The Blood of Others
by Kathleen Wolak
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
Clara was starting to forget about her fear as well. She had spent the night arguing on the phone with her mother, which pushed Johnny’s odd behavior right out of her head. When she went to his room that evening to watch the news and bring him his dinner, he was back to his old self.
“Why, hi there, gorgeous,” Johnny said, smiling at Clara when she arrived with his dinner tray. “Care to watch the news with me, or would that make your boyfriend jealous?”
Clara smiled. “Oh, Johnny, I’ve told you a hundred times that I don’t have a boyfriend.”
Johnny frowned. “You have?”
His sad, sky blue eyes made Clara’s heart melt. She shook her head gently and turned on his television set. They watched the six o’clock news in silence.
When Clara got up to leave, Johnny called out to her. “Gorgeous? I... I think I had to tell you something important. It’s the damndest thing... There was something I wanted to tell you and, for the life of me, I can’t remember what it was.” Johnny furrowed his brow and tried to snap his fingers.
Clara looked at him pityingly for a moment before going over to him and putting her hand on his shoulder. “I’m sure if it was important, Johnny, you will remember it in a few minutes.” She knew it was a lie, but it wouldn’t make a difference in a few minutes anyway.
“You’re right, dear.” Johnny yawned and turned over in his bed. “I’ll make sure to tell you as soon as it comes back to me.”
Clara nodded before turning out Johnny’s light and leaving him alone to face the darkness in his dreams.
A man is talking to his wife in their kitchen while a monster waits outside. The monster is crouched down in rose bushes, waiting for the man to leave the wife alone so he can pounce. The monster is breathing heavily and he is gripping a butcher knife. He is thirsty for blood tonight. He wants there to be a mess to admire.
The man leaves the wife to go upstairs, and the monster breaks the sliding glass door down with his fist. It’s the man he’s after, but he wants to save him for last, and for the last sight he would see to be his wife’s pretty head smiling up at him from a blender.
There is screaming... deafening screams that make the monster angry. The wife grabs a knife from the counter next to her and throws it at the monster. It doesn’t come close, and he advances on her quickly.
The wife runs into the next room and disappears from the monster’s view. He looks around, confused, and a lamp comes crashing on his head. He stumbles around, even more confused, and sees the wife holding the top half of a broken lamp and crying. The husband has come down the stairs and is standing next to his wife, pointing a gun at the monster. Right before the man pulls the trigger, the monster sees his reflection in the window.
“Have you guys seen the doc yet?” Clara asked Jack and Rita, the other orderly. “I just put Johnny to bed and I wanted to make sure he had a sedative on hand in case he has another nightmare.”
Jack thought for a moment. “Actually, yeah. He came in today with a guy in a suit. He looked like a lawyer. They’re in his office now.”
“Thanks.” Clara headed to the main office where Dr. Henson set up shop for when he was doing his work at the nursing home. She could hear two men’s voices coming from inside. She knocked on the door and the talking stopped.
“Come in,” she heard Dr. Henson say.
Clara entered the office to find Dr. Henson and the other man in what looked like a serious discussion. “Uhm, sorry to interrupt, but I was just looking for something to calm Johnny down. He’s been having nightmares, and they set him off pretty good when he wakes up. Actually, I think Sheryl may have given you some information on it already. I signed a form yesterday.”
“Ah yes.” Dr. Henson patted a piece of paper resting on his desk. “Yes, we know all about Johnny’s behavior.” The doctor looked exhausted.
“Clara, I would like you to meet Mr. Michael Horne.” Dr. Henson waved his hand in front of the man across his desk. “He is Johnny’s attorney.”
The man in the suit turned quickly to face Clara. “Hi,” he said, briskly.
Clara looked at the man, confused. “Attorney?” she asked. “Why on earth does Johnny need an attorney?”
The doctor and the attorney looked at each other. “Clara, why don’t you sit down for a second?”
