A Doctor Amid Range War (Preview)

Prologue

Dr. Christopher Wilder tied the bandage around the injured man’s arm and stepped back. The hospital tent was full of patients, but he hadn’t had any fatalities for the day and hoped it would stay that way. The last couple of days had been extremely rough. The range war was only getting worse, and although he worked long hours, there was only so much he could do.

Christopher tried so hard to save as many people as he could. He didn’t care which side they supported; he was just tired of losing people he had grown up with. The other day, he’d had to watch one of his friends die because of an unnecessary disagreement. It was ridiculous.

“You’ll be fine,” Christopher told the young man as he wiped his dark hair out of his face. He usually kept it short, but his barber had been injured in the war and left town. His eyelids felt heavy and he was sure he looked a mess, but even though he was tired, he’d likely be at the tent until late that evening.

“Are you sure?” the man asked, poking at his bandaged arm.

Christopher nodded. “Yes, it’s just a flesh wound. You were lucky, but don’t poke at it. I cleaned it and stitched it up, but there’s still a chance it could get infected.”

The man’s eyes grew big at his words. Telling a patient their wound could get infected was usually enough to get them to leave it alone. It was a real possibility, but as long as the man followed his instructions, he should be fine.

“Can I stay here tonight? Just to make sure?”

“No, you should go home. I might need the space for somebody else,” Christopher replied, looking around the room.

There was an elderly gentleman who had tried to stop two ranchers from attacking each other and was shot in the leg. Next to him was a middle-aged woman who’d told him she had four kids waiting for her at home. She had gone to town for groceries and gotten caught in the crossfire. Her injury wasn’t too serious, but she still needed stitches. It was only mid-day and Christopher had already treated five victims of the range war. Things were getting worse every day.

The conflict had never made any sense to him. There was more than enough land for everybody, but the two sides insisted on fighting over the same pieces. Christopher had dedicated his life to helping people, but amidst the war, he had been forced to learn to protect himself. He was good with a gun but refused to use it unless it was in self-defense.

Christopher had a small house on the outskirts of town. He didn’t own a lot of land and many of the town’s residents lived in the houses that surrounded his property. His house was small and consisted of two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, a dining room, and a scullery. A couple of years ago, Christopher had taken it upon himself to build a wooden structure next to his house, and that was where he’d started his practice. It was about the same size as his house and had an office, waiting area, two medium-sized rooms, and a ward. It wasn’t huge, but before the range war, it had sufficed. It had been more than he’d needed.

Now, because of the location of his house, Christopher had set up a tent in town to treat the victims. If they were seriously injured and needed long-term care, his assistant Chuck helped transport them to his house when they got time, which was rare.

The sound of running footsteps and crying caused Christopher to turn around. A woman came rushing through the tent door. Her face was as pale as a ghost, and she was visibly trembling.

“Please come help,” she pleaded through her tears. “There’s a badly wounded man.”

Christopher jumped into action. This happened all the time, but he still hadn’t gotten used to it. His heart sped up as he grabbed his emergency medical case. There was only one other patient who hadn’t been treated in the ward, a young man who had gotten into a fistfight. He wasn’t badly injured, so he could wait.

“I’ll be back,” Christopher said, his voice catching in his throat as he followed the woman out of the tent.

“This way,” she instructed. She led Christopher down the dirt road and around the corner. They were going in the direction of the general store.

“What happened?” he asked. The more he knew, the faster he could help the wounded.

“I don’t know, I just heard the fighting and the gunshot. When I looked, one of the men was bleeding on the ground.”

Same story as always. Two men fighting and one or both getting hurt.

“Right over there,” the woman breathed, pointing to a crowd of people hovering around something.

Christopher ran to the crowd and pushed his way through. “Excuse me, doctor coming through.” The people knew him and quickly gave way, revealing a wounded man lying on the ground.

It wasn’t just any man. Taking a step closer, Christopher recognized the short, dark hair and the familiar blue eyes staring up at him.

“Tom!” he yelled as he stumbled to the man on the ground and fell down beside him. This couldn’t be happening. He couldn’t lose his twin brother.

“Chris,” Tom replied, choking on his words as blood spilled from his mouth.

“You’ll be all right. I’ll take care of you.” Christopher pulled open his medical case and grabbed a thick bandage. “I’ll stop the bleeding and take you back to my place.”

He could see where the bullets had landed. One in his chest, way too close to his heart, and the other in his abdomen. Pushing his emotions aside, Christopher started bandaging his brother. It was difficult considering where Tom’s wounds were, but as a doctor, he was trained for such situations. He had to stop the bleeding. Then he could worry about getting his brother back to the tent and removing the bullets.

