This week’s words for CAKE.shortandsweet’s Wednesday Write-In were:
collar :: cold hard cash :: medicine :: dirty :: spirit
First, Do No Harm
‘Unless you want one o’ my boys to start feelin’ your collar, you’ll pay up. Right now.’ When he smiled, his gold tooth gleamed behind its sticky film of saliva. The goods sat inches from me, neatly laid out in their padded case; I looked down at the vials, rows upon rows of them, and tried to focus. Lack of sleep was making my thoughts thick and heavy.
‘But this isn’t what we agreed,’ I said.
‘Two dozen. Morphine. Delivered. What’s not part of the agreement?’ he snapped.
‘I assumed you’d provide hypodermics,’ I said. ‘All of ours are headed for incineration. Without needles –‘
‘Not my problem, matey,’ he replied, in a voice like a broken power line or a loose mooring rope. ‘All I want’s the cold hard cash – what you owe me, fair and square – and that’s our business concluded.’
‘But you know I can’t leave the city to get more! Even making it as far as here was a huge risk!’
‘Look, son,’ replied the man, leaning in close. His breath was rank. ‘This situation ain’t good for nobody, unless you count the fellas makin’ the weapons. I need to make a livin’, you need to keep savin’ the children, or whatever. Pay up and we’ll both be on our merry way. Good lad.’
I closed my eyes.
Broken streets. Homeless children. Ravaged faces. Walking wounded. Tearing, ripping agony in the eyes of the injured. The relief this medicine would bring. The pleading on their faces. Please. Help us. You must know how to help us.
The rampant infection and disease that using dirty needles would unleash upon an already terrible scenario. The clamping in my gut at the very thought of it.
There have to be clean needles here. Somewhere.
I opened my eyes and stared right at him.
‘Fifty thousand, wasn’t it?’ I said, in a low voice. I reached into my pocket, hoping the tiny click as my arm straightened out wouldn’t be heard over the phlegmy mess that was his breathing. I felt the mechanism in my sleeve release and a reassuring weight dropped into my hand, the solidity of the cool metal around my fingers making my choice seem simple. I still couldn’t believe I’d made it through security with this on my person, but I was only a doctor, after all. I was harmless. Right?
‘Yeah. Fifty thou. That’s the spirit,’ he grinned, licking his teeth and sitting back. He turned, slightly, looking away from me for just long enough. He raised his hand to gesture to his bodyguard. Come closer, he indicated, and the man obeyed without question.
Just as well, I thought as I brought my hand out of my pocket, my cold fingers wrapped around my pistol. I wouldn’t have had enough range on this thing to take them both out, otherwise.
Pulling the trigger was harder, and infinitely more simple, than I could ever have imagined.