Witiko Falls: Disillusion

Agent Schofeld, Case File 2.02

10.09.1998, Friday afternoon

GM: Six hours after he’s booked Brook, the vending machines of Mount Pelion General are, like Hudson’s wallet, markedly poorer. Still, the caffeine- and sugar-fueled wave allows him to ride out the sleepless hours parked inside Moe’s recovery room.

Shunted from the surgery ward to MPGH’s intensive care unit, Hudson and Maxwell–as well as their unconscious, double amputee captive–have witnessed a murder a minute, with the serial victim being time.

“He looks like the Grim Reaper used him for toilet paper,” Hudson’s red-haired subordinate says, after the latest of rotating nurses cycles in, confirms that Moses is still alive, and defers unctuously that it will be up to the physicians to “determine when and if the patient will be fit for long-distance transportation.”

“Kinda wish we had flushed him, though,” Maxwell adds. “Would save the courts and taxpayers a whole lot of money. Not to mention our time.”

Hudson: “Maybe, Max. Can’t say I’d particularly like to be him right now,” the mustachioed marshal grunts. “No arms isn’t a fun way to go through life.”

GM: Maxwell grunts. Yet, despite his verbal grousing, the man seems content enough as he flips though a pamphlet from the Fish and Wildlife Services about local angling hot-spots. “No matter how it shakes out, I say we’ve got at least a couple years of ‘disarming’ jokes from the affair.”

Hudson: “We disarmed him because he wouldn’t comply with instructions when we said ‘hands up’. Only showed us one hand,” the tired-eyed marshal fires back, thought it comes out with as much sizzle as spark. The morbid humor under circumstances like these is endemic to all lawmen. Part of how they cope.

GM: Maxwell chuckles with the same tired, grim humor. “Yep, there’s no need to worry, as the fugitive is unarmed.” He then taps the pamphlet. “You ever fished for kokanee? Sockeye salmon around here, that have mutated or evolved from being landlocked in alpine lakes. I’ve never fished for salmon in a lake.”

Hudson: Hudson simultaneously chews over that factoid along with a plump lip. “Might get your chance here, if we stay long enough.” He then blandly comments, “The fish at least seem normal.”

GM: Maxwell seems to have peaked up as the conversation turns to fish. “Why, you heard something?”

Hudson: “More what I haven’t heard. All the other animals here are mad as Moe when we blew off his arm. Back in the ’50s, I had an uncle who once scared me, talking about lobotomy patients. Walking zombies, he called them. One nick with the scalpel to the right spot on your head, and you go dead inside.” There’s a tired smile. “Parents could do it to bad little boys and girls, he said. I never met a lobotomite in my life until a few days ago, though. She was a cow.”

GM: Maxwell cranes his head. “Come again?”

Hudson: “A cow,” Hudson answers with that same smile. “She had four legs, black and white spots over her body, and an udder you could milk. I like to think her name was Betsy. Only thing she didn’t have was a bell around her neck that went ‘clang’. The Britters lobotomized Betsy and every other cow on their farm, you see. I can only presume to make them less aggressive. Angry enough cow could hurt someone pretty bad if it made up its mind to. That’s what farmers have to do here, just to milk the animals without getting kicked in the face.”

GM: Hudson can see his subordinate’s brain chewing on the tale and struggling like it’s a piece of fatty meat. “That’s really weird, Hudson.”

Hudson: “It is,” Hudson replies. A frown creases his wide-jowled face as he peels off the wrapper off his Snickers bar.

GM: “So I guess we should avoid the local burger joints in town,” Maxwell says in summary. “Just to be safe.”

Hudson: “Takes ‘mad cow disease’ to a new level, doesn’t it?” the marshal remarks, but his brow doesn’t un-furrow. “It’s a strange town, Max. A very strange town. But as far as I know, your salmon are normal.”

GM: “Maybe we both better stick to the vending machines,” he says, setting down the fishing pamphlet. “Better safe than sorry. Speaking of which, you want anything? I’d like to stretch my legs, call Nancy and check in on the kids.”

Hudson: The look on Hudson’s face isn’t quite a macabre grin. But there’s definitely the shadow of one as the fat marshal produces no less than four additional candy bars from his replacement coat’s pocket.

“To save me the added trips,” he drawls. “But go give the family a call. I could go for some actual food too, if you can scrounge anything edible in this hospital.” Hudson gives a grunt. “My little man tells me these people didn’t splurge on the cafeteria.”

GM: Maxwell gives a half–nod at his boss’ self–deprecating admission. “Thanks, Hudson. I was scheduled to coach Ted’s Pop Warner game today at five.” He looks up at the clock. “That’s clearly not going to happen. But I’ll see what I can do about a real meal.” As he heads out, he adds, “But no burgers or steaks.”

Hudson: Such is the nature of their job. They’ve both missed more than one planned family outing. “If those didn’t kill me, Nora would,” Hudson remarks dryly. “Candy does a good enough job at that already, you ask her.”

GM: Maxwell halts mid-doorway. “You call her yet? Check in on the grandkids?”

Hudson: The fat marshal nods between the first crunch of his Snickers bar. “She sent her love. Glad we saved the boys. Thankful nobody died. Alex was glad we put away the bad guys. Emma says I should’ve lost my arm instead to lose some pounds.”

“Don’t think an arm would do it though. Not enough anyways. A fat chicken’s still a fat chicken, even if you lose a drumstick,” Hudson remarks between another satisfying crunch.

GM: Maxwell shakes his head. “You’re a better man than me. I’m so glad Nancy and I just have boys. I wouldn’t do well raising girls. Especially a teenage girl.”

Hudson: “They’re handfuls. Trick is to not let them know. Every time she calls me fat, I find a way to call myself fatter. She runs out of steam eventually.” There’s another crunch of the candy bar. “She and that Brook kid would get along.”

GM: “Why’s that? She need to spend a night in the slammer?”

Hudson: “It might lend her some perspective,” Hudson remarks blandly.

GM: He chuckles. “I once threatened Bobby I’d haul him to jail if he didn’t clean his room.”

Hudson: There’s an answering chortle back. “You should’ve told me that trick when they were younger.”

GM: “I was lucky he didn’t call my bluff.”

Hudson: “Luckier than me. Emma would shout that a judge would throw that right out.” Another weary smile. “I’d fire back that I could still hold her without a warrant. For a little while anyway. Maybe trump up a resisting arrest charge for arguing.”

GM: Max just shakes his head again. “Boys are so much easier.” He hikes a thumb, indicating the hallway. “Be back in a bit, Hudson. Radio me if Moe starts any trouble, but if you ask me, he looks pretty h–armless…”

Hudson: “I don’t think I’ll need a hand. He may though.”

GM: Maxwell laughs as he leaves Hudson to his charge.

That charge, unconscious and hooked up to an oxygen mask and various intravenous drips, continues to breathe as thinly as a shallow grave.

Hudson: Hudson tries to get more comfortable in his seat. What was it that girl he overheard on the way in called them—‘brainchildren of a sadistic chiropractor from hell’? Well, at least he’s just sitting on something out of hell.

You, my friend, are lying well inside its gates.

“I’m sorry about your arm,” he remarks aloud. “I’m sure that means precisely diddly-squat to you even if you could hear me. It’d mean squat to me if I’d lost my arms.” The fat marshal rolls his shoulders. “That’s how it is.”

