Everybody dies, p.30
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       Everybody Dies, p.30

         Part #14 of Matthew Scudder series by Lawrence Block
 
Page 30

 

  Elaine had called Dr. Jerome Froelich, who I gathered had performed more than his share of abortions in the pre-Roe v. Wade days, even as hed written more than his share of morphine and Dexedrine prescriptions. It was around two in the morning when she called him, and he grumbled but he came.

  She asked him how bad it was.

  "Hes resting comfortably," he said. "I sedated him and dressed the wound. He probably ought to be in a hospital. On the other hand, maybe hes lucky hes not. Hes lost some blood, and theyd most likely give him a unit or two of whole blood, and you know what? If it was me, Id just as soon not have some strangers blood dripping into my veins, thank you just the same. "

  "Because of HIV?"

  "Because of any number of goddamn things, including ones they cant test for because nobody knows what they are. I just dont have a lot of faith in the blood supply these days. Sometimes youve got no choice, but if all you are is down a pint or so, Id rather give the body a chance to make its own. You know what I want you to do?"

  "What?"

  "Go out and get a juicer. Then- "

  "Weve already got one," she told him.

  "Im not talking about citrus, I mean a vegetable juicer. You got one of those?"

  "Yes. "

  "Well, good for you," he said.

  "We dont use it much, but- "

  "You should. Things are worth their weight in gold. What you do, buy beets and carrots. Organically growns best, but if you havent got a source- "

  "I know where I can get them. "

  "Beet juice is a blood builder, but dont give it to him straight. Mix it half and half with carrot, and prepare it fresh each time before you give it to him. Its not as quick as a transfusion, but nobody ever got hepatitis from it. "

  "I knew beet juice was supposed to be a blood builder," she said, "but I dont know if I would have thought of it. And I never expected to hear it recommended by a doctor. "

  "Most doctors never heard of it, and wouldnt want to hear of it. But Im not like most doctors, my dear. "

  "No, youre not. "

  "Most doctors dont take care of themselves the way I do. Most doctors dont look or feel this good at my age. Im seventy-eight. Assure me I dont look it. "

  "You know you dont. "

  "You should see me after Ive had an uninterrupted nights sleep. Im even more gorgeous then. Im expensive, though, day or night. This is going to cost you two thousand dollars. "

  "All right. "

  "Look at her, she doesnt bat an eye. Its a ridiculous price, but heres something even more ridiculous. If youd taken the young fellow to a hospital it would have wound up costing you that and more by the time you got out of there. "

  I didnt have to hunt for the money. Id taken it along in case I had to show it to Purvis, and now I counted it out and handed it to Dr. Froelich.

  "Thank you," he said. "I wont give you a receipt, and neither will I report it, to the police or to the IRS. The price includes aftercare, incidentally. Ill drop around sometime late afternoon to check on him and change the dressing. Check his temperature every couple of hours, give him aspirin when he needs it for pain, and call me if his fever spikes. If it does, but I dont think it will. And dont forget the beet juice. Beet and carrot, equal parts, all you can get into him. Its good to see you, Elaine. Ive often thought of you, wondered what became of you. Youre as beautiful as ever. "

  "More," I said.

  He cocked his head, looked at her. "You know," he said, "I believe youre right. "

  "I dont know," I said after hed left. "Maybe I should have taken him straight to a hospital. "

  "You heard what Jerry said. Hes probably better off here, and drinking beet juice instead of getting a transfusion. "

  "Thats good to know," I said. "But the thing is I didnt know it at the time. I could see the bleeding wasnt too severe, and I didnt think he was in any immediate danger. If a doctor looked at him and saw that hospitalization was necessary, thered be time to get him to an ER then. "

  "That makes sense. "

  "Gunshot wounds have to be reported," I said, "and I didnt want that. Hes a young black male without a police record, and thats the sort of distinction you dont want to give up for no good reason. "

  "I know hell be glad he wasnt hospitalized. "

  "I was probably thinking of myself as well. The slug Froelich took out of him may make a nice souvenir, but if theyd dug it out at Bellevue or Roosevelt or Brooklyn Jewish they wouldnt have let him keep it. Theyd have turned it over to the cops, and a ballistics check might show an interesting matchup. "

  "With the bullets that killed Jim Faber?"

  "No, because he left the gun at the scene. But with a gun found in an apartment in Brooklyn, along with a dead body with a couple of other bullets in it. Bullets from a. 38 revolver, and that reminds me. Im going to have to get rid of this gun. "

  "Because it leads straight to the dead man in Brooklyn. You want me to take it out and drop it down a storm drain?"

  "Not until I find a replacement for it. I thought about leaving it at the scene and taking his gun, but what do I want with a dinky little. 22?"

