MacAskill, D.O. is a physician who works and writes in Grosse Pointe Woods,
Michigan. This is his first published story.
Image Copyright 1997 by Karen Bidinger.
is designed and edited by Lucy A. Snyder. If you spot any errors, or if you have any comments,
please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All materials copyright 1996-1998 by their respective
creators. No stories, articles, poems or images from this webzine may be
posted or published without the written consent of their creator(s).
Dr. Romulo Chavarez waited nervously inside the deteriorated clinic. He
could barely see his surroundings, keeping the lights low until absolutely
necessary. They had taken down the clinic signs in the front of the building
when he had gone bankrupt. He could barely read the signs in the dimly lit
surgical suite as they laid on their sides in the corner now, "Chavarez Family
He laughed as he looked at his Rolex; he didn't need to advertise any more.
Through the hall, he could see the old entrance to the clinic. The front doors
were boarded shut and bolted from the inside. He could see some of the waiting
room chairs covered with white sheets to protect them from dust. Nobody waited
there any more. The takeover of the federal HMOs had left him without much of
practice. After the big healthcare reform at the beginning of the century, his
reimbursements had hit an all-time low.
The clinic had gradually gone downhill over the years. He had to lay off the
office help that final year. He tried doing the books himself, but things just
got worse. Letting his faithful nurse of twelve years go was the hardest
consequence of the clinic's demise. He angrily scoffed at the American Dream he
once held as his own. Most of the independent physicians took a beating. If you
didn't have an American degree, your chances of staying in business were slim.
From the appearance of the building now, one would never guess he was making
more money than ever before.
He looked out the back window of the clinic anticipating the electric hum of
the vehicle bringing him his next 'patient.' Hopefully Alfonse had cut the arms
off high enough this time. If he hacked the wrists carelessly close, the
electrodes were usually ruined, which made extraction of the biomedical chips
Chavarez had gotten better at his black trade, but was still not as deft as
an orthopedic surgeon would have been. There were no texts or disk programs to
detail the delicate surgical extraction. He was on his own.
Dr. Chavarez looked at his antique Rolex again; he hated to stay long at the
clinic. Not that it really mattered. He had nobody to go home to any more.
When the clinic finally failed, his wife took their son back to Brazil to live
with his in-laws. Now he had more money than ever, but Anastasia wanted nothing
to do with him. He had become an alcoholic, and in the end, that was why she
left him. He hated the U.S. government and didn't care that he was committing
felonies. He didn't kill anyone; he just performed procedures on dead tissue.
He heard the hum of the electro-car filling the silence of the back alley now
and he prepared his surgical field for the night's task. Better now, he thought,
than in the middle of the night. Often, the grim extraction was requested on a
STAT basis. The Wylie brothers needed his services quite often lately and he
never asked any questions. He made ten thousand dollars for every intact,
bacteria-free biomed chip he could deliver. Soon he would have enough money to
get out of the country. He would find Anastasia and his little boy and make them
a family once again.
Most of the time Alfonse hated doing this, but right before he attacked his
'chip' victim, he felt a rush to which he was quickly becoming addicted. He
couldn't name the emotion. It was part rage, bloodlust, fervor and greed. It
overtook his conscious mind, driving him to do the deed. He didn't care; he
needed and wanted the money. He wanted to get himself and his mama out of the
Zone. He took a deep breath, feeling the adrenaline surge rising in his
bloodstream. He raised his carbon edged hatchet above the man's arm, and then
quickly, cleanly this time, he amputated the forearm.
A good clean cut he thought, Dr. Chavarez couldn't bitch about this one.
Last time he was scolded because he had chopped the wrist too close to the hand.
He was told to bring a right wrist over to the old clinic on Pearl street. It
was easier to hack through the wrist joint. The wrist bones were much easier to
cut through than the heavier forearm bones. How was he supposed to know? Now he
knew they really wanted the area above the wrist, so he invested in a heavier
carbon blade and learned how to hack right through the forearm with one good,
He knocked the druggy out with one blow to the back of the head. Then he
felt a strong pulse in the victim's neck, just like the Doc showed him, so he
knew he had a few minutes to get his solutions ready. He had to amputate the arm
while the addict was still alive to keep the circulation going.
Now that it was over, he began to feel sorry for his victim. Out of pity, he
brained him with the back of the hatchet. The pulsing from the stump slowed and
stopped now. The addict was no longer in pain.
There was very little bleeding from the amputated forearm now and Alfonse
dunked the chopped end in the bacteriocidal solution as he had been instructed.
Then he stuffed the gruesome limb into the bacteria-free tissue bag provided by
Dr. Chavarez. He covered the rest of the body, including the severed arm stump,
with garbage. Perhaps everyone would think the addict was just passed out and
leave him alone, increasing the time from the crime to discovery.
Alfonse needed to get back to the Zone and check on his mother. She had
witnessed several unrelated murders, and now her own life was in jeopardy.
Murder was still a way of life in the Zone, but mostly, it was a way of death.
Alfonse narrowly escaped death at the hands of his own schizophrenic father
several times as a child. Then, when Alfonse was thirteen, his old man was shot
to death right in front of him. Since then, it was just his mother and him, and
he was getting them both out, no matter what. And Alfonse knew only one way to
get out. Money. Unfortunately, getting it fast involved more death.