“Lift him from that side, but move slowly,” Christopher instructed the man who was crouched down on the other side of Tom. He recognized him, but there was no time for pleasantries. He couldn’t remember the man’s name, but he’d seen him at Tom’s ranch before.

Christopher had told his brother so many times not to get involved in the range war, but given that he was a rancher, it was inevitable. More blood ran from Tom’s mouth as Christopher bandaged him, and he had to do everything in his power to stay in control of his emotions. He couldn’t let his brother die.

“Stop,” Tom said, taking a hold of Christopher’s hand.

Christopher shook his head. “No,” he replied, refusing to give up. He had to save him.

“It’s too late,” Tom breathed. “This is the end for me.” His words were surprisingly clear considering how badly he was struggling to breathe.

“No.” Christopher grabbed another bandage. There was blood everywhere and he didn’t want to lift Tom again.

“Sorry, Chris,” Tom whispered, his usually tanned face growing paler by the second. “I should have listened to you.”

“I know you tried, Tom. You’re a good man.” Christopher continued to bandage his brother even though he knew Tom was right.

“Help the people, Chris. They need you,” Tom said, his words barely audible as he slipped away. Christopher watched as the last sliver of life faded from his brother’s eyes and in that moment, he felt as if the life was being sucked out of him too.

His chest physically ached as convulsions ripped through his body. Tom was all he’d had left. Their parents had passed away years ago and he didn’t have a wife or children. Christopher had dedicated his entire life to studying and becoming a doctor. He knew he still had enough time for those things, but in that moment, he couldn’t think of anything but Tom.

They had come into the world together, only two minutes apart. Christopher had come first, and although he was technically Tom’s older brother, Tom was always a little bigger than him. That was the only physical difference between the two, and it was barely noticeable. They had the same color hair and eyes, the same straight nose and athletic build. People always confused them, but the two of them never cared.

They had so much fun together. They even fooled their own parents at times. Growing up with a twin brother was the best thing in the world. He had a lifelong friend that he could share everything with, but now he was gone.

Closing his brother’s eyes, Christopher leaned forward as tears spilled from his own. He could hear his labored breathing as the crowd watched in silence. He was sobbing, the noises coming from his mouth sounding inhuman. Another gunshot rang out in the distance, causing Christopher’s body to tense with nerves. The crowds of people surrounding him scattered in panic as screams filled the air around him.

The violence was all-encompassing. It needed to be stopped, but there was nothing Christopher could do except to help the injured. He never chose a side, not even knowing that Tom had. He had taken an oath to care for anybody that needed his help and the whole town knew that.

“Help!” He heard the all-too-familiar cries, and although he didn’t want to, Christopher wiped his eyes, pushed himself to his feet, and grabbed his medical case. He was the only doctor there, and he had to help the next injured person. It was Tom’s dying wish, after all, and Christopher could never live with himself if he didn’t try to help all those in need.

All of the other doctors in town were gone. One had made the mistake of choosing a side and getting involved in the war. He hadn’t survived long. The second one had gotten injured and was still recovering. The third had left town a while ago. Christopher was the only hope the people had left.

Giving his brother one last look, Christopher turned around and raced to where a new crowd was forming.

Chapter One

Christopher picked up an empty crate and placed it on the counter. He was about halfway done packing up his practice and still had to do some packing in his house, too. It was taking longer than he expected, but he didn’t mind. As he packed, he found items that he had long ago forgotten and reminisced about his brother and all the good times he’d had in his hometown.

Opening a drawer, Christopher removed the stack of papers and started sorting through them. It was all his paperwork from the last couple of months. Usually, he had much more. The range war had lasted four years, and the first two were the busiest he had ever been. After that, more and more people had succumbed to their injuries or left town and business slowed down.

He didn’t want to leave his home, his practice, or his town behind. It was where he’d grown up and the only place he had ever lived, except for the years he’d spent at college. When he was done studying, he came back home and started working for Doctor Modius as an apprentice until he felt he had enough experience to open his own. Christopher always knew he would come back home, but now he had to leave.

The small town that he called home had changed into a ghost town and he couldn’t stay any longer. He had helped everybody who needed his care, but there was almost nobody left. A few ranchers remained, along with old Mrs. Benson, who used to be the dressmaker. Nobody needed her services any longer, so she’d closed her shop and spent most of her days sitting on her porch now.

A couple of weeks ago, Christopher had gone to check on her. She was old and alone and he’d wanted to make sure she was all right. While there, he’d asked her why she didn’t leave and go live closer to family. Her answer was heartbreaking. The old woman had lost her family when she was young and couldn’t have children. The only person she had was her husband who died in the range war, and she refused to leave him behind.

