Authors: Simon Wood
Bell looked so concerned with her head cocked to one side, her face so sad, so disappointed.
For the first time since her return, she looked human, possessing a weak as well as a strong side.
She looked like a nervous child waiting to be next into the doctor’s office for her shots.
She spoke, but the words came out as an inaudible murmur.
He saw the knife.
Not exactly the knife, just the handle, its blade embedded in her chest below her left breast.
He noticed the blood.
Too much blood.
It stained the perfect white teddy, the harsh crimson made more vivid by the white silk.
The material clung tightly to her punctured body.
The blood, still oozing from the wound, ran down her onto the floor and formed a pool around her legs.
His slow-witted brain hadn’t registered that she was sitting.
Before the blow she had been standing, but now she was slumped untidily against the cupboards.
He tried not to entertain thoughts of who had done this to Bell, but failed.
He had to get out, but he couldn’t stop staring at the blood.
Slowly, the pool expanded across the floor in Josh’s direction.
He recoiled on hands and knees from the creeping mass like it was scalding lava.
Josh had seen deep cuts before and there’d been blood, lots of the stuff in his opinion.
But he had never seen a cut so deep or with as much blood as this.
Doctors dealt with these sights every day, but he couldn’t cope.
Josh slunk further away from the injured woman.
Bell raised her right arm with her hand outstretched and beckoned to him.
Blood trickled between her pale lips.
Josh stopped moving.
He stared at the pool, the light reflected in its smooth surface.
He got to his feet.
His head swam.
He wasn’t sure if the blow or the bloody sight caused it.
He came as close as he could without stepping in the mess.
Still, it wasn’t close enough for Bell.
She called to him.
He had no choice.
He walked in her blood and crouched at her side.
Bell looked at him with sad eyes.
The color of her rich Asian skin had drained to a jaundiced yellow.
“I love you, Josh,” she whispered.
“I know you do.”
Josh honestly believed she did and though he didn’t return that love, this wasn’t the time to be brutally honest with her.
She was dying and he wasn’t going give her cause to curse his name with her dying breath, even after all she’d done to him.
He had possessed feelings for her once.
Josh’s eyes flicked between her face and the wooden knife handle poking out from her chest, disconcerted by its movement.
The handle shifted back and forth with the weak breaths she took.
He found it hard to concentrate on Bell with the knife moving in time with her breathing as if the blade was part of her body.
Should he remove the knife or leave it?
Josh didn’t know what was best, but watching Bell die wasn’t the answer.
“I’ll get help,” he said.
He went to get up, but Bell snapped a grip on his arm with a strength that terrified him.
He looked at her bloody hand on his wrist.
He sneered as the fluid squeezed out either side of her palm and between her fingers.
Her bloodstained handprint on his forearm was his first physical contact with the stabbing.
Up until then, he’d been a witness to the wound, but the blood on his arm made him part of it, tainted by its contact.
I want you to stay.
I want you to be near me,” Bell said.
He nodded to her and shifted from a crouch to kneel beside her, so he was better positioned to comfort her.
As his knees dipped into the blood, he felt its lukewarm heat soaking through the fabric of his jeans.
He clasped a hand over hers and squeezed out a thin smile.
He wanted to tell her everything was going to be okay, the doctors would sort her out, but the lies didn’t come.
Instead, he watched Bell die, the blood slipping from her punctured body taking her life with its flow.
“Josh,” she called.
She didn’t look at him, but directly ahead into the dark of the living room.
Josh couldn’t take his eyes off of her, not out of lust, which he once held for her, but out of a bizarre compulsion to see this woman die.
“I’m so sorry, Josh.”
“It’s all a bit late to be sorry.
We’ve done what we have done and there’s nothing we can do to change that.”
“I’m sorry about what I did.”
“I know you are.”
He slipped an arm around her and being careful not to push the knife any further into her, he half hugged her.
Bell coughed and flecks of blood speckled her mouth and chin and landed on Josh’s face.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“I need to tell you.”
“Only if you have to, but it doesn’t matter now.”
“I’m HIV positive.”
A blow, as powerful as the one to the back of his head, slammed him.
His arm trembled around Bell’s shoulders in shock.
He stared at the pool at his feet, teeming with the killer virus.
It was invisible to the human eye, but it was there.
He was kneeling in poison.
This woman’s blood had the most devastating disease of the last thirty years.
He’d had unprotected sex with this woman.
Am I infected?
Is Kate infected?
His thoughts scared him.
The ramifications of his possible contraction of HIV were horrific.
