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Authors: Pro Se Press

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Nobody Dies For Free (26 page)

BOOK: Nobody Dies For Free
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Monroe waited for the next
shot. He was sure that a man with military training, even if he was
a ship’s surgeon, could not possibly miss twice, but the shot was
never fired. Charles Swift, apparently a coward as well as a
traitor, had turned and started to run.

Monroe pursued. As he began
to run, he realized that the weight in his hand was less than it
should have been. He glanced down as he ran. The pole from the
clothing rack had taken the bullet meant for him. It was now half
the length it had been before, a jagged spear instead of a long
staff.

Monroe was heavy with the
umpire gear but still fast. He closed in on Charles Swift, the
distance getting shorter and shorter. Ten feet separated them, then
five. Swift stopped, whirled, and raised the pistol again. The
range was too close now: missing would be impossible. Monroe could
not give him a chance to pull that trigger.

Monroe raised the broken
shaft of wood and lunged forward, leaping at Swift. The gun did go
off, but the bullet struck the ceiling as balance was lost and both
men crashed to the floor. Monroe was on top and felt a sudden
wetness on his face as the floor broke their fall. He pushed
himself back up to stand and looked down at the body of Charles
Swift. The sharp end of the stick had gone straight into Swift’s
chest and blood oozed from the deadly puncture.


A splendid splinter,”
Monroe muttered, and he continued down the hall.

Monroe encountered nobody
else in that corridor. Khan must have been unable to gather much
support after his empire had been thrown into such disarray by
recent events, Monroe guessed. The security room loomed just ahead
and Monroe readied himself for arrival. He was sure Garrett Khan
would be armed and hoped he could maneuver his way in without being
shot dead in the doorway.


Authorized Personnel Only,”
the sign said. It was a windowless door; Monroe had no way of
knowing what waited for him behind it. But he had no choice. He was
not about to turn back. He had to hope for the best. If he was not
instantly gunned down upon entrance, he would do what he could to
survive. He paused for only a second, knowing that he was quite
possibly about to come face to face with Garrett Khan. He pushed
his emotions, although they were almost overwhelming, deep down
inside his mind. Strong emotions were the enemy in situations where
only clear thoughts and training could make victory possible; as
much as Monroe wanted to avenge those that Khan had killed,
Genevieve especially, and pay Khan back for what had been done to
Winter Willows, he could not act impulsively. He had to use the
judgment he had developed over years of hard experience.

He hit the door, twisting
the handle as he shoved against it. It opened and he barreled
inside, his eyes taking stock of the situation as quickly and
thoroughly as possible. The room was small, about twelve feet deep.
The walls were covered with television screens, now black with the
cameras shut down. Control consoles sat beneath the monitors.
Garrett Khan sat against the far wall, a pistol in his hand. He
wore a tan suit, expensive, and a broad grin on his face. He was in
a swivel chair. Another chair of the same style sat across the room
from Khan, near the doorway where Monroe now stood expecting to be
shot.


Richard,” Garrett Khan
shouted out, aiming the gun at his visitor, “you look ridiculous.
Don’t come any closer or I’ll kill you now.”

Monroe, surprised Khan
hadn’t shot him immediately, raised his hands. If Khan was hesitant
or had some reason to wait, Monroe knew he had a chance to live,
maybe even win.


Take off the silly mask,
Richard.”


But I like the mask,
Garrett,” Monroe said, deciding to play the game. If Khan wanted to
talk instead of shoot, so be it. “It brings back
memories.”


Of what, your school days?
Were you good at that silly game you Americans love so much?” Khan
asked.


Not particularly,” Monroe
said, “but it reminds me of an old joke I heard as a
boy.”


Take off the mask, I won’t
ask again. And the padding, too. I don’t like you in armor. When
you’ve dropped it, sit down in that chair and tell me this joke you
remember so well.”

Monroe, no choice left, took
off the umpire’s mask, dropped it on the floor, followed by the
protective pads, leaving just the Red Sox uniform. He sat, began to
relate the joke he had mentioned to Khan. It was a stupid joke, he
thought, but it had popped into his mind just then.


