Author's Note: Unexpectedly, I was hit with a strong inspiration of one of my favorite underrated friendships in media. So I started writing this, thinking it'd be a few pages long. Wound up being over 20 and it's just Chapter 1. Welp, here we go again XD
This story takes place during the episode "A Lighthouse in the Sea of Time"
Peculiar... yes, that's the word. He typed it out in haste, as if the descriptor would evaporate into thin air. As if it could, not after such a chance encounter so deep into the night.
It had to have been 3 AM, that's when he and Gilly usually returned from their beach walks, the natural insomniac that he was. Couple years straight working the nightshift and an entire career in the military will do that to a man. Not that he was complaining, Robbins found the stillness of the late hours to be soothing. Serene, with or without sight. That night was no different, same crisp sea air gently wafting all around him, a familiar, constant companion on his nightly walks. A pleasant compliment that didn't deter from the sweet calm of the shifting sands and the rolling waves. Gilly gently led him along, ensuring he didn't lose his way, though at this point, he could navigate the entire coastline by memory alone.
Though she did get distracted every now and then by the rare oddities hidden in the blankets of sand. A bottle here, a stick there, a sand crab more often than the others. Lord, did she love those things. An irritating lump of garbage drifting a shore from a commercial liner or private yacht or some such nonsense. But all in all, the beach was quite clean. Not that he was the best judge, his eyesight just wasn't what it used to be after all. Good thing Gilly was there to pick up the slack in that regard; she was a great helper and a lovely presence to fill his otherwise quiet life.
And it was curious Gilly that noticed it first, rushing forward out of his grip after an excited whine. At the time, he simply chuckled to himself and let her indulge herself, the old girl needed some excitement wherever she could get it and he was definitely the long leash type concerning her. Of course it helped his confidence that this wasn't the first time she'd done it, sand crabs were pretty common around that particular section of the beach. In fact, it was a signal that they were back at the estate and it was time to retreat inside to feed her and to rest his legs. A comfortable little routine, nothing out of the ordinary or noteworthy about it really.
Which is why, when he caught up to Gilly, who by the sound of it did indeed find herself another sand crab, the gravely groaning of someone in pain shocked him. Well, now he knew it was a someone, not a something, which was his initial thought when the raspy, yet strong cough rattled inside his ears. Just from the intonation, the overall tone, he could make out the beginning of a growl rumbling just beneath the surface. A primal growl, one befitting a tiger, rather than a man.
He quickly brushed the thought aside, it was ridiculous to think of such a fantasy, this was obviously a man who'd washed ashore. And by the sound of it, he was just as old as himself, maybe even older, and he was in pain. Robbins felt a slight tinge of wariness anyway, the careful trepidation a man seasoned in combat would have instinctually.
"Who's there?" he asked, causing the mysterious man to shoot up in a panic, a light gasp escaped his lips as the sand was swiped and pounded under his sudden shift in weight.
He sounded big, about as tall as Robbins himself—coming in at a modest 6'1—if not bigger. He definitely sounded heavier, though by the evenness of the breath, he could tell it was more muscle than fat. The level of nervousness, outright fear in the man's demeanor caught his interest, he wasn't accusatory or authoritative on Robbin's part, he tried to be as gentle as possible when asking.
So to garner this reaction, a prolonged silence, a frozen tension in the air, no attempt for an injured old man who just washed ashore to stand up or shift to a more comfortable position. It was... well, peculiar.
Robbins figured he'd rephrase the question, since nothing was changing in the atmosphere and he knew the man needed help, no matter how strong or apprehensive he seemed. "Are you alright?"
He focused on his condition instead of his identity, which earned him a sigh of relief from the man, albeit begrudging, for some reason. Robbins could only assume the mystery man figured out he was blind and thus wouldn't be able to ascertain who he was even if he wanted to. He seemed quite concerned on that front, hopefully he wasn't talking to a criminal he thought to himself with a bit more of that soldier trepidation he couldn't shake. After a beat, the older man spoke in a voice that threw Robbins for a loop once again.
"I had a little trouble..." He had a thick Scottish accent, something incredibly rare even in the great melting pot that is New York, New York. The most exotic accent he'd ever heard was in Vietnam all those years ago, a couple ladies of the night who only knew enough English to convey themselves as such. But even that didn't come close to this. He could pick up on some of the subtleties of the man's inflections, there was an edge to it, beyond a foreign tongue, beyond masking pain. Something about this man just tickled the back of his mind with the ludicrous assumption that there must be some bestial nature to this person.
But he swatted it away like a worrisome housefly and informed the injured stranger "This beach isn't safe after dark anymore".
A small fib to be certain, but one he felt was necessary to convince him to let Robbins help him. After all, an injured, elderly man who's just washed ashore in the dead of night with clear discomfort at the idea of anyone seeing him as opposed to getting medical attention already proved he's quite stubborn and proud. Fitting for a strong, gravely voice like that, Robbins noted confidently.
Still, he wanted to be sure he checked all the boxes of the Good Samaritan list and figured he would ask the man if he needed a doctor. On the island there was 2; Dr. Winfield, a really standup guy who considers Robbins a buddy, as he's said so several times through the years. And Dr. Paulie, a midlife crisis waiting to happen, but a pleasant fellow all the same, he still upheld the Hippocratic oath which Winfield in recent years has let slip a bit. Robbins didn't chastise him for it though, he had some very interesting stories about some choice patients, some of New York's C-list celebrities and politicians. Both of them would happily do him the favor of making a trip to his estate to look after the injured man.
But that wasn't really the point in him asking, though he'd hoped against his experience in this regard and would have liked to be pleasantly surprised by the strong, proud man kneeling on the cool sand before him. No, the idea was gauging just how injured or how proud the man was in the first place.
Robbins was all too familiar with the credo of men that being honest about one's weaknesses and seeking help is a sign of weakness and should never be allowed. Heck, the Army was once the chief proprietor of said credo, and for good reason he conceded. Can't have a bunch of wussies playing soldier, that'd be sheer madness.
But at the same time, one had to be careful that they didn't go too far in the other direction and allow pride to keep them from receiving something they desperately need from another. However this gravely voice stranger responded would tell him what manner of man he was dealing with, something he realized he was more than a little invested in knowing. Just barely more than usual, but still, his curiosity was starting to be piqued just like Gilly's.
"Do you need a doctor?" Robbins asked as flatly as he could, much to his dismay that investment tainted into the question and made it sound more like an offer rather than a query. Immediately after the words left his mouth, he got his answer.
"No!" of course he frantically declined the offer, though much more politely than he expected, that primal edge much less prominent, but the strength still clear.
Robbins was prepared to go into negotiator mode, level with the man that it would be no trouble at all, there were doctors in walking distance, they would be sworn to secrecy if that was necessary, they could even work on him right there on the beach if he preferred. But before he could start that process, the man made his own proposal.
"Just a place to rest..." his distinct accent making itself known once more. Robbins got his pleasant surprise after all.
