Some characters are crafted with the express purpose of being casualties. After all, it’s difficult to write a story about an assassin without at least having one target that is destined to be eliminated. In The Perfect Kill: 21 Laws for Assassins, former CIA operative Robert Baer lists “the bastard has to deserve it” as Law #1. Seeing that Carlos de Leon is an atypical assassin, it stands to reason that sooner or later he would disregard this cardinal rule. Just when you think you have the plot figured out, the twists keep coming all the way through to the end. This vignette comes from Chapter 37 – Confrontations.

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He held his breath as he wheeled his cart to room 342. The guard didn’t even give him a second glance as he pushed the door open and stepped in. What he found was shocking. The room was large enough for two patients. But the other bed had been cleared out to make room for the life-support equipment. Why hadn’t they put him in the intensive care unit? Drake wondered.

Renault lay on the bed, motionless. His head was wrapped in heavy bandaging. Only his left eye and nose remained exposed. A blue, ribbed tube sprouted out of where Drake supposed Claude’s mouth to be and ran all the way into a hissing respirator. The mechanical accordion rose and fell in counterpoint with Claude’s chest. He had an IV in each arm. The bags dripped their liquids down the clear tubes in timed precision. His right hand was in a splint; his thumb, index, and second fingers taped to the metal stabilizers. A plastic bag hung on the bed rail, slowly collecting the urine brought to it by the catheter. The smell of disinfectant mixed with the odor of excreted medicine made Drake ill. He hated hospitals. “What have you done to yourself now,” Drake said, shaking his head.

He went into the bathroom and turned the water on as a covering sound. Going back to Claude’s bed, he inspected the patient more thoroughly. He lifted the bed sheets and examined Claude’s body. Not a burn mark on him. He picked up the chart and did his best to read the French medical mumbo-jumbo. Head injury caused by a shotgun blast, he read. Then his cronies must have released the fire injury to cover up the suicide attempt. It wouldn’t do to have the public know that their mayor elect had suicidal tendencies. They would ask him to resign before he was even able to take office. Smoke inhalation? He read it again. Yes, he had suffered from smoke inhalation. What happened?

“Claude,” he said into the man’s bandaged ear. “Claude, it’s me.” The left eye opened and swiveled about. It rested on Drake, then closed again. “Claude, what happened?” he asked. Claude opened his eye again and rolled his head from side to side. Drake placed a clean page of the chart on Claude’s lap and pressed a pen into the man’s left hand. “What happened?” he asked again. The hand moved slowly, deliberately.

“Kill me.”

“I can’t. What happened?”

“Pull plug!!”

“Tell me what happened,” Drake said.

“The Devil,” Claude wrote and dropped the pen. The Devil? What did that mean? Drake wondered. Claude pawed for the pen. Drake found it in the folds of the sheet and put it back into the injured man’s hand. “Will take Swenson,” he added to the line. The Devil will take Swenson?

“The Devil? Who?” Drake asked. In a swift motion, Claude jabbed the pen into his respirator line and pulled it out. The hiss grew louder. “Crap,” Drake said and placed his hand over the hole. It was no use. Claude’s left eye bulged slightly as his brain fought against his mind for life and tried to find air. A monotone replaced the background blip in the room. Drake looked up at the heart monitor. Flat line. Cursing, Drake slapped the blue button above the headboard.

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