The ‘Free’ with its antiseptic corridors and bustling overworked staff was a perfect place for Jeb Bush to infiltrate.
Jeb had been chosen for the job because of his medical background and disarming nature.
Jeb walked up to a junior doctor who was standing besides a wedged fire door at the side of the hospital having a crafty smoke.
“Hello.” He said with a smile.
“Hello.” The doctor replied cautiously.
Jeb pulled out a battered cigarette packet. He pulled out one.
“You couldn’t give us a light could you?” He asked. “I’m new here, in fact it’s my first day so I need this to calm down with.”
The doctor smiled and used his cigarette to light Jeb’s.
Jeb made a great play of smoking his, making it look like it was the most needed and soothing thing he’d ever had.
“That’s better.” He said.
“What are you? A doctor?” The doctor asked.
“Heavens no. I’m a male nurse or what they call here a male orderly. I’m on the Intensive Care Ward. You couldn’t tell me where that is could you so I don’t look like a total fool?”
“It’s on the sixth floor in block ‘B’. I don’t envy you on that one. The Sister is a real doll but the Matron is a real harridan. Her name is Marion Berg but most call her Iceberg, behind her back off course.”
Jeb leaned in close.
“Thank you.” He said as he delivered a crushing blow to the mans throat. He grabbed the doctor and lowered him on to a bin as he flailed out trying vainly to get air into his depleted lungs. Two more blows followed in quick succession to seal his fate.
Jeb swiftly took the white coat and stethoscope off the corpse and put them on before finally removing the doctors name badge that hung from a ribbon around his neck.
Jeb then tipped him back into one of the bins of clinical waste going to the incinerator. He dropped a few more bags on top of him.
He bent and picked up the two still glowing cigarettes and dropped them in too. He smiled with satisfaction as he saw, as he slipped inside the hospital, a curl of smoke appear over the bin that lay beneath the fire sensor.
Under Jeb’s arm was a long cardboard box. He moved it to a more comfortable position under his arm as he took the back stairs.
The thing about hospitals like the ‘Free’ was the fact that none of the staff knew all the others on the payroll and they were so overworked they didn’t have time to notice a new face.
He walked out on to the sixth floor as if he had every right to be there. As he passed the nursing station he picked up the clip board that had Stretch’s name on it and made a bee line for the side room where he was being kept.
As he crossed over the floor the elevator pinged and out strode, Ted and Alan. They were in their best suits and feeling very uncomfortable.
“This collars killing me.” Alan moaned.
“You should have a neck like mine then you could complain.” Ted replied as he sent a playful swipe over Alan’s head.
“Hello Sister.” Alan said with a beaming smile. “How’s sleeping beauty?”
“Oh yes your Mr Skinners brothers. I thought there were three of you?” The Sister replied with a half smile of her own.
“Brother Jim is at the hotel where we are doing the weigh in and publicity tonight explaining that we may be a little late. Our fights are on Saturday.” Ted explained.
“Yes I know. I couldn’t not know about that, your pictures are plastered over all the billboards around town.” She replied.
“Ah.” Ted said embarrassed.
“Visiting times were over ages ago but since you’re his brothers I think it will be okay to visit for five to ten minutes, but nothing longer.” The sister told him.
“How’s he been?” Ted asked.
“No change I’m afraid.”
“Thank you Sister.”
Jeb had reached the side room a few moments after the boys exit from the elevator. He walked in confidently nodding at the yawning police woman sitting by the door.
“Hello.” He said with a winning smile. “A long shift?”
“Yes. And I’m not due a relief for another two hours.” It was funny how easy people felt talking to a doctor about everything but what ails them. “He hasn’t come too.”
She yawned again. “Sorry.”
“That’s alright. Look the tea lady is at the nursing station why don’t you grab yourself a cup and give yourself a quick freshen up while I check over sleeping beauty here.” Jeb suggested.
“Oh I don’t know.” She hesitated. “If you are sure its alright?”
“Of course I am. Don’t rush, I’m going to be quite awhile here.” He gave her another one of his flashing Errol Flynn smiles. With that she left leaving the door partially open.
After she had gone his face hardened as he took the lid off the box carefully to reveal a large glass cylinder. Part of a syringe.
He slipped on a pair of surgical gloves and began to assemble the syringe. He slotted the ground glass plunger into the glass sleeve and then clipped into place the long steel needle.
Once assembled he lifted the syringe up to his eye line and began drawing back the plunger to pull air inside it.
The air he was going to inject into Stretch’s heart, giving him a cardiac arrest, an embolism.
Outside at the nursing station was Ted and Alan. They turned to go to Stretch’s side room when they spied through the slightly open door the sight of Jeb drawing air into the syringe but more importantly the shoulder holster that held his Walther PPK.
They reacted instantly. They ran hell for leather to the room. Alan’s varying weight making him prong like a Pronghorn Antelope.
He reached the door first and crashed through it before executing a perfect somersault over Stretch’s bed to land feet first into Jeb’s chest.
But Alan had forgotten to change his weight at the moment of impact, landing like a feather. Jeb only took one step back in surprise but it was enough for him to lose his grip of the syringe. It sailed through the air to land with a tinkling crash on the floor as it shattered. Just at that moment the fire alarm began to wail with perfect timing. In the chaos outside Jeb had planned to help move the patients and then vanish.
There was still time.
As Ted burst into the room it was to face Jeb’s drawn pistol before it was placed against Stretch’s head.
“Do you think you can stop the two of us?” Ted growled.
“Oh don’t tell me, this is macho solidarity isn’t it. Believe me I could take both of you out without batting an eye lid. In fact why don’t I?”
At that very moment the sister bustled in straight into Jeb’s line of fire.
