Syndicate Files: The Doctor - Part 5

((Co-written by Ciarente. Part 4 Here))

Half an hour later we were holed up in a safe house. In my line of work you never know when you're going to need a bolt-hole, and when my last missing person's case had dead-ended at a grimy apartment paid up six months in advance, I'd kept the address. And the key. It was only a matter of time until the Serps tracked us down, though.

Cariot glanced around and made a beeline for the bathroom. She was back a moment later, holding one of those cheap first aid kits that station regs mandate landlords provide, and what looked like a sewing kit.

She tossed it on the kitchen counter. "Take off your jacket. Shirt too."

"Aren't you going to even buy me a drink first?"

"You're a big boy, you'll do fine without anesthetic." Cariot opened cupboards in the kitchen until she found what she was looking for: a pot, which she filled with water and set on the stove, a couple of sharp knives, some tongs and a bottle of gin with maybe an inch left in it. "Off, or I'll cut 'em off. Doctor's orders."

It was my favourite jacket, the one that, up until today anyway, didn't have any holes or stains. I eased it off, shook my head sadly at the rent in the shoulder, and then the shirt.

Cariot dumped the knives and the needles from the sewing kit into the pot of boiling water and propped the tongs in, business end down. She came over to look at my shoulder, and gave me a less-then-gentle shove towards the kitchen.

"Put a bandage on it," I said. "I'll get it looked at later."

"Uh-huh, tough guy. I've seen corpses with prettier tans. Bullet's got to come out."


As much to distract myself as because I wanted to know, I asked her: "So what did you do to get so much personal attention from the Serps?"

"Fucked if I know. I thought they owed me one." Cariot set the pot on the floor, then washed her hands at the sink, splashing some of the gin over them, tipping the rest of it over my shoulder.

"Son of a - "

"Infection hurts more," she said. "Sit down. I don't want you fainting on me. On the floor, moron. Now hold still. You might feel a little discomfort."

That's what doctors say when they mean I'm about to cause you excuriciating agony. Still, criminal record, Serps trouble and fake ID and all, Cariot knew her job. It wasn't more than a moment or two of sweating and swearing before she was stitching me up with -

"Is that dental floss?"

"It's sterile. Ish. Hold still. This isn't embroidery, but you still want me to get the stitches straight."


I held still, or tried to. "So the Serps owe you one?"

"Yeah. I stitched up one of their bigwigs last night. Whatsername, Myla Navanier."

There'd been news on a botched attack on one of the Serp's clubs this morning, but no-one had mentioned that the station's biggest player had been involved. "You fuck it up?"

Cariot yanked the next stitch a little harder than she needed to. "I never fuck up." She leaned over to look me in the eye. "Unless I mean to."

She had the kind of eyes it was hard to look away from. I swallowed hard, and said "Shouldn't you be watching what you're doing?"

"I could stitch you up in my sleep, Rory Tarva," she said, and it was a threat and an invitation all rolled up into one.

"Still," I said. "I'd be more comfortable if you kept your eyes on your work. Doctor."

She laughed at me the kind of way women have been laughing at men who are out of their depth since time began, and leaned back. "No. To answer your question. I didn't fuck it up. I did a fucking stand-up job, in fact, bitch was bleeding all over the place and thrashing around like a hooked fish. Thought for a while she'd bleed out on me. Place looked like a slaughterhouse. Had blood clear through my scrubs, woulda thought I'd been swimming in it."

"And that's it? No bad debts? You owe your dealer?"

"I don't owe a soul in the Cluster," Cariot said. "There. You're done."

I turned to try and peer down at the wound as she shuffled backwards and sat down, leaning back against the cupboard. What I could see of it was neat, professional looking. The kind of thing you'd usually have to go to Station medical for, if station medical used dental floss.

Cariot tossed the bloody knives and needles back in the pot. "Not my usual kit," she said. "Don't look so fucking surprised, Tarva. You'll hurt my feelings. I was top of my class, you know."

She reached for the bottle and took a small swallow of what little was left as I gingerly turned myself around to sit beside her, keeping my bad shoulder clear of the cupboard. "And now you're a back-alley leech with the Serps on your tail."

Cariot grinned, and offered me the bottle. "Harsh but true, Tarva. Harsh but true."

There wasn't more than a mouthful of gin left, and looking down at the bloody kitchen knives in the pot, I figured I deserved all of it.

Bloody knives ... "How are you going to clean those up?"

"We're staying long enough for you to cook me breakfast?"

Fortune help me, but I blushed. "How do you normally clean up your ... kit?"

"Boiling," Cariot said. "Fancy places, they have these machines, you know? Or they just use all new, every time." She shrugged. "Boiling's the best I can do."

"That get rid of everything?"

"Off the cutting surfaces, sure. You get splashback onto the handles, blood builds up in the little grooves, and so on."

We got what we need, One-eye had said.

They'd headed for Cariot's instruments before making any move towards Cariot herself.

Blood in the little grooves. Had to be.

"You said Myla bled a lot. On your clothes?"


"What'd'ya do with them?"

"Nowhere to wash 'em where I live. Dropped them in at the laundry this morning."

"I see," I said - and I did. More than Cariot did.

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