“I’ve put away my share of people in my time. Some mean well but are just dumb—or fifteen, same thing—like Brook. And some are sick fucks who want to cut up young boys like you. But I’ve put away enough of them not to take a case personally. I’m glad you’ll be behind bars, or at least inside a padded room.”

“I wouldn’t re-do last night if you gave me the chance. We were damn lucky no one died. I consider your arm an acceptable price for a life. For possibly several lives. It doesn’t change the way things are either. You didn’t have to lose both arms for this,” Hudson motions with the candy bar to his comatose form, “to happen. I’d have preferred that you didn’t. I’m sorry that you did.”

“And that’s how it is,” the marshal finishes between another crunch of the Snickers bar.

GM: Moe’s insensate almost-cadaver offers no reply to Hudson’s existential apology save for another series of slow, feeble gasps that fog up his oxygen mask.

In contrast, the room’s phone replies with an electronic ring that rouses Hudson, but not Moe, from the audio monotony of mastication and medical equipment.

Hudson: He swallows the last of his bite, spares the comatose patient a last glance, and reaches to pick up the phone. “Schofeld.”

GM: “Hudson, oh thank goodness,” comes the voice of his wife, Elenora, from the receiver. “I was just sure they were going to connect me to the wrong room.” There is a pause as marshal hears the aerosol-sound of applied hairspray. “Now, Hudson, you know how I don’t like bothering you at work, but… there’s a situation here at home, and I simply don’t know what to do.”

“As I told you last week, I’m hosting a dinner party for the Rotarian wives. The ladies and I will planning our yearly holiday fundraising event. And just between you and I, Hudson, this might be the year Mrs. Bledsoe doesn’t get her way.”

Hudson: “Nora.” Hudson smiles at hearing his wife’s voice. There’s some relief too. Moses might be little more than a limp piece of meat right now, but it’s been a harrowing night. And it’s a very strange town. The marshal’s little man isn’t screaming ‘fire!’ but he’s been pacing anxiously. There’s something about…

“We all don’t get our way at some point, dear. I suppose this will be the point Mrs. Bledsoe doesn’t. Now what’s the situation?”

GM: “It’s the grandkids, Hudson. Well, one of them really. I’m just at my wits’ end.”

Hudson: His little man spotted that one coming too. He’d hoped for a moment it was otherwise when Nora brought up her fundraising-planning dinner. But his little man isn’t often wrong.

“All right, what’s Emma gotten up to?”

GM: “Emma?” Elenora echoes. “Oh, no, it’s not her. Although now that you mention it, she has been nagging me about enrolling her in a drivers’ education program. Well, you aren’t going to believe this, Hudson, but the program happens after school, and to add insult to injury, they make you pay them. I told her that there must be a mistake, because when we and her father went to school, drivers’ education always happened in school and free of charge. Well, I won’t tell you what she said to that, but it was not very respectful. Can you believe that?”

Hudson: “I can.” Hudson grunts. “They’re saddling kids with more schoolwork these days. More activities. More everything. Guess driver’s ed got the axe.”

GM: “Well, I think that’s just ridiculous. We really ought to get more involved with the school board, Hudson.”

Hudson: “Maybe we should. For now not much we can do except pay for it or teach her ourselves.”

GM: “Well, I’m still going to make a call on Monday,” she replies with another blast of hairspray.

Hudson: “By all means, dear. Schools these days keep pushing kids faster and harder. Don’t give them a chance to just be kids.”

GM: Hudson can almost hear Nora purse her lips in a frown. “Yes, well about kids being kids… it’s Alex.”

Hudson: Hudson frowns. That’s atypical. “Alex? What is it?”

GM: After a moment, his wife whispers into the phone, “Hudson, I found him in his bedroom. He was…”

Hudson: The hairs on the back of his neck raise as the marshal leans forward in his seat. “He was what, Nora?”

Let it just be masturbating.

GM: It sounds as if his wife is cupping the phone transmitter as she whisper-shouts, “He was putting on eyeliner!”

Hudson: “Eyeliner?” Hudson frowns, though his little man un-tenses.

GM: “When I caught him, he totally clamped up. Then, he yelled that I wouldn’t understand and pushed me out of the room. Actually pushed. Since then, he’s been refusing to come out of his room. Frankly, at this point, I don’t know what to do. Part of me wouldn’t mind if he just stayed in his room all night, but then, I’m afraid he’s going to purposefully ruin my dinner by rushing out in a dress.”

Hudson: Hudson’s frown remains in place. “Well, kids these days are into some pretty odd stuff. Adults too. Why, I think it’s popular for some of the punk and, what’s it called, ‘industrial’ bands to put on eyeliner. And a lot more. Can hardly tell which of their members are men and which are women. They take it off after their shows though. Is he into that kind of music?”

GM: “I don’t know, but now that you mention it, he has been listening to his walkman with headphones a lot. I just assumed he was listening to those books on CDs we got from the library. See, I knew you would know what to do. Do you think he’s a deviant?”

Hudson: “I wouldn’t go that far, Nora. Kids just want to fluster grown-ups by doing shocking things. They grow out of it. Even faster if they don’t see it getting to us.”

GM: “So, what, we let him walk around with eyeliner? What will the neighbors say? And what if wants to, I don’t know, start putting on lipstick? No, Hudson, you need to fix them. Straighten him out, man to man.”

Hudson: “It doesn’t sound like Alex wants to walk outside his room if he was that flustered over you catching him,” Hudson observes. He frowns a little more. Maybe it isn’t just over music. “I’ll talk with him when I get home. Until then, I think we’re safe with the neighbors.”

GM: “Emma!” Nora calls at the same time. “Please come here and take the phone to Alex. Your grandfather wants to speak to him.”

“Now, Emma!” she calls again, this time a bit louder.

Hudson: Hudson looks down at Moe upon hearing his wife’s ‘alternative’ idea.“All right, we can do it now,” he considers. “Alex will still be embarrassed around you. Talking to me and his sister could help draw him out of his shell.”

GM: A few seconds later, Hudson hears the cordless phone exchanging hands. “Take the phone to Alex. Your grandfather wants to speak with him.”

“I heard you the first time. I’m not deaf,” comes Emma’s distant retort.

“Well, sometimes it is hard to tell when you don’t answer or respond.”

“Whatever.”

A few footsteps later, Hudson hears his granddaughter speak into the phone. “Grandma says you’re in the hospital. What happened, your belly finally pop?”

Hudson: “Nah, I’m checking in early to let the doctors pop it. Figure if that’s inevitable I might as well do it with a medical team around.”

GM: “While they do the operation, I hope they also shave off that ridiculous mustache. It’s a health hazard–to anyone looking at it.”

Hudson: “That’s why I wear it. Made the bad guy I was chasing clamp up in horror while my deputies cuffed him.”

GM: “Yeah, right,” she says, unimpressed, then adds, “When are you coming home?”

Hudson: “I hope soon, but not sure. He’s in pretty bad shape. Whenever the doctors say he’s well enough for transport back to Boise. Or decide that he’ll never be.” Hudson spares another glance for the armless war vet.

GM: More doesn’t reciprocate the gesture. His bruised eyes seem as comatose as the rest of him.

