Life blood, p.25
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       Life Blood, p.25

           Thomas Hoover
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  Biology 103--which I hated--was coming back. Plant-extract categories.Looks like he actually is doing research on the flora here. But . . .still, what does he need my ova for?

  I scrolled on. Scientific terms that meant nothing. Then, toward theend of the alphabetical list, I came to the word QUETZAL.

  What was that? I clicked on it and--lo and behold--up came a short listof names. Six in all, organized by dates about a year apart, and each awoman.

  My God. First I assumed they were patients from Quetzal Manor who'dcome here for fertility treatment, though each was indicated"terminated" at the end, whatever that meant. But as I scanned down, Ididn't want to see what I was seeing. The name next to the last was S.Crenshaw. She'd been "terminated" too.

  The bottom was M. James. But I hadn't been "terminated." Not yet.

  I slumped back in the chair, trying to breathe. How much more of thishorror could I handle? Finally I leaned forward again and with atrembling hand clicked on S. Crenshaw.

  A lot of data popped up, including three important dates. The first wasexactly three weeks after the one in her passport, the Guatemalan entryvisa. The second was ten months ago, the third eight months ago. Aftereach was a number: 268, followed by 153, and finally 31.

  The count of her extracted ova. Kill him. Just kill him.

  A lot of medical terminology I couldn't interpret followed each number,but the note at the end required no degree.

  "Blastocyst material from embryos after third extraction shows 84%decrease in cellular viability. No longer usable."

  My God, had he made her permanently sterile?

  While that obscenity was sinking in, I went back and clicked on my ownname. The date was today, the number was 233. He'd just taken 233 of myova. I stared at the screen and felt faint.

  No medical analysis had yet been entered, but it didn't matter. Istared at the screen, feeling numb, for a full minute before clickingback to Sarah's page. Yes, I was right. The last date was just sixweeks before she was found in a coma, down the river from here. . . .

  No more mystery. He'd been using her eggs to create embryos, and they'dfinally stopped working. Not "special" anymore. So her "program" hadbeen "terminated." In the river.

  My stomach was churning, bile in my throat, and I thought

  I was going to throw up. I took a deep breath, slowly, and stoppedmyself. Before I got Sarah and we got the hell out of _Baalum_, I wasgoing to smash everything in this lab.

  It all had just come together. Those shots of "muscle relaxant" he gaveme up at Quetzal Manor, they had to be a cocktail of his "proprietary"ovulation drugs. Then, with my ovaries ripening, he'd lured me hereusing Sarah. He knew I'd come after her. Next he'd "arranged" with AlanDupre to fly me here. Finally, a sedative, and he'd harvested 233 of myova, which he now had out there in those incubators. . . .

  But what about proof? To show the world. Morning sounds were buildingup outside, so I was less worried whether the two soldiers in thehallway were still asleep or not. Truthfully, I was so wired I nolonger cared. I clicked on a printer and began zipping off the files ofeach woman he'd violated, all six.

  Disgust flowed through me like a torrent. Heart of Darkness. "Thehorror, the horror." Alex Goddard had used Sarah in the mostunspeakable way possible, then tried to have her murdered. Probablyhe'd just turned her over to Colonel Ramos.

  The same thing must have happened to those other women. All"disappeared" somewhere in Guatemala. But who would know?

  One thing I knew. I was next. . . .

  The printer was old and loud, but thankfully it was fast. Four minuteslater I had what I'd need to nail the criminal. When I got out of here,somebody would have to believe me.

  While I was stacking the printouts, I resolved to call the embassyright then, the hour be damned. I was sweating like a gazelle when thelion is closing in. Alex Goddard had just performed primal, surgicalrape on me, and now the Army was right outside. I had to get theembassy.

  And that was when I realized I didn't have the number. But it had to bein a phone book somewhere.

  A quick look around the office didn't turn up one. I considered ringingthe Camino Real again, to ask them to look up the number, but then Ihad an inspired thought. Steve had said Alan Dupre's number was easy toremember because it promoted his business. What was it? I couldn'tremember.

  Then it came back: 4-MAYAN, the six-digit number they used in GuatemalaCity. Call the sleazebag and ask him who can get me out of here. He'ssupposed to know everybody.

  Dawn was bringing more and more forest-morning songs through the thinslats of the windows. I walked over and pushed them open, running myfingers out into the air. It felt cool, the touch of freedom, and Ithought for a moment about bursting through to escape. Just get Sarahnow.

  Instead, I walked back to the phone, clenching my fists, and dialedAlan Dupre's number, praying and hoping it was where he lived. Stevehad called him late in the evening, so it probably was. I'd thought Inever wanted to speak to him again, but now . . . God, let him be there.

  The phone, however, just rang and rang and rang.

  Come on. Damn.

  It rang and rang some more. Then finally--

  "Who the fuck is this? We don't open till nine."

  The first sound of his voice brought a wave of relief, but then hiscocky attitude made me livid all over again.

  "It's Morgan James, you shit. Why did you leave me stranded up here?You have no idea what--"

  "Oh, you . . ." He paused for a cigarette cough. "You made me walk allthe way downstairs just to bust my chops. What the--?"

  "Talk to me, you prick." I still intended to strangle him. "I need yourhelp. You owe me. You have no idea what--"

  "Hey, lady, you didn't possibly believe taking off in that fuckinghurricane was my . . . Let's just say I was acting under duress. I allbut didn't get back."

  "Well, you can start making up for that right now by springing me thehell out of here." So, somebody had put him up to it, just like I'dthought all along. But who? "I want you to look up the number for theAmerican embassy. And tell me the name of somebody there who--"

  "Jesus, you truly don't get the picture, do you?" He paused for anotherearly-morning reefer hack.

