Chapter Four: 11:58 PM
Hudson Kayode was not a night owl. Never had been. Throughout his time at medical school, while his peers pulled regular all-nighters cramming for exams or blowing off the special sort of steam that those who were preparing to devote their lives to saving the lives of others could generate, he made certain that he was in bed by 10 PM at the latest. Thus, he could rise with the sun, cook himself breakfast, and enjoy an early morning jog all before his fellow students had even begun to drag themselves away from the clutches of jealous slumber.
Even past his graduation and through his residency at one of Crown’s many emergency medical clinics, Hudson always held down the early-bird shifts; after all, plenty of accidents happened during the morning, especially to those attempting to perform dangerous duties while suffering from lethargy. The work of a medical professional was fraught and stressful, but Hudson knew that a tired body led to a tired mind, and a tired mind was a mind that made mistakes. He tried to share his strategies with his colleagues, even offered to spreadsheet out sleep charts that properly optimized the clinicians’ schedules to ensure the maximum possible quality of care, but when by and large they preferred to engage in their all-night daredevilry and romantic notions of pushing past the breaking point, Hudson could only make sure to take care of himself.
Thus, when Hudson Kayode, hair done up in his silk sleeping cap and his nightly glass of chamomile tea long drunk, was awoken by a pair of heavily-bleeding young adults tapping on his tenth-floor apartment window, he had every reason to believe he was dreaming. The fact that the pair had just held him up a scant few months previous only contributed to the likeliness that it was some sort of bizarre nightmare. When the girl with the broken nose slid open his locked window with practiced ease, it was only the loud thump of their bodies collapsing onto his bedroom rug that shocked the doctor into the realization that this was, in fact, reality.
“Heeeeey, doc,” said the young man, shakily regaining his footing. Hudson yelped and leapt from his bed, tripping on the way and face planting on his own floor.
“No, shit, wait, please,” said the young woman. Hudson staggered back upright, snatching up the baseball bat that gathered dust leant up against his bedside table and held it out like a holy symbol to ward them away.
“What do you want?” he asked, the end of his bat wavering between the two bloody youngsters. Both of them slowly raised their hands in surrender, and he reached behind him to pull the cord of his bedside lamp. The pair winced at the sudden burst of light, and Hudson’s eyes widened.
“Oh Bragi, that’s your blood, isn’t it?” The young man nodded ruefully.
“Got into a bit of trouble tonight, doc,” he said. He had an ugly shiner developing, and the way he was holding up his hands screamed ‘dislocated shoulder’ to Hudson’s keen gaze. “We need help, and not the kind that ends up in the guard getting called.”
Hudson narrowed his eyes.
“How do you know I’m not going to call the guard?” He asked. The girl shrugged.
“Because you didn’t last time,” she said. Her mouth and chin were drenched in blood, soaking her shirt, and Hudson counted at least a score of other cuts riddling her face and hands, plus a deep red stain spreading from a wound in her abdomen.
“You had every right to,” she continued, “But you didn’t. Maybe you liked the thrill of helping a couple of gangsters. Maybe you saw something in us deserving of help. Hell, maybe you just forgot. But you didn’t call them then, and we’re hoping you won’t call them now. If you do, a young woman is going to die because we won’t be able to save her.”
A long, heavy moment passed between the three. In the distance, a siren screamed in the night as the guard finally acknowledged the chaos that had unfurled on Backwater Lane. Hudson slowly lowered his bat.
“This is the last time that this happens,” he said. Kieran and Deacon grinned and he glared. “I’m serious. Once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence. Do not let this become a habit.” The doctor stomped past the pair and into his living room, motioning for them to follow. He pointed to Deacon.
“You look less injured. Go pull down the curtain from my shower and drape it over the sofa; I don’t want bloodstains.” Hudson put his hands on his hips and sighed. “You’re both going to tell me what happened and what is going on with this girl you say you need to save.”
Deacon nodded and disappeared into the bathroom as Hudson opened up a cabinet in the kitchenette. From it, he produced a large square nylon bag emblazoned with an arcing silver crescent. Kieran swayed in place on the carpet and gestured at it.
“Hey, I know that one,” she said. “You religious?” Hudson looked down at the bag and chuckled.
“Not to her, not particularly,” he said. “My family venerates the Brothers Three, personally, but the university I attended had a medical program run by a retired Harvestman. He was always going on and on about how the best doctoring was done by moonlight; caused a fair bit of friction between us, honestly.”
“Why’s that?” asked Kieran. Hudson opened his mouth to answer, but then Deacon returned from the bathroom with a large burnt-orange shower curtain. The doctor waved a hand.
“It’s not important right now,” said Hudson. He waved them over to a recently-reupholstered sofa with the absolute optimal amount of stuffing in the cushions. “What’s more pressing is that I get an idea of your condition.”
Deacon spread out the shower curtain to blanket as much as the sofa as possible, and then he and Kieran collapsed onto it. Hudson pulled a number of instruments out of his doctor’s bag and began inspecting the two of them. As he worked, the doctor did two things of note.
First, he asked questions. Their names, first, and then more directly he asked them about the events of the night up until Kieran and Deacon had clambered their way up to his window. His voice was light as he asked, tone conversational, and the Cousins Quick found themselves easily and readily telling the doctor the answers to any and every question that he might have. In the moment, it seemed perfectly reasonable to recount the night’s adventures in perfect detail, and neither cousin thought to question it. Perhaps that was because of the second thing he did.
