Amnesia, gen, 816 words
Font, Guziewicz, and Jacocks were huddled together in the hospital corridor when Milt arrived. No, not a huddle, he decided as he slowed down a little to avoid plowing into them. More of a loose grouping. They looked concerned, but there was none of the hidden desperation that would signal something life-threatening, nor the open anger and grief that would signal worse. Russ wasn't dead, then. Milt felt his heart slow down for the first time since he'd gotten the call.
They turned toward him as he approached, automatically including him as if he really were one of them, and not an outsider dressed in careful camouflage.
"How is he?" Because not-dead still left a lot of possibilities.
"He could be worse," Guziewicz said. "A bad bump on the head, probable concussion, but otherwise he's basically okay. I'd make a joke about the stupidity of trying to take Russ out by hitting him on the head, but..."
"What else?" Milt asked, because her tone would have given her away even if her failure to make the mistake hadn't.
Guziewicz sighed. "He's suffering from amnesia."
"Amnesia. What kind of amnesia?"
"He doesn't know who any of us are," Jackocks said.
"He doesn't even know who he is," Font added.
"But...amnesia doesn't work like that," Milt protested. He'd read up on the subject once, in a case involving an unlikely combination of a neurosurgeon, a hypnotist, and a bank robber. He'd figured it was useful knowledge to have anyway. it was rather startling how often suspects claimed amnesia when faced with interrogation.
"Well, that's Russ for you," Guziewicz said. "The doctors are puzzled too. I think some of them were talking about writing it up. On the bright side, they're fairly confident that it's temporary. They don't think it will last longer than a few days."
Trust Russ to break all the rules governing the human brain. "Are they keeping him here?" Milt asked.
There was a general shaking of heads, and an uncomfortable shifting of feet to go with it.
"They think he'll regain his memory faster if he's in familiar surroundings," Font said, shoving his hands in his pockets. "Or at least that's their best guess, considering this sort of thing doesn't usually happen."
"That seems to make sense," Milt said cautiously, trying to feel his way to whatever the problem was.
"It does," Guziewicz said, to a round of encouraging nods.
Milt let his gaze drift from face to face, and waited.
Jacocks broke first. "They don't think he should be left alone," she said. "They say someone should stay with him, until, you know, he's better."
"Ah," Milt said. Things were clearer now. They loved Russ, he knew. Every one of them would have willingly jumped in front of a bullet for him. But then, a bullet was quick.
"I've left a message for Holly," Guzwieciz said.
A Russ with amnesia. A Russ who wouldn't remember how many times he'd been lied to. Who wasn't already predisposed against him. Who might not automatically distrust him. A second chance.
"Holly has exams this week," Milt said. "She shouldn't come back just for this. Not when he's going to be fine in a few days. I'll stay with him."
It would look like generosity to them, of course, and not a chance to answer a longstanding and difficult puzzle. More polishing of the Milt mystique. Let them think it.
He could see their relief and their doubt, both shining clear from their faces. Did they know how easy they were to read? Did they care?
"Are you sure?" Guziewicz asked, looking a little guilty. She was the one who would have eventually volunteered if he hadn't, he knew. Or rather, she would have already volunteered if she hadn't already known that he would come along and remove the need.
"Absolutely," Milt said brightly. Confident and sure, with no resentment at all. "Tell Holly that Russ is in good hands." He nodded toward a door down the hall, the one they'd all been glancing toward as they'd talked about Russ. "He's in there?"
"Yeah," Font said.
"I guess I'd better go introduce myself," Milt said.
He paused at the door of Russ's hospital room with a twinge of trepidation. The problem, he knew, as that Russ was innately suspicious of positivity, and Milt's whole persona was built around positivity. Never mind that it genuinely reflected, if not who he was, then who he truly wanted to be. (Surely one was as authentic as the other, or nearly so.) Russ simply couldn't believe it. So how to temper it to make Russ believe him? Or should he even bother? There was something refreshing, after all, about Russ's refusal to believe the persona. A reason that Milt kept needling him, pushing it even when he didn't need to.
Milt took a deep breath and opened the door.
Wings, gen, 201 words
Milt was in California when it happened, which meant it was a week before he showed up at the Battle Creek Police Department. A week of overtime and late shifts and no time for considering what Milt's slightly-longer-than-expected absence might mean. And yet somehow, Russ thought as Milt walked in the door, it all made sense.
"Of course," he said with resignation, looking up at the wings that, even neatly tucked-in, extended a good foot over Milt's head. "Other people get horns or tails or scales...you get wings." Then he looked again, expression shifting from mild disgust to outright puzzlement. "Are you wearing a suit? How did you..." He got up and walked around Milt slowly. "Did you get your suits tailored? For wings? In a week?"
"I have an excellent tailor," Milt said, seemingly unperturbed.
"Of course you do," Russ said, collapsing into his chair again. "Only you, Milt. I suppose you can fly now?"
"Why do I even ask?"
"I didn't ask for this, you know," Milt said.
"You never do," Russ said. "And yet somehow you always get it."
"What did you get?" Milt asked.
Milt laughed sharply. "And you think I'm the lucky one."
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