Summary: A what if I got from “The Crucibles”…mostly, what if Ben, Hoss and Little Joe hadn’t found Adam. What if someone else did? And What if Adam didn’t just ‘bounce back’? I’ve had this idea in my head for quite some time. I almost didn’t do it as I could have sworn a similar idea had already been done. I looked, but couldn’t find anything. Now that I think of it more, the idea itself may have been used somewhere, but the contents of the story haven’t (not to my knowledge it hasn’t anyway). I do NOT own Bonanza or any of the original Cartwright Characters. Only the “guest stars” per say are mine.
Rating K+ (14,570 words)
Long Road Back Series:
Long Road Back
The sun was mercilessly hot as it spread over the barren desert. Adam could drag the man no further; he fell to his knees convinced that he would die, and his family would never know what happened. They would never know of the hell he’d gone through by the hands of the man that lay on the gurney behind him.
Due to his condition, Adam did not see the woman riding towards him. Tara C. Hansen saw the man and pushed her horse forward. When she drew close enough, she hopped off her horse, grabbed her canteen, and knelt down beside the stranger. Before she could say or do anything the man collapsed in her arms. She hurried to get what water she could down him. “Well, sir,” she said as she looked at the man on the gurney and back to the man in her arms, “don’t know what you were doing dragging a dead man behind you, but I guess it’s a good thing I have a spare horse besides the pack mule I have with me. It looks like I’ve got company on this journey now.”
It was dark by the time Tara buried the dead man, found a place to camp for the night and tended to her unexpected patient. The process of fixing supper wasn’t all that inviting either, considering she seemed to have to spoon feed her patient; he just stared off into space. “I can only imagine what you have been through,” she said as she wiped his mouth off, “I just hope you’re talking by morning. It would be nice to have your name.” She stood up and went back to working around the camp.
“It’s Adam,” Adam found himself frustrated. He could hear him speaking in his head; why couldn’t he get his mouth to move and speak the words? He watched as the dark hair woman cleaned up and started rolling out the blankets she had with her. “Who are you? What are you doing out here by yourself?” Again, he found himself upset; he could ask the questions silently, but he could not speak the words.
“Going to be a long ride,” Tara talked to her patient as she rolled up a small blanket, turned it into a pillow, and then put it behind him. Taking a hold of his shoulders, she said, “you need to get some sleep. Here let me help you lay down.”
‘Yes, ma’am.” Again, Adam could only think the words; still, he didn’t fight her when she laid him down.
Tara smiled with sympathy down into the eyes that stared at nothing in particular. Once again, she couldn’t help but wonder just what the man had been through. She picked up his hand and said, “I’m going to a ranch my father left to me before he passed away. Why he left it to me, I have no idea, but unless you start talking, you’re going to be stuck with me on the ranch.” She looked for any sign the man had heard her. He didn’t, but he had heard her. When she laid his hand down and moved to her blankets; he turned his head, his eyes followed her.
He watched her lie there and fall asleep; he thought on his ordeal and sighed, inwardly. Was it the ordeal he’d been through that was, somehow, keeping him from talking? He didn’t know, but he was glad someone had found him. Now, if only he could find his voice and tell his rescuer who he was. His father and brothers had to be worried sick.
While Tara tended to the camp and to the man she simply referred to as ‘sir’; Ben and his sons were in a small hotel on their way home. Ben sat in the foyer of the hotel looking out at the darkened sky. His heart was heavier than it had been in years. ‘Adam, oh Adam, I’m so sorry. If it was your destiny to die young, the least we could have done is found you and taken you home to bury you.’ With the clerk having retired, and any of the other guests out of sight, Ben Cartwright let his tears fall.
Hoss and Little Joe stood, unnoticed, on the other side of the room. They had shed their own tears and were now standing as statues not knowing what to say or what to do. They knew they were all hurting, but what choice did they have to but to go on; Adam would have wanted it.
By the time Ben, Hoss and Little Joe arrived home, Hop Sing was fit to be tied. “You find number one son?” He hurried out of the kitchen and looked at the three Cartwrights and their faces, his own fell as he muttered, “No, no not good, number son one not here.”
No one stopped their Chinese cook as he turned around and went muttering back into the kitchen. Ben’s face looked as if someone was taking a knife and running it from the top of his head and to the bottom of his feet, stopping at his heart two times over. Both Hoss and Little Joe tried to speak, but no words came out. How could they? They didn’t know what to say. Slowly, each one of them went up the stairs and disappeared into their separate rooms.
“I don’t know where he’s at Elizabeth,” Ben choked on his words as he held the picture of his first wife, “we looked and looked; for two weeks we looked for Adam. He’s gone.” He held the picture close and let some more tears fall.
Mile after mile Tara led the horse she had the stranger on. The sun beat down up on them, but thanks to a soft breeze the heat wasn’t too bad. She was relieved to see the ranch house her father had purchased come into sight. She was tired as the man beside her had woke up more than once during the night screaming at the top of his lungs. She’d had to hold him and rock him for at least thirty minutes both times, singing softly as she did so. “Looks like we’re home, sir.” Tara said as she looked at the stranger, not that she expected him to answer her. She had given up on getting the stranger to talk. All he did was to stare into space, or follow her with his eyes. He spoke not a word, and the only time he moved was when she held onto his arm and coaxed him to follow her.
Dismounting her horse, Tara walked over to her unasked for guest and took a hold of his arm. “Come on, sir,” she coaxed him, “We need to get inside.” He moved slowly, but soon he was letting her lead him into the house.
There was a couch that sat against the west wall. After dusting it off, Tara nodded towards the piece of furniture, “You can sit there.” She shook her head as the man remained standing. “Guess I should have known better,” she said as she reached out and took a hold of his arm, “this way, sir.” She led him to the couch and helped him sit down.
“What is wrong with me?” Adam watched as the young woman left and came back in more than once; she was bringing in the supplies she’d had on back of the mule. “Why can’t I talk? Why can’t I move on my own?” When she put a pillow on the couch and helped him lay down he found himself praying for some sleep with no dreams.
People were going up and down the streets of Virginia City, some on foot, some on horses and some in buggies. Ben made his way to the General Store and found himself literally bumping into Sheriff Coffee. “Oh, sorry, Roy,” Ben said as he quickly apologized, “I guess, I wasn’t looking.” He ‘wasn’t looking’ a lot lately. He realized that, but couldn’t seem to keep his attention on what was going on around him.
Roy felt bad for the man, everyone did. There wasn’t a person around that wanted to believe Adam was gone for good. They kept expecting him to ride into town and explain his absence. “Adam?” Roy asked as gently as he could.
Ben nodded; he wasn’t going to deny the obvious. “My head tells me one thing; my heart tells me another. I wanted to keep lookin’, I just, maybe…” he rubbed his forehead. He was filled with guilt. A part of him said he should have kept looking, but the other half told him to just accept reality.
Roy gave him a sympathetic look and said, “Don’t go beatin’ yourself up, Ben. Two weeks, out in that desert? That’s a long time considerin’ everything. How are Hoss and Little Joe holding up?” Roy knew they were just as affected by Adam’s disappearance as was Ben.
How were they? The boys kept busy with chores, but they were quiet. Not one of them, or he for that matter, had been able to go into Adam’s room. As if, by staying out of it, he would come home and reclaim it. “They’re holding up,” Ben answered, and then changed the subject, “Jameson cancelled his order on his lumber. I don’t suppose you know of anyone who is lookin’ for a small amount of timber do you?”
Roy thought for a moment. “Friend, Mr. Randall, bought my place. He’s got his work cut out for him. It’s quite run down. He’ll be needing a lot of fence posts. I hear he’s getting a neighbor too. He doesn’t care for that. I wouldn’t be surprised if he puts up more fences.” His friend’s words from the day before rang in his ears. “I just might,” Roy said as he repeated his friend’s words, “I have to go out that way tomorrow on some business. I haven’t met Mr. Randall yet, but I could stop by and talk to him for you. You could check with the new owner of the ranch next to his too.”
“No need to for you to do that.” Ben smiled as he paid for the items he’d been gathering as the two of them talked. “I have to go out that way myself.” He picked up his things and bade his friend good bye.
