Chapter 8: Chatting with Harry
Copyright © 2015 by Brian Bixby
Dr. Rowe is handy with a scalpel, that I must say. In hardly a moment, she cuts away my sleeve to see the jagged wounds on my arm. She shakes her head. In a neutral voice, she says, “Minor, Eberhardt. You’ll have a scar. Now go outside and let me work on Winter in peace.”
My wounds don’t feel minor. But women always support each other in a crisis. So I start to turn away, only to see Dr. Rowe taking apart Marge’s clothing as fast as she undid my sleeve. I stay to watch. Marge has good-looking shoulders.
“You can leave, Mr. Eberhardt,” Dr. Rowe says a bit more loudly as she works. “My patients deserve privacy.”
Damn. I slowly walk toward the door and open it. But I can’t resist one more look around. And there’s Marge, lying on her back, naked to the waist. Even with all the blood, she’s got great-looking breasts.
And then Marge turns, sees me staring at her, and yells, “Get out, Harry!” Before she can do anything more, I clear out and shut the door behind me.
Amelia and Polly are coming into the waiting room from the outside. Without a word, Polly rushes past me and opens the door to the doctor’s examining room. I hear the start of another yell before the door closes behind her.
Amelia gives me a quizzical look and then asks, “What happened?”
I feel tired, and sit down in the waiting room. Amelia sits down beside me, looks at my clothes, and says, “You okay, Harry?”
No, Amelia, I’m not. Some crazy whore tried to carve me up with a steak knife, and then battered my head with a ketchup bottle. And all Doctor Rowe can say is, “Minor, Eberhardt.” But forget that. I turn to Amelia. “We were starting to question one of the witnesses in the restaurant, McNaughton’s, near the Interstate. And she just went berserk and tried to kill us. Me, Marge, and MacGregor.” I can hear panic in my own voice. Demons I can deal with. Crazy women, no. Calm down, Harry. It’s over. Yeah, well, except for my arm being a painful bloody mess. “Stupid whore doesn’t even know how to kill people properly. She knifed Marge square in the chest, probably trying to kill her before the blade broke on Marge’s breastbone. And then she just started carving Marge up with the stub of the broken knife. I was trapped between MacGregor and the wall, so I couldn’t do much of anything. MacGregor managed to pull her away, and then she broke loose, picked up another knife, and tried to stab me. Sliced my arm up before MacGregor got her under control.”
I shrug. “He was going to take the madwoman to the jail, where I hope she rots.”
Amelia looks cross. She’s whipping out her phone to make a call when Keller comes in. He takes us both in at a glance and addresses Amelia. “Yee’s at the jail with Sanderson examining the woman who attacked Marge and Harry, here.”
Amelia asks, “They’ve got her under control?”
Keller scratches his head. “If she were any quieter, she’d be dead. According to the fellow, Mac is it, who seems to be in charge, she came out of her violent fit the moment she was removed from the restaurant, and has been catatonic ever since. If I didn’t know better, I’d say she’d been possessed.” He turns to me. “She wasn’t possessed, was she, Harry?”
I shake my head. And then I wonder. She certainly wasn’t possessed. But could the demon have put a spell on her? If it was subtle, I might not have noticed, because I was too busy noticing her figure. Damn. “She might have been bespelled, though I’m hard put to figure out something I’d miss that could produce such drastic effects.”
Keller gives me an odd glance before saying to Amelia, “Polly in with Marge?”
Keller smiles and shakes his head. “She’s tougher than she looks, Polly is. That demon booby-trapped just about everything. Stan and I had to pull her out of her spirit-tracking trance several times to keep her from being hurt. And yet she still came here on the run to work as a healer. Bloody marvelous.”
I’m resting in my room, my arm fixed up by the pleasing magical ministrations of Polly and the less pleasant attentions of Dr. Rowe. There’s a knock at my door, and a moment later Stan Yee sticks his head in. “Taking visitors, Harry?” he asks.
I wave him in. Stan’s carrying a bottle of good bourbon and two glasses. He pulls up a seat by the bed, sits down, pours a drink, and hands it to me. I wave my hands in a gesture of dismissal. “None for me. The good Dr. Rowe told me not to drink for six hours, even as I could smell the whiskey on her breath.”
Stan urges the drink on me again. “Take it, Harry. It’s medicinal in this case. And I want to talk to you before Amelia comes by.”
With an invitation like that, I can’t refuse. I sit up and take the drink, Stan pours himself one, we clink glasses, and down the shots. And then I say to Stan, “Sounds like you’re preparing me for bad news.”
Stan twists his face into his “who, me?” look and glances around the room. “Hell of a place you have here, Harry. Someone book you on the discount rate?”
I look him in the eye. “Cut the crap, Stan. What’s on your mind?”