Christopher understood how she felt. Tom was buried there too, and although it was sad to leave, he had to go. Christopher had become a doctor because he wanted to help people and he knew Tom would want him to move somewhere he could continue with his work.

The streets of the once-bustling town were now quiet. All the shops had closed and the few people that remained had to be completely self-sufficient to survive. Christopher had a little garden and a chicken coop in his backyard, so he managed, but he did miss all the luxuries he was used to. The butcher closed six months ago and the dairy and general store not long after. The last couple of months had been extremely difficult.

As the war progressed, more people left. Some had lost their families and moved to be closer to their living relatives, while others simply wanted to get away. The only places that were still open in the town were the saloon and the sheriff’s office. Christopher stayed as long as he could, but now it was time for him to go.

There were a few bigger towns that he knew of, but he had his heart set on going to Palo Alto. He had traveled through many towns on his way back home from university, but Palo Alto had caught his attention. Everything about the town looked so vibrant and although Christopher had only been there for a couple of hours, he’d always wanted to go back. He’d thought it would be for a vacation, but it was going to be a permanent move.

Christopher felt a deep need to help people, and as a doctor, he was more than capable of doing that. Leaving his childhood town behind caused his heart to ache but at the same time, he was excited to move. There were sure to be many people in Palo Alto who would need the assistance of a doctor, and after the last four years, all he wanted to do was relax in a peaceful place and tend to his patients.

Placing the papers into the crate, Christopher closed the drawer and opened the next one. Inside it was some writing equipment, paper, and envelopes. He added it to the crate too and moved on to the shelves behind him. The sound of footsteps and something dragging on the floor caught Christopher’s attention and he turned around just in time to see Chuck Evans, his assistant, walking through the door. A big bag hung across his shoulder, and he was dragging a valise in each hand.

The chubby young man had a grin on his face as he sheepishly looked at Christopher with his dark brown eyes. “I’m all packed,” he announced, letting go of his valises and placing his bag on the ground.

For a second, Christopher was confused, but then he realized Chuck intended to go with him to Palo Alto.

“You’re coming with me?” Christopher asked as he walked toward the dark-haired man who he had come to rely on over the years. When Chuck first showed up at his door, he was eighteen and had never worked before, except on his father’s farm. He had a passion for medicine and wanted to help people, just like Christopher, but he couldn’t afford to go to university and so Christopher had taken him under his wing. He’d needed an assistant anyway, and Chuck had proven himself to be incredibly clever and capable.

Chuck nodded. “I sure am,” he replied enthusiastically.

Without overthinking it, Christopher stepped forward and wrapped Chuck in a bear hug. After everything that had happened in the war, he was eternally grateful to have a companion who was willing to stick by his side.

Chapter Two

The journey to Palo Alto wasn’t bad. It took them a day to get there and since they left at noon, they traveled throughout the night. Despite feeling tired, Christopher was more optimistic than he had been in a long time. He was starting a new life in a new town, away from all the violence and chaos he’d had to endure the past four years, and to make it better, Chuck was coming with him.

Chuck had lost his father when he was young and his mother before the range war in their hometown started. He had a younger sister, but since she married and moved away, he had nothing to hold him back.

Christopher had never traveled so far by wagon, but the road was mostly void of other travelers and the weather was good. He could have made use of a train or a stagecoach, but he had a lot of things he wanted to bring with him—and what was the point of owning horses and a wagon if you didn’t make use of them?

The two men took turns steering so that they could nap, but Christopher couldn’t sleep. His body was filled with nervous anticipation and all he could think about was setting up his new practice. He was excited to heal people again.

The sun was high in the sky by the time they arrived at Palo Alto. The town looked much the same as their hometown. It was a farming community, filled with ranches and open fields. It was much bigger, though, and as they made their way down the main road, a huge smile formed on Christopher’s face. They had arrived at their new home.

Soon, Christopher could make out the shape of businesses and shops in the distance and wondered what his new home and practice would look like. He had communicated with Sheriff Jones, who had organized everything for him. The sheriff sounded like a nice man and Christopher was looking forward to meeting him. But first, they had to find his new practice and house.

Unlike back home, his practice was going to be in the center of town. Palo Alto was expanding, and they had recently built a few new buildings in and around the town—one of which would be Christopher’s. Sheriff Jones had told him that it was next to the bank so it shouldn’t be hard to find.

