Just Shoot Me

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Embark on a world in which the NRA has achieved their wildest dreams - with handguns as ubiquitous as smart phones - while Healthcare has gone the way of the dodo for all but the rich and powerful.

I checked the readout on my pistol, made sure the camera that was embedded in the rear sight was recording and the information was up on the screen, then I pressed it against her chest.

“Please confirm your name and social security number.” The tone of voice was second nature to me now; it was one of the first things you learned in training. Clear, professional, but sympathetic. I'd done this for so long now that you'd never be able to tell how badly my ribs were hurting right now. Like they were being crushed. But that was a worry for a different time.

The woman took a deep breath, moving my gun with it. Her voice, like her breathing was steady. She was one of the few clients who had lived long enough to be ready for death. “Dorothy Edwards, 610-18-1563.”

That matched the information on my screen. There was more, too like her age, physical description, and of course the fact that she was a type 1 diabetic. “Do you have any last words, Dorothy?”

Another deep breath as she scanned her family grouped behind me. “I just want all of you to know how proud I am of each of you.”

I gave her a small, reassuring smile. Behind me, one of her daughters had already started crying. Of course, I couldn't blame them. It was always an emotional occasion. In the early days, I'd have to fight back tears every time. Since then, I'd learned to compartmentalize. There was a difference between showing sympathy and feeling empathy. That difference was what got me through the most difficult jobs with a clear conscience. Consciences. What a scam. 

Another thing I learned early in my career was that dragging out a mercy kill only made things harder on the family. I pressed a button  next to the safety that made earplugs expand in my ears, then squeezed the trigger while Dorothy was still smiling at her family. Her eyes widened slightly as the impact made her crumple inward, then collapse back on the plastic sheeting that had been set out for her.

I stood, checking the data on my gun's screen to make sure everything had been recorded properly. Around me, State approved cleaners went to work, stripping down the plastic sheets and bagging up Dorothy's body. Behind me, her family clumped together. They were getting a jump start on the grieving process. I paused to watch them before leaving. You could tell a lot about how a family worked by the moments just after a euthanization. One of her kids, a son, was holding tightly to his wife. The other, a daughter, took it stoically, patting the shoulder of a girl who looked just barely old enough to be here. Definitely one of the more functional families I'd seen in a while. 

*

Home for me was a brick office space downtown. The back office, I used as my bedroom, and the kitchenette was more than sufficient for the amount of cooking I did. Mercy killing was steady work, but I'd never had any illusions of wealth or glamour. 

I was almost to my door when I noticed Sarah locking the door across from mine. She'd converted an insurance agent's office into a salon, and seemed to be doing pretty well. If she was leaving, that made it somewhere around six in the evening.

“How are you?” She asked. She had a way of smiling with one corner of her mouth higher than the other that always made me think she was keeping some juicy secrets. 

“Can't complain. You?”

Her artful ponytail swished as she shook her head, eyes closed. “Some lady came in with hair she'd cut herself. Didn't seem to understand that I'm a stylist, not a magician.”

I laughed, which turned into a cough that sounded like a car engine turning over. Extra embarrassing in front of her, but she didn't bat an eye. “Maybe not, but I still bet you're one of the best in the city.”

Srah's tilted smile became a lopsided grin. “All this flattery and you've never asked me to dinner. I'm beginning to think all this flirting is just you being a nice person."

“Oh, definitely not a nice person. I am a government consultant, after all.”

Sarah nodded sagely. “That's right. In bed with Lucifer himself.”

I grinned at her. “What are your plans tonight?”

“Just dinner at Artino's, 8:30. See you there?”

“Wouldn't miss it.”

*

I always knew when someone was in the office when Arlo started barking. He was reasonably well-trained, but I kind of liked having a doorbell. I patted him until he calmed down, then made my way to the office lobby to meet the client. Arlo darted out ahead of me, an excited mass of brown and white, ready to greet a new friend. I liked this habit of his too, as it gave me a little bit of time to activate the recording function I'd special ordered on my personal handgun. The man was waiting on my couch, late 40's, dressed in a well-made suit. He stood when he saw me.

