-- These characters are wholly mine. It is true that Sam looks like Lucy Lawless and Annie looks like Renee O'Connor, but any other resemblance to any other people, real or fictitional, is strictly coincidental.
Sex -- This is a lesbian romance thriller. There are graphic, but loving, scenes of sex between women. If you're under 18 or this is illegal where you are, I am legally compelled to urge you to move on.
Violence -- This is a story of violent hatred attacking an innocent gay community. The violence is psychopathic and unsettling, but not overly gory.
Language -- Infrequently, some really scummy people show up in this book, and they use really disgusting language. Even our heroines are driven to cuss now and again. But the purpose is to display certain mind types, and in this, the language is only realistic.
General -- I should probably let you know beforehand that this story deals with bigots and hate crimes. If this is going to be hard for you, you may want to go elsewhere. -- There are hospital scenes dealing with diverse injuries. I am not a member of the medical profession. If the things I have my doctors and nurses do for certain injuries were done by real doctors to real people, it could very well kill them. I only hope that nobody who reads this has a medical background or is thrown into hysterics. -- This is my first attempt at fanfic writing. I would appreciate hearing from you, but please, be gentle.
A TIME TO LOVE, A TIME TO HATE
The metallic bones of a 1966 Triumph cycle lay scattered in the back corner of Adam's Auto Shop while the lean, muscular form of the mechanic knelt over them, grease smudged and sweating, working with tools on metal as caringly as a surgeon works on flesh. As usual when Sam Adams worked on the bike, she inhabited a zen state of effortless concentration, lost in the tasks at hand. Unconsciously, she brushed a strand of long dark hair behind an ear, leaving a streak of grease on her chiselled cheek. Chis Williamson's voice crooned softly through the small pool of lamplight that starkly separated the work area from the surrounding midnight darkness of the shop. In the outer darkness of the muggy, musty shop, a gloved hand reached out, slipping fingers tightly around a crowbar left leaning against a bench. Black clad figures moved silently as shadows, gathering close behind the woman's unguarded back.
A deep voice said, "Get ready to die, fucking dyke bitch."
Sam started violently, spinning around. She saw five of them, demons merging out of the gloom, their faces grotesquely twisted under the sheer stockings they had pulled over their heads. She moved to grab the closest one who brought the crowbar down on her wrist with a cracking pain that buckled her knees. The battle now enjoined, the body of demons surged to her, hands catching her arms, lifting her up, while one huge devil stepped close into her, so close she could smell the liquor reeking on his breath, and threw a fist into her stomach. She went with the punch, her body swinging back violently, then relied on the strong hands at her arms to hold her up and threw her legs forward to kick her tormentor in his distorted face. He growled, stumbling back into his fellows' arms, then regathered himself, "Cunt!", he hissed and kicked her in the stomach with a booted foot. Pain exploded through her. The blow had caused damage inside her,she was sure. She let out a cry and collapsed, but the hands on her arms kept her standing and the giant's fist caught her in the gut again as the others began a rising chorus of encouragement. He slugged her again and a strangled scream tore from her.
In the little house next to the auto shop, Buddy Burr woke to darkness with his heart beating double time. He sat up in the darkness holding his breath. "What the heck...?" It sounded like there were voices coming from somewhere. Muffled, almost like he was still asleep and they were far away in his dream. Must be a party somewhere. He yawned and lay back down to sleep.
Sam dangled from the hands of her tormentors groaning heavily. The giant pulled back to hit her again, but a brother grabbed his arm and shouted, "Let me! Le' me at her!", and hauled the other man back, taking his place and throwing a roundhouse punch to Sam's jaw. Her head rocked back and then forward over her chest. He caught her with an upper cut that snapped her head back again, revealing in the instant before it dropped forward, a splattering of blood over her face. He grabbed her hair, lifting her face, readying himself for another punch when the giant grabbed him. "Hold it. We done enough. We gotta git outta here."
"Like fuck! I'm killin' the bitch!" shouted the demon.
"The fuck you are!" The giant grabbed the jacket of his littler cohort and shook him. "We beat the crap outa her. Now let's git."
Another voice cried, "I ain't had my turn!"
The giant considered for a moment. "Okay. You get her, an' then we git!"
Buddy shot up in bed, roused by angry voices. That ain't no party. That's a fight! He slipped out of bed, through the darkness of the little house and out into the muggy night air, and listened. Milly! That's over at the garage. He crept across the shadowed lawn a step, then looked around for a weapon. Hey, damn lucky I left this out here yesterday! He picked up the baseball bat and crept over to the rear of the garage.
The third assailant took up his station before Sam's body which dangled like a rag doll from the hands that held her. "Let her down." He commanded. The two at her arms let go and she sprawled on the floor moaning. "You know what I hate, bitch?" he hissed. He slammed a boot into her ribs. "I hate fuckin' lesbos." He kicked again, his steel toed boot driving into her breast. "You..." a kick to her stomach, "stinkin'," another to her ribs, "pervert!"
Buddy raised his head gingerly up to the window in the back of the shop and took in the scene. Godamighty! They got Sam! He raised the bat and slammed it against the cement block wall with a mighty crash. Inside, the demons froze. Suddenly all hell broke loose. The quiet was shattered in a thunder of crashes along the back wall and a voice shouting, "SOMEBODY CALL THE COPS! THEY'RE KILLIN' SAM!!!" Like rats tumbling out of a bag, the vermin fought their way out the side door and slithered away into the darkness.
Beyond the hospital window, the sky was graying with predawn light. Annie O'Shea reviewed the chart of the latest patient to come under her nursing care, then shifted her gaze to regard the damage on the body itself. One side of the face was relatively untouched, so perfectly beautiful in repose, the other side was a pulp of bandaged cuts, bruising and swelling. Unseen, beneath the hospital gown she knew she'd find the shock of a violently bruised torso wrapped heavily chest to stomach in bandages to cradle broken ribs, a punctured lung and surgical incisions. She shook her head and ran small fingers through her short blond locks. What kind of animals could do something like this to a person?
