Mito, Medical Kidnap Files #1, p.20P.D. Workman
“WE HAVE TO GET a motel room tonight,” Gabriel urged. They had been sleeping rough since the night at the motel, and while he was gradually adjusting to the discomfort and getting a few hours of sleep each night, it wasn’t doing anything for his mito. He was tired all the time, and he thought the others were looking pale and worn as well.
“You think we should get a motel room every night,” Renata pointed out, an irritated edge to her voice.
“But the broadcast is on tonight. We need to rent a motel room with a TV so that we can watch it.”
Renata looked at the other boys, and they nodded agreement.
“We have to see how it goes off,” Ray said. “Just because she acted like she believed us and was on our side, that doesn’t mean she really is. We have to see what she says, and then figure out the next step.”
For days, Renata had been repeating that they couldn’t advance their plan until they knew how the broadcast went. She couldn’t argue against her own words.
“Okay… but it will probably be the last warm bed for a while. Once it airs, people are going to be looking for us. We have to stay out of sight.”
“We haven’t broken any laws here, they can’t do anything to us,” Gabriel asserted. They had all repeated the refrain enough times that it felt like it had to be true. They all believed it. Except Renata, who didn’t trust her own theory.
“Do you have somewhere in mind?” Renata asked.
“Paradise,” Gabriel and Nick said in unison. Nick burst into a fit of laughter.
“Cheapest one with TVs and the right channels,” Gabriel explained.
Renata frowned at Nick, who had to sit down on the sidewalk and lean against the low wall, he was laughing so hard. “And…? What else? I know Curly here hasn’t researched the room rates.”
None of them had an answer for him. Renata shook her head and addressed Ray. “You look the oldest. You rent it.”
“No!” Nick wiped tears from his face. “No, let me do it, Renata. As penance.”
“Right.” Renata looked again at the three of them, trying to discern what was going on. “You’re the shortest one. Ray is going to do it.”
“Oooh…!” Nick drew out a whine of disappointment.
Renata pointed her finger at Gabriel’s nose. “You tell me what else is at the Paradise. Why does Nick want to go there?”
“Because of the TV,” Gabriel suggested. “Or maybe the free continental breakfast.”
“Only one of us can go to the breakfast. And even if they load up a plate, it won’t be enough for all three of you bottomless pits.”
“The person that goes can fill up before taking a plate away,” Gabriel said.
“Is that why you want to check in?” Renata demanded from Nick. “So you can pig out on breakfast?”
“Yeah.” Nick tried to suppress another snicker and ended up snorting. “That’s why!” He dissolved again into laughter. Gabriel was afraid Nick was getting hysterical. People were staring as they walked by.
Renata scowled at Nick. “Fine. You go right now and see if they’ll give you a room. If you fail, we’ll have to wait a few hours before Ray tries.”
Ray turned away from Renata to hide his look of disappointment.
“But…” Nick started out.
“But what? I said yes.”
“I don’t know… if there’s someone there yet. At the desk. They might not accept reservations until later.”
“It’s after three. All the motels have someone at the desk.”
“But not the right someone,” Ray said in a whisper to Gabriel.
Gabriel nodded, not looking at Ray. Being careful not to give Renata any sign. They watched Nick get to his feet and wipe his red face. Nick looked back once, pleadingly, and they all watched him start down the street. Gabriel couldn’t help looking at Ray.
“I gotta watch this,” Ray said and followed Nick.
“Watch what?” Renata demanded.
Gabriel followed Ray. Renata fell in beside him. They allowed Nick to get around the corner, and then followed covertly, watching him enter the lobby of the Paradise. Gabriel couldn’t run, but he walked as quickly as he could to keep up with Ray. They both peered through the window, staying out of sight and squinting through the horizontal blinds.
“What the—?” Renata took up a place beside Gabriel and looked through the window.
They all saw Nick waiting as a young lady approached the desk, smiling and calling out to him. An apology for being away from the desk.
“Ooooh.” Renata finally got it. She rolled her eyes. “Got his eye on chickie-poo, does he?”
Chickie-poo was blond, tall, and well-endowed. She wore heels and was too tall for the check-in counter unless she sat down, but she didn’t. She bent over to deal with her customer, giving him an unimpeded view down her v-neck shirt. Renata made a noise of disgust.
“He’d better get the room. If I have to wait three hours because he had to take his hormones out for a walk…”
“Looks like he is,” Ray said, with a note of disappointment.
The young lady handed Nick a key and Nick leaned on the counter and chatted for a few more minutes until her phone rang and she had to sit down and turn away to get it.
“You too?” Renata asked Ray.
“She’s hot,” Ray said. “I’m not supposed to notice?”
“No. And you?” Renata directed this at Gabriel.
