"You'll sign those papers, I say or I'll smash your head in!" The outlaw declared, and the young doctor squeezed his eyes shut, bracing himself for the blow, which landed as surely as he'd expected it.
White-hot pain exploded through his cheekbone and he couldn't contain the cry of pain that left him, cutting off his desperate plea. It was then followed by another, much harder this time.
"Say you'll sign them, doc, or you ain't leaving this place alive, you hear me? The next corpse they'll be takin' out'll be yours!"
He raised his fist to deliver another blow but the doctor whimpered softly, unable to stop himself.
"I'll sign them- I'll sign them, please no more..no more, please-"
The outlaw's lips twitched up into a cruel smile, one that did not reach his dark beady eyes as he stood up carefully, turning the doctor's face to examine the newly blossoming bruise on his jaw.
"Good. You're learning fast, kid. Why don't you rest for a bit now? We ain't finished with you yet...but we need you awake for later."
His tone left no room for argument, but the young doctor was in no shape to disagree, as the man sauntered over to the door, hitting the light switch.
His captive was already exhausted from the constant storm of blows the group of bandits had rained down upon him from the start.
Doctor Leonard McCoy been easily overpowered upon his arrival at his uncle's ranch - and he'd been powerless to stop them from what they'd forced him to do.
He'd signed the papers giving over control of the ranch to the leader of the group, but only after they'd broken his other arm, having shoved him against the wall and twisted his forearm until the bones had snapped. He'd finally given in when they'd started breaking fingers.
Weak, shaken, and half in a daze, he'd obliged, right before his legs had given out. The impact with the floor had to have hurt but he'd thankfully never felt it. The shock and the blinding pain had knocked him out long before the impact could have.
The next thing he knew, he was lashed to his bed, disorientated and barely able to sit up properly on his own. His injured arm throbbed with a feeling akin to thousands of tiny needles pricking it over and over again.
Every once in a while, someone held a cup of water to his lips, ordering him to drink, and he never argued, obeying without hesitation. The water, although pleasantly cool, always made him feel hazy, as though he were floating, making him wonder what on earth his uncle had fashioned his well from.
Not that he wondered for long. A strange, feverish sleep would descend upon him not long after, and it would last long into the daylight hours. He'd feel cold and clammy, but simultaneously as though he were on fire. Bizarre dreams of shadowy figures and fiery rings would haunt him, and he'd often wake to the crack of a whip outside.
Had he been properly conscious, he might have deduced that he was being constantly drugged for some reason or other, but he did not. His captors had not treated his arm or his fingers, and the knots keeping him still were the work of an efficient man, making movement difficult and escape near-impossible.
A week had passed, but he'd had no clue.
As a stranger to these parts with no family to speak of, no one had gone looking for him. He knew nobody, and nobody knew him. And even if they had noticed him standing awkwardly in the sun as he waited for the coach to bring him here, they probably wouldn't have laid him much attention. He was a stranger, and a queer at that. Chances were, people were more likely to avoid him than care about whether or not he'd arrived safely.
Usually, he was alright with that- keeping to himself was something he did considerably well. He was somewhat shy, preferring the solitude of a bottle of the hard stuff and a good book to avid socialising. Besides, going out made him uncomfortable. The slights and the veiled insults hurled his way always struck just a little too close to home.
This was mainly the reason he'd decided to move here in the first place.
Fresh out of medical school and licensed to finally pursue his passion for medicine, he'd been unsure of how to get started, but the telegram informing him of his uncle's death had thrown him completely off-balance.
His uncle had been the one relative he'd kept in touch with..the only one he'd really known, having been raised on this very ranch, learning the daily tasks and chores required to keep it up and running.
As he'd clutched that paper to his chest, the doctor had felt a stab of guilt. In the years following his acceptance into medical school, he'd fallen out of touch with his uncle Jack, too caught up in the frenzy that was work and exams, and now the only man who'd ever really accepted him was dead. Dead, yes, but he'd left the ranch to his nephew, just about saving the young man from having to scrape by until he got a real place of his own.
Unknown to the young doctor, his disappearance had been noticed.
Due to the property value of the ranch, the town sheriff had been keeping an eye on the place, and his interest had peaked immeasurably upon setting eyes on the shy brown-haired man pacing at the station, looking as out of place as a horse in a lake.
The sheriff was a man roughly five years older than McCoy, who went by the name of Spock; and he was extremely open about what he liked. The occasional woman would pique his interest, but his real and undivided attention lay elsewhere. He liked men, and he was not afraid to say it- earning him many a dirty glance from the old-timers, mainly, but no one tried anything. They knew that they would not get very far if they did, as Spock was not one for accepting misogynistic behaviour, no matter what the general population thought. He had the same rights they did, and he was a good man. Flirty and sarcastic, but fair. He slept with whoever he wanted to sleep with, calling himself a bisexual, an unfamiliar term that was apparently meant as a way to describe his bizarre courtship of both men and women.
Either way, as it never impacted his judgement as sheriff, the townsfolk generally respected him. They'd never had a man like Spock in charge before the summer of '38, which had brought this change from their old sheriff, a man in his mid-sixties who was clearly barely able to see his breakfast properly, let alone execute his duties.
Spock, being at the youthful age of 29, was extremely active, and took great care to maintain his health and fitness level.
He could be seen riding through the outskirts of town every morning, coat open to combat the heat, stetson pulled down low to keep out the glaring sun, urging his horse to an energetic gallop.
Ever since he'd taken over the job from his father, he'd taken great pride in it, and taking care of himself was important if he were to keep up an excellent level of service to his people.
Now, after the passing of an entire week with no sign of the young heir to the Barnaby ranch, Spock had grown concerned. Even if the man were the type who kept to himself, he surely would have gone out at least once? No.. The only people who went in or out of the ranch were the same three men who had seemingly come out of nowhere.
Spock didn't recognise any of them, which was unusual. This was a small town, so unless they had arrived with the young doctor to help him manage the ranch (which they hadn't, he'd arrived alone), then they could not possibly be up to any good. No one rode into a town in the dead of night and somehow got themselves employed at such a prestigious property on demand.
Spock lifted the bottle of bourbon to his lips and drank, allowing the fiery liquid to sting his throat for only a moment as he gulped it down.
He'd rather liked the look of the doctor, and word travelled fast. Leonard McCoy had left his hometown partly due to the whispers about his sexual preferences. That alone would have intrigued Spock non-professionally, but the fact that he'd inherited the Barnaby ranch…the ranch which happened to be the most valued property for miles...that brought the young man to Spock's attention very quickly.
This kind of money attracted bad people, namely outlaws, and it was more than obvious that the young doctor had no knowledge of self defence. He had appeared to be of medium build, skinny, but not athletic, and there had been no gun at his hip. Spock felt worry tug at his heart once more as he recalled this. An unarmed man would always be targeted, but an unarmed wealthy heir…well, he would be lucky to escape with his life.
Turning the case over in his mind for the fourth time that hour, Spock finally got to his feet, reaching for his hat before he stepped out into the afternoon sun. He'd waited too long already, and there was no time like the present.
"Miss me?" He asked his horse softly, as he prepared the saddle, pausing only to pat the mare's flank.
This earned him an enthusiastic nudge which made him chuckle. "Eager to start, I see. Well come on then girl, we've got a job to do."