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Something to be Said About Tact

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Two hundred years of immortality really had done wonders for eroding Henry’s self-preservation instincts. His common sense too, actually. It wasn’t until Henry got into situations like this that he remembered—oh right, normal people don’t take solo walks after dark in the middle of New York City. That’s how you get mugged. And it was why Henry was currently being held at gunpoint, cursing both his decision to not bring any money, and his decision to wear his favorite scarf, because the gunman’s trigger finger was twitching.

“I’m not gonna say it again. You have five seconds to hand me your wallet before your head gets splattered all over this wall.”

Henry took a brief moment to examine said wall. It wouldn’t be the worst place he’d ever had his blood spilled. But he was really quite fond of his scarf… “Honestly, I don’t have it with me. I’m very sorry about that, but when you’re mugging people as a source of income, you have to anticipate some let-downs.”

“Shut up!” The man paced several steps left and right, but his gun didn’t waver from Henry.

“You can search me if you’d like. I just want to be on my way soon, if you don’t mind.” Henry raised his hands on either side of his body, offering.

The mugger’s expression was unreadable beneath a ski mask, but he did stop pacing. Henry thought he might actually be making some leeway, until—

“Police! Drop the weapon!”

“Shit!”

Henry echoed the sentiment inside his own head. If any ordinary law enforcement had stumbled upon this altercation, the risk of exposure if shot, would have been manageable. There was a dumpster he could dive behind if the wound wasn’t immediately fatal. As long as no one saw him disappear, or knew his face to question him later, he would be fine.

But fate was not pleased with Henry today. The woman who came into the alley with her own weapon held on the mugger, was Joanna Reece.

“Put it down or take a bullet to the chest.”

As the lieutenant stepped closer, Henry could see she was wearing dress pants and a blouse. The open purse hanging from her arm seemed to be the source of the gun. She definitely hadn’t left the house planning to stop a mugging in progress, but then again, Henry hadn’t been planning on getting mugged either. Yet here they were. Henry hoped he hadn’t ruined her evening.

The mugger was undeterred by Reece’s threat. If anything, his handle on the gun grew steadier. “You shoot me and I shoot him. You’re not gonna risk that.”

“I can take you down before you even touch the trigger. Try me.”

In better conditions, Henry would have bet quite a bit on that being true. He had a lot of faith in the NYPD, and especially so in the officers whom he was personally acquainted with. However, the alley was dim, and Reece’s position did not give her a good view of the assailant’s weapon. The gun was held out directly in front of the mugger, and Reece was almost directly behind the man.

The lieutenant must have realized this as well, because she started inching to the right. At first, the mugger—attention thoroughly fixed on Henry—didn’t notice. Henry kept his expression casual. He was considering trying to throw his scarf on the ground in case of death (he could retrieve it later) when the mugger spotted Reece’s movement. His eyes flickered over, and both guns clicked.

Henry didn’t even feel the shot.

****************************************************************************************************************************************************

Joanna was already running late. Her day had started with her alarm clock smashing on the floor, and had developed in a similar fashion. The broken hot water heater had delayed her shower, which had delayed her departure from home, and that had led her to getting caught in traffic. Now, at 7:30, she was still paying for those schedule disruptions. She did not have time to witness Henry Morgan being murdered.

Joanna had thought herself silly when she packed a gun and handcuffs in her purse for her sister’s birthday dinner, but she couldn’t turn off a cop’s brain. She wasn’t complaining now.

The bullet in the mugger’s leg seemed inconsequential to him after Henry disappeared. He was still blubbering when she dragged him to the nearest hospital, going on and on about how the body of the guy he shot had vanished, along with all his blood. When an officer from the local precinct arrived, Joanna told him that she’d found the assailant shooting at cats. Animal cruelty and weapon charges were a lot milder than the man deserved, but she wasn’t going to try to explain what actually happened. There was no way to prove murder without a body, and supplying the “body” would prove no murder had actually occurred.

Joanna wept for the simple days before Henry Morgan came into her life.

