Contains spoilers for Chapter 13.
“Tea?” Hector looked enquiringly from the teapot on the table to his friend.
Hector retrieved two cups from the cupboard and put them on the table. They were a little worn at the edges, not dirty, but showing evidence of having spent a lot of time on the road and been knocked around quite a bit. The cups had seen better days, too. A faded pattern was just visible, and they had chipped in places. Hector poured the tea, then added milk to his friend's and a great deal of sugar to his own.
“Thank you, Hector,” said the doctor and accepted the cup. His hands were steady as every surgeon's needed to be, his fingers long and his nails always clean. The cup seemed to belong better in those hands than in Hector's. None of them wore a ring. Once the doctor had. Hector never had. “What caused that?”
Hector followed his friend's glance to the half-healed gash on his own left hand and grinned. “Who knows? No, don't worry, it was a knife.”
“Hm. Why?” asked the doctor, suspiciously.
“Turned out to be a cattle thief. He did not want to be caught. I handed him in to the authorities afterwards,” Hector explained and lifted the tea to his lips. It was hot and bitter sweet in his mouth, a concoction, his scholarly friend had assured him, that would keep one in good health and help the muscles relax. Personally he used a few mouthfuls of brandy or whisky for that purpose. He reached across the table and picked up his pipe. “Naturally they suspected something else.”
“Yes,” said the doctor, then half changed the subject. “How long are you staying for?”
Hector lit the pipe and inhaled deeply. He knew better than to ask the doctor if he would like to smoke. “A few days at least. I will stay with you as long as I can.”
A thin, but grateful, smile crossed the doctor's face. “Thank you.” His physique was nothing like Hector's and probably never had been. He was a scholar first and foremost and had never had to do much manual labour. Still, he was now a distinguished and quite handsome man, and he had a calm, intelligent face.
There was a series of screams from the street below, and both men instinctively turned. Hector's hand sought the gun holster that was currently not strapped to his waist, but had been left in his own room with the clothes that needed to see a tailor for repairs.
“What is going on?” the doctor asked.
Hector had gone to the window and peered down. It was not yet dark, but the sun would set and the moon would rise soon. “Only a broken barrel and someone who tripped on the contents,” he replied. “Hardly an emergency which requires our expertise.”
His friend laughed, but there was a clear strain in his voice.
“When?” Hector said and returned.
“Not long now,” said the doctor. He took another sip of his tea, then held out the cup for Hector to remove it. “Thank you.”
Hector took the cup and put it back on the table. “Can I do anything more for you?”
Their eyes met. “No, I don't think so, my friend,” the doctor said. “Please stay well out of reach and forgive me. And … please check the lock once more.”
Hector nodded. “I find none of these things hard to do, as you know.” He reached out and took hold of the lock to the part of the doctor's room which was separated from the rest by solid metal bars. He pulled at it. “All well.”
Hector gave him a smile. “I will see you again in a few days.”