The mystery man still felt the need to distance himself, the old masculine credo kicking into effect a bit, as he clarified, "... until sunrise..."
His inflection and tone shift gave Robbins pause, perhaps it wasn't just pride or an effort to remain strong and resilient in the face of hardship. Rather, it sounded more like a resolute fact, when it is sunrise, he will be right as rain, simple as that.
Robbins carefully filed that one away to figure out later, as the man's weight shifted again, sand shuffling underfoot as he reached out and grabbed something metallic. Hollow too. A container of some sort, no doubt carrying something from the ship he most likely drifted in from. An old Scottish fisherman out on a late night expedition, perhaps? Did he get caught up in that storm he heard about on the news earlier that week or was this something a little more nefarious?
He figured he'd file that one away too, as a strong hand clasped a large thigh and sand grains steadily fell from a perch. He was rising to his feet now, and before Robbins could offer his hand to assist.
"If I could lean on you..." the Scottish stranger asked as modestly as he could. The growl returned a bit, rumbling his chest so deeply, Robbins could have sworn he felt the vibrations. Was he ashamed to that extent, loathing the idea of needing a shoulder to lean on, even in this fairly strenuous situation? Or was that pain he was stifling down deep before he got mobile? Another one to file away, pretty soon Robbins would have a whole file cabinet on this mysterious Scottish stranger.
Nevertheless, he silently turned to face his driveway, as the man rose to his full height. As soon as he achieved this feat, he seemed to regret it, evident by the raspy groan he let squeeze out his throat. That nagging idea of a tiger in pain resurfaced, causing Robbins to stamp it back down where it belongs, the deep recesses of his mind to hopefully be buried and forgotten. It was unsettling to even contemplate such a thing. Though when the man's hand finally grasped onto Robbins' shoulder, timid yet desperate, the thought was instantly bolstered.
The stranger's hand was massive, more massive than any hand he'd ever encountered, which spoke volumes considering how many he'd felt throughout his career, both as a soldier and a writer. Many many hands telling such detailed stories just with simple gestures and varying pressures. A mother grateful and honored to meet a kind man willing to help her through a difficult time in her life, an ambitious young man eager to learn from his commanding officer he looked up to, a sleazy reporter looking to uncover some sort of skeleton in the closet of a former soldier turned writer. All stories being told in varying degrees of subtleties, all without the storyteller realizing, but plain for even this blind man to see and appreciate.
So when a hand this massive, this strong, this coarse and rough, grasped his shoulder firmer than he anticipated, a jolt of shock ran through his body. He tried to mask it, as to not scare off the overly cautious man, but found it impossible with the accompanying weight of the old Scotsman. He knew he was heavy, but this was quite unexpected. Robbins was no slouch, by any means.
Retirement from active duty and turning to his typewriter didn't suddenly turn him into an out of shape senior citizen. He still maintained a modest regiment of exercise, mainly for health reasons as his athletic days were far behind him, but he could still arm wrestle with the young men. If he had his sight, he bet he'd give them a run for they money on the court too.
Despite all of that, the second the mysterious stranger shifted his weight onto him, he buckled a bit. So much so, he had to grip his cane tighter than he ever remembered just to stay upright.
As soon as he was able to get his footing back, he was balanced again, but goodness the man was at least twice his weight. Which, last he heard, was a buck 70, not bad for a 6'1 former soldier. Meaning the man currently leaning on him had to at least be 290 if not 300 something. And again, he could tell it was mostly muscle, not fat.
If the guy was a fisherman, he must have been doing it the old school way, with harpoons and hooks. And his catches must've been hammerhead sharks or whales or something. Based off of the awkward sensation and angling of the man's wrist, he wasn't even putting all of his weight on Robbins, which was even more extraordinary. 330 pounds, easy, he revised before being thrust out of his own head.
A guttural grunt emanated from the Scottish heavyweight, rasping at the tail end giving a better clue to his age, but retaining that undertone of a wounded tiger, something Robbins could no longer push down so easily. This man was older than him, he was sure now, but that only caused the mystery to deepen. How could such a man be so much stronger than Robbins, was he an athlete? What sport, he wondered, then quickly filed it away, adding to that ever growing file cabinet.
The hand was still the main subject of his racing mind, for upon closer inspection he could only feel 4 digits, though quite thick, only 4 prongs were on the vice like grip. He even shifted his shoulder slightly to better feel the missing 5th, giving it a chance to reveal itself. But it remained hidden. However, that could easily be explained away, he was sure fishermen lost body parts, especially when their catches involved carnivorous fish, lending credence to the hammerhead shark idea. But really, how many hammerhead sharks are swimming in the waters of New York City?
No no, the only other idea that could reasonably explain the loss of a finger was a casualty of war, thus making him a former soldier. Which, now that he thought about it, made a lot more sense. Would explain the muscular weight, the assuredness of his recovery at daybreak, the downplaying of his injury. Even his overall poise was reminiscent of a man who'd seen his fair share of combat and was familiar on a battlefield, if not comfortable.
He supposed he was getting ahead of himself. There would be plenty of time to explore the questions that made up this peculiar fellow in the comfort of his study. Robbins turned to face the man who he now realized intentionally tried to be more behind him than beside him. He really wasn't comfortable with people seeing him, it seemed. Nevertheless, Robbins thought it good to give an encouraging word, if he was indeed a soldier, he would be used to the type of encouragement Robbins was offering.
"C'mon, then. I've got a fire going" he told him, as the Scottish heavyweight lowered his head close to Robbins' bicep. A fluffy mass brushed up against his sleeve, catching on the fabric a bit. Must be a beard, pretty long one if it reached that far down. That or he's really got his head bowed down.
The mysterious Scotsman turned to Robbins, tentatively, perhaps forgetting for just a moment that he was blind. The idea tickled him a bit, it only happens every once in a while, someone forgetting that he's blind. It's always refreshing, because too many people only see him as a blind man and nothing more. So when that's brushed aside, even for a moment, to focus more on him as a man, it warms his heart. Though in this context, it was most likely nothing more than habit on the mystery man's part, too used to hiding away in a crowd or even in the shadows to not be recognized by anyone he doesn't deem worthy. A careful trepidation a man seasoned in combat would have instinctually, he recalled. Soldier it is, then.
With a resigning, embarrassed sigh, the man responded, "There's little I can offer in return... except my thanks..."
It caused Robbins to blink rapidly in confusion, the thought hadn't even crossed his mind what the man would offer him in return. Nothing about this required compensation, even some of the things he's done for people that would warrant compensation, he'd still refuse it. Must be his version of the old masculine credo creeping back, he supposed. He was never one to have his hand out or keep a tally of favors owed. He did what his parents instilled in him from a young age; do what's right, because it's right and that's all you'll ever need.