After filing a report at the precinct, Joanna lifted a pair of NYPD sweats and took a cab back to where she had parked her car. Unlike her highly irresponsible ME, Joanna was not stupid enough to walk around the city at night—and definitely not in high heels. Immortal or not, that man needed to start taking better care not to get killed, before someone else noticed.

Joanna sat in her car for a full two minutes—doors locked—contemplating what to do. Henry probably wasn’t even at the park anymore, and if he were, there would be a very uncomfortable conversation happening between the two of them that Joanna could deal with avoiding for now. She’d rather go to dinner.

She took her phone out. Opened up her sister’s contact. She sighed. Sorry for the late notice, but I can’t make it tonight. Emergency at work. I’ll see you on Sunday.

****************************************************************************************************************************************************

The weather was unseasonably warm for October. Chilly enough to wear a scarf—or to be cold when shivering wet and naked next to a river—but Henry wasn’t going to catch hypothermia while waiting for Abe. Small mercies.

The wait was taking longer than usual, since Abe had taken advantage of his Friday night to attend a friend’s poker game out in Queens. Henry had felt guilty even as he loaded quarters into the payphone, but trying to catch a cab—or worse, walk home—without clothes wasn’t a viable option. Over the years he’d tried to hide spare clothes in various places by the river, but they were always taken by the homeless. Quarters were easy to bury, but clothes were a lost cause.

Henry was sitting against a tree, knees pulled to his chest, when he saw Joanna Reece for the second time that evening. This visit was even more unwelcome than the first—something he’d not thought possible. It was highly unlikely that her presence here was a coincidence. Even more unlikely given the fact that she was carrying a pair of the NYPD sweats that Henry had come to know so well.

“Hello, Lieutenant. What brings you here?”

“Really, Henry? You’re going to start with pleasantries? Now?”

“Well…” Henry couldn’t think of a single word to say. Reece’s tone was straight annoyance, without a trace of bewilderment, confusion. It didn’t add up.

She tossed the clothes at him. “You probably want to put these on. I’ll wait.”

Reece averted her eyes while Henry got dressed. He couldn’t tell exactly where this situation was going, and it was unsettling. Did she know? Did she think something else had happened? How did she know he would be here? “You don’t seem surprised.”

“The only thing that has surprised me tonight is the fact that you managed to get yourself shot again. A mugging? Really? You’re lucky no one’s going to believe a word out of that guy’s mouth in jail. If there had been more witnesses, we would’ve had a problem.”

Alright. She clearly knew exactly what was going on. “Again…you don’t seem surprised.”

Reece rolled her eyes. “I know what goes on in my department, Henry. Now, get up off the ground and I’ll drive you home. I’m sure you don’t want to sit here all night.”

That was true, so Henry swallowed back about a dozen questions and followed the lieutenant to her car. (This had to be the first time the disclosure of his immortality had left Henry with questions instead of vice versa.) Half-way there he sheepishly asked to borrow Reece’s cell phone so he could call Abe and tell him not to bother with the rest of the trip.

“Abe.”

“I’m on my way, Henry, sheesh. Wait…whose phone is this?”

“You can turn around…I’ve obtained another ride.”

“You what?

“Lieutenant Reece.”

“She knows? Do we need to run?”

“…I don’t think so. I’ll let you know.”

****************************************************************************************************************************************************

Joanna took the long way to Abe’s Antiques. It was entertaining seeing Henry Morgan simmer while she, for once, held all the cards. It was decent payback for having to haul a would-be murderer to the hospital, and fish her ME out of the river on her night off. Not comparable, but decent.

The majority of the drive was spent in silence, apart from the radio. At every red light Joanna watched Henry in her peripheral vision, opening his mouth, starting to speak, then closing it again.

The fourth time, she interrupted. “You might as well just spit it out. You’re going to ask eventually.”

“How long have you known?”

“That you’re immortal?”

Henry flinched.

“What? Do you call it something else?”

“No…it’s just been a while since I’ve heard anyone else besides myself and Abe say that.”

The traffic light turned green.

“Martinez doesn’t know then?” Joanna had been fifty-fifty on that one. Henry and the detective were pretty close, but Henry often times had his head up his ass.

