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Retribution, p.40
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       Retribution, p.40

           Jilliane Hoffman

  ‘I will. And again, Dom, I’m sorry that I couldn’t be of more help.’

  Dominick turned and walked down the hallway, his head down, the dejected shoulders slightly sagging. Classic, subtle, and very telling body language. Dr Chambers watched him go, watched him nod ever so slightly to himself as he opened the door to Estelle’s reception room, watched him absorb all that the good doctor had said and had not said. And all that it implied.

  Then he watched as Special Agent Dominick Falconetti opened the heavy oak front door, got into his car, and just drove away.


  The door opened and the room exploded in light. The jingle of keys sounded behind her.

  He walked over to the corner sink and began to wash his hands, his back to her. Next to the sink was the metal cart laid out with tools. Scalpels in assorted sizes, scissors, bolt cutters, needles, tape, an IV line kit, straight razors, and an IV bag. He spent at least five minutes scrubbing his hands, like a surgeon, over the sink, and then carefully drying them with paper towels. He opened one of the cabinet drawers below the sink and pulled out a box of sterile rubber gloves and delicately pulled on a pair.

  ‘Sorry that I’m so late,’ Chambers called out. ‘I got stuck in session. You think you have problems. You should hear what’s out there. Schizophrenic seventeen-year-olds that threaten their own mothers with knives. Can you imagine? Your own mother?’

  He walked over to the tripod and looked through the camera, focusing the lens on her face, which was turned up, facing the ceiling, her eyes open. Then he snapped off a picture. ‘I bet you are photogenic. You have wonderful features.’He snapped off another and then refocused to capture the whole gurney.

  He walked back over to the metal rolling cart and paused for a moment, thinking. Then he reached under the sink again and took out a pair of green scrubs. In the corner of the room was a metal chair. He removed his jacket and neatly draped it over the back, then removed his tie, dress shirt, and slacks, folding them neatly on the chair. He dressed in the scrubs, and all the while he hummed. ‘Your friend stopped by the office this morning,’ he said while slipping mint-colored cotton booties over his shoes. ‘Dominick. He wanted to know if I could help him. If I could tell him where you might have gone, and maybe who with. He was very sad when I told him my opinion. Very sad, indeed.’

  He pulled the metal cart over to the gurney on her right side. From the cart he took a surgical cap and placed it on his head. ‘You know, I did my residency in surgery, initially.’ He looked down at her right arm and frowned. It was not strapped. He had forgotten to strap it after he had injected her. He raised her arm and let go, watching it crash to the gurney with a thud.

  She mumbled something that he couldn’t understand. More garbled nonsense. Tears flowed down the side of her head and on to her hair.

  It was sad. This beautiful specimen, this fabulous work in progress. He had thought that when it ended he would have a sense of joy, a sense of validation, to see his hypothesis come true. But when Bill had finally been sentenced to death, when the game had ended and the final play set in motion, he was, well, he was sad. He had engineered this experiment from the very beginning, when Bill had walked into his office three years ago with a shitload of problems, down on his luck, and with no one to talk to. But he had listened when Bill ranted and raved. Listened when he had told the nice doctor of all the nasty things he had done to all the nice women he had met over the years. And he had learned. Learned that while coincidences were hard to come by, they did still happen in this world. And that was when Dr Gregory Chambers, M.D., F.A.P.A., knew that he had found the most amazing specimens with which to conduct the most amazing experiment in all of modern psychiatric scientific history. And although he had dabbled in death long before his sessions with the clinically depressed C.J. or the narcissistic sociopath Bill had ever even begun, those efforts had been immature. The others had not even been missed. Their deaths had been insignificant, inconsequential. But this, well, this experiment had been an orchestration. He remembered the thrill of the moment when he had actually decided to do it – and the look on poor, sweet Nicolette’s face when he had sliced her open. She had not realized how important her role was in all this. She had been the first. The first of many in this blind study.

