Andrew wasn’t sure what he had expected when Dr. Degas handed him her phone number and said to call. But it certainly wasn’t Dr. Degas sitting across from him at the tiny folding table in Iris’s shop, sipping a steaming mug of tea. She wore a cardigan sweater and jeans with no sign of her white lab coat, the only thing he’d ever seen her wear.
Tonight, all four of them were there. Iris had already apparently discussed everything with Dr. Degas, so her presence didn’t affect Iris whatsoever. Roman had barely reacted beyond a raised eyebrow when he’d walked in. Then they’d exchanged polite hellos, she’d asked after the baby’s cough, and that was the end of anything unusual on their end.
So here they were, catching her up on everything that had been attempted before. She didn’t seem to be thrown off by any of the more metaphysical aspects, just nodded thoughtfully and asked the occasional question. But then, Andrew reasoned, she was the only doctor in a cursed town. So it wasn’t like she didn’t know the curse was real. She just focused her attention and resources on the physical aspects of it instead.
“If I can be completely up front with you all,” Dr. Degas said as Iris wrapped up her last point, “My participation might cause some headaches for you.”
“You’re not that bad,” Roman said.
Dr. Degas rolled her eyes. “You get cuter every year, Roman.”
Roman winked and she shook her head. “But seriously. If word gets back to the town council that I’m participating, they might start keeping a closer eye on you all.”
She gestured toward Iris. “No offense intended, Iris, but you saw the way they brushed you off at the town meeting last winter. Right now they think it’s just a ‘you’ thing.”
Iris grimaced. “I mean, I don’t know how that isn’t offensive,” she said, “but I guess it is in our favor.”
“But if I come on board, that puts the medical center into the fight.”
“Are you comfortable with that?” Roman asked with a frown. “I mean, do you think that might have a negative effect on your work there?”
“I don’t care,” Dr. Degas said flatly. “Honestly, Roman, I truly don’t. They’ve been having a negative effect on my work since I started working at the medical center. There aren’t enough resources, there sure aren’t enough doctors or nurses. And there is absolutely no plan in place should there be an emergency regarding the curse.”
She stopped abruptly, clearly remembering who she was talking to. “Shit, Roman…”
He shrugged with a bitter smile. “It’s not like I’ve never thought about it,” he said. “I know full well that there’s no plan.”
“I’ve been trying to figure it out,” Dr. Degas said. “There’s enough people who either have been affected long-term or just happen to get hit frequently enough. But there’s no official plan in connection with the town. Or the extra resources should something happen.”
“So basically, I should really be careful and watch my step,” Roman said.
Dr. Degas winced. “Yeah, I guess that’s what I’m saying.”
Her gaze quickly landed on Andrew as well, and Andrew’s stomach sank. It hadn’t even occurred to him that there might be an emergency and he wouldn’t be able to get to the hospital. One false move and he could just die here.
“So, as you can see, I am also personally invested in solving this,” Dr. Degas said. “But I mean it, the town will notice that I’m doing this and it will bring scrutiny on everyone here.”
Roman shrugged. “Screw them,” he said.
“Agreed,” Andrew chimed in.
Then he paused. “Just for future reference,” he started. “What exactly are you able to do in town? Emergency-wise that is?”
Dr. Degas laughed humorlessly. “If you break a bone I can set it for you,” she said. “Anything bigger than that is going to be case by case.”
Andrew nodded, feeling slightly sick.
“Anyway,” Roman said quickly, picking up one of the dusty books. “What are we thinking tonight? I’ve got another hour until I need to get home.”
Iris was more and more relieved over the weeks as calls for cleansing services came in. Apparently her slip up with the Forrests hadn’t cost her her entire client base. Which, considering the way that business had slowed for a little while over at the shop, was encouraging.
Now that the others had left, she sat at her kitchen table with a bowl of pasta next to her, pouring over her notes for tomorrow’s case. It looked fairly straightforward. Mild paranormal activity in a family home. The house had a history with a mysterious death taking place there in the late nineteenth century. She’d have to visit in person before confirming her plans, but it seemed similar enough to plenty of the other cases she’d dealt with over the years.
Roland, her own little constant haunting, hadn’t been present in her own home lately. The wards she’d put up were still standing, but she knew they weren’t foolproof. She knew there was always a chance of him slipping through. And after feeling that energy coming off of him last time, that hateful fury, she wanted to avoid that possibility for as long as possible.
Ever since Roman had brought up the idea of the curse having demonic origins, she’d been thinking about Roland. How had she never considered the possibility that he was a dark spirit? She’d brought him into the plane via spirit board and he’d lied about who he was while she did so. All the molasses cookies in the world shouldn’t have blocked that obvious fact from her mind.
As she thought that, the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. No way, she thought. No. There was no way he was in here.
Just as quickly as it started, it stopped. The feeling of being watched vanished abruptly. Still uneasy, Iris glanced around the room before turning back to her notes.