Detective Ralph Stone’s, six foot two, burly frame, dwarfed the narrow hospital bed. His normally sharp mind now fought to digest all that had happened, in such a short time. They couldn’t be right. There had to be a mistake. But his gut told him different. He was, in fact, dying.
Colon cancer they said. Inoperable. Comfort care. Maybe a week left. The words bounced around in Ralph’s jumbled brain. “If only you’d come in earlier,” the doctors said. But he hadn’t. He had been too busy burying his wife of thirty-five years, and trying to relearn life without her, to worry about himself. Time enough later, he’d argued to himself. But time stands still for no man.
Ralph had always been a no nonsense kind of guy, which made him a great detective. He was intimidated by no man, but fought tirelessly for the victims. And, his arrest record exceeded most on the squad. He however had one regret; Pete Grimes.
Ralph knew Grimes inside and out. He knew everyone of his victim’s names, and their faces were engraved in his brain for all time. Grimes had taunted the entire department, but none more so than Ralph. It had become his obscene joke; leaving messages at crimes scenes, even leaving a recording of his voice mocking, laughing and tormenting the Detective. Ralph swore he would one day see justice done. But time, it appeared, had run out.
“Lord, you’ve given me a good life and allowed me to do so much for so many hurting souls. But Lord, I just can’t get past Grimes. You know what he did. I don’t even know if he’s still alive, but if he is, I pray that justice be served. He has to pay for what he did Lord, whether in this life, or the next.” Ralph prayed, before sleep enveloped his body.
His eyes hadn’t yet opened to the new morning, but a smile crossed Ralph’s face all the same. “It better be black, partner.”
“Still got the nose of a blood hound partner. Would I bring your coffee any other way?” John Morrow chuckled. “You’d have my head if I did. Hey, looks like you got a roommate last night.”
“Great. Probably snores.” Ralph grumbled, as he pressed the button to raise his head. “What’d ya’ doin’ here so early?”
“Not sure,” John answered. “Just got off my shift, and felt I needed to come here for some reason. Who was I to argue? So, here I am. Anything going on I should know about?” John tried to keep his voice light, but it wasn’t working.
“Don’t worry partner, I ain’t dead yet. Not goin’ on an empty stomach, or without my coffee.”
“Nurse. Nurse. Where in the blazes is everyone? Nurse.” Ralph’s new roommate bellowed.
Ralph’s heart raced like a run-a-way stallion, his hands turned to ice, chills coursed down his spine. That voice. It couldn’t be. Yet he’d stake his life, regardless how short it was, on what he knew to be true.
“Got your handcuffs on ya’? Ralph asked, as he fumbled frantically to loose himself from the sheets, and push the bed tray away.
“Yeah,” John said, as he jumped to his feet to assist his partner. “What’s up?”
“It’s him John. It’s Grimes.” Ralph’s voice was hushed. “I’ll never forget that voice. Quick, help me out of this danged bed.” Ralph was never so glad he was wearing his own pajamas, and not the flapping in the breeze gowns the hospital offered. He needed all his dignity at this crucial moment.
“You sure?” John asked, helping Ralph to his feet, and grabbing the IV pole.
“As sure as I’m dyin’.”
Despite the pain, Ralph stood straight and tall. He forced his feet to walk steady, and his wobbly legs to remain erect. A thin curtain was all that separated him from his tormentor, and his hand grabbed that curtain with a renewed vigor.
With one swift jerk, the curtain flew back; the two men, after a lifetime, were now face to face. Ralph grinned, as recognition and panic flashed across Grimes’ ashen mug.
“Earl Grimes,” Ralph’s voice was strong. “You are under arrest for the murders of: Betty Roland, Nancy Walker, Elizabeth Rogers, Ethel Woodstock and Sharon Hanley. Cuff `im, John.”
Ralph sat down on the edge of his bed, “Just in the nick of time Lord,” he sighed contentedly, closing his eyes for the last time.
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