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Buzzard

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Harold was going to kill that fortune teller. It was all his fault. It had to be. He’d told Harold “You will find yourself in a position many only dream of.” Of course, the fortune teller neglected to mention which kind of dream. So yeah, he was staring at his worst nightmare in every conceivable way, and he was blaming the fortune teller.

The man- bird- angel- thing- on his table twitched. Another drop of blood fell to the tile. The small red puddle grew a little. Harold flinched. The officers winced. Harold’s mind raced with wholey unhelpful thoughts.

Or maybe it was Becky’s fault. Yeah, that sounded right. Harold had never liked fairs, but Becky “Stick out her Necky” El-dori had insisted. Curse the infectious charm of a woman who knows her way around a printer and blackmail.

Harold grew desperate. Desperate to be anywhere but here, desperate to think of anything except the thing on the table. Another drop of blood fell to the linoleum tile. The thing twitched again. Alabaster claws flicked over his regular nails. They matched the wickedly hooked claw on his first wing digit and were far too long to have fit in the space they unsheathed from.

On third thought, maybe it was the detectives’ fault. After all, they were the ones who had called him up in the middle of the night. They hadn’t prepared him for this. All they said was they had a large patient. They’d practically accosted him!

Chloe gave a polite cough, “So, can you help or do we need to find another ornithologist?” How many veterinarians had they broken so far? Was Harold the first? Was there going to be a group therapy session he could go to after this? Harold certainly hoped so.

Harold rubbed his eyes with the bottom of his hands. This wasn’t happening. This wasn’t happening. This- this was happening, wasn’t it? Another drop of blood ran down unnaturally piebald wings, dark blood contrasting with ethereal white feathers. The thing on the table was bleeding. Whatever it was, it probably shouldn’t be bleeding. Harold had yet to encounter a creature who benefited from uncontrolled hemorrhaging. Then again, he’d yet to encounter a creature with both hair and feathers before tonight, so who really knows at this point?

If there was a time for autopilot, it was now. Harold grabbed a towel and approached the thing -the patient- on the table for the first time since the group had entered his operating theatre. He covered his patient’s head with it. If Harold had any luck -or, more likely, Karma, since luck decided it would be a fine idea to introduce a hexapedal endoskeletal thing into his life; Harold was pretty sure Karma owed him a thing or twelve at that point- the towel would keep the patient from waking up sooner. If nothing else, it would provide a half-second distraction before it spotted him. Still not enough time for his life to properly flash before his eyes, but by that point it’d been playing on repeat in the back of his mind for a solid few minutes. He still hadn’t figured out what he’d done to deserve this, but Harold was sure he’d find it eventually.

With that pleasant thought out of the way, there were some questions Harold needed answered. “First and foremost what,” the actual #@%&!?, “am I treating?”

Chloe was slightly confused at the ornithologist’s only action thus far, but elected not to voice anything (yet.) A towel on the face wasn’t exactly a threatening gesture, and it looked like he was ready to treat Lucifer. Plus, and he hadn’t run screaming. That made one vet for three.

“Three dozen gunshot wounds. Bullets are still lodged.” Chloe said. Harold continued to rack his brain who anything he might have done to deserve the situation he found himself in. Maybe it was the time he helped a certain high-profile actor with his less than legal pet. But what else was he supposed to do, let the animal suffer? So that couldn’t be it. Oh… what was Harold getting himself into?

The doctor asked a dozen more questions regarding such topics as: allergies, heart rate, acid blood, reflexes, previous injuries, blood type, whether everything’s a dream, seriously guys please tell me I’m dreaming, and diet. Finally, Harold was ready to operate. Sort of. Harold would usually get an x-ray or eight before operating, but that was off the table for a multitude of reasons, including but not limited to: Harold wasn’t comfortable moving the patient in its condition with so few people, the x-ray machine was nowhere near big enough, and Harold wasn’t sure the hallways were big enough. He wasn’t entirely sure how the cops got the patient in here in the first place. Usually he'd bathe the patient as well, but once again, that was off the table for another laundry list of reasons. He'd have to make due with a through wash and disinfecting of only the areas around the wounds.

So, he was as intellectually ready as he was going to be. Emotionally he was still somewhere between “trapped in a sinking ship” and “now the sinking ship is on fire.” It was all Harold could do to keep from reaching the “ship is sinking and on fire. I really didn’t think it could get worse, but what do you know, now there’s a kraken involved” level. It was working too, his “freaking out” level wasn’t rising. It wasn’t sinking either, but what can you do? You have to take these crisis one thing at a time.

So, Harold took a deep breath, squeezed his rampaging emotions in a box for later evaluation, tucked his hair into a net, put on latex gloves, and immediately ran into a problem.

The patient’s feathers were sharp. And not feathers. Harold wasn’t sure what they were, but they definitely weren’t feathers. The not-feathers were sharp. And hard. What the #%*@.

Harold retrieved the raptor gloves. Then a second pair. He managed to keep the third set intact long enough to get a good idea of the patient’s wings. Or, at least a better idea. Okay, least now Harold was absolutely positively sure he had never seen anything like them before.

The closest thing he could compare them to were swan wings. Less in form and more in function; swan wings were essentially big clubs which also so happened to allow flight. The patient’s wings appeared to fill a similar evolutionary niche, thick wing muscles and bones for a stronger swing. That was roughly where the similarities ended. Obviously, these wings were far, far bigger. Not to mention the structure was completely different. The underlying bone structure was bat-like, with long webbed fingers ending in curved claws.

Suddenly, the hard not-feathers made a bit more sense. They weren’t for flight, they were weapons. Bats didn’t need feathers to fly, and -if this hypothesis was correct- neither did the patient. Harold nudged the base of one of the “feathers.” His eyes widened. The “feathers” weren’t feathers. Not in the slightest.

They were scales.

Hard and sharp and light, the protrusions were closer to knives than feathers. They lacked a the single main shaft and flexibility of plumage. Upon closer inspection the feathers split into two layers: a hard outer coating and a softer inner layer. If Harold’s racing mind was correct, this served not only to keep the scales from rubbing and cutting the flesh of the wing, but would also keep the scales sharp. The softer tissue would wear down before the harder coating, leaving a razor cutting edge.

A polite cough broke Harold’s studious trance. Right, injured hexapod. Scientific curiosity could be saved for later. Right now he needed to remember the job at hand, saving this thing.

Dan -the one who coughed- asked, “How bad is it doc?”

Harold didn’t answer. He was too busy figuring brushing blood soaked feathers out of the way. It wasn’t good, but at the same time…

“It really should be worse.”

Chloe made a noise only describable as a confused snarl. Dan put a hand on her shoulder, but also raised an eyebrow. Harold scrambled to elaborate.

“What I mean is, the, uh, feathers slowed down the bullets considerably. They would have embedded much deeper in the muscle.” Harold glanced at the officers, gauging their reaction. They were still tensed, but had calmed a bit at his explanation.

“What do we do now?” Said Chloe.

You both need to leave. I’ll remove the bullets and patch the holes up.”

Dan complied immediately, but Chloe lingered.

“Detective, unless you can help, you need to leave.”

Another long second passed before Chloe relented. Harold huffed in relief. Now he could get to his patient without distractions.

And get to it he did.