by Tobacco Jones
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
8. Cops (Marco)
Several cops swarm the place, but there is one big donut-eater who gives Marco and the Doctor Professor his special attention. He is accompanied by a gum-chewing plainclothes female, who regards the dead Dundee without passion. She has kind of a large jaw, which she sticks out at the dead addict in contemplation.
“Had to taze his ass, huh?” says the big cop, winking at Marco. Marco is wondering who the hell called the cops, anyway. The Doctor Professor? The receptionist? Marco misses some of the exchange between the cop and the Doctor Professor.
“A cure for krokodil addiction, God bless you,” says the big cop. The woman is scribbling fast on a notepad.
“It is an experimental therapy,” says the Doctor Professor. “The trial is first-in-man.”
“Well, cure ‘em or kill ‘em, I don’t much care the difference,” says the cop, smiling.
“Is it going to work? The cure, I mean?” asks the woman.
“We believe so,” says the Doctor Professor, overtly flipping through Dundee’s X’ed consent forms. “This patient had appeared to be cured, but must have suffered a relapse. We shall adjust our monitoring and procedures.”
“You need some security here, a guard or something?” says the cop.
“We can handle it,” Marco says, relieved at the turn of events but still dreading the idea of a cop being around all the time. The Doctor Professor smiles at Marco, and nods.
The Doctor Professor does not mention Wong to the police, so Marco doesn’t either.
After the cops leave, Marco pitches his cousin Essay to the Doctor Professor, both for “patient recruitment” and for general security in the building. The Doctor Professor agrees, instantly accepting Marco’s opening bid for salary, plus a big bonus for each addict they recruit.
“Our work must continue,” says the Doctor Professor. “You will have whatever you need.”
Wong stays alive, sort of. After he soils himself the first time, Marco is given the duty of periodically walking him around the floor, taking him to the bathroom, cleaning up after him, etc. It is unpleasant, but the Doctor Professor has anticipated this and has already doubled Marco’s salary, and also promised to start teaching Marco how to do the lab stuff.
Marco is on his way up.
9. Essay (Marco)
“What up, Essay,” says Marco, slapping his cousin a complicated high-five. “You want a job?”
“Yo, do I look like I want a job?” says Essay, laughing. He is shirtless in the heat, showing off his tattoos, drinking an easy beer.
“Yo, it pays pretty well, cuz,” says Marco.
Essay can’t believe the money they are talking about, plus a grand for each krokodil addict they find. He has to take it.
“Where’s all the cash coming from?” he asks Marco later, on their way to the clinic.
“Government funding, I guess,” says Marco. “Clinical trial. Gonna cure drug addiction.”
Marco knows by now that something more is going on, even if the Doctor Professor’s “alien” talk makes no sense. He suspects the Doctor Professor may not be entirely in his right mind.
You’ve got to put up with a lot of things to get ahead in this world; Marco knows this. You’ve got to swallow a lot. This is no worse than anything else he’s been through.
Marco does feel something for Wong, though. Never thought he’d miss Wong slurping up his noodle soup through chopsticks, but now that they are feeding him with a tube, Marco feels guilty for having been annoyed. Wong spends most of his time in his converted exam room, except when Marco takes him out for walks.
Marco and Essay are out searching for their first addict, rolling in a brand-new white clinic van with nothing written on the sides. Marco doesn’t actually know where the money is coming from; it’s like the Doctor Professor has just turned on the spigot. But whatever. The money is there. Times are good.
They find a krokodil addict shambling past the lottery store, a rare walking case. He is aggressive, though, and has nothing to offer in exchange for the promised drugs. Even though Marco says the drugs are free, the addict doesn’t believe him and attacks Marco with his hands. Essay has to beat him down. They leave the addict shaking and sobbing in the gutter, new injuries blending with the old and with the rot.
“I get a grand for that one?” asks Essay.
“I think it’s only when we bring them in,” says Marco.
“Yeah, whatever,” says Essay. He squirts a bunch of sanitizer from a plastic bottle into his hands. He doesn’t look very happy.
10. Hasdrubal (Marco)
Marco and Essay get their first addict into the clinic, and he signs the forms, and this time they strap him tight to a rolling gurney and they aren’t going to let him up for anything, despite having Essay on hand if things get rough.
The Doctor Professor is distant, barely speaks. Essay doesn’t care: he’s psyched he just made his first grand in, like, ever. The addict is skeptical, but sedated.
