Chapter 25: Shot in the Dark

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Knock, knock.

Instantly awake, Rob clenched his fists in the nighttime dark. "For fuck's sake, Zev, I'm going to kill you this time, I really am."

"Can't be him," Maggie said sleepily from under the covers. "Hasn't even been gone two weeks."

Knock, knock.

Rob slammed his feet onto his bedroom floor. "Oh, it's him all right. He probably turned around at the first tavern he found, or fell into bed with some farm girl he needs to tell me about."

Knock. Knock. Knock.

"I hear you!" Rob shouted. "Let me get some clothes on, will you? Jesus Christ, Zev. It's the middle of the fucking night!"

Rob didn't actually know what time it was, but the middle of the night felt about right. Outside was pitch black, his bladder was half-full, and a dream he'd been having about his patient with the abdominal tumor still rang in his head. 

The patient had died yesterday, and although the family expressed gratitude for Rob's attention, Rob felt guilty that he hadn't been able to do more. Opening him up would have killed him, Rob reminded himself, and without a pathology lab to send frozen sections to, how in hell could he have located the tumor's margins? 

First, do no harm, his embroidered belt read. He'd made the right decision in not operating, but that didn't make it any easier when his patient died.

Knock, knock.

Rob pulled on his worn boxers and Gap T-shirt with holes under the arms—he dreaded the day when he'd dunk his precious cotton underwear into the wash bucket and pull them back out as threads—and flung open the door. His blood at full boil, Rob prepared to knock his cousin down the stairs and into the street, if that's what it took to keep Zev from bothering him again while he slept.

What Rob wasn't prepared for was a trembling Hans, his cap clutched tightly before him in hands stained red with blood.

"Robert," Hans said, his typically steady voice quivering. "There's been an accident. Or an attack, I don't know. It was very loud. At the Dancing Shoes. You're needed, right away."

Rob stood, dumbstruck, while all his fury drained out of him like a bathtub with the stopper pulled. Suddenly he felt very cold.

Maggie shook him into action. "Go," she said, leaping naked out of bed. "I'm right behind you. Just grab your bag and go."

Rob grabbed his bag and went.

* * *

The Dancing Shoes tavern was a chaotic mess. Tables, benches and stools had been overturned, while food and drink soaked the layer of straw lining the tavern's dirt floor. A few people huddled by the bar—the owner and his family, perhaps—but Rob only had eyes for the three bodies sprawled flat and unmoving in the candlelight.

Each looked as if they'd been slathered with blood.

"Hans, I'm going to need bandages," Rob said. His heart was beating at least a hundred times a minute, though he hardly noticed. "Lots of bandages, and the more absorbent, the better. I also need water. Is there hot water here? Never mind. Just get me a pot of water, whatever temperature, but have those people boil some for later."

Hans sped off while Rob kneeled by the first body. It was male, large and strong with a tanned face and a bloody spot in the middle of his chest. Rob's nose wrinkled at the metallic smell of blood as he grabbed a knife from his bag to slice open the man's clothes. 

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