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My Brother Petharic

Petharic knelt by the boy. His attention wavered only a moment yet Johnny Dawkins had been shot in the chest during that moment of inattention. Blood soaked the front of the urchin’s shirt and jacket—though not as much as one might expect.

 Petharic tore the boy’s shirt, exposing the wound. The bullet had penetrated to the right of the sternum three inches below the collarbone. He examined the wound more closely. It appeared clean—almost too clean. Petharic rolled Johnny to the side; there was no evidence of an exit wound. Petharic had seen many gunshot injuries. Even with surgery he didn’t believe Johnny would survive more than a day or two.

 “Is he breathing?” a woman asked; she stepped from the group of Saint Jimothy brethren and approached. Most of the crowd had run at the sound of the gunfire but those who remained, gathered in a semicircle, curious to see the fate of the boy shot in an apparent random act of violence.

“Breathing? Yes, but too shallow.” said Petharic and though still kneeling at Johnny’s side, he turned his attention to the crowd, searching the faces and the spaces between them for signs of the doppelgänger.

“The man who shot the boy fled that way,” the robed woman, nodded toward the east.” As she spoke, the woman knelt beside him and began to probe Johnny’s wound.

Petharic drew his sidearm and pointed it at the woman’s head. A collective gasp emanated from those still gathered about about the platform. “Are you a doctor?” Petharic’s voice sounded like sandpaper buffing cobblestone.

Several of the Jimothy brethren stepped forward to offer their comrade aid yet she held up her hand to stay them. “I am trained in the medical arts, and though my practice is principally one of a veterinary nature, I have operated on my fair share of people.”

Satisfied with her answer, Petharic holstered the Colt.

“I need spirits!” the woman called out to the crowd. “Surely there is one among you who can spare a bottle for this child’s life!” A moment later the woman was washing her hands in whiskey. Without drying them, she stuck a finger in the wound, probing for the bullet.

“The man who shot this child looked a lot like you,” the woman said.  “Are you related?”

“Yes,” said Petharic. “Twins.” The lie was so much simpler than the truth. The doppelgänger would be searching for Emerson Lighthouse, the primary target. Petharic might be able to catch him en route to the Gangplank—if he were unencumbered. The laudanum he had taken earlier to ease his coughing was impairing his decision-making ability.

“We can take the child with us,” said the woman. “I felt the bullet—or at least part of it. I can remove it when we get to our accommodations. It is not far. You should go find your brother and stop him before he hurts anyone else.” As a gesture of reassurance, the woman placed her hand on Petharic’s arm.  “My name is Sister Lilly, a member of the Order of Saint Jimothy; from the northern farmlands. We’ve come to town for supplies.”

“Why do you want to help?” said Petharic, his hoarse voice scarcely more audible than a whisper. “Why should foreigners care for a street child they don’t know?”

“I see you are not accustomed to charity,” Lilly replied. “Apart from being the right thing to do I am hardly a foreigner. I merely live in the north. If it will ease your concern, I am a New Babbager by birth and know the city well. Though our order is only loosely affiliated with the Church of the Builder, you can find us at the Mnemonics Institute. We will be staying there until Friday.”

Petharic regarded the woman closely. She held such a natural charisma that it was all but impossible to doubt her sincerity.

“I will come for word of the boy’s condition tonight,” said Petharic. He then jumped to his feet.

“Wait!” The woman called out. “What is the child’s name?”

“There’s no need for you to know his name,” said Petharic, who, without further comment, turned and ran to the east.


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One Comment

  1. Bookworm Hienrichs Bookworm Hienrichs April 7, 2016

    *waits with bated, popcorny breath*

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