I spent the better part of the morning making odd stops here and there, letting Fin get a handle on my tails, and giving him the opportunity to make sure there weren’t any other devices. He found one of course, worked into the fabric of one of my tokens. The one from the Warthogs. He very carefully worked it free of the token and left it next to it. It meant when the signals died, I’d have to ditch it on something nearby, preferably something moving.
It also meant that they were either taking extra precautions, or there’d been a third tail. But it also meant we needed to change plans and that meant involving a third party. Since they hadn’t been able to follow me to council island it seemed like a pretty good place to meet, but I hated bringing Jonathan, and possibly my new family in on this.
I shouldn’t have worried. Jonathan was more than happy to oblige, and get involved. The only questions remaining were: 1) would we pull it off and 2) would Officer Smiley be there.
The answer to both was a resounding ‘YES’. At 2:30, the light on my transmitter went off. I was next to a bus at the time, and was able to attach the third tracking device to that. Then it was a just a simple matter of getting out of site.
Fin gave me the all clear on the car and the bike, but number three we’d just have to take on faith. I’m not really trying to get away from them, just to push a few buttons. Hopefully now, they’ll make a mistake and tip somebody off.
Fin continued to track my pursuers, while I met with Officer Smiley and Jonathan and gave them a run down of what had been going on. Officer Smiley nodded.
“I’d been wondering what was going on,” he admitted.
Jonathan merely smiled. I think he really liked the idea of hunting the hunters, but he wasn’t too crazy about me staying visible. This from the same man who let me play bait to a bunch of organ leggers, go figure.
At least this time, I’m doing more than playing bait, I’m doing something about it. Jonathan suggested I get Andrews involved, but if this case is leading where I think it is, he’s going to end up with the case, and I want his involvement in it to be clean. It’s the only way we can make it stick– whatever it may be.
We finished the meeting and Jonathan ‘smuggled’ me across the border in the back of a truck. When he stopped to unload in an alleyway, I rolled out, and headed to work.
I was keyed up, no way not to be and dealing with Walter was enough to set anybody on edge. He decided that he was going to lay down the law, as if he hadn’t tried Monday. He told me no ‘wet behind the ears’ rookie is going to make him look bad.
I took a deep breath, I’d pretty much had enough of him too. “I’ve got four words for you,” I told him, my eyes blazing. With seven years experience in emergency med, I’m hardly a rookie.
He waited, a sneer still on his face.
He asked for it. I held up my fingers and counted off as I said, “Johns Hopkins Shock Trauma!” It’s where I cut my teeth, the oldest, best in the field, the people who pioneered medivac and a lot of emergency procedures that are still the standard, and I told him as much.
“Just because I’m new here, doesn’t mean I’m fresh out of school,” I added as he stared at me.
He kinda looked like a guppy, trying to get air as he stared at me. I had to smile at that. Yeah, the kid’s got some experience all right.
Things actually calmed down a little after that. I think ol’ Walter may be reevaluating his opinion, but he still hates the idea of the motorcycle medic. He muttered something about it being too flashy, all show, no real purpose. I think they felt the same way about medivac when it started. Gee, I’m a pioneer!
Now if I can just get these people off my tail. By the end of shift I was ready to hit the hay, but I still had work to do. Oddly enough, Walter says he’s looking forward to working with me again tonight.
I rode back to Council Island and we went over my bike again. It seems to have picked up another device and a watcher spirit who Jonathan politely asked to leave.
So, we’ve got people tracking me, following me magically, time for me to get the records for the accident. It wasn’t hard. People at the station have gotten used to seeing me, then it was a case of going down to records and getting it from Saunders. He raised an eyebrow, but some chocolate cream filleds took care of that.
Then I dropped in on Dr. Chen. He was a bit surprised, but more than happy to give me the toxicology reports on the three men from the van, the truck driver and Lynwood case.
After that I went home and sacked out for a little while. We took turns sleeping and going over the information on the three men from the van, the shooting of the ganger, who’s name was Ritchie, and the truck that was involved in the accident.
It made for some interesting reading.
The morning was split between reviewing the information at hand, debating it, and getting what sleep we could. Breaking our surveillance of my tails probably wasn’t the best thing we could do, but it served the over all plan–keep them guessing.
When I left for work, Fin followed me and Officer Smiley made it a point of making equipment inspections on anybody following me. The final bit of protection came from Jonathan who was watching over me magically.