“Little late for office hours,” I said, folding my arms over my chest. Despite the hours posted on my door, this sort of thing happened a lot. That's why even though I had my work pistol tucked away in a drawer, I kept my personal gun handy when I was home. It was a nice, newer model, with fingerprint safety and a few other custom features. Nothing like the government-issued POS in my drawer that needed a system reboot about once a month. 

I couldn't tell what kind—or how many—of guns my visitor was carrying, but I was willing to bet his was nicer than mine. 

“I apologize for that, but I have a proposal for you.” He spoke in a clipped bass that somehow conveyed both impatience and boredom.

I doubted that. This man had money. Every detail about him from his immaculate leather shoes to his diamond-and-gold tie clip told me that he could afford healthcare. So what was he doing in a mercy killer's office?

The man paused, like he was waiting for me to ask, then continued. “There's someone I need to see killed.”

I nodded. “You're in the right office. Do you have the forms?”

The man tilted his head to the right, then to the left. “This kill needs to be... off the books, so to speak.”

And there it was. If I had a dollar for every time someone thought I was a hit man, I'd probably be earning a hit man's salary. This was the main reason I'd gotten into the habit of recording every work interaction. 

“I misspoke. You have the wrong office. I am a registered mercy killer; I only perform authorized kills for citizens who cannot afford necessary healthcare. If I have reason to believe that you are planning an unlawful death, I am bound by law to report it to the proper authorities.”

He held up his hands. “That won't be necessary, will it? I'm not here to trap you. I just think we can help each other out, that's all.”

I'd be lying if I wasn't tempted, just a little, when guys like him started talking money. Usually their offer was generous, enough to make a difference—get an apartment that didn't double as an office, pay off my credit card debt, take a year off and travel the world. Unfortunately, I didn't think I'd enjoy prison all that well. 

“Not interested.”

The man appeared completely unruffled. “You're sick.”

My 'you can go now' speech died in my throat. Even the mention of sickness made me need to cough. “What? How do you—“

The man gave me a self-satisfied smirk. “I have access to these kinds of records.”

“You're a doctor.” I'd been diagnosed during my annual free checkup. Of course they'd put it in a file somewhere in case I wanted to start paperwork on a mercy killing. 

“So when you said we could help each other...”

“That's right. Free healthcare. You could be cancer free this time next month.” 

There was no way. Could this be a scam? A sting? It was unlikely that the government would put that much work into one sting, but still, there was a chance. Of course, there was also a chance that he was a legitimate doctor, and offering me the deal of a lifetime. The seconds ticked by as I played mental ping pong. The man waited with the ease of someone who knows things will always work out for him in the end. 

Unfortunately, I knew what my answer had to be. Would I risk jail time to avoid becoming like my clients? Absolutely. But could I kill a healthy person to save myself? Like I said, consciences are a scam.

“It's a generous offer, but I'm afraid I just can't.”

He raised his eyebrows, like I was the first person in a long time to tell him no. Maybe I was. “I've seen your records. I give it a year, maybe.”

“Yeah, I know.” Just long enough to tie up loose ends and get my affairs in order before I put in to be killed. 

Dr. Bryce regarded me in silence for a few beats before pulling a business card out of his jacket pocket. He held it out to me, then set it on the coffee table when I didn't move. “Call me when you change your mind.”

And with that, he left the office, leaving an almost visible trail of entitlement behind him.

*

“Wait, wait—you don't have a gun at all? Not even one tucked away in a safe somewhere?” I said this through a smile, because even though I found that hard to believe—someone not owning a gun these days?--I also found it kind of charming.

Sarah did a palms-up. “I mean, they don't do anything that my phone can't do, except for shoot, and I'd rather not have something that dangerous around all the time.”

“Didn't you say you live alone?”

Sarah smiled. “You sound like my mom. I don't know, I guess it feels like there's a difference between taking precautions and living in fear, you know?”

I took a sip of wine, partially to drown out the cough that was threatening at the back of my throat and partially to give me time to process that. If I was planning to live long enough for this to turn into a real relationship, I'd probably be worried. Anyone who was anti-gun enough not to even own one would absolutely have a problem when they learned that “government consultant” meant “mercy killer”. But I was dying, and none of this mattered, so I laughed and shook my head.

“I know this is gonna sound silly, but my dream is to go to Europe.”

“Like, on vacation? That's not silly. My cousin went last year—“

She shook her head. “Not just on vacation. I want to live there.”