One day, the devil calls
God on the phone that connects Heaven and Hell. ‘God,’ Satan says,
‘I want to make you an offer. I hereby challenge you to a baseball
game. Heaven versus Hell, usual rules, standard equipment. What do
you say?’ So God just laughs, roars, hoots and chuckles for the
longest time and then he says, ‘Satan, you’ve got to be kidding me!
Up here in Heaven, I’ve got all the greats of the game: Babe Ruth
and Lou Gehrig and Cy Young and Ted Williams and a dozen more at
every position! Who do you have in Hell that could possibly compete
against those legends?’ And then the devil starts to laugh too and
he says, ‘That’s easy, you bloody old bastard, I’ve got all the
umpires!’”


Not very funny, Richard,”
Khan said. “Or maybe I’m just not in the mood. I have more exciting
things planned. I know I could shoot you now and get it over with,
but I want you to go out slowly after all the shit you’ve thrown in
my face lately. Stand up and turn around!”

Monroe did as he was told.
Behind him, he could hear Khan getting to his feet.


If you try anything at all,
I’ll kill you where you stand and then that poor injured woman in
the batting room will die from shock. But if you do exactly as I
say, I promise you I’ll see that she gets to a hospital when I’m
done with you. I know you think I’m lying and it really doesn’t
matter if I am. That’s the best you’re getting from me. Now out the
door and turn to your right. We’re going for a walk. I’ll be far
enough behind you that you can’t spin around and come at me, but
close enough that I can’t miss if I pull this trigger. I’m a much
better shot than Dr. Swift. I can’t believe I heard him fire twice
and still you came for me. Start walking, Richard.”

They traveled down the hall,
Monroe walking at a steady pace with Khan maintaining a safe
distance behind him. Monroe had finally gotten a good, close look
at Khan, closer and clearer than on the interrogation video on the
aircraft carrier or even at the restaurant in Paris. Khan was
shorter than Monroe but thicker, more solidly muscled. Still,
Monroe thought he could best Khan in a physical fight, considering
his long experience. But that gun in Khan’s hand made that
impossible to attempt.


Stop at the next door,”
Khan said. Monroe took a dozen more steps and then halted in front
of a recently varnished wooden door. “Medical Center” was stenciled
three quarters of the way up.


Open the door and go
inside, Richard. Stay to the center of the room away from the walls
or equipment.”

Monroe went in and stood in
the middle of the room. His eyes moved from side to side, scanning,
taking in details. The room was larger than he had
expected.


You see how marvelously
wealthy these professional sports people are today? A miniature
hospital concealed within the stadium. They can do almost anything
here: set a broken bone after taking x-rays, install stitches, run
all sorts of tests. I suppose they could even deliver a baby here
or transplant an organ if they were shut off from the outside world
and had no choice. Quite impressive!”

Monroe
was
impressed.
He had to agree with Khan on that subject. He had not expected a
ballpark infirmary to be so well equipped. There were several
examining tables, radiological equipment, microscopes for blood
testing, and treadmills and weights that were presumably for
testing muscles to check for injuries.


Do you know what’s in the
next room?” Khan asked. “They even have their own MRI device! Can
you imagine how much a thing like that costs? And all because of a
silly game with sticks and balls!”


Fascinating,” Monroe
quipped, getting tired of Khan’s voice.


Now,” Khan continued, “I
want you to go over to that examining table against the left wall,
the one with the cabinet of drawers within reach of anyone sitting
on that table.”

Monroe did as he was told.
He sat on the edge of the table looking across the room at
Khan.


Good, we’re going to have
some fun…or I am, at least. You’ll be in too much pain. In those
drawers are all sorts of interesting medical instruments. You’re
going to demonstrate their uses on your own body for my amusement.
Your goal is to stay awake as long as you can. If you should grow
too weak to continue to do as I tell you or you should faint or go
into shock before I’m satisfied, I’ll shoot you. You won’t leave
this room alive, but you don’t strike me as the sort who wants to
die even a second before you must, so I think you’ll play along. In
fact, let’s add this to my little promise from before: the longer
you stay awake and alert to experience all that pain, the more
likely I am to let Miss Willows live! Now let’s begin, and don’t
even think about throwing anything at me. I’ll squeeze the trigger
long before it hits me. Open the top drawer.”

