Life blood, p.24
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       Life Blood, p.24
 

          
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  Chapter Twenty-four

  I'm on a bed, in a dreamscape room enveloped in pastel fog, watching aMelania butterfly the size of a man pump his massive orange and blackwings above me. His voice is mellifluous, hypnotic, and I feel the softwind of his wings against my face, cooling, scented, enveloping. It isthe softness of eternal peace.

  "Your body is a realm of fertility," he is saying, his tones echoing inthe shadowy haze around me, sonorous and caring. "You are special."Then, iridescent blues and purples shimmering off his wings, his faceevolves into the orange and black mask of a jaguar. "You are one of thespecial ones. Together we will create life."

  Did he say "special"? Marcelina said I was . . . like Sarah . . .

  Now his eyes are boring in and I'm thinking of the Chinese . . . Am Ihuman, dreaming I'm a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming I'm human?

  As he moves over me, the rest of his butterfly form disappears and he'sbecome a lithe jaguar whose lips are touching mine. The sheet over memelts into my skin as the soft spotted fur of his underbelly pressesonto me. And his face has turned even more feline and sensuous, withdark eyes that look directly through me. I can feel his whiskersagainst me as he sniffs down my body, then explores my groin with hisprobing tongue.

  Before I realize what's happening, his thighs press against mine and heknowingly insinuates himself into me. It all happens so naturally andeffortlessly I scarcely . . . I see only an intense twitch of hisanimal ears, erect and directed toward me, as he enfolds me completely,his hot male breath urgent. As he grinds his thighs against mine, heemits growls, low in his throat, then nips lightly and lovingly at mycheek, his pale fangs benign and delicious.

  I cling to him, bathed in sweat, falling into him, wanting him, but now. . .

  He's changing. . . . My God. No! He's . . .

  His face is becoming a jade mask with eyes that burn a fiery red, aspirit of evil. He's plunging something deep into me, metal, cold andcutting. Far inside, reaching, while my mind fights through the wavesof pain that course down my lower body. I struggle back, but my armsjust pass through empty air. Stop. The eyes, the hard metal . . . Timeturns fluid, minutes are hours, lost, and I don't know . . .

  Finally---it could be years later--he growls one last time and the roombegins fading to darkness. Then a blessed numbness washes over me. He'sgone. . . .

  And I dream I am dead.

  Sometime, probably hours later, I sensed my consciousness graduallyreturning. Around me the room was still dark and, remembering the"dream," I came fully awake with a start, my heart pounding. What had .. . it done to me? I was shivering, with a piercing, pointed ache in mygroin. I needed air.

  I rose up unsteadily and reached out, and realized I was in a hospitalbed with metal bars along one side.

  What! How did I come to be in this? Then I began remembering. I was at_Baalum_, in Alex Goddard's Ninos del Mundo clinic. And I'd been tryingto get Sarah and take her home.

  Instead, I'd passed out and then . . . an attack, some unspeakably evil. . .

  Get out of here. Now.

  I settled my feet onto the floor with a surge of determination, andthat was when I sensed I was in a different place from where I'd . . .Where--!

  I gazed around in the dark, then reached out and felt something on atable beside the bed. It was a clay bowl full of wax. What . . . acandle. And next to it I touched a plain book of matches. My hand wastrembling from the pain in my groin, but I managed to light the candle,a flickering glow.

  My wristwatch was lying nearby on the table. Someone must have taken itoff and placed it there. I picked it up and held it by the candle, andfor a moment I was confused by the seconds ticking off. Then I realizedthe time was . . . How could that be! It read 4:57 A.M. Had I been outfor hours?

  I gasped, then raised the candle and gazed around. The walls were brownstone--or maybe they just looked like stone. Yes, now I recognized it.I was in the fiberglass-walled operating room I'd seen on AlexGoddard's closed-circuit monitor.

  What was I doing in here?

  My arm brushed against the table and I felt an odd sensation. Glancingdown, I realized there was a Band-Aid on the inside of my left wrist.What was that about? Earlier he'd taken blood from my right arm, butthen he'd just swabbed it, so why this bandage? And what in hell was Idoing in an operating room? I hadn't agreed to any procedures. Did hecome back for a second--?

  Or . . . that was what he'd done. He'd injected me with an IV drug. Thebizarre vision I'd had was his cover for some perverse invasion of mybody. My God, I'd been unconscious since yesterday afternoon. Duringall that time, what could he have done to me?

  I was fist-clenching furious. Looking around the "operating room," Iwanted to rip the place apart.

  When I tried to stand, I realized my groin was tender and sore as hell,all across my panty-line, only somewhere deep, deep inside, in myreproductive . . . It was like after he'd given me those shots up atQuetzal Manor. I checked and saw no red needle-punctures this time, butthe pain was much worse. That sick butterfly-jaguar dream was no dream.I'd been raped by . . . The bastard.

