Kill or Be Killed

Kill or Be Killed

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Tale of a psychopathic killer on the streets of London, seeking erotic revenge in fury against the death of his own mother.


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Publié par
Date de parution 12 juillet 2013
Nombre de lectures 9
EAN13 9781626573369
Licence : Tous droits réservés
Langue English

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Kill or Be Killed

Richard A. Wilson

This page copyright © 2007 Olympia Press.

ONE

Prewitt came out of Baker Street underground station with the gun weighing heavily in his raincoat pocket.

The grease-stained gabardine was wrapped tightly around his frail, pinched body; belted and reaching past his knees, the ancient raincoat concealed an even shabbier charcoal-grey. Shiny at the seat and elbows, it had cost Prewitt eleven guineas at an off-the-peg sale four years ago.

He looked older than his 28 years, the thinning fair hair parted in the middle,' the sallow complexion and his stooped shoulders giving Prewitt an air of middle-aged apathy. As he walked with his head down along the broad pavement, passers-by gave him curious and often pitying glances: their eyes inevitably drawn to the dark red, crescent-shaped birthmark which stained and disfigured his forehead.

It was late evening, a thin, autumnal fog beginning to swirl like a grey shroud over the city as the last office workers hurried to catch their bus or tube train to the suburbs. Prewitt didn't look at them. He found it best to avoid any distractions when he was on a job—and then sight of more fortunate men and women staring at his birthmark always gave him a tense and guilty sensation; as if he, personally, were responsible for it.

He turned left into the Marylebone Road, increasing his pace as the big clock outside the London Planetarium told him it was five minutes to seven. The fog circulated down Prewitt's lungs and made him catch his breath, a harsh wheezing betraying the asthma which he had suffered since he was a boy.

Prewitt delved inside his jacket pocket, reaching through the lining of his raincoat, and pulled out a large bottle of chalky white tablets. Without slowing his pace, he unscrewed the cap and swallowed two of the pills down, wry distaste on his lips as the dry, lingering taste of the Asthmapax remained on his palette.

They acted almost at once though, giving Prewitt relief from the impending asthma attack and spreading an exhilarating euphoria through his body. He came to the junction where Harley Street ran into Marylebone Road and crossed to the island, waiting impatiently for a pause in the traffic so that he could cross to the far side.

Prewitt wanted to do the job immediately, before the effects of the Asthmapax wore off. He wasn't squeamish and it wasn't absolutely necessary for him to feel high on pep pills before he worked, but Prewitt enjoyed the brief sensation of unlimited power that the tablets gave him—and he wanted to feel this while he killed the doctor. It would make the shooting much more enjoyable...

Harley Street was quite and practically deserted as Prewitt made his way down the famous and expensive doctor's residence. Evening surgery closed at 6.30 p.m. and a doctor of Hartley-Stephenson's reputation wouldn't stay much beyond seven o'clock. That was what they had told Prewitt: he'll see his last patient just before seven, the receptionist leaves on the stroke of seven and the doctor always clears up himself before going to the hospital.

Prewitt didn't know why Hartley-Stephenson had to die. That wasn't part of his job. All he had to do was fire a gun. Then, for him, it was finished.

He began to study the name-plates outside the Georgian houses, walking close to the railings which ran along the terraced facades. Coughing slightly, Prewitt squinted at an especially well-polished gilt plate: “Dr. Hartley-Stephenson. By Appointment Only.”

There were six well-scrubbed steps to climb—and then Prewitt stood outside the heavy, oaken front door, his finger firmly on the white bell.

He could hear a faint shuffling in the hall but instead of the doctor himself, a young girl opened the door to him.

“I'm sorry, you're too late to see Dr. Stephenson. It's after hours, you know...”

Her voice trailed away as she took in the shabby young man on the doorstep. He certainly wasn't one of the doctor's patient. A National Health Service client if ever she saw one. The girl frowned uncertainly at Prewitt, peering closer through the yellow mist. Her eyes caught the ugly birthmark and Prewitt saw the familiar brief expression of mingled disgust and pity pass across her face.

“No,” he said. “I'm not a patient. I have a message for Dr. Stephenson—from the hospital. I work as an orderly and they asked me to deliver this letter and wait for an answer to take back.”

Prewitt drew a foolscap envelope from his pocket and handed it to the girl. She scanned it quickly, noting the hospital emblem across the top, then stepped back into the hall.

“I suppose you'd better come in and wait, then,” she said doubtfully. “It seems a bit odd, though. The doctor's going to the hospital in another half hours...”