“She’s pretty,” Gabriel admitted. “But… she’s not really my type.”
“Alive?” she gibed.
“Older,” Gabriel said. “White. Out of my league.”
“Oh. Well, she is all that,” Renata agreed. Which didn’t make Gabriel feel great, but at least it got her off his case. She’d be angry at Nick and Ray all night, but Gabriel hoped to stay on her good side and avoid her wrath.
Nick came out of the lobby, grinning and playing with the keys. He saw them all looking in the window and grinned even wider. “I told you I could do it.”
“Was there someone at the desk?” Renata asked, her sarcasm so sharp that Gabriel felt Nick’s pain.
“Yeah,” Nick agreed. “Was there ever.”
The segment was much shorter than Gabriel had expected it to be, considering all the time that had gone into the interviews. It was titled ‘Medical Kidnap?’ with a question mark, leaving it up to the audience to decide whether it was really a thing. The splash screen that they played before the segment and that appeared on the monitor behind Kirstie was a glowing purple picture of a mitochondrion. It looked like a bug. A trilobite. The editing of their interviews was so skillfully done, Gabriel couldn’t tell where they had clipped the longer answers out. Everything sounded short and pithy and important. Their faces were blurred out, and their voices computer altered. Gabriel was sure that they were all still clearly identifiable to anyone who knew them. The hounds would be hunting them. He wondered if Keisha would see the broadcast.
“We would like to open the discussion up to you,” Kirstie invited the television audience. “Our call in number is at the bottom of the screen. Call and let me know whether you find this story believable. Are children being torn from their parents for no reason other than to serve as human lab rats? Or are they misled, or misleading us, about the facts of their cases?”
“I didn’t know she was going to do that,” Gabriel whispered to Renata.
She nodded, not looking at him, her eyes intent on the screen.
Several calls followed. People who had a friend or a sister who had had a child taken away from them and put into experimental research programs. Some of them even in the mito program. Others pooh-poohed the idea. No social worker or doctor could ever get away with such a thing. No judge would ever be fooled or complicit. The system had all the proper checks and balances and could not be abused.
One motor-mouthed conspiracy theorist wildly expounded his own theories and Kirstie couldn’t get a word i
“What do you think?” Gabriel asked Renata. “Are you happy with it?”
“Not bad. I wish they hadn’t cut that guy off, though!”
“Too much of a nut,” Ray said. “He’d just make the whole thing a three-ring circus. You want people who sound reasonable and considered.”
“I know. I just wanted to hear more of what he had to say.”
Nick laughed and shook his head at Renata. “You’re just as crazy as he is.”
They continued to chat through the commercials, relieved that it had finally aired and they could now consider what to do next. Get more publicity? Confront the doctors? Go back for more kids and take them out through the underground railway, maybe. There would be people on their side now. Maybe people would reach out and help, just like they had helped escaped slaves.
The program resumed, and with a short summary, Kirstie went on to the next caller.
“I know those children,” said a woman’s voice, with a snap of anger in it. “They are not telling you the whole story.”
Gabriel gasped. He looked at Renata and she mouthed ‘Seymour’ in disbelief. They were all glued to the screen, no more laughing and chatting.
“How do you know them?” Kirstie inquired.
“I have been involved with all of their cases.”
There was silence for a long three seconds. Maybe the longest three seconds of Gabriel’s life.
“Are you the one who reported their parents to DFS?”
There was a shocked murmur from the studio audience and some scattered clapping. Kirstie glanced at the audience with a quick shake of her head, and they fell silent. Seymour didn’t answer.
“Are you the one who reported them to DFS?” Kirstie repeated.
“DFS reports are confidential. I have been involved with all of their cases and I know the facts. Beep is the ringleader.” The broadcast must have been on an eight-second delay because they managed to bleep Renata’s name. “She has paranoid delusions. She is very intelligent and very good at manipulating those around her. Even the medical staff have been taken in from time to time. She is the one who came up with this whole conspiracy theory. But there is no conspiracy. Only children being taken out of hazardous environments. Their parents are guilty of medical neglect or even abuse. Beep own mother is in prison. Do you think they put caring mothers in prison for no particular reason?”
“So…” Kirstie’s calm, soothing voice took over. “Why don’t you tell us the rest of the story? Why don’t you tell us what the children have missed or obfuscated? And please, don’t use their names, we need to keep minors’ names private and we are dubbing them out of the broadcast.”
“When you only hear one side of the story, of course it sounds unbalanced and crazy,” Seymour snarled. “You are only hearing a fraction of the truth. Once you know the rest, it makes sense. You’ll see there is no conspiracy.”
“Again, I invite you to tell us the truth.”
