Who would ever imagine that buying stole organs could get so complicated? And messy...
The Devil Reaps the Harvest by John Oak Dalton
Music by Ray Mattis http://raymattispresents.bandcamp.com
Produced by Daniel Wilder
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The laboratory at the end of the dead-end road had been closed for so long now that people had forgotten about it, or tried to forget about it, and now everybody said it was an abandoned factory. It was there that Peter O’Day was supposed to meet a guy who had a couple of kidneys in a beer cooler. So Peter parked in a weed-choked employee lot and walked about a quarter mile into the woods, where the old laboratory sat. There he was meeting Octavius. Octavius sounded like a mad scientist’s name, and as it happens Octavius kind of was a mad scientist. He had worked at the lab long ago doing things that are frowned upon in the mainstream medical world, but that gig dried up. He ended up harvesting organs, which wasn’t much of a step down. He still liked meeting people there for the handoff, because his greatest triumphs had been at that lab. Also his greatest failures, but those were buried here and there around the property. Peter had a bag of money and Octavius had a cooler with organs in it and a New England Patriots sticker on it, so that went down about like you’d expect. Peter was a dot com guy the bubble never burst on so he had plenty of money, and could jump the transplant list and buy a new kidney for their little girl, Alondra. People with money can pretty much do what they want. Just look at celebrities. They do drugs and get married eight or ten times but can adopt all the kids they want and go on TV talking about various causes. If they did all the same things but lived in that trailer park on the other edge of town--the one called Morningside but everybody actually called Homicide-- nobody would give them kids, or want them on TV talking for their causes. When Peter took the Patriots cooler from Octavius, that had a kidney and a spare for Alondra, his hands were shaking pretty badly, and some blood sloshed out from under the lid and onto his shoes and into the dirt, and it wasn’t until that very moment that Peter sort of realized what the hell he was doing. Octavius stepped back easily and missed the sloshing, but he was used to blood spraying out all over the place. Peter nodded and walked away, but Octavius stayed where he was, to his misfortune. He had parked behind the old lab, on an access road everybody had forgotten about too, because he did not want Peter or anybody else to see the car he drove. Peter was hardly out of sight when something just under Octavius’s feet, where the blood was soaking in, sniffed and swallowed and opened its eyes. If this lab had been that good at black science, they would still be in business. But they weren’t, so they made the mistake of burying their problems instead of burning them in a big bonfire so that there was no trace. Or, in this case, so something could not bite and claw its way with long fingernails and sharp teeth out of the dirt and grab Octavius by the ankles. Then pull him to the ground and bite him right on his face. But his face was kind of bony so it started working on some soft parts.
Peter had stopped not far away to call his wife, but never heard a damn thing. It was ironic, because as soon as that creature’s hand popped out of the dirt Octavius’s heart popped like a balloon. All those times, Octavius had arranged for guys to meet Russian women off the internet for a night of passion, only for those guys to wake up in the hotel tub packed in ice…or dumped in a landfill and never waking up at all. All those times, Octavius never knew he needed an organ for himself. He ignored the shortness of breath and the tingling in his fingers and all the rest. Like I said, if they were better at science, they would still have been in business. And if they weren’t also lazy, they would have buried these things deeper. Peter’s wife was named Stacy, and was waiting in a big McMansion out in the suburbs for news of Alondra’s kidney. Do I even need to say this was his second wife, and very young? “We’re halfway there,” Peter told her. “It’s not like a pig kidney or anything?” she asked. “How would I know?” “I don’t know,” she fretted. “Look, this guy came highly recommended. And when it comes to Alondra, we don’t have another choice.” “I know,” said Stacy, and there was a lot in those words. In those two words were all the feelings Stacy had growing for little Alondra and all the feelings Peter lacked. But Peter did what he had to do. What Peter had to do next was walk out to the edge of the overgrown parking lot and wait for a guy from the transplant organization he had paid off too. Actually this guy, whose name was Rollo, knew Ocatvius quite well, but neither man wanted anyone to know they were connected. Rollo had worked at the lab too, back in the day. Not so much in the sciences, as in the more…nebulous parts of the organization. Octavius could have just given the organ to Rollo, but Octavius and Rollo always wanted a middleman. It wasn’t foolproof, but it was better than nothing. “Look, just go to the hospital and wait,” Peter said. “The guy is on his way here, and then he is going to be bringing the kidneys within the hour.” “Okay,” said Stacy, but there was so much she could not face she knew she was staying right where she was. “Okay.” And Peter hung up. Peter had only taken a few steps before he saw something moving in the trees, just out of the corner of his eye. Of course, Peter was thinking it was a cop, or the FBI, or maybe an investigative reporter trying to entrap him and put him on TV with all the pedophiles.