“I thought you were a big shot with deputies at your beck and call,” Emma continues. “Can’t you get somebody else to babysit a dying man?”

Hudson: Hudson would shake his head if he wasn’t talking over the phone. “Cas and Curtis are taking some well-deserved rest. That leaves me and Max.”

GM: “Four cops to handle a guy the docs don’t even think will make it? No wonder the national debt is so high.”

Hudson: “Yeah, Max thought it’d save the taxpayers a few bucks if we’d just shot him dead. You like, I can smother him with his pillow.”

GM: “I think you’re trying to be funny again.”

Hudson: “Maybe one day I’ll even succeed,” Hudson deadpan-answers. “We’re three cops to handle a dying man the docs don’t even think will make it, anyway. One of us needs to get the warrant for someone else we arrested.”

GM: “What’d they do, bump into your fat belly?”

Hudson: “They did, in a manner of speaking. He’s a boy of fifteen, your very age. He ran off to bring in the bad guy on his own and scared everyone half to death.”

GM: “So you arrested a kid my age. Am I supposed to be impressed or scared?” She adds, “Because I’m not.”

Hudson: “I’m glad to hear that. It wasn’t particularly impressive, and I wouldn’t want to scare you.” The smile is audible in Hudson’s next words. “He reminded me of you, in a few ways.”

GM: “Whatever. I’m sure he’s not your number 1 fan, so at least we’ve got that in common. Anyways, as interesting as it is hearing about you babysitting and arresting teenagers, I want a license. And a car.”

Hudson: “License sounds like a good thing. Your grandmother and I have talked about that. It’s too bad schools don’t teach it as a free class anymore, so looks like an after-school elective is the way to do it. Getting a car sounds good too. Won’t be too much longer until you’re able to work and help save up for one.”

GM: “Save up for one? You’re kidding, right? Let’s be real, that would take years. This is why you go to work. Make the big bucks babysitting and locking up teenagers. Working weekends, overnight. Becky Herschell’s parents just bought her a band new Nissan Micra, and her dad does like marketing or stuff. Home every weekend.”

Hudson: “Your grandmother and I could help with the initial down payment,” Hudson remarks, though his tone sounds more contemplative than conceding. “We’ll talk over what you might be able to do in exchange.”

GM: “Heather Pruett’s parents are leasing her a Ford Focus, just two years old, and they’re covering the monthly bill, insurance, and gas. All of it. Heather’s dad does commercial photography. Do you even get paid overtime?”

Hudson: “Lucky Heather Pruett. Un-luckily, your name’s Emma Schofeld.” Hudson smiles a bit. “Marshals do get overtime. Since I’m a sanctimonious old man, I want you to appreciate the work that goes into buying something like a car, and blah blah teach responsibility blah. So I think we can start with you getting a job and helping to make some of the down payment.”

GM: “So in other words, it sucks to be a Schofeld. Tell me something new. Or better yet, how about you spread some of that special Schofeld sunshine to someone else?”

Hudson: Hudson chuckles at that. “Something new? All right. The kid I arrested apologized for the trouble he caused me. Said he didn’t want any bad blood between us. That was a first. You might take something from it.”

GM: “Whatever.” Hudson hears a loud bang on a door. “Open up, it’s the fat police.”

“Go away, Emma!” issues muffled Alex’s voice through the door.

“Open up, dweeb, it’s Grandpa.”

“Grandpa? He’s back?”

“God you’re so stupid. No, he’s on the phone.”

“Oh… well I don’t want to talk… now.”

“Look, Alex, I don’t care if you talk to him or not. All I promised to do was pass you the phone. So open up before I tell them about last Wednesday.”

It doesn’t take long before Hudson hears the door open, and the phone get exchanged yet again before the door is shut and relocked. “Hi,” says the preteen boy in a sullen voice that makes him seem simultaneously younger and older than his twelve winters.

Hudson: Hudson listens to the exchange between the kids with a slight frown. He doesn’t care if Emma mouths him off, but her little brother is another matter. Still, Alex sounds like he’s got other things on his mind. “Hi, Alex. Emma giving you a hard time?” Hudson asks.

GM: “No.”

Hudson: “Mmm.” Hudson chews his lip for a moment, then asks conversationally, “My guess is no to this question too, but you ever see a lobotomy patient?”

GM: “Huh?”

Hudson: “A lobotomy is a medical procedure you can perform on someone,” Hudson explains. “You nick the right spot on somebody’s head with a scalpel, and they turn into a living zombie. Lobotomies were more popular back in the ‘50s. My uncle sometimes got a kick out of telling me my parents would give me one, if I didn’t clean my room or take out the trash. Turn me into a zombie.”

It’s the second time Hudson has told this story today—actually, in the past hour—but if the shoe fits…

“I met my first lobotomy patient yesterday. One of those living zombies. She was a cow. A moo cow. She had an udder you could milk and black and white spots all over her body. I like to think her name was Betsy. Betsy the lobotomized moo-cow.”

“Like I said, she was a zombie. You could walk up to her, clap your hands in her face, scream in her ear, tug her udder, and she wouldn’t so much as blink. You think most cows have vacant looks in their eyes, well, you should have seen Betsy. It was pretty weird.”

GM: “So… you’re saying, you saw a… zombie cow?”

Hudson: Hudson chuckles. “Oh, not just one zombie cow. The Britters—the family I visited—had an entire farm of cows. And each and every one of them was a zombie.”

GM: “Whoa, so like, an army of zombie cows.”

Hudson: “If lightning struck the farmhands would have to herd them all in. Because they would just stand there and get electrocuted.”

GM: “That’s… that’s so cool, Grandpa.”

Hudson: Hudson laughs. “The job has its perks. You see some interesting things.”

GM: “I’d like to see that.”

Hudson: “Tell you what, after I’m home, we can drive back out to Witiko Falls if you’d still like to.” He continues, “But you know, in some ways, the zombie cows actually weren’t the most remarkable thing I saw there. It was the people. Let’s take the Britters, the family who owned the zombie cows.”

GM: “Really?” Alex asks dubiously.

Hudson: “Yep. The Britters were just like you and me. Mr. Britter liked to drink beer and watch TV. His teenage daughter liked to spend too much time on the phone chatting with her friends. An entire army of zombie cows right outside their windows, and it was as ordinary to them as the sun rising might be to you or me. The truth is, Alex, it’s not just that people can get used to just about anything.”

GM: “Maybe,” the boy says, without much confidence.

Hudson: “We’re all a little weird inside. Some of us wear it on the outside. That frightens some people, because it makes them face the fact that they’re a little weird too, somehow. I was pretty alarmed by those zombie cows at first. So were my deputies. We thought they were really, really weird. But the Britters didn’t once bat an eye over them. After a while, I started to feel a little foolish for such a big deal about things. So I gave a shrug, stopped paying attention to the zombie cows, and my team and I nabbed the bad guy we’d been sent after. And now I’m here, talking to you over the phone about zombie cows, and finding them the most ordinary things in the world.”

“Whatever’s on your mind, Alex, I’m gonna guess it’s even less weird than an army of zombie cows.”

GM: “Grandpa… I hate it here.”

Hudson: “Here in Idaho, next to LA?”