The bike had been in the garage all night with some of the locals watching it. Fin gave it one final going over before I headed back to work. It was clear. I couldn’t see my guardians watching out for me, but knowing they were there made me feel a lot better. It also gave me time to think, and I had a lot to think about.
As the shift progressed I started thinking about the men in the van and Ritchie. According to the M.E.’s reports, the 4 shooting victims had been shot posthumously. The bullet, being slow enough, did massive quantities of tissue damage but kept most of the gray matter inside the scull.
It had also been completely redundant.
Reading over Dr. Chen’s notes I noticed that with the first three cases the weight of what remained of their brains were all well under average.
Their blood work-up was also unusual: the concentration of chemicals normally released during injury, even death were abnormally low, and some chemicals found normally were non-existent. The two that should have been found and weren’t were Superoxide Dismutase, an enzyme that breaks down Superoxides which causes aging and the Beta Endorphins.
The thing was, Richie’s readings were all normal. Normal tissue mass, normal volumes– normal everything.
That did not make sense at all. He had been killed the same way, and yet the results were very different. It was wrong enough that I spent the better part of the night musing over it.
We had at least 5 motorcycle calls in the evening and it wasn’t until things slowed down and Walter commented on how ‘you’d never get me to do that, I swear it looks like people are actually gunning for you,’ that I really began to get paranoid again.
Now mind you, Walter still insisted on a full inventory and complete wipe down of the truck after each call, but at least he realized that I had to do the same for the bike when I took it out. Not that I inventoried. No, I pulled replacements for the supplies I used and made sure everything was functional.
It was a long shift, but the mystery still kept me keyed up enough that the exhaustion didn’t really hit until the end of the shift.
After work it was another trip to Council Island, since I was relatively safe there. It also meant I could meet with Jonathan and tell him what’d happened and he could relay it to the others.
I spent the morning there again reviewing what information we had and what the others told me about the day. Fin agreed that it looked like several of my ‘near misses’ were intentional.
Jonathan suggested I go with him for a jog around the island to relax me, and I jokingly said something about an ‘endorphin rush.’ That’s when the pieces started falling into place.
I had some research to do, but it would have to wait until after the run, and a good morning’s sleep.
It was almost 4:30 when I woke up. Jonathan had decided I needed the sleep, and its not like I could really argue with him on the matter. I have to admit, I felt a lot better with a full day’s sleep.
Today we repeated the process, still mulling over what we had, but now we had information from Fin and Officer Smiley who were concentrating on finding out as much about my tails as they could. They both managed to get some pretty interesting, if contradictory information on Daniels and his partner, Cummings.
Within the department they were the golden boys, solving some of the most difficult cases in local history. They were given free rein to investigate cases to the fullest with little to no supervision because of their record.
The streets told a very different story. If you were somebody they considered worthwhile, they were your best friends. They’d protect you, help you out if you needed it-- perfect gentlemen. If you were a ‘nobody’ they were your worst nightmare. They would hound you until you either gave them what they wanted or left. Either way, they got what they wanted. There were rumors about them throwing money around along with their badges to get what they wanted, and a lot of the times, their collars were people who couldn’t have done what they were accused of doing, but there was no one to back them up.
Two very different stories, with the truth somewhere in the middle, I’m sure, but it makes me wonder if they’ve classified me as a nobody or a somebody. It made quite a difference in the way we handled things. If I was a nobody, then they were waiting for something, probably using me as bait. If I was ‘somebody’ then they were most likely protecting me.
The third possibility was that the jury was still out and they weren’t sure if I was someone to protect or to hound. Either way, they’re in the middle of this.
Fin finally gave me what he had on ValenzBioChem and it made for some very interesting reading. They had developed some of the best anti pain and anti aging pharmaceuticals available on the market, but they hadn’t rested on the laurels. Instead they’d continued their research, using the residuals from their previous successes to fund their research into more natural methods of pain control.
He also had some of the details on the chemicals Ray and I had come into contact with. It didn’t mean much to him, but it meant a whole lot to me. He also had the name of the doctor who’d done the clinical studies on it, Dr. Mitchell Rivero. I wasn’t sure why, but the name stuck in my mind, but then, there was the chemical itself-- impressive.
It was originally designed to enhance the body’s ability to make certain chemicals that are naturally beneficial, mostly endorphins. It was also designed to inhibit the creation of endorphinase the enzyme that breaks down endorphins, thereby trying to create a steady flow of the pain inhibiting, euphoria inducing, chemicals to the entire body. The problem was, the chemical ended up working too well.