She checked the medical paraphernalia she'd hooked up to her patient, then looked again at the beautiful, brutalized face. Irresistably Annie reached down and brushed a lock of hair off the dark woman's forehead. An irrational urge swept her to stay like this, bending over this injured woman, stroking her face, protecting her. The muscles around the woman's cheeks and eyes tightened slightly. A soft moan came from her.
"Samantha?" Annie said.
"Hurts..." She said in a voice soft and hoarse.
"Samantha, you're going to be okay, but you've been badly injured."
Another moan sounded, and Sam rolled her head a bit on the pillow.
"I'll get you something for the pain."
She rummaged through the meds and instruments she had brought in with her and selected a syringe and pain serum.
Sam struggled to open her mouth and groaned. "Hurts."
"Your jaw is cracked. You probably can't open it very wide."
Annie administered the shot of pain killer. Sam groaned briefly as the needle went in, but whispered, "Thank you."
"Do you know where you are?"
Another groan sounded. "Hell."
Annie laughed. She patted Sam's shoulder tenderly. "I guess when you wake up and the only word in your vocabulary is 'hurts', it's gotta be pretty rotten. The sedative will take care of that pretty soon."
Sam opened her good eye a slit and caught a vision standing by her side, a beautiful blond woman, whose hair surrounded her face, lighted from above like a halo. She wanted to ask the woman out on a date, but all she could manage to say was a raspy, "Sleepy..."
The beautiful vision looked up from where she was making a note on the chart and said, "Yeah, your meds will help you sleep for the first couple days."
The sound of shuffling feet in the doorway made Annie look around. A somewhat scruffy looking fellow, a baseball cap crumpled in his hands, stood looking forelornly at the hurt, helpless form in the bed.
"You can come in," Annie said.
The gangly figure walked shyly over to the bed. "Hi, Sam. It's me, Buddy."
"How're you doin'?"
"Feel pretty rotten."
"Godamighty, I'm not surprised. You scared the living daylights outa me. Do you realize that if I hadn't of wakened up, you'd be dead? Doc said you'd be dead. What happened? It's not like you to let yourself get beat up so bad, Sam."
The woman in question, rasped, "Beat up?"
"Yeah. A bunch of 'em got you. Remember? Oh, you were in poor shape when I got there."
"You liked to scared the pee outa me. Blood all over, an' you lookin' dead as a doornail..."
Annie put her hand on the fellow's arm and squeezed a little hoping to stem the tide of gory details. Buddy glanced at her and nodded his head then returned to Sam. "I gotta go. Doc says you're gonna be fine, Sam. You just do what the nurse here says. Don't give 'em no hell this time. I'll stop back after the garage closes. See if you need anything."
"I'm gonna call Duke Johnson and have him take that Chrysler we got in there. Don't you worry about a thing. I got it all under control." He turned to Annie. "Me an' Sam work together at her garage. I'm like her good right arm. Ain't I, Sam?" He looked down at the beautiful, battered woman in the bed, spinning his cap slowly around in his fingers. Then he leaned carefully over her and said softly. "You're like a brother to me, Sam."
She quirked a wan smile at him and croaked. "That's... kind of you... to say, Buddy."
"You and Rooster. You're my brothers. I can't lose neither one of you. So you just get better now, ya hear?"
"I'll do that, Buddy."
"'Kay, now." Buddy straightened up and glanced shyly at the little blond nurse by his side. There were tears in his eyes. "Sam's like a brother to me." He confessed again, and left the room.
Annie looked after him. What a sweet guy. I think I've just met Gomer Pyle. She bent over her patient. "Ready for a nap now?"
"Could I have some water?"
"Let's try some of this ice." She spooned a bit of ice out of the cup on the bedtray and held it to Sam's lips watching as the woman struggled with her injured jaw, groaning, carefully working her lips around a chip of ice, then relaxing back on the pillow as though exhausted by the effort. Something Gomer said struck her again. So you usually don't let yourself get beat up so bad, huh. A wild thing, are you? She noticed Sam's broad muscular shoulders. I'll bet you could hold your own in a fight. She helped Sam to another chip of ice.
The dark woman crookedly smiled her thanks. The vision by her side was so beautiful and kind. She didn't ever want her to leave. Annie looked down at her patient who took the ice from her as quietly and trustingly as a hurt child, smiling the sweetest little crooked smile. God, Annie shivered, she was so beautiful. And beaten all to hell. A surge of protectiveness and something else suffused her. Who are you, Sam Adams?
Annie left a message for Sam's doctor that the patient had awakened, was doing well, and could have visitors whenever the local cops wanted to stop by and question her. Frankly, she was ravenously curious about what had happened to the woman. She turned to the tall, thin unit clerk whose short hair seemed to stick out unconcerned in all directions. "Tammy, do you know what happened to the woman in twenty-two?"
"Sam Adams? Yeah. One of those gay beatings, it looks like."
Annie was stunned. "A gay beating... You mean a hate crime?"
"Yeah. Welcome to Boffler Creek, Annie. We've had a few other incidents this spring before you came. I think the local sickos are starting to get psychopathic."
"Bigots did this to her?"
"That's my bet. Who else is going to send around a bunch of guys to beat up Sam Adams? Hey, Nettie," Tammy snagged a nurse who had stepped behind the desk. "Don't you suspect that Sam was beaten up by some guys out to harrass gays?"
The plump nurse nodded her curls briskly. "Yep. Sam's too out for her own good. And I've told her that. She's too out for everybody's good. Live and let live, I say, but Sam Adams flaunts it. This is a conservative little town, and I say, when in Rome do as the Romans do. Wendall helped bring her in and he said he heard Buddy tell the police that one of the guys beating her was calling her a 'stinking pervert'."
