The cove was alive with summer. A gentle salty breeze was billowing off the water that sparkled silver against the sun as it sat high in the sky. The chirp of seagulls and the distant drone of a boat horn was like music to the doctor's ears as he sat out on the deck that overlooked the sea cliff his lone, modest cinder house stood upon. He inhaled the serenity with great relish. So calm, so solitary- just the way he liked it. Sending Pinoko away to summer camp was the best idea yet.
Doctor Black Jack was looking forward to finally getting a little peace and quiet; something that was more of a rarity in his household. Besides the demanding lifestyle of his practice, and the several lawsuits he was in the middle of for operating without a license, the shenanigans that was always brought about by his little red-haired assistant and the family dog, Largo made up most of the chaos that he was now so happy to be relieved of. Dr. Black Jack was planning on making the most out this solitude. He could now work and do his research without interruption. He could now do as he pleased without the interjections of his self-proclaimed "wife". It was going to be a most pleasant summer… at least for the months of July and August. Gazing upon the sea, Black Jack leaned back in his chair and propped his black-clad legs up on the railing of the deck. He slowly allowed his eyes to drift closed.
As if on cue, the telephone rang from inside. Its clamor ripped the sleepy carpet beneath the doctor's feet and he immediately rose and walked into the house. The average person reacts to the telephone with excitement, but Black Jack can't help but be apprehensive. When you're a famous unlicensed surgeon sought out by only the most helpless of patients and the most ruthless of law enforcement agents, you learn to only expect dampening phone calls.
"Hai," He held the receiver reluctantly to his ear, wanting to know who dared disturb his détente.
"Yes, hello," A female voice answered. Black Jack could immediately sense an accent in her Japanese. "Does your clinic offer walk-in hours on the weekends?"
He sighed in annoyance. Many years ago when the house was built Black Jack had the intention of running a small medical clinic. However due to his frightening appearance and reputation for charging astronomical fees, no one ever came for services. Unfortunately the address is still listed as a clinic in some directories. Only foreigners make the mistake of calling and inquiring about non-urgent needs.
"I'm sorry, this facility no longer operates as a clinic. It is only for surgical emergencies. The Hospital in town has a walk-in clinic." He began to put down the receiver, eager to end the conversation.
"The wait at the hospital is too long!" The woman said abruptly. "I am very pressed for time and I need to see a doctor as soon as possible. It is urgent."
Black Jack was taken aback at the woman's curt tone. This annoyed him even more.
"Do you have a medical emergency that can only be helped with intensive surgery?" He asked, his voice thick with agitation.
"Well...no, that's not why I'm calling."
"Then you have no business calling this number." The receiver slammed down with a clack, only to ring again an instant later. Knowing that the woman was calling back, he whipped the phone to his ear once again readying to admonish her.
"Ill pay whatever you want." She pleaded, cutting him off.
This caught the doctor's attention.
"Please," Her tone was desperate but stern. "I have come all the way from the United States. I am being sponsored to ride in the Tokyo Yushun happening in precisely one hour. I will not be permitted to race if I do not receive a specific vaccine by that time. Please, I beg of you. A lot of money is on the line here. My sponsors will pay you however much you need."
Black Jack never took much interest in horse racing. A lot of people he knew betted and gambled at the track on a weekly basis. He's listened to Tetsu san, the owner of his favorite coffee shop, ramble on and on about the latest races and how much money he's lost and how corrupt he believes the whole system to be. The doctor knew all too well how dangerous the races could be for both man and horse. He has spared a few jockeys' lives on his operating table before, but from injuries so severe, only he could fix. The Tokyo Yushun was a major event. It's Japan's equivalent to the U.S' Kentucky Derby. But why ship an American girl all the way to Japan just to ride a horse? And what did she mean by "A lot of money is on the line?"
"I am not a proper doctor." He said "If it's a signature you need, your employer may not recognize it as legitimate."
There was a brief silence and then Black Jack listened as he heard the woman begin to talk with another person in the background. The other voice was a man's. They were speaking english, in hushed tones but he was able to pick out a few words, one being his own name coming from the man's voice. This was strange. Whoever was in the woman's company at the moment, knew who the doctor was. Black Jack found this unsettling, even though he was indeed famous, and internationally known as the "infamous unlicensed surgeon".
The woman's voice came back on the line. "It's not a problem. I just need the vaccine. Everything else will be taken care of. How much do I need to bring you?"
Black Jack found himself feeling ever so suspicious of this woman's situation. He paused, the phone still up to his ear and assessed the situation for a moment. The last thing he wanted was more political conflict on his hands- but a signature is not needed. Technically he would not have any legal responsibilities to deal with if he obliged. This was also an opportunity to make money for a very unchallenging service.
"50,000 Yen," He said. "What vaccine do you need?"
"The ACAM influenza vaccine." The woman replied.
Black Jack wondered how an equestrian wouldn't have already gone through the motions of getting this vaccine. Especially before making a 17-hour trip across the world for a horse race.
Answering his silent question she stated, "Where I am from, we do not need to worry about the Equine Flu. I realize how health-conscience the Japanese are, particularly when involving animals. I just learned of the vaccine today and I need it or they will not let me race and I cannot allow that to happen. I've come too far."
"Fine." Black Jack informed her of the fee once more before hanging up. He proceeded into his study where his collection of vaccines stayed in a temperature- controlled cabinet on a high shelf. As he prepared a fresh syringe of the vaccine he began to contemplate the woman's story. A sponsored jockey traveling thousands of miles… She must be very talented- or just plain lucky. Black Jack knew very little about the sport of horse racing. He figured with races, just staying on should ensure your success whether you win or not. He tapped the syringe once with his finger, settling the dose. What he didn't know was that he was about to learn a whole lot more about this "sport" and with that, his summer was about become a little less of a vacation.