H Is For Homicide Page 88


The doctor stumbled off-balance and one of the duty nurses started to run. A second nurse picked up a phone to call Security. Raymond pulled out a gun and pointed it at her, his arm stiff, his intent murderous. She lowered the phone. He swung the gun back and forth as he made his way down the hall. I pulled out the SIG-Sauer, but the doctor was in my way. Hospital staff seemed to be everywhere.

I screamed, ’’Tate!’’ I started running.

Bibianna was in the second room. Tate was on his feet, his gun out. Raymond fired. I saw Tate go down.

Raymond doubled back, heading right at me.

I held the gun with both hands and yelled, ’’Stop!’’ but he knew I wouldn't fire under the circumstances. There were too many people in the vicinity to risk shooting. He shouldered me aside and took off at a dead run, his heels clattering as he plowed through the double doors and down the corridor. He still had his gun, but he was moving too fast to take aim or fire with any accuracy. I banged through the doors behind him and pounded down the hallway after him. Heads appeared in doorways, people attracted by all the commotion, disappearing again quickly when they spotted the guns. Raymond reached an Exit sign and grabbed the knob, flung the door open, and headed down the stairs. I caught the door as it swung shut and forced it back with a crash. I could hear Raymond's descent, his footsteps echoing rapidly in a spiral below me. I was jumping down three steps at a time, trying to cut his lead, when I heard him reach the exterior door below. His exit set off an alarm bell mat began to peal shrilly.

I doubled my pace, hitting the door with one hand, the SIG-Sauer in the other, nearly recoiling at the sudden blast of bright sunlight in my face. I could see Raymond tearing across a stretch of lawn just ahead of me. We'd emerged from one end of the hospital, close to Arizona Avenue in an area of small stucco houses with an occasional three-story medical building. Raymond ran toward the street, feet flying, arms pumping. I was vaguely aware of someone running behind me, but I couldn't afford to look. I was narrowing the gap, calling on the last of my physical reserves. I had to be in better shape than Raymond, but I could feel myself wheezing, lungs on fire. Six days without exercise had taken the edge off, but I still had some juice.

Raymond took a quick look behind him, gauging the distance between us. He got off a shot that smacked into a palm tree to my left. He tried to goose up his pace, but he really didn't have it in him. I was close enough now that the sound of his heavy breathing seemed in concert with mine and the heels of his shoes nearly touched my pumping knees. I had a tight grip on the gun. I reached out and pushed him hard in the back. He stumbled, arms flailing as he tried to regain his balance. He went down in a sprawl and I landed, knees first, in the middle of his back. His breath left him in a whoosh and the gun flew out of his hand. I was up and on my feet, panting heavily. He turned over as I raised the barrel of the gun and placed it between his eyes. Raymond had his hands up, inching away from me. For ten cents I would have blown that motherf*ker away. My rage was white hot and I was out of control, screaming ’’I'll kill your ass! I'll kill your ass, you son of a bitch!!’’

Behind me, I heard, ’’Freeze!’’

I whipped around.

It was Luis.

The gun in his right hand was pointed directly at Raymond. In his left hand was a badge. He was LAPD.

Epilogue

BY THE TIME I got back upstairs, the emergency room crew was already working on Jimmy Tate, who was whisked into surgery within the hour. The bullet had caught him in the abdomen and he'd apparently suffered a ruptured spleen. Bibianna wasn't in much better shape, but both survived. Whether they lived happily ever after or not, I really couldn't say, as all this happened just three weeks ago. I made it back to Santa Teresa in time for Vera's wedding on Monday night, which was Halloween. Naturally, as I hadn't had time to shop, I was forced to wear my faithful all-purpose dress, which in my opinion suited the occasion to a T. Vera was urging me to bring a date, so I took Luis with me, Donald and Daffy Duck arms and all.

Raymond Maldonado has hired himself a top-notch attorney. At this point the charges against him range from murder one, in the case of Parnell Perkins, to grand theft, insurance fraud, mail fraud, all the way down to petty larceny. I gather that certain cases involving individuals with Tourette's syndrome present a serious challenge to the criminal justice system. My guess is he'll work out a deal, naming some of the other key figures in the fraud ring including three attorneys from the law firm of Gotlieb, Naples, Hurley, and Flushing.

The cops never did come up with my black leather jacket. Somebody in the restaurant probably lifted it the minute my back was turned. I'm tellin'you, people are crooks! And it's not just the ordinary man in the street. I haven't been paid for all the work I did. I billed the Santa Teresa Police Department for services rendered. Dolan tells me he forwarded the invoice to the LAPD, who'll probably turn around and try to lay it off on the Department of Insurance. I'll give those turkeys ninety days to ’’process’’ my money and then I'm calling my attorney.


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