"Just like I figured," Tammy snorted.
Annie stared at the two trying to comprehend. "But they nearly killed her. If no one would have been there to bring her in, she would have died from those injuries."
"Mob mentality." Tammy sighed. "They probably all wanted to get their licks in. There's no brain dimmer than a backwater bigot's. I talked to some people around town after that Buchner guy was hit last month, and I wonder how they can dress themselves! Just no thought going on at all. Just pffft." Her hand flew over the top of her head which she then shook in disgust.
"Don't think we're all like that," Nettie shook her curls at Annie. "I can't say that I like homosexuality, but my god, you can't just kill them."
"What's wrong with homosexuality?" Annie could hardly keep herself from bristling.
"Oh, I know some people say nothing's wrong with homos, so this is just my opinion, but it just makes me feel wierd. It's sick, is what I think, psychologically sick. Now if they want to do it behind closed doors, it's all their business. I'm not going to complain. But to bring it right out on the streets. I mean, they have it on TV, forevermore, where my kids can see it! And I don't think that's good for the mental health of the country."
Tammy shot a sideways glance at Nettie. "My cousin's homosexual."
Nettie was unphased. "Well, more power to him. Just tell him not to do it in my livingroom,"and she bustled away and down the hall.
Tammy smiled ruefully at her blond colleague. "And that pretty well sums up the majority position here in our good community."
"Medieval," Annie murmurred.
"Oh, honey! Neanderthal! Makes me want to scream."
At nine a.m., Officer Dave Hueygens came in to question Sam Adams. Annie was at the desk and saw him flash his ID to Tammy who directed him to Sam's room. Annie was right on his heels, curiosity gnawing at her, as he turned and made his way down the hallway. He noticed her when she turned into the room with him. He raised a brow.
"I should be here in case she needs anything," Annie murmured.
She led the officer to the bed and shook Sam's shoulder gently. A blue eye opened slightly only to close again.
"She's pretty groggy from her sedative." She shook the shoulder again. "Sam, an officer is here to ask you about last night. Do you think you can talk to him?"
Dark waves of hair moved on the pillow as Sam turned her head to the sound of the voice. The blue eye opened again and fluttered briefly before focusing on the face at her bedside. The beautiful vision was there. "You're back."
"I missed you." Annie smiled. Sam thought she looked like an angel.
"Sam, an officer is here to ask you about last night."
The blue eye drifted around until it focused on the officer with Annie. "Davey..."
Dave Hueygens grinned. "They giving you good drugs here, Sam?"
"Yeah... Yeah... From now on my drug connection is this nurse right here. All you got to do is ask." The voice was weak and hoarse, but Sam was pretty lucid.
"I've got to ask you about last night."
"Oh, yeah, las' night. I been meanin' to ask somebody about it."
"Can you tell me what happened?"
"Uh... can't quite recall... I was working in the shop... An' then... Damn, Dave, can't you tell me?"
"Sorry, champ. I've got to take your statement. Can't do it the other way around."
"Sure. Sure... I was workin' in the shop, an'... yeah... my arm..." She looked down at her plastered wrist. "Somebody broke my arm, I guess. Big... big hog of a guy. Kicked me in the stomach."
"Do you remember more than one guy?"
"Lots of 'em, I think... mind's so fuzzy..."
"Take your time, Sam."
"Two of 'em grabbed my arms. I would of got 'em, but the bastard broke my arm... There was a big guy kept hitting me in the stomach. And two guys holding on to my arms. An'... yeah... there were a couple more in behind him... yeah... five of 'em..."
"Five of them? You pretty sure?"
"I just saw five."
"You recognize any of them?"
"Naw... they had these... these stockings pulled over their heads."
"I always hated that when someone pulled a stocking over their head. Scares me..."
"Was Henry Trent there?"
"Couldn't tell... Don't think so. Kinda surprising, isn't it?"
"Any of them say anything? Use any names or anything?"
"I think they called me a dyke... a dyke bitch."
"You sure about that?"
"Yeah. First thing they said... 'Fucking dyke bitch.'"
"Did you hurt any of them? Any scrapes or bruises?"
"Think I got my boot in that big guy's face... Woulda done more, but, Davey, they broke my damn wrist too soon."
"I know, champ. Not like you to go down easy."
"I didn't go down easy."
"No. No. You sure didn't. You made 'em damn near kill you."
"You're the champ."
"An' don't you forget it..."
"So, you remember five of them, one was a big guy and you kicked him in the face, right? And you remember them calling you a fucking dyke bitch, right? And they wore stockings over their faces?"
"An' their clothes... their clothes were black."
"Black clothes. You're doing good here, champ."
"I am the champ."
"You surely are. Listen, Sam, I'm going to come back when you're a little more awake,"
"Okay, Davey... always good to see you."
"But this is a real good start. You just rest now, and us boys down at the station are going to be on this like ticks on a dog."
"Sure, Sam." He turned, nodding to the blond nurse at his elbow and left the room.
Annie looked back at the drugged patient who smiled crookedly up at her.
"That's Davey," Sam smiled.
"We train together... down at the martial arts center."
"We go way back."
"I whup his ass down there every once in while."
"Oh... So you're the champ."
"How are you feeling?"
"Pretty good so long as I don't breathe."
"You're a lot more coherent than you were earlier."
"Still pretty... pretty fuzzy."
"You want to try and get some more sleep?"
"Sounds good to me."
"Can I get you some ice?"
The blue eye gazed up at her and the poor, crooked smile returned to her beautiful, battered lips. My god, that eye was blue. Annie looked into it getting lost in its beauty. A dozen shades of blue like arctic ice chips. Oh, yeah... ice. Sam hadn't answered so she asked again, "Would you like some ice?"