  I pushed aside the pain, edged across to the door, and tested it.Unlocked. Good. Go find the SOB right now. Tear his head off.

  I pulled back the door, took a deep breath, and checked out the hallway.

  Whoa! How did they get here? In the dim light I made out two uniformedArmy privates down at the end near the slatted windows, dozing infolding metal chairs, their AK-47's propped against the plaster wall.

  Why were they here? Just a cool, breezy place to hang out? Or were theyin place to guard me?

  The breeze was causing the candle's flame to cast flickering shadowsacross the hall, so I quickly re-closed the door.

  Now what? I was trembling as I returned the candle bowl to the tableand sat down on the bed. Soldiers with guns were outside my room atfive in the morning. In the farthest end of Guatemala. What was I goingto do?

  I gazed around at the "stone" walls and tried to think. My mind stillfelt clouded from whatever drug he'd given me, but it was beginning to. . .

  Wait. I saw Alex Goddard come into this very room with embryos from thelab, which is connected by the steel door to his office. . . .

  Where there was a phone.

  Time to call the embassy, get some help to get the hell out of here.

  I sat there thinking. All right. I'd need to wait an hour or so--nowI'd get some low-level flunkie stuck with the graveyard shift--butthere was something I was damned well going to do immediately. With thelab right next door, I could try to find out why Goddard had justperformed medical rape on me. There had to be some connection.According to him, the lab was for "plant research." But if that was allhe was doing, why was the Army here? Right outside my door? I felt apump of adrenaline that made me forget all about my pain. Before I gotthe hell out of _Baalum_, I was going to know what he was really up tohere.

  God, I feel miserable. I really hurt. All the more reason . . .

  I took the candle, stood up, and moved to the opposite wall to beginlooking for an opening in the fiberglass "stone." It appeared to havebeen made from impressions from the room atop the pyramid, rows androws of those little cartoon-face glyphs, mixed in with bas-reliefs,but there had to be a door somewhere. I'd seen him walk right throughit. As I ran my hand along the surface, I was struck by how theirhardness felt like stone. But it couldn't be.

  What was I looking for? There certainly were no doorknobs. I cameacross a hard crack, next to the bas-relief of a feather-festoonedwarrior, but as I slid my hand down, it ended and again there was morerough "stone." Solid.

  Damn. I stood back and studied the wall with my candle. He'd come infrom the left, which would be about . . .

  I moved over and started again. This time my fingernail caught in acrevice that ran directly down to the floor. Then I discovered another,about two and a half feet farther along. It had to be the door.

  I felt along the side, wondering how to open it, till I noticed thatone of the little "st
one" glyphs gave way when I pressed it. When I putmy hand against it harder and rotated it, the panel clicked backward,then swung inward. Yes!

  And there it was: the lab, CRT screens above the incubators, gaschromatograph in the corner. This, according to him, was where hetested the rainforest plants the shamans and midwives brought in. Butwhat about what he'd just done to _me_?

  I was still worried about the Army guys outside, but I walked in,trying to be as quiet as I could. The first thing I did was head forthe row of black boxes above the bench. Those, I assumed, were beingused to maintain a micro-environment for incubating plant specimens.And sure enough, the dimly lit windows revealed rows and rows of petridishes. They were clear, with circular indentations in the center. . . .

  But wait a minute. Those weren't just any old lab dishes. And no plantextracts were in them either, just clear liquid. That was odd, veryfishy.

  I stood there puzzling, and then I remembered seeing pictures of labdishes like these being used for artificially fertilized embryos. Atthe beginning, freshly extracted human ova are placed in an incubatorfor several hours, afloat in a medium that replicates the inside of afemale Fallopian tube, to mature them in preparation for fertilization.Goddard had said something about tests on the blastocyst, the firstcellular material created after fertilization. So was he using actualfetuses? My God. I felt like I was starting to know, or guess, a lotmore than he wanted me to.

  My thoughts were churning as I looked up and studied the video screensabove the boxes. It took a moment, but then I figured out the petridishes and their chemicals had been placed in the incubators between4:00 P.M. and 7:30 P.M. Last evening. What--?

  I started counting. They were in racks, stacked, in sets of

  four by four. Let's see. Five in this incubator, five in the next, fivein the . . . There were over two hundred dishes in all!

  Impossible. I looked down at them again, feeling a chill. Nothingseemed to be in them yet, at least as far as I could tell, but thenhuman eggs are microscopic. So if ova were . . .

  When he supposedly was doing that _in vitro _on the Mayan woman, was heactually extracting eggs?

  Get serious. That was not where they came from.