“Isn't it crazy hard to immigrate these days?”

She shrugged, a small smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. “That's why it's a dream. If it  were easy I would have done it already.”

“Is it really so bad here?”

“I'm a woman without any savings. This whole country is set up to screw people like me over. It's a good thing my skin is light, or I wouldn't have any rights.”

I didn't know quite what to say to that. I'd never really talked to someone so political. Most people I knew tried to keep their heads down and make as comfortable a life for themselves as possible. For a while, neither of us spoke; we just stared at our empty table, listening to the general chatter of the restaurant around us. 

“Sorry,” Sarah finally said. “I forget sometimes that not everyone's as fired up about all this as I can be.”

“No—I think it's great that you're passionate.”

She waved the comment away with her hand. “Let's talk about something else. Where did you grow up?”

I shrugged, waving the question away with my fork. “Typical childhood. Dad worked a lot. Mom worked a little. Pretty much just my brother and me looking out for each other.”

“Are you two still close?”

I shook my head. “He died when I was 16. Appendix burst.”

Sarah's mouth opened a little a she reached over to grab my hand. “That's horrible. I'm so sorry.”

The sincerity surprised me. It shouldn't have, coming from her, but everyone else I knew was so comfortable with death. Normally that sentence got a nod that said, 'it happens' before the conversation moved along. 

“It was hard for a while, but I'm okay.” I coughed, careful not to pull my hand out from theirs. “Do you have any siblings?”

She shook her head, miking her ponytail swish. “None that I know of. Mom died giving birth and I got taken by the state when I was 7.”

“Why?” I asked, not sure if I wanted to know.

“He wasn't nice.” Sarah's whole body was tense, and her face had a hardness to it I'd never seen before.

“That's horrible.” I pointedly didn't let myself wonder what that meant.

“It was,” Sarah said. “But it made me who I am, so I can't regret it.”

Personally, I was torn on that one. I liked who Sarah was, but I couldn't imagine how she'd maintained all that idealism through what I asumed was a rocky childhood. 

Sarah looked down at her menu. “See anything you like?”

“On the menu?” I said through a grin.

Sarah laughed. “Who says I'm not?”

I put on my best shocked face. “I was just craving a good burger; I don't know where your head's at.”

“Sorry,” she said, face solemn. “I didn't mean to offend your delicate sensibilities.”

“You're forgiven.” I tore my gaze away from her as the server approached.

“Have we decided?” She asked. She was pretty cheerful considering this was the third time she'd had to check on us. I exchanged a guilty glance with Sarah before glancing down at the menu. I read off the first dish I saw, and she ordered pasta. We managed to spend the rest of the evening without talking about anything controversial. By dessert, I was pretty well convinced that Sarah was the perfect woman. I might have asked her to marry me on the spot if I thought I'd live to see the honeymoon.

*

I'd been coughing for at least a minute now. Charlie Witten, diagnosed with Major Depression, was starting to look genuinely concerned. Once I got the coughing under control I took a quick swig of my water bottle and pessed the gun back against his chest. 

“Sorry. Please confirm your name and social security number.” This came out wheezy, as I was already fighting back another coughing fit.

“Charles Witten, 608-24-1684.”

“Do you have—“ I started coughing again, harder than before. Was it actually possible to cough up a lung? I coughed again, too fast for me to get my breath back, and the edges of my vision blurred a little. Once more, and everything went black. 

I woke up on the floor. Charlie was hovering over me, fanning my face. Was that helpful? It didn't seem to do anything, but it was a nice gesture. I sat up—slowly, so Charlie wouldn't pop me in the face—and asked, “What happened?”

“You were coughing a lot, and you passed out,” Charlie said. I really should have pieced that together on my own, but Charlie's face showed only concern. 

“Right.” breathing got harder again, this time out of panic. I'd actually passed out? That had never happened before. Did that mean I had less time than I thought?

“Are you okay?” Charlie asked. 

His seemingly genuine concern made my heart twinge a little. I put on my professional smile. “I'm fine now. But you don't need to worry about these things anymore. Unless you've changed your mind.”

Charlie's features went stony as he shook his head. “No. Let's do it.”

I nodded. “Let's start from the top then, shall we?”

The last thing I needed was for the official record of this guy's death to include me passing out. I went through the required checks on auto pilot. Most of my clients came to me before they got as sick as I seemed to be. 