  "I 'get' that you--"

  "Missy, it was a high official at that very establishment 'suggested' Ifly you up there. Why the hell else would I do it, for chrissake? Youknow I'm not a citizen of this fun house. Said party noted that if Ididn't, he could make a few phone calls about my residency status, mypilot's license . . . Let's just say it was an offer I didn't see fitto take issue with."

  "Oh, my God." I felt like a knife had just plunged into my back. "Washis name Barry Morton? Please tell me."

  "Taking the Fifth on that one," he said coughing again. "But you've gotprimal instincts."

  I heard a noise outside and sank lower in the chair. What was I goingto do now?

  "Listen, do you have any idea where Steve is? They're looking--"

  "No shit, Madame Sherlock. I had a long, deeply uninspiringinterrogation by a couple of upscale assholes who showed up here in anArmy Jeep. They wanted to know where the fuck he was, when I'd suppedwith him last. Let me inform you, love, you got my old heartstringsbuddy in some decided doo-doo."

  "I feel guilty enough about that as is, so stop." In spite of all AlexGoddard had done, I felt horrible about Steve, like a self-involvedwitch. "But do you know where he is now?"

  "Haven't the foggiest fucking idea, never heard of the jerk. Shit, hangon." The line went silent, and I could feel my pulse pounding.

  Outside the office door, I heard footsteps approaching down the hall.Please, God, please. But then they passed by, terminating where the twosoldiers had been dozing. Next I heard the tones of a soliddressing-down in profane Spanish.

  "_Tu heres un pedaso de mierda!"_

  Then came a familiar voice from the receiver. I couldn't believe it.

  "Morgy, why in hell did you let Alan take you up there by yourself?"His tone had a sadne
ss, and a deserved pique, that cut me to the core.

  I think I stopped breathing.

  "Oh, baby, thank God you're . . ." I was expecting the door to burstopen any moment. Men with AK-47's. "Do you know the Army's lookingfor--?"

  "You're completely nuts. I got halfway to Belize and called the motelto see how you were doing, and they told me you'd taken off with thisasshole. So I turned around and drove back here. It was after midnightand the Army thugs had just left. Morgy, I'm coming to get you. Soon asthe gas stations open. I know a back road to Mexico. We've got to getout of this fucking country immediately."

  "Don't try to drive up. It's too dangerous. Can you get Alan to flyyou? Sarah's here and she's been turned into a space cadet. I don'tknow how I'm going to pry her away." I stopped to try to assemble mythoughts. "He's got soldiers watching me. I've got to smuggle her outsomehow."

  I couldn't bring myself to tell him what was really going on.

  "Let me talk to Dupre a second. The fucker. I can't believe he did thisto you. But maybe we can come up with something. Otherwise, I may justkill him with my bare hands."

  I heard a cough, which told me Alan had been listening in on anextension. It teed me off, but then--he did have to be in on this.Shit. The idea of relying on Alan Dupre for anything . . .

  "Well, do it fast. I broke into Alex Goddard's office to use this phoneand . . . just hurry."

  "You got it."

  Now the sound of firm, officer-like boot steps stormed past the door,headed out this time, after which the two young soldiers began beratingeach other in high-pitched Spanish.

  "_Hace falta tener cojones!_"

  "_Hijo de tu chingada madre!_"

  More and more light was creeping through the slatted windows. A glanceat my watch showed the time to be six sharp, but the embassy was nolonger an option.

  "Listen," Steve said coming back on, "there's some rain due fortonight, but he says he thinks we can try. He claims there's a clearingabout a quarter of a mile down a gravel road that goes south. With therain as cover, maybe we can put down just after dark. Think you canfind a way to get Sarah and meet us?"

  "I'm not even sure she can walk, at least not far, but we'll be there."I was flashing on her back in the square, proclaiming her happiness.Would I have to drag her out, carry her on my back? Well, I would."There's some kind of 'ceremony' on for tomorrow morning. The Army'sgoing to be here in double strength because of it, but maybe it'll makefor some confusion that'll help. Still, she's--"

  "Damn, this is going to be big-time dicey."

  "Honey, let me tell you as much as I can about the layout of thisplace. Just in case."

  Which I did. The main problem was, I didn't know exactly where Sarahwas.

  "Is there anybody there who could help you?" he asked when I'd finished.

  "I'm not hopeful." I paused. "Listen, can you get your hands on a gunor guns?"

  "What are you . . . Don't even think about it! That's the best way toguarantee we all get killed. I'm not taking on the Guatemalan ArmedForces. And you're not either. We've got to keep this very low-tech.The dark and the rain, that's what we use. They don't shoot back."

  At that moment I wanted nothing more than to shoot Alex Goddard. I'dhave done it if I'd had the chance. Happily. But I knew Steve was right.

  "Okay, look, what time?"

  "We'll try to set down about, say--"

  There was a crackle as the yellow diodes on the phone erupted in ahigh-pitched whistle, cutting the connection.

  No! My God, had somebody been listening in?

  So when exactly was he coming? Around dark? That would probably beabout eight o'clock. Or maybe nine . . .

  I was closing the phone case when I heard a sound from outside, asthough someone had passed the door, then come back to listen.

  All right. Get going.

  I gathered the printouts, then headed back through the laboratory,where I took a long, last look at the petri dishes being incubated.Should I just dump them now? But then he'd know for sure that I knew.

  The time would come, and soon.

  As I eased myself back into the fake-stone OR and closed the door, thedawn outside was steeped in forest sounds, clacks and whistles andchirps. That was good, because I needed some stray noise to mask what Iwas going to do next. Take control.

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