  By then I was well along the Kubler-Ross scale, past denial and closingin on anger, but still . . . so many! How could they all--

  I turned and examined the row of plastic-covered jugs at the back ofthe lab, lined up, six in all. Now I had to know what was in them.

  I was still shaky, but I steadied myself, walked over, pulled back theplastic, and touched one. It was deathly cold, sweating in the moistair. When I flipped open its Frisbee-sized top, I saw a faint wisp ofvapor emerge into the twilight of the room . . .

  Then it dawned on me. Of course. They were cryo-storage containers.He'd need them to preserve fertilized eggs, embryos.

  I lifted off the inside cover and placed it carefully onto the bench,where it immediately turned white, steaming with mist. Then I noticed atiny metal rod hooked over the side of the opening. When I pulled itup, it turned out to be attached to a porous metal cylinder containingrows of glass tubes.

  What's . . .?

  Feeling like I was deep in a medical fourth dimension, I took out oneof the freezing tubes. It was notched and marked with a code labeledalong the side: "BL -1 la," "BL -1 lb," "BL-1 lc," and so it went, allthe way to "g." But nothing was there.

  I began checking the other tubes. They all were empty too. So why washe freezing empty containers?

  Go with the simple answer. He's getting them ready for new embryos.

  I slid the rod back into the cryo-tank, then walked over and hoistedmyself onto the lab bench next to the Dancing Shiva, creator anddestroyer. And when I did, I again felt a stab of pain in my groin. Thebastard. I was shaking, in the early stages of shock. More thananything, I just wanted to find him and kill him. . . .

  I thought I heard a scraping noise somewhere outside, in the hall, andI froze. Was he about to come in and check on his "experiments"? Then Irealized it was just the building, his house of horrors, creaking fromthe wind.

  I took one final look at the incubators, and all the pain came back.The whole thing was too much for my body to take in. I sat there tryingto muster my strength.

  Don't stop now. Keep going.

  I got back onto my feet. The phone. Use the telephone. Find Steve,alert the embassy, then get Sarah. Do it now, while you still can.

  I was holding my breath as I walked over and pushed open the door tothe office and looked in. It was empty and dark. Good. I headedstraight for the black case of the Magellan World Phone.

  When I picked up the handset and switched it on, the diodes wentthrough their techno-dance of greens and yellows and then stabilizedgiving me a dial tone. Thank you, merciful God.

  I decided to start off by calling the hotel in Belize again, on thelong shot that Steve had managed to get the hell out of Guatemala.Baby, please be there. My watch said the time was five-twenty in themorning, but he once told me they manned the desk around the clock. Noproblem getting through, though the connection had a lot of static. Butthen came the news I'd been dreading: no Steve Abrams.

  "He still not come back, mon."

  Where was he? I wanted to scream, but I was determined to keep a grip.

  All right, try the Camino Real and hope you can get somebody awake whospeaks English. Maybe he went back. Please, God.

  I had the number memorized, so I plugged it in, and I recognized thevoice of the guy who picked up, the owner's son, who was trying hisbest to learn English.

  "Hi, this is Morgan James. Remember me? I'm just calling to see ifthere's a Steve Abrams staying there now?"

  "Hey, _que pasa_, Senora James. Very early, yes? _Momento_." There wasa pause as he checked. Come on, Steve, be there. Please, please besomewhere.

  Then the voice came back: "No, nobody by that name stays here."

  "Okay . . . _gracias_." Shit. It was like a pit had opened somewheredeep in my stomach.

  I replaced the handset, feeling grateful that at least the phone stillworked, my last link to sanity. My next call was going to be to theembassy, but I couldn't risk using up my opening shot with thegraveyard shift. Maybe by 6 A.M. somebody with authority to dosomething would be there. Just a few more minutes.

  Now what? I felt the aching soreness in my groin again, along with awave of nausea. I had to do something, anything, just to keep going, tobeat back an anxiety attack.

  That was when I turned and stared at the computers, the little ducksdrifting across the screens.

  All right, you know what he's doing; now it's time to try and find outwhy. The real why. There must be records of what he's up to storedthere. What else would he have them for?

  "Clang, clang, clang." A noise erupted from somewhere outside thewindow. In spite of myself, I jumped.

  Then I realized it was just the odd call of some forest bird. God, Iwasn't cut out for this. Now my head was hurting, stabs of pain, but Irubbed at my temples and sat down at the first terminal.

  I'm a Mac fan, hate Windows, so I had to start out by experimenting. Inthe movies people always know how to do this, but I had to go withtrial and error, error compounding error.

  After endless false starts that elicited utility screens I couldn't getrid of, I finally brought up an index of files, which included a longlist of names.

  ALKALOIDS

  CARDIAC GLYCOSIDES

  PHENOLICS

  SAPONINS

  TERPENOIDS

 
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