Tara bit her tongue as she managed to get a sliver in her hand as she worked on the fence. As she worked on getting it out, she glanced at the stranger she’d led out of the house. He was sitting under the tree where she had him sit; he still sat staring into space or following her with his eyes. She had to shake her head and said to herself, as she got the sliver out of her hand, “I never thought I’d be mending fences and playing nursemaid to someone living ‘off in space’. ” She hadn’t either. She was supposed to have gotten married instead, but that fell through when her fiancé was killed during a stampede.
It was almost noon before Tara sat down beside the man she decided needed to have a name. As she broke his sandwich into tiny pieces, she took a hold of his chin and turned his face so he was facing her and said, “Well, if you’re not going to speak I’ll think I’ll just call you Adam. Why? Because you were the first man I saw since leaving my aunt and uncle’s to come here. Here,” she said as she lifted a small bit of the sandwich to his mouth, “have this.” He ate without fighting her.
“I can’t speak to you. I can’t seem get myself to react to anything,” Adam said to himself as he added the thought, “but if I could you’d hear my laughter, and you’d be laughing with me.” As he was laughing at the idea that she had actually chosen the correct name for him without even trying, he was sure of it.
“What about the work around here? We’ve got a lot to catch up on!” Little Joe was not happy with his father’s trip, and he wasn’t trying to hide the fact either. Truth was, deep down inside, he was afraid he’s go missing too. He couldn’t handle losing both his pa and older brother.
Ben figured he knew why his youngest son was having such a fit, but there was nothing he could do about it. “Son, I have to get rid of this extra timber. Now that ranch isn’t the only one that may stand in need of a few logs. I’m not carrying any amount of money that would attract any uninvited guests, and I don’t have any other sort of valuables on me. Anyone wishing to rob someone for wealth will have to look elsewhere. I reckon, Hoss and you will handle things here just fine.”
Little Joe quit arguing with his pa and went outside. What use would it do to fight Ben? Once the man has his mind made up, it was pretty much made up! “Know where Adam gets’” Little Joe caught himself using the present term instead of the past term of “got” and sat down and wept.
“Why are you taking care of him? Don’t you have enough to do here?” Tara’s cousins, Jeff and Maria Holt had traveled clear from California to do some business with a friend in between Carson City and Virginia City. Since it was ‘on their way’, they’d dropped in to see Tara. Personally, Tara thought she could do without the visit.
“I don’t see what the big deal is,” Tara answered almost as abruptly as the question had been asked, “after all, if I was in his place, I would want someone to be kind enough to help me.” She again wiped Adam’s mouth and chin off.
“Well, we were going to invite you to go into Carson City with us, but I suppose,” Maria said as she put a smile that looked so full of hot air that Tar was sure she could have taken a bite of it and burst the balloon her cousin seemed intent on blowing up, “that is out of the question now.”
“I suppose so.” Tara held the door open and let her cousins out. “Have a safe trip.” “Break a few wheels on the way there, if you would.” She thought as she shut the door. She knew that wasn’t very nice to think, but the woman irritated her to no end. After all, Maria had her nose stuck so far up in the air Tara was surprised it didn’t bleed.
“Some people need to grow up; don’t you think so, Adam?” Tara smiled as she laid her hand upon the man’s shoulder. She was pleasantly surprised when Adam actually turned his head and looked at her.
“Some more than others.” He silently agreed as he was shocked to have a long ago flash through his mind. “Hey, Adam,” Adam heard a voice calling him, but could see no face, “get your nose out that book and come play with us! You look like a stupid statue!” he looked around. He thought he was in a schoolyard, but he wasn’t sure. There were boys playing one kind of game or the other; the girls were doing their thing. His eyes rested on a young boy, large for his age and a bit slow in some areas, but as smart as a whip in others. He knew him, but his name was slipping away from him. What was it? Eric? No, there was another name…HOSS! That was it! His brother! The boy looked up and he heard ‘Don’t forget, Adam. You’ve always been strong; you had to be, you need to be.’ I’m tired of being strong” he heard himself say to the boy. Was that his problem? Was he simply tired of being strong? Was there something about his situation that was forcing him to ‘take a vacation’ per se?
“Sorry,” Tara, who had stepped outside and came back in, apologized as she bumped into Adam’s legs and about dropped the box she was carrying, “I didn’t realize I was so close.” She looked at Adam as she put the box down on the table that set on the other side of the couch. “Wish I knew how to get you to stop hiding behind that wall,” she said as she knelt down in front of him, and took a hold of his chin, “Whatever you went through back there. If I had known about it, and could have done anything for you then, I would have.” For the tiniest split second, Tara could have sworn she saw a smile in his eyes.
Ben was almost to the Randall’s ranch Roy had told him about when he saw the broken down wagon and the couple standing looking at it as if the world had just ended. He quickly dismounted his horse. “It looks like you’ve had a bit of trouble.” Ben stepped to the side of the wagon; he could see the wheel had come completely off. Thank goodness it look only as if the bolt that held the wheel in place had worked itself loose and broke.
“I have tightened that thing time and time again,” Jeff Holt looked at the stranger before him, “I thought I had it fixed for good last time. Could I get you to help me to fix it? I’ve got to get into Carson City as soon as I can.”
“Sure thing,” Ben answered as he and the stranger went to work on the wagon, “I’ve been in this position many times myself.” The two work for what seemed like forever before they got the wagon back on and the bolt into place.
“How much do I owe you?” Jeff asked as he pulled out his wallet.
Ben was shocked. He’d never taken any money just for helping out someone in need. “There’s no need to pay me anything. You needed help; I simply gave you that help.” His smile spread from one end of his face to the other.
“You sound like that crazy cousin of mine,” Maria said, again sounding like someone needed to loosen her corset, “helping a total stranger day and night with no one to compensate her for her time and trouble. It’s not like he can do anything. All he does is sit there and stare into space.”
Normally Jeff kept quiet when his wife went on one of her ‘rampages’, but that was because they were always around people they knew. He couldn’t stand by and listen her speak this way about her cousin to a complete stranger. “Maria!” He spoke in ‘that tone’, a tone that he so seldom used she had to pay attention, “What Tara does, and who she helps is up to her! You do not need to be talking so!”
Shocked by the tone of Jeff’s voice, and the anger in his eyes, Maria quickly shut up. “I do thank you for your help sir,” Jeff said as he held out his hand to Ben, “just now, while we were fixing that wheel, you said you were going to visit a Mr. Thomas Randall’s ranch. May I ask another favor of you?” He hoped it was not he that was not out of line.
“If I can,” Ben replied as he mounted his horse once more, “What is it?”
“My cousin, Tara Hansen, inherited the small ranch attached to Mr. Randall’s. She’s trying to take care of that place until she finds someone to buy it and take care of a stranger she came across awhile back, which is difficult as the stranger does have problems. Would you drop in and check in on her for me?”
Ben’s face lit up. If that was all the man wanted, he could help him without a problem. “Reckon, I can do that,” he replied, and then looked at Mrs. Holt, “Good day, ma’am.”
It was almost eleven in the morning before Ben made it away from the Randall ranch and almost noon when he turned the bend that led down to the house on the Hansen ranch. He’d no more turned that bend than he about fell out of his saddle. From where he sat he could see a young woman, walking backwards, as she held onto his son’s hands, leading him to a chair on the porch. He could see his son was not looking to his right or left and, from the way the woman was acting, he guessed she did a lot of ‘talking to herself’. While he was elated to see Adam was still alive, it broke Ben’s heart to see his oldest son looking and acting that way. He spurred his horse on.
The sound of the approaching horse caught Tara’s attention, but she could do nothing until she had Adam in the chair she’d set out on the porch for him. Once he was seated, Tara turned around. Ben was just stopping his horse as she did so. She wasn’t surprised by the fact he was looking at Adam closely; after all, the man was still staring as if he could see nothing. “May I help you, sir?’
“My name’s Ben Cartwright,” Ben said as he kept his eyes on Adam, dismounted his horse and walked towards his son, “I was asked to come in and check in on you by your cousin, Jeff.”