"Yeah, that'd be nice. I'll get it."
"Oh, I don't think so. It's way down here," Annie reached to the foot of the bed and grabbed the cup and spoon off the bedtray. "I don't think you're quite ready for that yet, champ."
The blue gaze that looked up at Annie was so open and happy. Almost adoring. "You're the mos' beautiful nurse I ever had."
Annie laughed and blushed.
"Your hair is all glowing like a halo around your head."
The little woman laughed again. "And you've had lots of nurses?" Curious about just how many fights this woman may have gotten herself into.
"Whole slew of 'em."
The little nurse smiled. She's a fighter, and yet she is so sweet. Annie wanted to just lean over and kiss that perfect cheek. She scooped out some ice and held it to Sam's lips and slipped it in. The adoring one-eyed gaze never left her face, and she felt a stirring of vulnerable affection move her. "You took that ice pretty well. How's your jaw feeling?"
"Not so bad. This ice is a life saver."
"Well, that's what us medical types are here for. To give you ice and good drugs and save your life."
"Thank you... for saving my life."
Annie chuckled softly. "Well, that's actually compliments of your doctors and your own terrific body." Upon hearing her words she blushed suddenly. "Your strong body. Your healthy body. Say, I'll let you rest some now. Let me get the call button over here again." It had slid off Sam's stomach and now lay on the far side of the bed by Sam's cast. She leaned over and noticed something that had never struck her before. With the bed so high and she herself on the short side, she had to lower herself... closer and closer to the champ's body... This damn button is so far away!... until her breasts pressed lightly against her patient's. She almost groaned. A wash of arousal swept through her. She felt herself go hot and blushed violently. Damn. Her tendancy to blush easily was the bain of her life. In high scool and college it had given away every crush she had ever had. In high school, it had outed her by the eleventh grade. Luckily, her school had been large enough that the lesbian/jocks had had their own clique, and their companionship had sheltered her from taunting and humiliation she might otherwise have suffered. And here again it threatened to reveal some wildly improper nurse/patient feelings if she wasn't careful. Finally she got the cord in her hand and pulled the instrument to Sam's good side. She could feel the heat of the blush subsiding, but her hands shook slightly. "You just buzz if you need anything."
"Good. Sleep well."
Annie hurried from the room with the distinct impression of having escaped something far more intense than she was expecting.
Throughout the rest of the morning and into the afternoon, a string of visitors, mostly women, slipped into the dark haired patient's room, often overlapping eack other's stay, and sitting and chatting quietly together while the patient herself slept. They all seemed to know one another. It didn't seem like any family had stopped by. Annie was trying to track that. Particularly, she was noticing if any partner or girlfriend type visited. As often as she could, Annie had stopped into the room, exchanging soft words with the visitors, but never finding family or partner. Late in her shift, she cornered Tammy. "Does Sam Adams have any family? I don't think she's had family stop by."
"No, I don't think she does. She's been here a couple times before and never had family come. But friends! They don't stop comin'."
"No siblings? No spouse?"
"Nope. I don't think she has any."
"Didn't we go over that this morning? Sam's gay, honey. Totally spouseless."
"Well, partner then?"
"Never had one before. That's kind of funny, isn't it? She's drop dead gorgeous and just a sweetheart, but I don't think she's ever had a partner. Nobody steady. Just plays around and enjoys them all!"
Annie absorbed these words with mixed emotions. She had been hoping that the beautiful lesbian had no partner, but to hear that she was a player was disappointing. Annie herself was a nester, and she was hoping to find someone to settle down with, maybe have children, live to a merry old age with. And that tall, sweet patient in room twenty-two was doing things to her that all felt good. But if she wasn't the marrying kind... Annie sighed and went back to her work.
On her last round of the day, as she checked the dark haired woman's injuries, Sam woke up to the feeling of cool fingers moving softly on her face.
The eyes were closed and Annie hadn't realized the woman had awakened.
"Your cuts are healing already and the swelling's going down."
One blue eye opened and a crooked smile lit the bruised face with that adoring look. "Like it when you put your fingers on my face."
Annie looked into Sam's eyes, and for a moment they just smiled at each other.
Sam continued, "'S cool. Feels good."
"Well, I'm glad it does." Annie looked down and tucked Sam's covers in around her a bit. "You're a fast healer, Sam."
Sam's eye twinkled. "Has something to do with my nurse."
Annie's eyebrow raised a touch. That twinkle in Sam's eye looked suspiciously like... Am I being flirted with? She laid a hand on Sam's shoulder. "End of my day. I'll see you tomorrow."
Sam's face fell. "Aw, no... Don't go."
"End of my shift. They make me get out of here."
"But who's gonna... take care of me?"
Annie chuckled. "Another fine nurse named Edna."
"Hey. I don't know your name."
Annie lifted up her name tag. "My name's Annie."
Sam smiled. "Oh, that's nice... I had a babysitter... named Annie." She raised her head slightly from the pillow to emphasize the profound sincerity of her words. "I loved her."
Unconsciously Annie's fingers found Sam's on the bed and they played delicately with each other. Annie sighed and looked into Sam's serious eye. So blue. Exquisite. "Rest well tonight."
"I'll miss you."
Annie couldn't help chuckling again. "Well, I'll be back tomorrow."
"Okay. Maybe I'll be okay."
Annie pulled away and watched Sam close her eyes. She turned and left the room.
Around nine the next morning, Annie heard a rumble of gaiety coming from the dark haired woman's room. She went into the room to administer meds and check Sam's condition. Four women were standing around talking happily, as she came in. Sam's good eye was open, and she was holding the hand of one of the women who was sitting on her bed.
"You've come back!" Sam croaked.
"Starting to hurt?"
"Well, I have something wonderful for you."
