Sleep No More - By Iris Johansen



Seahaven Behavioral Health Center

Santa Barbara, California

1:40 A.M.


Not really worthy of his talents, Drogan thought as he moved silently down the hall. It was all a question of timing. The nurse who was usually on duty at the desk of this private wing had left on her break three minutes ago and would not return for another seventeen minutes. Another nurse from the ward on the third floor, who was scheduled to cover her absence, was due to make a routine check in about ten minutes. No other coverage was considered necessary since the patient was always heavily sedated. He’d have to be out of here by then. The nurses at Seahaven were always as punctual and routine-oriented as everyone in the plush mental hospital. They had good jobs and wanted to keep them.

Too bad. The private nurse’s job taking care of the woman in that suite down the hall was about to come to an abrupt end.

He stopped before Beth Avery’s room and carefully, silently, opened the door. The lights were out in the room, but Drogan could see her heaped beneath the covers on the bed across the room. She should be sleeping well; he’d been told they always gave her extra drugs at night.

Including this night, her last night.

He took the hypodermic out of his jacket pocket.

Yes, it was too easy, he thought. Any of her doctors or nurses could have given her the fatal injection. She was drugged and helpless. Why pay a hit man to do the job?

Because they had no guts, he thought contemptuously. Because Dr. Harry Pierce, with all his fancy degrees in psychiatry, was a coward who wouldn’t risk his fine career and put his neck on the chopping block. That took nerve and skill and the ability to take the final step. Drogan possessed all three qualities, and that made him a giant far above these ineffectual assholes.

Ten minutes. Make the kill and get out of here.

He glided toward the bed.

What did you do, Beth Avery? Why do they want you dead? Are they tired of dealing with you? Not that it mattered. As long as he got his money, that was his only concern. Still, it was curious …

He had reached the bed. He put out his hand to shift the blanket so that he could make the injection. Then he would wait until he was sure that the stuff had worked. A less professional man would just take off, but he was proud of his work ethic.

It would take several seconds, but he’d be able to tell when she died. He knew death. It was an old friend.

He flipped back the cover.


No Beth Avery. Pillows. Three pillows.


He staggered back as he was struck from behind with the base of a lamp.

He fell to his knees as the room whirled around him.

A woman …

Tall, slim, dark brown hair, in her thirties … Beth Avery. He’d been given a photo of her. The target.

She had the lamp lifted to strike him again.

“No way, bitch.” He lunged forward and brought her down. He had dropped the hypodermic when he fell and he lunged for it.

She brought her heel down on the syringe, smashing it. Then she pushed him away and rolled away from him.

God, she was strong, he realized dimly. Avery was supposed to be weak and drugged, but she was as sleek and muscular as a young lioness.

But a lioness can be taken down like any other cat. His hands closed on her throat. Die, bitch.

She butted her head against his nose as hard as she could.

Damn her. He could feel the blood spurt from his nostrils as his hands loosened from her throat.

She tore away and jumped to her feet. She grabbed the lamp and swung it again.

It connected, and he fell backwards.

She ran out the door.

Gone. She was gone.

Rage and humiliation tore through him as he struggled to his feet.

“No you don’t.” He reached the hall in seconds and caught sight of her turning the corner. She was obviously heading for the emergency exit. He’d chase her down the flights of stairs and grab her before she reached the lobby exit. She didn’t realize how well the privacy of that stairwell would work for him. The kill was supposed to look like a natural death, but he’d worry about that later. It wasn’t his fault that Beth Avery wasn’t what they’d told him and had taken him off guard. That damn Pierce could just rig something