Mercifully, he thought to himself, he took the wrists and lives of only the
homeless and the lost.
He had done three wrist jobs in three hours and was finished for the night.
He punched in the code and the car's trunk popped open. He unlatched the metal
box's lid, and as condensation vapor filled the trunk, he slung the third
bacteriostatic bag into the sub-zero liquid. The bag and its contents crackled
as it quickly froze. Alfonse closed the lid and latched it tightly. He got into
the driver's seat and programmed the navigation system with Dr. Chavarez's
address and initiated the start sequence. He put a THC patch on the back of his
neck, slid into the passenger side and relaxed as the auto pilot drove him away.
He felt the drug seep into his bloodstream and sighed; stoned again, just the way
he liked it.
As the car automatically slowed and announced its location, Alfonse could see
the nervous doctor frantically waving his hands from the back door of the clinic.
The older generation just couldn't get used to programmed cars. He was waving
as if the car didn't know where to stop. Alfonse waved back as if to say, "Oh,
OK, I'll stop." He laughed to himself and then got out of the passenger side to
show the Doctor he had it on auto pilot anyway. The heavy-bellied doctor rushed
out and whispered angrily at Alfonse.
"Why don't you drive yourself, you lazy son of bitch, now there's a computer
memory of this destination." Dr. Chavarez looked up and down the alley and saw
no one. Alfonse popped the trunk and shook his head. He liked to rile up Dr.
Chavarez, it made his Brazilian accent come out stronger. The cold box had thin
wisps of nitrogen condensation oozing from the lid.
"Relax Doc, the car is stolen. When I drop it off in the Zone, the
electronics won't last overnight. My homeboys will gut this electro hummer
quicker than crap." He put a protective glove on to grab the three red bags out
of the box. The neo-plastic bags crackled and popped as they condensed, swinging
through the warm night air. "Watch it Doc, freeze yo' ass." Alfonse shuffled up
the stairs as Dr. Chavarez held the door. After Alfonse disappeared inside, the
Doctor took one more nervous glance around the alley, then clanged shut the metal
Once inside, Dr. Chavarez handed Alfonse a sealed envelope. The sooner he
had his money, the sooner the gangster would be on his way. At least that's what
the physician hoped. But Alfonse's curiosity was aroused, once again, after he
glanced at the operating suite. He had never seen what Chavarez did with these
arms and he planned on watching now.
"Thanks Doc, you didn't peek inside did you?" Alfonse ripped the end of the
brown silicate envelope and blew it wide open, as he looked with contempt at the
Doctor. He silently read the translucent stamp on the quartz check and smiled,
'twelve hundred dollars and no cents.' "I'll bet you make even more'n me
"Never mind you. Go wash your filthy hands and then go!" Alfonse held
his hands up, "Okay, Okay, Doc. Take it easy." He went into the bathroom and
washed his hands.
Meanwhile, Chavarez began coding his own quartz check into his wrist.
Something he should have done before Alfonse arrived, but he had been too busy
preparing the surgical suite. He stepped around the corner and voice activated
his chip with his pin number, "Four-eight-six-RC-two-nine." His chip beeped
twice and he clearly stated the account code name, 'Anastasia.' A second set of
beeps sounded and the doctor slid the check over his wrist. A final beep
confirmed the transaction and Chavarez sighed with relief. At least Alfonse
couldn't steal his money, the quartz check was worthless now.
Alfonse heard the Doctor's code from around the corner and memorized it,
making a song out of it. He pretended to just be walking out of the bathroom and
yelled out, "Hey Doc, let me watch and see how you make yo money now, huh?" He
walked back out to face the physician.
Chavarez's whole face was as red as his alcoholic nose. "Please go. I just
want you to leave, quickly. Please, you have your money." The Doctor wished he
had downed another shot of tequila, it would have given him more courage to
confront the insolent young punk.
"C'mon Doc, I just want to see you do your thing, you know. I'm thinking of
becoming a brain surgeon some day," he laughed.
The doctor glared at Alfonse and snarled, "I don't want to have to tell our
mutual friend that you are becoming a problem now, do you understand?" He was
holding back years of anger. Alfonse had badgered him every time he made a
delivery, and he'd just about had enough.
"OK, cool out Doc, I'm outta here."
Three men sauntered into the room, filling it with arrogance. The leader,
Billy Bob Wylie, had slicked back blonde hair and was perfectly manicured from
his head to his nails. He wore the latest in trilobite jewelry, including the
aluminum eyebrow rings. The youngest brother, T.J., was just as immaculately
dressed, but not quite so ordained in jewelry; his muscles were his showpiece.
He remained standing. The middle brother, Toby, smiled charmingly at his new
business partners. He was in charge of public relations. His grin represented
something between confidence and blissful ignorance. Their family had controlled
the wildcat oil industry for decades in Texas, but now they were hustling chips
instead of oil barrels.
Alfonse leaned back in the comfortable chair, obviously enjoying these plush
surroundings. As instructed, he had anonymously booked the hotel suite for this
meeting. He looked over the three brothers, trying not to be intimidated by
their fierce, cocky attitude. He had two of his homeboys with him from the Zone,
and they could probably hold their own in a physical fight. Trouble was, the
Wylie's carried the latest in laser weaponry. He could see the characteristic
bulge jutting out from their silk gortex suits. Their old fashioned automatics
were no match.
