Max is a soft, helium-filled circus balloon. He floats and bounces along the operating room’s white-tile ceiling. Below him, blue doctors and green nurses huddle in an egg-shaped circle around his naked body.
How is this? Max is two places at one time.
Max is conscious of a danger, aware that being separated from his flesh means his spirit or his mind could get lost. But he is not that much afraid. There is a sturdy string attached to that helium-fill ed balloon, and whenever he wants, Max can will himself down the line, like fireman down a pole to the operating table.
Max knows this for sure, somehow, and also, he likes this floating. On a big screen in a corner of the operating room, he can see memories like movies. Or at least this one memory. The one playing now--how Max hid as a child and waited under the cages to kill his Mama’s new husband. How the smell of the cats made him sick. And how he endured by imagining himself feeding the lion tamer to lion tamer’s own lions. The same smelly cats that ate his father.
But at scene where Max is ready to strike, ready to kill lion tamer, the lions jump through the movie screen and claw Max’s back.
He screams in shock and pain.
Max can’t open his eyes, and he can’t move his hands. Maybe this is dream, too. Or maybe now Max is dead. Those blue doctors or the lion killed him.
“We could write an article for the New England Medical Journal on this man’s head,” a woman says.
Max’s mouth and throat are sore like he swallowed a basketball. And someone must have hit him on the head with a big hammer and then left the handle sticking out. Each heartbeat brings a new throb of hurt to the top and back of his skull.
“The bullet must have struck at an incredibly lucky angle,” a man’s voice says.
Max hears people speaking, such soft voices talking about him, the hospital patient Max Zakowsky, but it is probably a dream. Like floating above his body and remembering the smell of the cats.
Gentle fingers probe the base of Max’s skull.
“No, feel that,” the woman says.
Max wishes he could see her. Her voice is like classical music.
“I’ll bet this man’s sphenoid bone is at least fifty percent thicker than yours or mine,” she says.
Maybe this is not a dream. Max never hear of a sphenoid bone before this moment. How could he imagine it?
“I hope you never get a chance to compare, Sydney, but I know this man was damn lucky with the other three bullets. No bones, major arteries, or organs were damaged. He’ll be walking out of here in a week.”
Max opens his eyes. He wasn’t dreaming. There is man and woman doctors standing beside his bed.
“Quicker even,” Max says.
Intense, burning orange light becomes the early morning sun shining in Max’s window. Is his mind floating again?
No, Max is waking up in a hospital bed, the searing pain from his head to his hip no longer part of a dream. The pain is real. Hard to believe bullets could deliver so much hurt but not kill him.
Sitting up feels impossible. His body seems broken inside, muscles and bones unable to work together. Mind fuzzy with pain and something else...drugs probably. At least he can see now, move his hands and feet, legs if he wants.
Max rings a bell for the nurse.
A gray-haired woman with two sofa pillows for a chest and one major ass walks into his room ten minutes later.
“Where pants?” Max says.
“Only when I have to,” woman says. “Right now, I’m running full commando.”
Max knows she is being silly although he doesn’t understand the joke. A sense of humor is good thing. Those huge breasts look pretty good, too.
“Your clothes, what’s left of them, are in the closet, Mr. Zakowsky. But don’t think you’re going anywhere.”
Max tries to smile. “Max not going anywhere today. But would like to see my blue jeans.”
The nurse brings him a shredded mess. The other nurse, the skinny one with thin hair, explained how the ambulance guys cut up his shirt and pants to save him.
The woman with big ass and big tits stays close to the bed after she hands him his clothes. Close enough to touch if he wanted.
“What are you lookin’ for, honey?” she says.
Kneading the fabric carefully with his fingers, Max finds the spear tip with his thumb and forefinger. His father was right. There must be a spirit in the rock that protects its wearer from assassins.
The next day, Mama Bones says, “What did the coppers want?”
“If I know who did this,” Max says. “Also if I recognize anyone. If I willing to look at books of photos.”
Max sits up, grateful that his pain is fading, but tired from walking up and down the hospital hall all day. Mama Bones could be the new boss of Bluefish’s family, however, and Max knows Jerry would tell him to show the old hag respect.
“What did you say to them?” Mama Bones says.
“Nothing. I learn more from them than they learn from me.”
“Yeah? So you know Bluefish and you friend Jerry are dead?”
“I see their brains. Yes.”
Mama Bones nods. “Nunzio says it notta him. But my niece Gina, Tony Farascio’s wife, she was at the bar when you and Bluefish got shot. She tells me she has nothing to do with killing, but I’m not so sure. She was very mad about Tony. And was also mad about Anne Marie.”
“Gina was Anne Marie’s friend. I think. Once.”
So. That’s it. Max finally understand. Anne. Frances. And Gina. All three of them.
Maybe Max have his own suspect now for Anne Marie’s murder. He needs to check something, but if Max is right, he will kill her. Kill woman who kill his Anne, along with Austin Carr and Mexican bartender for shooting Jerry.
Maybe Max drown them all together in bag like smelly little cats.
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