Tara would have said a few choice words except for the fact the man’s over interest in Adam had her on her toes now. Without thinking, she stepped closer to Adam and said, “I’m fine.” She was shocked by Ben’s next words.
“Adam, my son.” Ben’s voice choked with emotion, “It’s me, your pa.”
Tara’s eyes widened as she felt shock waves go through her. This man was the stranger’s father? His name was Adam? She could hardly believe her ears.
“Pa! Pa!” Adam yelled the words in his mind, but, like always, he could not get them out of his mouth. In fact, he shocked himself by stiffening just a little and actually grabbing onto Tara’s wrist. “What am I doing? Why am I reacting this way to my own father? He wouldn’t hurt a soul if his life depended on it!” Adam silently chastised himself; still, he held on tight.
Tara started a little, and Ben winced at his son’s apparent frightened reaction to his voice. “Adam.” Ben’s eyes and voice were full of genuine pain at the thought he’d frightened his son somehow. It was that, his genuine pain, which chased Tara’s instant doubt about the man’s claim away.
Tara knelt down by Adam’s side and said, “It’s okay, Adam. I’m not going anywhere until you’re better. Friends don’t leave friends in trouble.” She figured it was okay to say that. He’d done nothing to her, and she wasn’t going to turn her back on him. Both she and Ben were watched in amazement as Adam loosened his grip, but noticed he did not let go. She looked at Ben and said, “I found him out on the desert more dead than alive,” she took a deep breath and related the tale, “I don’t know who the man was but,” she said, and then paused as she looked at Adam expressionless face before turning her attention back to the man before her, “he hasn’t said a word since.” She put her hand over Adam’s, “Only time I hear anything from him is in the middle of the night, if he has a bad dream. Then,” she said as she shook her head, “he’s usually screaming and I have to rock him and sing to get him to calm down. Well, that or quote from a good book.”
Ben had to lean on the railing letting his mind run over the facts he’d just been given, and his son’s reaction to him. He looked at Adam’s hands still on the young woman’s wrist. Somehow, his son saw this young woman as his protector. For the time being, for his son’s sake, that “protection” had to stay in place. “Your cousin said you were looking to sell this place.” Ben looked at Tara, “I’ll buy it and then find another buyer for it, only” he said as he pointed to her then to Adam, “agree to accompany me and my son to my ranch, The Ponderosa. Be his caretaker; I reckon we can make room for you.” He had to make the room; for the sake of his son, he had to.
Tara again felt shock waves go through her. She’d heard about the famous Ponderosa, even heard the name Cartwright attached to it, but she had never once connected Adam or her visitor to it. “What about it, Adam?” she looked at the man she’d grown very protective of over the past two weeks knowing full well she’d receive no verbal answer. “Fine, just get me home.” Adam’s words rang out to no one but himself.
Tara looked around the ranch. A part of her hated to walk away from it, but, as she looked at Adam; she knew she had no real choice. Mr. Cartwright needed his son home; Adam needed to be home and, in all honesty, she could do very little with the ranch when she had him to worry about. “It’s a deal, but,” she said as she shook her head, “Don’t worry about paying me for it, just find a buyer for it. When do you want to leave?”
Ben was supposed to meet with one more rancher about the timber, but at that moment he didn’t care. He’d take a loss on the timber over losing his son again. “If you have the room,” Ben looked at the small home, “I’ll spend the night, and we can head back to my ranch first thing in the morning.”
She nodded as she replied, “I’ll make the room. Now Adam,” she said as she removed his hand and laid it on his leg, “I have to get a few things done. Your pa will be staying with you until I’m done.” Again, Adam found himself holding her wrist without even thinking. “Why am I doing this? That’s pa, he won’t hurt me.” Adam was confused by his actions, but he couldn’t seem to stop it either. It was as if, somehow, he needed her by his side at all costs. That was crazy; he told himself that… and held on.
Ben shook his head, “Tell me what you need done, and I’ll do it.” What choice did he have? Obviously, his son needed this woman by his side for the moment. Tara sighed, gave him a list of things and then sat down next to Adam.
Hoss stood in front of the fire place, his eyes wide open and his mouth slightly ajar. Little Joe sat in the chair closest to the stairs as if someone had just hit him below the belt. Both men looked at Roy as if the lawman had lost his mind. “What’d you say?” Hoss asked, once he could get a hold of himself.
Roy didn’t blame the Cartwright boys for their reaction; he’d have felt the same way if he was in their shoes. “I went out to the Miller place and, on the way back, ran into your father. He had a lovely young woman by the name of Tara with him.” He then went on to repeat his story, “Adam is with them, but he’s not.” Roy tapped his forehead and said, “He just stares straight ahead. The only time I saw his eyes move was when the young woman had to,” Roy paused before he continued talking, “She needed to take a small break; and even then, she had to assure him she’d be right back. She wasn’t gone but a few minutes, but it’s a good thing she returned when she did. He got a real frightened look in his eyes.” It had felt strange to see Adam like that but, while Roy felt bad for him, he was at a loss to what to do too.
“Iff’n he’s like that,” Hoss said as he looked at Roy and Little Joe, “does that mean he don’t who he is?”
“I couldn’t tell you that,” Roy answered, “and I dare say no one but your brother knows.” Roy put his hat back on and headed for the door saying as he left, “Like I said before, your pa wanted me to warn you before they got here.” He had readily agreed to do so. He figured the last thing Hoss or Little Joe needed was to have their pa show up with Adam acting like he was; that is, to have them show up without the boys being given a warning.
Hoss shut the door behind Roy and just stood there. How could Adam be alive, but acting the way the sheriff said he was? That wasn’t his brother; that wasn’t the brother he knew. Little Joe didn’t’ move either. All the tears he’d shed for the brother he was sure he had lost were threatening to appear once more. After all, the way Roy talked, Little Joe wondered which was going to be worse, grieving for a brother who had passed on or hurting for a brother who had a body that was with them and a mind that was in “another world”.
Hoss and Little Joe were standing on the porch talking about the unexpected turn of events when Ben, Tara and Adam rode around the corner of the barn. Both Hoss and Little Joe stiffened and shifted their weight a bit as they saw Adam sitting erect on his horse looking straight ahead; Tara was holding the reins to his horse.
“Well, boys,” Ben dismounted, as did Tara, “We’re home.” Hoss and Little Joe watched in amazement as Tara, not Ben, walked over to the side of Adam’s horse. They thought for sure their father would be doing that.
“Come on, Adam,” Tara said as she reached up and took a hold of Adam’s left arm with one hand and placed the other on his lower back, “time to get off the horse and come inside.” Again, the boys watched in astonishment as Adam dismounted and let himself be led by Tara; she was following Ben into the house. Little Joe and Hoss hurried in behind them.
Ben pointed to the chair Adam had always used to read in, “He can sit there.” Tara led him to the chair and had Adam sit down.
Hoss, trying to be relax the tension that was in the air took a step towards Adam and said, “Welcome home, Adam. Sure glad you’re still alive.” He was startled, and hurt, when Adam stiffened and his hand flew onto Tara’s wrist. It unsettled all of them but, while they didn’t know it, it upset Adam the most of all.
‘Hoss! I’m sorry! I know your face; I know your voice. You’ve a heart of gold and are the gentle giant of this ranch. Why am I acting like this? Why?” Adam cried inside, not understanding why he was reacting this way to his own family. After all, hadn’t he prayed for weeks to be reunited with them?
After Adam’s reaction to Hoss, Little Joe didn’t dare say anything. He just stood with his hands in his pockets and his eyes on his oldest brother.
Tara ran her free hand over a hole in the sleeve of Adam’s shirt and asked, “Could one of you get Adam a new shirt and I’ll mend this one; that is, if you have a needle and thread I can use.” Hoss headed up the stairs while Ben went to get the required needle and thread.
Little Joe watched as the woman removed Adam’s hand. She said, “Adam, I’ve got to remove your shirt; it needs mending.” She then began unbuttoning Adam’s shirt. “I should be taking it off!” Adam shouted angrily to himself “I should be embracing my family, not sitting here like a stone statue! I hate it, but,” his eyes followed Tara and felt an overwhelming gratitude to the young woman flood over him washing away the anger, “Thank you for all you’ve done and are doing. If you can, please help my family until I can find the strength to break through this invisible wall that now surrounds me.”