The Doctor Professor makes the incision and pins up the skin flap, and this time Marco holds the drill.
“Push gently, until it gives,” says the Doctor Professor, absently. “Do not penetrate the brain.”
Then it is time for the Doctor Professor to do his business with the long needle, and he keeps his notebook off to the side where Marco can’t see it, but Marco hangs around anyway and hands him things as needed. The injections take forever.
When the addict wakes, he is irate, swearing, demanding some krokodil, anything. This isn’t working at all, it was a trick, let him up, let him up. Essay is on alert, but the addict is very strapped down and isn’t going anywhere.
“Fresh air,” says the Doctor Professor. “Wheel him outside, please.”
It’s cloudy today but the daylight is there and when it touches the addict, it is the Rapture once again. He makes many sounds.
In time, the Doctor Professor asks the patient for his name.
“His name is Lester Simmons,” says Essay. Marco watches Lester.
“My name is Hasdrubal,” says Lester Simmons. He looks down at his restraints then cranes his head around the gurney. His voice sounds eloquent, dignified, wrong, coming from a rot-fleshed krokodil addict.
Essay looks at Marco and purses his lips. Marco returns a slow nod.
“Where have you come from?” says the Doctor Professor.
“I do not find a way to explain it,” says the patient. “I have been so hungry.”
“We have much to discuss,” says the Doctor Professor. “Wheel him inside, please.”
The light has returned to the Doctor Professor’s eyes, and he flits ahead of the gurney, then beside it, then ahead again, as Essay pushes it back inside the clinic.
11. Guzman (Marco)
“All right, what the hell was that?” says Essay, back outside with Marco now. The Doctor Professor has just finished a long, mystifying interrogation of the patient and received many long, mystifying answers which Essay had to stay and listen to, since he is security.
Marco is spaced out, staring up at a peeling Justin Bieber billboard over the highway. Bieber is looking off to the side, cutely, seeing something interesting there.
“Huh?” goes Essay.
“I dunno, man.” Marco is chewing on his lip again. He is afraid he is starting to believe this crap.
“Cure krok addiction by making a brother believe he’s a alien?” says Essay.
“I don’t think he’s the only one believes it, cuz.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t think the Doctor Professor would have asked him all that scientific stuff if he didn’t believe it. Chemistry, astronomy, you know?”
“Whatever, cuz. Anyway. Doctor Professor, what the hell kind of name is that?”
“Wong told me it’s a title, German title, really honorable.”
“Taiwanese. Off the boat. He was a good dude.”
“Think he’ll ever come back?”
“No,” says Marco. “I don’t think he will.”
A black SUV on massive chrome wheels chirps into the back lot, stops, and unloads three very large men in white sneakers and athletic wear, plus one skinny man with semi-dark shades, gold chains and a wispy mustache. The driver, who also looks like a football lineman, stays in the truck and keeps it running.
Marco recognizes the skinny man as George Guzman, a drug dealer from his high-school days. Marco has bought meth from Guzman a few times, to placate him, but he has never smoked it. Always found a way to fake it, or take it home and toss it.
“Guzman!” Marco says. “How you been, dog?”
“George Guzman?” Essay says, stage-whisper style, to Marco. “That punk used to get beat up for his lunch money.”
“It’s different now-” begins Marco, but Guzman and his thugs have closed in and now they are too near not to overhear.
“You been moving in on my territory,” says Guzman.
Essay laughs at this and shoves Guzman hard enough that Guzman actually falls down on his ass, then goes over onto his back, feet in the air. No one can believe what has just happened, and Essay takes the opportunity to shove one of the linemen back, too.
The goon stumbles but doesn’t fall and, before he even comes to a stop, he is lifting up his shirt to expose a fat belly and a Glock pistol leaning forth from his waistband.
One of the other thugs draws his own pistol, also a Glock, and points it at Essay. The remaining goon punches Marco in the mouth and shoves him into the wall for no particular reason.
“Matching Glocks,” says Essay, still not comprehending what Guzman has become.
Guzman is back up, takes out his own pistol and walks it right up to the middle of Essay’s face. There he says some quiet words, his gun shaking with fury.
12. Opportunity (Hasdrubal)
“When you add a heavy metal to the formula, like so, you see,” says Hasdrubal to the Doctor Professor, “the antenna will screen out some of the less savory entities which... await.”