Stan looks away a moment, then returns my gaze. He doesn’t look happy. “What’s happened to you, Harry? You were in D.C., you were slaughtering demons, and people were happy with you. Well, most people. And now I find you out here, in the middle of nowhere. Demons are stomping on you, and your head’s addled with women.”
“Blame Val,” I tell him, letting my anger show.
Stan shakes his head. “I know all about that, Harry. Val Thompson isn’t your problem, Harry. That was then and there. This is here and now. You’re your own problem. If you hadn’t been so preoccupied with the waitress’s, ah, looks, you’d have spotted the spell the demon put on her.”
“She didn’t . . .” I don’t finish, because Stan holds a finger to my lips.
“She did, Harry. It was subtle. The demon gave her a nightmare and used it like a post-hypnotic suggestion to have her try to kill anyone official who tried to question her about the demon’s activities. Subtle enough to miss, if you’re not paying attention to such things, and paying attention to your dick instead.”
Stan lets me think about that for a few moments before he continues. “And then there’s Marge, Harry. Your behavior in the examining room earlier today, eh,” and he rolls his eyes, “it could have been dismissed as concern for a colleague. And I’ll admit Marge is easy on the eyes, and speaking just between the two of us, I wouldn’t have minded a peek myself. But people know about Milwaukee, Harry. Amelia knows about Milwaukee.”
“Milwaukee was years ago,” I point out.
Stan shakes his head again. “Doesn’t matter. There’s independent evidence that you’re still lusting after Marge. Sanderson says so.”
“Like she’s an objective observer,” I complain.
“I’ve just seen what she can do, Harry. She can’t read verbal thoughts at all, she’s no telepath, but she can read and manipulate subconscious thinking. She’s the one who told me about your interest in the woman who attacked you and Marge. She doesn’t know about Milwaukee, but she can tell you’re still carrying a torch for Marge.”
“She just doesn’t like me, Stan.”
Stan laughs. “Which she, Marge or Sanderson?”
“Both.” And Sanderson can dislike me all she wants, I’ve no interest in her. But Marge, well, that’s another story.
“Uh huh.” Stan gets up, walks over to the window, and raises the blinds. Looking out, he says, “Apart from her inability to appreciate your charms, Harry, why Marge dislikes you is no mystery. But have you wondered why Sanderson doesn’t like you, Harry, even though she barely knows you?”
“Because she dislikes everyone, I suppose.”
Stan comes back over, sits down, and looks me straight in the face. “She is a bit on the brusque side, but that’s not it. I could tell she specifically doesn’t like you, so I took the trouble to ask her why. She tells me you want to rape her.” I start to protest, but Stan holds up his hand, so I stop. “I know what you’re going to say, Harry. Remember, this is subconscious motivation she’s reading from you. And she tells me it’s a lot more common than I’d think. So she doesn’t feel justified in going to Amelia with it. In fact, she wouldn’t have told me, except I told her you were my protégé.” Stan laughs. “It’s kind of true; I did have a hand in your training. She knows I want to look out for your best interests. And while I wouldn’t say your best interests are near and dear to her heart, she’s not out to burn you, Harry. Not yet, at least.”
“I feel so validated by that, Stan.”
Stan slams down his glass on the table next to my bed. “Goddam it, Harry. You’ve even got Polly annoyed at you.”
Polly? “What for?”
“She’s an empath, Harry. And she was working on you, to heal your injuries. Including the ones between your legs. Do I have to spell it out?”
No, but what was I supposed to think, her being that close to me and concerned with my well-being and all? But Stan isn’t going to listen to it. “Okay, okay, point taken. What do you want me to do about it?”
Stan leans forward until he’s right in my face. “Straighten out. Be the man you were in D.C. before you blew one of Val Thompson’s cases and got exiled out here. Get your ducks and drakes in a row, before Amelia puts them in a row for you. Because she will, Harry. She will.”
I’m waiting on my fourth drink. Screw Dr. Rowe. And screw Amelia, too. I’m sick of women telling me what to do. Screw Marge, too, for being the cold bitch she is. On the other hand screwing Marge sounds like a good idea. Or maybe the girl up there on the stage with just a G string still on. She’s the third act I’ve seen, and the best one yet. She’s doing nice things to a pole, and I wish it were my pole she was doing them to. Her or Polly or Marge. Polly was close enough to it. And there’s never been a time I wouldn’t want to take Marge, preferably repeatedly. I look at the stripper and think about taking her, too. The stripper doesn’t notice me, let alone want me, but I could change that with a bit of magic. It’s against the rules, but she’s a whore. Do they really count?
A waiter stands in front of me, blocking the view. I give him an angry stare. He gives me one back. He tells me, “Hit the road, mister. You’re through here tonight.”
What the hell is this about? I start to get up to protest, and feel strong arms seizing me from behind. I try to shake them, and then someone lands a punch directly into my stomach. I almost puke and pass out at the same time. Next thing I know, some guys are carrying me through the door of Louie’s. They throw me down in the parking lot. I almost eat gravel.