It triggered the production of both Beta Endorphins and Superoxide Dismutase, but there was nothing to stimulate its release. The chemicals would remain in ridiculously high concentrations, actually crystalizing in some cases, until they were either absorbed back into the system, or were released with the introduction of a stimulus to the hypothalamus. In those cases, the test subject died.
Needless to say, the research was halted, the chemical was disposed of and the notes were sealed in the vault, never to be used again. Yeah, right, I should be so lucky.
So now I know I’ve got this time bomb rolling around in my head, just waiting to go off, realizing just how seriously messed up this whole situation is for everybody involved.
Me, Ray and the guys in the van, we’d all been exposed, and if my guesses were right, somebody triggered the release, and collected it up from the first three guys. The question of ‘why’ arrived at about the same time as the answer.
The hormones weren’t person specific. You could use these pure, concentrated doses of Endorphins as a pain killer or a euphoric– or the Superxide Dismutase as the ulimate anti-oxidant... a youth serum. Chills went up and down my spine like an alarm, things were a lot worse, and yet better, because at least now I knew the why, now it was a question of stopping it from going any further, but something told me it had.
I thought about Ray, and myself– how dangerous this all was. How severely twisted the situation was. Four dead that we know of. Four... I stopped for a moment as I realized another piece of the puzzle: Ritchie had never been exposed to the chemical.
Then the alarms really started sounding. Riviero... River... Rivers... Doc...
Trina had used Ritchie’s chart to do my blood work-up, but the name wasn’t his on the chart either. He’d given an assumed name and we’d used that chart. It did have his time of arrival and he could have been tracked through that. Still, Trina had kept the work in house, doing it all herself, so only people who worked at the clinic would have had access to the information. Me, Trina... and Doc Rivers.
It would have been easy for him to trace Ritchie by his arrival time– especially if he had someone watching the clinic. I felt drained when I realized that, and I could tell Fin wasn’t pleased when he heard the news. In being careful, we’d set Ritchie up without even realizing it.
It was a good thing I was on duty, or I probably would have been up on assault charges. Fortunately or not, it was a busy night and by the end of the shift I was exhausted.
I think we were all a bit dazed. We’d been ready for almost anything, but not this. Not a doctor killing his patients. It was completely unthinkable to me, but I don’t think Fin was all that surprised. Still, no matter how we tried to explain it, or reason it out, everything kept pointing right back to Doc Rivers. It just fit too well– way too well.
There was no discussion, no debate, no question. I headed for the clinic as soon as I finished work. We weren’t quite sure exactly what to do, but we knew we had to do something soon, the key would be getting Trina to a safe place before we confronted Rivers. There was no way of knowing what he’d do.
We were right. Officer Smiley and Jonathan kept a watch as Fin and I went into the clinic. He was with Trina, I called her out into the lobby, hoping she’d come alone. I hated doing this to her, but if Rivers was doing what we all figured he was doing, she was in big danger. When Trina came out, she knew something was up. Unfortunately, so did Rivers.
He seemed calm enough, until he pulled out his gun and leveled it at Trina’s head. “I told them you were too suspicious, that we should have harvested you a long time ago.”
His words made me shiver. “Especially after you pulled that trick with the Smithers boy.”
The Smithers boy, Ritchie. “You and your band of ghouls did that,” I growled resignedly.
They had. He’d pointed him out and they’d done the rest of the work. But they didn’t get what they wanted. Not from him, and they weren’t going to get it from me, not if I had anything to say about it.
As I looked at him I realized something else. My eyes widened in shock and disgust. “How many others... have you... exposed to this wonder drug?”
He smiled, drawing Trina closer. He was using her as a shield between us. “More than you think,” he taunted. “That’s one of the joys of working in clinics in the poorer sections of town. More people nobody’s going to miss.”
It didn’t take Trina long to catch on to at least some of what was going on, and when she did, there was no stopping her. She slammed her foot down on Rivers’ instep, causing him to loosen his grip. Then, she grabbed his gun arm and flipped him over her shoulder, twisting his arm until he lost his grip on the gun. Then she had him in an arm-lock.
“What did you DO!?” she demanded.
He was trying to opt for pleading the Fifth Amendment, but Fin took that moment to point out that there were no police in the vicinity. Just the people he’d used and betrayed.
