Mito, Medical Kidnap Files #1, p.6P.D. Workman
IT WAS A COUPLE more days before Renata was back. She was wheeled in while Gabriel was making his way down the hallway, on his own feet, using the handrail and an IV stand for support. He couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t give him his leg braces and a pair of crutches so that he could get around better. But he was proud of himself for being able to make it more than a couple of steps down the hallway.
“Hey Gabe,” Renata greeted, giving him an encouraging thumbs-up. “Looking good!”
He smiled at her and held onto the rail tightly while he looked her over. She was paler than usual, and there was some kind of drain coming out from under her gown that made him feel queasy. She sat in the wheelchair holding herself upright with her arms like she was afraid that it would hurt, or she would fall out of the chair if she let go. She had an oxygen feed into her nose, and an IV hooked onto a pole fixed to the chair. He wondered if she should really be back in psych already. They could probably give her better care downstairs in ICU. She didn’t look ready to be moved.
“You back already?”
“I was causing too much ruckus downstairs.” Her voice was softer than usual, and she didn’t elaborate. The orderly pushed her down the hall and to her room.
Gabriel continued to work his way down the railing until he reached her room. By that time, she was already settled in bed; the wheelchair pushed into the corner. Renata turned her head to watch him as Gabriel stopped in the doorway, trying to figure out how to make it across the room to her bedside. It was only a few steps, but there was no handrail and he was already exhausted. Renata smiled.
Holding onto the IV pole for support, Gabriel shuffled into the room and made it to the chair. He didn’t try to pull it over, just slid into the seat. His head spun, and he sat there catching his breath.
Neither of them spoke for a long time. Eventually, Gabriel felt well enough to take a look around, particularly at Renata’s roommate. Gabriel was still alone in his room, so he was surprised to see that Renata’s roommate was the mop-headed young boy from the common room.
“This is Skyler,” Renata said, not shining any light on the mystery. “Sky, this is Gabriel.”
Skyler looked over at Gabriel. He had dark circles around his eyes. He nodded and said hi. Gabriel looked back over at Renata. “Mito?”
She nodded. “Yeah, surprise, surprise, huh?”
Gabriel cut a glance toward the young boy and spoke in a low voice that the hoped only Renata could hear.
“I don’t get it. Is he…?”
“I’m a boy,” Skyler said firmly.
Gabriel wasn’t sure whether he had heard the whispered question, or just interpreted the look on Gabriel’s face. He felt hot and rubbed his forehead nervously. “Oh, okay… I didn’t think they mixed genders. I thought they’d put you in with me… I don’t have a roommate.”
“I’m trans,” Skyler said. “I was assigned as female at birth. They won’t acknowledge my chosen gender here.” He shook his head. “Stupid!”
“Oh.” Gabriel looked at Renata to get her take on this. Her eyes were closed, and he wasn’t sure if she was asleep or just resting. “I didn’t know.”
“That’s why I told you. It’s confusing for people sometimes.”
“Yeah.” Gabriel bit his tongue to keep from apologizing again, not sure what to say.
“Just think of him as a boy,” Renata advised, without opening her eyes. “So… you’re walking, huh?”
“Sort of,” Gabriel agreed. “If you can call it that.”
“You’re on your feet. That’s good. Any excitement while I was gone?”
“You’re the one who brings all the excitement. It’s quiet when you’re gone.”
She smiled. “Yeah.”
“How are you doing? The orderly really broke your rib?”
“That must have hurt.”
“Still does. And they don’t want to give me anything for it. No opiates for Renata.” She shook her head sadly.
“Really? Ow. You must be mad at him for hurting you like that.”
Renata opened her eyes and turned to look at Gabriel. “It’s okay. Last year, I broke two of his ribs, so I guess we’re even.”
“You broke his ribs?” Gabriel repeated in disbelief. “How?”
“I might have hit him with an IV pole.” She paused. “It’s not my fault. I was on a break.”
“Psychotic break. I wasn’t in control.”
“They messed up your meds?”
“No. I just went off. That happens sometimes. Something stops working.”
Gabriel thought about it. “That must be scary.”
“Life is scary. If you’re paying attention.”
“Yeah.” He didn’t want to get her going about conspiracies again, especially if she’d already been ‘making a ruckus’ downstairs. He tried to steer her to a safe topic. “So… what are you going to do when you go home? Play on the rugby team?”
