The Killer List
By Michael Reyneke (1500 words)
PG Stone knew he was out of danger now. He lay back on the crisp white pillows and relaxed. The transfer from ICU via X-rays to a private ward depleted the little energy he had. A gangling nurse with cold grey eyes and large hands fussed about with his pillows. Making sure his shoulder was comfortable. Those eyes he’d seen before somewhere.
A stern looking sister adjusted the drips hanging from the portable stand. When satisfied, she shushed the nurse from the ward. Then moved to the bottom of the bed and picked up the clipboard with his chart.
“It says here,” she commented, “that we need to treat you for gunshot wounds. Pelham Grenville Stone.” She raised her expressive eyebrows and stared at him. “What the hell sort of name is that?” she mumbled after a moment and placed the clipboard back on the hook and dropped it with a clatter. “What in this world do people call you then?”
Stone met her gaze and wanted to reply “Sir” but thought better of it. An argument with this formidable, starched woman was not wise and not what he wanted. He’d heard what they could do, or not do, to those recovering.
“PG. Please, call me PG. Everyone else does,” smiled Stone.
“Well, PG it says on your chart, a bullet entered your chest and came out through your shoulder blade. Made quite a mess of you, the specialists say. A second shot to the head was not as shattering, according to your chart.” She eyed him and without another word, walked to the door where she turned to tell him he had a visitor. Holding the door for Detective Sergeant Jane Williams, she bellowed that he should be courteous and respectful to the police.
“Thank you sister; I’m sure he’ll be a good boy,” grinned DS Williams.
The Detective Sergeant picked up the small visitor’s bench and moved it to the bed. Before sitting, she leant over and in a calculated voice said: “So tell me PG, why does a Forensic Photographer get shot before he gets to the crime scene?” She sat down, crossed her legs and leant her elbows on the bed.
“Is that not your job, detective?” Stone answered looking at the drip bags hanging above his bed. “You must find out before someone gets killed.”
“I know. It is my job, but why you?”
PG Stone lay back in the many pillows and closed his eyes. His head ached. He had asked the same question many times during the moments he slipped in and out of the induced coma.
“Detective, I wish I could help you,” Stone said avoiding the detective’s scrutiny of his face and eyes.
After a few moments with nothing said, she opened her shoulder bag and took out a large box of chocolates and placed it on the bedside cabinet. She took a folded set of A4 pages and passed them to him. “This lists all the crime scenes you’ve attended since being our resident forensic photographer.” She waited for Stone to unfold the papers. “Those pages contain a summary of the crime, the details of the accused, and whether the person is in or out of jail,” she said. When this registered with PG, she continued. “I want you to go through that list and, if possible, come up with a name, or names, we can go after.”
“I hope I can help you. I want this murderer off the streets more than you do.”
“Aren’t you going to offer me one of your chocolates?” she smiled.
“Oh, sorry.” Stone leant across, picked up the box and opened it. The box was one of those with a fold up top cover. Stone shot a glance at Detective Sergeant Williams when he saw what was inside. “I think I should keep these for some other time.” he grinned.
“You do that.”
Detective Sergeant Jane Williams stood and straightened her police skirt. She moved the visitor’s bench back against the wall and crossed to stand next to his bed. “Help us, PG. We need this person before he kills us.” She squeezed his forearm, turned and left the ward.
PG dropped the list on his side cabinet knocking the plastic tablet dispenser to the floor. “To hell with this bloody job,” Stone cursed. “I want that bastard dead. He tried to kill me and failed. Big mistake,” he said out loud to the walls and the closed door.
Stone received no visitors that afternoon or that evening. He used the time to analyse the list and to sleep. Since the shooting, he slept often. He concentrated on the names on the list that were out of prison.
The first name Stone highlighted was Tommy Ryan. Known as ‘Big Tom’, he was a ferocious Irishmen with no remorse. Ten years ago Stone photographed the scene where Ryan had smashed two young hooligans’ skulls on the pavement. The unique photo of a hand print on the concrete beneath one of the victims was enough to put Ryan behind bars for ten years. Now he was out. Would he come looking for revenge? Stone didn’t think so.
Then there was Mrs Stella Lockwood. Out on bail for killing her husband. Not your typical domestic squabble. Husband and wife went at each other until one was dead, the other close to death. A complex crime scene to photograph. In fact, the scene occupied three rooms in the shabby flat. His photographs proved a homicide with Mrs Lockwood as the accused. There was no need for her to kill her husband. There were extenuating circumstances; she was granted bail for psychological counselling. Would she try to kill him? No.
Another name on the list worried him. He kept visualising Max von Schmitt in the dock as he provided the photographic evidence. The man’s cold grey eyes bore deep into his mind. At times, he felt unsure of the evidence he presented, but in the end, von Schmitt was convicted. Max was still in prison, so it’s not him.
Any one of the others on the list and still in prison could have an accomplice on the outside gunning for him. PG Stone prided in providing accurate and complete photographic evidence. He was good at his job, way above average.
He put down the list and closed his eyes to rest his brain.
PG Stone woke with a start. Sitting on the visitor’s stool at the bottom of the bed was the ward nurse. She smiled at him and waved his list.
“Sorry, I must have dozed off,” he said rubbing his eyes and licking his dry lips.
“What time is it nurse?” he asked feeling stiff in his shoulder. He must have slept for some time, he thought. “Why have you got my list?”
“I’m interested in what you think about these names.”
“That’s got nothing to do with you, nurse. It is police business, so pass it to me.” Stone held out his hand for the list. His eyes fixed on hers.
“Oh, don’t be so silly, PG,” she grinned, her eyes cold and narrow. “This ‘is‘ my business. I missed once, but not again. Not from this distance.” She put the list on the bed, reach down and placed a Walther with a fitted silencer on top of the list. She placed her large hands flat, palms down, on either side of the Walther. “My father, Max, was angry at me for missing.”
That was it. Father and daughter eyes.
“So, by shooting me, how is it going to help Max?”
“Peace of mind. Mine and his.”
Stone needed to think fast. If he reached for the buzzer, she would shoot him before he pressed it. The chocolates. Use the chocolates he said to himself.
“My mouth is dry and gritty from sleep,” he said looking away and at the chocolates. “Do you mind if I take a chocolate?”
“Go ahead, treat it as your last meal,” she laughed with her voice not her eyes. They sparkled as grey as melting ice.
Stone leant over, picked up the box and flipped up the lid. He placed the box on his lap and took one out. It was a nut, unwrapped. He put it in his mouth and looking at her asked: “Would you like one?”
The Walther was in her right hand pointing at him. Mocking, she waved the list in her left. She watched his every move. He picked up the box with both hands and slowly turned it to offer her one.
He shot her.
The bullet entered her throat and exited at the back of her neck, severing her spinal cord at the base of her skull. It was immediate, no hand reaction. The list slipped from her hand and caught on the chart clipboard hook.
It was thoughtful of DS Jane Williams to smuggle his service pistol in a box of chocolates and to load a bullet into the chamber.