The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 57

“Kill her, Hooper!” Dr. Chadwick Barnes barked.

“Do it already,” he said, pointing toward Crystal.

“Unlike you, Barnes, I’m not a murderer,” Hooper defended. “Sure, I made some mistakes along the way. That’s what landed me here. But I’m not nor will I ever be a killer.”

“You’re right. You’re not like me,” Barnes spate. “I’m a doctor. I deal with death all the time. Goes with the job. If disease doesn’t do you in, human error will. Life is about death, and if you don’t have the courage to take it, you’ve no business protecting it.”

Barnes growled, “You’re a coward, Hooper!”

Suddenly Lena Hoffman, the other doctor in the group, swung out at Barnes with a kitchen knife.

But when Barnes saw the flash of the blade, he brought his arms up to block the attack. With all her strength, Hoffman pushed against Barnes trying to overpower him.

“Now’s your chance, hero,” Barnes yelled at Hooper. “Save me.”

While Barnes fought off Hoffman’s attack, Mercedes stepped forward and drove a screwdriver into his temple. The knife tightly gripped in her hand, Hoffman suddenly stopped and watched as Barnes reached up to the wound, blood trickling down his cheek, and gaped in disbelief. The wrench clattered to the floor and the disoriented Barnes struggled to stay on his feet. Hoffman stooped down and grabbed the wrench. With one swing, she hit Barnes’ head with a crack, sending him dead to the floor.

When the door clicked open, Lena opened her hand and let the wrench drop.

“This is getting out of control! Captain Bonkers is winning. He’s slowly thinning out King’s people. Looks like I may have to sully my hands to get out of this alive. I’m quickly running out of options,” Hooper told himself as he watched.

Now can we please work together?” Hooper pleaded.

“No, Hooper. We can’t,” Hoffman said. “You lock four animals in a room and eventually, they’ll turn on each another. Just a matter of time. You’re either the last alive or the first to die.”

“He would have killed one of us anyway,” Mercedes explained.

“Oh don’t act innocent, honey,” Hoffman said.

“That creepy clown said there are five objects that will make you dead. We’ve seen four—a wrench, a hammer, a screwdriver, and a knife. That means there’s one left, probably a gun with one bullet. That’s how I’d do it. Somebody’s got that gun. They’re hiding it, waiting for the right opportunity to use it. I’m not going to sit around and make nice while one of you plots to kill me. I’m getting out of here alive. Now let’s move on through this nightmare.”

Mercedes was the first to walk through the door. As she stepped out into the hallway, Hoffman quickly moved alongside her and reached out, twisting Mercedes’ head with a sudden, violent jerk. Her neck broken, Mercedes fell to the floor with a thud.

“Are you crazy? Why did you do that?” Hooper snapped.

“Eliminating the competition,” Hoffman explained.

Shocked by her nonchalant attitude, Hooper watched as Hoffman coldly stepped over the body.

“Do I need to worry about you killing me?” Hooper asked.

“What a stupid question. Have you forgotten what the clown freak said? Of course you should worry,” Hoffman answered without looking back, “but not right now. Barnes was right. You are a coward, which means you’ll probably die last.”

As soon as Hooper and Crystal left the room, the door behind them shut and locked.

At the end of the hallway, a door suddenly swung open.

“Why did that door open?” Crystal asked. “The clown said that each room wouldn’t open until one of us dies.”

Hoffman abruptly stopped and turned to sneer at Crystal in disgust.

After a moment, Crystal said, “Oh. Mercedes.”

Hoffman stepped through the door into the room with Hooper and Crystal close behind. On the other side of the room, she opened a door and found herself in yet another hallway. Following the hall to its end, the three finally reached the next door marked—

“Swinging.”

Just on the other side of the door, they saw a platform with two ropes hanging from a bar attached to rails in the ceiling.

Across the room another platform held a table with a clown doll.

When the doll began to speak, the floor crackled and popped.

“Grab a rope and take a swing. To the other platform. An easy thing.

Avoid the floor with the electrical charge. On the other side and you’re living large.

Only two the bar can take. One stays behind. That’s what’s at stake.

You decide who takes the fall. Two can pass. You make the call.”

 

 

*          *            *

 

 

Mavis leaned against the bar flipping through the TV channels. After Ray had kicked them out of the investigation and Tommy had had the epiphany, she and Tommy headed back to the Downfield bar and waited to hear from Ray. As soon as they got there, Tommy disappeared into the back room to make calls or whatever it was he did back there, and Mavis went to work serving drinks and chatting with her customers. She had a business to run.

Business had been slow, and Mavis was just about to call last drinks and close early when the front door opened and a man stepped in. Six foot two and 20 inches at the shoulder, he stood with a slight hunch. The rasp of a smoker’s cough and the dog at his side turned heads. Light poured in from behind him as he held the door ajar, and the bar patrons tossed back their drinks and scrambled for the rear exit. Mavis flipped off the television and waited until the man closed the door.

“You scare my patrons off when you do that, you know.”