Alfonse introduced them to his crew. "Tome, Marky, these are the Wylies.
Billy Bob, Toby and T.J." Each nodded in succession, not changing their game
faces. "They all yo' bosses now."
"Okay," T.J. started, "mainly I want to make sure you new guys know how to
keep the chips from congealing. You have to make sure you get them in the
nitrogen box within ten to fifteen seconds after the arm loses circulation.
Which means if you stop their hearts ...."
"You mean if we wack 'em out first," Marky chuckled, looking for support.
His laugh stopped abruptly when Alfonse and Tome's faces remained serious.
T.J. continued, not amused, "If circulation is halted, the chips automatic
congealing mechanism starts and the chips become worthless. That's why everyone
quit trying to steal chips when they first came out. Government was pretty
Billy Bob chimed in, "Yeah, but not smarter than the Wylie brothers, eh,
Toby?" Toby just looked at him, waiting for T.J. to finish the meeting.
"Well, with the help of Dr. Chavarez, we can keep the chips alive, by
freezing them in the liquid nitrogen, until we get 'em extracted from the wrists.
Once they're correctly removed, the congealing system is de-activated. Then we
can decode the information we want or sell them to the chip maker's competition.
Most of the chips you procure for us don't have a lot of money in their accounts.
But an intact, encodable chip is worth a lot of money on the open market."
Only the Wylie brothers' connections made it lucrative to steal chips. The
government contracts for chip makers were limited to only three companies. All
were rich beyond reach. If a company could tool up to make the chips, they could
compete for future chip manufacturing. The brothers had connections with several
of these hopeful companies. It was industrial espionage at its best. The
government was very protective of its chip business. Alfonse finally understood
why chip stealing was never profitable, until now.
Everyone knew the history of the biochips. Since 2006, every U.S. born child
had a five millimeter, multi-function, octavium derivative biochip inserted
surgically, into their right volar wrists. The chip served as the new social
security identification for life. The government had assigned numerical codes to
activate the chips and each person had certain functions protected by PIN
numbers. It had changed the way Americans lived. The chip recorded peoples'
taxes, their bank accounts, their personal bills, their medical and dental
records and even police records. Nobody carried wallets anymore. Personal chip
codes and simple transfer devices made payment for any service easy. By the year
2020, everyone in the United States was required to have a chip in their wrist.
The United States government had required and paid for the surgery.
"The next shipment of chips will be expected in five days," Toby stated
dryly, as T.J. passed out beeper bands to Marky and Tome. Alfonse already had
T.J. said, "We'll beep you to our private number when we need an order. Each
new order better take less than 48 hours to, uh ... process. Billy Bob will be
in charge of pick up from the Doc."
Billy Bob didn't even look up. He just fiddled with the tooth pick in his
mouth, sucking his teeth dramatically and then said, "You better memorize our
number and when it comes up, you call us right back. Or your own number will be
Alfonse knew the last wrist couriers had been killed and he was glad Billy
Bob was trying to scare his homeboys into compliance. They were pros and maybe
Marky and Tome would realize that.
T.J. turned back to his hosts and grinned, "Gentleman, we look forward to a
mutually beneficial relationship. Thank you for your time." Then he looked at
Alfonse and said, "Chop-Chop, can we have a word with you? Private like?"
"Sure. He motioned his homeboys toward the door, "I'll meet you guys at the
car." Marky and Tome filed out. Alfonse suddenly felt hot and sweaty.
Something was up. He swallowed hard and took a deep breath.
Billy Bob pointed his tooth pick at Alfonse. "Sit down, boy."
He pulled a chair around and sat backward on it facing Alfonse. "The good doctor
is not happy with your behavior. He says you bother him and he don't like it.
If he don't like it, we don't like it." He looked at his brothers who shook
their heads in agreement.
T.J. sat uncomfortably close to Alfonse on the couch now. "The Doctor is the
key to this operation. You my friend, are ..." He shrugged his shoulder and
looked around the room as if trying to find the right word, "... expendable."
"I just tease the dude, that's all. Really."
"Well, stop it or we'll tease you ..." T.J. was interrupted by Billy Bob.
" ... to death." He snapped his soggy toothpick at Alfonse's face and the
younger man flinched.
"Dr. Chavarez was hard to find," Toby chimed in, "and we don't want to scare
him off. We want him to keep taking those chips out for us. If anything
Again, Billy Bob dramatically interrupted, "Anything at all,"
"... happens to him. We will hold you ..."
Again, Billy Bob: "And your sweet mother,"
"... personally responsible."
"Yes sir." Alfonse knew when to be respectful.
The three brothers all nodded their heads and left the room in mock military
Dr. Chavarez took his magnet tool and under the Japanese microscopic finders,
feathered out the final delicate electrode fibers wrapped around the median nerve
in the carpal tunnel. The chip came out smoothly but he was tired and getting
shaky. He looked at the counter and saw his bottle of Tequila, now more than
half empty, beckoning him to hurry and finish. But he mustn't hurry, these chips
were worth $10,000 each if they remained electronically and anatomically intact.