  "Mah man wants a mans gun," she drawled. "Ill tell you one thing you can get rid of right now, and thats the shirt youre wearing. Its got bullet holes in it. Well, not holes, because the bullets didnt go through, but bullet marks. How about the jacket? No, he missed that, but its got bloodstains, and so do your slacks. Why dont you take a shower while I run all your clothes through the washing machine? Or is it a waste of time? I can get the stains out, but are there still traces that show up in a test?"

  "There may be," I said, "but if the stains are invisible to the naked eye Id say thats enough. If we get to the point where they do spectroscopic tests on everything in my closet, it wont matter what they find. TJ left some blood on the floor at Tapscott Street, and they can tie him to it with a DNA match, so Im not going to worry about blood traces that nobody can see. "

  I took a shower, then put on clean clothes and had a look at TJ. He was sleeping soundly and his color looked better. I put a hand on his forehead. It felt warm, but not dangerously so.

  In the living room, Elaine told me I shouldnt have bothered getting dressed. "Because you have to sleep," she said. "You can catch a few hours on the couch. Ill sit up with him, and then you can take over when the stores are open, and Ill go buy beets and carrots. I almost fell over when Jerry started telling me about beet juice. " She took a moment, then said, "He performed one of my abortions, but before that he was a client. "

  "I wasnt going to ask. "

  "I know, but why should you have to wonder? Speaking of having to wonder, do you think hes dead? The man in Brooklyn?"

  "He was well on his way when I left. Id say hes probably dead by now. "

  "Unless someone phoned for an ambulance. "

  "That seems unlikely. Even if they did, my guess is hed be dead at the scene or DOA at the hospital. "

  "Does it bother you?"

  "That hes dead?"

  "And that you didnt try to save him. "

  "No," I said. "I dont think so. He killed Jim, you know. "

  "I know. "

  "Youd think that would have filled me with rage when I stood there in front of him, but it didnt. He was just a problem to solve. He had some information I wanted. Or at least I thought he did at the time. It turned out he didnt know anything. He identified one sketch and got my hopes up, but then I showed him one Ray and I did as an exercise, someone completely out of the frame, and he IDd him, too. I could have shown him a picture of the Dalai Lama and hed have sworn that was the guy who set me up. "

  "He just wanted to get to the hospital. "

  "Thats it. But the point is I didnt walk in with vengeance in mind. I fully intended to stiff him on the two grand, but I wasnt planning to shoot him. If he hadnt started firing, my gun would never have left the holster. "

  "But he did. "

  "But he did, and I shot the son of a
bitch, and then he expected me to get him patched up. Well, the hell with that. I dont think I could have if Id wanted to, but why even make the effort? I hadnt been willing to kill him, but I was willing to let him die. "

  "He had it coming. "

  "You could probably say that about most people. Still, the guys a poster child for the death penalty. He struck me as a pretty pure sociopath. Hed kill anybody, just so you paid him. God knows how many people he killed in his life, and Jim wouldnt have been the last. He wouldnt even have been the last this week if I hadnt been wearing the vest. "

  "I was thinking that," she said, "but I decided Im not going to allow myself any thoughts that start with if. There are too many of them and theyre too upsetting. Youre alive, thank God, and TJs alive. Thats enough for now. "

  I got a few hours on the couch. They were fitful, with a lot of dreams that dispersed like smoke when I opened my eyes. TJ was alone in the bedroom, his features relaxed in sleep. For a moment he looked about twelve years old.

  Elaine was in the kitchen watching the news. "Nothing about a dead man in Brownsville," she said.

  "There wouldnt be. A black man dead of gunshot wounds in an abandoned building? Not the kind of item that makes a news director holler for a film crew. "

  "Theyll investigate it, though. "

  "The police? Of course they will. You get any kind of a homicide, you try to clear it. This ones easy to read. Dead man on the floor, shot twice in the chest with a. 38. Another gun nearby, a. 22, recently fired, and several slugs from it there in the apartment. "

  "Oh?"

  "The two that the Kevlar vest stopped, plus one that missed both of us. They can dig it out of the wall if they want to take the trouble. Blood- the dead mans, and another persons, presumably the shooter. "

  "But we know better. "

  "And a blood trail, Id have to assume, leading out the door and down the stairs. Scenarios got to be that two men had an argument, probably over drugs or women- "

  "Because what else do grown men argue about. "

  "- and they shot each other, and the survivor decided not to stick around. Its certainly the kind of case you try to clear, but you dont knock yourself out. You wait until somebody says, Listen, what for you want to hassle me about ten dime bags of product when Im the man can give you the dude shot that Cayman dude over on Tapscott Street? And you make your deal and pick up your perp. "

  "Cayman? Purvis was from the Cayman Islands?"

  "Just a guess. He was wearing a Georgetown University sweatshirt. "

  "So? Thats in DC. "

  "Keep going. "

  "Georgetown is the capital of the Caymans," she said, after some thought. "So if thats where youre from, a Georgetown University sweatshirt would be a hip thing to wear. "

  "Stands to reason. "

  "Of course its also the capital of Guyana. "

  "It is?"

 
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