“Sorry, love,” he said, his scratchy voice mixed with a strong Scottish burr.

Rory Tavish, a fifty-year-old problems specialist, he called himself, took another step into the room, and smoothed the thinning hair at the back of his neck. With head held high, he marched over to the bar with the dog, a black and white border collie, at his heels.

When Rory eased onto one of the bar stools, the dog leapt up onto a stool beside him and braced its front paws on the bar.

“Hey, Roddy,” Mavis greeted, patting the dog’s head.

Roddy barked happily at her and held out one paw of friendship.

“I need a drink, love,” Rory said, scratching the stubble of his beard.

Mavis looked at his bloodshot, watery eyes and asked, “When’s the last time you ate any real food?”

“Don’t need food,” Rory said. “Slows me down.”

Shaking her head in dismay, she said, “Lucky for you the grill’s shut down.”

She poured a drink and placed the glass in front of him.

“I’m ordering some food for us, Rory. And Roddy, while I’m at it,” Mavis informed him.

“Whatever keeps you smiling, love,” he murmured, bending his head to take a sip from the glass.

Suddenly the door to the back room burst open and Tommy exploded into the room. Rory jumped, throwing half his drink across the bar.

“I’ve got it!” Tommy exclaimed, his thin arms holding up several sheets of paper.

When Tommy saw Rory at the bar, he stopped and scowled.

“Lousy Brit! You made me spill my drink,” Rory snapped.

“So? Just wring out your clothes over the glass,” Tommy retorted.

“Lousy snitch,” Rory grumbled.

“Spook,” Tommy returned.

Defending his master’s honor, Roddy turned toward Tommy and began to bark.

“Make your wife heel,” Tommy snapped.

“Roddy!” Rory snapped. “Don’t eat him.”

Obediently, the dog quieted down at once.

“Thanks,” Tommy added.

“No thanks necessary. You would have upset his stomach,” Rory replied.

“Boys, behave,” Mavis demanded.

“Sorry,” Tommy said.

“Yes, sorry, love,” Rory said.

Although Rory wore two rings on each hand, he had never found a bride. Roddy was his only companion. From a pup, he had proved an obedient, faithful friend.

“You’ve got what, Tommy?” Mavis asked.

“I figured it out,” Tommy said.

Beaming with pride, he slapped the papers down on the bar.

Mavis scooped them up and began thumbing through the pages.

“What is this? There’s nothing here but random words and numbers and terrible art,” Mavis said, holding up one of the pages and pointing to a mysterious drawing.

“Is this a guy kicking a chicken?”

When Rory grunted and laughed, Tommy snatched the page out of her hand.

“Just give it to me,” he protested.

“I figured out who Ray is working for.”

“Well this should be good,” Mavis said.

“Rebecca Conrad,” Tommy announced proudly.

Mavis held his gaze for a moment then said,

“Well I was wrong. It wasn’t that good. Who’s Rebecca Conrad?”

“Rebecca Conrad works for Face Card Financial, a large investment and financial planning firm downtown. She’s married to one Detective David Crandall. Well they’re separated right now. But anyway, they had a child.”

“Had?” Mavis asked.

“Died. Gang violence. Since that day, Mr. and Mrs. Crandall have not spoken to each other.”

Mavis poured herself a drink. She needed something to take the edge off. When Tommy got like this, he always made a display of it, like a stage magician showing off a new trick.

“So he’s working for Rebecca Conrad?”

“Nope,” Tommy said with a grin.

“Cut to the chase, will you. I haven’t slept and I’m running on fumes here.”

Not to be dissuaded, Tommy continued.

“Face Card Financial is owned by a conga line of businesses that lead back to automotive mogul Bradford King.”

“You say Face Card Financial?” Rory spoke up suddenly.

“Yes,” Tommy answered.

“They’re being investigated for fraud,” Rory said. “In fact, I just turned down some work. Lady there wanted some help.”

“Who?” Tommy asked.

“Got the name here somewhere,” he said, patting his pockets. Finally, he pulled out a piece of paper and held it out to read.

“Conrad something,” he said, squinting.

Tommy looked at the paper then at Mavis.

“Rebecca Conrad.”

“That’s the one,” Rory said. “She thinks somebody’s after her. I don’t have time for crazy women with stalker fantasies.”

“Don’t you see? It’s all connected!” Tommy pointed out.

“Bradford King thinks Bonkers is hunting him, so he reaches out to Detective Crandall who in turn reaches out to Ray. And Rebecca Conrad thinks she’s a target, so she hires Rory the lush.”

“Hey,” Rory complained.

“That’s kind of a stretch, Tommy,” Mavis suggested.

“Not really. Rory pretty much lives in a bottle,” Tommy replied.

“Listen now!” Rory snapped.

“No, Tommy,” Mavis said, trying to get the conversation back on point. “Your conspiracy theory about who Ray is working for is kind of a stretch.”

With a wave of the hand, Tommy dismissed her.

“Eh what do you know?”

“Think about it, Tommy. Why would a rich man reach out to a retired cab driver for help?” Mavis asked.

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