His death sentence would be the death sentence of the people he loved.
“I was diagnosed in San Diego.
I was never going to tell you but…”
Her final words trailed off before she finished them.
He held another dead woman in his arms.
He withdrew his arm from around her and got to his feet.
His shoes made sticking noises on the vinyl.
He turned to leave.
“I’d prefer if you stayed for awhile, Josh.”
James Mitchell stepped out from the shadows, a gun in his hand.
“A murdered woman and all that blood over you.
That wasn’t very smart, was it now?”
“I suppose you killed her,” Josh said.
Josh wasn’t only angry with Mitchell for killing Bell, but with himself.
It had never occurred to him Mitchell was at the core of this carnage, but it should have.
“Why did you kill her?”
“Because I need her for this.”
Mitchell waved the gun in the direction of the slaughter.
“To make your murder more convincing.
It would be totally understandable if your blackmailing ex-mistress confessed your sins to the TV news and your wife, driving you to kill her in a fit of rage.
Makes total sense.
Don’t you think?”
“How did you know her?”
“Oh, Bell and I have become, or I should say had become, good friends.
We had a lot in common—you for instance.”
Mitchell jabbed the gun at Josh.
“She was pissed at you for dumping her.
A lot of unresolved issues there.”
“And you call that resolved?”
Josh pointed at Bell’s corpse.
“You could say that.
You two certainly had a touching farewell.”
Mitchell cut Josh off before he asked another question.
“What I need before we go any further is for your fingerprints to be on that knife handle.
Then I can get all this wrapped up.”
“What if I don’t?” Josh asked.
It was a feeble attempt at resistance, nothing more than a schoolyard boast lacking the power and muscle to support it.
“I’ll shoot you, drag you over there and stick your hand to the knife.”
Josh studied the floor.
It wasn’t much of a choice.
The killer would shoot him anyway.
It was just a matter of when.
He could either make the hit man’s job easy or difficult.
“Why did you kill Jenks?”
Mitchell laughed and shook his head like he’d heard an old joke for the hundredth time.
“That wasn’t his real name.
He was a competitor of mine employed to do my job.
Career infighting, you know how it is?”
He had no concept of what internal conflicts were encountered in the professional killing industry.
Nor did he want to.
Mitchell’s tone turned cold.
“And I’ll be damned if one of my contracts will be taken away from me.
That’s why I killed Jenks.
You were lucky you got away, otherwise both of you would have made it on the six o’clock news.”
Josh had guessed right about Mitchell’s intent to kill him along with Jenks, but it still made his gut churn.
Another realization did little to help to settle his troubled stomach.
If he hadn’t fled the derelict factories, Bell wouldn’t be dead.
There would have been no reason to kill her.
She’d been a bitch, but she hadn’t deserved to die so violently.
Was his life more valuable than Bell’s?
Was it better he lived and she died?
Only if he lived through this night and stopped Mitchell from killing anyone else.
It was the only way he could ever forgive himself for Mark Keegan and Margaret Macey’s deaths as well.
Josh couldn’t let himself be the victim tonight.
“I don’t see your fingerprints on that knife yet,” Mitchell said.
“So who’s your employer—Pinnacle Investments?”
Bob was right.
“Happy that you know?” Mitchell asked.
It makes sense of all this,” Josh said.
Mitchell indicated at Bell with the gun.
“So can we get on?”
“Sure,” Josh said, “I just needed to know.”
He turned his back on the killer and faced Bell.
He hoped that Mitchell didn’t shoot him in the back of the head before he had the chance to do anything.
He took a deep breath before he stepped into the bloody mess to grab the knife in Bell’s chest.
He gripped the blade with his right hand.
The wooden handle felt comfortable in his grasp.
It was the sight of the knife buried up to the hilt in his ex-mistress that was uncomfortable.
“That’s it, Josh, get some nice thick prints on that handle.
Come on, do it like you mean it,” his killer said, peering over Josh on tiptoe from the kitchen doorway.
“Are you sure you can make this look like a convincing lover’s disagreement turned murder, story at eleven?”
“Oh, you wouldn’t believe how I’ll make this look.
You’d be impressed.
It’s a shame you won’t see it.”
“So how did you make Margaret Macey’s death look?”
“Margaret Macey, Jesus.”
Mitchell blurted out a laugh.
“I didn’t do a thing.
You did it all for me.
I wasn’t expecting that, I can tell you.
It was a dream come true.
I saw you running out and I was worried.
I thought you had screwed everything up, instead you finished my job just as I wanted.
It was beautiful.”