The Sheriff and Aberly drove a distance into the woods and then the Sheriff let the dogs get Mike’s scent off of the knife he had confiscated. It took some doing to get the dogs to follow the back trail rather than following the scent back to town, but once they were on it with the ATV’s following behind they kept on track.
Meanwhile, the Doc and Jarrel quickly got Mike’s injuries cleaned and bandaged–what could be bandaged–and then the doctor took a full set of x-rays while he was still under sedation. Once he got Mike settled into a bed, he examined the x-rays with Jarrel looking on. “It’s a miracle the boy can even walk with the damage done to his ankles and shins. I suspect they were purposefully broken. A fall would have caused different fractures. He’s suffered broken collarbones multiple times as well as wrist and arm fractures, and ribs. None of which have been attended to other than the break I set when he was younger before they were taken by Lloyd. There’s not much that can be done at this point. Re-breaking the bones at this late stage of the game would be pointless. He’s permanently crippled, but thank the Lord he can at least walk. Even if it is with a limp.”
Jarrel was silent as the doctor spoke, but he suddenly broke in with a smile and little jig. “Life is good as long as you can still dance!”
Doc shook his head at Jarrel’s insanity, though he supposed the man did have somewhat of a point. The boys were lucky, considering. He supposed it was just a matter of perspective. Jarrel grabbed Doc’s arm and smiled up at him. “Come on and smile, Doc. The boys are home and alive. That’s good news!” Doc nodded. “Yes, but it’s hard to smile, Jarrel, after seeing how severe their injuries are. To see what they have been put through over the past five years. It’s not really a laughing or joking matter.” Jarrel blinked up at the doctor. “I’m not joking or poking fun at what happened to them. I’m just saying that considering what could have happened, things aren’t so bad.”
Doc sighed. “Yes, I suppose you are right. Let’s get Luke and Wade into the examination room and get them both sedated and taken care of too. It’s just very difficult for me to see these kinds of injuries on small children. I find it hard to smile, even if as you say it could have been worse. Let alone dance a jig.” Jarrel cocked his head. “Only because you refuse to see the good that has happened today. That these boys found their way home, despite their ordeal. That is a miracle and something to be celebrated.” The doctor smiled slightly, though it was strained. “Well, you do the celebrating…”
Jarrel suddenly cut in with excitement. “I know! We should throw a welcome home party for the boys! I’ll get right on that. My brother can fund it. We can have balloons and clowns… Wait, no, no clowns. I really don’t like clowns. And really, what kid does? But maybe a pony ride. That would be fun. And…”
The doctor cut Jarrel off, raising his voice in order to interrupt the inane prattling. “Jarrel!” Jarrel blinked in surprise and the doctor lowered his voice and tone. “Right now, we need to attend to the boys’ physical needs. Please go have Buford bring Luke in next. As a matter of fact, why don’t you give Bufe a break and watch Wade and I’ll have Buford help with Luke.”
Jarrel grinned. “Grand idea! I can find out from Wade what sort of things he and his brothers might want at their party. Or wait… Maybe it should be a surprise. Do you think it should be a surprise?” The doctor nodded and played along simply to get Jarrel moving along and also to prevent him from possibly upsetting or getting the kids hopes up over a party that may or may not occur. “Definitely it should be kept to yourself for now. I don’t think it’s a good idea to overwork the boys. Let them adjust slowly without throwing too much excitement at them.”
Jarrel rubbed his chin. “Hmm… You may be right. Do you think I might have gone overboard with the lollipops?” The doctor let out a long sigh. “No. I think the lollipops were fine Jarrel. Now please. Go get Buford. Or rather, let’s both go get Buford.” The Doc amended his suggestion, thinking Jarrel might get distracted along the way, and as Mike was out cold at the moment there was no need to watch over him.
Luke and Wade looked up as Jarrel and the doctor came into the kitchen, both having just been sitting staring at Buford unspeaking, their lollipops long since expired. “Your turn Luke,” The Doc said as he approached.
“Where’s Mike?” Luke blurted out when he saw the doctor and Jarrel, but not his brother following. The doctor spoke in a calming tone. “Mike’s fine. I had to sedate him in order to clean his wounds properly, but he gave me permission before I did, and as I promised before, I won’t let anyone in here to hurt any of you. I’m going to do the same for you and Wade. I don’t want to cause you any more pain and it going to hurt to scrub out those infected wounds. Mike said it was okay…”
Luke scowled. “How do we know he said that? What if you’re lying?”
Jarrel shook his head. “He’s not lying. I was there when Mike said okay. He was really tired of staying awake to watch over you and Wade. No one is going to hurt any of you here. I’ll stand guard. Like a soldier!” Jarrel said with excitement, but then he frowned. “But I don’t have my soldier’s uniform. I suppose I could go home and get it…” The doctor cut Jarrel off. “Jarrel, please! You can stand guard without the uniform, just this once. We don’t have time for you to go home to get it.”
Buford nodded in agreement with the doctor. “I promise that no one is going to hurt you, boys. My job is to ensure your safety here.” Not that the boys trusted him at all. That had been made very clear from their looks, but he figured adding some assurances wouldn’t hurt. Luke looked from adult to adult, then finally offered a compromise. “You do Wade first, and I’m going to be there to see what you’re doing, to make sure he’s okay. If Mike’s sleeping then it’s my job to keep an eye on Wade. He’d be angry if I left Wade alone.
Doc nodded. “Alright, that’s a fair compromise. Follow me then and we’ll get Wade taken care of, and then you after you see that we’re not intending any harm to any of you.” Luke didn’t respond, but he did follow, guiding his younger brother along who was completely silent and sticking close to his older brother as he had done with Mike. With Mike not available Luke was the next best thing. Not that either had really saved him from his uncle’s abuse, but they had always been there for comfort after the fact. So, he felt safer with his brothers than without.