Renata snorted and laughed, and for a minute, he was afraid that she was choking, not getting enough air. Renata took a couple of long breaths, pressing her hand to her chest. She shook her head.
“Yeah… no rugby. I do okay in school, other than phys ed. But they excuse me from that. I like to read. Write long, rambling essays for English LA. What about you? What do you like?”
“Science. Math. I’m not that great at writing. And I’d rather watch a good movie than read a book.”
“What can I say? At least I’m not illiterate.”
“How long have you been homeschooling?”
“Just over a year. School… just got to be too much. Getting up early. Carrying books. Up and down stairs. There wasn’t any elevator. I’d make it to class late and then fall asleep.”
“Don’t learn much when you’re sleeping. Do you miss it? You’ll be back in public school when you go to your foster family. Are you going to like seeing other people again?”
“I still see other people… It was nice having friends to talk to during the day… but you couldn’t really talk until lunch or after school anyway. And I can still do that now.”
“Huh. It would be weird, your mom teaching you at home. I don’t think I’d like it.”
“I mostly did online. I liked it… And we did some stuff with other homeschoolers. I don’t know if I can manage to make it around at public school again.”
“Maybe they’ll accommodate.” Renata sighed. “Though Dr. De Klerk sort of pushes a ‘treat them like everyone else and they’ll be more normal’ agenda. I don’t like pretending to be normal… I don’t do normal.”
Gabriel could hear voices outside his room. A piece of an argument that had progressed down the hallway and he was just able to hear now.
“…granola-crunching, pot-smoking deadbeats! Some people should never be allowed to be parents. There should be some kind of system in place to evaluate people before they’re allowed to have children. Foster and adoptive families have to be screened, why not natural parents? Filter out the dangerous ones before they’re allowed to do any damage.” The woman’s voice was harsh and passionate. She sounded like a woman who had smoked or lectured for a lot of years, her voice getting husky with overuse.
There was an answering laugh. “A program like that would certainly make our lives interesting. I’m not sure you can ever weed out the bad ones. Especially not before the children are even born.”
“Why wait? We can tell which ones are going to be problems. You can see the red flags. I have parents who walk into my office, and I know, without any question, that they are going to be a problem. I can’t bear seeing children being abused and neglected. I won’t stand by while their parents put them through hell.”
“Nobody is suggesting you do. Just that… you need to be careful. Some like this one,” there was a pause, and Gabriel imagined the second party gesturing toward one of the r
“If you need more evidence or experts, you just call me.”
“That’s what I told the investigator.”
Gabriel looked up as a woman in a lab coat stepped in his doorway. She was tall, with curly black shoulder-length hair. She seemed vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t remember having met her before. She stood in the doorway looking at Gabriel for a moment, then strode in. She smiled briskly, eyes devoid of emotion.
“Hello, Gabriel. How are we feeling today?”
“Not that great.”
She looked down at a clipboard and flipped through the pages as if she’d never seen them before. “We’re going to try adding back in a couple of your meds. That should help. Looks like you’re losing weight again. We really can’t have that.” She raised her eyes above the level of the clipboard and looked at him like he was intentionally losing weight. “Are you eating everything they’re giving you? Getting some moderate exercise?”
Gabriel fumbled for words. “Um… no…”
“No?” She wrote something down and frowned at him. She had a lot of fine lines around her mouth and eyes that pointed downward. “Why not?”
“They give me food I’m allergic to. And not enough snacks. And… I can’t exercise. I can hardly get out of bed, or walk.”
She scribbled a note. “Why can’t you get around? You were walking last time I saw you.”
“I… don’t remember you.”
She studied him again, putting on a pair of glasses that hung on a chain around her neck. After staring at him for a minute, she took them off again. “I’m Dr. Margot Seymour. I saw you the last time you came through the weight clinic. I’m the supervising doctor there, so I’m familiar with your case.”
Gabriel had been at the weight clinic for at least six months and could not remember seeing her before. He had always met with Nurse Birch and the other nurses and administrators there, and had never met with the doctor. If she was familiar with his case, why was she asking him questions that she should have known the answers to?
“I have hypotonia in my legs,” Gabriel told her. “But they took my braces away. I can’t walk without them.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Not at all?”
