Dutch and his bleeding heart. Or at least that’s what he calls it. While in Blackwater this girl tried to rob Micah. When we tracked her down she started crying, said she was running from a bad husband and a bad marriage and don’t know what else to do. Micah said to leave her, but Dutch thought she could join us for a while.
But the problem is nice girls like her don’t last long with people like us.
The camp is relatively quiet. Dutch took most of the men out scouting for the next job. You think it’s a train robbery, but you’re not sure. As the newest member of the group you’re not exactly privy to everything. Not to mention the only reason why you’re here is because Dutch van der Linde took pity on you. If it was up to Micah, you’d still be on the streets.
With not much else to do, you sit by yourselves surrounded by trees with a book in your lap. The wind softly blows the pages so you have to keep pushing them back down.
It’s been a week since you joined the Van Der Linde gang and you’re not quite sure what to make of it. There’s quite a diverse cast of characters in the camp ranging from sweet Mary-Beth to drunk Reverend Swanson to boisterous Bill. You’re still not quite sure where you fit in, which is why going off on your own seems so inviting.
The snapping of a branch makes you jump. For a split second you think it’s Flynn come to take you away back your miserable life as his wife, but instead it’s Abigail Roberts.
“Sorry to bother you,” she says, wringing her hands, “but Jack’s started coughing and his face is a bit warm.”
You nod and close the book. “I’ll be right there.”
That’s really what you’re here for. With a father for a doctor, you learned from him the best you could, even if becoming a physician is out of your reach. At least it can do the group well for as long as you stay.
You’re quiet as you trail behind Abigail. She rambles on about symptoms. The cough started this morning, but now he’s got a temperature. Jack’s never been real sick before, but Abigail is a right mother hen. That’s one thing you quickly learned about her. She tends to hover over Jack quite a bit and obsesses over where he is or what he’s doing. You can’t imagine how hard it is to raise a kid in this kind of life.
As you pass by Tilly and Jenny they give their good mornings. So do the other women save for Molly. She keeps to herself in her shared tent with Dutch. You’re not really sure how they ended up a couple, but you’re not about to ask.
Uncle and Swanson are still here, both severely hungover. You’re also not sure why they’re allowed to stick around. Again, you won’t ask.
If anything you feel more like a guest than member of the gang. It’s like at some point they’ll tell you your time is up and you’ll be left to fend for yourself again. At least now you know not to try and rob dangerous looking men like Micah Bell. You’re still lucky Dutch intervened fast enough that you weren’t shot to death.
A quick check up on Jack tells you he’s just got the average cold. He’s a sweet little boy that wants to show you his toys, though his voice is funny with the stuffed up nose.
“He’ll be fine,” you tell Abigail. “Just make sure he keeps drinking.”
She lets out a breath. “Thank God. I just worry about him, you know?”
You understand more than you let on. You were once in her position, your son your responsibility. But now he’s buried in Tiller Ranch just outside Armadillo. Three years old with a bullet in his head from his father’s gun. You shudder thinking about it despite the heat from the sun.
“You okay?” asks Abigail.
You give a rather unconvincing nod. “I’m fine, Miss Roberts.”
A stampede of horses approaches the camp as the men dismount. You’re struggling to remember all of their names. Dutch is the leader. He was with Arthur and Micah in Blackwater. Where Arthur is more quiet and reserved, Micah is loud and obnoxious. He’s already tested your patience many, many times.
The group of them are talking as they hitch their horses, discussing different escape plans. The train is going up toward the Grizzlies and there’s a good stretch of land where it’ll be in the middle of nowhere. They’ll hit it tonight just after dark.
With so many people coming toward the camp at once, your instinct is to run. You try to be inconspicuous as you head back toward your spot in the trees, but Dutch stops you when he grasps your shoulder.
“And how are you doing?” he asks.
“Been better,” you say, itching to leave, “but I’ve also been worse.”
He lets go of you and rejoins the others. A few of them glance in your direction. There’s Lenny, a charming boy that seems too young for a group like this. Charles offers you a smile – he’s been nothing but kind since you arrived.
A couple of them come over to talk to you. Charles asks how you’re getting along with everyone. John thanks you for helping Jack. And, as usual, Arthur doesn’t say anything. After a week with barely anything from him, you start to wonder if he’s got something against you. He seems friendly enough with everyone else, so he can’t be shy. He’s distant, like he’s holding you at arm’s length.
“Don’t worry about him,” says Charles. “He can be a bit of an acquired taste.”
Your cheeks heat up and you hope that no one saw you looking at Arthur as he retreated to his tent.
“I wasn’t worried,” you say. Before Charles can make another remark you leave for the trees, your cheeks still warm.
When the sun is down, the robbery is on.
Left behind are the women plus Pearson, Jack, Strauss, Uncle, and Swanson. The latter two are already passed out drunk somewhere nearby. Meanwhile the woman are sitting around a campfire, laughing and goofing around. Not you, though. You’re at your cot, pretending to read. It’s too loud to concentrate and you’re too afraid to leave the camp in the dark.
Karen calls your name. “Come over here!”
You can tell she’s already had a few beers from the way she struggles to stand up straight.
“I really shouldn’t drink,” you say. “If someone comes back injured they’ll need my help.”
“At least come join us, then!” Her accent is even thicker than usual.
After a moment of deliberation, you realize this the moment that will define your place in the group. Will you forever be the outsider, used until you can leave? Or will you make some sort of impact and actually make some friends for once? Flynn barely let you leave the house. It wouldn’t hurt to have friends.
“Just for a while,” you concede. Most of them start clapping, smiles on their faces as you leave your book behind and sit down on a crate.
