Everybody Dies 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 he'd 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.

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

"Because of HIV?"

"Because of any number of goddamn things, including ones they can't test for because nobody knows what they are. I just don't have a lot of faith in the blood supply these days. Sometimes you've got no choice, but if all you are is down a pint or so, I'd rather give the body a chance to make its own. You know what I want you to do?"


"Go out and get a juicer. Then- "

"We've already got one," she told him.

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


"Well, good for you," he said.

"We don't use it much, but- "

"You should. Things are worth their weight in gold. What you do, buy beets and carrots. Organically grown's best, but if you haven't got a source- "

"I know where I can get them."

"Beet juice is a blood builder, but don't give it to him straight. Mix it half and half with carrot, and prepare it fresh each time before you give it to him. It's 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 don't 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 wouldn't want to hear of it. But I'm not like most doctors, my dear."

"No, you're not."

"Most doctors don't take care of themselves the way I do. Most doctors don't look or feel this good at my age. I'm seventy-eight. Assure me I don't look it."

"You know you don't."

"You should see me after I've had an uninterrupted night's sleep. I'm even more gorgeous then. I'm expensive, though, day or night. This is going to cost you two thousand dollars."

"All right."

"Look at her, she doesn't bat an eye. It's a ridiculous price, but here's something even more ridiculous. If you'd 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 didn't have to hunt for the money. I'd 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 won't give you a receipt, and neither will I report it, to the police or to the IRS. The price includes aftercare, incidentally. I'll 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 don't think it will. And don't forget the beet juice. Beet and carrot, equal parts, all you can get into him. It's good to see you, Elaine. I've often thought of you, wondered what became of you. You're as beautiful as ever."

"More," I said.

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

"I don't know," I said after he'd left. "Maybe I should have taken him straight to a hospital."

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

"That's good to know," I said. "But the thing is I didn't know it at the time. I could see the bleeding wasn't too severe, and I didn't think he was in any immediate danger. If a doctor looked at him and saw that hospitalization was necessary, there'd be time to get him to an ER then."

"That makes sense."

"Gunshot wounds have to be reported," I said, "and I didn't want that. He's a young black male without a police record, and that's the sort of distinction you don't want to give up for no good reason."

"I know he'll be glad he wasn't hospitalized."

"I was probably thinking of myself as well. The slug Froelich took out of him may make a nice souvenir, but if they'd dug it out at Bellevue or Roosevelt or Brooklyn Jewish they wouldn't have let him keep it. They'd 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. I'm 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 man's gun," she drawled. "I'll tell you one thing you can get rid of right now, and that's the shirt you're wearing. It's got bullet holes in it. Well, not holes, because the bullets didn't go through, but bullet marks. How about the jacket? No, he missed that, but it's got bloodstains, and so do your slacks. Why don't 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 I'd say that's enough. If we get to the point where they do spectroscopic tests on everything in my closet, it won't 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 I'm 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 shouldn't have bothered getting dressed. "Because you have to sleep," she said. "You can catch a few hours on the couch. I'll sit up with him, and then you can take over when the stores are open, and I'll 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 wasn't going to ask."

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

"He was well on his way when I left. I'd say he's probably dead by now."

"Unless someone phoned for an ambulance."

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

"Does it bother you?"

"That he's dead?"

"And that you didn't try to save him."

"No," I said. "I don't think so. He killed Jim, you know."

"I know."

"You'd think that would have filled me with rage when I stood there in front of him, but it didn't. 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 didn't 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 ID'd him, too. I could have shown him a picture of the Dalai Lama and he'd have sworn that was the guy who set me up."

"He just wanted to get to the hospital."

"That's it. But the point is I didn't walk in with vengeance in mind. I fully intended to stiff him on the two grand, but I wasn't planning to shoot him. If he hadn't 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 don't think I could have if I'd wanted to, but why even make the effort? I hadn't 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 guy's a poster child for the death penalty. He struck me as a pretty pure sociopath. He'd kill anybody, just so you paid him. God knows how many people he killed in his life, and Jim wouldn't have been the last. He wouldn't even have been the last this week if I hadn't been wearing the vest."

"I was thinking that," she said, "but I decided I'm not going to allow myself any thoughts that start with if. There are too many of them and they're too upsetting. You're alive, thank God, and TJ's alive. That's 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 wouldn't 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."

"They'll investigate it, though."

"The police? Of course they will. You get any kind of a homicide, you try to clear it. This one's 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."


"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 man's, and another person's, presumably the shooter."

"But we know better."

"And a blood trail, I'd have to assume, leading out the door and down the stairs. Scenario's 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. It's certainly the kind of case you try to clear, but you don't knock yourself out. You wait until somebody says, 'Listen, what for you want to hassle me about ten dime bags of product when I'm 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? That's in DC."

"Keep going."

"Georgetown is the capital of the Caymans," she said, after some thought. "So if that's where you're from, a Georgetown University sweatshirt would be a hip thing to wear."

"Stands to reason."

"Of course it's also the capital of Guyana."

"It is?"

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