Newest but Hardly Last
Newest but Hardly Last
The sliver of moon in the black sky was orange and smiling at Cook as he made his way across a small graveyard and down a set of concrete steps to the basement of an abandoned church.
He didn’t spook easily, but where he was going, and at midnight, couldn’t have been a good idea. Elisabeth, an old friend of his father’s, had told him it was an emergency, and supplying medicine to the underprivileged, his line of work, was always a bit risky.
Cook knocked at the steel door at the bottom of the concrete steps, but froze as he felt something cold and sharp at his throat.
“Who are you?” a woman asked, Russian by accent, and holding a small knife against his windpipe.
“Cook,” he said.
He’d been named Chingachgook by his well-meaning but ethnically challenged parents; Cook was easier. He was actually Sioux by ancestry, not Mohican, and most people seemed to think he was Korean, except for the Koreans who assumed he was Pakistani, probably because of his short black hair.
“…I do not know anyone with the name Cook,” she said.
“Elisabeth sent me. You’ve got somebody with more lead than iron in ’em, as Elisabeth tells it.” That wasn’t actually how she’d described it.
The knife disappeared from his throat, and Cook turned slowly. She looked as Russian as she sounded, with dark hair, and dressed in a black jump suit, like a pit-stop mechanic, or a ninja.
“Miss Abernathy has been badly injured…. I should have killed them-”
“Just take me to her,” Cook said, hoping to get home before the morning news, and before his girlfriend left for work.
She opened the door for him, and they stepped into a storage room, flickering in candlelight. They passed through narrow walkways between tall shelves filled with books, gold painted boxes that looked older than he was, and a few hundred identical statues of Mary.
Abernathy lay on a couch, surrounded by three other girls in black jump suits; they seemed to be praying.
Abi was black, with a fuzzy mop of hair on her head, and covered in a pink blanket, soaked red in two places. “Who the fuck’s that, Olena?” she asked and tried sitting up, but fell back down again.
“This man says, Elisabeth sent him,” the Russian girl, Olena, said.
“Who the fuck’re you?” Abi asked, now turning to him.
“He is named Cook,” Olena said.
“Yeah, I’m Cook…. I can cut the bullets out of you, if you’re interested-”
“You are a doctor?” Olena asked, smiling at him, but he didn’t find her smile reassuring.
“Sort of,” Cook said, as much as he could say honestly.
His dad had spent eight years in school, studying what he now called mashkiki. Then he’d found the medicine way and mostly given up on allopathy, but he’d passed on what he remembered. Cook had found that knowledge, and a copy of the PDR, was enough to make a living.
“Let me look at it,” he said. “I can only help if it isn’t too heavy.”
The other girls scurried to the side, and Abernathy slowly pulled back the blanket with a look on her face like she was doing him a favor.
It wasn’t that bad, for a pair of gunshot wounds. The one in her shoulder seemed to be through and through, and the one in her thigh was in the meat, as far from the femoral as it could have been.
“This isn’t that bad,” he said, squeezing the soft chocolate flesh around the hole in her leg.
“Speak for yourself,” Abi said, wincing.
“You have any liquor?” Cook asked, glancing back at Olena.
“Yes,” Olena said jumping to her feet. “We purchased a fine bottle, as offering.” She rummaged through a pile of dirty clothes and garbage, and came back carrying an unopened bottle of Stolichnaya.
Cook took it from her and handed it to Abi.
“…What?” Abi said.
“I’m all outta morphine,” Cook said.
“Oh… I thought you’d like, pour it in the holes or something…. I don’t drink.”
Olena looked like she was about to cry, but that look was swept away when she noticed Cook’s eyes on her.
“You’re gonna have to hold her down,” he said.
There was a noise, the steel door slamming open, and then what sounded like books and golden boxes from the shelves hitting the ground with a clatter.
“Cook!?” It was a woman’s voice, and Cook noticed Olena had disappeared somewhere.
When Cook had heard that voice he imagined dark black holes and a lot of blood, so when she stepped out from behind the shelves he wasn’t surprised.
She was a little small, or just very thin, dressed in black like a commando, and holding a pair of Navy Colts. Blood was draining down her chin, and he counted five holes, but being red on black there might have been more.
“Are you in black-face, Jane?” Abi asked.
The new woman, Jane, was white, and her face was shoe-polished, but it looked like camo, and Abi sounded like she was joking.
Cook jumped as Olena reappeared, her knife now at Jane’s throat, as Jane raised a pistol.
“I’ll put one in the Virgin’s head before any o’ you lesbos can cut me…” Jane said, her wobbly aim as dangerous for Cook as it was for Abi.
“Stop it, Olena,” Abi said. “And you too, Jane.”
“…My boyfriend told me about you,” Jane said, maybe looking at Cook, but her eyes had started to cross. “…Your girlfriend said I’d find you here.”
Jane started to quiver, spreading her feet like a dog in the back of a truck, and Olena removed her knife as she toppled to the ground.
“I’m gonna have to deal with her first,” he said.
“You told your girlfriend where I live?” Abi asked.
“That is unreasonable. You have come here for Miss Abernathy,” Olena said, while the other girls nodded.
The knife clenched in Olena’s hand was definitely threatening, but Cook figured even an untrained surgeon needed to think about triage.