Prewitt walked past her into the warmth of the hall and waited while she shut the door. He could feel her eyes on him, silently criticizing his shabby raincoat and thin, unattractive body. Her implied dismissal of him as a man, as anything other than a sordid messenger boy, meant nothing to Prewitt. Since puberty, he had known that women despised him. They took one look at his large birthmark and recoiled from all thought of intimacy with him. It was a fact of life Prewitt had learned to accept. You couldn't change a thing like that. And it was stupid to pretend that this was his only repellent feature; Prewitt knew only too well that even without the birthmark he wasn't an acceptable personality so far as girls were concerned.

He followed the receptionist up a flight of richly-carpeted stairs, round a bend, onto a landing which housed four doors. One was marked “surgery,” another “waiting room;” the other two were unidentified.

She showed Prewitt into the waiting room and left him standing in front of an electric fire while she took the letter into the surgery.

Prewitt examined the room idly, his eyes automatically photographing its contents: a row of ten black leather armchairs; pale blue wall-to-wall carpeting; a magazine rack; some prints, hung in white wooden frames.

The room smelled faintly of antiseptic—a vague, rather unpleasant smell which reminded Prewitt of the long months he hand spent in hospital while they had tried to cure his asthma. He had been no more than a child then. His mother had died a year earlier, her head thrust into the gas oven while Prewitt stood screaming in a corner of the kitchen. Neighbours had broken the door just in time to save the boy and the asthma attacks had started shortly after his mother's funeral.

He took another Asthmapax tablet, feeling his breathing getting constricted as the memories returned. He wanted to open a window, the stuffiness of the waiting room with its lingering odour of sickness and stale heat filling his lungs unpleasantly.

But the girl returned, pulling a fur-rimmed orange coat around her shoulders. As she struggled into the sleeves she said: “You can go through if you like. The doctor's writing his reply now. It's a pretty nasty business, isn't it? He was going to operate tonight, you know.”

“I don't know much about it,” Prewitt answered shortly. “They just told me to deliver the letter—I don't know what's inside it.”

“Oh.” She gave him a smile, her pretty pink lips widening to show a perfect set of even white teeth. “Confidentially, I'm only the receptionist here. I don't really know what's going on at the hospital—only scraps of information I pick up on the side.”

Prewitt nodded vaguely at her, wishing she would go home, hoping it wouldn't be necessary to kill the girl as well.

They had told him the receptionist left at seven. Prewitt glanced at the electric clock on the wall. Quarter-past. He cursed her silently, not because he had sympathy for the girl, but because he would be exceeding his instructions if she were to be shot with the doctor.

“Good night,” she said, keeping the smile on her face. “I suppose they sent you round with the message because it's all so hush-hush,” she added, turning at the door with her coat still unbuttoned. “If they 'phoned, the newspapers might have picked the story up.”

For Christ's sake, go! Pretty prayed. Don't make things difficult for me. Please—go now!

“I think that's what they were afraid of,” he muttered, not really understanding what the girl was talking about. “You're off now, are you?”

She nodded brightly, her clean young face alive with the prospect of an evening's dancing or necking party-going. “Yes, it's been a long day but it's finally over.” Instead of moving away, though, she came into the room again and looked frankly into Prewitt's eyes.

“Listen,” she said quietly. Prewitt's hand slipped into his raincoat pocket and his fingers closed possessively around the gun. 'I want to apologise. Your-your mark... I know I stared at it and I'm terribly sorry Honestly I—.”

“That's all right.” Prewitt relaxed. His fingers moved off the shiny metal of the gun and he withdrew his hand slowly from his raincoat pocket.

“It doesn't really show all that much—it's just that I wasn't expecting—.”

“I'd better go in and see if the doctor's got his reply ready,” Prewitt broke in. The girl's eyes were troubled. She seemed to be trying to find the right words, the right phrase to convey to Prewitt how ashamed she was of her reaction to his disfigurement.

Prewitt kept his face averted as he stepped past her onto the landing and she sighed, pulling the waiting room door closed and watching as his slight figure moved towards the surgery.

He tapped on the door, glancing sideways to confirm that the girl was definitely leaving. She raised her arm in an awkward wave, then turned and started down the stairs. As her footsteps faded on the thick stair carpet, the door swung open and Prewitt came face to face with his victim.

Dr. Hartley-Stephenson, being four inches taller than Prewitt's 5'8", was staring directly into the man's forehead when he opened his surgery door. The strawberry crescent which flared across Prewitt's temple made no impression on the doctor, however. He lowered his eyes to Prewitt's face and asked him to come in.

“Terrible business,” he muttered, more to himself than to Prewitt. “I was going to perform the operation in a couple of hours, you know...”