“Well… a little. But it’s hard, and it hurts.”
“Uh-huh.” She wrote down another note. “I want you to work on that. Get some muscle built up. The best treatment for hypertonic muscles is physical therapy. Do you have a physical or occupational therapist?”
“Yeah. Doctor Michaels.”
“Has he given you some exercises to do?”
Gabriel nodded reluctantly. He knew what the next question would be.
“Are you doing them?”
“They hurt my legs,” Gabriel said uncomfortably. “I try, but…”
“How hard are you trying? When is the last time you did any of the exercises he assigned you?”
Gabriel bit his lip. “Before… when I was at home.”
“You need to keep it up here. Were you doing them every day at home?”
“You need to follow your doctors’ instructions if you’re going to feel better, don’t you Gabriel? I want you to follow all of the instructions that you’re given. Not just the ones that are easy. I want you doing your PT every day.”
Gabriel nodded, a lump in his throat. She didn’t know how hard the exercises were for him, and they had never seemed to make any difference. Keisha had given up on forcing Gabriel to do them; it was such a fight every day.
“Good. Building muscle will help your energy. And your weight. We want to do everything we can to optimize your health, don’t we?”
Gabriel nodded again. “Yeah.”
“Good boy. And you make sure you’re eating enough. Any nausea? Vomiting?”
“Some nausea… it helps if I eat more often, but they don’t give me snacks here.”
She flipped back a page or two, skimming over the various notes on his chart. “Your blood sugar has been more stable. But still not great. Hospitals aren’t well-equipped to manage snacks between meals. But there should be a fridge that you have access to, with juice, yogurt, some things like that. Ask the nursing staff. Be careful of sugars and processed foods. High-protein snacks are best.”
“All they have is juice and applesauce.”
“Ask about it. I’ll make a note.” She wrote something on the clipboard and drew a circle around it. “Now, do you have any questions for me?”
“When am I going home?”
“Do you have any medical questions for me?”
“I shouldn’t be here,” Gabriel insisted. “I don’t have any psychiatric problems. I want to go home to my mom.” He stared at the lines around her mouth. “I want to know why you sent me here,” he concluded bullishly.
Her mouth pursed like she’d eaten something sour. “You’re here so that we can sort out which of your symptoms are physical, and which ones are caused by something else. We can only do that in a controlled environment. Once we finish the evaluation, you’ll be able to be moved to a less restrictive environment while we treat you through the mitochondrial disorder clinic.”
“I’m not crazy. And my mom didn’t do anything wrong. I want to go home. You can’t make me go to the mito clinic.”
“Like I told your mother,” Dr. Seymour said slowly and deliberately, “I can and I will. Parents cannot stop doctors from determining the proper course of treatment for their children. If they’re going to be an obstacle to proper treatment, they’re going to be removed.”
He had a sudden vision of his mother’s stricken expression when Dr. Seymour told her that. “You can’t do that!”
“I can. I already have.”
“I want my mom!” Gabriel’s voice rose in his frustration and anger.
“If I have my way, you will never see your mom again.”
Gabriel’s jaw hung open. He stared at her in disbelief. Her words were spoken quietly and calmly, but he could hear the animosity behind them. She wasn’t just mouthing words. She wasn’t like Mrs. Scott, reassuring Gabriel that they would find the truth, and it would all work out in the end. She had already made a decision and acted on it. In her mind, Keisha was the worst kind of abusive parent, and she intended to keep Keisha away from her son permanently.
Neither of them moved or said a word for a long time. Eventually, Dr. Seymour’s eyes dropped to the clipboard again. “You’re making good progress, Gabriel. I hope to have you out of here and to a qualified foster family shortly. You remember what I said about eating and doing your therapy. The more diligent you are, the faster you will be able to recover your mobility and improve your quality of life.” She touched his shoulder, her fingers light. “You take care of yourself, now. I want you to be well.”
Gabriel nodded. He didn’t know what else to do or say.
Renata hadn’t come in to see Gabriel, so he decided to go see her. It took him a long time to make his way down the hallway, holding onto the handrail and the IV pole, to get a couple of doors down to her hospital room. But he was proud when he made it. He might not have a lot of independence, but he wasn’t completely confined to his bed anymore. Renata turned her head as he dragged his feet into the room. She smiled.
