Part 4

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The monastery presented itself to Lovell as a simple cluster of sand colored buildings made up of brick and mortar protected from the wilderness by shoulder-high stone walls; broken at the center where a stone arch and an open gate made of worn twisted bars of iron waited to greet any visitors that might have stopped by.

Faint trail of smoke from what he could only assume was a cooking fire rose up from one of the smaller side buildings, while southern greaser style religious icons marked many of the walls and steeple of the main church building that faced the yard.

An empty flatbed wagon sat still and unhitched while two pale horses were tied with their snouts buried deep within a pair of feed bags that had been left out for them.

Without a soul in sight or sound of movement nearby, Lovell reluctantly pulled his pistol from the holster at his side and clicked back the hammer as he waited patiently for several moments before he raised the barrel to the sky and pulled the trigger before carefully re-holstering it as he dismounted.

The worn, dark-oaken doors of the church building crept open with a long in-desperate-need-of-oil screech as a tall, scarecrow thin priest in monks robe and pate of blond hair took in the horse and mules.

"Men of God need not celebrate entry upon arrival, all are ... um, most welcome ..." with frightened cheer, the priest left the door and approached, uncertainty marked by quick swallow and fervent movement of his Adam's apple, "... however it is that they may have arrived."

Lovell untied the bundled Indian, his eyes steady on the priest as he did so.

"Found an Indian squaw just up the road in need of a doctor ..." he began as pulled Running-Deer's bundled form from over the mule to gently hoist her over his shoulder as best he could, "... and more importantly, not from any misdeed on my part, father."

He watched with some impatient annoyance as the priest looked from what was now over his shoulder to his face and back several times as he seem lost in whatever it was that usually ran through the head of a priest in these situations.

"Please, father, tell me that you do have a sick bed or somewhere else available that you could trend to her injuries? I may not be a doctor, but from what little I've seen, she's hurt pretty bad and could use your help."

The priest nervously hesitated, before he gestured toward the building next to the church. "There's a small room with a guest bed that should be enough for her. We can send for the local doctor from town to help her once she's settled."

Lovell hesitated for just a moment at the door as he caught the reflection in the window of the little Indian girl that should not exist as she passed in dance step just behind him.

This damned curse of debt apparently continued wherever it was going to lead him - and then some.

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