It's what compelled him to enlist into the service, carried him through the tumultuous Vietnam war, got him this position in his community and the opportunity to pursue his dream of being a writer when he was relieved of duty. It's one of the things that made him the man he was. So to hear such a comment from a man older than him, it was baffling to say the least. Putting yet another notable aspect about this beached soldier on file, he shrugged it off as a much more honorable idea. After all, if he was in this man's position, he'd be thinking of what to give in return for the kindness wouldn't he? He didn't know Robbins, he probably didn't know many people with the same strong values instilled in him, which is a real shame.
Still, it spoke to the mystery man's character that he'd openly admit that he doesn't have anything to give for compensation, in such a way that he may have tried to warn Robbins to not waste his time on him. It wouldn't profit him anything, so why trouble himself, that sort of idea. What he once assumed was pride has now morphed closer to honor and integrity. An honorable soldier, eh? They don't make those anymore, he marveled to himself.
He took a resolute step forward, finally leading the man into his driveway, his gait careful to accommodate the man's injuries. "That's payment in full".
Gilly trotted around them both, ecstatic. It'd been a while since they had someone over the house, and never someone so palpably intriguing. The man easily managed to keep up with Robbins, silently encouraging him to increase his pace, which got no complaints from Robbins. Through each step, he could feel the Scottish soldier's muscles tense, he was on edge. His grip trembling, it could have easily been blamed on the brisk wind that most found bracing.
But Robbins could tell, every single detail about the old soldier told him that he had little to no experience with this level of decency. At least from people in New York, which was unsurprising, if not disappointing.
This was new territory and as Gilly had made abundantly clear, you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Change, even small change, is difficult for everybody, but big changes, significantly large shifts in dynamics and experiences are impossible for most. And the older you get, the more difficult it gets, Robbins could vigorously attest to that.
So to put him at ease, and to regain some semblance of his manners, Robbins finally offered his name, before politely asking for the stranger's name. "My name's Robbins. Jeffrey Robbins. And you?"
He had a 50/50 chance of getting a fake name, a brush off, or his real name, he'd gambled with worse odds before and won. That night was no different, as the thick Scottish accent sounded off once more, revealing the peculiar old soldier's name.
"Hudson", he said, then quickly fumbled to add, "like the river". Robbins had to smile at the comment, it sounded like the name was still something he was getting used to, as crazy as that sounds. He knew it was his real name, didn't have much in the way of proof, but he just knew. An old soldier with honor and integrity wouldn't bother lying about that. He didn't let his hopes get up too high on learning intimate details about the clearly secretive man, he knew better than that.
Still, he couldn't help the smile that lingered as they made it to the glass doors of his study, Gilly mewled happily as he salvaged his keys from his pocket and traced his fingers along the surface to find the lock. A quick flick of his wrist and a gentle push and the warmth of the fire wafted out to greet them. A subtle rumble in Hudson's throat let him know that he was indeed a tad cold and would greatly appreciate a cup of hot tea if he was offered one.
"Oh, mind the rug" he lightly instructed, it could catch one by surprise if they weren't already anticipating it.
Hudson simply nodded as he reached out for the nearest object to bear his considerable weight, relieving Robbins of the burden. He realized, however, that it also had the added benefit of no longer requiring Robbins to keep him upright and allowed him his autonomy back in full. No doubt, this was the primary reason why the massive Scotsman sought for a new perch, but Robbins didn't take it personally. Like he thought, old dogs, new tricks.
"Make yourself comfortable, I'll get us something warm to drink" he told him. Hudson nearly tripped over his words to deter him from doing anything more for him than he already had, but Robbins brushed him off.
He turned to him, a warm smirk on his face, "I always make too much tea anyway, you'll be doing me a favor, helping me finish the pot".
Still, Hudson tried to reject the offer as politely as possible, "No really, ye don't need to be troublin' yerself on my account"
"Gilly, keep our guest company, while I do my thing" Robbins instructed, to which she happily obliged with a joyful bark. And as he walked down the hallway to his kitchen, he could have sworn he heard a soft chuckle from the strong, stoic Hudson.
Must be a dog person, that's good, he thought to himself as he turned the sink on, filling the tea kettle that stayed right next to the faucet. It only took a few minutes to brew the tea in the kettle, herbal stuff that one of his friends introduced him to, said it was to calm the nerves. Ever since he's been drinking it, he's found that to be true, and it certainly seemed like his guest could use some calming down at the moment.
In mere moments, Robbins returned with a tray of two cups, a full sugar bowl, the tea kettle, and a couple of crumpets he'd been meaning to finish off for a couple weeks now anyway. A sudden squeak of leather where Hudson sat gave away that he was startled at how quickly Robbins had returned, again earning him an amused smile from the master of the house. With a deft hand, he placed the tray on the coffee table sitting between them and moved the miscellaneous contents obstructing the tray to the corners of the table. He'd done it so many times, sight was a mere formality on the matter.
"Ye were much quicker than I expected" Hudson remarked, as if his surprise was news to Robbins, who simply chuckled a bit in response.
"Is my girl Gilly being hospitable?" he asked as he sat down in his faithful lounge chair. He of course knew she was, but wanted to break the ice further with his mysterious guest. Something told him that Hudson wasn't very good at starting small talk, luckily for him Robbins was a certifiable expert. After all those book tours, interviews, and meet and greets, he just ought to be.
"Aye, she's wonderful and full of love, as any good dog should be" Hudson nervously agreed to what they both already knew, before falling silent. Gilly sat expectantly by Robbins' side, her soft panting subtly accompanying the crackling fire. He took a few crumpets and offered them to her, to which she sloppily accepted as he petted her head gently.
"It's good that you're a dog person, she's very affectionate with people, as you already know. Got a furry companion of your own?"
"Aye. Ye could say that"
"What's his name?"
"Bronx" he replied calmly, before struggling to add more detail. "Like the village"
Robbins put a hand on his chin for a second, taken aback by the phrasing. "Hmm, village huh? We usually call 'em burrows, but I guess village works too"
"Ah, right. Burrows. I... keep forgetting" Hudson replied, trailing off at the end as he settled in the chair. The leather squeaking and groaning as he did.
"New in town, are ya?" Robbins added coyly.
"Aye, very new"
"You been enjoying your stay in New York?" he asked, before quickly reminding himself of the situation that brought this guest to his study. "That is, until tonight?"
Hudson remained silent for a moment, not just because he was sipping his tea, the slightest of grunts as he did. Finally he answered, sighing, "It's... been an adjustment."
The sound of hair shuffling led him to believe Hudson stroked his beard as he continued, "Don't know if I'd say I've enjoyed it, but I don't have much choice in the matter"
Robbins sipped his tea before replying, "Yeah, most people feel that way when they stay here for a couple months. Trust me, you'll find enjoyment even when you're struggling to adjust. Take it from a fellow adjustment struggler" He motioned to his shades, a friendly grin on his face. Hudson simply remained silent, possibly forgetting once more that Robbins was blind and chose to nod, instead of voice his response.
