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Jamie and Brianna came back in mid-afternoon, with two brace of squirrels, fourteen doves, and a large piece of stained and tattered canvas which, unwrapped, revealed something that looked like the remnants of a particularly grisly murder.
“Supper?” I asked, gingerly poking at a shattered bone sticking out of the mass of hair and slick flesh. The smell was iron-raw and butcherous, with a rank note that seemed familiar, but decay hadn’t yet set in to any noticeable degree.
“Aye, if ye can manage, Sassenach.” Jamie came and peered down at the bloody shambles, frowning a little. “I’ll tidy it up for ye. I need a bit o’whisky first, though.”
Given the blood-stains on his shirt and breeks, I hadn’t noticed the equally stained rag tied round his leg, but now saw that he was limping. Raising a brow, I went to the large basket of food, small tools, and minor medical supplies that I lugged up to the house site every morning.
“From what’s left of it, I presume that is—or was—a deer. Did you actually tear it apart with your bare hands?”
“No, but the bear did.” She exchanged complicit glances with her father, who hummed in his throat.
“Bear,” I said, and took a deep breath. I gestured at his shirt. “Right. How much of that blood is yours?”
“No much,” he said tranquilly, and sat down on the big log. “Whisky?”
I looked sharply at Brianna, but she seemed to be intact. Filthy, and with green-gray bird-droppings streaked down her shirt, but intact. Her face glowed with sun and happiness, and I smiled.
“There’s whisky in the tin canteen hanging over there,” I said, nodding toward the big spruce at the far side of the clearing. “Do you want to fetch it for your father while I see what’s left of his leg?”
“Sure. Where are Mandy and Jem?”
“When last seen, they were playing by the creek with Aidan and his brothers. Don’t worry,” I added, seeing her lower lip suck suddenly in. “It’s very shallow there and Fanny said she’d go and keep an eye on Mandy while she’s collecting leeches. Fanny’s very dependable.”
“Mm-hm.” Bree still looked dubious, but I could see her fighting down her maternal impulse to go scoop Mandy out of the creek immediately. “I know I met her last night, but I’m not sure I remember Fanny. Where does she live?”
“With us,” Jamie said, matter-of-factly. “Ow!”
“Hold still,” I said, holding the puncture wound below his knee open with two fingers while I poured saline solution into it. “You don’t want to die of tetanus, do you?”
“And what would ye do if I said yes, Sassenach?”
“The same thing I’m doing right now. I don’t care if you want to or not; I’m not having it.”
This excerpt was also posted on my official Facebook page on January 19, 2018. This page was last updated on Sunday, February 4, 2018 at 4:09 a.m. (PT) by Diana’s Webmistress.