Over the years, I’ve been to my fair share of hospitals. Afghanistan, Iraq, Texarcana, Columbus – I’ve seen my share of them. Seems that getting banged up and scraped pretty good is a side benefit of the job. First it was doing my part for King and Country. Now, it’s generally doing my day job as a security specialist for Umbra.
Hospitals. They cover a wide range. In Chicago, the University Medical Center has a head chef, and even the staff kitchen/canteen is a place the patients and visitors go to eat. The food is freaking fantastic. Shame you have to get by a guard who makes sure you have business in the building to get there – it is that good. Omlettes, sandwiches, full meals made to order at no fewer than five separate cooking stations. If THAT isn’t good enough, there are restaurants like “Au Bon Pain” there, serving up some truly fantastic food.
Then, there is Atlanta.
Northside may be the worst. That place has a McDonald’s in it. Tried the hospital food once, and quickly realized that it IS possible to make bad chocolate cake. Grady is better than that – but not by much. Atlanta, a city that LIVES for its food, has not yet realized that patients cannot leave hospitals faster just to eat better – better food gets them better faster.
Jello, bland chicken and rice. For nearly four weeks. Oh. My. God.
In the end, I was released – they couldn’t keep my smiling face forever, and they were more than happy to return the tools of the trade to me and get them out of their locker. As my toolkit includes three personal firearms, two military knives and a machete, I can’t say I blame them. I may not have much, but I make it count. My name is Mitchell Carmichael, and I am an expert in the field of personal security, working for the Umbra Corporation as a contractable asset.
Apparently I fell in with quite an eclectic set of people while I was still drugged. The Fox is back, along with that bookstore owner I helped with her flying lizard problem. John Glass is still around, too – he’s the most normal one in the entire bunch, and his paranoia seems well earned based on our last “interaction”. Ignaz – he is new to me, and is quite the character. I’m not sure what his story is, but he sells “magic tschotskes” of some sort or other. I would dismiss that kind of thing out-of-hand, but Rowan takes him seriously, and I know she is the real deal, based on that mess in the bookstore a few months back. There are others, too – I’m still getting a read on the gang. But they are determined they have a lead on who set the fire that landed me in Grady, and I’m keen to revisit old times with whatever lowlife it is that did that to me.
Rowan called – they were having some sort of confab at the bookstore, and could I come? I checked messages – no work from Umbra today, so I said “Sure” and headed over. Mental note – I would prefer not to work with John Ponzero again, but I do need to make sure he is OK. Umbra pays me, and not badly, to keep those kinds of details neatly in line, and I need to see how they feel about my performance in this hotel-fire mess.
The crew – I am DANGEROUSLY close to calling them “The Scooby Gang” – were ranting about “Vampires” and wizards and the like. Wizards I’ve seen, but vampires? This is just a little on the crazy side. I asked John to think about it a second, and they had the Fox change for me. They seemed a bit nonplussed at my non-reaction – I don’t think anyone knows the Fox and I go back. I know he has some tricks, and that there are wizards and flying lizards they’re calling “dragons”, but vampires seemed a bit off to me. Then I realized their cunning plan was to go looking for vampires, or wizards, or whatever they are in some trailer park in the south side.
That area is skinhead heaven. These guys are gonna stick out like last week’s KFC left in the garbage can. It’s not gonna be pretty, and they are bound to need help. I agreed to come. Mental note – working with this gang is gonna be heavy on the whiskey and painkillers, too. Thought for the future.
Some of the group, showing a bit more sense, headed off to some cemetery to commune with the spirits. I’d have liked to head with that group, but no such luck – off to redneck heaven I went, with Rowan and the Fox for company.
Rowan did her weird eyebally thing – she’s described it to me, but I’ve never seen it before. She looks stoned while she’s having a looksey around the place, and she settles on their big outdoor firepit as “the place”. She tries to convince them she’s looking for a place to live, but they’re not having any of it. We head back to the Fox’s truck and start out, when the guy who runs the park shakes his fist at us, and a tire blows out.
Yeah, I know. It’s got “coincidence” written all over it. I would have thought so too, before some of the other stuff I’ve seen these past few years.
The Fox was out of the truck like lightening, heading straight for the guy. He “foxed out” and ripped that guy open like a bad Ziplok baggie. This pissed off our formerly-friendly neighborhood skinheads, and they came at us with an assortment of weapons.
Yeah. This is the part where I come in. I got out of the truck, thinking the Fox would have a problem with all the natives, but it didn’t take long for me to realize he was in his element. It was Rowan, back in the truck, who was being set upon by some of the rednecks I ended up needing to protect. She was clearly doing something, but it wasn’t enough and she was looking tired when I opened fire, striking a couple of the idiots before the Fox started throwing bodies INTO THE BED OF HIS PICKUP. He was THROWING the bodies. That can give a fellow a pause, and I took full advantage of it to brandish the Desert Eagle and make a neighborly suggestion that the it was time for the good little skinheads to think about going on back to their comfy trailers and leave us alone. Surprisingly, they did. Setting Rowan to look out, I changed the truck’s tire and we were ready to head.
Oh, yeah – it was about this time that I got a phone call from the other team. Meditating at the cemetery hadn’t been all that fruitful, and were we doing OK? Yeah. Rowan and the Fox had upset the natives, but we were on the way to the cemetery, if it was quiet up there. Oh, and make sure John is set? We may have some customers for him when we get there.
I wonder if he has any whiskey in that bus he drives. I hope so – I could use one. It’s beginning to look like I may be hanging with this crowd a while while they figure out who did this, and it’s looking like being near them is gonna be thirsty work. Oh, right – I already have a mental note about that. I should make it a double.