He remained silent, but I found his notes. They were quite thorough. Names and dates of the ‘exposure’, a line though the name when they’d been ‘harvested’ and a red star to indicate that the person was prime for the taking.
My name was on the list, as was Mrs. MacAdders, several of the people I’d met at the diner and Trina herself. Guess he didn’t want to leave any witnesses.
We knew he wasn’t in on this alone, but he was trying very adamantly to deny everything. When it was clear he wasn’t going to co-operate with us, I went out and walked over to Daniels where he was watching from concealment.
This was the tricky part, because if they were dirty, if they were the ones working with Rivers, we were all going to be in danger, but we had to know.
Thankfully, they weren’t. They’d been watching me, trying to decide my angle on the this whole mess; trying to classify me as someone to protect or someone to use. I think the jury’s still out on that one.
They rounded up Rivers, but he was confident now that he was in the hands of the police that he was safe. That his cohorts would bail him out.
I wonder how a night visit from Mario’s Terrors will change his attitude.
There was a lot of picking up to do, and we all knew it wasn’t over yet. There were still at least two more people who’d been following me, there were Rivers’ people and the current list of people who needed to be protected. They all had to be dealt with.
I dropped in on Ray, who’d nicely barricaded himself in his apartment. When he read the details on the drug, and what’d been going on, he agreed that what I’d done was probably for the best.
At least I’d been able to protect him. That was some consolation, but, as I said, it wasn’t over yet. Not by a long shot.
I spent most of my shift down at police headquarters filing reports and supplying the details. Trina was busy on her end, doing damage control down at the clinic. Forget Rivers’ having to deal with Mario, I think Trina’s opting to be her own Terror with the man.
Well, it took us most of Sunday night to get everything straightened out. The police couldn’t pin any of the murders on Rivers, and he was so smug about that.
He wasn’t quite as smug when the crimes against humanity, illegal use of a controlled substance and human experimentation charges were leveled. Poor baby didn’t qualify for parole.
As for bailing him out, his ‘associates,’ opted for a more permanent solution. Fortunately or not, depending on how you look at it, they were denied their solution as well. At the very least it provided Rivers with a very interesting wake up call.
The person I felt the worst for was Trina. She trusted him, not only with her heart, but with her patients, her family, her people and he betrayed them all.
At some point during the process of filing forms and getting the updates at the precinct house, I fell asleep. Everyone must have figured that I needed it, and I probably did, but I did not need what happened next.
I can’t tell if it was a dream, a vision, or if somebody spiked my coffee, but bits and pieces of it have been coming back to me all day.
I was in a room, it looked like one of the interrogation rooms. There were three people there with me. There was a woman, a man, and some big bulking form that I couldn’t assign a race or gender. The woman did all the talking.
I could make out her form against the bright lights, but not much more. Like I said, its only coming through in flashes. I remember the woman telling me, how the men in the van and even the boy were ‘parasites’ and that now they had at least served society.
She said something about sparing Ray and me because we were productive members of society, and how it all worked out. I can remember objecting, or at least trying to, but I don’t think I did more than nod.
I remember as she left, she said something about ‘we’ll discuss this more another time.’
All I do know for sure was when they left me to sleep, I was on the left side of the door. When I woke up, I was on the right.
That convinced me more than anything that I really wanted to go home and sleep.
Last night seemed even worse than the night Mario’s terrors hit. At least with them there was a sense of continuity, yeah, I was trapped in it, but at least it was complete. This time my dreams were haunted by nightmarish flashes of images of the woman and her companions.
I was beginning to think there was a lot more to these glimpses than just the hallucinations of a tired mind. When I showed up at the clinic Trina was going through the records and contacting the people on the list. The police were handling the people from other clinics, but these were her people and she felt it was best for them to hear about it from her.
She looked up at me when I came in and I could see the numbness in her eyes. This had taken a lot out of her. I tried to be encouraging, but I hadn’t really gotten enough rest for that.
We sat and talked for a couple of hours as she waited for the people she’d called to show up. I stayed with her, since I was a part of this, and probably the reason Rivers had come to Lynwood. Let’s face it, most of his ‘volunteers’ were people from poorer areas of town, people nobody would miss and that doesn’t really match Lynwood’s profile. Most folks here are middle class, but then again, we’re close enough to a few squats in the area that we do get patients from places like Keeler’s corner.
He did ‘expose’ folks from out of Lynwood, but he also went for a lot of people here: people I knew and cared about.