I roll over onto my back and try to catch my breath. I realize I did throw up. I can taste it in my mouth. I sit up just a little bit and see it’s on my shirt, too. So I drop back and just stare up at the sky. The sky is spinning, probably because I’ve had too much to drink. Not my night, I guess.
The sound of someone’s steps come closer. There’s a shuffling noise. And then a voice from right beside me. “I told them to throw you out, Harry. I didn’t think they’d take me so literally. Guess they wanted to impress me with their enthusiasm.”
I look over and see Sanderson sitting cross-legged beside me in the parking lot. Another damn interfering woman. I look back into the sky again. “I’ll kill you,” I tell her. I don’t put too much feeling into it. I don’t really care.
“Doubtful,” she replies. “Even I know that if you drink too much, you can’t do magic. And you couldn’t take me on in unarmed combat, Harry, even if you were sober. I’ve broken up too many bar fights. Anyhow, I’m here to help you.”
This bitch? “Sure.”
“Amelia has your colleagues looking for you. I think she wants to have a long talk with you, Harry, and I don’t think she’s exactly going to give you a prize. So you get a choice. I can pull out my phone and call her, and tell her just where you are. Or you can let me take you home and dump you on a couch, and then you can spruce yourself up a bit in the morning and tell Amelia you went on a drive to clear your head. Your choice.”
Typical woman, not much of a choice. “She’ll never believe me.”
Sanderson lets out an exasperated snort. “Who cares if she believes you, Harry? Anything’s got to be better than being found drunk and covered with vomit in the parking lot of a strip joint. But,” I hear gravel noises, and then see Sanderson standing over me, “it’s your life. So what’s it going to be, Harry?”
I’m tempted to tell Sanderson to go fuck off, preferably with her little demonic friend Deecee. And then I smell the vomit on my shirt front. Harry, you have screwed up, and if Amelia sees you like this you’ll be lucky to escape with a formal reprimand. Best take what help you can get. But I do have one question. “Why are you helping me out?”
She shrugs. “Your colleagues asked me to. They said it’s their job to look out for each other. They said I’d be one of them if I did this. That good enough for you, Harry?”
Last night, I was puking in a parking lot. This morning, I’m sitting at a kitchen table, wearing a woman’s pink bathrobe with matching pink slippers. I’m not sure which is worse.
Dr. Rowe is sitting opposite me. She’s pouring bourbon into her coffee, not for the first time. I think it’s a good idea, and reach for the bottle. She sees me try, and puts it out of my reach. “None for you, Mr. Eberhardt. You’re a professional and you’re supposed to be sober on duty.”
Still a bitch. “Don’t they yank the licenses of doctors who are alcoholics?” I ask her.
She shovels some scrambled eggs into her mouth and chews them before replying. “Sure do, if the doctor can’t do her job properly, and if someone brings it to the state medical board’s attention, and if the board don’t decide that being the only doctor within 50 miles of here makes me an invaluable resource.” She looks over at Sanderson, who’s sitting next to me. “He always this polite?”
Sanderson takes her time replying, too. “So they tell me. They still like the bastard at some level, though, or they’d not have asked me to find him before his boss Amelia did.”
I turn to tell her, “I’m all gratitude.” I make it clear I’m not.
She gives me a big grin. “Sure. Did I ever tell you how Mac had me trained in unarmed combat so I could hold my own when I was breaking up bar fights? Either I’m a natural talent, or this,” and she holds up her feathered hand, “gives me some unnatural skills. I can break your arm with one carefully aimed blow or hurt you badly without leaving a mark. Like this.”
Before I know it, she forces my left hand down onto the table and delivers a terrific blow to it. I let out a yell and pull it away. Sanderson just sits there, smiling at me. I look at the hand. It aches like hell, but there’s no sign of damage to it.
“You slipped up, Sanderson,” Dr. Rowe says. “He’s going to have some bruising.” She doesn’t seem very concerned about it.
I yell at Sanderson, “What the hell was that for? Just some demonstration you had to pull, you sadistic bitch?”
Sanderson’s smile goes away and her voice turns hard. “No, that’s for telling Marge Winter to call me ‘Seffie’ when you knew better.” She turns and plucks a slice of bacon and sticks it in her mouth. “Cripes, Harry,” she says in between chewing, “if someone wasn’t trying to kill you, I’d do it myself.”
Wait, what? “What do you mean, someone’s trying to kill me? Other than you, of course.”
Sanderson’s eyes narrow and she frowns. “Someone is trying to kill you, Harry. Well, maybe not you, but you’re number one on the list of possible targets.” She turns and picks up her mug of coffee. Holding it in her hands, and without looking back at me, she says, “If it makes you feel any better, Harry, I’m number three.”
End of chapter eight