The surgical field was kept at liquid nitrogen temperature until Chavarez could
de-activate the congealing circuit. Once that was done, he set the chip under
the ultraviolet lamp, protecting it from contamination by both bacteria and
viruses. A contaminated chip was also worthless. He closed his magnet down and
slid it into its sheath. As he pulled the blue sterile towels away from the
gruesome stump, he wondered who the arm had belonged to. He hoped it was from
someone without a family.
Suddenly, he heard a hum coming from the alley and quickly shut down the
surgical lights. He listened again. Definitely. The hum of an electro-car
vibrated the empty alley. He walked quietly through the hallway, then quickly
ducked as a bright light panned through the back window of the clinic. The
surgical suite, in the middle of the building had no windows, but he cursed
himself for leaving the ultraviolet light on and the door open to the hallway.
The glow from the surgery suite was incandescent, maybe dim enough not to be
noticed from outside. He kept down out of the spotlight as it swung past and
Out in the alley, a lanky red-headed detective named McCorkel called the
precinct back on her microwave line, after turning off her spot light.
"Nothing here, just the old Chavarez clinic. I'm giving up for tonight. I'm
10-42ed at," she looked at her wrist watch, "18:30." She punched in the
coordinates for her apartment on Lemmon avenue. Another empty night of chasing
down stolen car computers. She had surprised a gang of looters tonight just
before they wrenched out the last of an abandoned electro-car's on-board
navigation system. She had managed to salvage the system's mangled processor and
bring up the last programmed location of the car after it was reported stolen.
The address was probably a mistake.
She glanced one last time at the deserted building. The Chavarez clinic had
been closed down for a year. She knew because Dr. Chavarez had treated her
daughter for asthma until he went bankrupt. McCorkel remembered him fondly. He
was a good doctor, often staying late to give her daughter breathing treatments
well after the clinic had closed. It was quiet now. The doors were boarded up
in front and the windows remained dark. She had found nothing. She felt
worthless as she headed home. She tried to think about the only good thing in
her life right now. Her daughter. She would be spending Thanksgiving with her.
She was due to arrive at eight thirty, so she had just enough time to spruce up
the apartment a little more.
On the drive home, she wondered what ever happened to Dr. Chavarez. She
hadn't heard anything about him for months. Brittany had found a new doctor in
Oklahoma where she lived with her father now. She closed her eyes as the
electro-car hummed along, bringing her safely home. She glanced up at the
building across from her own and remembered seeing Dr. Chavarez dropping himself
off in front, leaving his car to park itself. The doctor used to own the
penthouse in that building, but McCorkel hadn't seen him around in quite
When Detective McCorkel stepped into her apartment, her green-eyed daughter
was already there. Brittany's wavy blond hair bounced as she ran down the hall
to greet her. She ran over to her and exclaimed, "Hi, Mom," and jumped into her
"Hi punkin, Dad drop you off early?" She hugged her and noticed she had
gotten even bigger since their last visit. Brittany was ten now and McCorkel
hadn't seen her child in over three months. Ricky, her ex, had managed to keep
Brittany away from her with pathetic excuses until now.
"He said he was sorry, but he and that new girlfriend wanted to catch an
earlier flight." She wrinkled her little button nose trying to remember
something. "Oh, and I was supposed to say it was detergent business or something
like that." She giggled.
"You mean real urgent business." McCorkel put her down and Brittany nodded,
giggling some more. Her effusive personality cancelled out the irritation she
felt toward her unreliable ex-husband. She should have gotten full custody of
Brittany, but the courts ruled that a female detective, who prowled the Zone
perimeters in Dallas, was not a safe occupation for a parent. Ricky was a real
estate broker and convinced the court that he was the proper custodian. McCorkle
was happy for any extra time she could get these days.
Dr. Chavarez had stayed low until he heard the car drive off. Why would
someone be shining lights into his office? He had been extremely careful about
keeping the appearance of abandonment preserved. He kept his surgical
instruments with him, but took all the trash to the nearest hospital for
disposal. The local community hospital had an incinerator outside which was
usually left open. He had been throwing the severed stumps in there. It seemed
like a neat solution for disposing of the fleshy evidence. He wore his white
coat and nobody ever questioned his presence behind the small hospital. It was
perfect, he thought, as he carried the trash bag and his surgical bag out the
back door of his clinic.
Detective McCorkel took the next day off to spend with her daughter. She
took her to the Dallas Zoo and then through the Dallas Arboretum. Brittany
started wheezing late that afternoon, and by the time they got back, she appeared
to be getting worse. The detective remembered the awful time they had had with
Brittany as a toddler. She had been admitted to the hospital several times with
severe asthmatic conditions. No doubt the zoo and the pollen-filled Arboretum
triggered this attack.
Brittany pulled out an inhaler, shook it and squeezed it as she held it to
her lips. Nothing. Her mother grabbed it and squeezed it herself. Definitely
nothing. It was empty. The label was worn and she could only make out the year
of the expiration date. It was over a year old. Damn Ricky, McCorkel
thought, picturing her careless 'ex' jetting off to the Caribbean while her
daughter was starting to turn blue.
Brittany was getting more and more short of breath. McCorkel looked at her
ribs under her shirt. She wasn't retracting yet, but she would be soon.
