Prologue and Chapters I-X
Radu-Chapter XXVI (A Novel by Patrick Kelley)
14 pages approximate
Mia Chou cancelled all her appointments and decided to take an extended leave of absence. She had more than three weeks of vacation time, and the disappearance of Susie necessitated her using them. She doubted the agency would miss her, as she was not one of the agency’s top selling realtors. She doubted she would make the top ten during an average month anyway. This was how Mia calculated her decision for the first three days of Susie’s absence. By the time more than a week went by with no word as to her whereabouts, with not so much as a rumored sighting of her anywhere, she no longer cared about the job.
David Chou, by contrast, seemed unworried. This was not the first time Susie had pulled a stunt like this. She went missing one time for more than four days. There were innumerable other times when she vanished for two or three days. Mia insisted however that this time was different. This time there were no hang-up calls from random phone booths in downtown Baltimore or adjacent localities. There were no random sightings of her hanging around bars, such as the Crypt, or the Red Lion Lounge, where a girl of her age and description reportedly attempted once to get a job as a topless dancer at a time when older daughter Chrissy worked at the same job.
Mia knew that David was more worried than he let on. For one thing, he was more quiet even than usual, and what times he did speak, there was no evidence of that dry, sarcastic humor that made her want to go up the side of his head at times with his favorite brand of scotch. Since Susie’s absence, she noted he had not so much as sniffed let alone swilled his beloved Cutty Sark, as was his usual wont over the weekend. David Chou was, in fact, grimmer than Mia had ever known him to be.
Yet, he went to work, which she supposed one of them should, though he barely put in half the time he usually did. She also knew he had kept in more regular contact with their other two children. Not a night went by that he did not call Chrissy at her dorm room or her cell phone, and Chuck as well. Their phone held the records of all his calls, and she knew he called them in the hopes they had heard from their impetuous younger sister. Yet when Mia brought up the subject, he would answer her almost dismissively.
“It is probably good no one has heard from her,” he said once. “She would not call Chuck or Chrissy unless she was in real trouble. She is too proud and stubborn to call either them or us for help. She is probably out partying somewhere.”
“Well, even if that is true she could still be in danger,” Mia replied.
“We are all in danger, every minute of our lives,” he observed. “Neither Chrissy nor Chuck would be the kind you would turn to for help unless you were really desperate. I don’t believe she is dead, either. If she was, surely her body would have turned up.”
That did it. He was worried, very worried, to even express such a thought, albeit in the negative. It was as though he talked with two minds, the one that spoke to her on autopilot, and the other one she could see expressed in his facial features and demeanor, the one that dwelled on every horrific possibility.
All three of their children had problems. All three were impetuous, while Susie lived her life in a state of nearly constant rebellion and rage. Her brief foray into life at the church lasted less than five months, yet longer than either David or Mia expected it would. Chrissy had run up over thirty thousand dollars in debt. In the meantime, several stores ended up banning her from their premises. When her credit was cut-off, she had taken to shoplifting. Chuck in the meantime finally had a job that lasted, for now at least, more than half a year. It was just a matter of time before he would walk away from that one in a huff, as he had all the others. Those of course were other than the ones from which he ended up discharged for absenteeism, or some form of insubordination. More than likely, he would then make another extended trip to some place he just knew held the promise of a meaningful life-one he would quickly tire of in little over a month, if that long.
Mia had told all three of her children at one point or another that she was too tired, and far too old, to start over with new children.
“Don’t make me trade you in,” she would say.
“It would be silly to trade one mistake for a new one,” David would add. Now, it did not seem so funny. At forty-seven, Mia felt she was indeed far too old to have another child, as much as she wished she could just start over. She knew it was too late. Menopause came for her at age forty-three, and she was incapable now of having children, at least not naturally. She noticed hints of gray invading her hairline, and they were spreading, slowly but surely. As a devout Catholic, she could not see entering into a new marriage without the prospect of children involved. If not for that fact, the first trade-in she now would engage in would probably be for a new husband. She watched morosely as her current model David made his way down the steps without one word, and sat upon the recliner by the liquor cabinet, which she no longer kept locked from him.
Oh no, she thought. He is going for the Cutty Sark.
“You have heard something, haven’t you?” she asked.
However, David made no move toward the liquor cabinet. He just sat there and stared at her.
“I want to take some more of your blood,” he said. “You have been running low the last few weeks, and you look ill. I also want to give you an injection of something.”
“For God’s sake, David, I don’t want to rest. I want to stay in control of my faculties. I don’t want something that’s going to make me a zombie for the next weak.”
“That’s why I want to take some of your blood, for testing, to be sure there are no contraindications,” he explained. “It won’t make you a zombie. If anything, it will make you more clear-headed than you have ever been in your life.”
“So what exactly is this miracle drug that will make me capable of standing up to all my troubles and facing them down with nerves of steel?” she asked with notable skepticism. “Whatever it is you should bottle it and sell it out of your car, because I have an idea we are going to need the extra cash flow soon.”
He took a cotton ball and swabbed her arm with alcohol, after which he produced a syringe.