Annie prepared the pills and poured water. The woman seated on the bed - Partner? Lover? Pal? Annie's gaydar was pinging loudly - stood up and stepped away.
"No, no. You're okay," Annie said to her.
"She just woke up a second ago," said the sturdy redhead who had been holding Sam's hand. "I haven't had time to give her any shit yet, honest."
Laughter sounded around the room and a little brown eyed cutie said, "No one believes you, Alverson."
"Yeah, Harry," a tall woman chimed in. "She woke up looking at you. You don't think that's shit?"
"We're on her softball team," the final woman, a pale, slendar blond offered. "Just having us here is shit."
Annie chuckled with the group as she managed to slip the pain med and water into Sam's injured jaw. "I'm going to have to check her bandages. If you all can give us just a minute."
Sam waved her good arm around limply, her eye managing a merry albeit glassy look. "No, they can stay... Hey, guys, this'll be neat. I... I haven' even seen 'em yet." She looked groggily at Annie. "'Kay. Le's check out this belly."
Annie lowered the covers to Sam's abdomen and pulled the hospital gown up to her shoulders revealing the surgery bandages and the bandage for the ribs and the deep bruising of breasts and every bit of exposed flesh. The crowding circle of friends groaned and grimaced as they looked on. Sam bent her head down trying to curl forward for a view, then fell back with a hiss of pain.
"Damn." Her eyes closed tight and she gritted her teeth. "Damn." Slowly the pain abated and the tense face relaxed. "Damn, I can't see a thing down there. Hey, Mel... bring me a mirror."
"Trust me," the little brunette said. "It looks like hell."
"Yeah," said the pale blond. "But it still isn't half as bad as your face." And she leaned in and ran a comforting hand over Sam's good cheek.
"Hey, great. I look pretty bad, do I?" Sam noted the grim head nods around her. "Great. Somebody who feels this lousy... oughta look pretty lousy, too. Come on you guys... Start cranking out the sympathy."
Hands all around reached out to Sam petting her legs, her face, her hand while soft coos and words of affection filled the air.
Alone among them, Harry remained grim faced, tears coming to her eyes. "We're gonna get whoever did this to you, Sam. This isn't going to go on."
The brunette's hand patted the hefty shoulders of the angry woman. "Calm down now, Harry. Let's stay calm."
"Fucking bastards! I just can't stand it," she muttered.
"Be calm for Sam."
Harry wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "Sorry, Sam."
"'S okay," Sam comforted. "Don't let the bastards get you down, Harry."
"I gotta go, Sam," Harry choked out. "I gotta go hit somethin'."
The whole group decided they really should be going, and roused themselves to a quiet round of goodbyes and final pats, and Annie filed out with them. As the group started down the hall, she stopped them.
"Hey, do you guys know if Sam has any family that ought to be notified?"
Harry answered. "Naw, she doesn't have anybody. Lost her dad five years or so ago. Doesn't have any brothers or sisters."
The blond woman chuckled. "Sam??? You couldn't tie her down with rope. She's not the marryin' kind."
"Oh." Annie digested this confirmation of her suspicions uneasily, and it shook her that she felt so disappointed. Why should this be such a blow? Annie had the distinct feeling that she was moving a little faster than she intended. Like the horse was running away with the cart a bit here. "No family has stopped by, so I thought I'd better check."
"Hey," Harry assured her. "We're Sam's family. She's got a big family in Boffler. We'll take care of her."
"Great. You do it." She smiled at the group of friends and went back to work.
It was three pm, Annie's last round, before Sam was awake to see her again. A group of four women were sitting and standing around the bed when Annie entered. She overheard their conversation as she entered. Talk about the violent harassment of gays around town. Sam was awake, and she stretched out both arms when she saw Annie come through the door. "That's her! There she is!"
The women turned and smiled as Annie moved into the room.
"You must be Annie," a handsome older woman remarked. "We've heard about you all afternoon."
Annie was pleased and embarrassed. She blushed and fell back on her standard hospital banter. "Are you spreading rumors about me, champ?"
"I've been waiting for you all afternoon."
"I've been here all afternoon, but you were sleeping."
"Well, why didn't you wake me up?"
"I tried, but you weren't having any of it. So you missed lunch."
"Oh." Sam grinned crookedly. "That's probably a good thing. They're feeding me strained mystery food." She informed her friends.
Annie looked around at the women in the room. "I couldn't help overhearing your conversation when I came in the room. I just moved to Boffler Creek. Just two weeks ago. I'm so stunned that there is this violence going on."
"So are we," the handsome woman said. "It just cropped up. Just this spring. Well, last year I guess."
"Well, last fall we had a picnic. The Women's Studies program sponsored a picnic for area lesbian and bisexual women right after the fall semester started. We had it in the park. I guess it was the first thing that the gay community had done openly in town."
A tall, muscular blond shrugged. "Well, the bar's been a hang out for years. Everybody knew about the bar."
"Yes," an equally muscular auburn haired woman said. "And nobody seemed to object."
"Right, El," the blond replied. "Nobody cared."
"Anyway," the handsome woman continued her story, "We felt reasonably accepted, or at least comfortably ignored in town, and having a picnic seemed like a fairly unobtrusive way to help women get to know each other and develop community ties among newcomers and us veterans. But as it turned out, we were stunned..."
"Enraged," the auburn haired El added darkly.
"When a group of protestors with signs came into the park and broke up the party."
"Bigots?" Annie breathed.
"Definately," El said, and the other women murmured assent.
"They turned over the picnic tables, started kicking our supplies all over. Even throwing food on us. I was afraid serious fights were going to break out, so we all left."
El snarled, "Frankly, Linley, I would have preferred to do a little gratifying ass kicking."