“I’m getting around to it. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to explain to someone, but then again, you’re taking this all very well. How long have you known?”

“Since before Christmas. Shortly after our conversation about your skinny dipping.”

“You got immortality out of that?”

Joanna scoffed. “Not straight from A to B, but essentially, yes. Henry, you’re a pretty weird guy, but public indecency? That many times? I looked into it. You really should think about changing your name one of these days.”

“I thought ‘Henry Morgan’ was common enough to be inconspicuous. It’s done me well so far.”

“Maybe for the entire world, but not in one area. Our database has dozens of mentions of a ‘Doctor Henry Morgan’ in the New York area over the past hundred years. Housing records, bank accounts, employment, several arrests for wandering the banks of the East River naked.”

Joanna parked her car on the street, across from Abe’s Antiques. She took the opportunity to look at Henry for the first time since they had started this conversation. “You served in World War one and two?”

“Well, I was with the British army for the first war, but yes. I’m a doctor who can’t die. I knew my help was needed.”

Joanna nodded. There wasn’t much else she wanted to know. When she’d found that first batch of articles—Doctor Henry Morgan tirelessly combatting the tuberculosis epidemic in Hudson Valley, and a photograph to boot—it had taken her weeks of research to actually believe it. She had never planned on broaching the subject if the evening’s events hadn’t occurred, so this confirmation alone was more than she’d expected.

She didn’t suppose Henry knew why he was immortal, or how—and if he did, Joanna didn’t want to know. So there was only one more question pestering her.

“Your roommate knows. What’s the relation there? Is he immortal too?”

Henry smiled, and for the first time that night, it wasn’t tinged with nervousness. “No, Abe is as mortal as the rest of you. As for the relation…come inside. I’ll show you.”

Henry got out of the car, and started walking towards the shop. At half-past nine o’clock, Joanna didn’t have anything better to do. So why not? She followed him.

Joanna glanced around the store’s front room as they walked inside. The only other occasion she had been here was after the shooting incident in December, and she hadn’t exactly taken the time to browse.

“How much of this furniture is younger than you?”

“Quite a bit. I acquired most of the collection. It’s strange seeing items that you once used every day become antiques in the eyes of society.”

Joanna could empathize with that on some level—the typewriters and telephones that she’d had as a child now gathered dust in shops like these—but she realized it would eventually go much further for Henry. His heirlooms would be artifacts one day.

“Here it is.” Henry pulled a book off of a shelf by the register. “Abe keeps it down here in case anyone ever searches our apartment. It blends in with the rest of the merchandise.” He spread the book out on the surface of the desk.

Joanna stepped beside Henry, looking down at the book. “A photo album?”

“Abigail liked to take a lot of pictures when Abe was growing up. We must have filled half a dozen of these.”

Joanna inspected the album more carefully. The first page had four photographs of a smiling baby, around a year and a half old. On the opposing page, one of the photos caught her attention. A man was holding the baby this time, standing in a park. The hairstyle was different and the photograph was faded, but the man was definitely Henry. “He’s your son.”

“Yes. Abe was a war orphan in Poland, found at one of the camps. We decided to adopt him.” Henry brushed his hand over the photo. “Best decision of my life.”

Joanna flipped through the pages of the book, watching the baby grow a little older in each picture. There were also plenty of images of Henry, and a blonde woman—Abigail, she presumed. (Joanna decided to leave that subject alone.) The album ended with the boy about five years old.

“There are more books around here, picking up where this one left off, but I think I’ve taken up enough of your time this evening.”

Joanna couldn’t deny that, but she found her frustration from earlier had dissipated. Henry Morgan was still an idiot. And she would still shoot him if he got himself killed in front of her again. But she didn’t regret anything that had occurred throughout the night; it was a shame more people couldn’t know this side of the doctor. “It was certainly more interesting than my sister’s dinner would have been. Just don’t expect me fishing you out of the river nude to become a common routine.”

Henry had the decency to look slightly abashed at that. “Noted. Thank you, Lieutenant.”

“Goodnight, Henry.” Joanna left the shop without looking back.