“Mia, you keep going on about these ransom notes you insist we are going to be receiving soon. I tell you if that were to be the case we would have heard something by now.”
He applied a tourniquet to her arm and puffed up an artery, while she sat there trying not to tense from the coming prick of the needle.
“I still say we should inform the police,” she said. “We should fill out an official report. You say at her age and her history it would be worthless, but I say it at least could not hurt.”
He seemed to ignore her as he drew he blood.
“I will go downtown today and fill out a report, all right?” he asked. She did not seem exactly convinced, and made him promise he would do that. He not only promised her he would, he swore he would make a few more rounds to some of the places she frequented, including those places she frequented at other occasions when she ran off abruptly.
“I don’t want to be disturbed while I am running this test,” he told her as he walked down to his basement.
He extracted the blood samples from his safe, including the one that reacted violently to the latest inclusion of blood from his daughter mere days before she vanished, in stark contrast to the first experiment with the same blood he earlier added to the Krovell samples, in the exact same proportion.
He could not get the conversation with his wife’s priest out of his mind. He had come by the house some weeks back to see not about his wife, but about Susie who, to his surprise, had taken instruction and become baptized. It was certainly news to David Chou, as the only change he noted in Susan’s manner and demeanor was her quiet solitude, her silent withdrawal from him and her mother. True, there were no arguments, no lashing out in anger, no petulant threats or temper-tantrums. There was not even so much as a casual obscenity.
He asked the priest if it was true, that prayer could have a physiological effect, not a mere psychological one, especially on the brain. Of course, he should have known better than to ask the priest, who only told him he believed it had an effect on all areas of life.
Therefore, he sought the advice of other physicians, most of who said there might well be a placebo effect that might induce calm, but there was no solid evidence to the effect that any chemical or other physiological change occurred-certainly none of any long lasting duration. There was a minority opinion of course that insisted regular prayer, in addition to regular spiritual disciplined life, especially when in conjunction with what might well be a profoundly unsettling experience, might well lead to the release of the same kinds of chemicals in the brain as those endorphins released in the brain’s pleasure centers. Of course, there was no way of telling for sure what the overall effect might be, and for that matter it was unclear how such a thing could even be tested, let alone proven.
David Chou considered he might have stumbled accidentally onto something. Over time, his daughter resumed her normal lifestyle and activities, and her temperament returned to its normal combative state. He wasted no time in retesting her blood. The old samples manifested the same original effects. Therefore, he found himself faced with a quandary. It was imperative that he tests new samples, but so much as a look at his daughter from him made her seem to boil, and made him almost shrivel up like a chihuahua out in a cold nor’easter. He had left to him then one recourse. He bribed her. It cost him two hundred dollars, which he considered a bargain. He would have paid her five if she insisted, but one way or another he would have that blood.
He got the new sample and added it to two of the Krovell samples. Though invisible to the naked eye, under the revealing lens of his electron microscope they both reacted as violently as he ever noted. They fumed and bubbled, so much so that he backed away in fright from them initially. Then, he added some from one of the old samples from his daughter to one. The one he added the old sample to, within a matter of seconds, calmed gradually, until within just under a minute, it appeared completely normal. It was in fact as healthy and vibrant a supply of blood as any he ever saw, while the other sample, the new sample, yet seemed ready to explode.
Unfortunately, there was, as before, nothing in the samples to give the remotest explanation for this anomaly. More unfortunately, the mystery was out of his hands. He loaded up the majority of the samples into a special briefcase, along with a number of empty tubes. It was almost time to keep his appointment.
He checked the stairs, though confidant Mia would not intrude. He then went to his computer, and placed the disc in the tray. He had watched the disc more than he could remember over the last week, hoping to catch some new glimpse, some new clue. It was always the same. Susan, his daughter, surrounded by mysterious, unseen figures, in what appeared to be a dark, damp basement, tied to a chair and crying. She looked badly beaten. She begged him to do as her captors demanded.
As he watched, the cell phone rang, and he answered quickly as he looked at the clock on the wall. It was two-thirty in the afternoon.
“It’s time,” the voice of the woman said. “Bring the samples.”
Before Chou could utter a word in response, the unknown woman terminated the call. Chou took a clean syringe, he filled it with a sample of the blood, and then he removed the disc from the computers DVD tray. He walked upstairs, where to his surprise Mia and he had company, their son and daughter, both distraught and overcome with anxiety, as Mia now cried openly.
“Has either of you had any word from her?” he asked in dread.
“No, I have not,” Chrissy replied. “I don’t much think I will either.”
Chou noticed that his son rolled his eyes and shook his head at this remark, then added he had heard nothing either. He wanted to tell them they should return home in case she tried to call either of them, but stopped himself. There was nothing to gain by continuing this charade any further, he decided.
“I have something I have to do,” he said. “I will return shortly. You two stay here with your mother until I get back, if you please. Mia, let me give you this injection.”