GM: “Maybe,” the boys says.

Hudson: “Or because of Grandma and your sister?”

GM: “What? Oh no, they’re… ok.”

Hudson: “It can be a lot of things. There’s a lot of reasons somebody can hate a place.”

GM: “I miss my old fa… friends.”

Hudson: “I think you miss them both, Alex,” Hudson says quietly. “I miss your old family too. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about your dad.”

GM: The phone line is silent, save for Alex’s tight breathing.

Hudson: “It’s okay for you to miss them. Your grandma misses them. Your sister does too, no matter what she might say.”

GM: “I… hate them.” The preteen’s voice breaks, and Hudson can almost feel the heat of fresh tears.

Hudson: “That’s not weird to feel either, Alex. Lot of the time, people we hate are people we’ve loved. When they punch us, it hurts a million times as bad. We swear that we’ll never, ever forgive them, for making us hurt so bad.”

GM: “Sometimes, Grandpa… I, I hate myself. But I don’t know why.”

Hudson: “It could be you feel bad for hating your mom and dad, after they’ve loved you so much.” Despite his words, the marshal’s vigilant gaze hasn’t wavered from his comatose patient.

GM: “Does… does that make me a bad person?” Alex’s voice is rough and fragile.

Hudson: “No, Alex. Not ever,” Hudson says softly. “You don’t hate them. Not really.”

GM: “What if I do!” Alex yells, then breaks down and begins to sob.

Hudson: “Oh, you’re angry at them. Maybe angrier than you’ve ever been over something. You loved them, they loved you, and then they hurt you. Sometimes, Alex…” Hudson closes his eyes for a moment, then continues more quietly, if not fervently, “sometimes accidents happen. Terrible, tragic accidents, beyond anything we can possibly predict or control. Accidents that hurt the people we love, no matter how much we might not want to.”

“And just to confuse things even more, we don’t always get to know when it’s an accident. Sometimes we’re left in the dark, horribly wondering, did they mean to hurt us, or was it an accident.”

GM: Around Hudson, the chorus of medical equipment and Moe’s ragged breathing punctuate the marshal’s words.

Hudson: “There’s a name, for… times like that. ‘Long, dark nights of the soul.’ Where we have to look inside ourselves, and decide if we want to love or hate, from only what’s there.”

GM: “Grandpa, I don’t understand. Nobody here understands. Everybody knows, but nobody understands. It’d be so much easier if nobody knew…”

Hudson: “It would be easier. Be easiest of all if they weren’t gone.” Hudson sighs. “I wish I could make things easier for you and your sister. I don’t think I can make them that easy. But I can offer this:”

“Both of your parents, wherever they are, whatever accident might have happened, love the two of you. Very, very much. And knowing how bad you are hurting hurts them just as bad.”

GM: Alex is quiet for a while in the wake of Hudson’s words. He sniffles once, twice, then speaks: “Grandpa… can you promise me something?”

Hudson: “Name it, kiddo.”

GM: Hudson hears the sounds of a sleeve wipe before Alex speaks up. “Grandpa… I know, I know he’s your son, but my dad… if you ever find a lead, promise me you’ll hunt it down.”

Hudson: “I promise, Alex, on my marshal’s star, that I will hunt any leads I find on your father to the ends of the earth,” Hudson answers solemnly.

Moses’ promise might have asked him to break another. But Mary’s didn’t, and neither does this one.

GM: Alex’s reply lacks Hudson’s solemnity of words, but not its sincerity. “Okay.”

Hudson: “Okay,” Hudson echoes. “Can you do me a favor too? It’s for your grandma, and I don’t know if I can manage on my own.”

GM: “Okay,” Alex repeats, at least in regards to his willingness to hear Hudson out as much as agreement for the unnamed favor. There’s another sniffle, but the boy’s voice is steady again.

Hudson: “Your grandma says you shoved her and won’t come out of your room. She’s worried about you.” Hudson’s tone is more soft than blaming as he continues, “She’s worried she might have made you angry. There was also something about walking in on you wearing eyeliner. Or was it listening to satanic music?” Hudson sounds unsure so that Alex can feel like he’s controlling the narrative, but then audibly chuckles. “It all seems equally boring to me after an army of zombie cows, I have to admit. But you mind explaining whatever it was so that we can calm her down?”

GM: “I-I didn’t mean to push her, Grandpa. It just… happened.” It’s a line the long-time lawman has heard a thousand times.

Hudson: “She isn’t hurt, Alex,” Hudson says calmly. “In fact, she’s worried she might have hurt you.”

GM: “I’ll apologize, Grandpa. It won’t happen again.”

Hudson: “That’s good enough for me,” Hudson says at a point where the boy can probably picture him nodding. “You remember what I said earlier, about all of us being weird?”

GM: Moe’s electronically monitored heart-rate counts out the seconds of silence before Alex simply replies, “Yeah.”

Hudson: “And how I thought those zombie cows were so weird at first, but the Britters didn’t so much as blink over them, and made me feel like the silly one for getting so worked up? Whatever got you upset when your grandma walked in, I’m going to bet was a whole lot less weird than an army of zombie cows.”

GM: There’s another cardiac count-down before Alex replies, “She doesn’t understand.”

Hudson: “I’m sure of that. Maybe we can help her if you can help me.”

GM: Another pause. “Can we talk about it when you get home? I promise not to mess up her party.” The boy’s last comment contain a prick of irritation, but seem all the more sincere to the cop and family man.

Hudson: “All right. That’s good enough for me too.” Hudson pauses. “Oh, there’s also a second favor you can do for me.” He doesn’t let the silence stretch for long before he answers, “Will you tell your sister that I love her? I didn’t get a chance before she passed me along.” He laughs, “And yes, I know she’s going to roll her eyes, pantomime barfing, or just say she doesn’t. But I’d still like you to.”

GM: “Sure, Grandpa. You know… she does love you. Just doesn’t want to say it. Makes, makes her feel bad. Like weak.”

Hudson: “I know she does, Alex. She still wanted me to come home soon. Lot of girls her age are the same way. But it still makes me feel better hearing that from you.”

GM: “Yeah, okay,” says the boy in odd synchrony with Moe’s heartbeat.

Hudson: Hudson’s eyes continue to rest on the comatose patient his team put halfway into the grave. Maybe more than half. Still, Hudson won’t himself get too distracted while he’s the only man on watch. It’s just a matter of principle.

“I love you too, Alex. Do me a third favor and pass the phone back to your grandmother?” That’ll help defuse the awkwardness. Get them back in the same room without having to talk to each other.

GM: Alex’s acquiescence is slower this third time, but it eventually reaches Hudson’s ears–as does the sound of someone outside Moses’ recovery room. In short order, Hudson hears multiple doors opening, one back in Boise, the other in Witiko Falls. From the latter door, a nurse appears, one Hudson hasn’t seen before. Or at least one he thinks he hasn’t seen before, but then a fragmentary memory flashes almost more in his gut than brain.

She had been part of the surgical team. A hitchcock blonde, he–or perhaps his little man–had thought. Hudson had caught a glimpse of the bombshell delivering an injection into one of Moses’ IV lines amidst the prolix actions of the large surgical team. Honestly, if not for the woman’s atomic blonde hair and barbie doll curves, Hudson likely wouldn’t have noticed, much less remembered. Those same features once again draw Hudson’s attention as the Hitchcock-blonde nurse enters the room and inspects the armless patient and the myriad equipment sustaining and monitoring his thread-bare hold on life.