As Little Joe watched Adam’s eyes follow the young woman, he found himself angrier than he had been in a long time. Adam didn’t seem to know where he was, who they were and a total stranger; well, total stranger to he and his family apparently had Adam’s full trust. He turned around and flew out the door, slamming it behind him.
Ben and Hoss walked to the barn hoping to find Little Joe. They’d heard the door slam shut and, after giving Tara the extra shirt and the items she needed, left knowing they all needed to talk. Sure enough, Little Joe was in the barn brushing down Sport. He turned his head when he heard footsteps, seeing it was only his pa and Hoss he went back to brushing down Sport.
“That can wait.” Ben looked at his youngest, “We need to talk right now.” They did too; for Adam’s sake, they did. Little Joe gave the brush a couple more strokes before turning around.
Once Ben had his boys’ attention, he started talking, “I know how upset you both are.” He leaned against the wall behind him, “I won’t stand here and tell you not to be.” Ben turned around and looked out the doorway to the house and said, “Adam needs our support right now; whatever he went though had to be close to, if not, hell.”
“He acts so afraid of us!” Little Joe threw down the brush and yelled angrily, “We’re his family, not that woman!”
Ben whirled around. He pointed at Little Joe as he barked back, “That woman, as you say, saved your brother’s life and has been spending countless hours tending and nursing him! I do not want to hear you refer to her like that again. Her name is Tara or Miss Hansen, but not that woman!”
Little Joe relaxed, though pain still resided in his eyes. “I’m sorry, pa.” He looked away, and then back at his father, “It’s just that he’s our brother, not a stranger.”
Remembering how his older brother had reacted to him, Hoss naturally assumed it was because Adam did not recognize them and asked, “Ya reckon he’ll ever know us, pa?” The thought that his brother might ever know them hurt more than Hoss thought possible.
Ben shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know, but,” he answered, “give him time to get to know your voices again. It won’t take that long,” he said as he remembered the last time he spoke to his oldest son, “He doesn’t look at me, follow me with his eyes, or let me touch him but he doesn’t flinch when he hears my voice either. Give him time.” Ben started walking back the house, “Just give him time.”
“My name’s Caine, Peter Caine.” An older white/dark blacked haired gentleman stood underneath a make shift roof speaking to him…he was in mine looking at it. “Have you ever done any blasting?”… Caine sat at the table, uncaring, unemotional, “..day’s rations.” No! Caine had a gun on him; he was taking a rope down. The man was insane!
Ben, Hoss and Little Joe had just gone to bed when they heard an unearthly scream; it was coming from Adam’s room! They raced out of their rooms and into his. Adam was sitting up staring straight ahead and screaming. “Adam!” Ben took a hold of his son’s shoulders only to find the man screaming louder and struggling to get away. Before Hoss or Little Joe could make a move to help their father, Tara flew past them.
“Take your hands off him, Mr. Cartwright.” she said as politely as she could, seeing how she needed to get to Adam as fast as she could. Ben felt another knife go through him and did as she asked.
Tara quickly climbed up on the bed, knelt beside Adam and wrapped her arms around him. Instantly Adam stopped screaming and laid his head against her bosom as she started rocking him and singing softly.
‘Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble there’s no place like home!
A charm from the skies seems to hallow us there,
Which seek through the world, is ne’er met with elsewhere:
Home! Home! sweet, sweet, Home!
There’s no place like Home!
There’s no place like Home!
An exile from Home, splendor dazzles in vain,
Oh! give me my lowly thatch’d cottage again!
The birds singing gaily that came at my call,
Give me them with peace of mind, dearer than all:
Home! Home! sweet, sweet, Home!
There’s no place like Home!
There’s no place like Home!
“Pa,” Adam cried inside, “Forgive me. I couldn’t stop myself. I knew it was you, but something drives me to get away from everyone but this woman, the one called Tara. I don’t understand it, please, forgive me.”
Ben, Hoss and Little Joe watched as Adam clutched onto Tara as she rocked and sang to him. Slowly gradually, his grip loosened until his arms were hanging loosely at her sides; he’d fallen back to sleep. Even after he was asleep, she continued rocking him and singing. While they saw no reason to continue they didn’t argue as they left the room. What Tara knew that they didn’t was that, if she stopped too soon, Adam would be back to screaming within fifteen minutes.
Once Ben had the door closed, Hoss asked, “Iff’n he stays like that, what are we gonna to do, pa?”
Ben fought to keep his voice under control. The stress of the past few weeks had him thinking his son was implying that they send Adam away to some insane asylum, Ben barked softly, “Then we have a permanent house guest! He’s staying right here!”
Hoss hadn’t meant to imply anything else, one look at the hurt expression on his face and Ben knew that. He softened his tone as his shoulders slumped down just a little, “I’m sorry, son. I know you meant no harm.” He shook his head and looked at the closed door beside him. Those kind of doors, physical ones, were sure easier to get past than the one that seemed to be in front of his oldest at the moment. “Let’s get back to bed. Adam’s in good hands for now.” Neither Hoss nor Little Joe argued as they went back to their rooms praying for Adam as they did so.
Dr. Martin stood in the living room talking with Ben, Hoss and Little Joe. “I don’t know what to tell ya, Ben.” The good doctor looked up the stairs, and then back to the Cartwrights, “Physically he is fine, but mentally, he’s somewhere else.” he said as he shook his head. While Paul was a good enough man, and an excellent doctor, he shared the attitude too many people had towards anyone with “that” kind of condition, “I know you may not like this, but this is an option you really should consider.” Ben cringed inside as he knew what was coming. Before the good doctor had a chance to say a thing before Tara spoke up from the top of the stairs; Adam stood by her side holding her one hand with both of his.
“He’s not going anywhere.” Tara slid her free arm around Adam’s waist and walked him down the stairs, and then set him down in his chair. Turning around, she faced Dr. Martin daring to talk to him ‘in such manner’ as Ben and his other sons were grinning from ear to ear. “His family is here and I’m here. He’s doesn’t flinch anymore; that is, when his father or brothers speak to him.” she said as she purposely left off the fact that Adam still clutched onto her arm anytime any of the men spoke, “All he needs is time.”
“And if you’re wrong?” the doctor asked as he looked from Ben to his sons, and then to Tara, “Are you going to put your life on hold?” He could see someone going out of their way for a while but not long term, especially when they weren’t related to the one having this huge of a problem.
The good doctor was shocked when Tara laid a hand on Adam’s shoulder and replied with every fiber in her body, “I told him friends don’t leave friends in trouble. I’m here for as long as he needs me.” She looked at Ben, “Unless you wish to ask me to leave, Mr. Cartwright.” It didn’t surprise the Cartwrights though; they’d already seen how determined she was to stick by Adam.
“No! Pa, don’t! I may not understand why I need her here so badly, but please, don’t send her away!” Adam was surprised by the fear that he felt, brought on by the mere suggestion. Shock ran through Dr. Martin as Adam reached up and grabbed Tara’s hand once more. “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle,” Dr. Martin stared at the sight, “You’d think he heard us.”
The Cartwrights, however, had no such reaction; they were not surprised. They had come to know that Adam was ‘in there’; he just had to get out.
“He stays here and,” Ben said as he smiled at Tara, who blushed at the non-verbal message that Ben’s eyes sent to her, “so does she.”
The wind whipped through the air and played with what little hair Hoss had on his head, along with playing with Tara and Adam’s. Hoss had offered to hitch up the wagon and take Adam on a ride around the ranch which, of course, meant taking Tara too. Both Ben and Tara thought was a wonderful idea. Now, with Hoss in the driver’s seat and Adam and Tara in the back of the wagon, they slowly made their way over the land.
“Look, Adam,” Hoss pointed to some deer that had come into sight, “aren’t they a perty sight? I bet ya we’ll be seein’ more of them once winter sets in.” At least, Hoss hoped they did. He loved seeing the deer come and go, when he had a chance that is.