“All right, I think it’s a waste of time, but go ahead,” the now openly despondent woman said. “The last time I saw her, she cursed me as she was leaving, and I remember hoping she would never return. Now, I feel like”-
“That will be enough of that,” Chou told her as he took her arm. “Everyone has random thoughts they either express in anger, or they keep them to themselves. They are what they are in either case, natural human reactions to anger and stress.”
“What in the hell is that you are giving her?” Jack asked. “I f I didn’t know better I would swear that is a Bloody Mary in that syringe.”
“That is not a bad idea at that,” Chou replied. “That is not what it is, though.”
He then told them he would return within the hour, and walked to the door, but to his chagrin, Chrissy followed him outside. He did not like the look on her face as she walked up to him beside the car.
“I think she is dead,” Chrissy said, and David felt his heart stop for just a moment. He looked at her with stern intensity.
“Don’t you dare repeat that to your mother,” he warned her. “You haven’t already said that to her have you?”
“No, I haven’t, I swear,” she said defensively. “This is so unlike her, though. All those other times she ran away, she always called me, and Jack too. Now she has not called him or me either one. Nothing would prevent her from contacting at least one of us. I know she is either dead or very badly hurt.”
David said nothing as he put the briefcase in the trunk of his car. She just stared at him.
“I guess there is one possibility,” she said. “I guess she could have been kidnapped. If that was it though I would say you should have gotten a ransom demand by now.”
“Well, if someone had that intention, I guess they would have changed their minds once they saw how far in debt your little credit card addictions have put us in,” David said, growing ever more agitated at his oldest daughter’s invasive suppositions.
Chrissy, obviously hurt by this outburst, looked as though she might stumble as her mouth opened in shock.
“Is that all you can think about at a time like this?” she demanded.
“I think of every god damn thing,” he replied. “That is my problem. I seem to be the only one who thinks of anything.”
He opened the door and got in the driver’s side, as she stood there, still processing his outburst.
“Go back inside, Chrissy, and spend some time with your mother,” he said. “This might be your last opportunity to be some kind of comfort to her. The shock of these things usually wears off in time, at least to some extent. In your case especially, it might be too late when hers wears off.”
She looked at him as if too shocked by such open and calculated cruelty to make a response, and then she turned and walked back toward the front door. He left at that point, barely believing it himself.
It was not a long drive to the dining room of the Hyatt Regency, where he took a seat at the bar as prearranged. He ordered a Shirley Temple, and when he saw the look on the face of the barmaid, he found himself thankful he would never enter this place again. She went to fill the order, at which point the dark haired young woman that set just four stools down from him pointed out that there were many empty tables available which would be much more comfortable than the bar.
“So you are her,” he said, not attempting to disguise his angry disgust.
“I am she who makes the sun shine brightly on a cold winter’s night,” she said. He just nodded, finding himself barely able to control his temper.
“All right then lets get this shit over with,” he said.
They proceeded to a table, where Marnie watched in anticipation as he opened the briefcase.
“What is the purpose of all those empty vials?” she asked.
“The blood replicates of its own volition up to a point,” he explained with obvious disdain. “You will need more to hold them in time. After so long, they will break down, but the point is, the empty tubes will be necessary at some point.”
“Well, how very gallant of you,” Marnie replied. “Now, all there is to do is for you to sign over the rights to them. You will find these papers will all be in order.”
He looked at her in shock, and it was obvious to Marnie at this point that Chou was hiding the fact he was near the point of exhaustion.
“Surely you didn’t think we wouldn’t assume you would keep some samples,” she explained. “If you thought that, then you don’t know us at all.”
“Nor do I want to know you,” he replied. “All I want is my daughter returned, safe and sound, like you promised. That and for you to fulfill the other terms of our bargain.”
“Ten million dollars up front and half of one percent of any profits derived from anything developed using the samples, I know,” she replied. “Really, David, I am quite impressed. You drive a hard bargain for such a concerned parent. I am really quite surprised they all turned out so badly. One daughter a half-crazy little whore, and another one that will probably be on her way to prostitution when she gets so far in debt she has no other way out. Then of course, there is your son. Jack, I believe his name is.”
“What about Jack?” he hissed.
“Oh, that’s right, you didn’t know he was gay, did you? Oh come on, David, how did you think he managed to live such a comfortable lifestyle, going from one job to another like he does. Of course, you didn’t know about his suicide attempt in high school either, did you? Yeah, you knew about the ‘accident’, but that’s all. Yeah, he accidentally propositioned the wrong jock. That was his accident-he was so humiliated at the rebuke he received, and the rumors and ridicule afterwards, he decided to do himself a favor and end his misery. Who knows, he might yet go for another try, when he figures out he is not going to stay young and cute forever.
“And now here you are, and what is your main demand in return for handing over this important discovery that could be such a benefit to mankind in the way of scientific research? You want money. No, David, it is no surprise your children are whores-like father, like son and daughters.”
He looked at her in a rage, barely able to contain himself, as the waitress approached with his Shirley Temple.
“I didn’t realize you were here,” she said with a cheery smile. “Sorry about the wait.”