“Hudson?” comes Nora’s voice from the phone’s receiver. “Hudson, are you there?”

Hudson: Hudson’s little man abruptly twists in his stomach.

Dangerous. Not working alone.

“Let Alex go to his room. Gotta call back.” Hudson kills the line. He then sets down the phone and walks up to the nurse, grinning widely as he gets in her way.

“If I had a girl like you at my bedside, I don’t think I’d ever want to get better.”

GM: Hudson’s words are like water thrown on wax. They occur, but they do not in any way affect or alter the nurse’s affect or actions. His attempts to block her from Moses, however, are another matter. She mechanically pivots, almost as if her feet and spine were attached to an invisible cable-track in the ceiling and floor. The motion, though neither notably swift or aggressive, catch Hudson off-guard. By the time he recovers, she is already by Moses’ side, methodically checking the various implements. Throughout the ‘interaction’, the woman’s affect remains unchanged. It’s an odd combination: cold as the stethoscope around her neck, yet flat as the soles of her synthetic work shoes.

Hudson: Hudson’s little man isn’t just twisting now, he’s full-on tap-dancing. The marshal doesn’t do anything so brash as yank her away—there’s no good reason for him to do that, and until he knows just who and how many people are the real danger here, he can’t have them knowing that he’s suspicious. Still, he’s ready to stop the nurse if she injects anything else into Moe’s veins.

That was the only thing he saw her do in the surgery room. One injection.

“I’m Hudson M. Schofeld, U.S. Marshals,” Hudson continues, letting the grin show in his voice as he jabs a thumb against his starred badge. “You got a name, dollface? You seem like a real heartbreaker.”

GM: In response to Hudson’s query, or at least identified authority, the nurse rotates her head to face him. “C.N.S. Hellen Wagner,” she says in a breathy voice that might be huskily seductive if it weren’t so monotone. Her head then turns back to the room’s patient–a patient which Hudson can see is stirring. One of Moe’s eyelids twitch and his beard shifts as the old war veteran tries to swallow.

Hudson: Hudson’s hackles immediately raise. He might be arm-less, but happening this exact moment…

“Hello, Moses,” he says levelly. His other eye remains on ‘Hellen’.

GM: Perhaps hearing his old nemesis, Moe’s other eyelid struggles to open.

“Subject P—M3EM—27.15.10,” Nurse Wagner states.

“….” comes Moe’s reply, a gasp too weak to form coherent words.

Hudson: “I think ‘Moe’ rolls off the tongue better,” Hudson opines blandly. He glances down at the leg restraints on Moe’s bed. They haven’t been fitted, due to the compression-fitting tights he’s wearing to prevent blood clots.

Arm restraints, of course, were unnecessary.

GM: The nurse once again ignores, if not seems incapable of registering, Hudson’s humor. She instead begins to start documenting several notes on the man’s medical clipboard. “Waves: alpha, beta. Electromyography: tonic. Nystagmus: absent. Oculomotor cranial nerve response to commence.”
She clicks her pen twice in smooth precision. First to retract the pen-point, and second to engage the small penlight.

Hudson: Hudson listens to the woman’s documentation far more intently than his previous quipping might suggest. He hadn’t been sure if this woman was really a nurse. But she seems to know her way around things. It’s still possible that she isn’t really employed at Mt. Pelion, but this picture is starting to fill in.

The only thing he can’t figure is her looks. Why send a bombshell like Nurse Wagner if she’s just going to shoot down the inevitable male attention she draws?

GM: That focus, however, is compromised or at least tempted as the curvaceous woman leans over the bed and flashes her penlight into Moe’s eyes.

Hudson: Hudson’s happily married. His little man says this broad is bad news, in all kinds of ways. The firmness of her ass is precisely the last thing on the duty-bound marshal’s mind.

GM: The old man’s pupils shrivel as Nurse Wagner methodically pries back each eyelid and moves her penlight slowly across his field of vision. The angles are all wrong, and the reaction is fleeting, but Hudson detects that Moses’ flinching isn’t just a physiological response. There’s also a psychological element, a flash of perhaps fear born of… recognition?

As Nurse Wagner releases the patient’s eyelids, she once more double-clicks her pen and begins to dictate her own transcription: “Pupillary response assessed. Miosis consistent with dose response curves. Condition updated to code 95816.”

Hudson: “Tell me, Hellen, is 95816 good enough for him to be shipped back to Boise?” Hudson asks.

He doesn’t mind if he interrupts her recording. He’s curious what it might take to crack the ice queen’s facade.

GM: There is no thaw in the nurse’s mien as she simultaneously states out loud and writes, “Physicians to be contacted to determine subject’s regimen.” She then clicks her pen, this time but once and stows her implement and Moses’ medical clipboard in their respective containers.

Moses manages a gasp that borders on a cough. His eyes sluggishly rove over the room, searching for something he’s lost or has never found.

Hudson: “Better hope so, Moe. Hellen here’s pretty easy on the eyes, but you stay long enough and she’ll probably break your heart,” Hudson comments.

GM: “…” he says again, and weakly licks a dry tongue over his blood-crusted lips.

Hudson: “Better to cut things off while you’re still in that sweet, head-over-heels stage.”

GM: Nurse Wagner’s blonde-veiled face once again pivots to regard the marshal. She is silent, blinks once, then turns back to Moses, or more specifically one of his IVs. Hudson’s medical training informs him that she is reaching for the line attached to Moses’ IV bag filled with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid commonly used in hospitals for pain management.

Hudson: Hudson calmly catches her hand. “You trying to make things more comfortable for Moe there, Hellen?”

GM: Hellen does not turn as she reaches for the IV’s valve, but describes her action as if she is reading a script: “Increased dosage of Intravenous administration of N–1–2–Phenylethyl–4–piperidinyl–N–phenylpropanamide for analgesia to commence.”

Hudson: “Mmm. This sick fuck tried to cut up two young boys. I don’t think he needs to be in less pain at all,” the marshal lies. “So you can go ahead and skip that dosage, Hellen.”

GM: The nurse pauses. She pivots to regard her restrained hand as well as the force behind that retraining. She states in her breathy monotone, “Your authority is superseded, Supervisory Deputy Marshal Hudson Schofeld.” Her words are neither an apology nor argument, but a clinical assertion of fact. “Please unhand me so I may perform my protocols.”

Hudson: “Go get your boss. If a doctor thinks this bastard should get to laze around like he’s in the Ritz, then I’ll let you go on with those protocols,” Hudson answers, not releasing her hand.

That’ll get her out of his hair long enough for him to question Moses.

GM: “The physicians will be informed,” she says, the breathy tenor of her voice almost taking on an edge of emotion. A rather unpleasant one, too, if Hudson guesses. Then again, he might just be reading his own emotions in the reflection of the nurse’s elastic gaze. Nonetheless, she straightens, and awaits for the marshal to remove his hand.

Hudson: Hudson grunts. If a nurse says pain relief is the best thing for a patient, he isn’t about to gainsay her. But not this nurse. Analegia, after all, means Moe could go under if he’s in too much pain.