“Do you have any last words?” I asked. I'd managed to keep the coughing down, but Charlie still looked like he was waiting for me to drop. 

Charlie swallowed hard. “Just tell my family that I'm sorry I wasn't stronger. I held on as long as I could.”

It had been a while since I'd had a full emotion at a mercy kill. I had to struggle to push down the spiral of my thoughts as I squeezed the trigger and watched him drop. The cleaners, prompted by the shot, filed in and went to work. I checked the recording and fled, not bothering to reflect on whether I should drive in this condition. I just needed to be home with my dog.

*

I tossed my pencil down onto my pro/con list. Usually, I was comforted to get it all out the old-fashioned way, scratched onto paper. But I still felt gross. I looked over at Arlo, who was watching me from his usual spot on my couch. 

“Guess I just need to pick one, huh?” I tried to suss out from his big eyes what his thoughts were on the matter. But his poker face was just too good.

I'd thought I was ready for death. I saw it every day, and I'd made my peace with it. So why was the idea of moving up the timeline so frightening? I thought I knew my priorities. Turns out I'd been wrong. With one last glance at Arlo, I pulled out the doctor's card and dialed. 

He picked up on the fourth ring.

“It's Alex White.”

“Changed your mind, eh?” I could hear the smile in his voice. I wasn't a fan.

“I did. But if we want to do this, and avoid jail time, we'll need a plan. I have some ideas. Can you come by my office?”

There was a silence on the other end that was just long enough to get me wondering if this wasn't an elaborate scam after all. Then, he said, “Monday at one work for you?”

“Yeah. I'll be there.”

We hung up, and I sat motionless for a while. I'd always known I was selfish. You can't kill a person for money without being the kind of person who puts themselves first. Sure, I liked to soothe that pesky conscience by reminding myself that the alternative to my gun would be a slow and gruesome death. But now I'd made my choice, and there was no altruism to hide behind.

I would live. I didn't deserve it, but that didn't matter. This was America. Life, liberty, and happiness were for the rich and the lucky. 

I sighed heavily, causing Arlo to sit up a little. “Let's go to bed.”

*

Talking to Sarah was different now that I knew I was going to live. I didn't have to worry about her getting too attached, and I could let myself imagine a future with her. But that brought its own problems. Sooner or later, this woman who didn't own a gun and thought Europe had things right would find out what I did for a living. 

“You haven't heard a word I've said, have you?”

I blinked at her, caught, then briefly considered lying. But I'd been lost in my own thoughts for too long to make that work. “Not even a little.”

She flashed me her crooked grin. “Where was your head at?”

I spread my palms. “Off in space, I guess.” 

“Well then, let me be the first to welcome you back to our planet.”

I laughed. “I'm sorry. What were you saying?”

“I was telling you about my sister.”

She continued her story. I stepped forward, closing the small distance between us and cuttting her off mid-sentence. She breathed in slowly, eyes locked on mine. I wrapped my arm around her waist and gently pulled her towards me until her lips were on mine.

I melted into the kiss. The dilemmas and doubts that held me so firmly dissolved into physical sensation; the surprising softness of her mouth, the warmth of her body against mine, the feel of her hands sliding down from my ribs to my hips.

The kiss deepened. We clung to each other, kissing harder, fuller. When we finally broke apart, it was because we ran out of air. We stood a few inches apart, breathing hard. Our hands were still on each other, and I could still feel that invisible pull towards her.

“Wow,” she said.

“My thoughts exactly,” I said through a grin. I could feel my heart beating against my chest.

A flood of guilt rose up in me, not unlike the one I experienced when my mother asked me how my accountant business was going. She would have to find out eventually, right? Better now than when she's asking me to move to Europe with her. 

“I have to tell you something.”

“What’s wrong?” Sarah asked, lips pressed together. 

“Well...” how to start? “Remember how I said I was a consultant for the government?”

“Yes,” she said, drawing out the word. 

“Consulting is really only a small part of what I do.”

“Which is?”

"I perform euthanizations." 

Sarah stared at me, eyebrows drawn together, for a few beats, then said, “You kill people? For money?”

I took a steadying breath before explaining, “It's more complicated than that.”