“Get that thing away from me,” he hissed to the waitress as he looked defiantly at Marnie. “Bring me a scotch-Cutty Sark, if you have it, if not a Chivas will do.”
“Very well, sir, I’ll still have to charge you for this one,” she said.
“If you think you are going to shame me out of our agreement, you have another think coming,” he told Marnie. “My children are my concern, and believe me, if Susie has been harmed in any way you and your criminal lowlife associates will pay in ways you would never comprehend in your wildest dreams.”
“Brave words, David,” she said. “Actually, the ten million dollars is a paltry amount. That is my point. You are a cheap date, Doctor Chou. Most whores usually are in the end. You see, we have already paid in ways I am sure you could never comprehend. That is the price we are willing to pay.”
She looked at him sternly as the waitress returned with a double shot of Cutty Sark, and the bill.
“If you would like anything else just let me know,” she said with a curiously dry expression, and then walked off.
“Enjoy your drink, Mr. Chou,” Marnie told him. “Also, enjoy your contract. I am sure you will see everything is indeed in order. Oh, and by the way-when I return to my car, I will transfer these vials into my own briefcase, and set this old one out somewhere in the parking lot. You might want to hurry and retrieve it. Who knows, someone might get the idea a terrorist has left a bomb in it. There seems to be a lot of that going around Baltimore these days.”
As she chattered, David perused the contract, which as promised seemed to be a legal document, a contract involving what he recognized as a bona fide pharmaceutical company by the name of Davis-Herschner Inc. There was a number circled at the bottom of the first page. He had no doubt when he called it he would receive confirmation of the legitimacy of the contract and the transfer of patent just conducted.
“So, does everything seem to be in order?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said. “Now get the hell away from me before I change my mind and call the police.”
She nodded with a smile, and then rose with the briefcase.
“By the way,” she said. “I hear Jack is doing very well at his new job. As for Chrissy, we have taken care of her debt. She no longer has one. See, we have your family’s well-being in mind, David. We are watching out for them, and for you-all the time.”
He downed the scotch, and then waved at the barmaid for another one, as Marnie walked briskly away. Damn, did he ever need it! He reached into his coat pocket and extracted the tracking device. When he acquired it, the salesman assured him not only would it work despite the small size, no one would ever detect it inside the cork into which he inserted it. Unfortunately, it had a range of only three miles, so he had to work fast-but not too fast. He had a suspicion that someone else might yet be there, monitoring his every move. He looked around and, seeing no one suspicious, he downed his second scotch and left a fifty-dollar bill at the table.
By the time he got to his car, he had no doubt Marnie was gone as he got inside and started the ignition. There was the briefcase, in the front passenger’s seat, with a note attached.
“Directions to your daughter’s location are inside,” it said. “Wait thirty minutes to open.”
That did it! The terms of the agreement were that a cab would bring Susie home, right to their front door. Obviously, he should have known better than to trust such people as these to keep their word. Now they expected him to risk his life to go get her by himself. Well, he would not do it. He dropped the suitcase back down in the floorboard and turned on the tracking device. It worked as well as his private investigator promised it would. He also assured Chou that not only would it lead him to where he needed to be, it would prove undetectable.
He drove a mere fifteen minutes before he arrived at what seemed to be the ultimate destination, a Four Season’s Hotel. He drove slowly through the parking lot, and when the noise from the tracker decreased, he backed up into the closest empty space and waited. He looked warily at the briefcase. God only knew where he would be obliged to go to in order to supposedly retrieve Susan, to say nothing as to what waited for him there.
He turned on the tracker’s microphone receptor. He hoped by now it would be close enough to pick up any conversation. It had better, he muttered to himself. He certainly paid enough for it. Sure enough, there was no static, as the investigator told him there should not be, and he heard the voice of the woman as clearly as in the bar of the Hyatt Regency.
“Yes, this seems to be the blood samples,” said a man with an eerily familiar voice. “How did you ever convince him to go along with this?”
“Ten million dollars,” he heard Marnie say. “Also, he gets one half of one percent of all future profits.”
“That’s it?” the man said with a hoarse laugh. “Why, that stupid son-of-a-bitch! Does he know the company paid two billion dollars for this?”
“You have to hand it to him, though, he was insistent,” Marnie conceded.
Chou now had to sit there in his car and fume in silence as he heard himself belittled by some cheap corporate bimbo bitch, and by whom he swore had to be Scott Reese, a hospital administrator for Johns Hopkins University-in fact, a research department administrator. It made sense that he would have ties to at least one of the nation’s pharmaceutical giants, and now he stood to make a killing at Chou’s expense, and at the expense of his daughter, whom Chou had already accepted was probably dead-or doubtless soon would be.
“Once we stabilize these samples and isolate whatever protein or enzyme produces the properties of replication, it will revolutionize the medical industry,” Reese now mused. “There will never be a shortage of blood. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Actually, the company agrees with me that two billion dollars is a bargain. I do not know how you convinced Chou to go along with you, but I sure am going to enjoy rubbing it in the bastard’s face the first chance I get.