“All right, you go and do that,” Hudson answers, releasing the woman’s wrist. Still, this raises a question. As she turns to leave, the marshal mentally apologizes with a, Sorry, Nora, then smacks Nurse Hellen on her ass.

That’ll help cement the narrative he’s thinking with his other little man around this woman, not to mention build a better profile on her. It’s a sad truth that a lot of nurses wouldn’t do anything about this kind of behavior from Hudson. But they’d at least be upset. It’d say a lot about Nurse Wagner if she isn’t.

GM: So released, the nurse exits the room, but stops instantly upon her buttocks being slapped. Hudson cannot see her face to read her expression, but there is a tension in her frame that wars with what can only be called submissiveness. That conflict ends in some inscrutable manner as she states Hudson’s name and badge number aloud as if cataloging him. “Supervisory Deputy Marshal Hudson Schofeld, 407-68.”

She then exits the room, her movements striking the marshal once again as preternaturally precise, as if she is being pulled along an invisible cable-rail from which she will not or cannot deviate. Still, as Hudson watches her vanish down the ICU’s hall, he finally places the ever so slight, yet distinct disturbance in affect.

As both a state trooper and marshal, he’s seen it hundreds of times. Waitresses working road-stop diners and bars, girls accustomed to being smacked on the butt, objectified, and harassed by chauvinistic patrons. Most accepted the ‘attention’, not out of any shred of enjoyment, but an understanding that rejecting would do little but hurt their tips and get in the way of finishing their shifts. But just because they accepted it, didn’t mean they forgot or forgave.

And every once and a while, the war between accepting and not-forgetting would boil over, causing them to strike back. Sometimes, it would be overt, like dumping a pot of hot coffee over a trucker who got a little too handsy. Sometimes, it would be more covert, like handing out flatware with a thin film of dish soap.

He has seen it on other, yet similar occasions. Prostitutes who generally accepted but never forgot their mistreatment by their pimps, who got their revenge by diming their pimps’ location to a bloodthirsty gang or loan shark. The long-time wives of cons and fugitives that had endured, even accepted, years of domestic violence and abuse, who one day simply had enough and either ratted their spouses to the cops of blew them away with a shotgun or hunting rifle.

But this is the first time he’s seen that conflict with a nurse. But he’s confident: Nurse Wagner may have accepted his sexual assault, but she has not and will not forget.

Hudson: No doubt it’s not the first time for a nurse as pretty as Nurse Wagner either. There’s an abrupt, churning, and not at all pleasant feeling in Hudson’s gut at that realization. A guilty feeling.

It was a sexual assault. And the way he spoke to her earlier wasn’t too respectful either. He’d wanted to build a better profile on the strange woman his little man said posed a danger. She’d seemed like a robot, another one of this strange town’s off-kilter oddities. He’d wanted to provoke her and see if she was human deep down. Well, it turned out that she was. All-too human.

Hudson’s eyes linger on the doorway. He can’t erase what he did, only try to make amends for it—soon. For now, he may have assaulted Nurse Wagner’s emotional well-being, job performance, basic dignity, and quite a few other things, but someone else might be about to assault her patient’s life.

For now, he closes the door, picks up his radio, and transmits, “Max, get back to Moe’s room, on the double. Stay outside. If anyone tries to get inside, don’t stop them, but talk to them. Loud enough that I can hear and have a moment’s warning. I’ll explain why later. Over.”

GM: The radio crackles back with Max’s reply. “On my way and understood. You okay? Over.”

Hudson: “Still fat but no worse for it. Over.”

GM: “Understood,” Max replies. “I’ll be there on the double. Radio me if anything changes. Hodges, over and out.”

Hudson: Hudson ends the transmission, leans down over Moe’s bed to look the armless man in the eye and states, “You were scared of that woman. My gut says she’s trouble and not working alone. Blink once for yes, twice for no. Is your life in danger from these people?”

GM: Moses looks up at Hudson with roving, bloodshot eyes. His gasps turn into a shallow, coughing wheeze that Hudson almost pegs as laughter from the armless maniac. “C…can..dy… ma..n…”

Hudson: “That’s me, Moe,” Hudson acknowledges. You don’t get to pick your witnesses, however easier that might make things.

GM: Moe’s blood-cracked lips hack up another feeble cough-chuckle, but it makes him wince painfully. By the look of it, the man really could use some opioids. A lot of them.

Hudson: He’ll get them in short order. Right now, Hudson needs to determine if Nurse Wagner and whoever she’s working for will be an even worse hazard to the patient’s health.

GM: Indeed, Moe nearly passes up from the pain right there and then, but true to Hudson’s prediction, the tough bastard is too stubborn–and perhaps too deserving of the pain to escape into alleviating unconsciousness.

“…” gasps the repeat fugitive. Between those gasps, though, Hudson can tell Moses is trying to speak, but his voice is fragile to the point of being almost undetectable, if not indecipherable. “Cl… os… er.”

Hudson: Hudson leans closer. He wouldn’t put it past the madman to bite him, and even tenses against that prospect, but he’s risked worse in the line of duty.

GM: The feared bite doesn’t come, but the lawman still can’t help feeling soiled by the madman’s lips so close to his ear. Weak as Moe’s breath is, it still reeks of death and chemicals. But the ends seem to justify the means as the proximity allows Moses to whisper more clearly and less taxingly. “Candy… man… I never… told you about my arm…”

Hudson: “You lost it in the war, Moe. That was years ago. This is now. Who does that nurse really work for?” Hudson presses in the firm but urgent tones of a lawman questioning a source that’s just about to tap out.

GM: “Lost it… in the war…” He chuckles painfully, causing one of his scabbed lips to brush Hudson’s earlobe. “But… which war… Candyman…”

Hudson: “The Second World War,” Hudson replies levelly. But not without a note of questioning.

GM: Hudson’s answer, and hint of uncertainty, elicit another weak, but wet-tearing bout of laughter. “…we warred for more… than the world, Candyman… I lied… I lost my arm… American soil… 19..46… we… called it down…”

Hudson: “You called what down, Moses?”

GM: “Someone… had to bell… the cat… pay… the price… give… the Devil his due…” Another light laughter, then wince.

Hudson: The poor bastard’s making little sense. Hudson doubts he can get him to answer a direct question about Nurse Wagner at this point, though.

“You sacrificed someone else?” he asks.

GM: “No…”

Hudson: “Or you lost your arm to call it down, give the Devil his due?”

GM: Hudson feels Moses’ lips brush him again as the man shakes his head. “No… someone had to get it… pick… it up… can’t leave… the box just… laying in… a hole…” He chuckles, then wheezes, “Some… kid.. might find it…”

Hudson: “You lost your arm retrieving the box,” Hudson fills in.

GM: “Yes… no… not a box, no, no, no, not a box…”

Hudson: “What did you lose your arm retrieving, Moe?”

GM: “They make you read Hesiod? In my days… they made us kids… read all the classics… in Greek… kids… these days…”

Hudson: “Marshals these days have college degrees. I’ve done my reading,” Hudson answers. “And yeah, kids. I ended up arresting Mr. Barnes, the boy you fought with. Now stay with me, Moses. We don’t have a lot of time. What do you want to tell me?”