McCorkel knew she had to get her more medicine. She pulled her coat over her and
headed them both out into the darkening street. She looked at his daughter's
lips again. They were still faintly blue. McCorkel began to panic.
Alfonse's beeper went off and he instantly recognized the number of Billy Bob
Wylie. He turned his back to the party where all his homeboys were wasted on
'shrooms and beer. He grabbed the cellular phone, pressed his wrist against the
activator pad and the phone clicked on. His personal account instantly grew
smaller as the biochip in his own wrist allowed the phone company instant access
to his money. He voice dialed the number and an Italian answered after just one
"Yeah," the flat voice answered.
"Chop-chop here." Alfonse thought his code name was funny, but the voice on
the other end was not amused.
Billy Bob Wylie cleared his voice sharply and said, "Six more by tomorrow
night. At least two tonight."
"Six? Jesus Christ, you're kidding me." The line remained silent. They
never kidded him. He knew that. Alfonse also knew he would need help on this
order. He looked at Marky and Tome. Neither of them could even walk right now,
let alone complete the task he needed. Wylie would have to settle for just two
tonight. Alfonse could do that all by himself. "OK, you'll get two tonight, but
I'll have to recruit some help for the other four tomorrow. How 'bout some
bonus for this big job, boys?"
The line was silent for a scary few seconds and then the voice replied, "OK,
the bonus, according to your contract, is that we won't kill you."
With a click, the phone line died.
Alfonse shook his head. Although he tried not to ever show it, he was
terrified of the Wylies. They had already threatened his mother. They knew how
to get to him.
He gathered himself and his 'tools.' At least it was Friday night. There
would be a lot of addicts getting toked and stoked on whatever they could score.
He shook his head at the wasted gangsters as he walked out of the party house.
He could whack one of them and they wouldn't even know it. He had to get out of
this place. Maybe after he delivered a few more chips. He was sick of life in
the Zone. He couldn't get drunk enough to tolerate this damn place, he
McCorkel carried her little girl across the street to Dr. Chavarez's old
building. Maybe the doorman knew where the Doctor had gone. If he lived close,
it would be easier than trying to get Brittany to a hospital. Besides, she would
have all sorts of hassles if Brittany's medical chip was only good for Oklahoma.
The cool air had seemed to help her anyway. They crossed the curb and approached
the doorman under the canvas entrance way.
"Please sir, can you help me? I'm trying to find Dr. Romulo Chavarez. Does
he still live in the building?" The detective was breathing hard, her daughter
was a lot heavier than the last time she had carried her. She put her down.
Brittany held onto her coat and hid from the burly doorman.
The doorman recognized the detective from some previous encounters and
smiled. "Yes ma'am, officer. How are you?"
"Fine, you remember me from the precinct, eh?"
"Of course, ma'am. You're the cop that traced down one of my tenants' stolen
car last July." He ushered them both inside the elegant doorway, out of the cold
air. He unbuttoned the top collar to his scarlet uniform and peeled off his
gloves. "Dr. Chavarez had to move out last year, I'm afraid. Does the little
girl need a doctor?"
"Yes, and she's from Oklahoma and I'm sure Ricky, my damn 'ex' didn't get her
medical clearance code for Texas."
"Okay, hold on." The doorman grabbed a computer pad on his podium and
frantically accessed his personal files. "It's OK, sweetie, I have Dr.
Chavarez's home number right here. His little boy was kidnapped back to Brazil
by his 'ex,' so he gave me his new number in case any of his family ever showed
up or called here again." He punched in several more numbers and patted Brittany
on the head awkwardly. She was sobbing now.
"He lives two blocks over and one down. You know, in the old Crescent hotel.
Shall I call a transport car for you? You can call him on the way."
McCorkel's accounts were almost empty and she knew her wrist wouldn't even
let her through the door of a transport car. "Umm, I think we'll just walk over
there. Brittany is doing OK, aren't you baby?"
"We can walk there."
"You be very careful ma'am, that's the edge of old Oak Cliff, you know."
"The Zone, I know."
The doorman smiled, "Right. I guess you would, eh? Dr. Chavarez was in Room
212 last time he checked in with me. You be careful over there now."
McCorkel forced a smile. "Yeah, we will. Thank you, uh, Mr. ...?"
"Hastner, Charles Hastner, at your service." He graciously bowed.
Brittany barely waved goodbye and the pair headed off around the corner
holding hands. McCorkel hated to be out after dark and she knew the Crescent was
not a safe place to be, but without medical access in Texas, even an emergency
room would have trouble getting Brittany taken care of without a long hassle.
The McCorkels finally reached the front entrance to the Crescent hotel.
Detective McCorkel remembered the hotel in its heyday, back when she was just a
kid. It had really gone downhill. They carefully made their way up to room
The black medical bag's contents were strewn about the dining room table as
Dr. Chavarez cleaned the last of his surgical instruments in the nanowave. Then
he hooked the phone modem to his wrist and verified, on monitor, the balance of
his bank account which included his last ten thousand dollar deposit. His
balance flashed up in shades of green: two hundred and sixty thousand dollars.
He shamefully grinned. When he got to three hundred, he would head for Brazil
and start a new practice.
