She calmly walked over to the telephone by the window and began to dial.
“Police – yes, I have an intruder.”
She stared at me coldly, I sank into the chair.
“No officer, I don’t think he’s armed.”
She looked at me quizzically, I took the piece out of my pocket and laid it on the bureau where she could reach it. She took it calmly in her hand.
“Five minutes, thank you officer.”
She put the phone down and pointed the gun at me. I tried to remain calm.
“So why did you kill him then? It wasn’t just because he’d got another woman on the side now was it?”
She pulled the hammer back on the piece, I kept talking.
“Truth is you knew about that and knew you’d lose all of this if he left you for her. You knew you couldn’t have her killed because you’d be the only suspect so you roped in me and all of our history as a fall guy.”
“You always had a vivid imagination Nick.”
“Richard takes a bullet before he can leave you meaning you claim on the insurance and Madame Absinthe is left with nothing. You get revenge on him for running off with another woman, me for leaving you to marry him and everyone else watches you play the grieving widow.”
She smiled in a way I couldn’t quiet place – something about what I’d just said was beginning to make sense.
“Of course the one thing you didn’t figure on was anyone finding the prescriptions was it?”
She froze, I’d touched a nerve obviously.
“And no-one ever will.”
The muzzle flashed and the world went dark.
The bed linen had that cold, well pressed feel that you only got in hospitals. The lack of noise outside told me that I probably had the ward to myself – probably just as well, I was after all a dangerous criminal as far as the public were concerned. I opened my eyes and looked around. Where ever it was I didn’t recognise it.
My hand was cuffed to the bed, the police had got there before she could finish me off.
“He’s awake Miss.”
I didn’t recognise the voice, but the softness of it told me that she was probably the only one around who had my continuing health at heart.
“Very good – I’ve got a lot of questions for him.”
I half recognised the voice and hoped my hunch was wrong. The nurse swam into view and made sure I was still alive. When I saw who was sitting at the end of the bed I wished I wasn’t.
“So how long has the DE been making personnel house calls on wanted murderers, or is this just a social visit?”
“Now come on Nick, we both know you didn’t murder anyone…”
“Then how come you let Blitzen do the number on me, or was that just for show?”
“Look – Blitzen would have you singing up in the penn’ doing twenty to life at the moment if it wasn’t for me so don’t talk smart with me…”
“Why, you have trouble keeping up if I do?”
She turned her back on me – probably to stop herself from making a scene – and told the nurse to leave; it was just me and her now.
“Look Nick, between you, me and the walls we both know you didn’t kill Richard – we got a witness who can testify to you playing punching bag with a couple of heavies provided we ply him with enough liquor to keep his story straight.”
“So you’re playing an angle on this somewhere Tink’?”
“Course I am, how else did you think I got this badge?”
She pulled his jacket to one side and buffed the badge inside – the consummate politician telling everyone and no-one everything they wanted to hear at the same time.
“Then why try to finger me for it?”
“Because if we didn’t you wouldn’t have tried to find out who really did it would you?”
I grimaced, was I really that obvious?
“Truth is, we’ve had our eye on you before you even became involved – that’s why Rudy made the Phonecall – we needed someone we could trust who wouldn’t trust us…”
She sat at the end of the bed and folded her arms across her lap.
“You see the thing is we’ve thought she’s been up to something for a while now – we just couldn’t figure out what – when she started putting it around town that her husband was having an affair we made sure that Rudy phoned you.”
“That’s a hell of a chance on your part.”
“If it didn’t work then we could always place the blame on you – it is all you’re good for in some people’s eyes.”
“She took the bait, figured you for an easy mark and then we just had to hope that you’d take the bait also.”
“So you’re not charging me with Richard’s murder?”
“No – like I said, you got a witness – and if you can find the two gorillas you’ll be further in the clear. Most I could charge you with at the moment is breaking and entering, and given the circumstances I might be inclined not to do that.”
“And her – she did shoot me?”
“She’s got a good lawyer who could make the fact that she thought you’d killed her husband go a long way.”
“So we’re back to square one then?”
“Almost, you see if nothing comes out of this then something has got to be pinned on someone – and it isn’t going to be me.”
She got up and put on her hat. Half way to the door she stopped and turned round.
“Oh – almost forgot – you may want this.”
She placed an envelope on the bed, tilted her hat and left. I opened the envelope and looked inside, from their photo Madame Absinthe and Richard looked back at me.
Standing took a lot out of me – getting dressed even more – but I was almost out of the door before the first doctor even got chance to try and talk some sense into me.
“Mr. Kringle, you’ve taken a forty-four to the chest in the last forty-eight hours, have multiple broken ribs from a previous altercation and enough painkillers in your system to drop a buffalo – I simply cannot let you leave.”
“Look doc’, somewhere out there is someone who’s paid a lot to make me look like this and I need to find out who it is. Now the longer I leave it the more chance they’ve got to cover their tracks – so either got out of my way or I’ll get you out.”
“So what do you expect us to do? We just can’t expect us to do nothing?”
I turned around and walked back to the doctor, looking him square in the eye.
“You want something to do doc’?”
“Then call me a cab, I need to get to Sasq’s.”