GM: “Erga… kai Hemerai…” He laughs again. “Funny the things… you remember…”

Outside the door, there’s a knock. “It’s me, Hudson,” comes Maxwell’s voice.

Moe stirs at the knock, and Hudson instantly knows it wasn’t another marshal he was expecting.

Hudson: Time’s up.

“Rest, Moe. I’ll take care of things.” He pulls his head away and calls, “Come in.”

GM: “C-and-y-man!” Moe all but hisses desperately.

Maxwell steps in, holding a pair of brown bags. He drops both and goes to his gun when he sees the armless man violently whispering, but then chuckles. “Forgot he wasn’t armed.”

“You… as…ked…” Moe wheezes, trying to desperately to speak up. “N…urse…”

“How long has he been up?” Maxwell asks, stooping to pick up the brown-paper bags. “He tell you where he buried that girl’s body, back in ’82?”

Hudson: Hudson holds up a hand in forestallment and leans in close to Moses again. “What do you want to tell me, Moe? Fast.”

GM: Moe’s chest heaves, the oxygen mask still askew on his chin. “N-nurse… you asked… who she works… for…”

Maxwell quietly stands, bags in hand, but otherwise waits quietly.

Hudson: “Yes, I did,” Hudson confirms for the faltering man.

GM: “We won… the war… but lost… she works… for… them… they… won… she works for… them… I… work… worked… for… them… and… so…”

Hudson: “They want you back? Is that it?”

GM: Hudson feels Moe’s dry tongue as the latter tries to wet his lips. “She works for… them…” He laughs, then tries to suck in a deep breath, but it only becomes another a wet-tearing wheeze. He gulps it down, though, and continues, “And so… does… he…”

Hudson: “Your doctor, Moses?” Hudson asks. He barely notices the sensation of the madman’s tongue against his ear.

GM: “The… redhead…”

Maxwell squints. “What’d he say?”

“Don’t… blame…” Moe adds with another wheeze. “…him…” Another sucking gasp. “After… all…” Moe closes his eyes, but continues weakly. “…so do… you… CANDYMAN!!!!” His eyes flare open and the armless man lunges forward the breath of an inch to sink his teeth into Hudson’s ear.

Maxwell rushes over, his gun drawn, but then hesitates. “You want me to shoot him!?”

Hudson: “Mother of—GOD!” Hudson bellows, blood-flecks flying from the side of his head as he jerks out of the madman’s reach. Natural instinct growls at him to punch back, but he makes do with a glare and equally low growl as he applies pressure to the wound.

“No. Stand down, Max. The nurse is going to give him something soon.” He manages a grim smile past the bleeding. “No place better to get bitten by a crazed psychopath than a hospital, right? Hell. I even saw that coming.” The fat marshal grunts. “For all the good it did me.” His ear feels oddly light…

GM: The armless madman gulps down the tip of Hudson’s left earlobe and licks his lips. He tries to laugh, blood splattered across himself, but then his eyes bulge as he begins to choke.

“You okay?!” Maxwell starts to ask his superior, then stops as Moe begins to asphyxiate. “Give it up, old man, there’s no way we’re falling for that. Again.”

Hudson: “Oh, good grief!” the mustachioed marshal snarls. He’s not sure which sight he’s referring to as he pushes forward, blood still leaking down the side of his head and all over his clothes, as he presses his hands to Moe’s chest and applies CPR. “He’s not faking, Max, get the nurse!”

GM: Maxwell rushes to obey, once again dropping the paper bags. “NURSE! DOCTOR!” the marshal yells at splitting ear volume.

Hudson: “Choke on my own ear, why don’t you! Go ahead! Chow down, see how that works out!” Hudson all but spits as he frantically works to save the crazed would-be murderer’s life.

Again.

GM: Like the last time, the next minutes are a blur of blood, sweat, and near-misses. In that window, a variety of medical staff file into the room, relieving Hudson. “Acute aspiration, gastric contents,” one staff yells to the rest. “Prepare for oropharyngeal suctioning, and adjunctive endotracheal intubation and nasogastric tube.” Other terms are bandied, including bronchoscopy and positive-pressure ventilation. In the end, the combination of those varied procedures, equipment, and the medical staff who utilize them–which Hudson notes does not include Nurse Wagner–save the life of Moses Ezekiel MacDonald.

Hudson: Hudson is not at all surprised there. When they remove his earlobe from Moses, he points to it and asks with a sardonic drawl, “Someone here mind stapling that thing back onto me?”

GM: They also save Hudson’s ear, after suctioning out the torn lobe-fragment from Moe’s bronchial tubes. They re-attach the lobe in another set of thankfully less hasty and less risky procedures.

Hudson: “My thanks,” the marshal grunts once they’re done. That’s gonna leave a scar. Won’t Emma have a field day with the quips.

GM: By the time the dust settles–or at least most of the blood dries–six o’clock arrives, signaling the end of Hudson’s shift as a guard and the start of his stay as a patient at Mount Pelion General. As Hudson is set up in a bed within the same room as the once again unconscious Moses, Cassidy and Curtis arrive.

Hudson: In the immediate aftermath of his earlobe’s reattachment, Hudson no doubt aggravates his nurse when he refuses to change into a hospital dressing gown. The moment he does that, they’ll start seeing him as a patient rather than a marshal. Hell, even his deputies subconsciously might. And that won’t do. As Moses just proved, he’s dangerous even without his arms. Dangerous to people who lean in close enough, anyway.

Fat chance he’s repeating his earlier apology to the now-awake Moses now.

As his long-overdue rest approaches, Hudson doesn’t even change out of his bloodied clothes into pajamas, but into another button-up white shirt and pair of gray slacks with suspenders. The two concessions he makes towards sleep are loosening his necktie and leaving his jacket draped over the bed’s railing. The implication is clear: he expects to be back on duty soon, and is ready to resume it even earlier if need be.

Hudson also calls his wife back from the room’s phone. He apologizes for their last call’s abrupt end and explains that a work emergency came up when the fugitive they’d brought in regained consciousness. He then tells Nora that he and Alex had a good talk. The poor kid’s still hurting over his parents, and especially his dad. He wants to talk about the eyeliner once his grandfather is back home, and in the meantime he’s promised not to interfere with Nora’s dinner party. So for now, Hudson recommends to his wife, giving him some space and acting like nothing’s unusual will be best.

It also looks like the marshal is going to be home sooner, now that Moses has woken up. How soon will still be up to the doctors. “He was pretty lively,” Hudson remarks. “Sure gave me an earful. I gave him one too, and he grinned the whole time, though eventually he started to choke up.” He’s just loud enough for Max to hear those bits.

Hudson ends the call with an “I love you, dear,” then sags on the edge of his bed and permits himself a moment to just feel dog-tired. He’s been awake for close to 36 straight hours, during which he’s cased crime scenes, gone on a wild motorbike ride in miserable weather, stood off against a satanic would-be serial murderer, blown off that would-be murderer’s last arm, raced him back to the hospital, arrested and booked a young kid in front of his mom, realized he sexually assaulted a woman, had his earlobe torn off, had it reattached, and done it all off a diet of adrenaline and candy bars, with the exception of the bland-tasting cafeteria food he’s shoveling into his mouth at this late hour. He’s not an old man yet, not in his early fifties (“that’s still healthily middle-aged, now,” he’d once remarked), but he damn well isn’t a young man anymore. His bed’s pillow beckons as sweetly and softly as a melted chocolate bar topped with powdered sugar. But giving in to this temptation will actually be good for his health.