He went to his desk and picked up an envelope, licked the gummed flap and sealed it. Hartley-Stephenson was in his mid-forties, a shock of unruly red hair making him look more like a rugby forward than a heart surgeon. He had a small, military moustache and a healthy, outdoor complexion: his cheeks ruddy and glowing. The thing that Prewitt noticed most about him, though, was his hands. They were extraordinarily slender and white; delicate, exceptionally well-cared for hands that made Prewitt want to hide his own, nail-bitten fingers in his pockets.

Stephenson held out the envelope and Prewitt stuffed it into his raincoat pocket alongside the gun, keeping his hand there—his forefinger curling snugly around the trigger.

He began to wheeze again, this time with the excitement of the kill, and Stephenson glanced up, then nodded his head towards an anti-smoking poster on the white wall of his surgery.

“Better give it up,” he advised. “A third of my patients suffer some form of bronchial condition through cigarettes. That sounds like a nasty—.”

Prewitt brought out the gun and shot. him.

The silencer attachment reduced the explosion to a dull,. muffled “plop” and Stephenson staggered against his desk, a red stain appearing from nowhere on his shirt front where the pinstriped jacket was unbuttoned.

His hand clutched at the litter of papers and files on his desk-top, screwing them in his fingers as he started to choke up blood.

Prewitt stepped a little nearer and to one side of the dying man. He aimed steadily at Stephenson's head, the gun at arm's length as he sighted down its barrel, allowing for the parallax caused by the silencer.

The doctor groped his way desperately towards Prewitt, reaching out with his right hand as if to deflect the aim. His head shook violently from side to side, his lips breathing a frantic “No! No!” as Prewitt's forefinger tightened on the trigger.

Then he closed his eyes, clenching them shut as he waited for the inevitable coup de grace.

Prewitt fired into Stephenson's head, the bullet entering exactly between the man's eyes. It was more like a suction pad being pulled from a wall then a gun firing. But the weapon recoiled sharply in Prewitt's hand—and the doctor died instantly as the shot drilled swiftly into his brain.

He dropped backwards to the floor with his head driven so that it snapped almost out of Prewitt's line of vision. For a few moments, Stephenson's body twitched on the carpet. Then he lay still, his fingers clasping the shredded document which he had snatched from his desk.

Prewitt retrieved the letter from the hospital, replaced it in the envelope and stuffed the evidence back into his pocket. There was nothing else for him to do. The job had been cleanly and neatly executed; all that remained now was for Prewitt to let himself out and wait for the B.B.C. to broadcast the story. That would be proof that the job had been completed—and he could collect his pay.

Prewitt let the gun cool a little, then returned it to his raincoat pocket. He looked around the surgery, just in case he had left any clues. He could see nothing—no evidence at all.

It wasn't evidence of his own connection with the murder that Prewitt was seeking. It didn't matter very much whether the police had a full description of him or not. In about five hours he would be out the country: flying under an assumed name to South America where a plastic surgeon had been carrying out successful experiments to remove birthmarks far worse than Prewitt's.

This was to be his reward for the job. A new life and the removal of his stigma—for which Dr. Hartley-Stephenson had paid with his life.

Prewitt, satisfied that his work was finished, started for the door. His hand was outstretched to turn the handle when it burst open and the receptionist stood shame-faced in the doorway.

“I forgot to give my keys to Dr. Stephenson,” she began.

“I'm always doing it—running off and...”

She sniffed, her pretty nose wrinkling as the smell of cordite reached her nostrils.

“What's that?” she asked Prewitt. “I think I can smell.”

Then her eyes travelled over Prewitt's shoulder and came to rest on the bloody remains of her employer. Before the girl could scream, Prewitt pulled her into the room and kicked the door shut.

She looked at him wildly, backing away and making odd, fluttering gestures with her hands. Prewitt got the gun out again and pointed it at the girl's heart, aiming at the soft rise of her breast.

She moved away at the last moment, jerking her body sideways, a desperately shrill cry coming from her open mouth. The bullet smashed into her shoulder, knocking the girl flying—and Prewitt swallowed hard, damning his misfortune.

She didn't quite fall, managing to grab at the couch for support, moaning tearfully, her hand shaking as it clutched her injured shoulder.

Prewitt pulled the trigger again—but the cartridge had jammed. It wouldn't fire, he couldn't get it to shoot no matter how much pressure he exerted on the trigger.

She seemed to understand what had happened and lurched for the door, pulling it open while Prewitt was stupidly examining his gun to see why it wouldn't work.

