“Two surgeons. A female who’s been here a spell; her pa was in the war on your side and then hooked up with the Vicksburg Redeemers battalion. She’s done well by us. T’other’s some rosy cheeked boy from California, fresh out of doctorin’ school. Got here not more’n five days back.”
“Well, I don’t mean to insult your preferences, but I grew up in a pretty civilized area. I think I’d feel more at home with the classically trained one.” I refrained from telling the old man he was crazy to go to a female surgeon. I’ve seen how steady men’s and women’s hands are when faced with gore during the Fredericksburg aftermath.
The old man made a grunting noise in the back of his throat. “I’ll set us down as close as I can get.”
It didn’t take long for the Wyrm to descend into town. Before he lowered me to the ground with the winch, the old man flew down the rope ladder and secured some tethers to keep the ship in place. I could hear a fair amount of swearing coming from his direction. At one point, he had me throw a length of free rope down to him. Once I was on the ground, I saw the problem. Phoenix wasn’t built for airships. Then again, the only US city that was built for airships was New York. To tether the Wyrm, the old man had tied ropes to horse rack-ups, the columns holding up the patio of the surgeon’s building, and an old plow. He still seemed a bit pissed as he helped me in through the back door.
The back door opened into a narrow hallway that was bounded on one side by an examination room and the other by an operating room. Towards the front of the building, the hallway opened into a reception area where the surgeon sat at a large wooden desk. It was a functional desk, but by no means as nice as one would expect of a surgeon. The wood was cheap pine and there were no drawers or tooling on the surface or legs; it looked more like a meticulously smoothed dining table than a work desk. The surgeon held a finger up in our direction in lieu of a glance. He was young, ginger haired, and wore a silly pair of round, black reading glasses. I had to wonder if he really needed them or if they were just an affectation to counter his baby face.
We stopped shamble-hopping our way towards him. He continued writing. The pause held so long that I began to wonder if he had forgotten about us. Maybe I had chosen the wrong surgeon. A wave of the nausea that had made itself known on the Wyrm came back in full force and I vomited on the floor. The wet splash caught the surgeon’s attention.
“Yes?” The surgeon had a sophisticated blue blood accent that I was used to from New England. My family was well-to-do, but didn’t flaunt it and used some of our wealth to fund social programs. Folks with the surgeon’s accent wanted people to know how much money they had and exactly how little of it would ever see the light of day.
The old man shot me a slightly amused look and then gestured to my ruined leg. “We’re havin’ a spot of trouble, Doc.”
“Yes. Take him to the room on your right. Get him on the table, I’ll be in shortly.” The man was curt and seemed displeased that we had interrupted his writing.
I noticed a diploma displayed on the wall as the old man turned us around. It proclaimed that Yancy T. Duval had completed the coursework necessary for a Doctor of Medicine at Toland Medical College in San Francisco, California a little over six months ago. Something important started to occur to me, but it was obliterated by a blast of pain as I hefted myself onto the operating table.
I looked down, expecting to see a trail of blood from the door to a rapidly expanding pool beneath my leg, but I was mistaken. The wound had been bleeding quite badly, but it seemed to have stopped at some point between the Wyrm and the operating room. That was odd. My wounds also seemed to have a burn that was working its way deeper into the flesh in addition to the pain from the ripped skin. The pain ebbed and I took a few deep breaths to regain my composure. I could feel the idea that had tried to form earlier taking shape again, I just needed to focus.
Duval opened the door. He had rolled up his sleeves and donned a crisp, white canvas apron over his clothes and a matching canvas face cover. The round glasses were gone.
“Please wait outside,” he said to the old man.
The old man hesitated for a long moment, a conflicted look on his face. “Won’t you need help holdin’ things? Or keepin’ him still?”
“I can manage just fine, thank you. I’ll keep you updated on his condition.” The surgeon turned his back on the old man and began laying out his tools on a rolling table.
The old man gave me a nod and left the room. I nodded back.
“How did you sustain these injuries?”
I exhaled slowly to calm any tremor in my voice. “I was outside the city. The old man and I-“ My words were interrupted by a groan of pain. “We were surrounded by the Menace. We took them out. The last one got me.”