The marshal still spares a smile as he sees his deputies come in to relieve him.

“You sure you two aren’t ear-ly?”

GM: Several minutes later, Hudson is the one hearing a joke. “Knock, knock,” says the white-haired and white-coated doctor who entered the room and identified himself as Dr. Humphrey.

Dr_Humphrey.png
Hudson: The marshal grunts and sits up in his bed. He’d almost fallen asleep. “Who’s there?”

GM: The dark-eyed doctor, whose medical accouterments include a head mirror and stethoscope, replies with a smile, “HIPAA!”

Hudson: Hudson replies in kind with one of his own. It’s somewhat less enthusiastic. “Doc, I’m as glad as the next man that my medical information is private, but I’ll sure be a lot gladder after I’ve had my forty winks.”

“All right though,” the marshal says with another tired-eyed smile at his physician’s enthusiasm. That’s rare enough in this hospital that he isn’t about to shoot it down. “HIPAA who?”

GM: Dr. Humphrey raises an index finger and smiles goodhumoredly as he answers, “I can’t tell you!”

Hudson: There’s a faint chuckle. “I suppose you can’t, at that. Joke’s on me.”

GM: He then slowly points his extended finger to Hudson. “Might I have a word in private, Deputy Marshal Schofeld?” His smile does not falter as he glances at Cassidy and Curtis. The unconscious Moses is overlooked.

Hudson: There’s an internal groan at the doctor’s request, but it’s not like he hasn’t gone out of his way to communicate he’s still duty-ready. “All right. Cassidy, Curtis, hold down the fort,” Hudson answers as he hauls himself out of bed and pulls on his jacket. He lets the doctor lead the way.

GM: “Oh, no, no, Deputy Marshal,” Dr. Humphrey says as his patient rises. “I was thinking you and I might stay. The more you rest, the speedier your recovery.” His next remark is to Cassidy and Curtis as much as Hudson. “It will only take a moment.”

Hudson: “Far be it from me to complain over staying on my ass,” Hudson remarks as he sits back down. “If you two don’t mind waiting outside?” he directs towards his deputies.

GM: “We’ll be right outside, boss,” says Cassidy, as she exits the room alongside Curtis, who gives a salute-like nod at the implicit order.

As the door shuts, Dr. Humphrey turns back to Hudson. “Well, they seem like nice folk.”

Hudson: “They’re good people. I do and have trusted them with my life,” the mustachioed marshal nods.

GM: “Good people,” Dr. Humphrey repeats, his smile fading. “Too bad we can’t all be good all the time.”

Hudson: Hudson heaves a sigh. “I think I know what this is.”

GM: He pauses, then speaks again. “Yes. I promised this would be short, so if I might be frank, let me just say that Nurse Wagner spoke to me, and I have to say I am very disappointed.”

Hudson: “She’s telling the truth,” Hudson says as if to preempt any discussion on that topic. “I don’t have anything to say that isn’t an excuse, Doc. I doubt that she wants to see me right now, but if you know her and think that it would help, I’d like to apologize to her for my behavior.”

GM: Dr. Humphrey frowns at the confession. “Well, I think the less you speak with Nurse Wagner from here on, the better. She was very upset by your untoward actions, and no doubt she felt very conflicted approaching me, being as you are a man of the law. God knows the good-looking woman is given enough grief by her patients.”

Hudson: Hudson’s tired smile has long since faded to simple tiredeness by now. He’s seen his share of guilty people breaking down and finally confessing. It’s not as often that he’s been the one in the same role.

“That took some courage on her part to tell the boss.”

GM: “Yes,” Dr. Humphrey agrees. “She is a very courageous woman, whose ample beauty and bravery are only matched by her generous spirit.”

Hudson: “I thought she was a pretty cold fish when we first met. I wanted to see if she was ‘really human’ deep down. Well, it turns out that she was. All-too human.” The fat marshal seems to deflate further. “I have a wife and granddaughter. In my line of work, I’ve seen my share of women who’ve been treated badly by men. I thought I was better than that. I wasn’t. And I’m sorry that I hurt her.”

Hudson isn’t so sure that he buys ‘generous spirit’, but he holds his tongue.

GM: “Well, apologies are like bandages, they don’t undo the damage or substitute for stitches. But given that she is not pressing the issue, and in light of your frank confession as well as recent… injury, Deputy Marshal Schofeld, I believe the hospital is willing to consider this matter resolved.”

He raises a finger. “However. However, I must warn you. Regardless of your intentions or apologies, what we need here is an understanding. We have already had to almost throw out a locally respected lawman today from Mt. Pelion.”

He lowers his hand. “From now on, any mistreatment of our staff or interruption of their duties will be grounds for immediate dismissal–or in your specific case, reassignment.” He sticks a hand into his pocket and leans forward. “Do we have an understanding, Deputy Marshal?”

Hudson: Hudson doesn’t blink at either of the doctor’s initial statements. “We do, Doc. You won’t have any further incidents of harassment from me.”

GM: “Splendid!” Dr. Humphrey beams as he rises and extends a lollipop to Hudson. He goes to depart, but then pauses right before opening the door. “One last thing, Deputy Marshal.”

Hudson: The fat marshal, to the surprise of no one who knows him, plucks the lollipop out of the physician’s hand. “That’s the point, Doc, where I usually tell the bad guy that I still have my eye on them.”

GM: Dr. Humphery winks with a chuckle, and taps his head mirror. “Well, as an otorhinolaryngologist, I always have an eye on my patients, good and bad. But, no, I have another question for you. Why did the blonde nurse carry a red pen?”

Hudson: “You got me on that punchline, Doc.”

GM: Dr. Humphrey raises his finger again and smiles widely. “In case she needs to draw blood!”

Hudson: There’s another low chuckle from the now-lollipop-sucking marshal.

“You might have heard this one as an ear doctor. A woman once went to her family physician with her crying baby. He determined right away that the baby had an earache. He wrote a prescription for ear drops. In the directions he wrote, ‘Put two drops in right ear every four hours’ and he abbreviated ‘right’ as an R with a circle around it.”

“The woman returned to the doctor after several days and complained that the baby still had an earache, and his little behind was getting really greasy with all those drops of oil.”

“The doctor looked at the bottle of ear drops and realized what had gone wrong. The pharmacist had typed the following instructions on the label:”

“‘Put two drops in R ear every four hours’.”

GM: Dr. Humphrey erupts in a knee-slapping guffaw. “That’s a keeper, Deputy Marshal!”

He’s still laughing as he opens the door and turns to the waiting deputies. “He’s all yours. I told him to go easy on the Q-tips for a while, but I think it went in one ear and out the other.”

Previous, by Chronology: Agent Crawford, Case File 2.01
Next, by Chronology: Agent Bauman, Case File 2.02

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Next, by Subject (Agent Barnes): Agent Barnes, Case File 2.02
Next, by Subject (Agent Schofeld): Agent Barnes, Case File 2.04; Agent Schofeld, Case File 2.03

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Parasomniac Calder_R

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