had, after all, made the choice to ruin them. And the young mother was grateful, and wild with remorse. She did all she could, and finally insisted that Dr. McCoy take the house her mother left to her, go out to the country and try to heal.
That would be the house the McCoys lived in now. An ill-fated place. It had once been the town bordello, servicing miners from miles around. Today, it sat up on a hill overlooking the town's cemetery, back away by itself. There had been a suicide sometime in the forties, something about a mother who lost her sons in World War II.
Frank had tried more than once to get McCoy to come out and join his practice - you don't need full use of your hands to be a country doctor, after all. But McCoy would shake his head and turn away, and after a while Frank stopped asking. He did send the young man all his medical journals when he finished reading them, and he knew they came back read.
Sam looked out the window. "Oh, lordy, heah she come."
Frank looked, and grimaced. Helen Highwater strode down the street, the clasps on her old galoshes clattering with each step. She was built solid, her old white cotton apron anchored firmly against her homemade calico dress, and the uninitiated would think she was a harmless woman on the shady side of fifty. The men and women of Ramsdell knew better. And Frank doubted any one of them would dare tangle with her.
"Best put up that bottle, Frank. Your daughter's gonna give you what for."
Frank shrugged and upended it again. It was Sam's best corn whiskey, sold without the benefit of government blessing. "Don't matter none, boys. She'll know, whether she catches me or not, just like her ma."
"Well, you going to tell us?" asked Sam the counterman.
"Don't know. You reckon you deserve to get told?"
Lottie folded her arms and huffed. "I reckon now you better tell. You done got our taste up for it."
Frank grinned, then sobered. The story wasn't anything to be joking with. "She had a massive hemorrhage. Bled out in just a couple of minutes. There wasn't anything anyone could do."
"He hit her?"
"No, no. Looked to me like the afterbirth pulled loose on her." The men nodded; most of them were farmers or grew up farming and were familiar with the things that go wrong in birthing. "Though it was hard to tell. For a surgeon, he cut mighty rough." He felt Sam slip the bottle of corn liquor into his hands, and he automatically uncorked it.
Lottie nodded. "Reckon that's explainable. He's crippled in the hands, I hear. Some sort of accident."
Frank knew that story well, too. Young Dr. McCoy had a brilliant future ahead of him. Gifted neurosurgeon, clever young man. Then he happened across the accident. The car was on fire, and the mother was standing outside wailing, trying to reach in and get her baby, though the flames were far too much for her. The young doctor had reached in, ignored the agony in his hands, and worked blind to unbuckle the child - his training as a surgeon stood him good stead in this. The baby had some fairly bad burns, but nothing that wouldn't heal.
But the young doctor had ruined his hands forever. No insurance company would cover them beyond paying his medical bills; he
Stilling the Dead
A Helen Highwater Story