Nurses are angels in sensible shoes. When I awoke, two of these delightful creatures were hovering over my hospital bed. On my left, beautiful Nurse Bell carefully checked my IV drip. On my right, lovely Nurse Owens gently measured my blood pressure. I breathed a sigh of relief and sank into a relaxed reverie, enjoying the undivided attention of these dedicated professionals.
I slowly opened my eyes to drink in the starched white delights. I closed them again and re-opened just to be sure. Instead of two wonderful nurses tending to my needs, I was looking into the moon faces of the two men from the truck., one at either arm. Fear paralyzed me. My stomach turned and my gorge started the journey back to freedom. They had followed me to the hospital to finish the job. I opened my mouth to scream, but nothing came out. That was probably good. Through my panic I heard a familiar voice. “Rick. Rick. Can you hear me?” It was Katowski’s. Bemused, I focused on the figure standing at the foot of the bed. That, too, was Katowski’s.
I found my voice. “Kat, look out. These are the two who tried to kill me. They were there when I escaped from the crate!”
Kat laughed. “These two? They wouldn’t harm a fly. They were more surprised than you when you popped out of that box , naked as a jay.”
I took another look at the men on each side of my bed. They certainly appeared harmless. The first thing you notice is that they are identical twins. They even dressed alike, and stood, each, with their John Deere caps in their hands folded on their protruding bellies. They had full heads of jet black hair atop the moon faces. They were probably in their late forties. They were looking at me with shy grins, their heads bowed slightly. Neither man spoke.
“This is Wilbur and Orville.” Kat was explaining. “They’re brothers”
“No shit!” I interjected. “Let me guess. The Wright Brothers?”
It was Kat’s turn to look confused. “No, the Smith Brothers.”
“Ah. I didn’t recognize them without beards.” I managed a weak smile.
Katowski gave me a look like I was someone with a head injury. Which I was, by the way.
“Anyway.” Katowski cleared his throat. “Wilbur,” he gestured to the man on my left, “and Orville,” he nodded at the man on my right, “operate a handyman business. They clean yards, haul trash, odd jobs, you know. They’re ot-nay oo-tay ight-bray.” Kat leaned forward slightly and laid his right finger aside his nose. He winked to let me know I was on the inside with this important information. “They were paid $50 cash to take the crate of old files to the recycling yard to be shredded for mulch. They just about soiled themselves when you came leaping out of that box..”
The Smith’s had stood immobile as Katowski and I spoke. The expression on their faces did not waver, and their gaze never moved. They did not seem to be upset that we were discussing their intellectual shortcomings, or irritable bowels. Actually, they did not seem to be aware.
I turned my attention back to Katowski. “These two aren’t going to be a lot of help finding out who did this, are they?” It wasn’t really a question.
“No.” Kat conceded “I’m afraid the fifty dollar bill attracted all of their attention. It doesn’t matter anyway. Whoever hired these guys was well removed from the brains of the operation.”
“Brains?” I raised up on my elbows to get a better look at Katowski. “Operation? What the hell are you talking about? What’s going on here? What happened to me?” I lay back down. My head pounded in time to my heart. There was a dull ache right behind my eyes. “The last thing I remember is chasing after Miss Rose. Or is it Mrs. Marlin?” I shot Katowski an evil look.
“Yeah, well, truth be told, it is Mrs. Marlin you were with. But, let’s keep that between us for the moment. No need to cause any more trouble than necessary.”
“Trouble? Trouble?” I expect I raised my voice slightly. “You don’t want any more trouble? I’ve been beaten to within an inch of my life, stripped of my clothes and almost fed through a mulcher. Trouble is not an issue here.”
I drew a breath. “Why does the Mayor’s wife need an gigolo? And why is she using a pseudonym when it appears everyone in town, except me, knows her?
Katowski looked sheepish. “I told you, you were not a gigolo. You were an escort. I don’t know why Mrs. Marlin required the services of an escort. I never questioned her motives, and she never questioned my bills.”