The warm fire lightly rumbled as rain began to trickle on the windows, filling the room with a comfortable ambiance as the two men whittled down their drinks. The delicate rustling of fabric and long hair clued Robbins in that Hudson was taking in the room, bouncing his attention from one thing to the other. Not that he blamed him, his study was full of nifty little things he'd gathered over the years.
The statue of the general on his rampaging stallion, his Army uniform, the assault rifle above the mantle, his grandparent's decorative clock just beneath the firearm. Not to mention the plethora of books adoring his shelved walls. He supposed that someone who was seeing all of this for the first time would be quite intrigued, not knowing where to start first, not at all unlike Robbins felt right now about the puzzling predicament that was Hudson.
A dull clack of porcelain signaled that Hudson was winding down his wandering eyes and was once again at a loss on how to proceed with him, so Robbins figured he'd throw him another lifeline.
"Is the tea to your liking?"
"Oh, aye..." Hudson responded unenthused, "it's got quite an... interesting flavor" he struggled, trying to remain as polite and amicable as he could, though failing to hide the audible strain in his tone.
"That bad, huh?" Robbins chuckled back.
Hudson fluttered about, if the faint sensation of wind brushing against his face was any indication of rapid movement. Hmm, even his scent was peculiar. "No no, I didn't mean to imply that. It's fine, really"
Robbins shrugged as he swirled his cup. "It's alright. If ya didn't like it, ya didn't like it. It's an acquired taste, anyhow" he sipped the rest of his tea down, the warmth softly coursing through his body.
"I don't fancy m'self wantin' to acquire that taste, if ye don't mind me sayin' " Hudson playfully responded, placing the teacup and saucer back on the tray with a polite clack.
"Not at all. I took a gamble that your tastes would be more on the robust side, but perhaps a sweeter softer tea would have been better. I'll take care to remember that" Robbins mirrored Hudson's motion and picked up the tray.
"Don't trouble yourself, Mr. Robbins" Hudson took the tray from him, gracefully placing it on the end table beside his chair. Robbins merely smiled and sat back down, he wasn't the only one that felt a desperate needed to exercise his manners again.
"Just Robbins is fine, Mr. Robbins was my father. Plus it makes me feel older than I am"
"Nonsense, you're still plenty young" he replied a little too confidently, confirming another suspicion.
"Heh, figured you were older than me. I'm 59, so how much are you beating me by?" he motioned an open palm to Hudson, who merely scoffed. Like a horse snorting out its frustration after a long run.
"A considerable margin, let's just leave it at that" Hudson answered deftly, finishing off the crumpets.
"Hahaha, fair enough, Hudson!" he couldn't help but laugh at that. Sure enough, he knew he wasn't going to get very far with the intimate details, but who likes talking about their age when they're older than 30, let alone older than 59? It was an oddly humanizing comment, one that made him rethink the whole horse simile he just attributed to him.
After a smaller bout of silence, Hudson was finally the one to break it. "What is this?" he asked while reaching for one of the many items set aside to make way for the tea tray.
Robbins put his hand out, reminding Hudson that he needed to feel what he was referencing. That had to have been a record, no one's ever managed to "forget" he was blind 3 times in a row after just meeting him. Hudson placed the object in his hand, and immediately he figured what it was.
The small wooden frame, always resting on the coffee table, curious enough to make a guest ask "what it is" instead of "who is it" a picture of. He couldn't help but rub his fingertips along the silky fabric attached to the medal that spoke volumes of his service in the armed forces. One of the few trophies or awards he bothered displaying, all the others felt tokenized, superficial, ultimately meaningless. But this one, with the engraving of his name and George Washington side by side, it meant the world to him, as it would any proud American soldier.
"My purple heart" he responded finally, emotion carefully choked back. "For this" he added, placing a finger on the rim of his shades.
He stood up to face the mantle, hopefully to mask the sentimentality that was welling up despite himself. "So busy trying to herd a bunch of green kids through 'Nam, that I didn't watch my step"
"Shrapnel. You never see it coming..." His grip on his cane tightened just a bit, as he shook his head gently.
" 'Nam?" was his reply, which caused Robbins to turn to his mysterious guest, confusion lacing his features.
"Vietnam" he clarified. Perhaps, in Scotland they don't know it by the abbreviation. But, continued silence was his answer, causing him to sink deeper into confusion. "The war?" he asked expectantly, his eyebrow quirking up. Again, there was no answer from Hudson.
"Funny," Robbins said, tapping his cane on the floor absently, "something about your voice, made me think you were a soldier once" he motioned to Hudson with his open palm, in an apologetic way.
But Hudson finally spoke up, "Aye..." he responded, the gravel in his voice returning in full, rumbling his chest. "I still am, I suppose..." he chuckled a bit, earning him another quirked eyebrow from Robbins.
Nervous, he struggled to move the conversation away from himself again, "Er, what fills your nights now, Robbins?"
"I write novels" he responded, walking along his wall of books. "Or, I did until they dried up" he added in faux irritation with himself, turning back to Hudson.
Hudson rose from his seat, almost rushing to stand, in spite of his injury, "You wrote all of these?" he asked incredulous, causing Robbins to laugh unabashed.
"Hahaha! Wouldn't that be something?" he sighed and wiped a tear prickling at the corner of his eye. "No, but... I did have a few modest successes" he walked over to a portion of the extended bookshelves, his fingers trailing on the wood faithfully holding the wealth of knowledge and stories.
Robbins reached his desired section and instinctively reached out for the book he searched for. His book: Gilgamesh the King. One of his proudest achievements, easily the most famous of his modest successes, and one he'd hoped Hudson would either recognize or enjoy someday.
He only then realized that Hudson reminded him of Enkidu, Gilgamesh's closest friend and ally. Strong, proud, honorable, but a bit ignorant of the broader world around him. Which isn't to say that he's foolish, of course, but his horizons could be broadened a bit and help him navigate the difficulties life challenges us all with.
However, he doubted that Hudson would help kill a heavenly bull and a giant monstrous chimera guarding the gods' cedar forest. That would be a bit too much indulging of fantasy, he thought to himself as he handed the book over to Hudson.
"Here" large tentative hands took the book out of his smaller hand and the thumping of fingers on the hardcover was encouraging. He was showing clear interest in it, that was good.
"What are these... tiny bumps?" he asked, confused. A quick sound of pages flipping over before the next question, "Where are the... uh..." he struggled for a second, "words?"
Robbins kicked himself for going to the braille edition before the printed version. He was just so used to reading that version himself, he forgot that others wouldn't be able to read that one. Though, curiously once again, Hudson appears to have never encountered braille before, adding more files to the mental cabinet Robbins was keeping on the enigmatic Scotsman.
"Why, it's braille. It's how I can read" he replied, tracing his way to another section of the bookshelf, "And write, back when I still had something to write about" he added, again in a disgruntled tone of disappointment. It really had been far too long since the old juices flowed and the muse visited him.