  And now that it was over he was sad. Sad because he knew he could not share this great work, this enormous feat with the world. His peers could never know; the observations and results could not be shared and studied by his contemporaries. To them he would still be Dr Joe Anybody.

  ‘Now, now. No tears,’ he said in a sympathetic voice. ‘I’d like to tell you that this won’t hurt a bit, but I’m afraid that’s just not true. As you know, we need to set you up first with an IV.’ He reached behind him and grabbed a syringe and a rubber band, with which to tie off the vein.

  Suddenly, he turned and his hand violently grabbed her right wrist, crushing it in his grip and smashing it hard against the gurney. He moved his head over hers, till his face was inches from her own. He searched her vacant eyes, which stared helplessly at the ceiling.

  ‘But before we begin’ – he smiled at her from above – ‘why don’t you be a good girl and give me back my scalpel?’


  How clever. How very clever. Of course, he had noticed the missing scalpel the moment he had walked in the room. Did she think him that stupid, that he wouldn’t notice? A classic mistake, one that others far more clever than she, had made. In her haste, she had underestimated him, taken him for a fool.

  Victory in the game of chess comes by ensnaring your opponent in a trap from which he cannot escape, through a series of complicated, but seemingly insignificant, moves. The thrill is won by whispering the word checkmate to the dumbfounded fool across from you, who, until that very moment, had been plotting his next move against your queen.

  This game was no different, the thrill made even sweeter by a worthy opponent. He moved about the room, setting up his board, laying the trap, giddy with thoughts of seeing the dumbfounded look cross her beautiful face.

  He saw the wrist strap unattached, her clenched hand trembling with nervous anticipation before she attempted to save her own life with one last desperate attempt on his. He watched her eyes, wide with fear, and allowed her mentally to move her pawn into position. Then his hand, quick as lightning upon hers, his words to her a final checkmate, her preemptive strike foiled.

  Her fist was clenched into a tight ball, and he saw the bright red blood as it oozed out between her fingers, trickling down her wrist and dripping on to the gurney. Using both of his hands, he pried open her palm. She moaned in protest. There he could see the number-five scalpel, and then the raw, deep cut that it had made in her flesh when she had clenched it so tightly. He plucked it from her grasp, as a parent would do with a toy hoarded by his naughty toddler.

  She shook her head slowly from side to side, an obvious acknowledgment of defeat, and tears spilled from her eyes. Her last best effort had failed. It amused him that she had so much strength. A worthy opponent, perhaps – better than all the rest. But, unfortunately, not good enough.

  He heard the scream first then in his ear, her words clear, not garbled, and that was when he realized that most of the Haldol had worn off. Much more than he would have thought. Pain, hot and wicked, sliced through his neck, and he felt the warmth of his own blood as it drained on to his scrubs, the green slowly transformed to a dark red.

  Surprise replaced amusement, and he watched her shout the words at him, her tearful face now dark and angry. His hands flew to his neck, uselessly covering the small hole that spurted blood violently through his fingertips. He could feel himself drowning in his own blood, heard his own garbled chokes as he tried to speak to her. He watched as the life poured out of him, spilling on to his shoes, slowly seeping away from him across the floor.

  He struggled to grab her, to crush and twist her neck, but she was just out of reach as he stumbled backward, and he felt the wall behind him.
She sat up on the gurney and he saw the hatred in her eyes. In her left hand she held another blade, dripping red droplets of blood on to the gurney. His blood.

  And at that moment he feared, because he knew that he had made the most classic mistake of all.

  He had underestimated her.


  She knew she had only one chance. Just one chance to get him close enough to her so that she could stick the blade in his eye or ear or neck. She knew her strength was limited, her arms still weak.

  He crossed the room in his green scrubs, all the while humming. Then he was next to her, frowning just above her. She knew something was wrong. She tightened the tension in her thumb, clenching the blade tighter against her palm. Had she not pushed the gurney into the same spot? Had she moved the instrument cart too much? In the complete blackness, it had been impossible to discern how things in the room had looked, exactly where they had been placed before.