"I know, El. I could tell you were just champing at the bit. That's what scared me. So we closed everything down. Then this spring, at the end of April, we scheduled another get-together, but we held it privately at Carol and my acreage right outside of town. There were no problems. It was a wonderful afternoon. But that night around three in the morning, Carol and I woke up to the sound of all the windows along the front of the house being smashed. We got up and looked out and there was a cross burning on our lawn! Anti-gay slogans were spray painted all along the front of the house and on our truck. It was a rude awakening to the presence of anti-gay sentiment in town."
"Who was behind it?" Annie asked.
"We don't know. That's one of the murky, frightening things about all these attacks. We have no idea just exactly what's going on."
"I think it's an organized group out there doing it. I think it's coming out of the militia encampment," the muscular blond bit off grimly.
"But, Mare, we have no proof," a beautiful older woman who stood behind Linley's chair added.
"I think it's a handful of crazies. There's nothing that indicates anything organized," Linley said.
"But all the letters in the paper..." Mare leaned forward getting into this discussion.
"What letters?" Annie hadn't started the local paper yet, but she saw she was going to have to.
"Well," Linley reached up and took the hand her lover had dropped on her shoulder. "After they burned the cross, letters started showing up in the paper preaching about the moral and spiritual sinfulness of homosexuality and calling for an end to the Women's Studies program on campus and for closing down the bar."
The woman above her exhaled tiredly. "Now they're getting political and running a slate of candidates for city council that will close down the bar and refuse permits for gay and lesbian public assemblage."
"Isn't that a constitutional right?" Annie snorted.
"Oh, Annie," Linley cried, "Some of the writers want to make any public physical contact between people of the same sex illegal. They want to make homosexuality illegal in town, and they want to lobby the state legislature to start passing anti-gay legislation."
"See, it's the way this letter writing campaign has dovetailed with the violence that makes me think this whole thing is being orchestrated by some group," El insisted.
"But it's natural that all the crazies would spontaneously come out of the woodwork after an incident like what happened at our house." Carol didn't want to be convinced. "I think it's just the few crazy bigots in Boffler all throwing in their two cents worth. No organization."
"But those letter writers have influence."
"El, there are only six of them."
"There've been ten."
"Okay, ten. Say they each represent ten more people in town who share their views. That's a hundred people in a town of four thousand. No power! And ninety per cent of them don't even have the guts to write their own letters!"
"What about the pickets?" Mare asked.
"Okay," Carol nodded. "I'll agree the pickets are organized. Joe Brogan's congregation."
Linley answered the question. It seemed to Annie that Linley was the spokeswoman for the group. "Every Friday and Saturday night, a group of about ten to twenty people are picketing the bar downtown. They stand across the street on the far corner, and chant and carry signs with Bible verses on them and name call across the street at people coming to the bar."
"And a lot of physical harassment has started up down there," Mare continued. "Slashing tires and painting on patrons cars in the parking lot. People drive by in cars and throw beer bottles and trash at us when we come out of the bar. Sam, tell Annie about you and Henry Trent."
Linley said, "She's asleep, Mare."
"Oh, Sam, you poor baby. I tell you this is getting so dangerous! Anyway, Henry Trent and some of his cronies have taken to standing a few doors down from the bar in both directions and hasseling people as they walk by. Sam and Mo were going home three weeks ago, and Henry started giving her lip. Those two go way back. Sam, of course, started giving it right back and made Henry so mad he jumped her. She kicked him right in the balls, and he told her that she hadn't seen the last of this. See, I think Henry Trent is one of the organizers."
"Anyway," Linley took up the story, "All this was taking place just in the space of three weeks. It was just three weeks after the cross was burned on my lawn when we, all the gay community in Boffler, we woke up and found anti-gay slogans painted on our houses. Now that put a chill in us."
Mare, El and Carol all murmured agreement.
"They knew who we were and where we lived," Mare said coldly.
"How could they have found us all out? That's what I'd like to know," Carol said.
"Then, two weeks ago, Lloyd Buchner, one of the gay men here in town, got a letter in the mail, no return address, that said 'You're Next'. The letters were cut out of a magazine and pasted on the paper. Very macabre. Nobody had any idea what it meant. And three days later he was picked up at gunpoint as he was walking home from work and driven out into the country and tarred and feathered."
Annie blinked. "My god."
"They told him if he didn't get out of town, next time he'd be covered in his own blood. Then, a week later, Sam got a 'You're Next' letter, and look what they did to her," Mare said.
"It's all just exploded so quickly."
"Another reason I think it's been organized," El sighed.
Carol grimaced, "God I hate to think it's organized."
"We just can't see what we're facing." Linley's words summed up the quandry of the gays in Boffler.
"Well, what about the cops?" Annie asked. "Are they supporting you? Do you all have any support?"
"The cops are doing all they can, we think. But nobody's been caught. We can't find out who's behind the events. There have been letters in the paper in support of gay rights. And not just by us in the gay, lesbian community. And we've set up a counter picket line on the other corner from the crazies for support, but mainly to try to identify some of the vandals. We have some support in the community, but we don't know how much. Things have just happened so fast."
"Well, I want to help. I'm just stunned and sick and enraged about this." Annie thought about telling them right there that she was lesbian, but held back deciding her workplace wasn't the best place for that revelation. "What can I do?"
"We're going to start rallying and organizing our support in town. If you'd like to help with that, that would be wonderful."
"Just let me know when and how I'm needed. I want to be part of this."
Linley stood. "We ought to be going. Let you do what you need with Sam."
The handsome woman moved to the door and said, "Besides, I see the next shift coming already. Buddy and Rooster are coming down the hall."
The women slipped out the door, and Annie drew the curtain around Sam's bed. She shook the broad shoulder of the sleeping woman feeling the sinewy muscles beneath her fingers. Sam awoke with a low moan.
"Are you having some pain?"