“She told me that she used a phony name to maintain an air of propriety. She knew that the maitre d’s and waitstaff she encountered would not challenge her and risk losing out on the big tip that followed her visits. The same thing for her escorts”
I shifted in bed and reminded myself of the myriad scrapes and cuts all along my back side, including my backside, the result of my hasty emergence from the packing crate. I had splﾜ･e_3ﾀ _____e_______________ﾔ'__ｱ1__________________ﾔ$___________________________________.__ｶ____.__ｶ___ｶ.______ｶ.______ｶ.______ｶ.______ｶ.______ /______ /______ /______ /______ /______ /_____*/______ /______ 1__1___:/______:/______:/______:/______:/______:/______:/______:/______‰/______‹/______‹/______‹/_____ｪ/__?___:0__?___ﾊ0__ ___:1__T___Ž1__#___è0__!___________________ｶ.______:/________________:/______:/______________________:/______:/______è0______:/______ｶ.______ｶ.______:/______________________:/____les. Separate organic from inorganic.” I had no qualms about being ground up and spread on a garden. There was something romantic about being recycled, returned to the earth from which I came. It seemed wasteful to be embalmed and sealed in a watertight concrete vault, forever withholding my final remains from nourishing the land that nourished me in life. WHEN I WAS DEAD! Being fed alive into a shredder really irritated me.
The door flew open, and in came an orderly pushing a television on a cart. “TV’s here.” he announced.
“If I were blind, I wouldn’t need a TV.” I shot back. He ignored me and went to work hooking up the television against the wall opposite the end of the bed.
“Wait.” I called to the orderly. “Don’t put that thing here. I can’t afford a TV. I can’t even afford to be in the hospital. I’ve got to get out of here.” I struggled to get up on my elbows.
Katowski came around the side of the bed and pushed in front of Orville. Or maybe it was Wilbur. He put his hand on my shoulder and held me down on the bed. “Relax. You don’t have to worry about the hospital bills. Mrs. Marlin is taking care of everything. She appreciates what you did for her.”
“What do you mean? I didn’t do anything. I’m confident that beating I took wasn’t meant for her” I let my head sink into the pillow and closed my eyes. I think better this way. I opened one eye and fixed Katowski. “Unless she means what I am going to do. Like not making a fuss about this little incident?”
Katowski flashed a quick grin.
“And, how does she know I am in the hospital? I just got here.”
“No,” Katowski shook his head. “You just woke up. You have been in the hospital for two days. I filled Mrs. Marlin in on everything that happened when you were found by the Smiths the morning after your assignment.”
“Great. Two lost days. And how much longer do I stay here.?’
“The doctor says about a week, maybe ten days. You’ll be out for Christmas, if that means anything.”
“Well, I might as well make the best of this. Hand me that remote.”
“Gentlemen,” I nodded to the brothers Smith, “What’s your pleasure? Cartoons? Three Stooges? Frontline?
The Smiths didn’t speak, but each took a chair and sat down, facing the glowing tube. Katowski folded his arms over his chest and leaned against the wall. I clicked away until I came to the Animaniacs. We all settled back to enjoy Yacko, Whacko and Dot. Katowski reached over and turned off the overhead lights, and soon we were all hypnotized by the flashing pictures, until the cartoon was rudely interrupted by a slide and voice-over announcing “Breaking News!”
The scene changed to Gale Wallens, Midday News Anchor as she was settling into the chair behind her News Desk and hastily clipping on a lapel mike. She shook herself and looked sincerely into the camera.
“Gale Wallens here with breaking news. Police Chief O’Hara has just called an urgent press conference for 3:15 this afternoon. We take you now to City Hall and Harvey Johnson.”
The screen was filled with the perfect white teeth and careful coiff of Harvey Johnson, Roving Reporter. The male version of Gale. In fact, you might need a spit test to tell them apart. They were both soooo pretty.
Harvey was standing in front of the City Hall. A podium was set up on the top of the steps, visible over Harvey’s left shoulder. “Thanks Gale. We are waiting here for Chief O’Hara to speak. Ah, here he is now.”
Chief O’Hara slowly walked to the podium. He looked rough. He signaled to the crowd that he was ready to speak, and they fell quiet.
“It is my sad duty to announce that at 1:30 this afternoon, Mayor Marlin was shot and killed as he was getting out of his car in front of Dino’s Restaurant.”
You could feel the gasp of the crowd, right through the television.
Kat straightened up and moved quickly to the TV. On the way he flipped on the lights. Turning off the TV with one hand, he reached into the closet with the other and scooped up my clothes. He tossed them on the bed and said,” Get dressed. You have been in the hospital long enough.”