Outside, behind him, the rain continued to drum out its moribund tune to the rhythm of Samael's march.  Inside the room, the bedside lamp leaned against the wall at an odd angle and flickered its SOS through the doorway and into the night.  The unmistakable stench of a discharged weapon hung thickly in the air like Aqua Net at a Motley Crue concert, the gunpowder so acrid that even the cockroaches disappeared.

Buddy swept his piece toward the back of the room, peering into the darkness over the sight as he did so, but who was he kidding?  He'd been in broom closets larger than this dump, he wasn't worried about another person inside.

Which left Mugs as the only possible shooter since he was the only person in the room still upright.

Buddy trained his piece on Mugs and asked, "Where's the gun, Mugs?"

"How would I know?  Without my glasses I couldn't find corn in a commode."

"So you didn't fire that shot just a moment ago?"

"Of course not, I'd be lucky to hit the ceiling."

Buddy's head reeled.  As much as the bizarre situation surrounding him dictated attention, Buddy's first priority was finding out what happened to the weapon that had been just recently fired in that exact room.  Mostly because he didn't want it fired at him, too.

If nothing else he was pragmatic, and decided his best course of action was to see the players involved in this three-car-pile-up on the floor in front of him.  He squatted and put his hand to the neck of the first body at the foot of the bed.  Still warm but not fresh -- at least an hour or two dead.  The man had been shorter, Asian or Philippino, maybe, and balding.  Otherwise pretty nondescript.  Buddy didn't recognize him, though he dressed like he could have been a pusher of some kind: drugs, girls, electronics, who knows?

The second body, curled around the legs at the foot of the bed, face-down, was a woman in a white nurse's uniform, obviously a costume.  Buddy wouldn't allow her to give him an aspirin let alone an IV; he took her for a Party Girl.  He hunkered over her and put a finger to her neck, as he had done with the first body, but pulled back with sticky blood on his digit.  He rolled her and found her throat had been cut nearly from ear to ear.  He grimaced and wiped his finger on the dead woman's lapel.  She was cold too.

Damn it!  Buddy was running out of potential shooter suspects.  He still kept a wary eye on Mugs though, who placidly sat atop the pillows at the head of the bed.  The guy looked wasted, even without the red-rimmed eyes, and Buddy wouldn't have been surprised to see him keel over.

Unless he's faking it, he thought.

The last of the three bodies was male, lying at an awkward angle on his side against the wall at Mugs' feet, to Buddy's left.  Buddy gave Mugs a quick peek before settling down to investigate Mystery Man #2.  Just as he did, however, he caught a surreptitious movement in the darkness at the back of the room and thought, Oh damn, I never thought a crappy motel like this would have a bathroom for the shooter to hide.

And then the gun report filled the air and about a million pounds per inch smack him right in the chest.

The End

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