"Yeah. My damn chest. But don't give me anything for it. I don't want to be half blasted out of mind anymore."
"Yeah, I'll try some of that."
Annie brought the meds and gave them with water. Sam managed to lip them into her mouth much more easily than the day before.
"I can see your jaw is better."
"Yeah, I feel a lot better other than my chest."
"Sam, I need you to do a little deep breathing for me. Check out that punctured lung."
"Yeah. One of your broken ribs punctured your left lung."
'Broken ribs?!! Punctured lung? No wonder I hurt. What all did they do to me, anyway? I don't even know."
Annie ran through the gory list of injuries. Severe contusions and lacerations of the face and torso, cracked jaw, three broken ribs, punctured lung, broken left wrist. The most serious in the long term was the ruptured spleen. It had been removed and would require a lifelong vigilance against infection to compensate. Sam's eyes widened in amazement as the list went on. Finally she shook her head. "Well, I knew it hurt at the time." She looked back up at the little nurse.
"Your injuries were very serious. They would have been fatal, if your friend Buddy hadn't found you."
The dark haired patient shook her head in wonder.
"Sam, who do you think did this to you?"
"Don't know exactly. Some of my sick bigot neighbors here in Boffler."
"I've just moved to Boffler Creek. A couple weeks ago. I had no idea this was going on."
"That's why I haven't seen you around."
"Yeah. I haven't been here."
"I'm glad you came. Sure has been sweet to have your face to look at whenever I opened my eyes... Well, my eye."
"Thanks, Sam. That's nice to hear." She took the stethoscope from around her neck. "But now I have to start torturing you. I need you to take a breath, as deep as you can until you start feeling pain. Don't overdo it. Just till the pain starts."
Annie put the instrument in her ears and placed the part she had been warming in her hands against Sam's shoulder. "Breathe."
Sam drew in a breath so short it surprised her when the pain came and she had to moan sharply.
"Don't overdo it." Annie cautioned. She moved to the other shoulder. "Breathe again."
The process continued as Annie moved the stethoscope over Sam's chest. Each intake of breath ended in a groan as Sam discovered almost any deep intake was excruciating.
When Annie looked up at the half battered face, it was tensely drawn, the muscles trembling against the pain. "Sam?"
A quick hiss of breath. "Yes... I don't think I'll run the marathon today."
Annie watched as the drawn features slowly relaxed. "You okay?"
"Yeah." The good eye opened again. "Hope we don't have to do that every time you see me."
"Just twice a shift."
Annie grinned. "Bet you wonder how I sleep at night." She patted Sam's good hand and immediately was swept with a desire to stroke the hurt face and hair of the woman who was suffering from such insane, heartbreaking violence. "I need to check your bandages. We have to be particularly careful about infection without your spleen."
Annie reached her arms around behind Sam pulling her shoulders forward to reach the ties of Sam's gown. She could feel herself blushing, aroused by the contact. "Let's slip your gown off." She loosened the top tie of the gown but drew back as Sam groaned softly. "Sorry, Sam." Then leaned in again slipping her arms around Sam's body, lifting her forward onto her chest in order to get at the lower ties. She could feel her ears burning as her aroused blush intensified. Oh, god, I'm so wet this contact is probably technically unethical. "Okay. Here we go."
She lay Sam back and the dark woman groaned, her head falling backward onto the pillow. "Doing okay?"
"I think so."
"Everything looks real good. I'm just going to bathe you..." She opened a cloth wrapped in a plastic package and started stroking over Sam's exposed torso. "Can you straighten a little for me?" Sam straightened, hissing in a bit of air sharply, and Annie smoothed the cloth over the beautiful breasts lifting the lobes slightly to run her cloth covered fingers under them, near to the wrapping that surrounded Sam's chest. The image swept her of herself leaning in and softly kissing the bruised bosom. She felt a coursing of protective affection suffuse her and a keen aching in her groin. The washing was soon accomplished and Annie slipped a new gown over Sam's shoulders and curled her arms around her patient again. "I'm going to lift you forward again to tie these ties; just relax into my arms" - relax into my arms? - "and I'll hold you up."
Sam leaned into Annie and moaned as her angel lifted her away from the bed, "Oh, god..." Finding no strength left to support herself, she relaxed completely into Annie's embrace as the little nurse quickly tied the ties and returned her back against the pillows. "Oh, my god..." The face was drawn again in pain, the muscles trembling.
Annie couldn't help herself. She reached up and smoothed the waves of hair off Sam's forehead, stroking the beautiful face gently until the grimace of pain relaxed, and Sam lay back in the bed exhausted. "All done now," she said softly. "All done now, Sam."
Sam's good eye opened and, in fact, the swollen eye opened a crack amidst its bruising. The lovely blues found Annie's green eyes and the faintest crooked smile curled Sam's features. "So now are you going to make me do a few jumping jacks?"
Annie laughed. "Maybe tomorrow. Right now we have pills, ice cream and chair sitting."
"Chair sitting. That sounds like progress."
Annie slipped Sam pills, then water, between her lips, and Sam took the meds obediently. "I'll get your ice cream. Vanilla or chocolate?"
"See what I can do." And she swept from the room only to reappear in a moment with a small cardboard container of frozen dessert. She lifted the lid from the cup and pulled the bedtray into place adjusting it and setting the ice cream before Sam. Sam took the wooden spoon and lifted her cast arm to steady the cup. It slipped neatly away as she tried to dig a bite of sweet chocolate out of it. "Hmmm." She hummed.
"Want me to hold it?"Annie offered.
"Think you better."
Together they managed quite effectively. Sam grinned up at her. "Pretty useless, aren't I? Never had a broken arm before."
"Oh, then you have a whole host of pleasant little surprises to look forward to. Wait till you try to button a button."
"Tie my shoes," Sam grinned. "You ever break an arm?"