He looked around the smelly room. Yes, he could afford a nicer place, but
this was saving him money, getting him closer to leaving for Brazil sooner. He
wanted his family back. He would get sober again and he would--
The doorbell screen interrupted his bank screen. Who was calling on him now?
Did the Wylie brothers need something else? Or was it that insolent punk?
He put the routine screening message on:
"Dr. Chavarez is unavailable at the present time. Please go to the nearest
hospital where your biochip records are assigned, if you desire medical care.
Otherwise, please leave a message."
The cheap remote camera showed a thin red-headed woman and a small child
outside his door. He didn't recognize them at first, but even with the bad
graphic quality of the crummy hotel cameras, he could see the girl was in
respiratory distress. He stopped the screening message and opened up a live mic
and video image and said, "Una momento." Outside, Detective McCorkel breathed a
sigh of relief as the Doctor's familiar face filled the screen.
"Doc, it's me, Mary McCorkel. Brittany needs some help and I can't get her
to the local E.R." She spoke quickly, anxiously, "She's supposed to be in
Oklahoma. Her asthma's getting really bad, and I don't know where else to take
her!" The Doctor's outside video screen in the hall went blank, but the
detective heard the door being unlocked.
As the door creaked open, McCorkel could smell the alcohol and stench of a
rundown hotel room. Why was Dr. Chavarez living in such a dump? She looked at
the Doctor as the door opened wide. She saw a fatter, much older physician than
she remembered, but the genuine look of concern that gripped his face filled
McCorkel's with relief. She saw the Doctor shove a bottle of Tequila out of
Dr. Chavarez led the little girl into the unused bedroom and grabbed a
stethoscope to listen to her lungs. She was wheezing hard now. She would need
epinephrine, but for now he scrambled through an old medication bag. He found an
unused beta-agonist inhaler and put it in an aero chamber for the girl to start
using. "Don't worry little one, we get you feeling better right away." He
looked at Detective McCorkel and tried to convince her as well, with a confident
smile, that the little girl would do fine.
Dr. Chavarez asked the detective to stay with her daughter in the extra
bedroom and that gave him time to both find the epinephrine and to clean up the
tools of his new trade before McCorkel got a good look around. He quickly
covered up the magnet scope. Nobody except chip installers should have that
tool. Surely McCorkel would know that he wasn't one of the government
installers, they were the highest paid orthopedic surgeons.
Feeling safer with the tools hidden, Chavarez racked his brain trying to
remember if he even had any epinephrine in the apartment. He knew he didn't have
any of the modern venous patches. The recent surge in use of 'patch' medicines
was still not embraced by some of the older doctors. He preferred giving
epinephrine and other drugs as real injections. The new patches eliminated the
side effects of injections and supposedly had even better bio-availability
properties than shots, but old habits died hard. He searched his refrigerator,
where he kept most of his injectables. He was a miser, never throwing away
anything, a habit from the old country. His apartment was full of equipment from
his old practice. He spotted a red-labeled, multi-dose vial of epinephrine and
headed back to the bedroom with his bag of sterilized injection set-ups.
Brittany was already doing a little better. The doctor checked her lungs
again and noticed some improvement, but she still needed to have the bronchospasm
completely broken. He checked her capillary refill by pressing down the thenar
eminence of her hand. It blanched, then took three seconds for the capillaries
to refill, bringing a red flush back to the hand; less than two seconds was
normal. Despite all the recent improvements in medicine, an old clinical test
like 'capillary refill' was still very reliable. He turned to McCorkel and said,
"Detective, please turn the shower on in the bathroom, hot as it can go, leave
that door open, and shut the bedroom door. We'll make our own mist tent for
As McCorkel did that, Dr. Chavarez sterilized the top of the epinephrine
bottle with an alcohol pad and withdrew a half 'cc' of liquid into the syringe.
He kept his back to Brittany to decrease her anxiety concerning the upcoming
injection. He turned around and found his patient already beginning to cry. She
had seen this routine before in his clinic. She knew what was coming.
"It's okay Brittany, you aren't a little girl anymore. The last time you got
a shot it really made you feel better remember?" Dr. Chavarez had a soothing way
with kids. McCorkel came back from the shutting the door and the room began to
fill with steam from the bathroom.
"C'mon honey, you don't want to have to go to the hospital right?" Her
mother's approach worsened the situation as Brittany started to bawl.
"I hate shots. I hate shots!"
"It will be all over by the time you count to five. Remember, it's just like
a tiny little bee sting and then it's gone." Dr. Chavarez motioned for McCorkel
to hold her daughter still. The detective knew the drill. She leaned over and
hugged her daughter and carefully secured her left arm at her side by her elbow.
Dr. Chavarez quickly wiped her deltoid with the alcohol pad and said, "OK, start
counting, it's almost over."
"One, two, ouch . . . three, four . . . it's all gone!" Brittany exclaimed.
McCorkel hugged her for real this time and Dr. Chavarez smiled at them both. He
felt better himself.
"You'll be OK now. Let's take one more inhaler treatment, what you say?" He
was at his most charming now and Brittany smiled and took the aero-chamber.
Epinephrine was still one of the best drugs in the world, Dr. Chavarez thought.
