It was difficult for Samantha to understand reasoning such as his. Maybe he was right and she did believe that everyone was just like her, but she’d always thought that everyone in the world wanted love and friendship. But if that’s what all people wanted, there wouldn’t be people like this man.
“I hate you,” she whispered.
He smiled at her, a soft, smug little smile, as though he knew every thought that was in her head, and it was at that moment that Samantha knew he wanted her to kill him. Trying to look at him without hatred clouding her vision, she saw an old, frail man, and worst of all, she saw a poor man. Mike had said that, from what they could find out, Doc had no more money, that protecting his own life had taken everything. Who would take care of him if he had no money to buy caretakers? she wondered. Would he spend the rest of his life in a nursing home with overbearing nurses calling him Tony?
Looking again at him, she knew that if she shot him, he’d go to hell thinking he’d won the final round, for he’d made her go to prison for killing a murderer.
Moving her hand slightly to the right, she fired the pistol, all six rounds, into the wall behind him.
The next thing Samantha knew, Mike was holding a snifter of brandy to her lips. “Drink it,” he ordered and she did, but Mike had to hold her hands as she was shaking too badly to hold the glass herself.
“How…” When her voice was trembling too hard to speak, she had to start again. “How did Michael Ransome survive?”
12 May 1928
When the orderly saw the body of Michael Ransome, he knew without a doubt that the man was dead; nobody could lose that much blood and live. There had to be at least twenty bullets in the bottom half of him; his legs looked like ground meat.
But when the orderly bent over him, the man opened his eyes, and instantly, the orderly yelled, “Hey, this one is still—”
With the little bit of strength he had left, Michael clutched at the man’s arm and said, “If you have any kindness in you, don’t let them know I’m alive.”
The orderly was sure the man was going into shock and had no idea what he was saying. “You’re bleeding to death.”
“If they know I’m alive, I’ll bleed more.”
At that moment some man walked up, a big man with a bulge that could only be a gun under his coat and looked down at Mike’s mutilated body. “How’s this one?”
The orderly knew that this was a gang killing, but this time there were several women dead. In fact, all the women in the chorus had been mowed down. One uninjured man, who had seen everything, said that the women were the first to go, as though the men with the machine guns had been told to kill them first, as though they had a grudge against the women. The man had also said that three machine guns had aimed specially for this man under the sheet who should have been dead but wasn’t, and for some odd reason, they’d shot him only below the belt.
The orderly covered Michael’s face with the sheet. “He’s dead.” At that, the big man nodded and walked away, looking as though he were satisfied.
When the man was gone, the orderly leaned over Mike and whispered, “I’ll do what I can to keep anyone from knowing you’re alive.” Later, he felt bad when he had to tell the woman that Mike was dead, but if he’d told her the truth, she would have given the secret away. The minute the orderly had a chance, he went backstage and tried to find her, but she was nowhere to be seen. In what was obviously the women’s dressing room the orderly saw a pool of blood, but there was no body.
The orderly had to wait until all the people who were officially alive had been removed until he could get the man under the sheet to the hospital. At the hospital the doctor yelled at him for leaving a bleeding man for last and had even told the orderly it was no use trying to patch him up, that this man was beyond hope and he had others who needed him more. But the orderly had nearly begged and so, with a sigh, the doctor sent Mike to the operating room.
Two days later, it was the orderly who came to Mike’s room and told him he had to get out. “They’re checking the hospital and I think they’re looking for you.”
In a haze of drugs and pain, Mike asked the orderly to take him to a telephone, saying that he had to call someone.
Mike called his war buddy, Franklin Taggert, a man whose life he’d saved. Afterward, in the hospital, Frank had told Mike that if he ever needed anything at all, all he had to do was ask.
Now, Mike asked his friend for help.
Within two hours a barrage of police cars appeared and took Mike away to a waiting plane, and Mike was flown to Chandler, Colorado, to the home of his friend, where he was given the best of medical care. When he was well, his friend’s family became his family.
During those years Mike wondered what had happened to Maxie, but he dared not make inquiries for fear of Doc’s finding either one of them. Mike liked to think that Maxie and their child were safe somewhere, but it wasn’t until 1964, when he saw the picture in the paper that he knew for sure that the woman he loved had not only survived but was happy, as he could see from the picture of her holding her pretty little granddaughter. Our granddaughter, Mike thought, glad that he was going to leave something of himself behind. It was after seeing the news photo that he began work on a book that was going to be titled The Surgeon.
“I think you’d better come now,” Blair said softly to Mike, her eyes telling him what he didn’t want to hear.
“Sammy,” he said softly.
Samantha took one look at him and knew. “I’m not fragile, Mike,” she said, standing and smoothing Maxie’s red dress. On the front of it was blood, not real blood, but the glycerine-based movie blood that stayed fresh and red forever. H. H. Walden had played Half Hand and it had been his father who had been the little boy hiding in the closet and seen Doc kill his father. It had been Maxie who had paid for H.H.’s education, as well as his siblings’, and, after she had found them, had kept his family from starving over the years.
“My grandmother is dying, isn’t she?” Samantha said, looking from Blair to Mike.
Mike wasn’t going to lie to her, nor was Blair. “Yes,” Blair said.