by Karen Gilleland © 2014
“Stewart in Love” brings back one of my favorite characters, Stewart the Ranger (Ben Miller). Remember his invisible friend, Anthony, and Stewart’s passionate line about gray squirrels (S1E4) — “They’re the squirrel equivalent of the Nazis!”
Martin pushed the speed limit through the driving rain and reached the ranger station in record time. Dripping wet, Martin opened the gate and headed for the building.
Stewart James met him at the door and whispered, “Thanks for coming, ‘Doc.’”
“Stewart, tell me what happened.”
“I was checking for poacher traps,” he answered. “I saw the storm coming, so I was
working my way out to the road. I spotted a body face down near the stream. A woman. She was unconscious. Suddenly the sky let loose. I couldn’t leave her there, so I carried her to the truck and brought her here. She’s awake, but groggy.”
Martin nodded, shrugged out of his raincoat and walked into the room. A slender woman with short, blond, curly hair was sitting by a roaring fire. She turned toward Martin, and he noticed the bruise on her temple and the glazed look in her eyes.
“I’m Doctor Ellingham,” he said, walking over to her. “You’ve had an accident. I’m going to examine you. Do you hurt anywhere?” She didn’t respond, and Martin took out his stethoscope and listened to her heart and lungs. He examined her eyes and confirmed his diagnosis.
“You have concussion,” he told her. She simply stared at him.
“She can’t walk, ‘Doc,’” said Stewart.
“Can you pull off her boots?” Martin asked Stewart and put the stethoscope back into his bag.
Stewart tugged the woman’s right boot off, and her ankle began swelling.
Martin felt her ankle gently and said, “Bad sprain. She’ll need an ice pack.”
“Right, I have one,” said Stewart. “I’ve made coffee. Can I give her a cup?”
“Better give her juice today,” said Martin, pulling a chair over next to the woman. “Can you tell me your name?”
She frowned and shook her head.
“You’re suffering from amnesia. It should pass in a few hours.”
Stewart walked in and handed Martin a cup of coffee. He took a glass of apple juice to the woman, knelt down beside her, put her hands around the glass and helped her tip the liquid into her mouth.
“Stewart, she should lie down. She can sleep, but you must wake her every two hours to prevent her slipping into a coma. If you can’t wake her, call for an ambulance immediately and then call me.”
A tremendous crash of thunder punctuated his words, and the woman jerked back, trembling. Stewart set down the glass and held her in his arms, murmuring soothing words until she relaxed.
When she was breathing normally, he said to Martin, “She can sleep on my cot, ‘Doc.’ I’ve got a sleeping bag.”
“Keep her ankle elevated. She can take Paracetamol if she develops a headache,” said Martin. “To be safe, she’ll need a scan. I’ll give you a referral when I come back tomorrow.”
The morning was blue and sunny as Martin drove to the ranger station. Stewart came out while Martin was closing the gate.
“How is she, Stewart?
“Okay. She said her name is Katie, but she doesn’t remember her last name or what she was doing in the forest. I found her car keys in her jacket.”
Martin walked in and saw Katie sitting at the table wearing one of Stewart’s green forestry outfits, her leg elevated on a chair. She looked up and smiled.
“Doctor Ellingham, Stewart said you took care of me yesterday.”
“You’re looking much better,” said Martin, checking her vital signs. “Do you remember your name?”
Martin closed his bag and asked, “Katie, will you be all right if Stewart and I leave to find your car?”
“Yes, I’ll feel better when I know who I am.”
The men climbed into Stewart’s truck and headed to the forest. After twenty minutes, Martin spotted a green Citroen off the road. Stewart pulled over, and Martin tried the door.
Through the back window, Martin saw a purse, laptop and suitcase, as well as an American magazine with Katie’s picture on the cover. Doctor Kathryn Danielson, he whistled.
“This is it,” he called to Stewart. “You head back. I’ll be along shortly.”
Martin scrunched into the car, pushed back the seat and headed for the ranger station. He carried Katie’s belongings into the house.
Katie, peeling an orange at the table with Stewart, saw Martin and exclaimed, “My things! Thank you.”
“Any more memories?” asked Martin.
“Little pieces, but not my full name or what I do for a living.”
“I can help,” said Martin, sitting down. “You’re Doctor Kathryn Danielson, founder of Animal Conservatory.”
“Animal Conservatory!” said Stewart. “I’ve read about your work. You target small, endangered animals.”
“Do you remember what you’re doing in Cornwall?” asked Martin.
“Red Squirrels!” Katie said, snapping her fingers. “I spotted one and was racing after it when I slipped.”
“Red Squirrels,” exclaimed Stewart. He walked over to the mantle and brought back a figurine of the cute creature.
“Doctor Danielson,” Martin began, but the woman put up a hand.
Martin nodded and said, “Katie, tell us about your work. It may spur other memories and speed your recovery.
Biting into the orange, Katie stopped and said, “Shoot, shovel and shut up.”
“Excuse me?” frowned Martin.
