Two Blind Men and a Fool
by Sherman Smith
|Table of Contents|
Chapter 28: Dance With the Devil
Dr. Garrity’s eyes slowly moved from the closed door to the bottle of Scotch on his desk. He wasn’t a brave man, and to step into this fight would be damned stupid. He had fallen, having drunk too much, and now that his leg was in a cast, Elroy could chew him up and spit him out without breaking a cold sweat.
So what was he expecting Stella to do? Dammit! he screamed internally, as he pushed his chair back from the desk and brought his fist down hard on his cast.
His eyes went wide with the unexpected pain. He hadn’t meant to do that, at least not that hard. His eyes glistening with tears, his hand shaking so hard he could barely hold the bottle, he brought the Scotch up and took a healthy long swig.
“OK, Stella, let’s dance with the Devil.” Another swig. He locked the evidence file in his desk, keeping the bottle of Scotch. He limped to the hallway and locked the office door behind him. If he and Stella couldn’t stop Elroy, Elroy would kill them.
Garrity did not have a gun, but he was beginning to work on an idea. After one last swig, he let the bottle drop in the stairwell. It rolled and dropped down a flight, smashing with a loud crash. That was not something a doctor would do, but far more than a bottle was broken here. He gripped the handrail, the pain in his leg be damned, and pulled himself forward.
* * *
Elroy squinted, not sure what he was seeing. Simon and Alex had come into view at the far end of the corridor. Their uniforms appeared clean, their hair was wet and freshly combed.
The traitors are sober, Elroy thought. You’re not playing by my rules, boys, so all bets are off. I’m calling in my chips.
“Trouble,” Alex warned. They stopped dead in their tracks, and with trepidation, they watched as Elroy quick-stepped Brooks towards them. Elroy’s cold eyes were scanning their every move.
“Elroy?” Alex said, as his Adam’s apple rose in his throat, wavering like a carnival puck hammered without sufficient force to ring the bell.
“We figured you were short-handed.” Simon said.
Elroy pasted on his best carnivorous grin as he drew near to them. “Short-handed? Yeah, I can use a little help. Brooks here has messed himself and needs a little cleaning up.”
The men moved to take Brooks from him. “No, this is women’s work. Stella is the only one who can do it right. I want you to find Stella for me. And I’ll caution you, you worthless pieces of crap, don’t take no for an answer. You find her and bring her to me. Now!” His eyes burned holes right down to their cowardly guts.
“Oh, Stella!” he called out, loud and clear. “Stella, I’ve got Brooks, and he’s been asking for you. It seems he needs a little help. Stella. He-he-he-Ha-ha-he...” His shrill Woody Woodpecker laugh echoed through the wards. “Stella!”
Simon and Alex stepped away. Elroy intended to hurt Stella, of that there was no doubt, and they wanted no part of it.
Irene, a wide-eyed, timid doe, watched from behind a door as she slowly closed it. That maniacal laugh had to be the Devil’s own. With trembling hands she found the key in her pocket. A patient moaned somewhere behind her, another coughed.
She sensed a presence, brought her hand to her mouth to stifle a scream. Her heart was pounding unnaturally. Please, God... She turned, knowing that the Devil can take many forms.
Dr. Garrity had entered the ward without her noticing him. He had opened a locked medicine cabinet and was standing with his back to her, working a large hypodermic he had taken from a drawer.
Upon seeing him, her heartbeat stilled just a little and she unconsciously tidied her hair. She asked in a whisper, “May I be of any help, doctor?”
* * *
Stella reached the second ward through the rear corridor just in time to hear Elroy call out her name. Brooks? Oh, no. He has Brooks, I’m out of time and options. She scanned the ward for help. It was wishful thinking. Except for the patients, she was alone. They were all asleep, most likely intoxicated, none able-bodied.
This was the morgue, the ward where the worst cases came, the wait-and-see patients, and the poor stiffs whose cards were punched but who lacked a delivery date to either Heaven or Hell.