“I do have a question for you, though,” he continued. “Why did you not just go ahead and make him an offer? I understand your desire to fund your own research, and your need to keep some of the samples towards those ends, and I certainly can appreciate your desire to make ten billion dollars from your sell to us. Still, I would think he would not have been that hard to convince. It might have cost a little more”-
“That is exactly the point,” she replied. “It would have cost much more. Remember our deal, Mr. Reese-no questions asked, none answered. After all, I could ask you the same thing. Why not just offer him one billion, or two billion?”
“Fair enough-because he would have insisted on his name being attached to it,” Reese said. “He would have insisted on total credit. He also could ot have kept his damn mouth shut. I know him, all too well. He refused to hand them over to me, as a representative of Johns Hopkins, even though legally we could have taken him to court and probably would have prevailed. On the other hand, it would have caused months of legal wrangling. I’m sure we would have won out in the end, but in the meantime it would have caused a public relations problem, to say nothing of causing our competitors to get a heads up on our research. It would have been more trouble than it was worth, and I’m sure that drunken old fool could not be trusted to keep a secret. I’m still concerned about him, to tell you the truth.”
“Don’t be,” Marnie told her confederate. “David Chou will cause you no more problems, I can guarantee you that. He will soon be in no position to cause anyone any problems.”
Now what in the hell does she mean by that, David wondered?
“Well, it was good doing business with you, Miss Moloku-Marnie, is it?”
Marnie Moloku! Chou realized that he knew that name from somewhere.
He listened to them banter for a short time, and it became apparent to Chou that Reese wanted to take advantage of their present private hotel room accommodations, but the woman seemed uninterested. Soon, he watched her leave. He ducked down in his driver’s seat and hoped she did not recognize his car. After a number of minutes, he wondered what he was worried about anyway. He rose to see she had left, having obviously parked some distance from him. He never heard her car start.
Every fiber of his being wanted to go up to that hotel room and kick Scott Reese’s ass. Regardless of whether he knew about the involvement and fate of his daughter, he shared some responsibility for what happened to her. Suddenly, as he pondered whether to confront Reese, he heard tires screeching and turned to see Marnie leaving in a hurry.
Damn, she saw him after all, he realized. Now what in the hell was he to do? On the other hand, why was she so determined to get away from there so quickly?
Then, he remembered something she had said to Reese just minutes before she left.
“David Chou will cause you no more problems, I guarantee you that. Soon, he will be in no position to cause anyone any problems.”
Grimly, David Chou removed himself from his vehicle and took with him the briefcase. He walked quickly up the steps to the door from which Marnie emerged. He knocked upon the door and waited. The door opened more quickly than he had anticipated. Scott Reese looked at David Chou with a sneer, in an attitude of defiant triumph.
“Well, well, well, if it isn’t David Chou-the ten million dollar doctor.” Reese said with a derisive laugh. Chou punched him savagely in the gut, and then kneed him in the forehead. When Reese went down to the ground, Chou kicked him savagely in the groin, and then fell upon him as he repeatedly battered his face with his fists, until soon Scott Reese was unconscious and helpless.
Chou then retrieved the briefcase with the blood samples, and looked down toward the unconscious form on the floor.
“It looks like you just convinced your company to put out two billion dollars on a patent for nothing,” he said. “As for me, I think I’ll just get me another one. Oh, and by the way”-
He brutally kicked the unconscious form one more time for good measure, which caused a pained stirring from the beaten hospital administrator. He set his old briefcase down beside the man, and he left. He walked hurriedly back to his automobile, and started the engine. As he drove off, he called his private investigator.
“I’m sending you an image,” he said. “I think her name is Marnie Moloku. Look her up in your database and see if you can confirm that. Also, I want you to do a background check on the board and chief officers of a pharmaceutical company-the name of it is Davis-Herschner Inc. Have you got all that? I want you to especially note the names and positions of Voroslav Moloku, and Phillip Khoska, as I am sure one or both of them will be listed in one capacity or another.”
Chou was driving away slowly as he listened to his private investigator mumble he would get right on it, and then clear his throat.
“I’ve been trying to call you,” he said.
“I had my cell phone turned off because of meeting with that bitch,” he said. “Did you hear everything? I had the transmitter turned on as you said.”
Larry was not answering him. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong.
“David, I’m sorry,” he said. “They found her. They found Susie. She is dead, David. It looks like she’s been dead for a while now.”
David almost did not hear him. He listened to him breathe, and he listened to his own heartbeat, and sat there at the intersection of the Four Seasons Hotel driveway and the road ahead. He sat and listened as the sound of the explosion ripped through the parking lot from Scott Reese’s rented apartment. He listened to the screams in the background. He listened, as the armored vehicle pulled in. He watched as the drivers hurriedly made their way in a panic toward Scott Reese’s apartment, on a futile errand to transport the prized blood samples. Some of them were supposed to have soon found themselves transported to the security of the research labs of Johns Hopkins University, with most sent on by special chartered jet to the laboratories of Davis Herschner Inc. Now, they would all be back in David Chou’s home office laboratories.