The second thing that Hudson Kayode did was hum. He hummed the strains of an old song, older than Crown, older even than the ancient city whose bones that Crown was built upon. It was a song as old as the foundations of the world, and though Hudson Kayode knew only half of half of half of the words, the melody still carried power. It washed over the Cousins Quick, dulling the pain of their wounds and loosening their tongues like the smoothest whiskey. Deacon’s eyes fluttered as he realized the enchantment that had been laid upon them.
“A smith-song,” he mumbled. Hudson ignored him for the moment and shook his head grimly.
“The Unquiet,” he grumbled. “I’ve seen a few examples of their handiwork, though the few victims that come to the clinic never name them. They’re cold in their work, though; bones are broken cleanly and bruises stop just before they become incapacitating. If they want to do more than that, I hear they just kill you.”
He shone a little penlight in both of Kieran’s eyes and furrowed his brow.
“What is it, Doc?” asked Kieran.
“Nothing, I’m sure,” replied the doctor. He began rummaging through his bag. “Disrobe, please. I need to get at those cuts.”
Deacon and Kieran acquiesced. As he began to move his shoulder to remove his shirt, Deacon hissed in pain that lanced even through the doctor’s lullaby. Hudson’s head snapped over to look more closely at Deacon’s arm.
“Kaldr’s tongs, young man, did you climb up here with a dislocated shoulder?”
“I had… help,” said Deacon through gritted teeth. Hudson shook his head and shifted over to Deacon’s side.
“Help or no, that’s a ludicrous thing to do. I’m shocked I wasn’t awoken by you screaming in pain, trying a stunt like that. Here, look over at my bookshelf, can you read the spine of the blue book?”
“Yeah, that’s The Adventures of the Brothers Garza, but I don’t see what–” Deacon finished his sentence with a guttural curse as Hudson popped his shoulder back into place.
“Dirty pool, doc,” he gasped. Hudson shrugged and went back to looking at Kieran. With her shirt and flannel gone, the taut muscles of her torso were more evident, ridges throwing dark shadows in the dim light of Hudson Kayode’s tiny living room. Still, the doctor paused. He pulled another lamp close and flicked it on, tilting his head as he peered at Kieran.
“See something you like, doc?” she asked. Hudson blushed and looked away, snatching up Kieran’s ragged t-shirt to inspect it.
“This is covered in blood and full of holes,” he said. “Judging by this, you should have at least a few dozen lacerations, not to mention this large stab wound on your abdomen.”
Kieran looked down at herself, holding up her arms to inspect them more closely. She was covered in spatters of blood, It was true; however, as she rubbed the dry flecks of it off, the flesh beneath was whole and unmarred. She furrowed her brow and Hudson clicked his tongue.
“Look, you said you were pierced in the stomach by a knife-sized piece of wood, right?” Hudson placed a hand on her abdomen, where the angry wound still glistened in the lamplight.
“That’s still there,” she said. The doctor nodded.
“Yes, and I’ll still need to treat it; your ribs, too. But!” he held up a finger. “If you had asked me, without any information, I would have guessed this was a wound several hours old that had reopened, not something that was inflicted less than an hour ago!”
Kieran looked down at herself for a long moment.
“…Huh,” she said. Deacon shrugged.
“We’ve always been pretty fast healers,” he said. “Remember that time I broke my finger ‘cause I tried to stick it in your pistol’s ejection port?”
“Oh yeah, you were back on the piano that night,” said Kieran. Hudson looked between the two of them in disbelief.
“It is my expert medical opinion that you are a pair of nonsense people,” he said. Both of them laughed. Hudson shook his head. “Unbelievable.” Sighing, he continued to pull out tools and gauze and ointments from his bag.
“Well, you’re durable, that much is clear. Still, it sounds like you might as well be home free from this,” he continued. “After all, you didn’t want to be saddled with this young woman’s burden, and if the Unquiet have hold of her, the wizard’s troll will have to contend with them instead. Why not just cut and run, while you have the chance?”
His tone was casual, but the eyes that flicked up to meet theirs as he worked were scrutinizing. Under his breath, he began to hum again.
The Cousins Quick looked at each other for a long moment Deacon raised his eyebrows with a smirk. Kieran scoffed and rolled her eyes, turning her head to address Hudson.
“That’s just not how we do things, doc,” she said.
“Oh?” asked Hudson, eyeing her carefully. Kieran sighed.
“I made a promise. I told her she was gonna be safe.” Her fingers curled into fists. “When I tell someone that something is gonna happen, then by the gods I’m gonna make it happen. I don’t make promises I don’t intend to keep.”
Deacon chuckled, leaning over to put an arm around his cousin’s shoulders.
“It’s not just pride, either, doc. As stoic as she tries to be, our girl Kieran just can’t stomach it when somebody’s in danger what doesn’t deserve to be. Betsy might have pinched that ring from Fortun, but she had no way of knowing the lengths the bastard was gonna go to to get it back; even less way of knowing Roswell goddamn Dunne was after it, too.”
“She’s a normal person,” said Kieran, softly. “She’s just a normal girl in over her head, and I’m gonna make sure she lives to learn from her mistake.”