“Come on can’t you hear the fire bell?” She petered to a stop as she saw the gun before adding in a hoarse voice. “You can’t fire that in here, if you hit the oxygen cylinder we will all be dead, and I mean all.”
In horror she saw Jeb smile.
With a flick of his gun he managed to manoeuvre Ted, Alan and the sister beside the oxygen cylinder.
He took aim at the cylinder and prepared to fire and dive outside in one action leaving the others to be torn apart in the explosion.
He pulled back slowly on the trigger. A shot rang out.
Jeb frowned and took a blooded hand from his chest.
He lifted the pistol once again only to collapse onto the floor.
There standing behind him was the heavily breathing Cord. His smoking revolver in his hand.
“Sorry I’m late.” Cord gasped as they watched in shocked horror as Jeb dragged himself over the floor tiles leaving a streak of blood behind.
Jeb stopped, rolled over and aimed his pistol at the gas cylinder. With a last shuddering breath he died, the gun clattering to the floor.
Everyone stood silently for a moment in shock.
Cord put a comforting arm around the sisters shoulders.
“Are you alright?” He asked.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be alright again.” She replied trying not to cry.
Cord signalled for the police woman to take over.
Behind them came a gurgling cough as Stretch lifted a shaking hand to his oxygen mask and moved it aside.
He licked his dry lips before saying in a hoarse croaking voice.
“What’s a fella got to do ta git some shut eye round here?”
“Hello buddy.” Ted grinned at his friend and took his friends hand in his own. “You do what the doctors tell you, do you hear. I’m fighting on Saturday to get a chance against the world champion and I need you fit for that fight.”
“I’ll be there.” Stretch laid his head back.
The sister reacted as her years of training and experience took over.
“Right gentlemen the alarm is over and I have your brother to look after as well as the staff and patients returning.” She pointed at Jeb’s body. “Detective can you get rid of that so I can get the floor cleaned.”
“Yes Mam.” Cord replied respectfully before adding. “I’ll get the Scene of Crime operatives, the forensics department, over straight away. They should have finished their work in about four ours.”
“Oh! Yes I supposed so. I can’t get Simon moved into another side ward because of the blood and the body.” She sniffed. “Very well Detective so be it but your people must give us a clear path to get to our patient. Understood?”
“Understood.” Cord replied as the sister carefully picked her way passed the body and made her way to the nursing station and the work of getting everyone back in.
Cord looked at the two men.
“You two need to get to the weigh in.” He said. “I’ll get your statements later.”
“I’m not sure I want to do it, what with everything that has gone on.” Ted said wearily.
“Look at the nursing sister. She could just collapse into weeping and let the fear take over. She’ll come to terms with it later but right now her patients need her.
If you give in they will have won. Win the fight for Stretch and for yourself and all the black and Hispanic men and woman who are held back because of their colour or race.
Will you father be at the weigh in Ted?”
“Yes he should be why do you ask.”
“I just wondered that’s all.”
The two men nodded their understanding before making their way out.
Carlos and the policewoman crossed over to join Cord from the nursing station. Carlos had been making several calls on their phone.
“I’ve called forensics in.” Carlos informed his partner. “And I’ve called in Martha and Jessica to take over the watch on Skinner.”
“Thank you.” He turned to the white faced policewoman. “Why did you leave your post?”
“He said I should freshen up while he examined Mr Skinner. I was reluctant to go but he convinced me that it would be alright. I went to the bathroom and then picked up a tea on the way back. I was at the tea point when it all happened lieutenant.”
“No you weren’t.” Cord replied.
“You had just come out of the washroom when it all kicked off understood?! In no way were you drinking tea at the nursing station. Do I make myself clear?!!”
“When you are relieved go home and get some sleep. I’ll see you sometime tomorrow afternoon to fill out the report.”
He turned and made for the door of the elevator with Carlos trailing behind.
“Before you say anything Carlos, I know I was lenient with her. How can I condemn her when it was our fault she was on her own. Now to trap a Wildcat.”
Carlos never said a word but a shiver went down his spine.
Downstairs as Ted and Alan exited into the parking lot they watched a little bit of theatre as Duncan became the focus of attention from a pair of officers from Cords team.
“Duncan Lent?” The female officer asked.
“Yes?” Duncan replied cautiously.
“We need you to come down to the Precinct House to answer some questions.” She continued.
“Why?” Duncan wasn’t going anywhere if he could avoid it.
“We need you to help us with our enquires into the stalking, harassment of Mr Ted Grant.” The male officer told him impatiently.
“I’m a licence private investigator on a case for my client.” He carefully reached into his jacket. The last thing he wanted was for a gun happy cop thinking we was reaching for his gun.
Duncan pulled out his licence and showed it to them.
“That doesn’t give you cart blanch to harass the man.” The male officer handed back his licence.
“We also need you to answer questions over the attempted murder of Simon Skinner.
Sergeant Atkins will drive you to the Precinct House in your car and I will follow on in the patrol car.
Ted and Alan had reached them by now and Ted gave Duncan a cold steely look that made him shiver.
“Why?” Ted said menacingly.
“You may not be having an affair with my clients wife but there is something special about you, so special that a talking black panther warned me off. I’m not going to rest until I find out what that is!!”
“Mr Duncan Lent I am arresting you on the charge of harassment. You do not…” July read him his rights before bundling him into the passenger seat of his own car and driving him away.
“It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.” Alan muttered.
The male officer turned to the two friends.
“If you will leave this with us gentlemen and carry on with your evening.” He paused. “Good luck with your boxing matches. Keep them flying.”
Ted grinned a tight grin as the officer gave the slogan of the day to encourage people to buy war bonds in case their was a war which was becoming more likely.
They crossed over to Alan’s car and drove away.