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I've been a house painter, dishwasher, broiler cook, private detective, military intelligence analyst, and I spent nearly 40 years as a reporter covering crime, 26 of them for the San Francisco Chronicle. These days I write science fiction, fantasy, horror and crime fiction, and I blog about books, films and crimes that don't receive sufficient attention from the mainstream media. I would like to be Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, Dashiell Hammett or George V. Higgins, but all of them are dead so I'll just stick with what I am already doing. . .

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Intensive Care

By William E. Wallace
(An excerpt from a story in progress)

Red came to in a room that was white-on-white: all tile, enameled walls and stainless steel fittings. He was lying in a hospital bed with the upper end elevated slightly and he had more wires and tubes in him than the big Motorola radio he listened to as a kid.

He must have been loaded with morphine because he was barely conscious of being gut shot more than once and taking a slug in his chest as well. His right wrist was handcuffed to a reinforced steel bar welded to the side of the bed, so there was no way he could walk out without taking the damned thing with him. The handcuffs didn’t matter though: as drifty and weak as he was, he wasn’t going anywhere, anyway.

Tully was sitting in a chair alongside, still wearing his hat, his feet propped up on the rails and his hands folded across his stomach.

“Hullo, Red,” he said with a slight smile.

“Hullo, Inspector,” Red said, licking lips that were dry and cracked. He was surprised at how hard it was to speak.  “Where am I?”

“You’re in the county hospital, intensive care unit of the detainee ward. How do you feel?”

“Like something the dog wouldn’t bother to drag home. So this is the ICU, huh? I thought nobody was allowed in those but nurses and doctors. If they let you in to talk to me, I must be in pretty bad shape.”

Tully nodded. “The only way you could be in worse shape is if you already had a tag on your big toe.”

Red thought about that. 

“I could really use a cigarette,” he said, finally.

Tully shook his head. “Not unless you planned to burn the hospital down,” he said. “This place is full of pure oxygen. That’s what’s coming out of that tube stuck in your nose. If you lit up, first thing you’d do is burn your nose off. Then you’d set the bed on fire. Then the rest of the place. I’m surprised they’re not pumping it into you with a mask.”


“You’re operating on less than a lung, my friend. The one the bullet went through is flat. No way it’s gonna hold air again – the slug hit a rib and the bone chunks ripped the sonofabitch all to hell.”

“What about the holes in my belly?”

Tully shook his head again. “You’d probably recover from the stomach wound, but those shots took out most of your liver and one of your kidneys.”  He gave Red a thin smile. “You’re a mess, Red. I’m surprised you’re able to talk.”

“How did Quincy make out,” Red said. “When the shooting started, he went down first.”

Tully heaved a sigh. “Your brother didn’t make it, Red. He didn’t get hit as many times as you, but one bullet was all that was needed.”

Red closed his eyes and swallowed hard. “Those fucking Colby twins,” he said bitterly, his voice barely a whisper. 


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