Stella reached the door. Instead of closing and locking it, she left it open just enough to see out into the corridor. Elroy was there, his back to the door. Brooks, his filthy head wrap partially unraveled, swayed unsteadily in Elroy’s grasp. Simon and Alex looked like scared rabbits cornered by a snarling wolf.
“What are you two monkeys waitin’ for?” Elroy demanded, his eyes hard, his grin cemented in place. “Find Stella and bring her to me.” He pulled a switchblade out with his free hand and sprang the glistening blade. “Do I sense a lack of team spirit? You’re my hunting dogs, boys. Fetch.”
The two men took three steps backwards, turned, and fled towards the door Irene had locked. “He-he-he-he-Ha-he...” he laughed loudly, an inch or so, from Brooks’ masked head. He stopped abruptly, sensing he was being watched. He turned his head slowly towards the second ward. “Stella, sweetheart, come out and join the party.”
Stella opened the door wide and stepped out, first one foot, and then the other, steps she was already regretting.
Elroy’s eyes locked on the paper bag. His grin changed instantly to icy imperiousness. “What do we have here? Ahhh, I thought you were smarter than that.” His undertone was menacing.
She watched in horror as Elroy brought the sharp blade of the knife to Brooks’ bandaged cheek and scraped the bandage just enough to split the material, but not enough to draw blood. “Brooks is such a stinking mess it will take some scraping to remove all the crud. Now why don’t you be a good girl and bring me what’s mine. And I’ll give you this worthless dungheap.” The knife teased the tear in the bandage, drawing just a hint of blood.
Brooks flinched. “No!” His whiskey-burned voice was vehement, despite the obvious threat. His eyes screamed No from within his cloth mask.
Elroy scraped the blade flirtatiously across his bandaged cheek, drawing a thin line of blood.
“Get out of here, Stella,” Brooks pleaded. “I’m not worth it.” The knife slid down to his throat. This is it, Brooks thought. Elroy will do it. Fine, he will be doing me a favor, but I’ll be damned before I let the bastard hurt one hair on Stella’s head. As long as I’m captive, she’s in danger. “Go ahead, you miserable bastard, finish it.” He tried to twist into the blade.
Elroy all but ignored Brooks. He fixed his full attention on Stella. She was close, almost close enough to grab. He wet his lips. Revenge will be my sweet honey. He laughed mockingly.
Brooks felt the blade slip slightly. He sloshed the booze that remained in his cup to see how much there was, then without warning smashed the cup into Elroy’s face, stopping his laugh mid-breath.
“GAAWWDD!” Elroy screamed, and he raised both hands to his eyes as the alcohol blinded him. The knife clattered to the floor.
Brooks broke free and stumbled back.
The searing pain was mind-numbing. Elroy threw a haphazard punch in Brooks’ direction, a glancing blow, inflicting little harm.
“Enough!” Stella screamed as she threw the paper bag at Elroy.
Elroy turned, but did not see the bag in time to catch it. It bounced off him, tore, and dollar bills fell like so many autumn leaves.
Simon and Alex gasped at the sight of all the cash.
“No!” Elroy began to kick Brooks in his head and then his torso as Brooks tried to crawl away from the vicious assault.
“Stop it. He’s blind, for God’s sake.” Without thinking of her own safety, she tried to pull Elroy away. She was no match for him and was thrown back when Elroy backhanded her with the entire length of his arm. Her head bounced with a loud thump as she fell to the floor. Dazed, she remained still for a moment.
Elroy, his vision still blurred, left Brooks cowering on the floor. He turned his wrath towards Stella. His eyes darted left and right as he searched for the fallen knife.
Stella tried to rise. She saw Elroy, then the knife. Her gaze told him where it was. She couldn’t move fast enough before he had it.