“Look Adam, your brother’s right. The deer are gorgeous.” Tara said. Adam’s eyes followed the deer for a few minutes. “They’re beautiful.” Adam thought, “They always have been.” All too soon the deer were gone, and Adam was back to staring at nothing in particular.
By the time Hoss, Tara and Adam got to the lake it was almost one. Hoss lowered the back of the wagon and helped Tara down, who then in turn got Adam to climb out. Once she and Hoss had the cloth on the ground, she had Adam sit down up against a small boulder.
The crystal blue lake sparkled like diamonds as the sun kissed it with its golden yellow rays. A few birds could be seen flying in the air or heard singing in the trees that surrounded the picnic. “Has he ever said anythin’ to ya?” Hoss looked with pity on his oldest brother; he looked more like one of the wooden soldiers Hoss used to play with than a mortal man. It hurt.
Tara sighed and shook her head and said, as she fed Adam a small bite of chicken, “Not with his voice, but he talks to me all the time. Don’t you, Adam?” She smiled as Adam’s eyes went from staring at the water to looking her in the eye. “You’re a pretty thing. I wish I could get past this wall I’m behind, talk with my family again and get to know you better.”
Hoss sat up straight as he watched Adam’s eyes moved from the water, to Tara and then back to the water in front of them.
“He does respond to ya.” Hoss admitted, and then shook his head, “I don’t git it. We’re his family; how come he ain’t reactin’ to us like that?” He was confused, hurt and a bit angry.
Tara rubbed the back of her neck and replied, “I’ve been thinking and I’m not really sure, maybe,” she paused as she thought again, and then began speaking, “Maybe, it has something to do with the fact that I was the one who found him. Maybe, somehow, when he collapsed in my arms, it connected us. I mean, look at the nightmares. He won’t relax until he’s in my arms, and he won’t got to sleep unless I’m humming or singing. I’m the one who caught him when he collapsed on the desert, and I’ve been singing and talking to him since the beginning. It may stay that way; I mean, until he gets better. Just a guess though, I’m no doctor. Be patient, Hoss. He will come around. I just know it, can’t prove it, but I know it. Keep talking to him, keep letting him see your face. It will, eventually, help him get that wall down.”
It made more sense to Hoss than all the talk Dr. Martin had given to them. He decided right then and there that he was going to stick with her theory. Even if Tara was wrong, he could understand where she was coming from. Besides, it chased the anger and hurt he felt go away and replaced it with hope.
The wind was starting to blow quite hard as Ben made his way outside; he was looking for Tara. He found her leaning up against one of the posts, tears streaming down her face. He made his way over to her and stood facing the land before him. He didn’t say a word; he just waited for her to talk.
“I’m sorry,” she finally said as she wiped her tears away, “I shouldn’t have come unglued in there.” She’d been fine until Little Joe had said, without stopping and thinking, “Why do I need to sit with him? All he needs is Tara.” In return, she’d given him both barrels, and then asked what was wrong with him sitting with Adam and talking to him for even just a few minutes, adding “I’m only human! I need a break too!” She’d then stormed out of the house leaving Adam sitting in his chair and the other Cartwrights as speechless as Adam seemed to be.
Ben smiled and replied, “If you hadn’t laid into Little Joe I would have. I’m sorry too.” He turned and looked at her as he said, “You’ve been so willing to help Adam from the moment you found him and ever since we brought him here. He’s only responded to your voice, though he doesn’t cringe at ours anymore. We should have realized just how much of a burden you were carrying, and that the situation was putting an enormous amount of pressure on you.” He shook his head and said once more, “I’m sorry.”
Tara looked up at the darkening sky. “I feel so horrible. I was serious when I told Adam I would stay around as long as he needed me, I just,” she said as more tears fell, “why doesn’t he respond to at least one of you? Your family is so close and all.” She didn’t understand; after all, she’d seen just how much his family really cared.
Ben didn’t know; he wished he did, as it was he held her as he would one of his children and let her cry. After all, she needed to get things out just as much as any of them did. After a few minutes she pulled back and wiped her eyes. “I’m embarrassed,” she said as she put on a genuine smile, “I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to get so emotional.”
Ben chuckled. “You’re only human, Tara. Don’t be ashamed of that. From now on, me or one of the boys will sit with Adam and talk to him or read to him while you do something, anything, for as long as we can. It all depends on the day, what we have to do and, of course, Adam. Reckon, you can handle that?”
Tara smiled as she let the wind blow across her face. “Thanks. I’d guess I’d best go explain things to Adam.” She smiled at Ben and went inside. She couldn’t have timed it better as Adam’s eyes were darting around looking for her, and he’d started fidgeting. Once she’d knelt down in front of him, Adam calmed down and relaxed.
“Adam,” she said as she took his face in her hands and looked into his eyes, praying like mad he would, somehow, understand her, “I was only out there for ten minutes at the most. Please, I know you’re in there somewhere; I know you can hear me. Please listen.”
‘I’m listening.” Adam thought as he tried desperately to say the words, only to fail once more. “Talk, I’m listening.”
Tara took a deep breath knowing what she had to say, hoping he’d understand. “I’m not leaving, Adam. I told you I wouldn’t; only, I need time to myself here and there. It’s not you I need a break from; it’s the situation. It’s too stressful. I can’t keep doing it by myself. You know your pa’s voice, you know your brother’s voices. They’ll be here, taking turns with me. You’ll not be alone. Please understand.” He had to understand; somehow he just had to.
Adam heard the words; he understood them and prayed harder than ever for the strength to get past the wall he was behind and for the strength not to stress out when she was out of sight. She had done so much for him; so much for his family by tending to him while they worked the ranch. He shocked everyone by closing his eyes and opening them back up. Excitement ran through them all. “He heard ya,” Hoss said, “he heard ya. Reckon, he’s tellin’ us he knows what ya said. I jist know it!”
“Are you Adam?” Tara continued to hold Adam’s head in her hands. “Do you understand me?” Excitement ran through them all as he again blinked his eyes.
“Do you really think this is a good idea?” Tara asked as she straightened Adam’s shirt and tie. The young woman was getting Adam ready for church services, as Ben insisted that they start taking Adam out of the house and off the ranch; that is, at least to church.
Ben sighed. He knew the young woman was only concerned for his son; he was grateful for that. Still, he knew his own son. Adam was not a recluse and shouldn’t be turned into one, even it if was unintentional. “I talked to the reverend. I did tell you that, right?” he asked as Tara picked up the brush and started brushing Adam’s hair.
“Yes, you did, sir.” Tara answered as Mr. Cartwright folded his arms and looked at her as if to say ‘I know I did.’, “You told me two weeks ago.” He’d said the good reverend had been more than understanding and sympathetic.
“As long as he won’t kick us out of the church,” Ben said as he thought ‘if he did, I’d know he wasn’t a true man of God’, “there’s no reason not to take him. We can sit in the very back. If Adam can’t handle it, we’ll all know it and you can take him outside. But,” he said as he continued looking at Tara, “we keep it up no matter what. He’s got used to me and his brothers; I mean, he doesn’t flinch anymore when I talk to him, nor does he grasp at your arm. That is, he doesn’t do it for a good ten to fifteen minutes. He needs to start getting used to other voices now.” He just had to, for his own sake.
Ben then looked at Adam. His son looked as good as he ever had. Ben sighed and said, “I hope you can handle this, Adam. If you can’t, just find a way to let Tara know it, ok?” He asked the questioned never expecting anything in return; still, for the sake of his son he talked as if he did. Actually, he’d been doing that for some time. He figured maybe, someday, it would help something click.
From somewhere deep inside him something stirred within Adam. He didn’t know why it had taken him so long, but Adam found the strength to respond to his father’s voice. Tara and Ben both about dropped when Adam tilted his head up and looked straight at his father. “Adam?” Ben hurried over and knelt in front of his son. Adam moved his head down and kept his eyes on his father. Ben grew excited; his heart raced as he asked, “You know me, don’t you?”
“Yes, pa, I’ve always known you, and someday, I’ll tell you that. You just watch and see.” Adam thought as he kept looking at his father.
