He wished he was in bed with Meg now instead of this hospital bed. His wife had been waiting for him after his surgery early this morning. He thanked God that he’d not made her a widow last night. It could have easily worked the other way. Stan's wife was a widow now. Before he could feel sorrow, a soft knock came at the door; Jim popped his head in, “Are you up for some visitors?”
“Sure, but I have to warn you, the nurse just gave me some medication. I won’t be much good after it kicks in.” Jim walked in and sat down.
“You got here awfully fast.” Duncan observed, “Were you visiting someone else when Meg called?”
“I haven’t talked to Meg. How’s she doing?”
Duncan shrugged, “She’s a cop’s wife. Late last night she got the call every cop’s wife dreads, ‘you’re husband is in the hospital. He’s been shot’. The doctor said I was fortunate. Besides loosing a lot of blood, he said I was close to subacute hypothermia. Fortunately the bullet wound wasn’t that bad. The doctor said I’d be out in a week. If Meg didn’t call you, how did you know I was here?”
“What happened?” Jim asked, avoiding the question.
“I’ve been on the trail of a killer. He’s been dating Jazz.” Duncan stopped a minute and shook his head, still puzzled. “Anyway, my partner and I were keeping an eye out on her apartment when we saw this guy come to her door. He started banging on the door, and pushed his way in before we could stop him. Then we heard a gunshot and thought he must have killed her. About the time we got to the bottom of the stairs he was dragging Jazz out the door. Her hands were tied behind her back. I couldn't get a clear shot. He killed my partner, and shot me in the leg.”
“Was it the guy you were tailing?”
“No. He was someone I’d not seen before. He grabbed her, and started down the stairs. When he shot me I think I fell and must have knocked my head on the cement because I really don’t remember much until I was at the hospital.”
“How did you get in your car?”
“I vaguely remember someone helping me. How did you know I was in my car?”
Jim smiled. Duncan was too good at his job to miss much.
“Are you up for a story?”
“I guess,” Duncan shrugged his shoulders. Jim was a good friend besides being his pastor, but he wasn’t really in the mood for a story.
“Early this morning I was awakened with the feeling that I needed to pray. I started to pray at home, but I realized I was supposed to go to the church to pray. I argued a little bit, but you know there’s no point in arguing with the Holy Spirit. I don’t know why we even try.”
Duncan was silent, wishing Jim would get on with the story.
“I went to the church, but decided to go to the bathroom before going to my office. I got in, did my business and was washing my hands when I heard the window being jimmied open. We’re going to have to fix that window. I turned around. A man I know was breaking in.”
“You know better than to confront a thief by yourself. What happened?”
“Calm down. All he wanted was a safe place to sleep.”
“It was Victor. You know him.”
“Pastor Jim, you need to tell me where he is. The police have some questions. I want you to call them right now.” Duncan reached for his phone, but Jim wrenched it from his hand.
“There’s a lot you need to know.” Jim grinned. The pain in Duncan’s leg throbbed. He wished his medication would kick in. He wasn’t up for games. He glared at Jim, who was saying something to someone outside. The preacher walked out as Victor walked in.
“Do you know me?” Victor asked with ice in his hazel eyes, a cold chill in his voice.
“I know you.” Duncan snarled, “The name you’ve been using here is Victor Young. I suppose I ought to thank you. So why are you here? I’m sure it’s not to look after my welfare.”
“I don’t know why I’m here. I’m supposed to be here. I guess to talk.”
“Not to kill me this time?” What was really bothering Duncan was that he couldn’t figure out why this guy had not killed him last night as he’d obviously intended.
“If I wanted to kill you, I would have either shot you or left you. You wouldn’t have lasted ‘til morning.” Victor said blandly.
“Okay, so why didn’t you kill me?”
Victor pulled up a chair sitting next to a window and placed it at the side of Duncan’s bed.
“Someone told me not to.”