So Peter stepped off the road and hid behind a tree, which was stupid because unlike cops and FBI agents and reporters, what was shambling towards him could smell the blood on his shoes. Peter peeked around the tree and realized he was wrong about the cops and the reporters because how this person was dressed—how this shape was dressed—was in things Goodwill would not take. They looked like clothes somebody took out of a compost pile. Peter started moving quickly through the trees, trying not to slosh the beer cooler too much, and cut cross-country towards the parking lot. All the bones and muscles and ligaments in the thing sniffing along behind Peter, which seemed barely connected to each other, still let the thing move faster than you would think. But it would not have mattered if Peter had watched where he was going, which he did not, so he overshot the parking lot and thrashed deeper into the woods. And the thing that could smell his bloody footprints, who saw the shoe prints glowing like fire, kept on coming. Peter saw the bland gray concrete block of the lab building looming in front of him and he realized he had been a dumbass, and circled back on himself. He was ultimately a tech guy. He had never been much out in nature and did not really know how to navigate even a small forest of trees, much less tell one from another. And he had never seen a dead body, but he recognized that Octavius was dead when he saw what was left of him in the small clearing where they had met minutes ago. The chewed parts and the parts that should have been tucked inside but were glistening in the sun. The thing behind Peter was getting closer, so close now Peter could hear a slurping noise, and Peter turned and looked. And what he saw sent his heart plummeting, and his balls scurrying up inside himself to meet it, and his butthole slammed shut with the finality of a coffin lid. Peter dropped the beer cooler, and this time a lot more blood sloshed out than was good, and the thing moved faster somehow. Peter grabbed the cooler back up and started running. Peter was running, and the only place he knew he was running was “Away,” wherever that was. And he was bouncing off of trunks and getting whipped in the face by branches and all that, because instead of joining Boy Scouts he had taught himself computer programming. He was richer, but very close to being dead, so some of his life choices seemed poorer today. He kept splashing blood out of that cooler and that wasn’t great for Alondra but more importantly for Peter, it wasn’t great for him at all. So Peter stopped, and opened the cooler. He plunged his hand in and grabbed out a kidney that was in a leaky sandwich bag, and he flung that kidney in a long red arc that hit the thing’s chest with a wet sound and plopped into the grass.
And the creature looked down at it with yellow eyes, and it gave Peter a chance to catch his breath. Then the creature showed broken teeth, and reached down with those long nails and grabbed the kidney up, and it went down in one gulp, and Peter threw up in his mouth a little. When Peter ran this time he didn’t even pick up the cooler. The thing tipped the cooler back and gulped the other kidney down, and that bought Peter a little more time. Peter ran and looked back, ran and looked back, and sure enough in a minute or two he saw that raggedy shape moving between the trees again. Peter was looking back when his foot touched asphalt and he was out on a county road. The woman driving the minivan was leaning over pushing the Hocus Pocus DVD into the dash, for her kids in the backseat to watch for the millionth time. So she did not even tap the brake before she hit Peter head on. Rather than explain what that looked like, it’s simpler to say the kids never asked to watch Hocus Pocus ever again. As it happens, Rollo was not too far behind the woman in a truck that looked like a medical vehicle but really wasn’t. Rollo was very quick on his feet and looked like he looked like he had a lot of authority. He bet on ponies with that same authority, but no common sense, which is what got him into this bad situation to begin with. It did not take much for Rollo to convince the stunned woman that he was going to take care of everything and she was free to go. He would even contact her insurance company for her. She wrote everything down on a piece of paper with tears in her eyes. Of course, as soon as she drove away he chucked that paper in a cup of cold coffee he had left on the dash. Rollo set to looking around for that cooler and started back into the treeline. He didn’t find it, but he found a shambling, shuffling creature with blood dripping off of a lipless, leering mouth and grasping, clawed hands stained with blood. Rollo was a bad gambler, but he had been a good crooked cop and a decent EMT who stole drugs, so he took a snub-nosed .32 he kept under his shirt tail in the back and shot that thing in both its yellow eyes. It fell down, as you might suspect. And did not get back up. Then Rollo found the empty, bloody cooler with the Patriots sticker on it. His mind remained remarkably clear and he knew what he had to do. Rollo did a very good job at the transplant center, which was his real job now. But he paid special attention when he was getting a fat envelope on the side. Rollo pulled Peter’s body up into the back of the white truck, that if you squinted your eyes at it might be a medical vehicle. He had some tools back there that could have medical uses. The back of his truck
was not as clean as some places, but it was not as dirty as the back room of that massage parlor where Rollo knew Octavius had done a little surgery. If he hadn’t already been a decent EMT, he could have used YouTube. Stacy had been sitting very still in her spacious living room when the doorbell rang. She answered it, her hands trembling. Two stone-faced men in dark suits stared at her. “Stacy O’Day?” one asked. It was more of a statement than a question. “Yes? Is this about Alondra?” she asked. “In a manner of speaking.” The man showed her a piece of official-looking paper. “This is a warrant to search your house.” Stacy took a step back. “But—Alondra’s in the hospital. She needs a transplant. It’s on its way. Why is this happening right now?” The man looked at her. “That’s just it. The hospital checked. There’s no record that Alondra was officially adopted from anywhere.” Stacy swallowed hard. “There’s no record she was ever enrolled in school.” Stacy got her feet under her. “She’s home-schooled.” “Your neighbors have a lot to say. One of them says they saw a mattress on the floor in the basement, next to an ironing board and a stack of laundry.” Stacy shook her head. “We’re painting her room.” “So can you show me that room?” he asked. “Like I said, it’s being painted.” The cop gave her a thousand-yard stare. “You’re not the first housewife that needed a little help around the place.” Tears showed in Stacy’s eyes. “She’s living better than she was in that hellhole orphanage.” “She will be. She’s in surgery and the kidney looks like it’s going to take.” Stacy leaned against the wall with relief, which surprised the two cops. “But she’s not coming back here,” the cop added. Stacy stood up straight.
“If I didn’t care…I wouldn’t have pushed to get her that kidney when she got sick.” The cop had cold eyes. “What else could you do? I reckon you didn’t keep the receipt.” Stacy processed this. She looked the cop full in the face. “This whole thing…it started out differently than it ended. With Alondra. At least for me.” Stacy making that statement was the only thing that kept the cops from cuffing her, and banging her head on the door when they lowered her into the back seat. They let her walk out on her own free will. But she did not see that McMansion again for a long time. The cops assumed Peter had run out on Stacy and all their problems. Nobody ever found a trace of him. They were soon distracted by a very large fire at an old factory in the woods outside of town, which burned a big tract of land. Rollo had a steady hand and a clear head, and got a bonus for all of his quick thinking. Didn’t change his luck at the track, but you can’t have it all.
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