"When I was in fifth grade. It was pretty cool actually. Everybody signed my cast, and I clunked my friends over the head with it whenever I wanted."
"You ever have any other broken bones?"
"Yeah. Most of them, I think. Broke both legs, my right one a couple times. Broke my ribs before. My collar bone. My skull. Two of my toes. My knee cap. Dislocated my shoulder."
Annie started to laugh. "Sam! Sam, you must have spent half your life in a hospital."
"Well, a lot of these happened at one time, in a car wreck."
Annie probed quietly, "Buddy said you've been in a lot of fights."
"Yeah, I did used to get in a lot of fights, I guess. Gee, I still do seem to get in quite a few fights, come to think of it. I never start them, though. I grew up in Boffler. Grew up dyke. And I never really hid it. Just never thought to, I guess. And homosexuality has never been very acceptable here to some of the citizenry. I was just this big strong dyke that all sorts of fellows thought they had to pick a fight with. Never got bested very often, though."
"You're the champ."
"That's what the officer who came here called you."
"Oh, Davey? Yeah. Boy, that's foggy. He was here, wasn't he? Yeah. That's why every dog and his brother picked a fight." She grinned. "Sort of like being a gunslinger."
"Brody Dowd! Brody Dowd rode this area."
"Really. Boffler had it's own gunslinger?"
"Guess there's a lot I have to learn about your fair city."
"When I'm well I'd like to show you."
Sam's grin was unmistakable. She is! She's flirting with me. "When you're well, I'll take you up on that."
"Let me get some help and we'll try some chair sitting."
Annie got Nettie and the two got Sam gingerly into a chair, wrapped in blankets, and let Buddy and his brother Rooster who'd been flirting with the nurses and visiting hospitalized friends they discovered up and down the hall, in to visit. Buddy carried a big bouquet of tulips, and when he saw Sam sitting up in the chair, he said, "Shazam!" Annie stifled a big laugh and left the threesome to visit.
It was late afternoon of Sam's third day in the hospital. Eight men and women were squeezed into Sam's room. It was a gathering of key city and college people who were united in their anger and frustration at the growing anti-homosexual sentiment stirring all over the small community's countryside. Annie was beginning to know who some of the visitors were. The handsome older woman who had visited Sam earlier that afternoon, was Linley Colridge, head of Women's Studies at Barton College. She was chairing the meeting. Sam was lying back on one side of the bed and three women sat along the edge of her bed, the powerful blond Mare, Mare's partner, auburn haired El, and a newcomer whose name was Julia. Two men, Peter Houstan and a delicate, lovely looking young man whose name Annie didn't know yet, sat in chairs that had been brought in for the meeting, and Linley's partner Carol, stood again behind Linley. A small muscular oriental man, Eddie Wing, Peter's partner, sat in a spare wheelchair. Eddie and Peter ran the martial arts school in town. And the last man, named Darnell, stood on the far side of the bed leaning on the bedtray and taking notes. Annie leaned in the doorway, catching what she could of the meeting between rounds and paperwork.
"We have to organize some kind of response to this glut of homophobic letters to the editor. The elections are in a month and a half, and we need an upwelling of support for the candidates on our side of the issue," Linley said.
Julia Cutler shifted on the bed. "Have you seen all the Kepler signs?" The group nodded and murmured. "We have to get Shaunessy signs out there. This is giving me the creeps. I can't believe they actually have this much support."
Linley suggested, "Our letters writers are appearing in the paper according to schedule, and discussing the issues they've chosen. Those of you who are in groups that are supportive to us, make sure everybody writes letters to the editor. We need to get a constant, clear voice of support going."
"We need people calling the talk radio show in Wallace, too. Anit-homosexuality is becoming a big issue with them, too," Mare said.
Julia and El nodded agreement. "I'll line up some callers," Julia said, "And you all alert people to listen and call in, too." She looked pointedly at the woman next to her. "El, don't call in."
"Well, hell," El complained, "I'm the only one who will tell them what they need to hear."
"El, honey," Mare said gently, "You're the one who will tell them what we all want to tell them, but it really isn't what they need to hear."
Linley refocused the group. "Eddie, have you gotten a response back from Grange or Wigston?" Ted Grange was the state representative from Boffler's district and Hal Wigston was Montana's Democratic senator.
The small, buff oriental man in the wheelchair spoke up. "Not yet, but it's only been two weeks, and this might be the first they've heard about what's going on here. I think they're checking around and taking a look at their schedules before they reply."
"I want Ted Grange here, speaking out at the rally, and Wigston at least needs to write an editorial for the paper," Linley said.
Mare Davison shook her head. "Linley, we need to contact Senator Buckley, too. I know he's pro family and a moral conservative, but, my god, he can't be in favor of homosexual beatings and closing down businesses because they serve a certain clientele. He could at least say something to calm this violence that seems to be growing."
Peter Houston held up a hand. "We're not sure the violence is escalating."
"I would say what happened to Sam indicates a horrific escaltion of violence. First the cross burning on Linley's lawn, then painting all over houses and cars, then the 'You're Next' letters and Buchner's attack, and now they nearly beat Sam to death! I think we have some people going crazy out there, Peter, and we need every voice we can corral calming this down," El bit off hotly.
"Okay, okay," Linley soothed. "El, I agree that we should ask Buckley to speak out on this, too. How does everybody feel?"
There was general assent from around the room.
"Mare, write Buckley and see what he does. This is really going to become a statewide issue if it continues, and Buckley ought to state his position along with Grange and Wigston. Let's see... I called Gay National and Women Gathering and they're sending representatives to help us get the rally up. So... We'll have the Sunday for Peace in a week, the Vigil in seven weeks... what else do we need to be doing?"
Annie checked the hall and noticed a call light was on, and slipped from the room.
Continued - Part 2
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