“He knows you,” Tara said as tears once more escaped her eyes and rolled down her cheeks, only this time they were tears of joy that she was actually seeing him respond to his father.
Ben’s own tears flowed as he took a chance and hugged his son; Adam was relieved to find he did not make the slightest attempt to get away. That, his not pulling away, only made his father’s and Tara’s tears flow more. They knew at that moment that a piece of the invisible wall had indeed broken loose and fallen to the floor.
Ben let go of his son and stood up. They had to get going or be late to church. When he started to walk away, Ben and Tara got another surprise. While Adam had gone back to staring at nothing in particular, he reached up and took a hold of his father’s wrist. Surprise spread over Ben’s face, and he looked at Tara. She was beaming from ear to ear. “Lead him, Mr. Cartwright.” She coaxed him as her voice betrayed the excitement she felt, “Lead him the way I’ve been doing, put your free hand on his lower back and take him downstairs. I’ll follow.” The light that had been missing from Ben’s eyes for so long appeared once more as the joy he felt radiated from his face. He led his son out of the room.
Hoss and Little Joe stood in the living room with their jaws on the floor as they watched their Pa leading Adam down the stairs with Tara following. They too choked up knowing they were seeing the first real good sign their brother was on his way back. It wasn’t long before they were all in the wagon and headed for church.
The church yard was full of wagons and buggies when the Cartwrights pulled up. The sound of people’s voices carried through the open window, as others made their way up the steps. All noise outside stopped, and a gentleman hurried inside as the Cartwrights came into view. It didn’t take but a few moments for the inside to get as quiet as the outside. The good reverend had explained to them the week before, what Mr. Cartwright had wanted and why. He’d pleaded with them to keep the noise level down for Adam’s sake and not to take it personally if he lasted only a few minutes in the meeting. The good people couldn’t help but look though. After all; Adam had been so strong and all. They found it hard to believe he could “be in such a state.” Yet there he was sitting in the back of the wagon between his father and the woman called Tara, looking helpless and lost. “Poor man” and “Poor Adam” could be heard whispered on the tongue of more than one person.
Hoss stopped the wagon while Little Joe dismounted his horse. Ben lowered the back of the wagon and helped Tara get Adam to climb out. Instantly, Ben wondered if he’d made a mistake in insisting on bringing Adam. His son was not only tensing up and holding to Tara’s wrist, but her arm as well.
“We can stay out here, Adam.” Tara quickly assured him. She did not want him to feel pushed.
“Or Hoss can take you home.” Ben spoke up. If he’d made a mistake, he was willing to admit it. For a moment, everyone held their breath. Slowly, Adam relaxed and blinked twice. No. He wanted to go in the church, though it did not pass them by he was not letting go of Tara’s arm.
Making their way to the church steps, the Cartwrights entered the building and set down on the pew that sat against the back wall; Adam and Tara sat on the end. People looked and whispered as they looked at the blank expression upon their friend’s face, but they did not raise their voices. “Rock of ages cleft for me…” The congregation started singing. Tara and Ben sang, but kept an eye on Adam. They were shocked, and felt their hearts go out to Adam, as they saw a single tear escape his eye and slide down his cheek.
Ten minutes into the service Adam started tensing up again and fidgeting. Tara looked at Ben and mouthed, “I have to take him out of here NOW. We’ll wait for you under the tree near the outside bench.” Ben nodded. More than one head turned and, the ones truly doing their best to live their religion, felt their hearts go out to the man in black as the young woman they had only heard about led him out of the church.
The days were getting shorter and the evenings cooler as Tara led Adam to the porch, set him down and started reading to him from Romeo and Juliet; she found it lying on his bed the first day they’d brought him home.
Rebellious subjects, enemies to peace,
Profaners of this neighbour-stained steel,-
Will they not hear? What, ho! you men, you beasts,
That quench the fire of your pernicious rage
With purple fountains issuing from your veins,
On pain of torture, from those bloody hands
She stopped reading abruptly as she saw Adam start to literally shake and horror fill his eyes, as if he was seeing something from the past. “Good grief, girl.” Tara silently chastised herself as she practically threw the book down upon the outside table, stood up and wrapped her arms around Adam. She was stunned, but not surprised, when he held onto her like he’d never done before. “I’m sorry, Adam.” She stroked his hair as she spoke quietly, “I guess Shakespeare is a bit intense isn’t it? I wasn’t thinking. I’ll find something else, later.”
As Adam held onto Tara, he realized that he it wasn’t the words by themselves that upset him so; it was the fact that, as he heard those words, he could see Caine laughing at him and tormenting him. “You’re describing Peter Caine!” he yelled to himself and hung on as Tara’s voice and gentle touch soothed his tortured soul.
Hoss was just coming out of the barn; he walked up with a frown upon his face. “What’s up with Adam, Tara?”
Tara shook her head as she continued running her free hand through Adam’s hair; he’d finally stopped shaking, though he was still holding on tight. “He did well this morning, let your pa stay with him for a good thirty minutes, on two separate occasions, before I had to step in. However,” she sighed and added, “I guess reading from Romeo and Juliet wasn’t such a good idea.”
Hoss, without thinking, laid a hand upon Adam’s shoulder. Automatically, Tara went to say something only to find Adam holding her waist with one hand and Hoss’ wrist with the other. It was only then that Hoss realized the significance of the gesture. A huge grin spread over Hoss’s face, “I’ll be around, brother, only,” Hoss looked at the book at the table, “reckon, iff’n you want me to, I could take that thar book and put it up fer ya.” Adam let go of his brother’s wrist, put his arm back around Tara’s waist and blinked once. Hoss grabbed the book.
“Well, I need to go inside. You relax brother, you’re not alone.” His brother blinked his eyes once as if to say “I know; thank you.” That part still felt sort of odd to Hoss, but he wasn’t about to tell Adam to stop communicating the only way he could at the moment.
“Best be careful,” Tara spoke up she held Adam close, “your father has a visitor in there. No, I don’t’ know what his name is, or what he wants. All I know is your pa came in and had me bring Adam out here. He, your pa that is, seemed quite agitated at the time.” She looked back at the book and began reading again. Never much one for reading, Hoss went inside.
Upon entering the house, Hoss was surprised to see how upset his father looked and how uncomfortable the visitor seemed to be. He was even more shocked when Ben exploded, “No! I told Paul, and I’m telling you now; he’s staying right here! You’re more than welcome to stay for a couple of days and observe him from a distance; however, I will not have you talking to him! As it is; he’s doin’ good to handle church for fifteen minutes! I won’t have you undoing all the progress he has made; and what Paul wants us to do would send him back to square one!” Ben grabbed his coat and stormed out the front door.
“I can’t believe he had the nerve to do that! Adam’s making progress right here, with us!” Little Joe leaned against the staircase railing looking at his father, Hoss and their visitor. He, Little Joe, was furious when he found out the visitor they’d had in the home for the past three days was one Dr. William Despain, a physiatrist from New York. Dr. Martin had known him for years and wrote to him about Adam and the need to convince the Cartwrights to get Adam “the proper help”. He was just grateful Adam was asleep in his bedroom and Tara was taking some quiet time in hers. At least, they didn’t have to be put through this.
“Joseph Francis Cartwright!” Ben did not yell; however, he did speak with “that” tone, “You will lower your voice.” He looked at their visitor and kept his tone serious. “I have already told Dr. Despain Adam is not going anywhere. However, I will listen to what he has to say; after all, he has been here for a few days. Go ahead, Dr. Despain.” “If he says anything but what we have seen for ourselves, he is blind.” Ben added to himself. Although, he was curious to as just the man would say, hence the reason for listening to him now.
“First off,” the good man said as he looked at Little Joe, “don’t go thinking badly about Paul. You need to understand, whether you like it or not, the majority of cases are not like your brothers. Many, many people just do not have the support your brother does. There are far too many people who need to be in one of our facilities.”
Little Joe understood that; he didn’t understand Dr. Martian thinking he had the right to send for “reinforcements” though; after all, the man had known Little Joe’s family for years. “Adam has us.” Little Joe barked, but not as loudly.