  He was close, but not close enough. But it was clear he knew that something was amiss. The strap. He saw that she was not strapped in. She felt the sweat form on her face, even in the freezing-cold room. He grabbed her hand suddenly and dropped it with a thud on the gurney. She let it fall, trying hard to let her hand fall naturally, but without letting go of the blade. Don’t let go. Whatever you do, don’t let go. He seemed satisfied and turned away from her to the cart behind him.

  Inside, she breathed a sigh of relief. Closer, just come a little hit closer now with that IV. Just a few more inches.

  Suddenly, his hand violently on hers, crashing it to the cart, prying her fingers apart. No. No. Don’t let go! She clenched her fist tight, and felt the blade slice through the layers of skin and tendon and muscle. But still she wouldn’ t let go. Not until her last finger was pried open and she was robbed yet again. He was smiling above her, a smug smile at having figured her out. Foiled her plan. Tears rolled down her face. God, no. It can’t end like this.

  Closer, just come a little bit closer, you bastard. I still have one last trick up my sleeve. One last hurrah before you put me to sleep forever. With any luck, I’ll get it right the first time. Because after that, I’m definitely out of chances.

  His smug face, inches from her own now. The rubber tube and the syringe in his hand.

  ‘Go to hell!’ she screamed.

  She spit the words out in his ear. The number-three scalpel was tucked in under her left hand, with the strap loosely fitted over her wrist. Using all the strength she could muster, she raised the blade and brought it down hard into his neck. Blood squirted like a fountain. His eyes, which had been locked on hers in a triumphant look of smugness at having figured her out, grew wide with shock.

  He staggered back, away from her, his hands on his neck. He crashed into the metal cart, sending it careening into the wall. The surgical instruments flew on the cold black tile with a tinkle, scattering across the floor. One hand left his neck and he reached out for her, his eyes wide with shock, but then he fell against the wall.

  Blood was everywhere. She must have nicked the carotid artery, and he was bleeding out all over his green scrubs. His eyes still stared at her, but his face was dark with anger. His words were choked, as though he could not breathe.

  She rolled off the gurney, hitting the floor hard. A searing pain flared in her side and she felt bone snap. She still could not fully use her legs, the powerful haloperidol making them useless, like deflated rubber tubes. With her hands she pulled herself to the black painted door that he had come through, reaching up and feeling the doorknob above her head, her eyes never leaving his. The pain in her side was intense, and it was difficult to catch her breath.

  Blood from his neck wound began to seep across the floor toward her, making the black floor appear glossy, shiny. She tried to scream for help, but the sound was low and raspy and ineffective. He made a gurgling noise just then, and she saw one hand moving next to him, grasping for something.

  She had to get out, had to get help. She turned the knob, but it would not open. Then she remembered the jingle of the keys.

  He had locked them both in.


  The keys. The goddamn keys! They were in his jacket pocket on the chair. Next to where he sat slumped against the wall, his fingers still moving like a crab, against the floor. His eyes were open, but they were not blinking and, but for his moving fingers, he looked dead. He was probably in clinical shock, his organs beginning to shut themselves down. She pulled herself through the blood, which now covered the tile, to the chair. The jacket sat draped on top of it. The pain in her chest was excruciating. With every move, it became even harder to find her breath.

  She pulled the jacket down on to the floor and frantically dug through the pockets, her eyes not leaving him. His blood, still warm on the floor, was everywhere. Breast pocket, nothing. Inside pockets, nothing. Left-hand pocket, bingo. The jingle of a key ring. She pulled them out and began to drag herself back to the door. Her legs were tingling, but she still had no strength in them.

  The hand fell on her ankle quickly, pulling her back to him. She screamed, trying to kick it off with her useless legs. She turned and saw that the other hand had moved off his throat, and in it he held the syringe.