Over the years, Christopher had made it a point to save money, and now that he needed it, he had more than enough to start over. He still had his house and his brother’s ranch back home, but since the town was deserted, there was nobody to sell them to. Maybe one day somebody would rebuild the town and he’d be able to sell.

He removed the letter containing the address of his house and the practice and handed it to Chuck. “Help me find the practice.”

“Sure thing,” Chuck replied, always happy to help.

Approaching the first buildings, Christopher noticed the town was surprisingly quiet. He had expected there to be people and horses and wagons everywhere, but instead, there was only one wagon and a couple of men on horses.

“Where is everybody?” Chuck asked, tilting his head to the side. He was confused, too.

Christopher shrugged as an uneasy feeling filled his body. “No idea. It’s been years since I’ve been here, but it was bustling back then. I thought it would be even busier now.”

Chuck looked concerned but didn’t comment on it any further. “Let’s just find the practice. I’m sure everybody is just busy indoors.”

To his left, Christopher saw the butcher’s. There was a big sign above the door and rows of meat hanging outside. The butcher’s was about twice the size of the one back home and the smell of salted pork caused his stomach to rumble. Once they’d found the practice, he and Chuck needed to find somewhere to sit down for a meal.

Across from the butcher to their right, a tall brick structure reached into the sky. It was four stories high and looked new. It must be one of the recently constructed buildings. Christopher wondered what it was used for and made a mental note to find out later. Next to it was a wooden structure that looked tiny in comparison. Through the door, he saw two women talking. One had a dress in her hands and behind them was a shelf stacked with fabric.

“I think we should turn right ahead,” Chuck said as he leaned forward, his eyes scanning the area.

Christopher nodded and pulled on the reins, directing his horses to turn. They made their way past the dairy and saloon, where Christopher was sure they’d be able to get a meal. Farther on, they found the general store, which was also strangely quiet. There was one wagon in front of it and two horses tied to a hitching post. A woman was heading inside and a man packing items into the wagon. Christopher really expected it to be much busier.

The town was bigger than Christopher remembered, which made him happy. A big town meant lots of people in need of his services, and helping people gave him a sense of purpose. Next to the general store were two more new buildings. The one directly next to it was tiny with a sign hanging over the door, but Christopher couldn’t make out what it said. The one next to it was much bigger and consisted of two floors.

It was a beautiful building and Christopher hoped it was his as his eyes wandered over to the building to its right. In big black letters, the words “Palo Alto Bank” were painted above the second-story windows.

“That’s it,” Christopher said, pointing to the building. “That’s my new practice!” Seeing the building brought on a new surge of excitement. He would be able to help so many people with a practice that size. He might even need to get another assistant.

Chuck’s eyes grew wide as he regarded the building. “It’s so big.”

“It sure is.” Christopher laughed as he searched for a place to stop. The building was beautiful, but there was no hitching post in front of it. He would have to take care of that.

There was a two-seater buggy with horses attached to the hitching post in front of the bank, but there was a lot of space next to it, so Christopher brought his wagon to a stop and jumped down. He wished they could stop right in front of his new practice since they had a lot of things to carry inside, but it wasn’t too far so it would do.

Chuck got down too, and the two men tied up the horses. “Sheriff Jones sent me keys in the mail,” Christopher said with a smile as he removed a set of keys from his pocket. “He said he might be busy when I get here and didn’t want me to wait.”

“Clever thinking,” Chuck replied, returning Christopher’s smile.

“Why don’t we look inside first? Then we can come back to unload.” Christopher suggested as he started walking toward the building. He couldn’t wait to see what it looked like on the inside.

Up until that moment, the town was quiet, but from out of nowhere, the sound of yelling filled the air around them.

Christopher’s body tensed up and he reacted immediately, grabbing Chuck’s arm, and pulling him into the small alley that led between his practice and the bank. He had no idea what was going on but hearing the yelling had frightened him.

“What’s going on?” Chuck asked, looking terrified.

“Shh,” Christopher instructed, placing his finger across his lips. It could be nothing, but if it was something, he didn’t want to attract any attention to them.

Carefully, he leaned forward and peeked around the corner, just in time to see two boys running away from a group of men who were quickly approaching them. The boys looked terrified, reminding him of the innocent children back home who’d gotten caught in the range war. He had treated so many of them and even saw some succumb to their injuries. He couldn’t believe people were so cruel and heartless.

Christopher watched, frozen in place, as one of the men lifted his gun and fired in the boys’ direction. Every muscle in his body was tense and ready to protect the children. Regardless of the circumstances, nobody should ever harm a child. Christopher took a step forward, but a strong hand grabbed his arm and pulled him back.