“Yes, he does.” Dr. Despain then reinforced his previous statement, “Many do not. Now, as far as ‘proper help’ goes, Paul is a good man who sincerely wants what is best for all his patients. However,” he held up his hand when all the Cartwrights seemed to be on the verge of laying into him, “in this case, he is wrong, very very wrong. I plan on giving him a piece of my mind on that part too. He has known all of you for many years, and I have known you for three days. In three days, I have seen more love and support being given to Adam than I have seen given to anyone. Well, I have not seen it for a very long time. From everything you’ve told me, the way he was compared to where he is now, it’s amazing. I wouldn’t take him away from here if my life depended on it and neither should you.” He scratched the back of his neck while he did his best to make sure he knew exactly how to tell the rest of what they needed to hear, “I have to tell you though, until Adam can face whatever it is that happened out there, I do not believe full recovery will ever take place. I have a suggestion that may, or may not, help.” He hoped it would. The good man hated the idea of anyone being stuck behind any kind of wall forever.
Ben was pleased to hear that the doctor wasn’t blind and had to admit that at least Paul had acted with Adam’s best interest at heart, even if he was wrong. As far as any suggestions went, he was open to anything which would help his son break the rest of the wall down. “What is it?”
Dr. Despain took a deep breath and started to explain, “You said this Tara claims Adam was dragging a dead man behind him…”
Hoss, not liking the way the doctor said the word “claimed” spoke up, “Ain’t no ‘claimin’ ’bout it. Iff’n Tara said he was; he was!” In the time that the young woman had been on the Ponderosa, Hoss knew she didn’t lie.
Dr. Despain smiled upon the “young man” near him; he figured he could think that about Hoss as he, himself, was nearing fifty-five. “I was not trying to imply she was lying. I was not there though and, after all these years, am just used to using that phrase.” He looked back at Ben. “If I were you, I’d have this Tara write the man’s description down and give it to you.” Dr. Despain continued talking, “Talk to your sheriff and see if the man is wanted. If not? Hire a detective, find out all you can about him. One of two things happened; that is, I have two guesses. Either, he and Adam went through this ordeal together and only Adam survived. If that is the case, I dare say that the ordeal and any guilty feelings he may have of surviving while the other man died has put him behind that wall. Or,” he paused, and then continued on, “that man is the cause of his ordeal. Though, if that is the case, why he was dragging him behind him is beyond me.”
Ben and the others sat letting what the man had said sink in. Ben knew one thing for sure. Adam had to face whatever happened and if that meant putting some pieces together for him, so be it.
Dr. Despain stood up and held out his hand, “Mr. Cartwright, you and your family are to be commended for giving Adam all the support you can. Through the years I have come to know that the people who have their families full support and feel their unconditional love are the ones who have the higher chance of recovering or turning their lives around, be it physical or mental problems; for that matter, even legal problems. Keep up the good work.” Ben took the man’s hand and shook it. The love and support the man spoke of were two things Adam would definitely continue to receive.
Roy sat behind his desk looking at the description Ben had just handed him. “I’m sorry, Ben,” Roy said as he leaned back, “this description fits no one on any wanted poster I have. However, I will start sending wires out and see what I can find out. How is Adam doing?” Roy, like many others, was hoping for Adam’s full recovery. The fact that Adam had actually sat through half of the worship service the day before had everyone praying like mad it meant he was closer to coming out from behind “the wall”.
Ben shrugged his shoulders and sighed as he replied, “Some days he seems to be right there.” He held up his thumb and index finger so close they were almost touching. “But,” he said as he put his hand down, “other days he seems so far away. He is finally letting both of his brothers guide him around though, and he’s following their every movement. His nightmares are still occurring, but at least me or the boys can hold him until Tara gets into the room to rock and sing to him. Reckon, we just have to keep praying for him and working with him.”
Roy shook his head. He had known met many people through the years, a few with mental issues, but nothing like Adam’s. He couldn’t help but worry about Tara too and he said as much. “What will happen to her when Adam finally comes out from behind that wall, Ben? I mean, if he takes too long to come out from behind it? You said she’s only twenty-two years old. She’s putting her life on hold to help, Adam. What happens to her afterwards?”
Ben smiled. “I’ve already had a number of talks with her about that. She has her nursing certificate already. I’ll help her find something when that day comes. For now,” he said as he tapped his finger on the description he’d handed Roy, “Please, just get whatever information you can on that fellow.” He turned and left the lawman looking at the description of the man Adam had been hauling.
Once outside, Ben headed for his horse. As he did so, he got the shock of his life as he overheard a couple talking; they’d just gotten off the stagecoach. “I don’t want to find that old nut; he’s probably still out there on that desert mining for gold when he knows full well there ain’t any! Unfortunately, he is my father and I am duty bound to find out where he is, or what has happened to him. Now, come on! We need to find a place to stay for tonight, even if it means talking a rancher into letting us sleep in his barn or stable!” the blonde haired gentleman, who looked to be in his late twenties, spoke to the young black haired woman with him, neither seemed pleased with each other.
Ben knew full well the chances of the man they were discussing was the one Adam had been dragging behind him were slim, but decided to take the chance. What would it hurt? The worst thing that could happen was to find out he was wrong. He turned around and approached the couple.
Ben sat next to Adam on the porch while Tara sat on the other side of his son. Hoss and Little Joe were both working over near the barn. “When are they arriving?” Tara asked after Ben said they had visitors coming. Adam had finally stopped fidgeting and getting nervous when folks showed up to visit; that being the case, their friends had been encouraged to up their visits.
“By noon,” Ben answered as he turned his attention to Adam; he wanted to make sure he saw his son’s reaction to his next words. He sighed and shook his head, “It seems like they too have a missing relative. Sad to say though; they’re hunting for him seems to be more out of ‘duty’ than love.” Ben had not been able to stop himself from shaking his head as the couple had told him, when he stopped them, about the man.
“You think that man is related to the stranger that Adam was dragging across the desert, the man I had to bury.” Tara sat up straight as she caught onto the fact that Ben’s eyes were trying to tell her.
‘You had to bury?” Adam’s eyes moved towards Tara as he felt shock waves go through every inch of him. “The beast died while I was dragging his sorry hide over that hot desert floor?” The man had been more of a crazed beast than a mortal man.
“Maybe,” Ben said as he leaned back in his chair and kept an eye on his son, who he noticed had jerked ever so slightly when Tara made her statement, “anyway the description you gave me fits the man they are calling Peter Caine.” The possibility that Ben had been “handed” a piece of the puzzle had, of course, been on his mind since he talked with the young couple, but he knew it was the case the moment the name was out of his mouth, for Adam starting shaking violently.
Tara threw her arms around him and was shocked when he the intensity of the shaking only lowered, but did not stop. Ben hurried and put his arms around him too, saying as he did so, “It’s okay, son, nothing can hurt you now.” By the time he was finished speaking Hoss and Little Joe had ran over and joined them.
“Easy there, Adam,” Hoss put his hand on his brother’s right leg; it was still shaking slightly, “we’re here for ya.” Little Joe said nothing, but he did lay his hand on his brother’s free leg. As Adam stopped shaking, they were all amazed that it had taken all four of them to get him to settle down.
“Let’s get him inside.” Ben motioned for Hoss and Little Joe to remove their hands while Tara and he helped his oldest stand up, “I think, for now, any visitors we get today will have to talk to me out here, away from Adam.” Silently he prayed that, even with the violent reaction to the man’s name, his son’s “wall” would continue to fall.
“I’m…better man…You can be driven…” Cain’s face appeared, then the rest of him. He had the gun on Adam, withheld the food and water, and then the final battle. Adam wanted to kill the man, wanted it bad, but no, he wasn’t going to stoop to that man’s level. He turned to leave only to hear Cain yelling, “You can’t….me to die….” Anger welled up inside him. Why not? After all the hell he’d put him through, why not? ‘The thing that rankles me the most….they left me to die…” Adam had to go back.
“Adam?” Tara, who had been sitting on the couch working on mending one of Hoss’ shirts, quickly put it down as Adam started shaking slightly and rushed to his side; he was sitting in “his” chair, the one near the staircase. “Calm down,” she said as she laid her hand on his arm, “no one here is going to hurt you.”