After reaching the section, he pulled the regular version of his book, and handed it to Hudson. "Here's the printed version. This'll make more sense to ya"
A staunch closing of the book in Hudson's possession revealed that he'd put some distance between them. Perhaps the subject matter was a sensitive one? Was Hudson not a fan of Gilgamesh or not a fan of ancient epics? Hmm, shame. Robbins figured Hudson would have enjoyed it, but no matter. Just like the tea, Robbins contemplated his presumptions of Hudson's tastes, which have proven to be a bit elusive to him. Another rarity, he can usually read people pretty well. Robbins shrugged and retracted his extended hand with the book, as the old saying goes, "to each their own".
"Bumps... Scrolls..." Hudson spoke up, his voice more gravely again, if not absentminded. "What's the difference?" he asked, not seeking for an answer.
And it finally crystalized for Robbins, the reason for the sudden distance, the forlorn tone in his voice, the quiet contempt that nearly went unnoticed. Slowly, but purposefully, Robbins walked up to Hudson, who he figured was facing away from him now, and lightly tapped the man's leg with his cane. Just an innocent little tap, enough for it to be warded off and rejected or to be ignored and allowed. Hudson made no moves away from the touch, neither did he voice any complaints, which left the ball in Robbins's court.
As carefully and delicately as he could, he reached out to Hudson's shoulder, where he knew it was. Robbins was all too aware of how this next act would shift the entire atmosphere. For better or for worse, he couldn't know for sure, but it would certainly change, something he was aware Hudson was particularly not a fan of. But still, he felt it necessary to take that one step further with his surprise houseguest.
No, he thought, he's not just that anymore, is he? I want to help him, not just to be kind to a stranger, but to be a friend to someone who could be one to him as well. Maybe. Hopefully...
He had a 50/50 chance of getting through to this peculiar man or to scaring him off to flee into the night never to return. But again, he'd gambled with worse odds before and won. That night he'd already done just that, so with a bold kindness and familiarity, he planted his hand on Hudson's broad shoulder. Broader than he thought it'd be, if he was being candid. The material he felt was leather to be sure, which might explain some of Hudson's unique aroma, but something was different about it. Something he, ironically enough, couldn't put his finger on.
Considering his hand wasn't recoiled from, neither questioned or criticized for its placement, he pressed on. With the gentleness of a father, he gripped Hudson's shoulder, and smiled in understanding before softly saying what they both knew to be true.
"Ya can't read, can ya?"
Hudson stiffened at the accusation initially, the shock of being uncovered so clearly will do that to a man. Truthfully, Robbins thought that would be that, Hudson would yank his shoulder out of his grip, thank him for his hospitality in a curt manner, then rush out without a concern for how he'll get back to his ship, presumably. Ignoring the storm raging outside, the unfamiliar terrain, risk being seen by so many people he would dread to have know his face. Still, Robbins placed his bet and waited for the chips to fall where they would.
And once more on that fateful night, lady luck was still on his side. The Scotsman remained frozen on the spot, daring not to move for fear of change. What change specifically, he couldn't be sure of, but there was a fear of something in his tensed shoulder. Mercifully, Hudson rumbled a low hum, this time Robbins could feel the vibrations emanating from him. A hum of resignation, defeat, acceptance. A humbling sound, to be sure.
Robbins let go of the breath he didn't realize he was holding, as if on cue, the low rumble of thunder rolled across the sky as lightning streaked miles away over the sea. Robbins patted Hudson's shoulder before returning to his seat, thankful that his guest had decided to remain a guest despite the uncomfortable revelation.
"Aye... I don't..." he finally said, small and ashamed. "Sorry" he added even quieter.
"Apology unnecessary. You haven't done anything wrong, Hudson"
"But I can't read your book. Surely that disappoints ye"
"Well, not really, no. A bunch of people that can read haven't read it either, and I'm not disappointed in them. Wouldn't make sense to be disappointed in you for the same reason"
"It's just... I dunno..." he could hear Hudson rubbing the back of his neck, his words trailing off and interjected with several gravely hums.
"That's alright. You can learn at your own pace. You'll be running through the novels of your choice in no time"
Hudson slumped deeper into his chair. "It's... too late..."
"Nonsense, it's never too late to learn a new skill" Robbins declared, pointing to Hudson authoritatively.
"But I'm too old to learn"
"Oh hogwash! I had to learn braille when I was almost 40. And I'll learn a new way to read when I'm 80, if I have to" stamping his cane down for emphasis. He was really feeling the fire now.
"Well, who would teach me? I've never told my clan that I can't read" he admitted, desperate to find a reason not to. And Robbins knew it, which is why he took that next step forward, to really reach the heart of the matter.
"I can teach you... but that's not really the point, is it?" he allowed Hudson ample time to admit another harsh truth that they were both already aware of. To his credit, this one came much sooner than the first.
"It... shames me..." he said in a distant tone, his head seemed to be turned away from Robbins again. A reflexive tick.
Robbins toned down his passion and regained that calming demeanor that worked so well moments before. "I understand. But it isn't shameful to be illiterate, Hudson"
He leaned forward on his cane as he concluded, "It's only a shame to stay that way..."
He was content to let the statement hang in the air for a moment. Robbins wanted the full impact of his words to weigh on Hudson, to give the old soldier a full understanding of his beliefs on the matter, the merits of it, the wisdom in it. He'd hoped to hear at the very least a begrudging "I'll get back to you on that one" response, but he instead heard the chirping of birds. A symphony of whistles and calls that communicate the ending of a long night and the dawn of a new day. One of natures most beautiful songs, something he takes care appreciate every morning first thing. A marvelous melody he'd take over the hustle and bustle of the big city any day.
Surprisingly, Hudson was especially responsive to the early birds chirping, shooting out a sharp gasp, before whipping his head around to see the window, the groaning and creaking of the chair was a dead giveaway. Swiftly, he jumped to his feet with a heavy thud, snatched his metal container that Robbins completely forgot about until that very moment, then cleared his throat awkwardly.
"Uh, I must leave" he succinctly announced, making a beeline for the door, his distinctive scent wafting past Robbins as it trailed behind the rushing Scotsman. Robbins's heart dropped at the sudden shift. He didn't realize his last words were also a gamble, apparently he had gone one step too far.
"Now I've run you off with my preaching!" he exclaimed, incredibly embarrassed and apologetic. He did have a tendency to drone on longer than most found comfortable, a habit that's only gotten worse with age.
"No..." Hudson quickly dismissed, almost as desperately as he did when the idea of calling a doctor was brought up. "It's nearly dawn" he said turning to face Robbins once more, a seriousness in his tone that was unmistakable.
"I have to go" he breathed quickly before rushing out of the door and down the hall, much faster than Robbins believed he could move, especially while injured.
Robbins shot up as fast as he could and made his way to the front door, the faint scent of old leather and the sound of heavy footfalls and flapping cloth led him outside, the dew settling down to make way for the sun wet his ankles. But he didn't care, he needed to apologize to Hudson, try to make him understand that whatever his offense, he mustn't pin it on reading and dismiss the notion of learning.