The Doctor Professor nods vigorously. He has already filled one notebook and is into a brand-new one, currently learning more from Hasdrubal than any human has ever known. He has absentmindedly unstrapped Hasdrubal while the others are outside. Now they walk together, through the clinic.
“If you wish to bring in a demigod,” says Hasdrubal, “then it must begin with platinum. Can we access a formulary?”
“Of course, of course, I have a formulary right here in the clinic,” says the Doctor Professor, leading Hasdrubal down a hall and into a key-carded door. “We should have carboplatin in stock.”
“It is a start,” says Hasdrubal.
The sounds of commotion drift from the back exit, where Marco and Essay have gone. Then footsteps are running towards them, and Marco appears. His lower lip is split and bleeding.
“We need you outside, sir, right now,” says Marco, panting. “Guzman is here, he’s a drug dealer. He wants to come in. You have to come out and talk to him right now; he thinks we are selling drugs!”
Marco just about drags the Doctor Professor away down the hall and out the back, and Hasdrubal, looking for all the world like an emaciated, leprous ICU tenant, is left with the run of the place. The door to the formulary is still open. Hasdrubal cannot believe his luck.
Hasdrubal mixes the formula as best he can, starting with the Doctor Professor’s base and adding what substances he can find and readily identify, working at top speed. If he is clever enough and fast enough, he will be able to build an antenna capable of bringing in only his own kind. He works feverishly.
Distantly, his pathetic body complains. Distantly, his pathetic body is desperate for drugs. Hasdrubal works through these distractions.
Then it is done, as best he can make it, and the others are still outside. He sneaks into Wong’s room and gives the injection. He does this too as fast as possible, hitting only twelve spots in the brain, using what the Doctor Professor taught him during their brief collaboration, plus all of his own considerable resources.
Wong just looks straight ahead, as if there isn’t yet another krokodil addict dumping metallic liquid into his temple-hole.
13. Life Isn’t Fair (Marco)
It isn’t clear to Marco exactly how the Doctor Professor has talked Guzman out of shooting them all right there in the parking lot, but he suspects that money may have been involved. Marco wonders how the Doctor Professor could possibly itemize such an expense, perhaps something like: Check 243. $10,000 for bribe of local drug dealer, to avoid murder of self and staff.
On top of that, Essay got out of the deal completely unscathed. Marco adores Essay, but still doesn’t understand why he had to get punched in the face, when it was Essay who had the temerity to push Guzman down on the pavement. Now Marco’s lip stings, and two of his lower front teeth feel loose.
“Life isn’t fair,” Marco says to himself. “You already know this fact.”
The next day they are out cruising the bad places again, looking for another patient as if nothing ever happened. They drive past the tenement Marco’s mama lives in, and he thinks about stopping in to give her some money. But Mama hasn’t spoken to Marco since she found crystal meth in his jacket and kicked him out of the apartment. So Marco fears that just showing up with money might send the wrong message.
Marco thinks about Mama while Essay drives and scans.
Marco and Essay return late, with no new patient. Addicts have been getting harder to find for some reason. Also, Essay has gotten paranoid about Guzman’s thugs possibly following and/or surveilling them, and now he bolts whenever he gets a bad feeling.
They get back to the clinic to find that Wong has soiled himself again.
“Shit,” says Marco.
“I will clean it, if you wish,” says Hasdrubal, who walks around unrestrained now, whenever he isn’t in a tête-à-tête with the Doctor Professor.
Essay laughs, and Marco glares.
“Why you want to do that?” says Essay, picking up on Marco’s vibe.
“I’m just trying to pull my weight,” says Hasdrubal. “I’m sorry if I have offended you.”
One of the problems with Hasdrubal is that he looks like a krokodil addict, even though Marco knows that he hasn’t had any of the stuff since he got here. But his blackened flesh is dead, and some of it is falling off, and neither he nor the Doctor Professor seem to be in much of a rush to do anything about it. Another problem is that the previous addict, Dundee, had been acting just fine before he flipped out and attacked Wong with a bone drill. So, whether it is Hasdrubal’s fault or not, Marco is having some trust issues.
“You want to clean it up, fine,” says Marco. “Keep the door open where we can see you.”
Marco figures that Wong — the person that used to be Wong anyway — is long gone. But Marco still doesn’t want him getting attacked again.
Copyright © 2014 by Tobacco Jones