“Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.” ~ 19th century rhyme
The charge nurse swept through the emergency room announcing the pending arrival of two more accident victims, a gunshot wound and drug overdose
“That’s what you get for saying it was too quiet around here, Dr. Payne.” A pretty nurse elbowed Quentin as he backed away from his former, now officially dead, host. “That’s supposed to be bad luck.”
An orderly pulled a sheet over the husk, and wheeled it out of the ER.
At the mention of his new name, Quentin tore off his gloves and covered his mouth with his hand in what he hoped was a contemplative gesture. In reality, he was holding back a smile.
“What a delicious name,” he thought, then added out loud, “it’s not even a full moon.”
Just as it takes time to adjust to using the physical body of a new host, Quentin also needed time to acclimate to the intellectual and psychological functions. Keeping out of the unit traffic, he took in the scene, he let his host memories seep back into his consciousness.
He liked what he was feeling. Marshall Payne, M.D., was a serendipitous choice for a host, but Quentin approved of his arrogance. A wunderkind in the medical community, Payne was as egotistic as he was talented.
Payne was accustomed to getting his way both professionally and personally. Scanning the hectic ER, Quentin counted three nurses his host was intimate with, and a fourth he wanted to pursue on his own. He also noted at least two staffers who held grudges against Payne for unmerited disciplinary action.
A paramedic hauling a new patient into his view brought Quentin out of his reverie. It was time to test how well he merged with his host. He let a nurse help him with a new pair of gloves, then went to work.
Down in the hospital morgue, Quentin’s former host was under scrutiny by a meticulous coroner, Paul Aldridge. Reading over the ER report, he examined the toe tag on the corpse. Adjusting the overhead lamp, he bent over the body to study its skin. A quick jab with a body thermometer only confused him more by giving him a reading for a body dead much longer than doctor notes indicated.
Aldridge directed his assistant to take photos of every inch of their subject’s body, giving special attention to his eyes and fingers. Once he finished his internal inspection, Aldridge was convinced something was wrong. The data didn’t add up.
While his assistant closed up incisions, and loaded the body into a cold chamber, Aldridge began dictating his notes. This was one of Payne’s patients. Aldridge didn’t like the young doctor. Payne believed rules didn’t apply to him. This was either huge malpractice mistake, or an intentional criminal one.
This time, Aldridge had him. Payne’s luck had run out.