The last thing he wanted was to prevent someone from learning such a vital skill as reading, it meant so much to him, not only as a writer, but as an avid reader himself. In fact, after the loss of his sight, the only thing that really kept him going was learning to read braille. Despite losing the ability to see the world with his physical eyes, he could still use his mind's eye, his imagination, to see not just the world he lived in, but other worlds. Countless worlds, countless people, countless phenomena, the experiences were endless. The limitations were only human's ability of imagination, which he firmly believed had no limits.
It changed his life for the better, after an accident tried changing it for the worse. It helped him accomplish his dream of being a writer, something he was too afraid to pursue until his retirement from active duty. And to be the one to deprive someone else of the ability to have what he's been blessed to have, to unintentionally convince someone to forsake the pursuit of literacy, is a horrific fate for him.
Not to mention that he was growing fond of old Hudson as the night went on. He was a fascinating man, more fascinating than any man he'd ever met before. Possibly more than any man he'd ever meet in future. Such a strong and honorable man, to the point where he appeared to be plucked from the old stories of knights and mages. But also, a man who suffers from a narrow scope, the all too familiar masculine credo, and a distrust of people in general. The more time he spent with him, the more he wanted to know him, help him, befriend him. For it to end this way, so unceremoniously, so unexpectedly, was just too much to bear.
"Wait..." he called out, trying to hide the desperation in his heart. He rushed to the front gate, hoping to catch Hudson on the beach, until he heard a sound so odd, it stopped him in his tracks. His mind had to have been playing tricks on him, for the only way he could describe the sound was an odd scraping on gravel or concrete. Rather, of gravel, because as strange as it sounds, Robbins could hear the distinct sound of the gravel moving, as if it was being forced out of the ground in chunks and shaped into something else. Calcified, as if there was an audible noise that could be attributed to such a word and he was the first man to ever hear it.
He couldn't believe his ears for a moment and at an uncharacteristic loss of words, futilely he asked, "What's that?"
Of course, he never got an answer, even now he's still not sure what he heard on that crisp dawn. But whatever it was, he knew it had something to do with the man who just rushed out of his home like a bat out of hell. A man who he still wasn't sure was out of earshot.
So with more than a sprinkling of hope, he called out that new name he learned, "Hudson?"
And despite the silence that greeted him afterwards, he found he enjoyed the sound of the name more than he thought. But what he'd enjoy far more is that gravely voice responding back. Alas, the waves crashing against the shore responded, the birds flittering in and out of the trees responded, the brisk ocean breeze rustling the trees responded. But the enigmatic Scotsman soldier Hudson did not respond.
So with a solemn sigh, Robbins hung his head in regret and shook. Too late, old man. Couple steps too late. The despondent writer turned on his heel and calmly made his way back to his now empty home, tapping his cane to find the porch steps before they found him.
With a flick of his wrist, the door swung close, leaving him to contemplate his own brashness in the comfort of his carpeted home, which was now wet with dew soaked shoes, he realized. As he made his way to his bedroom to replace his cold damp socks with warm dry ones, Hudson's odd smell still clinging to the walls, he couldn't help but replay the entire ordeal through his head.
How did one ordinary night along the beach turn into a dramatic story like this? It was enough to make his head spin. Would make a great plot for a television show though, with some tweaking of course. Gilly trotted up to him as he sat on his bed, resting her head on his lap to invite his gentle touch. He obliged with a deep sigh, still regretting how things ended with their new friend.
Yes, he supposed he considered Hudson a friend. At best, a friend. At worst, an acquaintance he'd never meet again. But he truly did want to consider Hudson a new friend, and have him reciprocate that sentiment. It was strange, but he found himself feeling like a young lad again, eager to make a good impression with his peers and failing to do so weighing on him deeply. He chuckled to himself, the comical realization finally sobered him up enough to shrug the whole thing off for now. He mentioned to Gilly that it's about time for breakfast and got up to fill her bowl, when he remembered a choice moment from last night, seemingly at random.
Hudson, like the river, he thought as he smiled fondly. It's gonna be a while before I forget that one. The memory also reminded him of the tray he had yet to put back in the kitchen. If he didn't do it now, he'd forget and the next time he wanted tea, he'd have to search the whole house top to bottom. Not a fun task with sight, definitely less enjoyable without it. So he made his way back to his study, Gilly in tow, when she rushed past his leg unexpectedly. He didn't think much of it, she probably saw a squirrel or something in the yard and was preparing to bark at it until it ran up a tree out of sight.
He simply shrugged and grabbed the two tea cups with one hand and the tray with his other, the cups destination was the sink and the tray's the counter, as always. But when the barking inevitably started, he also heard a distant whine. An all too familiar whine, one that accompanied a large vehicle that shouldn't be anywhere near the beach, let alone the island itself. And if he wasn't mistaken, it sounded quite familiar to the jet engines for fighter planes, not a commercial jet. That, on top of the franticness of Gilly's barking and scratching, none of it boded well.
Robbins set everything down and walked to the door of his study, hoping for a moment that it was Hudson who was getting picked up by a jet. He was a soldier after all, perhaps he was lost at sea due to a mission. He ejected from the plane, landed in the water, washed ashore. That metal container was probably from the plane or a package he was meant to deliver to his higher ups. Whatever the case, it would answer some questions, but only raise more as is often the case concerning the mysterious old soldier. Regardless, he figured he'd try his luck again, what's the worst that could happen?
"Hudson? Is that you?" he called out, refraining from opening the door until he was sure.
Gilly's growling wasn't exactly inspiring confidence in the situation either. She got along great with Hudson, there's no way she'd be growling at him now, not unless he's with someone else who just so happened to be less pleasant than him. Upon receiving no answer, he figured whoever just landed in that conspicuous aircraft was not with Hudson. And was probably up to no good, just from the overall vibe he was feeling.
"Who's there?" he asked more sternly.
"My name is Lennox McDuff, sir" another strong, Scottish accent, delivering a clearly fake name. But something was different about this one. His voice was smoother, slicker, sharper. More dubious.
The ominous man began walking as soon as he started to speak, each step confident and eerily calm. "I'm a friend of Hudson's, I'm uh... concerned about him" he smoothed, far too sure of himself. Robbins could hear the devilish grin in his inflection.
Wasting no time, he slid open the door and blocked the opening. "He isn't here. You just missed him" he stated frankly.
There was nothing to lie about after all, Hudson really had disappeared just moments ago and he had no idea where he was going. The shady man had to have realized he was telling the truth, seeing as he was so comfortable in falsehoods, identifying the opposite should be child's play. Though, he wisely kept that little tidbit to himself.
"Then I won't trouble you. Good day" the strange man replied, not a single change in his tone or demeanor as he backed away from the door, allowing the robust scent of old paper and freshly ground metal to assault Robbins's senses. A parting gift, something to remember him by.