“You're paid to murder the poor when they get inconvenient. What am I missing in there?”

I'd heard these words before, from activists over the years, but they had more weight coming from her. It stung.

“You don't understand. I'm not just shooting on the streets indiscriminately. My clients—” Sarah scoffed at the word—“come to me. They've all been faced with a choice, to suffer then die unpredictably or to get their affairs in order and go out on their own terms, with dignity. It's the most merciful thing we can do for them at that point.”

Sarah's upper lip was curled in disgust. “It's not mercy, it's murder.” The only reason they're faced with that choice is because they can't afford to get actual medical help. I bet you've never had anyone with money in your office, have you?”

I supposed that depended on whether I included Dr. Bryce. Though if anything, that would prove her point. “I get what you're saying. And, yeah, obviously it would be great if there wasn't a need for my job. But that's not the world we live in. You can't just give things away, especially expensive things like healthcare. Someone has to pay for that, and I'm up to my ears in taxes as it is. The economy would collapse.”

“Europe's economy is doing just fine, isn't it?”

I forced myself to take a deep breath, to keep my voice calm. “This isn't Europe. This is America. When you put freedom first, you have to make sacrifices.”

Sarah gave a small, bitter laugh. “Yeah, we're free. I'm not free to dress how I please or walk alone at night or even decide whether I want to have kids, but thank God I can buy guns at the grocery store and work sixty hours to make ends meet.”

“Look,” I said, standing up. “If you want to demonize me because I do a job nobody else has the stomach for, that's on you. But it's not my fault that you don't realize how good we have it here compared to other countries. I've done the best I can with the world we have, so come see me if you ever lose that stick up your ass.”

Sarah folded her arms over her chest, looking thoroughly unimpressed. “You know, I'd have it removed, but I don't think I'd be able to afford it.”

As I stormed out of her apartment, all I could think was how stupid I'd been to tell her the truth. And Sarah, well, I couldn't decide if Sarah had been naive or just plain ignorant, but either way, it was unfair of her to lay everything at my feet like that. 

Fine, then. I could handle us ignoring each other in the hallway from now on. I had a new lease on life, and I planned to make the most of it. 

*

“What it comes down to is jail time. Even if I disabled my system, backup systems will log it on my gun. They trace it back to me, all they have to do is check the logs.”

I was pretty sure he didn't care if I went to jail or not, but he nodded anyway. “So, what, we need some sort of tech wiz?”

“No. What we need is a doctor.”

“I thought I was paying you to keep me out of this.”

“Think about it. All we need is medical records and a few forms filled out to make it legit. I get the right paperwork filed, but the recording fails. Then, it's a whole different ball game. That is, assuming your mistress isn't the kind of person you'd expect to get health care.”

Dr. Bryce shook his head. “No. She pretends, but any checking into her accounts will go our way. But, what about her autopsy? What if they check against the report?”

I stifled a snort of laughter. Rich people. “You think the government's wasting resources on that?”

He tilted his head as he considered this, first to the left, then to the right. “I can get you records.”

“Anything terminal will do. Then I'll start on the forms. Now, the hard part: we need to make it look right.”

I laid it all out for him, a foolproof plan born of years of experiencing the euthanasia system. I knew where the loopholes and blind spots were. It was slightly unsettling how easily the plan had come to me. 

“Wouldn't it be better to just bribe a cleanup crew?” Dr. Bryce asked. 

I shook my head. “We can do a closed session. They won't come in until they hear the shot. The fewer people trying to keep a secret, the better, right?”

Dr. Bryce looked unconvinced, so I added, “If I'm wrong, it falls back on me.” 

That seemed to appease him. “Alright. We'll do things your way. Just don't screw it up.”

*

Forging the forms was uncomfortably easy. I'd helped enough soon-to-be deceased clients fill out their paperwork to know exactly what this fake one should look like. Combined with medical records signed off by a doctor who probably didn't exist, I had everything I needed to end this woman's life. I scrolled through the information, making sure everything looked right before I submitted it. It all seemed to be in order. Now all there was to do was wait.

Form processing could take anywhere from one to eight hours. One mercy killer I knew swore that he got an application approved in twenty minutes once, but I wasn't sure I believed that. Over the next hour, I practiced tricks with Arlo—mostly the one where I drew my gun and he played dead—made a sandwich, and finally cleaned out my email inbox. When I heard the familiar ping that signaled the application status was in, I dropped into my computer chair and opened up the result.

