Scalpel (2005 Short Story)

Chapter Three

Danielle woke up, dazed and confused. She was in pain, but she couldn’t isolate the hurt. In fact, she couldn’t even isolate where she was. She had never made it home, that much was certain. She didn’t even remember driving….

She tried to look at her watch, but the very thought of motion inflamed her arm so much that she reconsidered. Instead, she looked around, trying to get a clue where she was, and how she had gotten there. And maybe, find out whether or not she was late for work. She groaned as she moved her stiff neck, and opened her eyes.

As soon as she saw the sign that said “Burn Ward” she remembered what had happened. She had been in the parking lot of The Atrium Towers. The elevator operator had just come home, and Danielle was retiring for the night. She hit the remote button to unlock her Civic, and the world exploded in flames. The only thing that saved her was the type of bomb, wired into the locking mechanism.

She remembered an article she had read about a week ago, explaining the dangers of these new car bombs. Specially designed not to leave a trace when they exploded, they were becoming increasingly popular in place of more conventional explosives as forensic investigation techniques became more advanced. Danielle was almost glad the lock-bomb had these advantages to criminals: any other kind of bomb would have left her dead. Had the car exploded when she opened the door, or when she turned the ignition, the shrapnel would have instantly killed her.

But Danielle wasn’t content to know her would-be killer had screwed up and left her mildly injured instead of dead. Someone was still out there, someone who was desperately trying not to get caught. Obviously it was someone from The Atrium Towers, and the only one there that Danielle didn’t know much about…

… was the last person to come in last night. Something about that cheerful elevator man didn’t add up. If nothing more than the fact that he was almost never seen around the building, and always cheerful. Everybody had bad days. Everybody. The desk clerk knew this from experience. Another thing she knew from experience: if she didn’t do something about this, no one else would…

After an uneventful day of working in his elevator, Jimmy was ready to make his next move. The rest of the Tower staff was furious about Isabelle’s apparent slacking off, and curiously little was mentioned of Danielle’s disappearance. Carolina Scott’s absence was a curiosity, but little more- her body would probably not be found for a few more days, and not identified for at least a week.

A bell rang, and model Melissa James got onto the elevator. It was mid-day, her usual wake-up time, and it looked like she was heading to the pool on the roof. She had a martini in her hand- not a surprise at any time of the day. Sure enough, she told “Harold” to bring her up to the roof. He quickly obliged, and decided how he would finish her off. The drink in her hand was an interesting prospect- it would be simple to dissolve a poison in the alcohol. He just waited for the moment to drop it in.

In the end, he didn’t have to make the decision. “Harold, I have a splitting headache,” Melissa said. “Do you have a Tylenol or something?”

He looked thoughtful, and used a key to open up the elevator first aid kit, right below the floor buttons and above the maintenance ones. He looked through it, and poured a single Tylenol into his hand. At the same time, he dropped into his hand a paralytic pill that looked exactly like the pain-killer she was looking for. In fact, it was a concentrated dose of morphine- within 10 minutes she would completely lose control of her bodily functions and within 15 she would lose consciousness. In the pool she would drown quickly, especially without a lifeguard.

Jimmy quickly closed up the bottle and the first aid kit, rose to his feet, and offered the two pills to Melissa. She swallowed them with a gulp of her martini. “Thank you,” she said, with no sincerity in her voice, and stepped off the elevator. Oh, he thought, don’t thank me yet. You have no idea how good you’ll feel in a few minutes.

A light on the elevator blinked, and “Harold” headed down to the first floor to meet the person coming up. On the way down, he thought of his remaining target: the nanny, Summer. He had seen her briefly- everyone who lived here he had seen at least once- and knew he could recognize her face. He just hoped she wasn’t with the kid- that would raise some awkward questions. He was wary enough taking out this many people in one place, and he knew that if he got the kid, the kid’s parents would have to die. Parents of young children don’t generally cooperate with threats, not with their kid’s murderer in any case.

He stopped at the first floor. A somber man in a trenchcoat stepped him. Jimmy could tell from the cigar smell and the way he looked about that he was official- he was affiliated with the NYPD in one way or another. “Harvey Thomas,” he said, looking at the elevator operator. He clearly wanted a reply.

“Harold Potter,” he answered, pouring it on with the British accent as much as possible. He reached out his hand to shake, and the detective shook his hand. The shake was short, like that of someone who’s about to get down to business. “How may I help you?” he asked politely.