“You took them out?” The surgeon seemed surprised. A flare of annoyance burnt through my pain momentarily. That hoity-toity accent sounded even more ridiculous when it was coupled with incredulity.
“Yes. It’s my job. I’m pretty good at it.”
The surgeon nodded and stayed silent for a while, before picking up a scalpel and using it to prod the flesh of my wounded leg. “So you’re the new sheriff? Wilson, is it?”
“Pleasure to meet you, Sheriff. This is going to be painful. I’m going to give you a bit the bite down on and I’ll tie your wrists so you don’t thrash about. Is that alright?”
I nodded. The nausea was back. Another deep breath.
Duval produced a leather strap from one of his apron pockets, secured it around my wrist and a slit on the table, and began lacing the ends together.
“One of the wolves did this to you, you said?”
Again a nod. The vertigo was back now, too.
“A Vicksburg grey?”
A nod. I silently prayed that his questions would end and he would begin cutting or stitching and spare me from having to devote consciousness to anything but agony. But he asked about a Vicksburg grey. The fancy dandy that attacked me wasn’t a Vicksburg grey, I began to work up the energy necessary to correct myself –
Why would he ask that? Anyone in the United States would assume I had been attacked by a Vicksburg grey; that’s all anyone knew we had here. I had just learned about non-greys today and I was no bottom of the barrel sheriff. I did tours in the south after Vicksburg. I was top of my graduating class from Topeka. The Sheriffs Bureau had sent me on more than a few vital missions, including the Dakota Territory campaign and the Red Sea Crisis.
I was staring at Duval, shock had pushed the vertigo and nausea away for the moment. He finished lacing my wrist and looked at my face. He must have seen realization there, because he backed up a foot and looked flustered. His cheeks reddened further. With my free right hand, I reached out to his instrument tray and grabbed the first thing my hand fell on – a heavy pair of pliers.
Duval snatched up the scalpel he had inspected my leg with and sliced in my direction. I countered with the pliers. There was an audible crunch as my blow connected with his fingers. The scalpel flew free and clattered on the floor.
Right then, the important realization came back to my mind: Duval graduated from Toland Medical College in San Francisco, the same city that H. Norman Price called home. Duval had also arrived recently, so recently that he easily could have left California when word got out that the Sheriffs Bureau had posted someone to Phoenix. Price had a long reach and played the long con. I made a note of that.
Duval had escaped my reach, still clutching his broken hand to his chest and whimpering quietly.
“Hey!” I yelled, hoping the old man hadn’t gone out to the Wyrm. “Get in here!”
Almost instantly I heard the knob shake. Duval had locked the door. The old man began battering the door with his body. Duval was scared, trapped. I expected him to reveal his wolf form and prepare to fight us, but instead he began hyperventilating and eying the window.
To get to the window, Duval would have to come back into my reach. Price got away and the fancy dandy was dead. Duval was my only hope for a lead. I wouldn’t let him get away. The door wouldn’t hold long against constant attack; it was splintering already. Duval trotted towards the window, keeping as much distance between us as possible. When he was at his nearest point, squeezing between a counter and the table I was lashed to, I kicked with every ounce of strength I could muster.
The kick complimented Duval’s momentum. He stumbled for a second and I was afraid he would regain his balance and open the window. Instead, the stumbled continued and Duval fell headlong into the window, cutting his arms on the breaking glass and connecting his forehead solidly with the sill. He lay still for a moment before trying feebly to push himself into a corner. Everything about him that was professional had escaped; now he was just a scared, pale-faced boy cowering under a table.
Though I kicked with my good leg, I had strained the wounded one and it was letting me know about it. I let myself relax on the operating table until the old man had broken through the door.
Things get a bit fuzzy from here. I know my leg started bleeding again. I must have ripped open whatever rapid clotting had taken place. I gave the old man my keys to the lockup in the Sheriff’s Office and he left with Duval. He came back with a pretty brunette woman in a blacksmith’s apron and the two loaded me into a wheel barrow. Everything after that is pain.