The label on the paperwork was one I hadn't seen in years. Application denied. I felt a jolt of panic shoot from my heart to the bottom of my stomach. That application had been picture perfect. How had they known? I bit the inside of my cheek as I clicked for more information. 

Then the panic turned to confusion. Request denied, under statute 2a. 

Statute 2A? Wasn't that... I pulled up my reference guide, just to double check. Yes, I was right. Which meant... she was pregnant. 

I leaned back in my office chair, as far as it would go. She was pregnant. This changed everything. The risk of jail time for unlawful euthanasia was nothing compared to the penalty for being involved in an abortion. If they found out I killed a pregnant woman...curing my cancer wouldn't mean much. Did the doctor know about this?

*

Sarah opened the door looking annoyed—probably something to do with the late hour—and didn't look any more pleased when she saw that it was me. She didn't say a word, just raised her eyebrows in a sort of dubious question. 

“I didn't know who else to go to.” That was a sad truth I'd realized when I'd gotten the news about cancer. There was almost no one left who would miss me when I was gone. 

Sarah folded her arms over her chest and looked me over. She seemed on the verge of telling me where I could stick it, so I held up the bottle of rum I'd brought. “I'm not above bribery.”

She moved aside just far enough to let me pass. “Ten minutes. Then I'm kicking you out and keeping the bottle.”

I told her everything. About the cancer, about the doctor's offer, and about the plan I'd made, and how I'd discovered that the woman was pregnant. Sarah didn't say anything for a while. She just sipped at her drink, staring at the carpet. 

“Are you going to do it?” She asked, eyes still fixed on the carpet. 

I let out the breath I'd been holding, running a hand through my hair. “I don't know. Either way, I lose.”

That seemed to snap her out of carpet-staring mode. “So this is all about you?”

I blinked hard and replayed her sentence. “I mean, kind of. If I don't do what he wants, he'll find someone else. The only person this will really change anything for is me."

“I truly don't understand how you can be this self-centered. You're talking about ending a life and your big concern, all that you can think about, is whether you'll get caught? Never mind that you're killing a woman whose only crime is having sex with the wrong man. What if you do get your cancer cured, and you don't get caught? What are you going to do with that second chance? There are hundreds of thousands of people who will never get that chance."

“I can't do anything about them, though. I'm lucky to be getting this chance. I don't have the power to help everyone.”

“Not that you've ever tried.”

“There's no—“ I broke off as pieces clicked into place. Maybe Sarah was right. Maybe I wasn't as powerless as I'd assumed. “I have to go.”

  Sarah's eyes got wide in a sort of “are you kidding me” kind of look. 

“I get what you're saying. And I think I have an idea.” I left while she was still sputtering for  response. Part of me was worried if I hesitated, even long enough to tell Sarah what I had in mind, everything would go from bizarrely possible to a daydream. And now that it was in my head, I didn't want to compromise my plan. 

*

I'd run it through my head about a dozen times, and I was still pretty sure this wouldn't work. I still had time to back out; I could make a snap decision, to kill or to die, and pretend that's why I asked Dr. Bryce to meet me here. I took a deep breath and scratched Arlo behind the ears. Whether I lived or died, I wanted to be like Sarah. I wanted to be the kind of person who tried. 

Dr. Bryce opened the office door without knocking and swept into the room. It wasn't surprising, but I jumped a little anyway. It was enough to make Arlo stand up, ears pricked for danger. Putting on a fake smile, warm but not pleased, was easy; I had years of professional experience to draw from. I took one last, deep breath and reminded myself to project confidence. 

“Thank you for coming, Doctor,” I said smiling. “Please, have a seat.”

He complied, spreading out on the suede couch like he owned it. “What's so damned important that we couldn't talk over the phone?”

I gave him the sympathy nod I used when a client got cold feet. “I didn't think this conversation would be appropriate during a phone call.”

Dr. Bryce leaned back into the couch. “Well? I know you haven't done the job yet, so what is it?”

“When you commissioned me to kill Ms. Allen, you never mentioned that she was pregnant.” Emotions rolled across his face like a storybook. He'd known from the beginning; he was just hoping I wouldn't find out. “It's yours, I assume?”

