Watching Henson was like watching Jesus Christ, but only I knew the truth. I’d be lying if I told you this was the first car accident I’d seen with this much twisted metal, and this much blood.
Henson and I lowered the broken, twisted body of a teenage victim from an SUV that had been peeled apart like a tin can with tin snips. The kid was gasping for air like a fish out of water. I applied pressure to his abdomen to hold in what was left of his internal organs.
Five other cars were involved in the pileup. Burnt metal and rubber was palpable on the tongue. And right next to the wheel of our gurney was the cause of the accident. No, it wasn’t a cell phone or a blown out tire. It was a common tree squirrel.
I close the back of the ambulance and let Henson work his magic while I speed along, sirens blaring, the seven miles to Saint Elizabeth’s. A pale blue light fills the cab behind me.
By the time we’re at the hospital, and I open the back, the patient is stabilized. There’s blood, and lots of it, but I don’t see any visible wounds. Henson smiles a little while the medics pull the kid away from us.
He actually thinks he did a good thing.
“What’s that you’re reading?” Henson asks, lifting the back cover of my book. We’re spending our hour in the break room. “American Myths, huh? Anything good?”
I glare at him, “That kid shouldn’t have made it.”
Henson shrugged, and grabbed a small milk carton from the fridge.
“You should be happy that we saved a life. If not for me and you that kid would be dead.”
“Six months with you, and I’m amazed at how you stabilize even the worse cases. They never spend more than twenty-four hours in the ER after you’re done with them. Henson, what’s your secret?”
He choked on a gulp of milk. White liquid ran down his cheeks. He smiled, wiping it off. A pebble hung from his neck by a strand of rope, a necklace he supposedly bought during his vacation.
“Maybe they should award me sainthood?”
“Saint Henson? I doubt it,” I said, full knowing what he was about. “What happened in the Yukon? I mean, on your vacation.”
The blank stare told me I was on the right track. He broke into another grin, gripping the pebble around his neck like a precious stone.
“That was eight months ago. Why would you even care?”
“I care,” I wrapped my hands around my knee as I balanced my leg. “What you do in the back of the van is a sin. You do not realize the damage you have done.”
“I help people,” he barked. “I’ll see you back in the van. Maybe you’ll come to your senses by then.”
He opened the door.
The name stopped him in his tracks. His hand balled into a fist at his side as he closed the door. A shadow fell over his face as he peered over his shoulder.
“You know the woman I met in the wilderness?”
“It was just sex. Did she tell you to track me down? I have that effect on them.”
“She called you a thief,” I said. He locked the door, but didn’t realize the syringe I uncapped in my pocket. “Return what is hers, Henson. Each time you use it you’re saving a life, but taking another.”
Only meaning to be on my feet, I pushed up from the table. He threw his weight into me, toppling me over backwards. The syringe broke in my pocket.
“Christ! You were going to drug me you sonofabitch?”
The sedative was running over my cut fingers. He yanked me back across the table by my collar. I thrashed around, and caught his necklace. Using it, I slammed his face into the refrigerator, snapping the cord.
He cupped his face, blood oozing from a split nose and brow.
“We protect the old gods,” I told him, shaking the pebble in his face. “He is not your slave and never will be.”
Henson took a wild swing at me that I deftly slapped away. I grabbed his hair, pinning him to the floor.
“Abuse a defenseless god again and we will kill you.” I cupped the pebble in my hand. “Eeyeekalduk!”
A small door opened in the pebble, and out hobbled an old Inuit man no larger than the last nub of my pinky finger. The old man’s eyes met Henson’s and the room turned a pale red, the same pale red emanating from the little old man’s eyes. Henson thrashed around like his guts were on fire. The red emanated from his eyes as well.
“You have angered Eeyeekalduk. I don’t know what sickness he has given you but if he is feeling kindness he may take it back.”
Henson screamed, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Bloody tears were running down his face. His gums bled. Black varicose veins were creeping up his neck. Pus ran from opening sores. “Eeyeekalduk I… I’m sorry!”
The little old man’s eyes turned a pale blue, as did the room and Henson’s eyes. The sickness inflicted returned from him into the old man, and with a nod he hobbled back across my hand and into the pebble. The little door sealed shut, barely noticeable on the stone.
Mortals expect that the gods should protect them. I exist to protect the gods from you decrepit creatures.