“David, are you there?” he asked as David Chou pulled out onto the road. “David, I’m so sorry, but-the police are going to want you to come in to make a positive identification. I assume you wouldn’t want Mia”-
“I’ll do it tonight,” he said as he drove, a bit more quickly now.
“David, what is going on?” Larry asked. “It sounded like an explosion there a minute ago, and now I’m hearing sirens.”
“Did you get everything?” Chou asked.
“Was the deposit confirmed?”
“Yes, all ten million dollars.”
David Chou now was out of sight of the Four Seasons Hotel.
“Good.” He said.
It took twenty-five minutes for him to make his way to the Baltimore City morgue, where an on-duty staff member ushered him to the area that held the recently discovered body tentatively identified as that of Susan Chou. She lay there covered except for her face, the official cause of death not yet determined. She looked as defiant in death as she ever looked in life. In all the years Chou raised her, from her youngest years, Susie had never looked sad. She had never looked happy. She sometimes looked derisive, or dismissive, or arrogant, or withdrawn. Mostly, however, she just looked defiant. He found himself compelled to open her eyes, and as he did, he saw something in that defiance. It had nothing to do with anger. For the first time in a little over sixteen years, Chou saw the defiance now for what it was. It was determination.
“I wish I could tell you they will pay for this Susie,” he said, “but I think they already have. They just do it know it yet.”
Chou closed his daughter’s eyes, as he looked up at the morgue staff member who kept a respectful distance.
“It is her,” he said. “How did she die?”
“I haven’t completed the examination yet,” the Medical Examiner said uneasily. “If you wish, I will contact you directly as soon as the final results are confirmed.”
“I see,” said Chou. He walked out of the city morgue, and returned to his car. Only after he started up the engine, he realized he forgot to sign the identification papers, and the man in the morgue never asked him. He should return and do it now, he realized. Then, he started crying, loudly and uncontrollably.
The car continued to run, until there was a knock at his window. At first, he thought he had not heard it, but then came a second knock. He did not even realized that he turned off the car’s ignition, but he did so as he looked absently toward his window, to see the face of the man bent over looking into his car directly at him.
He rolled down his window, whereupon the man identified himself as Lieutenant Berry of the Baltimore Police Department.
“I know, I forgot to sign the papers,” Chou said. “I will do it in a moment. I would like to be alone now, if you please.”
“That’s-not exactly the reason I wanted to speak with you,” Berry replied. “I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am. I met your daughter briefly-we go to the same church.”
“Are you assigned to the case?” Chou asked, struggling with difficulty to pull himself together.
“No, I doubt I will be,” the detective replied. “I generally work organized crimes and gangs, that kind of thing. I just heard what happened, and thought I should be here.”
“That is very kind of you,” Chou replied. “How well did you know my daughter?”
“Not that well,” Berry told him. “I overheard her one time talking to someone about how she wanted to try to get some work as a dancer on a video. She mentioned something about that rap artist Toby Da Pimp. I probably stepped somewhat over the line, but I tried to warn her away from that. I know all about the kinds of people Dwayne Lecher associates with, so I thought it was incumbent on me to try to steer her away from that idea. She didn’t seem to be too impressed. She said she already had an appointment to try out for an audition. I wondered whether I should try to involve myself further, and now it really bothers me that I didn’t pursue it more. I only hope”-
“Detective Berry, I appreciate your concern, but you are on the wrong track. I know who murdered my daughter. It was a woman named Marnie Moloku. It was an extortion attempt, targeted towards me. I was to relinquish the rights to certain medical formulas I had discovered, and when I refused, they kidnapped my daughter, and then they killed her. I not only know Marnie Moloku was involved, but I suspect a man by the name of Phillip Khoska might also be involved. I cannot prove that much yet, but the woman I have proof of.”
He looked now at Detective Berry, who seemed at a loss for words.
“Does anybody else know about this?” he asked.
“My private investigators know about it, yes,” Chou replied. “Soon, everybody in the damn world is going to know about it.”
“Mr. Chou, did you report this to the police, this extortion attempt?” Berry asked him. “I hate to say this, but you could be criminally liable if you did not, especially as it involved an underage minor.”
Suddenly, Berry seemed agitated, and barely able to disguise it.
“Let them do what they will,” Chou replied. “They will certainly hear tomorrow when I go downtown to file a complaint-I promise you that. If they want to prosecute the grieving father of a murdered child victimized by corporate thugs, I am sure that would make an interesting headline in the news, possibly for quite a few news cycles.
“If you will excuse me now, Lieutenant, I really should go sign that paperwork, and then return home. My wife will be expecting me.”
Chou had now removed himself from his car and started walking back toward the morgue entrance, when he suddenly stopped, and turned around. Tears were still flowing from his eyes, and yet, he seemed remarkably calm.
“I used to warn Susie about hanging around the wrong people,” he said. “I used to warn her about the Seventeenth Pulse, the kind of people that hung around that rap artist. She used to say she was not worried about them. She never worried about anything.
“When the hospital was bombed, I warned her about being in the wrong place. She did not care. When those high school basketball players were poisoned, I tried to discuss that with her. She did not care about that either. She used to say she would not let anybody scare her and prevent her from living her life. Isn’t that ironic?