Brittany's bronchospasm began to relax and her wheezing declined. Her capillary
refill became brisk again and her respiratory rate relaxed to twelve per
McCorkel went on and on about how grateful she was to Dr. Chavarez. Brittany
was up playing now, swirling her arms in the mist from the shower. The two
adults faced each other.
"What do I owe you, Doctor? I'm pretty tapped out right now, but I can pay
you something next week when my paycheck is wired in." McCorkel looked around
the drab room; she felt bad for Chavarez. Since his son was kidnapped, he seemed
to have gone downhill himself. "Is there anything else I can do for you? I
could probably try and help find your son down there in Brazil."
Dr. Chavarez stared at the thin detective. "How did you know about that?"
"Charles Hastner told me. That's who I got your address from. I don't think
he would have given out your address, but he recognized me from the force."
"It's OK. You owe me nothing, perhaps a favor in the future." The tired
doctor gazed at the picture of his boy on the wall.
"You know, he wasn't really kidnapped, my wife has custody while I ...." he
hesitated and looked toward the hidden tequila bottle, "while I try to get
organized again." His face was full of regret and guilt.
McCorkel gathered up Brittany and their coats. The detective nodded her head
and said, "I'm sorry. If I can do anything, I'd like to help. You helped us so
many times over the years." They headed for the door.
Dr. Chavarez couldn't really look at them. He looked at his shoes instead
and covered his brow with his hand, "Thank you, I'll be fine. You get Brittany's
chip encoded for medical care in Texas tomorrow, OK?"
"Yes sir. I will. You're a Godsend, Dr. Chavarez."
The doctor just nodded.
As the door closed, Chavarez heard his T.V. screen pop on and heard the
irritating sound of Alfonse's voice. He walked over to the screen, but didn't
hit the receive button. Alfonse would just have to leave him a message. Dr.
Chavarez grabbed his Tequila bottle and poured out a large shot as he listened to
the message. He silently cried as he heard the cocky Zoner order him around.
"Okay, it's time to go to work, Doc. Getcho ass up! I got two more orders
for you tonight. Meet me at the clinic in two hours. Our mutual friends are
counting on you. Be there or be square, you Brazilian Butcher. Love ya,
Chop-chop signin' off." The screen went blank. Chavarez downed the last of the
tequila right from the bottle. He hated that punk. Just when he was starting to
feel good about himself again, after providing some real medical care, this had
come up again. He kicked at the monitor and buried his face in his hands.
Dr. Chavarez was out of tequila, and though he hated going to the bar in his
own building, he was already past the point of reasoning with himself. He needed
more alcohol; he wanted to escape from the horrible life he had made for himself.
He put off confirming the rendezvous with Alfonse tonight. He was supposed to
call the Wylies too, to tell them when they could come and pick up the new chips,
but he could only think of one thing: More tequila. He staggered to a booth in
the corner and ordered a whole bottle of Brazilian tequila.
"You'll need to make a deposit on that Doc, sorry." The waitress cracked her
gum and waited for his reply.
He stuck his right wrist out and she moved his Rolex out of the way so she
could beep the thirty dollars out of his wrist chip from his consumer account.
No PIN was needed for that account. "Be right back doll," she winked at the
Forty minutes and forty ounces later the waitress ushered him out the
back door. When Chavarez napped through his beeper going off, it was the last
annoyance the cocktailer would endure. He wasn't wanted in the establishment any
longer. He was too drunk.
He woke up a bit when the cold street air hit him. He looked at his beeper
finally and noted the Wylie's number. He felt terrible. He kept seeing, in his
blurred mind, the little girl he had saved from hospitalization tonight. That
was real medicine. That's was what it was all about. He tucked the tequila
bottle into his vest and stumbled out into the alley. He didn't want to go back
to his hotel room. He was supposed to be at the clinic in forty-five minutes.
He tried to look at his watch. He couldn't focus on it. He shook his head and
got very nauseated. He needed to sit down and he needed to vomit. He looked for
a suitable place.
He decided right then that he was through with the chip business. He already
had enough money to get out of the country anyway. He would tell Anastasia that
his practice had done well after she had left, that he was sober, that he --
He vomited on the side of a garbage collection unit, then slid down its side
and landed in a cardboard box. It felt good. He would just rest for a little
bit. Then he would call the Wylies to confirm that he received the message from
Alfonse, but he would go to his old clinic and tell that damn zoner he wasn't
taking any more chips out. He would tell them . . .
Dr. Chavarez passed out. His liver was failing. It could no longer process
the tequila fast enough. He hadn't eaten a good meal in two days and would be
unconscious for quite awhile. Even in his stupor he was not relieved of
nightmares. He saw his wife Anastastia scolding him for drinking again. He had
gruesome images of all the arms he had worked on. He imagined the inanimate arms
coming after him. Then, his nightmares blurred into an incomprehensible melange
of grotesque memories and depressing emotions. Finally he rested peacefully, the
tequila completely anesthetizing his consciousness. His beeper, buried somewhere
between his coat and the cardboard, repeated its brief, unanswered lament.
Billy Bob Wylie was anxiously waiting for Chavarez to call him back. He
stuffed one more cream puff into his mouth and slugged down some more synthetic
coffee. If the Doc didn't respond, they would have to cancel the chip orders for
the night. T.J.'s head popped out from the back room, behind the bakery
"Yo Billy Bob, did you hear from the Doc yet?" T.J. made sure they were the
only ones in the bakery.