“Parents who cannot take care of their children properly have to be challenged. A mother who decides that her Google research of naturopathic bulletin boards is more valid than a doctor’s years of research and training needs to be stopped. They must be stopped! They cannot be allowed to continue harming their own children!” There was passion in Dr. Seymour’s voice. Pain. Gabriel couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for her. She really did believe her side of the story, just like Renata did. And she really did want to stop children from being abused. Maybe it wasn’t a conspiracy, but just… people who were misled or had misinterpreted the situation. Some people seemed more prone to draw the conclusions that would support their own theories and life views. Gabriel reached for Renata’s hand. She pulled back from him, shutting everything else out to listen to the show.
However much Kirstie tried, she couldn’t seem to draw any of the missing facts out of Dr. Seymour, and eventually cut the call off. They went to commercial again.
“This is getting real,” Nick commented.
“It wasn’t real when you were sleeping on the ground?” Gabriel snapped. “We’ve been dealing with the reality for weeks or months.” He glanced at Renata. “Or years. It’s time other people heard.”
“What are you arguing with me for? We’re on the same side, moron!”
Gabriel backed down. His emotions were running high, unable to process everything that had happened. He shrugged and settled back to watch a ketchup commercial as if it was the most interesting thing in the world. Renata glanced at him with eyebrows raised, then looked away again.
The show resumed, again with another sum-up of what had happened so far, and then another call. Gabriel half-expected it to be Seymour again, angrier than ever, but it wasn’t. It was, however, another voice that he knew.
“I may get fired for this call,” the woman said, voice unsteady, close to tears if she wasn’t already crying. “But I have to set the record straight. I… was the social worker who apprehended one of the boys. And there have been others. I didn’t agree with what we were doing, but I had my job to consider, and I went ahead and did what I was told.”
“What was it you were told, and why didn’t you want to?” Kirstie asked gently.
“I was told that—the boy—was being medically neglected, or that his mother had Munchhausen by Proxy, and he needed to be removed for his own safety.”
“And you didn’t believe it?”
“I was told to investigate. I did. I didn’t find any sign that she wasn’t doing everything she could for her son. No, she hadn’t put him into the mito program at Lantern, but she was having good success with getting his health on track, getting his weight up, and keeping on top of his education. She did everything for him. She was a good mother!”
“Then why did you take him away?”
“I made my report of no findings to support the accusations. They told me to go back with the police and apprehend him. They said that my report was inadequate, that they had talked more with the doctors, and their finding was of medical abuse. They decided that without ever being in the home or speaking to the mother. They overruled my report, and sent me back to take him away.”
“And you did?”
“It was that or lose my job and I couldn’t lose my job. But I guess I should have. No job is worth giving up my ethical standards. I should have stood up for myself and refused.” She sobbed slightly, but got herself back under control. Renata gave Gabriel’s leg a quick rub to show her support. He just sat there with his mouth open, listening to Carol Scott’s confession. “I thought that once they had him at the hospital for a few days, they would change their minds and see that he hadn’t been neglected or abused. But they didn’t. The first time I went back there, he was so drugged up they couldn’t even wake him for me. It didn’t matter what I said or did; they had already made their decision. They wanted him in the mito research study, and they were going to do whatever they had to to get him there.”
“Who is ‘they’? Who exactly do you think wanted him in the mito study?”
“I… don’t know who was behind it. You’d have to go to someone over my head to find that out. I only talked with my supervisors.”
“Do you think that senior DFS officials were involved?”
“I know they were.”
“I… I don’t know which ones were or were not involved. I don’t know who was in the know and who was just a pawn.”
There was silence from Carol Scott.
Kirstie pressed the point. “Is it your opinion that the judge in this young man’s case or the judges in other similar cases were involved in a conspiracy? Do you think that they were misled or paid to look the other way?”
“I… I think that some of the judges have been misled by DFS or the doctors involved. And I think that one or two of them… know what is going on and are complicit.”
“Shut up! People are going to complain and you’ll get us all kicked out.”
“I don’t care! Can you believe that she just said that? Somebody is on our side! Somebody who has been involved admits that the judges are corrupt! She said it right out!”
“Shut up!” Renata echoed. She was on the bed, and he was sitting on the floor in front of it. She kicked at Nick’s head.
Nick flinched away, crying foul, but stopped shouting. Gabriel missed a line or two that Kirstie said and then they broke for commercials again.
“Holy crap!” Ray said. “It’s breaking open. It’s really working, Renata. You did it.”
“Wish I had a laptop,” Renata said. “They’re doing online polls and comments. I’d love to answer some of them.”
“Carol Scott,” Gabriel breathed. “I didn’t even think she had a soul. But now she’s on our side.”
“This is big,” Renata said happily. “This is really big.”
Mito, Medical Kidnap Files #1 by P.D. Workman / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4.8 out of 5 / Based on19 votes