“Oh, it’s you, Doctor. Thanks ever so much for coming. I know you don’t normally do house calls.”
Doctor Hoo nodded curtly at the man and stepped over the threshold. “The patient?”
“Through here.” The man led Doctor Hoo into a room, dingy from the thick curtains that shut out the afternoon sun. The air was thick with the stink of decay. Discreetly, Doctor Hoo cleared his throat. He approached the bed on which a figure lay stretched out as though for an autopsy rather than a medical examination.
“It’s my wife, sir,” the man lingered in the doorway. “She’s not been herself.”
Doctor Hoo nodded. He peered at the woman’s eyes, her wide, staring eyes, transfixed on the ceiling. He took her wrist and felt for a pulse.
“I’m sorry, Mr, ah…”
“I’m terribly sorry, Mr Bludgeon, but your wife is no longer with us.”
“What? What are you talking about, Doctor? That’s her, right there, and no mistake.”
“I’m afraid she has passed.”
“Passed what? An exam?”
The man’s nose wrinkled in a lack of understanding.
“She is dead,” Doctor Hoo said bluntly and precisely.
“Oh!” the man gasped in realisation. “Why didn’t you say so? Oh, I know that already, sir. That’s why I fetched you in.”
Doctor Hoo glanced around the room and over the man’s shoulder. He gestured to the man to keep his voice down.
“How did you get my name?”
“A mutual acquaintance,” the man smirked. “Actually, he let it slip. Right before his head came off, that is.”
Doctor Hoo tensed. The odious fellow could only be referring to Deacus, the only revenant ever to survive. And so, Deacus was dead. Again. Doctor Hoo was sorry to hear it.
“So I’m thinking, you do for my wife what you did for him. Or else I go to the law.”
“You can go to the devil,” said Doctor Hoo. “I’ll see myself out.”
“Oh, no, Doc. Oh, no, you don’t.” Bludgeon straightened to fill the doorway. “You’re going to get my wife back on her feet.” He dropped a sack at the doctor’s feet. Something heavy hit the floor. A dark pool of ichor stained the fabric.
“Your friend’s bonce,” said the man. “Do what I want and you can have the rest of him.”
Doctor Hoo avoided looking at the bag. He looked the fellow in the eye. “Remember when I told you to go to Hell?”
Bludgeon laughed. “I’ve been there, mate. Ever since Minnie popped her clogs.” The smile fell from his lips.
“Very well,” said Doctor Hoo, reaching inside his Gladstone bag. In a flash, he lashed out and slashed the man’s throat with a scalpel. Bludgeon’s hand could not quell the blood spraying between his fingers like a fountain.
Several hours later, Doctor Hoo walked away from the house. At his side, his companion was stretching his neck as though trying something on for size.
“I don’t know,” said Deacus, his voice strange in its new throat. “The last one was more muscular.”
“I’m sure you’ll soon get it into shape,” said Doctor Hoo without turning around. “I do wish you’d take more care.”
Deacus laughed. “I know you’ll always bring me back.”
In the house behind them, in her bed, Minnie Bludgeon lay dead with her husband’s head on her chest. His sightless eyes stared into hers as she gawped at the ceiling.