“You’re no good to anybody dead,” Chuck hissed.

Another shot echoed off the buildings, the bullet barely missing them and hitting the pillar beside them. Looking at the bullet, now lodged in the wood, Christopher could feel panic overtake his body. His legs felt numb, and his stomach twisted as bile rose in his throat.

It felt like his past had followed him—that no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t escape the violence. Peeling his eyes away from the bullet, he focused on the young boys. They looked terrified as they ran. Christopher watched in horror. He could only hope that the incident playing out in front of him was an isolated event.

Christopher was contemplating his next move when, suddenly, a man on horseback appeared. He was wearing a black wide-brimmed hat and galloping directly at the gang of men.

“Stop!” the man shouted authoritatively, and the gang dispersed, allowing the boys to get away unscathed.

Feeling shaky, Christopher stepped out of hiding with Chuck following closely behind him. “We should get out of the streets,” Chuck suggested just as the man on horseback spotted them.

“Dr. Christopher Wilder?” the man asked as he approached them, and Christopher noticed the badge on his shirt.

“Yes,” Christopher confirmed as the man came to a stop and dismounted his horse. “Are you Sheriff Jones?”

The man nodded his head and removed his hat, revealing a head of dark brown hair streaked with gray strands. “I am,” he said with a smile. “Welcome to Palo Alto. We’re glad you decided to come.”

“With a welcome like that, it certainly doesn’t feel that way,” Christopher joked, trying to lighten the mood and calm his nerves.

“Sorry about that,” Sheriff Jones replied, glancing over his shoulder in the direction of the men. “We’ve been experiencing some trouble of late.”

“What kind of trouble?” Christopher asked, fearing the answer.

“Well, the town has split into two factions. They’re fighting over land, and recently things have started to turn violent,” he replied. “I was so happy when you contacted me. Our doctor left not too long ago, and we’ve been experiencing more injuries than normal. It’s going to help a lot to have a real doctor in town.”

Christopher felt both angry and shocked. He couldn’t believe that he found himself amidst another range war, or that Sheriff Jones hadn’t told him about it. He understood that they needed a doctor, but he should have been warned about what he was getting into.

“So, there’s a range war happening?” Chuck asked, his voice sounding shaky. He looked pale and was fidgeting with the hem of his shirt.

“Yes,” Sheriff Jones confirmed. “It started a while ago, but the violence has become much worse lately.”

Shaking his head, Christopher tried to focus on what was important. The people needed a doctor, and he could help them. He had to carry on and open his practice like he had planned.

“We’ll set up the practice and open as soon as we can,” Christopher said, wishing that he’d chosen a different town to relocate to. Of all the towns in the West, why did he have to wind up in another one that was at war?

“I love the sound of that,” Sheriff Jones said with a smile. “Oh, and somebody is going to come install some hitching posts in front of your practice tomorrow.”

“Thank you,” Christopher replied without much enthusiasm. All the enthusiasm he’d felt earlier was gone.

The sheriff nodded his head in acknowledgment. “I’ll leave you to unpack. Welcome again.”

Christopher watched as the sheriff mounted his horse and took off down the road before turning toward Chuck, who looked stunned.

“Let’s get those crates inside, then we can look around for something to eat,” Christopher said, placing his hand on his assistant’s shoulder. Every fiber in his body was telling him to get back in the wagon and leave, but he couldn’t do that. The people here needed him, and he was going to help them.


“A Doctor Amid Range War” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

When the dedicated doctor Christopher Wilder loses his brother in the brutal crossfire of a range war, his world is irrevocably shattered. Driven by a deep-seated vow to make a difference, Christopher departs his war-torn hometown and heads to Palo Alto, determined to make a new start. Instead, what he finds is yet another town torn by conflict. And he will be thrown right in the middle of it…

His oath to heal will test the limits of his courage in ways he never anticipated…

Soon Christopher meets Fiona, the bakery owner next door, who emerges as a pivotal ally with deep ties to the ongoing feud. However, after he saves a member of one of the warring factions, Christopher is suddenly dragged into the middle of the fight and pushed towards making a tough decision-especially when he discovers the identity of the person he saved.

Each decision could tip the scales between life and death…

As the conflict escalates, Christopher and Fiona’s bond deepens, driving them to devise a bold strategy against the elusive outlaw, Sure Shot. Their combined efforts to unite a fractured town set the stage for a gripping showdown, where stakes are high, and the cost of peace looms large. Can the courage of one man and one woman overcome the shadows of rivalry to forge a new path for the town of Palo Alto?

“A Doctor Amid Range War” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 60,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.

Get your copy from Amazon!

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