Dry. Bryce swallowed enough rage to say, “Yes. So what?”

Wow. And I thought I was callous about death. “So. I'm not going to kill her.”

He stared me down for a few beats, rage simmering visibly. “Then you'll die. Slowly by cancer or quickly from a bullet. What do I care? I can find someone else who has their own best interest at heart.”

I smiled a genuine smile this time. This was more enjoyable than I'd expected. “I'm afraid I won't be doing that either. Dying, I mean.”

The doctor snorted. “I've seen your scan. You'll die, and soon.”

I nodded. “Yeah, prognosis isn't great. But, you'll cure my cancer, and I'll do just fine.”

“The cancer must have spread to your brain if you think I'm going to lift a finger to help you.” 

“Yeah, I suspected you'd feel that way. Only, I don't see you having much of a choice. I mean, it's either this or I tell my government pals all about your abortion workaround.”

“Didn't we go through this already? You can tell anyone you like; not one of them will believe you. I'm a doctor. I save lives, I have money. You're a diseased mercy killer attempting to blackmail your way to healthcare. Who do you really think your government pals are going to side with?”

“I think there's a good chance they'll side with this.” I held up my memory stick and tapped on the small display screen. An audio file played, one I'd carefully mixed together from all the recordings I'd nearly forgotten about. I'd be lying if I said that watching the doctor's face turn from smugly victorious to objectively horrified didn't fill me with glee. Before he had the chance to get a word in, I tapped a couple of buttons on my gun's display, which started playing the recording of the conversation we'd been having. 

The silence stretched on. The doctor's mouth formed a thin, white line as he stared over my shoulder, likely trying to think his way out. This was the part I was most worried for. I thought I'd covered every possibility, but what if I was wrong? I had no illusions. In all likelihood, Dr. Bryce was smarter than me. Maybe there was a way out for him. I took another deep breath. Arlo, sensing my anxiety, curled up next to me with his head on my lap.

In one relaxed motion, Dr. Bryce pulled out his handgun and leveled it at me. “I'll be needing that flash drive, and your pistol.”

Before I even had a chance to answer, Arlo jumped up onto his paws, then collapsed onto his side. I had a brief moment of panic before I realized. Arlo was practicing his 'play dead' trick. 

I felt a wave of relief, followed by a strangely confident sense of calm. “Sure. Gun's password protected, though.”

“I'm sure you could help me with that,” he said slowly, wisely untrusting.

“Yep. Point of interest, both recordings are backed up in my cloud account.”

“I'm sure you can help me with that, too.”

“Sure can. But in the interest of full disclosure, there's not much I can do about the email timer.”

“The what?” he asked through clenched teeth.

“Timers, actually.” Okay, this was kind of fun. “One for the cops, another for this journalist I know.”

“Undo it,” Dr. Bryce hissed.

I shrugged. “Can't. I can delay it for a day. But if I forget one day, or if I'm, you know, dead, it's going to send on its own.”

I was especially proud of that idea. I'd seen it in a movie once, though I couldn't remember which one. At this point, I thought I could see a touch of panic creeping into his anger. 

“If I go down, you go down with me. You're on that recording, agreeing to kill my mistress.”

“Yeah. You're right. I could get the death penalty.”

After an extended silence filled with shallow breathing and intense eye contact, he said, “okay.”

I tried not to let my relief show. “I figured you'd see it my way. And I should probably mention, I'll be sending you referrals from now on.”

“Referrals?” Dr. Bryce repeated, newly suspicious. 

I nodded. “For your pro-bono work. It's a win-win, really. You tell your well-to-do colleagues, and the government, that you've taken pity on the poor, and you're starting free treatments for those in need. By referral, of course. They marvel at your generosity, the government throws you some tax breaks, and everyone's happy.”

“Fine,” he said, unnervingly calm. “We'll do things your way. For now. But you can't honestly expect this to last forever. One of these days, probably not far in the future, I'm going to find a way to turn the tables on you. I don't plan to be your bitch forever. Are you prepared for that?”

“Looking forward to it.”

 

 

 

 


Submitted: May 13, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Mechanical-Heart. All rights reserved.

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AdamCarlton

Interesting story. Pulp-noir.

Thu, May 13th, 2021 8:50am

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