard length out. It was purple red with need and the cool, damp air was a teasing caress. He leaned his weight against the side of the house with his left hand and with his right he firmly jerked himself off. He didn’t deserve any pleasure from the act, he yanked at himself violently, forcing himself to come as quickly as possible. Given how hard he was and how long it had been since anything had stirred him to full arousal, it didn’t take long.
He stood on the edge of the porch, letting the cool air chill him down and slow his breathing. “I know, Sam, I know, I’m a sick bastard.” He sighed and felt a sharp pain like a kick to the stomach. “Sorry, love, he’s here and you’ve been gone too long.” He whispered into the night and rain. With short, unhappy motions he tucked himself into his pants and settled his clothes back around him as if nothing had happened.
“Alright lad,” he spoke calmly as he stepped back into the cabin. “Let’s see what I can do about that rat’s nest.”
Tom had pulled the living, wrapped bundle to the edge of the table to let the tangled mass of hair fall over the edge. He washed it skillfully, with practiced hands. He even managed to untangle the cord from the thick blonde waves without cutting cord or hair. It was a poor job but the hair was cleaner when he rinsed it and tackled untangling it with one of the two prong forks from dinner since a comb wasn’t close at hand. There was no worry about the child stirring him again, the task was too similar to bad memories and he felt a heavy weight of shame that kept him firmly settled down.
“There, that’s about as good as it’s going to be for now.” Tom stood and moved about the cabin, blowing out lamps as he went. “I need to get some rest too.” He scooped the child up and carefully carried the burden back across the yard to the barn.