“I am a murder detective working with the New York Police Department on investigating the recent disappearances at The Atrium Towers. Have you seen anything suspicious going on?”

The elevator operator looked momentarily thoughtful. “No sir, I can’t say I have.”

“Would you mind if I look around the elevator a bit?”

A trick question if ever I heard one, Jimmy thought. No way to hold on to your privacy without coming up on the suspect list. “Go right ahead. I hope you won’t mind if I continue to transport tenants while you’re here?”

The detective shrugged, and began looking closely at the walls. He pulled out a small, ultraviolet flashlight used for detecting body fluids. This didn’t worry its operator in the slightest- the night he killed Jamie he had used the ultraviolet bulb hidden with the elevator’s own flourescent lights to clean the elevator of any such incriminating chemicals. In fact, that was how he usually kept the elevator looking so clean- nothing shows up in an ultraviolet light like lint.

After about a half hour of searching, Detective Thomas gave up. He looked at “Harold.” “Thank you, I’d like to go around and ask some questions. Twelfth floor, if you would?” Jimmy brought him to the 12th floor, and let him off. As he prepared to close the door, someone got on. That someone was Summer Fun, the last person on his list of targets. The person whose death he had already double- and triple-checked the elevator for. It was one thing to use the elevator’s air system to fill it with the smell of incense or intoxicating drug fumes, it was quite another to pump it full of pesticide to get rid of a potential irritant.

Summer stepped onto the elevator. “14th floor, please.” Unlike most of the people who lived at this apartment this nanny, like most of the lower- and middle-class workers here were at least polite when they asked him for a floor. They didn’t assume that they were above him and if they did, it didn’t show.

He nodded his acknowledgement of her request, and pressed the button to the 14th floor. While he was turned away, he placed an oxygen-mask from the elevator First Aid kit over his face and hit the “stop elevator” button, right at the 13th floor. He then used a button on his cane to activate the air system, and turned back to Summer.

“I’m sorry it has to be this way, Summer.” he said, maintaining his accent only for the sake of not showing her the extent to which she had been fooled and left vulnerable. While he still disdained her meager existence as a nanny, he had more respect for her than most of the rich-born or otherwise spoiled people in this building. He didn’t need to make her final minutes that much more painful- her death was only a precaution, after all.

Still, he would have found it challenging to be anything but amused at the confused look on her face as it slowly dawned on her that she was going to die. The first thing that happened was her mouth drying out, so right before she started coughing he watched her mouth the word “Why?” and couldn’t help but smile.

It had been a long time since he had done this so much in such a short amount of time. This feeling- that was why he lived. Better than drugs, though not quite as good as sex, this was his one true love.

A few days had passed. Investigations were now seriously underway as Carolina’s body was found and identified, and the disappearances of Isabelle and Summer were recognized as more than coincidences. Melissa James, whose death was ruled as a suicide, was not a concern of the police. Curiously, little had been mentioned of Danielle, one way or another.

Jimmy Scalpel was sitting out on his balcony, a lit blunt in his hand. It was about 3 in the morning, so he was free to do as he pleased without worrying about being seen and exposed. He was relaxing, enjoying the darkness before dawn as only one who works by night can truly appreciate it. He took a puff and looked down at the parking lot, seeing a scene that caught his eye almost immediately.

Danielle had just arrived in a bright yellow taxi, and was running over to a man standing by a discreet car in the corner of the parking lot. A man whose stance was instantly recognizable: Detective Harvey Thomas. “Shit,” he said, “I think I’m gonna need some back-up.” He ran inside and grabbed his cell off of his nightstand. “Serena, I need back-up,” he said as soon as he got a groggy “hello?”.

“What’s going on?” she asked. She was startled half-awake by his urgent tone, but she had been drinking all night and was still feeling the after-affects of the drugs she took before she went to bed.

“Cops are on to me. That murder detective.” He paused, and then anticipated her next question. “Desk clerk survived the trap I set for her. No evidence to lead to me, but she’s smart. I think there’s trouble.”

Serena thought it over. “Yeah, I think you’re right. I can have some people down here in 20 minutes if you need-”

“Excellent. I’m sure you have your own arsenal? I don’t know how many cops they’re brining, but they’ll take about the same time.” While generally a solo operator, Scalpel had never had trouble taking over a combat operation. He was the best shot, the best dodger, and the best tactician in New York. He also had one of the most forceful personalities anywhere- rarely did he give someone a choice when he planned to have his way. He muscled his way through conversations like this with ease, and was not allowing failure to be an option.