Clara complied, taking the seat next to Mr. Horne. Dr. Henson looked her straight in the eye. “Clara, how much do you know about Johnny?”
Clara shook her head. “Not much. He came here about five years ago with advancing Alzheimer’s. He’s been a complete sweetheart and very easy to handle until recently, when he started to have these nightmares. Why?”
The doctor sighed and folded his hands. “Clara, Johnny used to be known as Bloody Murphy. He was a contract killer back in the 1960’s to about the 1970’s. He was known for his particularly gruesome murder scenes and for always taking a trophy with him when he left. People liked to hire him to send a message, but then he started to kill women, and even the Mafia didn’t want anything to do with him anymore.”
“Ahem,” the lawyer interrupted. “He allegedly killed one woman, and it was his partner who shot her. They could never pin the other murders on my client.”
“Right,” the doctor continued. “Anyway, he’d been in prison since 1973. He was brought in after a man he was supposed to kill shot him in the arm. As he got older, his mind started to go, and about ten years ago, he couldn’t even remember his own name.
“Space was dwindling at the prison, so Mr. Murphy was sent here on a trial basis. He was already eighty-nine at the time, and we decided to keep him with us until his next appeal trial. The trial is coming up, and Mr. Horne here is trying to get his case together so that Mr. Murphy isn’t shuttled back to prison, even though, off the record, I think he belongs there.”
The lawyer sniffed loudly at the doctor’s comment. “He has no idea who he is, and you want to just see this old man rot in prison? Scared as a newborn deer and no idea how he got where he is?”
“Oh, cut it out,” Dr. Henson said. ”We’re talking about a hit man, not Bambi.” He looked over at Clara, who was frozen in shock.
Johnny was a murderer. The ninety-two year old man in the room down the hall who named squirrels and went to bed at 6:30 pm every day had violently murdered several people. And no matter what the lawyer said, Clara had no doubt in her mind that Johnny had killed women. His words were floating back to her: “He likes the pretty ones best.”
Clara finally found her voice. “Does he know what he did?” She asked. “Does he know he killed those people? “
Dr. Henson shook his head. “No, Clara. He has no idea. I think though, that those nightmares you mentioned might be his brain reminding him of his past. They’re like flashbacks, if you will. He sees them vividly. Like any normal human, he reacts in extreme terror. Of course, he does not know he is wholly responsible; he just sees them as vivid, frightening nightmares.”
Clara looked down at her hands, trying to imagine little old Johnny holding a gun, but the thought just didn’t make sense.
The doctor sighed. “It’s almost as though his brain is coming to terms with his past before he dies. This monster was given a blessing when his memory was erased. But now he must be tormented by what he sees and can’t understand.” The doctor shook his head. “The blood of others is all over his soul, and he doesn’t even know it.”
Clara and the two men sat in silence for a while before Jack came running in. “DOCTOR! DOCTOR! COME QUICK!”
Dr. Henson looked in alarm at Clara before hurrying out of his chair and following Jack. Clara and the lawyer trailed the two of them to Johnny’s room.
“Oh good Lord.” Dr. Henson fell into the doorway at the scene in front of them. Johnny had tied the restraint from his bed firmly around his neck and attached the other end to his dresser drawer. The belt was tightened around his neck enough to have completely changed the color of his face to a pale blue. It had clearly taken all the strength he had left to accomplish his last task.
“What do you suppose he saw to drive him to do it?” The doctor asked nobody in particular, as he turned away from the room.
Clara shook her head at the doctor’s question and stared at Johnny. His last words echoed in her head: I’ll make sure to tell you as soon as it comes back to me.
Clara snuck one more look at Johnny before Jack threw a sheet over him to avoid a spectacle. He looked so scared. Clara knew his last sleep was not going to be a peaceful one. More than likely, it would be an eternity full of visions of the hell he had created.
Copyright © 2015 by Kathleen Wolak