He turned, holding the weapon firmly in his right hand. “You want this? You can have it. Just a loan... I’ll be needing it right back. Brooks wants to die, and what kind of a pal would I be if I didn’t help him out?”
He eyed Simon and Alex who were skulking near the locked wardroom doors. The sight of the money was tempting, but their cowardliness was the better discretion.
Elroy turned back to Stella. The look on her face was not what he expected. She wasn’t quivering with fear. She was watching him like a cat, her eyes locked on his. Her lack of fear annoyed him even more. Perhaps she will make a fight of it? That could be fun, he thought, and he shifted the knife from one hand to the other. “You want it, you’ve got it.”
* * *
At the sound of Elroy’s maniacal laugh, Dr. Garrity dropped the syringe. “Another, quick,” he ordered, while he limped to the door. Irene filled a syringe and brought it to him.
Garrity unlocked the door. Simon and Alex pushed though, the door slamming into Garrity’s bad leg. The pain, an adrenaline cocktail, fired up his courage, when what he really wanted to do was race Simon and Alex to an exit.
Garrity took the syringe from the nurse, giving her a look that said God forgive me for what I am about to do. He could see that something had happened to Elroy. Brooks was down. Elroy was kicking him, while rubbing his eyes and screaming.
Stella threw the money bag, and that was all Garrity needed to know. When Stella attacked Elroy to save Brooks, he squirted a drop of morphine from the syringe into the air and moved as quickly as he could behind Elroy.
Irene, her small voice borrowing some of Stella’s strength, snapped at Alex and Simon. “Hold it right there, fellas. You are going to be needed.” They continued towards the rear entry. “I said hold it.” Her authority was startling. They froze, bowing their heads, ashamed, and turned towards her.
* * *
Herbert Mann had grown impatient. He had ordered Elroy to find Stella and see that she was forcibly removed from the hospital. “Don’t worry about being too gentle,” had been his last words to Elroy.
Impatient, he wanted to see for himself. He took the back stairs, which led him through doctors’ row. He saw Dr. Garrity. The doctor was acting strangely; Mann waited until he had gone into a ward before following at a discreet distance.
He froze when he spotted Elroy, Stella, and Brooks. For a brief moment he thought that Elroy was going to take care of Stella, once and for all. He was wrong. Garrity stepped up behind Elroy with a raised hypodermic. It was already too late to shout a warning.
Elroy’s eyes went wide, his back arched, the knife slipped from his grasp. Everything around him swirled into a white cyclone, the pain slipping away into nothingness. His lips shaped a round ‘O’ as a sense of nothingness overcame him.
Dr. Garrity held the syringe firmly in the nape of Elroy’s neck and forced the last drops of morphine into Elroy’s spinal column. As Elroy slumped to the floor, Dr. Garrity turned to Stella with a pained smile. “I’ve suspected for some time that he had a drug problem. It is my medical opinion that he’s died of an overdose. The authorities will be here any moment. There will be a full investigation.” He saw Mann. “I’ll do my best to see that Herbert Mann spends the next decade or so behind bars.”
Stella didn’t move.
“Pick up the money before someone else does, then help me get Brooks taken care of.” He looked at Brooks and shook his head, as he knelt down. “You took a big risk. If it hadn’t been for you, this bastard might still be alive and Stella, dead.”
He looked back towards Stella. “Is there somewhere you can take him? I don’t think his odds are too good if he stays in the system. Let’s get him cleaned up and give him something to wear. A little dose of dignity can go a long way.”
He looked sadly at the hypodermic still lodged in Elroy’s spine. Without a doubt the dose he had given was lethal. Elroy’s breathing was slow and labored.
Dr. Garrity looked at his watch. There was no need to take a pulse, it would all be over in a minute or two. “Simon, Alex,” he called out, “get a gurney and take Elroy to the morgue.”
“You heard the doctor,” Irene told them. “Now snap to it.”
Copyright © 2013 by Sherman Smith