“The ‘Code of the West.'” She nibbled on the orange, apparently gathering her thoughts. “I grew up in Wyoming, or the ‘Big Empty’ as people call it, on a 10,000-acre ranch. We have a critter called the ‘Black-footed Ferret.’ In 1987, only eighteen were known to exist.”
Katie leaned back in the chair, closed her eyes a few seconds and said, “I was eleven when I found ‘Bandit.’ Black-footed Ferrets have dark markings across their eyes that look like a mask. I put food out for him. He was my secret. One day when I was at school, friends of Dad’s came by and spotted him.”
She stopped talking as tears welled in her eyes. “You can guess the rest.”
“Why?” Stewart asked, horror in his voice.
“To prevent the area from being declared a protected habitat.”
Katie shifted in the chair and straightened her shoulders. “I’ve devoted my life to protecting not only the Black-footed Ferret, which is thankfully coming back because of conservationists, but other small creatures facing the same fate.”
She turned to Stewart. “Red Squirrels could be extinct in twenty years,” she said, touching the figurine.
Stewart’s eyes widened, but he didn’t speak.
“In the States, we nearly lost the California Condor. It has struggled back from the point of extinction, but it’s still on the threatened list.”
She made a helpless gesture with her hands. “Our planet has lost 905 species of creatures great and small, and another 20,000 are threatened.”
Katie talked on about her work. “I publish articles, lobby lawmakers and speak to groups around the world,” she explained. Finally, she sank back into the chair and closed her eyes. “I suppose you can tell I’m passionate about my work.”
“You need to rest now,” Martin said, noting the flush on her cheeks. “I’ll be going.”
Stewart never even glanced at Martin, so intently was he looking at Katie. Martin let himself out, with a sense of foreboding about the look he saw on Stewart’s face.
A week later, Stewart called to say Katie was ready to leave. Martin drove out to see her.
“What is it, Stewart?”
“Katie — she’s the most wonderful woman I’ve ever known. The week has been magic. We’ve talked for hours. She’s funny and smart, and we have a lot in common. The thing is, she’s going back to America.” He shrugged and said, “I don’t want her to leave.”
“‘Doc,’ do you think I should tell Katie how I feel?”
Martin stiffened. “I’m not good at this sort of advice, Stewart.”
“But if it were you, would you tell her?”
Stroking his chin, Martin thought about Louisa. “Yes, yes, I would. But brace yourself in case she doesn’t feel the same way.”
Stewart nodded and turned toward the door. Martin followed him inside. Katie was standing by the window, dressed in a dark business suit and white blouse. Stewart picked up her suitcase and took it out to her car.
“How’s your ankle?” asked Martin, looking at her shoes.
“A little gimpy, but not too painful. I’m making a fashion statement with these pink sneakers,” she smiled.
“Your scan was clear, so you should be fine. No running after Red Squirrels for a few weeks, however.”
“I’ll say good-by then,” and Martin started toward the door. He stopped, turned around, and walked back to her. “I’ve enjoyed knowing you,” he said, extending his hand.
She reached up, kissed him on the cheek and whispered. “Thanks for everything, Doctor Ellingham.”
“Katie–” Martin began, but Stewart came back inside. The three of them walked into the yard, and Martin went on to his car. He opened the door but stood looking toward the road, thinking he’d better wait and make sure Stewart was okay.
Several minutes ticked by before Martin turned back and was stunned to see Stewart and Katie in a passionate embrace. They broke off, and Katie put her hand on Stewart’s chest, turned and walked toward her car. Her eyes met Martin’s, and he saw the tears flowing down her cheeks.
“Good-by, Doctor Danielson,” Martin said as she passed him. She nodded, got into her car and drove away.
Martin faced Stewart, looking for signs of stress.
“You were right, ‘Doc.’ I’m glad I told her how I felt. I could tell when she kissed me that she felt the same.”
“Are you all right, Stewart?”
“Yeah, I am, but I’ll miss her. I’ve never kissed a girl that way before, ‘Doc.’ All I could think about was not letting her go.” Stewart lowered his eyes and said, “But I understand why she can’t stay. Her work is too important.”
“She rocked my world, ‘Doc.'”
Martin stood silent for a long moment before saying, “If you need help coping, call me.”
Stewart suddenly smiled, shaking his finger at Martin. “Now I know why people still laugh about the time you kissed Louisa and told her she had bad breath.”
“What!” Martin got into the car and slammed the door. He took a deep breath, put the window down and called out, “What do you mean people still laugh? And how would you know? You never come into the village.”
Stewart walked over to the car, put a hand on the door and leaned in. “Facebook, ‘Doc.’ You’re all over it. Patient confidentiality doesn’t apply to patients, you know.”
“Are you telling me my private affairs are on the Internet?”
“I’d be surprised if the villagers don’t start a ‘Doc Martin’ website.” Stewart stepped back, grinning.
Martin clenched his teeth, jammed down his foot, spun the car around in the grass and sped off.
— THE END —
“Doc Martin” is owned by Buffalo Pictures.
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