“Didn’t know you had much of a voice,” says Jenny.
“It’s been a long time since I really got to use it,” you say and instantly regret it. You don’t need them asking any questions.
“What’s that mean?” says Mary-Beth.
“It’s just…” You shake your head. “It’s nothing.”
“Oh, come on!” says Abigail. “You’ve been with us a week and we barely know anything about you.”
You shrug. “There’s not much to know.”
“Then where you from?” asks Tilly.
“What’s that like?” asks Karen.
“Who cares what it’s like?” says Uncle, drunkenly stumbling toward the fire with a beer in hand.
There’s a collection of angry grumbling coming from the ladies and you can’t help but laugh a little. It feels good.
“Sit your drunk ass down, Uncle,” says Abigail.
He says something incoherent before passing out on the grass.
You’re mostly quiet as the conversation shifts away from you. There’s a bit of singing, though you don’t know the lyrics. There’s inside jokes you don’t understand. It’s like being with Flynn and his family. You stick out like a sore thumb yet everyone forgets you’re there. And you’re sure the ladies don’t mean any harm by it. But there’s a perfectly good cot with your name on it that you’d much rather be sitting on than this rough crate.
The laughter dies down for a moment and a somber mood suddenly takes its place.
“Shouldn’t they be back by now?” says Abigail. She’s begun to fidget nervously.
“I’m sure it’s nothing,” says Tilly.
“I hope you’re right.”
Another beat of silence and something pops into your head. “Can I ask you girls a question?” you say. “Is Arthur shy?”
“Arthur? Arthur Morgan?” says Karen with raised eyebrows.
You frown. “Is there another Arthur?”
“He ain’t shy.”
“Why?” asks Abigail. “Did he do something?” She looks like she’s preparing herself to hurt him upon his return.
“No, it’s nothing,” you say quickly, waving the words away with your hands. “Forget I said it.”
Just then the group returns, though they seem eerily quiet for a bunch of men that just robbed a train.
“Something’s wrong,” says Mary-Beth.
She’s proven right when someone falls off their horse. It’s too dark to see who it is. Dutch comes into sight first. He jumps off his horse before it even comes to a stop. He goes to help the person that fell along with someone who looks like Charles.
“Arthur’s hurt!” John calls out.
What you hear is, “Time to work.”
Your stuff is at Strauss’ wagon which is where Dutch and Charles lead Arthur to. He’s got a nasty wound on his side that’s bled through his clothes. His skin has turned a scary pale and he’s barely able to walk on his own. They nearly drop him to the ground where he barely moves.
Helping your father was one thing. Actually being a doctor is another.
“Mr. Morgan, can you hear me?” you say as you start tearing apart his clothes.
He coughs. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Lawman shot him,” says Javier.
It looks like the bullet went straight through, though that means having to take care of two wounds instead of one. You use alcohol to clean the wound and wash off the blood, but the sting makes Arthur grunt and clench his fists.
The others move away to give you space. With most of the blood gone you can start to work on closing up the wounds.
“How are you feeling, Mr. Morgan?” you ask.
“Like I just got shot in my goddamn gut.” He grunts again as he tries to sit up. “Where’s Micah? I’m gonna kill the sonuvabitch.”
“Just try and relax, Mr. Morgan.”
Dutch suddenly appears with a bottle of whiskey that he hands Arthur. “For the pain, son.”
Arthur wastes no time downing nearly the entire bottle at once. When he finishes he lets the bottle fall to the grass. It’s a good thing he’s got alcohol running through his system helps ease the pain of cauterizing the wounds. He stays silent, but arches off the bed a bit as his eyes squeeze shut.
Closing the wounds is easy, but you don’t know what kind of damage was done inside. But at least the worst is over as you wraps bandages around Arthur’s torso. He pulls his shirt back down when you rip the bandage off the roll with your teeth. By now he’s calmed down a bit as the whiskey does its job. You’re sure once he’s sober Micah will be getting an earful.
The camp has settled down, too. The others are clearly worried for Arthur’s well-being, particularly Dutch who keeps pacing at his own tent.
“Mrs. Brooks, right?” says Arthur.
You cringe at the name but don’t bother to correct him. Legally, there isn’t anything to correct. But it’s a reminder of a life you’re so desperate to leave behind. You nod.
“Well, thank you, Mrs. Brooks.”
You meet his eyes, a soft hazel. “You’re very welcome, Mr. Morgan.” You pat his arm. “Now get some rest. You’ll need it.”
Arthur closes his eyes and you wait a couple of seconds to make sure he actually keeps them closed. Once you’re satisfied, you head for the full bucket of water near Pearson’s tent to wash the blood off your hands.
“How is he?” asks Dutch as he follows in step next to you.
“As long has he doesn’t develop an infection he’ll be fine.” Dutch helps pour some of the water onto your hands and you scrub them clean. “He’s lucky to have people that worry about him.”
Dutch gives a bit of a dry laugh. “Not lucky enough to not get shot.”
When morning comes you’re almost surprised to see that Arthur is alive. He’s sleeping in his bed when you go to check on him, soundlessly even. His hat has blown off his table, so you pick it up and place it back where it belongs.
He’s actually rather handsome when you get a good look at him. He’s recently shaven, though his hair is on the longer side. He has to be in his late thirties, but it can get hard to tell with outlaws like him.
“I saw that,” says Abigail as she smirked into her coffee.
She doesn’t answer, instead giving you a smile and walking away with her coffee in hand. There was nothing to see and there was nothing wrong with you getting a good look at him. His face is normally hidden by his hat and him mostly avoiding you did nothing to help. Not that it matters. What Abigail thinks is irrelevant. You just hope she doesn’t start spreading rumors.