“You say I should have informed the police-yet, this city has been crawling with police, with FBI and ATF agents, with officials from the Department of Homeland Security, ever since the hospital was bombed by whoever was responsible for it. After all these months of investigations, no one yet seems to know for sure who is responsible. Some shadowy terrorist network, they say. Well, they have to say something, do they not?”
Berry looked at Chou, at a loss for words, and then looked down at the ground. Chou looked at him, seemingly lost in his thoughts.
“Do you really think they could have found her, Detective?” he finally asked.
“I’m very sorry,” Berry replied, obviously affected by Chou’s barely contained anguish. Chou seemed not to have heard this.
“Did you know that after the hospital was bombed, nine psychiatric patients were released?” he continued. “Someone seems to have forced Doctor Tariq to sign their discharge papers and enter it into his computer, before he was killed by the blast. He supposedly determined them cured, even though they were all involuntarily committed on the grounds of criminal insanity. Prior to their release, they dragged a psychiatric ward administrator, a woman, back to their rooms during the course of all the confusion that night. They brutally raped her, repeatedly. They were just out of harms way of the blast while all this occurred. The woman was in a coma weeks before she revived.
“Yet, due to a bureaucratic snafu, Doctor Tariq’s supposed recommendation was adhered to, and they were released-despite the fact that four of them really did not want to be released. One of them actually begged to stay. He was afraid of what he might do without his medication. H was afraid he might rape and murder another woman. He knew the voices in his head would keep at him until he did it.
“They let them go, all of them. Actually, they made them go. They transported them downtown and set them loose on the street. Did you know that to this day, no one knows to where they went? There is no sign of them, anywhere.”
Berry coughed, cleared his throat, as Chou now just seemed to stare outward.
“There have been a series of murders committed over the last three months. Women have had their throats ripped open and every drop of blood drained from their bodies. Obviously, the same perpetrator is involved-a man identified at the scene of the first of the murders as a man with boils and running sores all over his face, a man with dark, matted hair. Three different people saw the same perpetrator that night, in that general area.
“I see his face on wanted posters, in the post office and in other places around town, to this day. No one, despite his hideous affliction, has yet to find him or discover who he is.”
There was a glaze now over Chou’s eyes, as he turned around and returned to the morgue. By the time he exited, Lieutenant James Berry was gone. Chou started up his car and returned home. The front porch light was on, as was the front room. Otherwise, the house appeared to be dark.
When he entered, he saw no one but Jack, who looked understandably morose.
“Was it Susie?” he asked. Chou affirmed that it was. Jack began to cry, whereupon Chou uneasily walked to him and, taking him by the shoulder, held him to him. They sat, and Chou poured himself a scotch and offered one to his son, but Jack declined.
“There is something I think I should tell you later, though,” he said. “Not right now, but in a few days. Well, maybe in a few weeks.”
“You are gay, you mean? Jack, why in the hell would you keep something like this secret for so long? How could you keep it secret? Why would you think”-
“Did mom tell you about that?” Jack said, not nearly as surprised as Chou assumed he would be, while his father merely looked at him in some confusion.
“Your mother knew about this as well? What-am I the only person that didn’t know until today?”
“She not only knows,” Jack said in obvious anxiety, “she insists I am married to some man I have never in my life heard of. She insists that I bring him home for Christmas”
“She has been acting very strange,” Jack continued. “That is why Chrissy is gone. She got upset because of things mom said about her. I should have told you before, but I was not quite sure how to explain it. She is just acting outright bizarrely. She is down in the basement den now, waiting for you.”
Chou knew he had to confront his wife at some point, and the quicker he did so the less painful it would be. At the same time, this latest news proved quite unnerving.
“Jack, would you stay here tonight?” he asked.
“Sure,” his son replied, as Chou made his way uneasily towards the basement steps. He stopped when he got to the doorway.
“Jack, if you don’t’ like the job you have now, please-feel free to quit. These meaningless jobs you take-well, we’ll talk about it later. Stay here as long as you wish. We’ll work something out.”
For a brief instant, Jack lost his composure, unsure of how to answer.
“The job’s not too bad,” he said. “There’s advancement potential, and it’s one I do enjoy doing, for once. Thanks though, pop, I appreciate that.”
Chou made his way down the basement steps, toward the dim light that revealed little, and felt in a real sense that he was walking toward his doom. What possessed him to give his wife that injection, he wondered? What in the name of God was he thinking? He knew she was low on blood, and it made her an insomniac, though constantly tired and depressed, and more irritable than usual. There was no valid reason for the blood to have any ill effect on her. It’s replicating faculties should, he reasoned, give her a boost until they wore off, at which time he could monitor her progress. There was no trace of any other diseases such as afflicted Marlowe Krovell upon his first admittance to Johns Hopkins, and yet which over time lessened in the presence of the blood samples, until they finally disappeared all together.
