We're proud to present “Night Watchman” by A.M. Thurmond, the latest crime fiction selection for The M.O.'s “Lesson Learned” issue! This submission received the most votes from our shortlisted previews. Read the whole thing here!
“Dormez bien, Monsieur Cheshire,” Judy said, winking. Sweet dreams. It's our little joke, Judy going off shift, me coming on.
Judy's got a thing for me, it's no secret. She'd take me home if I gave her a sign. I think about it from time to time. Gets a little old sleeping in the back room of the office all these years, and I ain't getting any younger. But I've got a job to do.
I yawned and stretched, relaxing a bit when I heard her key in the lock. Eight years and she's never forgotten, but it's my business to notice these things.
Thursday night and we're closed until Monday. In the old days I'd be on my own until then but lately he's been showing up after hours. The Fucker. I used to think of him as Dr. Tooson, but that was before he started screwing people.
Used to be an okay doc, I'll give him that. A decent cancer doc with a fantastic nurse, 'cause Judy knows her stuff. When the Fucker bought this oncology practice she came with it and he got a bargain.
About a year ago, the Fucker started hanging out at fancy parties with high rollers who got him into cocaine. That kind of snow takes a chunk out of the old budget, even for a specialist. The more he snorted, the more he wanted, and pretty soon he was looking for new revenue streams to keep his little habit funded.
Here's the scam. Doctor Death has figured out if he cuts the chemo drugs by just a smidge, maybe a smidge and a half, he can save a few cents. More money in his pocket, more money for blow, makes a happy cokehead. The patients do okay, at least in the short term, and who knows, maybe that smidge don't make all that much of a difference anyway.
But he got greedier and greedier, and so did the monkey on his back. He started cutting more, especially for the poor suckers who were the sickest. They're probably going to die anyway, right? Why prolong the inevitable? At least that's what I heard the Fucker mutter to himself as he mixed the drugs with some inert chemical to add bulk. Not that the patients would notice, but Judy sure as hell would.
I've seen her look at the meds funny sometimes, like she knew something was wrong but couldn't figure out what. I even heard her on the phone to the supplier, asking if there'd been a change in the formulary. But there was nothing concrete, and she gave up after a while, thinking she was imagining things.
My rounds finished, I sat by the heater waiting for the familiar hiss that precedes each blast of heavenly warmth. Eight o' clock. I knew he'd be here around eleven, so I dozed off, my internal alarm clock set.
Right on the dot, the door clicked open and in he walked. I stared daggers at him, but he ignored me. The Fucker had only one thing on his mind and it wasn't yours truly. He thinks I'm stupid, just a fixture here, part of the furniture. Suits me fine, especially now that I'm on to him.
The Fucker likes a dry martini before he takes his first snort, so he pulled the Stoli out from the clinic freezer along with an icy glass and poured himself a healthy hit, waved the bottle of vermouth over it, popped in an olive and an onion, and walked over to the stereo system, taking his first sip.
Judy is a big Rory Gallagher fan. I'd never heard of the guy, but she's almost as crazy about him as she is about me. Irish blues god, gone too soon. She always puts his CDs in play on the weekends before she leaves, and I spend my time analyzing every minute of every performance. I can say with pride I'm somewhat of an expert on the man by now.
But the Fucker likes disco, I kid you not, so I knew what was coming. Get down, get funky, and do the hustle. Ironic as hell, but still, that crap gets old quick. This dude needs schooling on a number of subjects, and I'm just the cat to do it.
He left the bottle of Stoli steaming on the counter and disappeared into the back, his sorry ass jiggling Travolta-style. I knew he'd be gone for a good ten minutes while he took a dump. Why the Fucker can't do that at home is beyond me. Janitor won't be in until Sunday night so I get to enjoy that shit all weekend. And I have a damned good sense of smell, unfortunately.
I've got my drill down, perfected over the last month. It took me awhile to figure out what to use since I'm not a medical type myself. But listening to Judy teaching the patients about their medications gave me the chance to learn what I needed, and I had a good reason to pay close attention.
I'd already set the Valium and Ativan tablets right where I wanted them, on the shelf above the spot where the Fucker always leaves his booze. He's a methodical asshole, and lucky for me, a short one. I casually strolled by, listening for his grunts from the beleaguered bathroom, and swatted the pills, one after another, right down the bottle's neck and into the viscous swill. Bingo. I have a good eye, if I do say so myself.
You'd think the Fucker would have noticed it only takes him one drink now to go low, and more and more blow to take himself higher. But after a few weeks of benzos fizzing away in his vodka, I guess he's not exactly what you'd call alert. I've been wondering how much it will take to finally bring him down, 'cause so far he seems to have the stamina of a rhino.
I heard the toilet flush and jumped out of the way, back to my usual perch. I can see everything from here, a handy spot for a watchman. But I'm screened by the heater so you have to be almost on top of me before you know I'm there. Just how I like it.
The Fucker finished off his drink. I couldn't help but notice he hadn't washed his hands after his adventure. That's nasty, man. I myself am fastidious. The only thing I've got on my hands is time.
I'd begun to think this would be just another night watching him suck and snort when he started to wobble. Just a hint, but it was there. He noticed it, too, and shook his head like a dog. Must have triggered some vertigo, because the next thing I knew, he crashed to his knees, holding his head, groaning. He lay down on the cold tile, sweating bullets.
He looked bad, but not bad enough to die. I'd known all along the drugs alone wouldn't be enough to do the job, so I had a nice little finish planned for him. Like I said, I've got time on my hands, and I use some of it to make sure this place is a rodent-free zone. I'd been saving a nice juicy one just for this eventuality.
By the time I retrieved the rat, the Fucker was breathing slow. His eyes were still open a crack and he stared at me pleadingly, but the look on my face said oh, hell no, and he knew it. He tried to mumble, but I stuffed the dead thing in his mouth. Then I sat on his head.
It took about six minutes before he stopped jerking. I timed it with satisfaction. Then I made my rounds again and squeezed out through the bathroom window, my airtight alibi in perfect place.
It was hard for Judy, being the one called to identify the body when I showed up Friday morning and rang the alarm, rigor mortis then well-advanced in both man and mouse. Diagnosis: freaky deaky sex shit. I had to laugh.
When the investigators discovered what the doc had been doing with the chemo meds, Judy freaked out, furious she hadn't listened to herself. She says she'll never make that mistake again.
She got another job running a prestigious oncology clinic. Life is back to normal, and yeah, I finally came home with her. I'm retired now and spend my days puttering, keeping an eye on the house. Judy always brings me something when she comes home from work; dame's crazy about me.
I like the catnip best.
Copyright ©2015 A.M. Thurmond
Cover art: Tobie Ancipink
A.M Thurmond: RN, surfer, blues singer, wanna-be detective.