The emergency call is fresh in my mind as I traipse through the woodland in hurricane winds. I'm seeking a wooden cabin that I know only too well; the last time I found it was to save Moe French from the beating of his life. I wouldn't be going there in this weather, not with every tree around me threatening to fall and crush me as I walk. I wouldn't be going there.
Except that it's him.
His voice on the phone was broken, racked with sobs of pain. Rather than an ambulance, he called for me to aid him. Found a use for that favour after all.
By the time I reach the cabin it has started to rain, and droplets the size of brazil nuts are soaking through my jeans and trickling down the back of my neck. I find the sodden door and try it. Locked.
"Gold? You in there? This door is locked."
"Break it!" the pain is palpable in every syllable. "Break it down!"
After a few hard bashes the bolt on the other side splinters off, and I'm through, looking in on the scene. A spinning wheel, made from solid oak, has turned on him.
"I can't get it off on my own... it's top-heavy. You need to... overbalance the wheel." Gold struggles with the words, and I can see his already-bad leg is wilting under one of the wheel's legs. "That side."
He throws a weak hand to indicate, and I follow with immediacy. After a moment he pushes, and I guide the direction, pulling down hard on the leg of the wheel that I can grasp. He gives a sudden cry of pain, and I falter.
"Don't! No! It has to be that way."
"It's going to crush your leg!"
And I do, and he lets out a sickening cry. But in a moment the wheel is off and standing upright against me, and he is flat on his back and breathing deep.
A breakout of hail slams against the frame of the cabin, battering the roof with deafening strikes. I drop to Gold's side and reach for his trouser leg to inspect the damage. His calf is purple and black with bruising.
"You need a doctor."
"No, I just needed freeing."
I gape at him as he starts to sit up. He too looks at the portion of his leg that I've uncovered. And then he straightens his tie.
"Thank you Sheriff, I'll do fine from here."
"You're kidding me, right?"
He just smiles, and it suddenly looks as though the horrific pain has instantly faded.
"I'm a fast healer," is all he offers in reply.
I think he must be in shock, so I rise and drag out my waterlogged cell to reach the hospital. I rattle the phone, holding it up to the ceiling in faint hope. The storm has destroyed the signal, and there's no way of transporting him out of the woods with that kind of injury. I guess I'll have to wait for the weather to clear.
"Well I think I'm staying with you, like it or not."
"I don't blame you," Gold replies. "You'll be stoned to death in that tempest."
He shuffles himself into an upright position and pulls the leg of his trouser back into place. He cricks his neck one way, then the other, and I stand waiting for the realisation of serious injury to kick in. But it doesn't.
"You're seriously not in any pain?"
He quirks an eyebrow at me. "It was agony when the weight was on it, I assure you."
He looks at his watch, then back at me. "Could you pass me that whiskey?"
I look around to follow his gaze, and see the two-thirds-full bottle. Perhaps that explains some of this strangeness. I take the bottle to him, lingering as a I stand over him with it. He takes it from my hands and twists the cap.
"Care to join me?" He asks after a swig.
Admittedly, I can think of better ways to spend the night. But going out in those raging winds is highly unappealing. I settle beside him and take the bottle, gulping a measure of liquid fire. It sears my throat.
"Nice blend." I pass the bottle back.
"Scotland's own. Always the best kind."
He isn't kidding. The after-effects come in waves, like a warm tide washing over me from the feet up. Gold lifts the bottle to his lips for a more satisfying gulp, and I find that I'm watching his throat bob as he swallows. He drops the bottle down into his lap wish a slosh.
He checks his watch again, then reaches past the bottle and over his injured leg. He feels it tentatively. He sets the bottle down beside me.
"Should be okay now."
"Oh come on," I say with a laugh, "that's just stu-"
Gold rises spryly to his feet, bending the bad leg to test it out.
I sit in amazement as he walks, with his usual mild limp, over to his cane, and then back again carrying it.
"That'll do nicely."
I get to my feet, feeling the whiskey-red flush in my cheeks.
"Okay, what did you put in that?" I wave a hand at the bottle. "Cause you're not doing that, it can't be right."
I step forward and drop down in front of him, raising the leg of his tailored pants again. The bruises have disappeared. I get up again sharply, put my hands on my hips.
"Have you drugged me? Or is this a prank?"
He considers the idea, runs his tongue out quickly over his lips as he thinks.
"It would be a pretty elaborate joke, don't you think?"
A strange feeling like a tingly headache starts in the back of my skull.
"I don't get it."
"I told you," he says with a smile. "I'm a fast healer. But you can't heal if you're still being hurt. That's why I needed you."
One of my eyes starts to blur. The fiery taste of the whiskey burns in the pit of my stomach.
"Then you're magic."
I squint at him, toppling on one foot and keeping balance with the other.
He steps towards me, puts a steadying hand on my shoulder.
"But I can't let you remember that, I'm afraid."
I can feel my head yearning to hang down, like I'm going to fall asleep where I stand.
"So the whiskey?"
He grins widely.
"From my homeland. A special brew. It will make you forget."
As my balance gives in I fall into his arms, and he guides me onto the bench, props me up by the wall. He settles beside me, watching my face.
"But you drank it too... so you'll forget."
He laughs serenely. "It would appear so."
"Then... take this," I say, my eyes starting to close. I grab the lapel of his jacket, pulling him closer.
My lips touch his for one electric moment, and then everything goes black.