Monroe slid the drawer
opened and wondered if he had slipped back in time to the
Inquisition. The instruments of medicine, he knew, could serve
double duty as implements of torture, and never before had he been
so terrified by the sight of scalpels, needles, and other tools of
the physician’s trade.


Take out that long sewing
needle,” Khan said, apparently having memorized the contents of the
drawer at some point before Monroe’s arrival. “Stick it into your
left thigh.”

Monroe obeyed. He plunged
the long, thin needle into the flesh of his left leg and winced as
it slid in. It hurt like hell but he would not cry out, not yet at
least. He had an idea churning around in his mind now, a possible
way out, but he would have to endure a considerable amount of
self-inflicted pain before he could convincingly make it
happen.


Now pull it out and repeat
the motion on the other leg,” Khan said.

Monroe’s face twisted in
pain again as the needle came out. His expression contorted further
on the second stab. He allowed a grunt to slip out of his
mouth.


Enough with the needle,”
Khan said. “Pull it out and throw it aside.”


Nnngh,” Monroe growled as
he removed the long metal splinter and let it drop to the
floor.


I think we should see some
blood now,” Khan said. “Some red to go with your white and blue!
Pick up the scalpel.”

Monroe lifted the sharp
surgical instrument from the drawer, held it like a pen.


You’re going to roll up
your left sleeve,” Khan commanded, “and slice your forearm, just
deep enough to really feel it. But no veins, yet. I don’t want you
bleeding to death, at least not for a while.”

Monroe decided to take his
big chance now. What he intended to do would involve physical pain
but would also rely on his being able to push his mind in a very
specific direction to trigger an exact physical reaction. It had to
be real.

He lifted the scalpel to his
left arm, slid it along the skin between his wrist and elbow,
letting the edge dig into the flesh, drawing a thin crimson line,
freeing the blood to run from the cut. The pain in his nerves was
bad and his voice rose in a strained murmur. As he cut, he directed
his mind to bring up images, things he wished he could have left
buried behind the walls of memory.

He forced the mental
pictures he had saved on one very specific night in Paris to flood
back to the surface of his mind. Genevieve was with him. A shot
rang out. She crumbled to the ground, her blood, as red in his
memory as his own was in that room in Fenway Park, spilling onto
the steps of the Opera.

The pain was unbearable, not
in his arm, but in his heart. He saw her die all over again and it
cut him to the core. He made the image stay, would not let it slip
away from him no matter how badly he wanted to shut it off. All the
pain and grief and shock rushed back and hit him like a truck
plowing into his body at full speed. It literally made him
sick.

He dropped the scalpel,
hunched forward clutching his stomach, and began to retch, coughing
and straining, suddenly violently ill.


Richard, you disappoint
me!” Garrett Khan’s voice babbled in the distance. “I thought you’d
be able to take so much more! This is no fun at all. Game
over!”

Monroe’s eyes lifted just
enough to see Khan’s feet stepping closer, closer. Khan was moving
in to take the shot. Six feet away, then five, then four. The three
foot mark was reached and Monroe moved. He drew himself up and
threw his body at Khan, slamming into him, sending the gun flying
from Khan’s hand.

The two men fell in a
tangled heap on the floor. Khan flung out his fist, connecting with
Monroe’s jaw. He stood while Monroe was temporarily stunned. Monroe
got up onto his knees, reached out for the gun, but Khan
anticipated the move and kicked the pistol, sending it sliding
across the room into the door that led to the MRI room. Monroe
charged after it but Khan caught up to him, grabbed him by the back
of the shirt, tried to keep him from grabbing the
firearm.

BOOK: Nobody Dies For Free
6.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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