Just then, Ben walked in the front door. Lynn Caine and his sister had talked with Ben, Hoss and Little Joe. “For the sake of your son,” Lynn had said as he looked upon Ben, “I hope he does remember so he can recover. I do not need to know; I already know how abusive and insane my father was. All I needed to find out is where he was so I could shut my mother up. For your son’s sake though, I will just say Miss Tara found him on her way here and buried him.” He and then taken his wife and left. Upon hearing, and seeing, Tara trying to calm Adam down Ben hurried over to his son’s side. He only meant to assure his son that everything was all right, but found himself telling him, “Let it out, Adam. Stop holding it inside. We’re here for you. Whatever happened out there on that desert with Caine, we don’t blame you, no one does. It had to be hell, whatever it was. Tara, your brothers, and I were all here.”
“Hell? It was worse than that.” Adam thought as his face started to crumble; each and every bit of the horrendous experience replayed itself on the stage of his mind. Tears started streaming down his face as if some unseen hand had finally found a lost key and unlocked the door connected to the invisible wall. Ben dropped to his knees and held his son close as Adam started shaking and sobbing, shocked, but not surprised due to the conversation he’d had with Mr. Caine’s son, to hear Adam cry, “Pa! Oh Pa! There was no gold, none at all! The man was insane! He was completely insane!” Tara very quietly stood up and went outside leaving Ben to comfort one very distraught son.
Tara was in the room she’d been using packing when Ben walked in. He was horrified to see what was going on. “What are you doing?” he quickly walked over and stood at the foot of the bed. No one had asked her to leave, so why was she?
“Adam doesn’t need me anymore.” Tara fought to keep any emotion she felt out of her voice as she was happy that Adam was finally talking. From what she could see, Ben and his son had spent a good solid two hours talking. With that being the case, she didn’t see where she was needed anymore.
As elated as Ben was that Adam had been able to knock the majority of the wall down, he also knew, by the look in his son’s eyes and the way he continued to act, it was not completely down. As long as there was any chance, even the tiniest, that the wall could go back up, he wanted Tara around. “Friends don’t leave friends in trouble,” Ben repeated the words he’d heard the young woman repeat on many occasions to his son, “Adam’s still in trouble. Can’t you see that? Right now, do you know what he’s doing? Sitting in his chair, Adam is sitting in the chair looking into the fireplace and saying nothing.”
Tara was shocked. She thought for sure, once Adam was talking, once he told his father everything that had happened that he’d be just fine. Then again, her mind turned the pages of her own personal history backwards, a past she’d never once mentioned to any of the Cartwrights. The pages turned until they stopped during the worst summer of her life…and the events that had followed when she’d found the nerve to talk to her mother. While she could think on the period of time only with sorrow now, it had not always been that way. Maybe, just maybe she knew what Adam’s remaining problem was. She started putting her things away. “I’d like to take Adam on a ride with me, Mr. Cartwright, just the two of us. Would that be okay?” She looked over at the gentleman who had proven to be very much the gentleman. She hoped, someday, she’d be blessed to find such a mate.
Ben smiled from ear to ear. “Of course, it’s okay. That is, if Adam wants to. After all, something may still be eating at him only,” he said as he looked towards the door, “he’s, obviously, no longer in a position to be led around so easily.” “And I pray he is never in that position again.” He whispered the thought only in his own mind.
Tara understood that and agreed with it. She would never force a man who had gone through the hell that Adam had, and had to fight so hard to “come back”, to go anywhere with her, whether it be on a simple ride, to church or any other event that she could think of. Picking up her shawl, Tara smiled at Ben, “I’ll go talk with Adam right now. There’s plenty of daylight left for a good hour ride, maybe even two.
“Come on a ride with me?” Tara had sat on the couch, looked at Adam and waited. She’d waited for a good twenty minutes not saying another word. It was that, her just sitting there waiting for him to make the next move that finally got him to stand up, throw on his hat and walk out the door. He hadn’t said a word, and she’d simply followed.
Mile after mile they’d ridden until Adam stopped near the lake. It was another fifteen minutes before he turned and looked at her; puzzlement was on his face, “Why did you help me? I mean, stopping to pick me up is one thing, but you kept helping me, not knowing who I was or that my father would eventually find me and ask you to stay and help, and what do you want now?” It was a couple of the many things that had been on his mind since stepped out from behind the wall he’d spent the last six and a half months behind.
For a moment Tara didn’t answer. Her gaze was upon the tranquil blue water that lay before her eyes. Finally, she sighed and answered, “You needed help and, when I realized you were behind an invisible wall, I had to stand by you.” She choked up a little as she fought the tears that wanted to come, and then continued, “Dr. Despain wasn’t lying when he said many people have to be in one of their facilities.” She turned her head and shocked him by the tears that were falling from her eyes, “Some of us spend years behind a wall, others more than the word years can convey.” It was a confession that had not escaped her lips since the day she’d been released the mental institution that had been her home.
Shock waves shot through every inch of Adam as he realized what Tara was saying. She had acted out of empathy not sympathy! “What happened?” He looked at her with a look that told her he’d listen, really listen.
Tara wiped her eyes, shook her head and straightened up, “Let’s say Caine isn’t the only evil man out in the world,” she answered as she looked at Adam, “my uncle is just as bad, if not worse. He did many things to many people.” She paused and closed her eyes, composing herself before she went on, “Let’s just my mother sent me away to live with friends who ‘needed help desperately’.” The disgust in her voice and the things she implied made Adam’s stomach turn. “Anyway, let’s just say in between a still born and an attack by the Sioux, I was hiding behind a wall for four years, from the time I was fifteen to the time I was nineteen. Adam,” she leaned forward on her horse, “You’re not alone, and it wasn’t your fault. You had no way of knowing what Peter Caine was like. You’ve got to stop blaming yourself.”
Adam stiffened for a split second then relaxed. He looked at the lake and spoke quietly, “When I heard you say you’d buried the man I realized I’d been hiding behind the wall as a way to protect myself. I thought he was still out there somewhere looking for me. I didn’t want to go through that hell again, but,” he turned his head and smiled at her softly, “I didn’t realize until now how badly I was blaming myself. Guess, whether or not I like to admit it, I have been to telling myself I should have known better. After all, I’ve always been a pretty good judge of character.”
Tara nodded as reached out and laid her hand on his, “You’re only human and, from what I hear, you were in a bad situation to start with. Let’s ride some more.” Her eyes lit up as she laughed, turned her horse about and spurred him on. Adam laughed also as he pushed Sport. He had to push him pretty hard to catch up with Tara; after all, she was proving just how well she handled a horse.
Adam walked down the streets of Virginia City causing more than one head to turn. “Hello, Adam!” “Good to see you back with us!” and “It’s about time you got back to living, boy!” were just a few of the comments heard. When he got to Dr. Martin’s he opened the door and stepped inside. The good doctor had the decency to go red from embarrassed when Adam smiled and said, “I look pretty good for a nut, huh?”
“I hope you know, I meant no harm.” Paul had felt his ears stinging for weeks after Dr. Despain had left Virginia City.
“So, where’s that pretty new nurse you have helping you?” Adam grinned as Paul sat down at his desk.
“Flattery will not get you anywhere, Mr. Cartwright.” Tara was doing her best to keep a straight face, but both Paul and Adam saw right through her. They both grinned, and Paul chuckled, as Adam simply held out his hand, “I believe we have a date.” Tara broke out in a grin and took a hold of his hand.
Next Story in the Long Road Back Series:
*Adam’s dream is a flashback from his ordeal in ‘The Crucibles’. They, the flashbacks, are not my creation.
Home! Sweet Home!” (1823)
Sung by Mifs(?) M. Tree in “Clari, or the Maid of Milan” at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden.
Words by John Howard Paine, 1791-1852.
Composed & partly founded on a Sicilian Air by Henry Rowley Bishop, 1786-1855.
Other Stories by this Author
- Far Side of Jordan (by Tauna Petit-Strawn)
- Acceptance (by Tauna Petit-Strawn)
- One Long Night (by Tauna Petit-Strawn)