On to Day 4. So far still have two other challengers and I also have a couple of more than may possibly join in next week. Good to hear!
“So what’s it look like, doctor?” The butcher crushed his already crumpled hat in his meaty hands. “Wyvern sting? Naga venom?”
“I can’t tell with you breathing down my neck, Mr. Toombs,” Dr. Wilbur Hickley said, examining the circular wound on a small, pale girl’s arm. “Back up a bit.”
Toombs did so, but the stench of blood and sweat still filled Hickley’s nostrils. He hated coming down to Larmire Road. All the common folk butting up against each other, corralled like cattle in their tenements. It wasn’t entirely rare for a street wyvern to attack in these areas. That’s why Hickley always kept a switchblade and a bottle of de-venomizer in his carrying case when he made the long carriage ride from Tucker Street.
The people weren’t much safer than the wyverns. Toombs had loomed over him for the past hour, a cleaver tucked into his belt. There was no way out of this. If the girl died, Hickley would pay a price one way or another. He rather not have his fingers turned to sausages, so he worked fast. Cleaning the wound with the de-venomizer had proved fruitless. So it wasn’t a wyvern after all. With sweat pouring down his bald pate, he tapped some forceps against his forehead.
“Well?” Toombs cried. “What is it?”
“I’m going to have to use,” Hickley paused, “more extreme measures.”
“Leeches?” Toombs’s wife squealed in the corner.
Hickley only nodded. “I can’t guarantee their success, but it’s the only way to get the venom out at this point. It’s deeper than I originally thought. Meaning a wyvern sting wouldn’t have penetrated that deep. This is something else.”
“Are you sure?” A deep, rich female voice came from the doorway, rain spattering behind her. She took off a soaked hat and coat and slung them in the corner before shaking out her dark curls and sitting cross-legged on the floor. She rifled through a thick leather bag, sneezing a couple of times as she did so.
“Excuse me?” Hickley cleared his throat.
“Sorry, I have a cold,” the woman said.
“I mean, excuse me? Who are you?”
“I called for her,” the wife said in the corner. “Before I knew my husband called for you.”
“Oh?” Hickley gave a half-hearted smirk. “Mr. Toombs, surely this is not acceptable to you. Letting your wife–“
“Letting my wife, what?” Toombs glared at Hickley, fingering the handle of his cleaver. “Help is help.”
“But, Mr. Toombs. She’ll just get in my way–“
The woman sprang up to her feet, a jar of leeches clutched in her hand. “Found them. Took me a minute, but I found them.”
“Do you think leeching is the best way, Dr. Lupa?” Mrs. Toombs said. “I don’t want to hurt my dear, sweet Angela.”
Lupa unscrewed the top of the leech bottle, squeezing her fingers in until she grabbed hold of one of them by its slippery, black head. It suctioned on to her index finger and she fished it out. “Damn, little bugger hurts a bit.”
Hickley scoffed. “That is not how you remove leeches. Nor how you contain them.” He looked to Mrs. Toombs. “You’ve obviously hired an amateur to do your work. Tell her to get out of my way before it’s too late for your daughter.”
“Help her,” Toombs said in a grave voice.
Hickley folded his arms. “I will not. She doesn’t even know how to remove a leech–“
The butcher’s cleaver came inches from Dr. Hickley’s jugular. He gulped.
“Help her,” Toombs said.
Lupa nudged Hickley aside with a smile, dangling the suck leech over her free hand as to not drop it on the floor. “Can you clean the wound? It’s leaking pus.”
Who did she think she was? Hickley snorted, but under Toombs stony gaze, did as he was asked. Lupa placed the leech on Angela’s wound. It suctioned on, growing fat within seconds.
Hickley chuckled to himself at Lupa’s sloppy work. “Are you going to dissipate it?”
Lupa sucked the blood away from her finger, her eyebrows raising. “Huh?”
“Dissipate it. You know, make it evaporate?”
Lupa gave a half-smile. “Perhaps you could show me what you’re talking about, doctor?”
“Ah.” Hickley beamed. “I thought you were some kind of–“
“This not the time nor the place!” Toombs roared. “Do what you have to do and do it now!”
Hickley shrunk back and nodded to himself. He rubbed his hands together and held it over the leech. It pulsed blue as he hand lowered down on it. With a small burst of light, the leech sizzled away and disappeared into the air.
Everyone in the room gasped.
Angela coughed. She hadn’t made a noise since Hickley had entered the room. At least it was something.
“How–how–?” Lupa stammered.
“I’m a leecher,” Hickley said. “This is what I do.”
“But doesn’t that hurt the subject to do it like that?”
Angela started convulsing. Foam rose to her lips and she clawed at her bed sheets.
Lupa jumped up and placed another leech on Angela’s thrashing arm. Hickley held down her other arm to prevent her from tearing the leech out. After several seconds, Angela calmed down again and lie still.