Gilly immediately pounced at the opening in the door, snarling more viciously than she'd ever had. Robbins knelt down beside her, rubbing soothing circles on her back and under her chin, hoping it'd be enough to calm her down. He understood her hostility against the dubious man that just darkened their doorstep, there was something about him that just wasn't right. Not just that he was clearly a liar, had use of a military grade jet or possibly even above military grade, walked in the place like he owned it, left as quickly as he came in the shadiest way possible.
All of that was bad, true enough, but there was something underneath it. A quiet wrath, tempered by ambition and purpose. Like a conqueror waiting to seize a kingdom for his own, by any means necessary. A hunger for power that could and no doubt would lead him to hurting many people for his own satisfaction. A chill went down his spine just thinking of what the man would have done if he hadn't believed Hudson was gone without a trace. Robbins just held Gilly tight as she settled down a bit, though she refused to move from that spot until she was sure the man was long gone.
Once again, Robbins couldn't blame the old girl. It'd be downright foolish to take your eyes off of a man like that. But in no time, the jet engines of Lennox McDuff's aircraft hummed to life again and shot off into the distance, leaving no trace of him ever being there, save the sickly feeling he gave Robbins.
"Lennox McDuff", he thought to himself. What a creative alias, though he wasn't sure just how effective it was in the man's day to day. There had to have been dozens of awkward moments over the years where someone would randomly blurt out how fake it sounded or how hilariously on the nose it was. It was also amusing that the more confident the man was in the name, the less believable it seemed, the complete opposite of Hudson. He was a bit awkward with his name, but that just made it sound more genuine, authentically part of him. Hudson, like the river, now that's how you get someone to believe you. Not no, "Lennox McDuff". Who on earth is even named "Lennox" anymore, he wondered in mild frustration.
Despite the unwarranted excitement of the morning, Robbins was pleased to find the rest of his day was uneventful. Though he did get a call from one of his jogging neighbors that confused him. He asked him if he's always had that extra gargoyle on his wall, just out of the blue. He of course told the man that he assumed so, considering no one has done any new construction on his property since he had the driveway repaved 4 years back.
Whatever new statue he thought he saw had to have been there the whole time, he just never noticed it before. He agreed that must be it, then asked if he was going to the HOA meeting next Thursday, which promptly lost his interest in the man, leading him to end the conversation as quickly and politely as possible.
But other than that oddity, it was just another ordinary day, one he secretly hoped he would have interrupted by the ever intriguing Hudson. Not just because he was concerned about his safety, the Lennox McDuff character had successfully earned Robbins's extreme caution, plus Hudson was already injured. But it was because he wanted to undo whatever he messed up for him when it came to learning to read. It was never his intention to discourage him, far from it, and he just wanted to make that clear before Hudson closed himself off completely to the concept.
But after a full dinner and a sleepless night and day, Robbins was fading fast, his eyelids weighing just as heavy as if Hudson leaned on them, encouraging him to just relax and drift into dreamland. He couldn't even begin to fight the siren's call beckoning him, so off he drifted into blissful dreamless sleep. The only thing going through his mind was just how old he must have been getting, it was only 5:30 and he was ready to hit the hay. It wasn't even dusk yet. But once he slumped into the leather-bound embrace of his lounge chair, he drifted off...
A sudden bark from Gilly ripped him out of that warm embrace and shot him forward into reality. She was right behind him, facing the terrace... exactly where that Lennox McDuff character approached him! Perhaps he wasn't convinced after all. Would explain his flat out ominous and abrupt exit; wait for later in the day, when everyone has turned in for the night, then come and "question" the suspect to his heart's content. Certainly would be in line with the dubious quiet wrath at the core he sensed from that man.
Well, if he wants a fight, he's gonna get one, he thought to himself, rising to get his mantle-mounted gun. But something in Gilly's breathing and barking gave him pause. She was reacting to someone at the door, obviously, but she wasn't tense, on guard, or upset even. Rather, she was excited by the sound of it. Something she would only be if it was a friend, or if his assumption was correct, someone they hoped would be a friend.
She jumped up on the arm of the chair to encourage Robbins to be led to the door, and he grabbed hold of her handle, trusting her judgement. She's never steered him wrong before, why start now? As Robbins reached for the door handle, he could hear heavy footfalls that were all too familiar, confirming his suspicion before the Scotsman's gravely voice resonated in his ears.
"It's only me. Hudson" he announced, in a stronger, more forward tone as Robbins opened the door. A welcomed change from his groans of discomfort and trepidation. He was right, it seemed; all it took was a day's rest and he was fine. It made him wonder about the nature of that injury or Hudson's capacity for tolerating pain, but he just filed it away in the now bursting file cabinet he accumulated of the heavyset Scotsman.
"I'm glad you came back" he said, grateful to have the opportunity to make up for his previous transgression. Grateful that the old soldier was alright. Heck, just grateful that he wasn't Lennox McDuff looking to settle whatever imaginary score he could have drummed up.
"I'm afraid I can't stay" he lamented, though he tried to quickly mask it by changing the subject, "But I believe I left something on the terrace this morning. Have you come across a large canister?"
Now it was coming together, Robbins thought as he answered, "No, but a friend of yours was on the terrace. A Lennox McDuff. Maybe he took it"
Hudson hummed a deep grumble as he thought on the name. "I don't know any Lennox McDuff..." he said warily.
"I'm not surprised," Robbins responded, taking reign of Gilly to lead him to his bookshelf. "The name sounded phony. Lennox and McDuff are two characters in a play by Shakespeare" he explained, finally reaching the shelf and trailing his fingers to find a specific text.
"MacBeth" he finished, turning to face Hudson to see if that meant anything to him.
Theatrical individuals such as "McDuff" always use aliases that are relevant to them as people, tracing the alias back to the source can often reveal something about the person the alias was intended to cover up. Or so he learned from his old Lieutenant, who just happened to be into spy novels and got him hooked for a while as well.
Hudson gasped a quiet, but impactful breath at the name. "MacBeth!?" he immediately turned to leave, "I've gotta go Robbins, I..." he stopped himself before breathing a deep deflated sigh.
"I... I don't know where he lives..." he realized helplessly.
"Who?" Robbins asked as he found the book he was looking for.
"MacBeth—MacDuff—" a light thwak of a palm against a forehead sounded off before he composed his thoughts "eh, I do know him!" he admitted, "But he's not a friend!"
Robbins flitted through the pages of his book as he responded. "Well maybe this will help..." He raced his fingertip across the page, mumbling the names inscribed until he hit pay dirt. "McDuff, Lennox" he announced resolutely, tapping the entry firmly.
"And here's an address, just like that" he finished, preparing to read it off for Hudson, who meandered over to his side, unabashed unlike last night. Extreme circumstances, he supposed. Still, another welcomed change.
The old soldier rumbled another thoughtful hum as he inspected the phone book in Robbins's hands, "Magic book..." he remarked impressed, eliciting a wide grin from Robbins.