Twenty minutes passed, and Jimmy and Serena came out of the library together. While Serena carried an AK-47 reserved for large encounters like this, Jimmy carried a pistol. It wasn’t the small, silenced one he used for individual murders, but a custom-made design for sharp-shooting. It was semi-automatic, and carried a punch on it like a rifle. “The Slayer,” he called it, and there were almost as many rumors about this gun as there were about its enigmatic owner.

As the police cars and loaded suburbans began to pull into the parking lot at breakneck speeds, Jimmy decided he was going to start this confrontation on his terms. With a trio of well-placed shots, he ruptured and sparked the gas tank of one of the police cars. The car exploded, sending bodies flying everywhere. By the time anyone could find out where those first three shots had come from, the parking lot was alive with bullets. The sound of gunfire was deafening, and the normally tranqiul Atrium Tower was now a war zone.

Detective Harvey Thomas, with Danielle next to him, was looking through the smoke trying to find “Harold”. He let off a few shots, until he found the group Jimmy had settled into. The two groups exhanged shots rapidly. At first, it seemed the outlaws were indestructible. The battle-experienced gangsters generally matched or exceeded the skill of the cops, while Jimmy showed that he had no problem blowing things up if it would take a half-dozen or so of his opponents out. The two opposing sides, which had begun the confrontation as fairly equal, now appeared as though the criminals outnumbered the law by about 3 to 1.

Psychiatrist John Manor, as dawn approached, was bringing to an end his nightly rounds. His general crime-fighting was unusually successful tonight- a sign that the police had decided they had more important things to do than protect the innocent this night. That was why he decided to remain anonymous- the last thing he needed was someone expecting him to go around chasing criminals for the sake of imprisoning them.

As he approached The Atrium Towers, he heard the rapidfire explosions of gunshots. While he normally didn’t risk his life in the case of guns, he was willing to make an exception to protect his home and the people who lived there. He drew his kendo “sword”- a stalk of bamboo with a handle- and landed on the roof of a building close enough to gauge the action and determine his next step. His feet landed softly on the concrete roof, the product of years of experience.

The battle raged mostly around a center point, what appeared to be a detective. Next to the detective, as far as Manor could determine, was Danielle. Curious as to how she was in the middle of a firefight after not being seen for over a week, he leaned in closer to the situation. A man bearing some resemblances in body language to the elevator man, Harold, seemed to be in charge of the other side of the confrontation. It seemed stopping him would be the quickest way to defuse the situation.

Using balconies as stepping stones, he jumped down to the battlefield and managed to land directly in the middle of the confrontation. Thankfully, no one was shooting at him yet, so it wasn’t too difficult to avoid the bullets- for now. Before he lost this advantage, he stepped forward and began disarming criminals. He quickly made it to Jimmy, who by then had identified him as a threat. He shot at him in the face point-blank, but he managed to swing his kendo sword out to prevent a fatal injury. Rather than hit him in the face, the bullet harmlessly altered its course by a few degrees and missed him, taking about half of the sword’s “blade” with it.

Jimmy fired a few shots toward the detective, and then was surprised too see Dr. Manor crack his hand with the kendo sword. The force of the strike broke 2 of his knuckles, and the Slayer fell harmlessly to the ground. He punched the doctor in the face with his good hand, then jumped up into a bicycle kick he had learned at the FBI Academy. The kick lifted up Dr. Manor and threw him backward, but left Jimmy dangerously open. While he was off his feet, a bullet fired by Detective Thomas struck him between his ribs. Surprised and hurt, he did not land on his feet after the attack.

The fight ended shortly after that. Serena, who had escaped 20 drug raids without getting identified and labeled as “wanted,” had no interest in getting caught in a fight that wasn’t even hers. Within a minute after Scalpel had hit the ground, Serena and almost half of her people were already gone. Dr. Manor withdrew, having neutralized the threat and stabilized the situation.

As an ambulance came to deal with the badly wounded, the dead and the dying, “Harold” was read his rights at one of the remaining police cars. This was done by a normal cop- one of Scalpel’s last bullets had hit Detective Thomas even while he was firing the bullet that would end this battle. Danielle stood by and watched, the cold fire burning in her eyes satiated.

She had won.

The End.

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