"No." He shrugged. "I don't know where the hell he is. I had Alfonse call
him at home and I beeped him myself, a coupla' times. Nothin' yet."
In the back of the bakery, Billy Bob could hear Toby's voice.
"Cancel. We can't take the risk of 'Chop-chop' hacking people up tonight if we
can't get the Doc to show."
T.J. agreed and looked back at Billy Bob. "Cancel 'em Billy Bob. Beep that
stupid zoner and get him off the streets, eh?"
"Done." Billy Bob went back to the video phone and voice dialed Alfonse's
Alfonse finished wiping the carbon blade off and then closed the lid tight on
the nitrogen box. One down and one to go for tonight. He decided to go back
where he had seen the other bums laid out in the alley near Pearl Street. His
beeper went off again for the fourth time in the last half hour. Marky and Tome
were beeping him again, he thought. They had already beeped him three times,
probably mad that he had taken off without them. They wanted in on the money, no
doubt. Alfonse threw his beeper in the glove compartment without looking at it.
He didn't want to be bothered again until his jobs were finished for the
The electro-car hummed along the alley way as Alfonse searched for potential
victims. He would use the vehicle for a few hours and then, as usual, he would
dump it off in the zone and leave it for scavengers. Finally, he spotted a
person in a cardboard shelter, sprawled out as if in a coma in the alley, and
pulled over for a good look. He stepped out of the car and raised his tranq-gun
at the sleeping bum.
As he began squeezing the trigger, a door burst open to the alley and he saw
a store owner walk out with his trash. He would have to cancel on this one. He
jumped into the car and drove around the block looking for another victim.
Two alleys later, he found one so passed out he wouldn't even need to use the
tranqs. He tried to roll the man over, but he was fat, too heavy for Alfonse
alone. Alfonse's mean nature bubbled to a frenzy as the adrenalin rushed through
his veins. He could probably hack his arm off without even clubbing him first.
He savored the feeling the rage gave him. The high of the kill began to
overwhelm him now.
The drunken man wore a decent suit, but that didn't stop Alfonse. A drunk
was a drunk. Still, he didn't want to look the guy in the face, so he just
pulled up the drunk's right sleeve exposing it from the elbow down. The man did
not resist, so Alfonse raised the carbon blade over his head and looked around
one last time.
"Billy Bob, you still ain't heard from the Doc, yet?" T.J. grew more
impatient in the back room.
"Nothin' yet, bro."
"Well, why don't you put his beeper on continuous mode or whatever it is.
Maybe he just hasn't turned it on, when he does it'll be beeping."
"Alright, you got it." Billy Bob answered on his way back to the video
Alfonse tried to pull the suit sleeve off of the severed arm, but it caught
on something. He held onto the forearm and pulled again. A watch band was
caught on some of the sleeve's threads, but it finally came loose. The man
groaned a little and Alfonse threw some old newspapers over his head, almost
slipping in the pool of blood accumulating under the man's stump. He grabbed the
severed arm again as he got up, this time by its hand. He winced at its
suppleness and warmth. It made him sick. He got up, disgusted, and went over to
the trunk of the car. He was about to dunk the cut end with the bacteriostatic
solution, when he noticed the watch was a nice one. He tore it off before he put
the limb in the nitrogen box. He wiped the Rolex clean and slipped it on his own
wrist. A bonus, he thought. As he looked more closely at the watch, he heard a
beeper go off, and knew it wasn't his own.
He ran over to his victim's side and found the loud beeper. He decided to
smash it. He didn't want anyone else to hear it, but before he destroyed it, he
glanced at the caller's number. He immediately recognized the sequence of digits
and instantly the adrenaline of fear cranked up his heart. It was the Wylies'
With all his might, he turned the man over to confirm what he already
suspected. What had he done? Fear was replaced by pure panic. Alfonse's first
instinct was to run and run fast, but he looked up and down the alley, took
several deep breaths and tried to calm himself. He had to think things through
Then, with a sudden clarity of purpose, he went to the nitrogen box and
pulled out the frozen limb.
Mary McCorkel sat at her desk and watched the prison van pull away from the
station. She had finished most of her paper work and had only one other job to
do. She had to make funeral arrangements for Dr. Romulo Chavarez. After all,
she owed him a favor. It didn't have to be fancy, only she and Brittany would
Alfonse Green smiled to himself as the prison van took him down Interstate
45. He had been sentenced to two years at the Huntsville State prison for
aggravated assault and grand theft auto. His lawyers said he would be out on
parole in five months. He would join his mother in her new house then. His
lawyers were expensive, but he could afford them now. The FBI had enrolled him
and his mother in the witness protection program when he turned State's evidence
against the Wylies, key players in the Dallas underworld. They had also offered
him a monthly stipend, unaware of his new-found wealth.
He watched the barren Texas scrub brush scenery go by, the Dallas skyline
getting smaller in the background. He was definitely way out of the zone now.
He started whistling his favorite tune, as he felt the warm sunshine through the
van's window. He was glad he had memorized the tune and the words he had made
up. He stopped whistling and sang out loud now, "Four-eight-six-RC-two-nine,
Anastasia is so fine, four-eight-six-RC-two-nine ...."