Home > Hunter's Trail (Scarlett Bernard #3)(14)

Hunter's Trail (Scarlett Bernard #3)(14)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

I shook my head guiltily, and she gave me her biggest, most long-suffering sigh yet. “Of course you don’t. What happened the last time you were in hospital?”

“That time I was injured in the line of duty, or whatever, so Dashiell paid my medical bills. This wasn’t work-related, though.”

Noring gave me a disappointed look and said, “Well, you can try giving it another few days to see if the swelling goes down, but I’m not optimistic. Something is wrong in there, more than a simple torn meniscus, and you need x-rays and an MRI. And you really should be using crutches instead of just the cane now.”

“But then I couldn’t get around,” I protested.

She arched her eyebrows in a way that effectively communicated my idiocy. “Yes, that’s kind of the idea.”

My right hand was resting on my leg above the knee, and Noring suddenly looked down and took hold of my hand, turning it so she could see my forearm. “That’s a burn,” she said, puzzled.

I pulled my hand back. “My God, did you go to medical school?” I said sarcastically. It’s possible that I’m not a morning person.

Noring wasn’t deterred. “How did you get a burn?”

“Making soup. For breakfast,” I lied. “Er, I mean a late snack.”

After leaving Will’s house the night before, I’d still had to get rid of the body, and Molly was busy making sure the werewolves didn’t follow me. I’d driven straight to an art studio in the Valley where I have an arrangement with Artie Erickson, the studio’s slightly shady proprietor. In exchange for a small fee, he grants me no-questions-asked access to the industrial furnace that came with the building when he bought it. I had my own gate key so I could back the van right up to the door closest to the furnace room. Despite that, it had still taken me nearly twenty minutes to get the body from the van to the furnace. I would take a step with the cane, lift the knot of the garbage bag, and sort of swing the bag two feet forward. Then I’d take another step and repeat. My knee throbbed so much that as soon as I reached the interior doors I started resting against the wall every three steps.

Getting the body to the furnace had been slow and made my knee hurt. Getting the body into the furnace was a completely different problem. Usually I toss and run, but I couldn’t move quickly now, and even a few seconds exposed to the heat would be dangerous. After some poking around, I had finally discovered a pair of big oven mitts on a hook behind the furnace room door. I put them on, along with a cracked, grimy welder’s helmet that I found in a pile of old junk. Then I opened the furnace door, planted my feet, and heaved the body through the opening, like a boss. My exposed ears had felt hot for a moment, and I’d gotten a mild burn on my arm where the mitten had gaped, but all in all I considered it a success.

Apparently Dr. Noring didn’t agree, though. She frowned at me, but I just shrugged, sticking to my soup story. Noring shook her head and I suddenly felt witch power brush against me, the spell shorting out in my radius like a horsefly on a bug zapper.

I looked at her indignantly. “Uh, can I help you?”

“Sorry,” she said, slightly sheepish. “I wasn’t trying. Force of habit.”

I’d assumed Noring was Old World the moment I’d met her, and I’d felt her power as soon as I concentrated. But we hadn’t discussed it until now. “You usually cast spells on your patients?”

“I don’t call it that,” she said stiffly, “but yes, sort of.”

“What kind of witch are you?” The majority of human magic users are trades witches—they can do a little bit of everything, from mild charms to enhance their appearance to (given the time and resources) complex rituals that can protect a building. A few witches have unique skills, though, not unlike how doctors have different specializations. I was guessing that Noring was one of these.

After a moment of hesitation, she sat down on the couch next to me. For the first time since we’d met, her face smoothed into an expression that wasn’t a frown or a glare, and she said quietly, “I can sense what’s happening in a body and push it toward health.”

“Like a healer?” I said, interested. I’ve heard of witches who can heal, but never met one in person.

But Noring shook her head. “No, no, nothing that dramatic. The body tells me what’s happening inside it, and I . . . encourage it. To get better. Sometimes it works, and sometimes the body is just too sick to recover.”

“And you were trying to get my body to talk to you just now?”

“Yes,” she said briskly. “A reflex.” She leaned over to rummage in her enormous bag. “I believe I have something for that burn. But can I give you a piece of advice, Scarlett?”

I doubted that she could be worse at running my life than I was. “Sure,” I said with a shrug.

She paused her purse expedition to look at me directly. “You need to stop fighting above your weight class,” Noring said simply.

I blinked. “Excuse me?”

“Every day I take care of people who are crippled by a terrible illness, and what you’ve put your body through . . .” She shook her head. “You’re in worse shape than many of them.” She had located the burn cream, and she dabbed a generous dollop onto my wrist. Putting the cap back on, she added, “Other than these injuries, you’re in good health. That’s a gift. Stop squandering it on these”—she waved an arm absently—“these people.”

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