  ‘No! No!’ she screamed. ‘God, no!’ Her hands moved across the slippery tile trying to pull herself back, but found nothing to grab onto. She slid in his blood back to where he sat. She saw the syringe, its body filled with a clear liquid, its sharp needle spurting drops of poison in the air. His finger was on the plunger, ready to thrust it in her flesh, and he pointed it at her thigh as he pulled her toward him. That much Mivacron injected directly into the bloodstream without the dilution of an IV would kill her. Her hands thrashed about desperately seeking leverage, anything to hold her back from where she was going, but she found nothing and the needle came closer, until it was inches from the skin. Even as she was sure that he sensed his own death was near, a look of triumph passed on his face at the thought, probably, that they would die together.

  Then her hands found something cold, something metal on the floor. Scissors. She grabbed at them and with all her might pulled herself forward, at him, on him. Her hand flew out first, the scissors finding his chest. His grip lessened suddenly, and his hand slipped to the floor off her ankle. The syringe dropped to the floor, rolling in the blood to the wall. His eyes remained open. The look of triumph never passed.

  She pulled herself back to the door and felt for the handle above her. Grabbing it, she pulled herself up and found the lock. Her right hand, wet with blood from the gaping wound in her palm, slipped off the knob and she landed hard on her chin on the floor. Intense pain ran through her head like a shock wave, and the room began to blacken.

  No. No. Get up! Don’t pass out here! Not here, not now!

  She shook her head to lift the fog, and pulled herself back up on the knob, the fingers on her hand finding the lock above it. The key ring jingled, her shaking hands fumbling to find the right one. The pain in her right palm was intense, and she could not grasp with her fingers. The third key finally found the lock and slid in and she heard the click. She turned the knob and pulled it open a crack, slipping to the floor. Her fingers found the small opening and she pulled the door, finally falling into a carpeted dark hallway. The tick of a grandfather clock could be heard somewhere.

  Where was she? Where the hell was she? What other surprises did he have in store for her?

  She cast one more look behind her. He sat still and motionless against the wall, his vacant, lifeless eyes open wide. She pulled herself down the hallway looking for a phone. The hallway was dark, almost as black as the room she had just left behind her. There were no windows, no light.

  Find a phone. The police can trace the call. They’ll know where I am. I’m probably at his house, wherever the hell that is.

  It was now almost impossible to breathe. The air was heavy, the pain numbing. Not here. Don’t pass out here, Chloe!

  Some ten feet later she found woode
n stairs and, holding on to the railing, slid down them, landing in the dark on cool tile. There was more light downstairs than up, and there were windows. Outside she could see it was dark, nighttime. Streetlights sent soft light through the wooden blinds. Down the pale-yellow-and-blue hallway, on a wooden antique desk stacked with pictures of Estelle and her family, was the phone.

  She knew exactly where she was, where she had been all this time. And in the nice Spanish-style house on Almeria, in the comfort of her psychiatrist’s office, she lay in the dark crying on the cool Mexican tile floor, just waiting for the police to come.


  ‘Counselor, you are one fucking lucky lady. That place looks like a scene from a bad horror movie. Blood everywhere,’ Manny said when he walked into the room, his clothes disheveled, his face a carpet of black. In one hand he held a basket of exotic tropical flowers. In the other, he held a plateful of pastelitos.‘The flowers are from the guys. Even Bowman, that cheap fuck, pitched in. And the pastelitos are from me. The doc outside said no café con leche for you for a while, so it’ll have to be milk.’

  ‘Lucky?’ C.J. grimaced from her bed. ‘You go buy the Lotto ticket, Bear. I don’t think I’m up to it.’ Breathing was painful. Talking was worse. ‘Thank you. They’re beautiful.’

  Well, you do look like shit, but at least you’re alive. More than we can say for Dr Friendly. I just came from his office. Nice hole you left in his chest, Counselor. Even nicer one in his neck. Remind me not to get you mad. What does the doctor say? Will you be coming back to us, or do I need to find another ASA who will let me prefile on the phone?’

  ‘Three cracked ribs. A severed tendon in her right hand. Concussion. A collapsed lung. But she’ll be fine,’ said Dominick who was sitting at the side of the hospital bed in an armchair, where he had been all night, ever since she was brought in.

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