"Aren't they all?" he asked playfully. Hudson exhaled through his nose, a stifled chuckle that can only be the result of a smile.
Robbins sighed in relief internally, he didn't scare Hudson off with his preaching and Hudson appeared to be really coming around on reading, which was the most important thing for Robbins. Even if Hudson tired of his rhetoric, he at least wanted him to be able to learn how to read and forsake illiteracy, it's a crying shame that someone as old as Hudson has missed out on reading so many stories that everyone else has. He deserved the joy of combing through a good book as much as anyone else and he was glad to know that Hudson was beginning to realize that himself.
"You're not gonna believe this, but he lives in a castle just north of Hudson Heights, in Fort Tryon Park. Apparently he bought Fort Tryon? How does someone even do that?" he asked incredulous at the notion.
"When MacBeth is concerned, you can never rule anything out" Hudson practically growled before rushing back to the door. A tiger on the hunt, Robbins thought. "I've gotta get going, Robbins"
"I understand, just be careful alright? Wouldn't want you to think you can skip away without explaining all of this to me" he said, trying to sound light to mask how close he was to exploding with questions.
Gilly barked happily as Hudson gave her a goodbye pet. "Sorry, I'll do my best to clear things up. But the truth is, I don't know much about what's goin' on," he flung the door open and walked back onto the terrace. "But I do know that if MacBeth is involved, he's gotta be stopped"
Robbins walked over to the door, to see Hudson off in spirit, he supposed. He could hear the flapping of his old leather jacket cut through the night air like a hot knife through butter, leaving him to wonder why he did it. Probably just to fasten it back closed or something.
A subtle shift in the grass and a weak breeze just in front of him, carrying a distinct earthy leathery scent, meant Hudson was turning to face him one last time. "Thank ye, Robbins. Fer everythin' " he said, pouring his heart into the words.
Robbins smiled warmly and nodded in response, "Anytime, Hudson. Good luck"
And with that, a strong stomp rumbled the ground in front of Robbins and the flapping of that leather jacket accompanied it, almost as if he'd thrown it into the sky. But that didn't make sense, why would he do that on his way back to the mainland? He was chilly just from last night's cool breeze, imagine going out on the open ocean, he'll be a popsicle in 30 seconds. Still, the flapping stopped abruptly and just like that, Hudson disappeared into thin air. He wondered how that was possible, but filed it away into a second file cabinet, eager to get some answers to these questions when he returns. Not if, but when.
He knew, without a doubt, Hudson would come back and honor his word to answer some of the questions that have been plaguing Robbins since they met. Two file cabinet's bursting with queries that were begging to be answered, mysteries demanding to be solved. No matter how dangerous or dubious that MacDuff fellow—or was it MacBeth?—no matter how dangerous that other Scottish man was, Robbins knew he didn't have anything to worry about.
Something about Hudson's voice this time around, the power and confidence behind it just convinced him that Hudson could handle anything. And now that disappearing/reappearing act had to be weighed in, something for the life of him he couldn't begin to figure out on his own, plus that unexpected nimbleness of his as well. There seemed to be no reason to believe any harm would come to Hudson, regardless of whatever threat he faced.
Robbins rubbed his forehead, baffled by this swelling of faith in a man he had only met last night. He liked to think that he had more faith in people than most; surviving 'Nam wouldn't have been possible if his squad of green kids hadn't rallied around him and carried him back to base camp. His recovery and subsequent acclimation back to civilian life and life without sight relied on so many strangers helping him when he couldn't help himself. Getting the estate and maintaining it required faith in his real estate friends and neighbors. All in all, he didn't have a choice in the amount of faith and trust he gave humanity after everything he'd been through and the capacity for kindness and empathy he experienced from people.
But he wasn't foolish, for every good and decent person, there were just as many selfish and hateful people in the world, more even. McDuff—or MacBeth, whatever—he was proof positive of that. The only thing Robbins trusted McDuff-Beth to do was cause pain and destruction wherever he went, without a care for anybody but himself.
So how can he have such faith in Hudson to stop him and come back safely, he pondered. Sure he was strong, honorable, faster than he ought to be, and being an old soldier he's got plenty of experience. But that wasn't logically enough to relax completely concerning his encounter with McDuff-Beth, he knew that.
Robbins also knew that McDuff-Beth had access to military grade jets, which meant he probably had some significant firepower to go along with that, and he bought Fort Tryon, something he still had trouble reconciling. The man clearly had capital and all the gall that comes with it, but he also had the nefarious mind to use that capital to outfit Fort Tryon with whatever traps or defenses he could imagine in said nefarious mind. How would Hudson handle that? Could Hudson handle that?
But as he sat back down in his lounge chair, he couldn't shake the faith he had in his peculiar friend. No matter what question he raised in his head, his heart would brush it aside like cloth on a line. Hudson was going to stop McDuff-Beth, he was going to come back, there was nothing Robbins needed to worry about.
So, against his nagging brain's orders, he relaxed and pat Gilly's soft fur causing her to nestle into his touch. He supposed worrying about him wouldn't do much good anyway. Instead, he reached for the television remote he kept on the coffee table and flicked it on, hoping to hear something about Fort Tryon on the news.
Unfortunately, nothing about Fort Tryon came up that night, just fluff pieces on politicians, the rise and fall of The Pack, another fluff piece on the Metropolitan Museum of Art receiving a couple of new artifacts from Europe, weather, crime, sports, and finally health tips. Nothing even remotely related to Fort Tryon, McDuff-Beth, Hudson, nothing. He supposed that was to be expected, if Hudson was so desperate to never be seen or noticed by people, of course he'd prefer to stay out of the spotlight and do things discreetly. Robbins questioned how he even could in this type of situation, but he supposed he'd hear something in the morning. He switched the channel until he got to his oldies music channel, his second favorite channel after the news, and settled in for another quiet night with Gilly, a warm fire, and a good read.
Before he could get lost in one of his new books he'd been working through since last week, a smile creeped to his face. He remembered comparing Hudson to the loyal and powerful Enkidu from the Epic of Gilgamesh, a character he was all too familiar with at this point. He joked that he wouldn't be able to kill a heavenly bull or a monstrous chimera, but with the amount of faith Hudson suddenly instilled in him, Robbins figured someday he probably could rise to Enkidu's level of exploits.
A rapid blink at the idea caused him to chuckle to himself as he stood up to get his book for the evening, that smell of old leather and concrete, he finally recognized, faintly lingering in the spot where the heavyset Scotsman sidled up beside him, calling the phone book magic before scoffing out a smile. Robbins could only conclude with one comment before letting all things Hudson settle in the file cabinet once more.
"What a peculiar man..."
Author's Notes: I was disappointed in how little stories feature Robbins as a main character, there's so much fascinating stories to tell with him and Hudson. Well, that's alright, I'll contribute to this niche part of the series. Hope you enjoyed, I'll see you when the muse hits me again C;