He told himself that he had not acted unethically, or coldly, considering some might consider such an action an ill-advised experiment to perform on one’s own wife. He tried not to worry. Surely, such a small amount of blood from a sample that by all indications was compatible with Mia’s own could have no lasting ill effects, certainly no more than to a minor and temporary extent.
“Mia, are you down here?” he asked. “We need to have a talk.”
“Yes, I am down here,” she said as he made his way down to the first landing, at which point he flipped on a light switch.
“Mia, what are you doing here in the dark?” he asked.
“I just felt like being in the dark,” she replied, not, he noted, with any trace of distress or sadness. Yet, as he turned on the light, he saw no sign of her, as he continued down the steps until he reached the bottom, and then stepped onto the basement floor.
“I am back here,” she said, at which point he turned. He saw her, sitting on the floor, her feet folded under her ass with her arms in front of her legs under her knees, holding them as she swayed, her bottom suspended from the basement floor. She was naked.
“Mia, what are you doing?” he said uneasily as he tried to hide his shock. “Jack told me”-
“Is he still here?” she asked as she rose quickly-lithely. She had a strange look in her eyes. It was a look of wonder, a look of curiosity-a look of hunger. Chou noticed that off to the side of her were her clothes, all folded neatly with one item on top of the other, with her shoes at the very top.
“Mia, why are you undressed?” he asked warily.
“Do I look old to you?” she asked, as though not hearing his question.
“Mia, you must listen to me,” he said. “I guess it best I just come right out and tell you-Susie is dead. I saw her at the morgue. I made the identification.”
She just looked at him quizzically for some time, while he stood and waited, unsure of what further to say.
“I know all that, David,” she finally said. “You are never going to get over that are you?”
“What-are you talking about?” he asked. She started walking slowly towards him.
“David, that’s been years ago,” she said. “We still have Jack. We still have Chrissy. Like I told you, we might have had another child in time, and we still could. Of course, at our ages we would have to adopt. That would hardly be fair to the child though, to be raised by such old parents who might not live to see their graduation.”
“Mia what in the hell are you talking about?” he demanded, starting to lose his patience, but at this point more afraid than angry or frustrated.
“And we have the grandchildren?” she continued as she got closer to him.
“Grandchildren?” Chou repeated.
“Of course, grandchildren-Chrissy’s kids, you know, the ones she wants to constantly drop off on us since she divorced her husband? Oh, that reminds me. You say Jack is still here. I wonder why he didn’t bring Bill. They are usually so inseparable.”
“Yes, I guess that is right,” Chou said, as he slowly began to back away from her. “I’m sure though Bill will come by eventually.”
“I remember the day of Chrissy’s wedding, when he brought Bill with him as his guest. The look on your face was priceless when you met him for the first time. Who would have thought their marriage would have lasted longer than Chrissy’s to that rich Finnish boy? Ha-I barely remember his name now, do you?”
Chou was by now terrified, and tried to assume a relaxed pose, and faked a laugh that did not sound quite as hearty as he would have liked.
“Snorri Sturleson, or something like that, wasn’t it? Hell, I don’t even remember when Jack and Bill got-married you say? Hell, where did they get married?”
“Here in Maryland,” she replied. “You were there, remember?”
Jack knew now that she was insane. That did it, he thought. Why did she keep coming up to him, closer and closer? What was it about her eyes that seemed so distant, as though she were looking into a distant memory? She looked so determined and yet aware.
Green, he realized. There was a trace of green shining from her eyes.
“Fuck me, David,” she suddenly demanded. “It’s been years since we have had sex. You are going to fuck me.”
Chou was aghast, and now gave up his futile attempt at pretense of normality. He was terrified and could no longer hide it even if he wanted to.
“No, Mia,” he said, attempting an appeal to reason. “This is not the time. I know you are upset over”-
“I don’t want to hear it, David,” she insisted as she suddenly grabbed him by his shirt collar, while he tensed in horror, paralyzed to the point of immobility, the only part of him capable of movement now his heartbeat and breathing, both bodily functions that now raged out of his control.
Suddenly she ripped his shirt, and then went for his trousers.
“Mia, please stop this!” he begged.
Mia however gave him a push that sent him sprawled out on his back to the floor below. Before he could move, she pounced on him.
“If you can’t fuck me,” she insisted, “then you are going to eat my fucking pussy, god damn you.”
David Chou now went limp and voided his bladder and his bowels, as he gave himself over to a terror the likes of which he had never before imagined-and then he cried, loudly and uncontrollably. The looks in the eyes of his wife was now suddenly savagely insane, and hideously determined.
“Please, Mia, stop this-leave me alone,” he begged between sobs-but it was too late. Mia Chou had her legs spread and her wet, throbbing vagina pressed down firmly, tightly, harshly, over the mouth of her husband.
“EAT MY PUSSY MOTHERFUCKER!” she shouted as she started to grind it fiercely onto the mouth of David Chou, who cried pitifully, yet otherwise was helpless to resist.
“EAT MY FUCKING PUSSY! EAT MY FUCKING PUSSY! EAT MY FUCKING PUSSY! EAT MY FUCKING PUSSY!”