“I don’t understand it, and I know I’m not crazy. Last year, after my last job, I started wanting to make a change.” Victor looked down at the invisible blood stains on his gloved hands. “I can’t keep this up, but when I first found you last night my intention was to put you out of my misery.”
“I hope you don’t expect gratitude. You’re a criminal and I probably need to arrest you now.”
“While you’re in a hospital bed?”
Duncan glinted, “Yes, while I’m in this bed. I can certainly arrest you if I had a mind.”
“Yeah, I think you’d find a way, but I can’t let you do that.”
“What about this change you seemed so sincere about a minute ago?”
“Johnson has Jazz. Do you know Phineas Johnson?”
“No, I’ve never heard of him.”
“How about Carl Monroe?”
“Yeah, he’s been a problem in this area for a long time. He’s a leech, but he always manages to get away, just like you.”
“Let me tell you a few things, Officer Ray. Johnson is the reason Monroe gets off, Monroe is the reason you’ve never heard of Johnson. Now they both want the other dead, and they’ve hired me to do it. I told them I don’t do that anymore. They weren’t happy about it.
“Then you showed up, and Johnson decided his insurance needed to be kept safe in his custody. He thinks we called the police. If you’d stayed out of this, Jazz might still be safe in her apartment. Listen Ray, Jazz is in a bad situation. Johnson is crazy, but he’s not going to do anything to her until she serves her purpose. Johnson doesn’t kill without a need and he needs Jazz alive and unharmed. He’ll use Jazz as bait to catch me, then he’ll kill both of us. I’m sure that’s his plan.”
“How do you know what he’s going to do?”
“I know Phineas Johnson. He’s a conservative. He bides his time and saves his assets. When the time is right, he invests.”
“You talk about Jazz as if she’s something to sell. What’s your game with her?”
Victor said nothing, but stared at the cop steadily.
“Fine, have it your way,” Duncan said exasperated, “I’m going to have to arrest you sooner or later.”
“Make it later.”
Duncan thought for a moment, beginning to feel dizzy. Suddenly a voice whispered in his consciousness. “My arm is not too short to save.”
That wasn’t fair. That was a promise given to him about his son. Surely God didn’t intend to use that same verse for this guy, too?
“Yes,” the voice responded, “Victor is the same age as your son. I gave my Son; couldn’t you share this verse with your son and Victor? You’ve always known your son was mine as much as yours and Meg’s. Victor is mine too.”
Experience reminded Duncan that there was no point in arguing with the Lord. Jim was right.
“Okay, okay.” Duncan said aloud, more to the voice than to Victor. He couldn’t help feeling frustrated, “I won’t arrest you now. Do you have some kind of plan to get Jazz to safety?”
“Well you need to think of something soon. I won’t be out of the hospital for the rest of this week. I can’t really do anything about it until then.
“I don’t think you should do anything about it. Just stay out of it, you’ve almost got yourself killed as it is.”
“Hazards of the job. You’ve got hazards too.”
“Hey,” Jim peeked around the door, “You guys haven’t killed each other yet; have you?”
“No, we’re having a nice friendly talk,” Duncan replied grimly.
“That’s great,” Jim teased, “Well, you need to get your rest. I think we ought to leave now.”
Victor nodded his head. Leaving was exactly what he’d wanted to do long before. If Duncan didn’t remember what Victor looked like from last night, he certainly would remember now.
Victor was silent as they drove back to Jim’ house. Jim, not knowing what to say next, let him be silent. When they arrived at the house, Victor started toward his car.
“Where are you going?”
“Jim, you aren’t safe as long as I’m here. I have to do something about Monroe so that I can help Jazz get away from Johnson. As long as he thinks I’m doing his job for him, I think she’ll be safe. I don’t know what else to do.
“I’m trying Preacher. It’s not easy.”
“It never is. Come back here again to sleep.”
“Thanks, but I don’t know.”
Jim watched Victor get in his car and drive away. Buck was watching too.
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