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Chapter 39 – Painted Black

May 8, 2012

Chapter 39 – “Painted Black”

March 16, 1974 – St. Luke’s Hospital Center, New York, New York

Roarke awoke feeling good. The morphine drip had him giggly. The broken arm and ribs weren’t even noticeable. Advantage of being able to afford the best doctors, he could get whatever drugs he needed when he needed them. The doctors wrote up whatever prescriptions he wanted.

He thought about how he would take revenge on Braden Nelson next. That would finish off Schneider at the same time. Now that their woman was gone, they were even more vulnerable. Only dissembling and quick thinking based on his surveillance and knowledge of who Braden, Phoebus, was had saved him when the man had gone completely mad and taken it out on Roarke’s palatial home, men, and body.

He was smirking as images of his vengeance sped through his opiated mind. All of that stopped suddenly when he glanced over and saw that the guest chair next to the bed was occupied.

He reflexively reached for the button to call the nurse’s desk. He pressed it five times before he noticed that the wire hanging off the button was dangling loosely. Cut straight through, it was nothing more than a very brief placebo, a security blanket that provided no real purpose at all, in its current state.

So he focused on his unexpected visitor. He had men outside the room. How the hell had Schneider gotten in, much less with a .38 special, which was currently pointed at Roarke’s chest?

“Hello, Eli. Or should I call you the Red Fox?”

“Call me ‘pissed off’, Harold. You broke the rules. You stepped over the line.”

“An accident, believe it or not. Some of my guests got carried away. Really, wasn’t my intention…”

Schneider snorted at the ridiculous denial. She had been delivered in such a way that inflicting maximum torment had clearly been the intent.

Good. He wants to live. Let him try to squirm out of this.

“You’re familiar with DNA aren’t you, Harold? I took a sample from the corpse…”

“That’s…interesting. I fail to see how that—”

“To identify your friend. The one who raped her as she was dying.”

Roarke didn’t move. He just stared blankly at Schneider. A vein in his right temple was throbbing. It was the only sign apart from his elevated heart rate evident on the monitor beside Roarke’s bed that Schneider was getting under his skin.

“I’m not sure what should happen to such a man. Karma…well…it’s a bitch.”

Eli sat back and crossed one thin leg over the other. He leaned back to see how his words were affecting the thing in the hospital bed.

“I am impressed, Eli. I didn’t think you had it in you to be so… clinical under these circumstances. Perhaps I’ve underestimated you altogether. Perhaps there is something I can do for you.”

Now it was Schneider’s turn to try to hide his reaction. The tone of voice coming from the fiend mere feet away was soothing, like a father to a child. Roarke’s respect was not something Eli desired. His fear…that he would savor if he could bring it to the surface.

“There,” Roarke glanced at the table on which the only source of light in the room sat, a mauve ceramic lamp in the shape of a nautilus with an off-white lampshade. “There. In the drawer…”
Schneider moved cautiously and opened the drawer, keeping his eyes on Roarke. He glanced quickly inside. There was a small black notebook.

“Last page.”

Schneider picked up the book and popped the snap keeping it closed. He flipped to the back.

There were several lines of numbers and letters there. Seven lines in total. No indication otherwise as to what they were or their function.

“Bank accounts. All Credit Suisse. They’re yours. The password is ‘yeti’. You’ll need that when you call to transfer some of the money to an account you can access with a checkbook.

“There’s over a million dollars in those accounts combined. It’s your big chance. You’re the smartest man I’ve ever known. Truth is, you’ve beaten me. I respect that.”

Schneider could feel the bile rising at the back of his throat.

“You can start your own company. Think of the millions you’ll make. And you can do some real good along the way. Make some breakthroughs in medicine, for example. I know some people who would pay top dollar for a man of your talents.”

Schneider looked at Roarke dispassionately. The vein was throbbing harder now. The room was quiet for a moment as Eli let Roarke keep talking. Maybe there would be something he could use, if he just let him talk long enough.

“Schneider! Eli. Look, it’s yours. No more tricks. Just be sure to change the contact number on the accounts. They change the password each week. You’ll get an unrelated wrong number phone call. Whomever or whatever they ask for, that’s the password.”

“Tell me, Roarke. How did you get Braden to stop killing you?”

“Look! It wasn’t my fault! Things got out of hand. You want the…the…that man? I’ll tell you, save you the trouble with the DNA thing. He’s an African dictator. His name is—”

“Braden let you go, Roarke…”

“Yes. That’s r-right.”

Now Eli could taste his fear. It was palpable. Patience had paid off.

“Why do you suppose that is?”

“Be…because he’s a…a hero, Eli. A g-good guy. A d-d-d-decent guy.”

Roarke suddenly had a stutter. Eli wondered if it had been a childhood issue, now returning as Roarke’s brain desperately sought the right thing to say to stop the inevitable.

“Right! That he is,” Eli smiled and looked away as if seeing that for the first time.

Roarke let out a breath and his body relaxed. He was getting through, at last.

He thought.

“He is a hero. He’s not like you and me, Harold.”

Roarke was panicking now. He started to scream. He took in a deep breath…

The .38 vibrated in Eli’s hand. The sound, he knew, had partly been converted to mechanical energy that made the barrel vibrate, and was partly absorbed by the silencer, which would wear out over time.

There was raspberry jelly all over the wall and headboard of the bed. Roarke’s head was covered in it as well, though there was a sizable piece of his scalp and skull sent to some other area of the room. It had all happened so quickly that Eli didn’t see where it went. Some of the blood dripped off of the table lamp.

Ah, there’s missing the piece of bone and scalp in the corner!

He pocketed the gun. Then he closed and did likewise with the notebook in his lap.

“Thanks, Harold. I will make good use of the money.”

As he made his way out past the drugged guards, he contemplated what to do with the African dictator once he figured out which one was responsible. Something special. Something slow.

Syphilis seemed a good payback. It ate away at the brain, slowly poking holes through it, worming it’s way through and leaving voids as men like Roarke did to the world as long as they were alive. The disease resulted in a slow, miserable, maddening death, like the one they had given Maya.

Eli walked under a streetlamp on Amsterdam. As he did so, the light went out. He didn’t notice. If he had, he would think it a coincidence, an unrelated event that the brain was trying to make more of than what it was.

But he didn’t notice it at all. He was thinking back to religion class as a young orphan.

An eye for an eye.

He’d make his way down Roarke’s list of friends. It would be easy. It had been easier than he expected. He had been going about this all wrong. Instead of playing with Roarke, he should have just killed the man. He’d learned his lesson. It would get easier.

He’d do it for Maya.


©2011 Christopher C. Knall

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