“Hey, Gabe. I was just thinking of you. Can’t quite make it out of bed yet.”
Gabriel nodded. “Yeah. I figured you might be pretty sore.”
She swore under her breath. “Oh, yeah. If anyone ever tells you broken ribs are fun, don’t believe it.”
Gabriel snickered. He looked over at the other bed and saw that it was empty. “Where’s your friend?”
“I think he had therapy.”
“So is he here because of…?” Gabriel trailed off and grimaced, embarrassed.
“Because of mito?” Renata questioned. “Yeah. He’s got PDD, and they said they took him because his parents weren’t handling his developmental delays properly, which
Gabriel wouldn’t have believed it a couple of days ago, but he was finding himself gradually coming around to Renata’s way of thinking. There was definitely something going on. Mito was a very rare, very difficult to diagnose disease, and for three of them to be in the same ward all at the same time—a psych ward, no less—seemed the height of improbability. Something was going on.
“What were his parents doing?” he asked. “What do you mean, making waves?”
Renata nodded toward the empty bed. “Sky has mitochondrial damage from a round of vaccinations,” she said in a near-whisper.
Gabriel nodded. He’d heard of such things. One of the doctors said that Gabriel was probably born with mitochondrial disease, but that some things could trigger it or make it worse, and the doctors didn’t know what they all were. Chemicals, viruses, vaccines, maybe even GMOs or other things in the food supply.
“Don’t you get it?” Renata’s eyes were wide. She readjusted the oxygen tube in her nose and scratched around it. “He has Pervasive Developmental Delays. Autism spectrum. From vaxes. The medical records show that he had an immune system collapse after getting nine jabs in one day. And that kicked his mito into overdrive. They have documented proof that his PDD showed up right after his vaccinations. Until then, he met all of his milestones. Language and social and everything. But right after, he had a high fever, meningoencephalitis, even stopped breathing. When he recovered… he wasn’t the same.”
“Yeah…?” Gabriel wasn’t sure why she was making such a huge big deal out of the story.
“Well, you’ve heard the news, right? All the propaganda about how vaccinations don’t cause autism? But in his case, they have proof that they did.”
“But he was born with mito,” Gabriel said. “I mean, probably. And that caused his PDD. Right? Anything could have triggered it.”
Renata raised her hands and rolled her eyes. “All you need to know is, his parents started making noise about immunization injury causing his ASD, and he got taken away.”
Gabriel nodded slowly. There was a pattern developing. He rubbed his temples, wondering if he was going crazy. Was he becoming paranoid like Renata? Seeing connections and conspiracies where there weren’t any? It could just be coincidence. Three kids taken away from their families for three completely different reasons, just happening to end up in the same place.
“Vaccines are probably where mito came from in the first place,” Renata said, her voice a hoarse whisper. “They’ve been tracking and experimenting on kids for decades, injecting them with different experimental drugs, keeping records on them. What better biological weapon is there than mito? Take away the enemy’s energy, make it impossible for them to run or fight back. There’s no bodies, just a passive populace.” Her eyes were deep, black pools.
“That’s…” he stopped himself before saying ‘crazy.’ “I don’t know… You think they could keep something like that a secret? Experimenting on kids for that many years, that many people. It doesn’t sound possible.”
“People are more inclined to believe a big lie than a small one. Injecting the entire populace? You really think it’s all about disease prevention? What government could pass up the opportunity to try out a few experiments while they were at it? And why the big push to vaccinate every single kid? They can take DNA samples, inject locator microchips—they can track every person in the country!”
“And if their parents refuse to vaccinate…” Gabriel started.
Renata nodded vigorously. “One more reason to take them away. Force vaccination, get them into compliant homes and get extra funding… Can you see how corrupt the whole system is? It’s rotten to the core!”
Her face was getting flushed.
“Take it easy,” Gabriel soothed, touching her arm. “You’re getting out of breath.”
She opened her mouth to object, then closed it and breathed through her nose for a few breaths, touching the oxygen feed.
“You don’t want to make yourself sicker. You better keep cool.”
She frowned, studying him through narrowed eyes.
Mito, Medical Kidnap Files #1 by P.D. Workman / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4.8 out of 5 / Based on19 votes