Saturday, February 02, 2008

In the Dark, Part Six: Personal Endangerment

I hurt all over. I was in a hospital bed, unmistakably. The metal bed I lay in and the harsh white-lit room meant I was either there or jail, and most jails didn't have scalpels and other tools lying within reach of the prisoners.

I looked at the door. On the back was my undershirt. My bulletproof undershirt. Cost me a fortune, but it was probably the only reason I was still alive...

Wait.

There were several bloodstained holes in my undershirt.

I probed my torso beneath the bedcovers, feeling stiches in several places.

What were those guards firing to blow through bulletproof fabric like that? Elephant guns?

I felt disgruntled, and a little bit nauseous. I'd been in my current occupation for years, but this was the closest I'd come to checking out. I looked around the room further, noting the bedside table to my right. It held my flechette gun, unloaded, and a note.

"Sam. Adrianus's guards fired only at you. They vanished shortly after you were shot. Adrianus claims he was not responsible. I am watching his estate closely," the note began. Who WAS responsible? And who was hiding them?

"I've stationed my own men around the hospital. One of them caught a woman carrying a bomb under her shirt - looked pregnant. She ran for it; guard dealt with the bomb first. Who wanted me dead enough to try to blow up the hospital? If they were even after me...

"Beware District 4 - Rafiel has invoked the Right of Protection." That was bad. My house was in District 4, and if Rafiel, the ruling Councilman, had invoked his Right, the Tyrant would be unable to send her men in without urgent and obvious cause. Rafiel was in the group Adrianus named as being linked to the Franks. If he didn't want the Tyrant's men about, he was probably plotting something against her interests - which, at the moment, probably meant he was plotting against me, directly or indirectly. Guess I'd have to do without a change of clothes for a while.

"No results so far on the investigation into the thugs. Expect more attacks." And that clinched it.

Creaky hinges alerted me to the door opening. An orderly walked in, and began to fill a small needle with liquid from a rolling table near the door. I asked him, "What are you doing?"

He froze for a moment, then answered, "I'm preparing some medicine for you - vitamins, a few other things. It's standard treatment."

After reading the note, I felt entirely paranoid. I told him, "I'm sorry, I really don't think I need that right now. I want to talk to a doctor before I take anything." My hand crept toward the flechette gun.

The orderly froze again. "Ah, I'm working under doctors' orders now. Please, don't make a fuss."

I grasped the flechette gun. "Do you have a note?" I asked.

The orderly hesitated; then, brandishing the hypodermic needle, he lunged at me.

I brought up the flechette gun. Panicking, the orderly stared at it, then fled, dropping the needle.

I didn't know what the (phony?) orderly would do next, but I wanted to get out of the hospital first. Half naked and armed with an unloaded flechette gun, another assassination attempt would probably kill me. Dressing in my bloodstained, damaged clothes (piled near the bed), I walked briskly out of the halls. No one questioned me; I'd managed to adopt enough of an air of purpose that my presence didn't appear out of place, despite my clothes and frequent winces of pain as my stiches caught.

Leaving the hospital, I breathed a sigh of relief to be in the dim citylight once more. It was night, so the overhead lights were turned low. In the darkness, I spotted a dismounted carabineri, watching me. I started towards him.

Who was attacking me? If my meeting had proven Adrianus's guilt, it would have made perfect sense for him to try to kill me, to kill the one person who knew the most about the plot, besides him. But, if anything, the meeting had proven his innocence, as far as I could tell. So... what if someone had tried to kill me to conceal just that? Some sort of bizarre double game, trying to conceal the fact that Adrianus didn't need to conceal anything, and pin the blame on him...

So far, it was working. All suspicion was on Adrianus, because mine had been, and I hadn't gotten a chance to talk to anyone after I talked to Adrianus. Once I did, hopefully, there'd be no more profit in killing me. But the fog of secrets was thick enough to drown me. Actually, that would be more of a soup - filled with creamy intrigue and chunky murder attempts. And poison. Who was trying to throw attention off himself? Was it a conspiracy, or the treachery of a single person? And whatever happened to the thug I'd interrogated, Alex Brandon?

I didn't know. But I had only one lead left, and that meant it was time to finish the trip I'd begun yesterday.

I talked to the carabineri on the corner for a few minutes, filling him in on all I knew or suspected. He lent me his pistol and ran off, and I walked towards the nearest trolley stop. Time to pay the Councilman of District Two a visit, and find out why someone had assembled a city-buster bomb in his land.

1 comment:

King Kessler said...

Still sick. Also: cool.