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by Cindy Davis
Category: Young Adult
Description: An Orphan Train comes to the Arizona Territory, causing trouble for Cattle Creek. Can Jesse and his friends help the Sheriff catch a thief? Fifteen orphans arrive on the five o'clock train. Immediately things begin disappearing around town, and Jesse fears nasty Mrs. Denton's prediction of trouble by "those misfits" is coming true. When seven year old Emily disappears, everyone fears she's been abducted by her long-lost uncle. While posses search the roads and byways, Jesse, Matt and LT abandon their search for the thief to search the desert.
eBook Publisher: L&L Dreamspell/L&L Dreamspell, 2010 Spring, Texas
eBookwise Release Date: March 2010
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [183 KB]
Reading time: 118-166 min.
Commotion on the road brought me out of bed. A wagon squeaking to a stop. Voices shouting. Horses whinnying. Rags yipping. I scurried down my loft ladder, missing most of the rungs.
"Doctor, doctor!" A man's voice I didn't recognize.
Our front gate squeaked open and feet clomped onto the porch. Rags' yipping changed to a lower pitched guard-bark. His weight landed on the porch too. His toenails clicked back and forth.
"Doc!" called the man again.
I flung open the door and ran outside to see what the ruckus was about. Rags pranced around a strange man wearing a road-dusty blue shirt and brown trousers. His hat was clutched in his left hand. Brown crusty blood dirtied his right hand. His eyes--blue and wide--begged for help. A buckboard, enveloped in a receding cloud of Arizona desert dust, sat out front of my father's examining room. The tall black gelding, hitched to the buckboard, pranced in place--his eyes as wide as the man on our porch.
"Rags. Shush." The raggedy yellow dog stopped barking but didn't stop dancing around the excited stranger.
My sister Amanda burst from the house behind me running so fast she stomped my heels. "Doctor. Doc--" the man said and then stopped, obviously knowing fifteen-year old Amanda wasn't our father but not knowing what else to call her. Spotting the blood she leaped to the ground without using the steps and sprinted toward the buckboard.
The man followed, running too. Rags raced along beside him, quiet now but on guard and looking back now and then at me and probably wondering why I still stood on the porch.
Just then our father, Dr. Albert Johnson, hurried from the barn. "Jesse, come help."
Why did he ask for help when he didn't yet know what was going on?
"Get a move on, son."
I stepped off the porch and followed. Already my hands sweated; my stomach held a lump the size of our Arizona Territory. I crossed the fifty or so feet praying they'd get the injured person into the examining room before I got there. No such luck today.
The dust had settled somewhat. I recognized the buckboard driver as the foreman of the work crew in town. Abel Prouty, his name was. The work crew was finishing up what would be the biggest building in Cattle Creek; a home for kids from out east who didn't have any parents. Headline in yesterday's newspaper said the crew had to hurry to finish because the train carrying fifteen kids would arrive tomorrow.
"Jesse, get a move on."
A man lay in the back of the wagon. Thankfully, he was mostly covered by a wool blanket. Blood, lots of it, pooled on the wagon floor. My stomach flipped over and my breakfast thought about coming out. Don't throw up in front of them, I repeated in my head.
"Let's slide him toward the back. You get on that side," my father said to Mr. Prouty. "Amanda, you take his legs on that side. Jesse as they slide him out, you grab his head."
The rusty smell of the blood turned my knees to jelly. I held my breath and took hold of the injured man's left arm and torso.
"Hold tight, now," Father said. "Ready?"
As his body left the solid-ness of the buckboard, the man groaned, low and pained. I swallowed hard every time he cried out, willing the pancakes to stay inside me. We crab-walked to the far end of our house where Father had his examining room. Together the four of us lifted the limp man onto the examination table.
"What-all happened here?" Father asked as he peeled back the once-green blanket.
Oh man, it was Jubal Cromwell, one of Abel's workers. Jubal had the blackest skin I'd ever seen, and bulging muscles that rippled under his cotton shirt. He was the friendliest of the whole crew, joking with us kids when we hung around watching the orphanage grow up in a field.
The orphanage stood three stories high and stretched fifty feet long. Jubal said the parlor ran from one end of the place to the other and it had a real library, with shelves on three walls. Though Matt and I spent a lot of time at the site, we hadn't been allowed inside.
"I heard a man's scream and ran around to the front of the house," Abel Prouty said. "I found Jubal laying on top of a pile of roofing shingles. Looked like he fell out the third floor window. That's where he'd been working, setting the window into the frame. Dr. Johnson, don't let my man die." Abel's hands dropped to the examination table, atop the dirty wool blanket. His fingers knotted together, twisting and moving.
"Calm down, Abel. I'll do all I can for him. Why don't you head back to town? I'll send word when I know what's going on." Father used his 'let's be calm and not upset the patient voice.' But, I couldn't see how we could upset Jubal. He wasn't conscious. I was and the calmness didn't do a lick for me. Father caught my eye and nodded at the door. I led Abel outside.
"Don't worry Mr. Prouty. My father's the best doctor there is. He'll make Jubal well."
Abel's lips were in a straight line when he climbed into his buckboard. He drove off. The dust cloud blew back and made me sneeze. My father hadn't asked me to come back, so I kept walking. It made my legs feel a little steadier. That's what I told myself, but I knew it was the distance from the blood and gore that made me steadier.
I considered going back to bed. The sun oozing into the morning sky said it was about 8 o'clock. Time to get up anyway.
"Jesse, where you going?" shouted my sister Sarah from the porch. Seemed like I was overrun with sisters; Amanda, three years older than me, wanted to be a doctor like Father. Sarah was four. Uncle Isaiah called her a ball of fire. Rebecca was around six months. Father joked that he and I were outnumbered by women. Mostly I didn't think it was very funny.
"Where you going?"
"Chores. Then for a ride."
Thank you, Father. I found he's already finished chores. I collected my palomino, Sage, from the pasture where she watched my approach. I threw on the saddle and bridle, flung myself aboard and called to Rags. We raced off toward town.
Ahead, a white and red pinto had stopped in front of the abandoned Bleeker cabin at the Four Corners. The pony twisted around to whinny at us. He belonged to my friend Little Turtle--LT for short--who lived in a small Navajo village a couple miles east of our place. Actually, LT's birth name is Robert Beavertail of the Running River Clan. His grandmother called him Little Turtle because he was born so small. He'd stayed small. At eleven, a year younger than me, he only came up to my shoulders.
LT trotted the pony toward us. The horses touched noses and snickered hello to each other the same time we said, "Hey."
LT hopped to the sand, crouched and ruffled Rags' ears. "Hey, boy," LT said and the dog wiggled all over from the attention.
"Where are you headed?" I asked.
"To the desert hideout. Where are you going?"
I told him about the injured carpenter. "I thought I'd go to town and see what else is going on. Want to come?"
He hesitated and I knew why. The townspeople really didn't cotton to the Navajos.
"After you helped rescue the men from Echo Valley, things have been different. You risked your life for people who said awful things about Navajos," I reminded him. "Come on, if anyone says anything, we'll leave."
In one movement he jumped back on his pony. He grasped his single rein--no bridle for his horse--and spun it in a circle. We galloped toward town taking a short cut through the woods behind the Bleeker cabin. I couldn't wait to find out how Jubal got hurt.