“What happened?” Toombs cried. “Why did she do that?”
Lupa sniffed. “The leech needs to be removed gradually. Especially if we don’t know what kind of venom is in there. If it’s from a bacterial bite like from a Komodo dragon or a Lyrian swamp dog, taking the leech loose quickly can cause a violent reaction.”
The color drained from Hickley’s face. He hadn’t considered that. A bacterial infection in the arm wouldn’t allow for such rapid dissipation of the leech. It had in fact made the wound worse, streaks of blue ooze bubbled forth from Angela’s arm as the leech seemed to melt into it.
“Ah, damnit,” Lupa said, pressing down on Angela’s shoulder. “Another leech! A big one!”
“I can’t move,” Hickley said, doing the same with her other shoulder. “Toombs! You have to get us another one.”
Toombs, his hands shaking, reached his thick fingers into the jar, but he couldn’t manage to get them in. “Ann!” He screamed at his wife. “Help!” The butcher held the jar as his crying wife stuck her fingers in and pulled out a handful of leeches on accident. They spilled on the floor, squirming about.
Hickley cursed under his breath. His own leeches were in his bag in separate vials. It would take forever to get each one out and Angela didn’t look like she had much time. “Hurry, bring it over!”
Ann waddled over, trying not to drop the writing leech and put it on Angela’s arm.
“Whatever you did before, you have to do it again,” Lupa said to Hickley, sweat dripping off her nose. “But slower.”
Hickley nodded as he put the weight of his body across Angela’s arm and leaned over to hover his hand over the leech. He never attempted a slow dissipation before. It was a tricky technique that sometimes resorted in the leech exploding all over the room. He concentrated as his heart raced and his hand trembled.
“Hold it!” Lupa cried out.
The leech got fatter and fatter. It resembled more of a bulbous black blob than a leech. Hickley clenched his teeth and held the spell.
“Hold it!” Lupa repeated louder. “Don’t let go yet.”
“I can’t hold it–” Hickley screamed. “I’m losing it–“
“One more second!”
Blue light filled the room as the massive leech sizzled away into little blue globules. Hickley fell off the bed and hit the floor hard.
He lie there for what seemed like days, blinking, his eyes welled up with tears. He felt like vomiting and screaming all at once. The use of so much magic sapped all the energy out of him.
“Dr. Hickley,” Lupa said. “She’s awake. You did it.”
The butcher sobbed openly. Ann joined her husband .
“Really?” Hickley took Lupa’s extended hand. She pulled him up to his feet. “It worked?”
“Didn’t you know it would?” Lupa smiled.
“Of course, of course,” Hickley smiled back, then straightened up, brushing off his coat. “I’m glad she seems better.”
Lupa turned to the family. “Let her get plenty of rest.”
Angela blinked and gave a weak smile. “Who are these people? Guests?”
“They saved you,” Toombs said. “My sweet little girl.”
“We’ll leave you be,” Lupa said, gathering up her stuff. “Sorry for the mess.”
“We’ll send payment in the morning,” Ann said. “I promise.”
“No rush,” Lupa said.
Hickley frowned, but shrugged it off. “Yes, no rush.”
As the family reunited, Lupa put her coat back on. “You’re quite good at that. You really saved the day.”
“Well, I couldn’t have done it without you barging in like that.”
“What do you think it was?”
“Komodo dragon based on how long we had to wait,” Hickley said. “I never thought to let the leech dissipate slowly. There’s always some scarring with the way I do it.”
“She’ll have some scarring as well, but I’m sure she wont’ mind.” Lupa put on her soaked hat. “Well, I’ll be going then.”
“Wait. Where did you come from? I’ve never seen you before on Tucker Street.”
Lupa titled the rain water off her hat. “Maybe I don’t live on Tucker Street.” And with that, she disappeared back into the rain.
Hickley stood, dumb-founded. Every leecher he knew lived on Tucker Street. Where the hell did she come from? “Mrs. Toombs. Where did you hire Dr. Lupa there?”
Ann brushed back Angela’s hair. She bit her bottom lip. “I can’t say. She told me to promise.”
“Yeah,” Ann said. “She saved my baby, so I’ll keep that promise until my grave.”
“Well, I saved her too!”
Toombs ushered Hickley to the door. “Let them keep their promises, Dr. Hickley.”
“Free meat for life for you.”
Hickley smirked. “Just when I thought of cutting back. Now back to Dr. Lupa–“
“Goodbye, Dr. Hickley.”
“Fine.” Hickley took his hat and placed it on his head. “I can solve mysteries on my own.”
As he went out in the rain, he saw a silhouette watching him from across the street. On a leash, there was snapping Komodo dragon, rain slick against its scales. Before he could pursue, the dragon and its master appeared to melt into the rain. He could have sworn that the shadow had the same bouncing curls as Dr. Lupa.
Hickley gulped, gathered up his bag, and headed back to Tucker Street, where things weren’t so mysterious.