The medicine man, Patecatl, had removed the bullet and cloth from the wound. She’d been worried at first, but, despite the crudeness of the instruments and primitive surroundings, Patecatl seemed competent. When she asked about antiseptics and anaesthetics, he had just smiled and Quetzalcoatl had explained that not all the drugs that came out of Columbia were bad.
She’d held Kendal’s hand during the operation. It was nothing and yet everything; a small gesture that let him know she was there and, at a time when she was not needed, it gave her a role, a purpose. It hadn’t taken long to remove the bullet and cloth and once they were, a group of men had moved Kendal away from the village to a place of safety. Patecatl had stayed for a while, checking his patient was stable. Satisfied he’d come through the operation successfully, he’d left an hour ago, saying he would return at first light.
And so here she was, completely alone with him, unable to sleep, scared that if she did she’d wake to find him dead. She softly placed a hand over his brow: hot. She dipped a cloth into a bucket of cool water and gently bathed his heated skin, concentrating on his brow, chest and arms. Slowly and repeatedly she ran the damp cloth down from his shoulder to his fingertips, before turning his hand palm up and repeating the process from hand to shoulder, all the time murmuring soothing words 0f comfort.
A lock of dark hair had fallen over his brow, black as a raven’s wing. She soothed it back, noticing that his long, sooty eye lashes fanned out against the dark circles beneath his closed eyes. Once again she was struck by the familiarity of his bone structure but, try as she might, she couldn’t think why that was.
As his body cooled under her ministrations, his mumbling became more coherent; the names he spoke could be made out even if they meant nothing to her. At times he seemed tormented by them – As’ad, Steve, Katie – thrashing about wildly, only calming under her touch. It frightened her to see him so disturbed.
For three days he drifted in a semi-conscious state, hovering between peace and delirium – plagued by nightmares. It was on the third day that she finally realised why he seemed so familiar. She was lying at his side dozing when he’d woken her, thrashing around. As she had done every time he’d been distressed, she moved to calm him down. This time it was different though. His eyes flew open. She’d never witnessed such pain and despair.
“Have to tell Alex… make her see that I didn’t do it.”