I was kinda mulling over that when Trina laid into me.
“You are not and will not take responsibility for that man’s actions!” She yelled. “He used these people, he use me, and he used you, but he was the one doing it!”
I nodded, but I was still thinking about Ritchie and the people on Rivers’ list. I could tell Trina was too.
Around two I left and dropped in on Dr. Chen. Andrews was waiting for me again, as were Daniels and Cummings. That kind of surprised me. I mean, Andrews, yeah he’s been here before to give me the details on his current case load, but the spook squad...
I really have to watch it though, all three of them could read my expression. On the bright side, Daniels and Cummings found it slightly humorous. Well, Daniels did, Cummings is still going for the stern, bad cop look.
Nothing had really turned up, but at least now the tails are gone– I think.
As Dr. Chen was showing me around his case load, I had another flash. Someone carrying me over to the table and setting me in a chair. I heard the words: “Ten Minutes” then a faint buzzing sound.
I snapped out of it as Dr. Chen touched my arm. “Jess?” he asked. “Are you all right?”
He could tell I was startled out of something, but I really couldn’t explain it to him. I stayed for a little while, and then let Dr. Chen get back to his business.
Afterwards I kind of drifted around the station, and then made my way back home. I had dinner with Trina and Mario, but I was still tense. Between the lack of sleep, the stress of the last few days, and the nagging little flashes of memory, it’s no wonder.
Hopefully I’ll settle down some and get some sleep tonight.
Sleep: that was the plan at least, but my mind seemed to have other ideas. I didn’t sleep well. I didn’t really have any detailed dreams, or anything, I just couldn’t sleep right. Any time I’d drift off, I’d have another flash. Most of the time there wasn’t even an image involved, just feelings. Again, nothing concrete.
Needless to say, I wasn’t doing all that great when I went to see the Walkers. I was feeling bad ‘cause with everything happening, I’d avoided them, afraid of bringing them into the middle of something.
Mr. Walker understood and even appreciated that, and I think the fact that I was at least working with Jonathan mollified Mrs. Walker. However, saying Mike was angry with me would be an understatement.
That lasted until I had another one of those flashes: I think he saw something in my eyes. I know Mrs. Walker saw it. One minute I was sitting at the table, the next... a light caught my glass and was reflected into my eyes. I froze, images of the bright lights in my eyes and the woman talking played through my mind.
Next I know I’m laying down on the couch and Mrs. Walker is hovering over me. It was almost like the night I’d met her. I looked up at her. I remember trying to say something, but only managing to groan.
She just patted my shoulder and told me not to worry about it. She was gentle and patient, waiting until I was ready to talk to her, but even when I was– there was nothing to tell her, not really. The images were confusing, but what I found even more disturbing was the lack of anything more than flashes.
When I’d finally relaxed, Mrs. Walker began guiding me back to the station, back to happened as I slept, or thought I was sleeping. I’m not sure if remembering the full incident is more comforting than the flashes, but at least I know the whole thing now.
The images aren’t any clearer. The woman, the man and the hulking figure– they remain shadowy figures, but their message...her message...
She talked about the victims, told me that they were ‘non-productive members of society.’ That she had given them the chance to give back to the community rather than to take. That, by paying the ultimate price, they had been redeemed.
She made it sound like it was a great thing she was doing, but she was lying-- lying to herself, and to me. She told me how they’d protected Ray and me in the hospital, changing our records electronically so that nobody else would try to harvest us.
‘Harvest,’ that word again. It still makes me shiver.
We were productive members of society, and therefore to be protected, until I saw too much and began to grow suspicious. Then I became a detriment, if not to society, then to her plan. She told me she was giving me a second chance, that if I let it go, she would let me and the others go.
She offered a simple trade off, in her perfect little world. She didn’t say she would stop, just that she would leave us alone. I cannot let it go.
Its not in my nature, and yet... Trina, Ray, Mrs. MacAdders–the others. Are their lives worth the nameless, faceless others that will fall in their place?
Mrs. Walker knew me and understood my dilemma. She called Jonathan. If the woman could ‘talk to me’ as she did in the police station, there was no way the Star would be able to protect me. The power of the spells and the chemicals that had been used on me, were too powerful and too well organized.
I would have to trust Jonathan to handle this.
Problem is, the woman will be calling on me again. I know this much. When she does, she will know what I know. The key, for now, is to comply.
Even when the nightmare is over– it isn’t over.