“You’ll be happy to know, my friend, that the law firm of Spiner, Hernandez, and Xon has a full stake in the local private hospital, run by the prestigious Infrared health care network.” Spiner said, in an upbeat tone of voice more fitting for a used car salesman than an attorney.

“Uh-huh,” Jake said from between clenched teeth. “And that means what to me?”

“Well, I’ll have you know that fully 10% of your legal fees paid thus far will count against your bill at Infrared Health,” Spiner said brightly. “It’s one of the first vertically-integrated docket-to-death systems in the state, and we’re very proud of it.”

“What good does that do someone who’s just been shot?” Jake cradled the phone with his shoulder, both hands being busy pressuring the seeping bloody wound in his abdomen.

“I’ll have them send you a paramedic.” Spiner’s tone was dismissive, as if that were a minor obstacle on the way to health, happiness, and an astronomical bill. He once again hung up before Jake could offer much in the way of an answer.

Moments later, the silence of the alley was broken by the hum of diesel engines as the C-47 from earlier wheeled overhead; Jake noted that it bore Spiner, Hernandez, and Xon roundel and fin flash. “Oh, not again.”

Someone leaped from an open door of the plane and drifted on thermal air currents down into the alley. “Hi there!” they said upon landing. “I’m your Spiner, Hernandez, and Xon paramedic. I can be with you as soon as I repack my chute.”

“And how, exactly, is that going to help me?” cried Jake. “Are you going to carry me to the hospital?”

“Now, now, the ambulance will be here in 30 minutes or less or your tetanus shot’s free. In the meantime, I have three flavors and six colors of chewable morphine tablets for you.”

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