He leapt forward and caught her arm, leaning back and letting his weight tug the girl away from the handle. She clung grimly to it, her eyes boring into Prewitt's—telling him that she knew only too well that she was fighting for her life...

With his free hand Prewitt brought the gun high over her head. He drove it down, hitting her hard across the back of her skull with the edge of the barrel.

She half-fell into his arms, knocking Prewitt off balance and making them both tumble to the floor. The door was still ajar and Prewitt's first though was to shut it before the noise disturbed other occupants of the house.

He scrambled from beneath the girl and closed it, turning quickly back, his breath rasping, his face grayer than usual as Prewitt fought to control his asthma.

She was writhing on the carpet, blood beginning to flow from her head, matting the strands of long, blonde hair and giving the girl an appearance of wild, anguished insanity. Prewitt rushed back to her, transferring his grip on the gun so that his fingers held it by the silencer.

She didn't seem to notice him as Prewitt knelt on the carpet by her side. He waited until she rolled away from him, then smashed the gun down with all his force.

She whimpered, the sound dying away to a faint gurgling noise as Prewitt methodically hit the back of her head with the gun, keeping a steady rhythm—until the butt was wet with her blood and she had stopped trying to inch herself away from him.

Prewitt let the gun fall out of his hand. Doubling up, he struggled to breathe, the tension in his chest almost unbearable. He managed to get his bottle of tablets out and tipped the oval-shaped container between his lips. His throat was too dry to swallow the bitter antidote without water and Prewitt stumbled towards he wash basin, putting his head under the tap and letting the jet pour into his mouth.

When the attack had subsided, Prewitt washed his gun until the last traces of blood had flowed down the sink. He straightened his clothing where the girl's struggles had pulled his raincoat and tie askew; thrust the now-useless gun into his pocket and left the house as quickly as possible.

They wouldn't be pleased about the girl, he knew. But it couldn't be helped. It wasn't his fault that she had returned. What did they expect him to do? It was unfortunate, it was bad luck—but it certainly wasn't Prewitt's fault.

The lonely, dark-eyed man walked briskly back down Harley Street, retracing the route he had used before, heading for Baker Street tube station. He was glad about the fog. It meant that he didn't have to avoid the eyes of occasional pedestrians; people who would give him that look of fascinated repulsion, as if he were a freak in a sideshow.

In the thickening fog nobody would notice his mark, the mark which — with luck — Prewitt would have permanently removed in a week or two. Then things would be better for him. Everything would improve. His whole personality would undergo a transformation and he would be able to start with a clean slate...

He had only to collect his money. And Prewitt calculated that he would have at least two hours to wait before the bodies were discovered and the news was broadcast. To kill time, he had planned to see a film which had just opened in the West End. It was conveniently close to the place where his pay would be waiting—the Casino Cinerama Theatre in Soho, which was showing “Custer Of The West.”

Prewitt put a handkerchief to his mouth, filtering out the fog fumes, and hurried down Marylebone Road. If he was lucky with the tube connections he'd only miss ten minutes of the feature...

TWO

Sylvia Merchant flopped into an artistically designed easy chair that allowed its occupant to practically disappear inside its shell-like interior and tucked her legs under her curvaceous hips.

When she spoke her voice was muffled slightly by the convex shape of the chair. “I wish you'd tell me why we've got to move, darling. This place is absolutely ideal! Only four minutes walk to the club for me—right smack in the middle of the West End...” She leaned forward and pouted with annoyance at the man who was pouring drinks. “I think you're being perfectly horrible, Kenneth!”

He stirred their Martinis gently with an olive stick and brought them across the wide, spacious lounge, lit by three imitation candles in solid silver holders.

“I've explained it to you a hundred times, Sylvie,” he said patiently. “We have to move because my employers need me somewhere else. And since they pay the rent, I have no choice in the matter.”

“That's not an explanation!” the girl snorted. “It's just an excuse! You know you're important enough to dictate your own terms to them, Kenneth. If you insisted on staying put, they've got no alternative but to let you! I thought you told me you were their number one boy?” She let her brown eyes rest accusingly on his for a moment. “Or was that just one of your little white lies?”

Kenneth Daniels sipped at his Martini and lowered himself gently into a chair which was the twin of Sylvia's He didn't like the modernistic furniture and the garish decor of the flat, but it had been let fully furnished and he knew when he moved in that it was only going to be for a short stay.

All the same... He shifted uncomfortably and tried not to look at the mind-bending, kaleidoscopic pictures on the wall—framed posters, mostly, executed by an artist who must have been stoned on LSD at the time.

Sylvia was another minor problem in Daniels' life. She could be marvellous company—both...

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