Ian reaches for his gun as the door closes, but the lift space is tight and Red is on top of him before he can extend his arm. His chest caves as Red dives knee first into him, pinning his arm between them. The lift wobbles on its’ cables but continues steadily down to the lobby, the indication arm arching gently anti-clockwise. Stars pop before Ian, his vision disrupted and Red but a flashing streak. Several blows connect with his left shoulder and his leg gives, his body hitting the ground hard on his side, straining for breath. A swift kick leaves Ian completely immobile, his chest wall paralysed and his neck muscles wrenching to open his throat.
Reds face has morphed into something altogether more menacing than what it was just a plain minute ago. To Ians’ eyes, his features seems to elongate, dark creases snake across his forehead, flowing down his hollow cheeks, around his emaciated neck and into his shirt, which seems to waver and flair as if alive. The lift lights blink as he arches his arms and bends his knees, drawing himself over Ians’ debilitated body, his bony fingers tensing into claws. The lift box jolts and a ping alerts Red, his attention snapping to the doors which open on the seventh floor. An elderly couple, both dressed in heavy winter clothes, stretch for the bags lying by their feet.
“Are you going up awe… oh.” They both stop mid-stoop despite the trouble they must have maintaining such a position at their age.
“Is he okay?”
Red has his one arm wrapped around Ian and the other inside his jacket, leveraging him onto his legs.
Red almost seemed to panic, but not because he was about to kill a man. “My friend has suffered an attack.”
The couple are obviously troubled, their hands held locked at their gaping mouths.
“Oh my, will he be alright? We should get help.”
“No, he’ll be fine. We just need to give him some space.”
With care, Red drags Ians’ gasping body into the seventh floor hall, laying him out beside a radiator. With the pretence of unbuttoning Ians’ shirt, Red removes his gun, placing it inside his own jacket.
“Should we get some help?” asks the old man, who stands with his wife behind Red.
“No, no, no. He just needs a minute to regain himself. You know. He must have neglected his pills. His heart, you see.”
“Oh yes,” smiles the old lady, “Eric here has the same problem.” She taps her husbands’ arm and smiles. “He’s always forgetting his pills.”
Red ushers the couple into the lift, reassuring them with charmed ease. Ians’ breath is returning but, conversely, his mind is whiting out, unable to assess the situation and determine a course of action. For all intents Ian is crippled, both his body and mind are drowning in heavy deadness.
With the lift descending and the hall clear Red makes moves to eliminate Ian, drawing the police issued revolver and levelling it on his heart. Ian has dragged himself into a sitting position, his back against a radiator.
“So, you murdered that woman.” He clears his throat and wheezes. “And her baby.”
Red glides forward and kneels beside Ian, pushing the gun barrel into Ians’ chest hard as if to see how far it will enter with force.
“Yes I killed her,” he twists the barrel and Ians’ skin, “but her baby lives. Hers and many others.”
Ian writhes with the thought and is overcome with the acidic sensation of bile, as if this information has tainted him physically. Red grimaces.
“I have to kill you now but I know you understand why.”
He stands back a few steps from Ian and shields his eyes with his left hand from the expected flare of the gun. The lift hums again and pings, the doors opening. From the hall, the door frames a clerk with some towels and a cooler-type box of medical supplies. From the lift, the door frames a tall man with red hair, his arm extended, a gun in his hand. They both freeze in their positions.
“Hey!” yells the clerk, dropping his supplies and diving at Red. Their bodies crumple together against the wall and collapse with a heavy thud onto the ground. They roll about and several blows are swapped but it is unclear who is besting whom until a swift right hook lands on the clerks chin, knocking him off Red, who props himself up onto his hands.
During the brief encounter Ian had moved carefully, but as quickly as he could manage, forward. The gun had slipped from Reds hand to Ians’ feet and he now had it trained at Red who was struggling to get up.
“Don’t you fucking move.”
The investigation room was reverted back for interrogation, the sole occupant sitting on a foldout chair, chained to the floor. The Sarge and Ian watch him from behind a two-way mirror.
“He admitted to it, boss, before he was about to kill me. He said he killed her. But”, Ians’ head shakes involuntarily, “but he said the kid was alive. And that there were others.”
“We found another corpse in the hotel while you were hospitalised, detective. A prostitute. She was pregnant too, but the kids gone.”
Red hasn’t move since they arrived a few minutes ago.
“Has he said anything?”
“Nothing. Won’t even give a name and he has no ID. Just a wallet that held hundreds of dollars.”
“What name did he give at the hotel desk?”
The Sarge snorts.
“Paddy O’ Reilly. Must have been the red hair.”
Geoff bursts in, panting, and the Sarge spins around.
“What is it this time?”
Geoff struts to the Sarge, a cheese-eating grin on face and a manila folder in hand.
“I have him chief. A fingerprint match.”