Good Doctor didn’t let me in on what was up right then and there. Instead, we rode over to Mix N’ Max’s lab. He was persistently silent throughout the drive. When we walked in, we found Max looking at some brain matter under a telescope. The TV in the next room was on and loud enough for us to hear.
They were reporting on Chief Assistant District Attorney Joseph Adontes Jr., whose father was kidnapped and forced to abet a bank robber. Looks like Joe’s grandkids are going to be more pissed than I thought.
“Heya Max,” I said.
“We need to talk privately. Make sure the girls don’t interrupt us,” Doctor said curtly, indicating the room the TV’s noises emanated from.
Max looked up, one eyebrow raised curiously, then called out, “This can wait if it’s so important, just let me get to a stopping point first. Hey girls. If you will, turn that TV up and don’t come in the lab until I say otherwise!” A stopping point? Must be an important matter.
I walked around and messed with some of the equipment as Max’s current helpers turned the TV up. “Meanwhile in Empyreal City, the absence of Sixgun was revealed by his successor, the Lone Gunman, who has vowed to take up his mentor’s guns and charge…” That was so surprising, I nearly knocked over a large bag of baking soda sitting right there in Max’s hidden lab.
Luckily I didn’t. It could have mixed in with the big bag of cocaine right next to it and then how would we heat soft drinks in the oven?
When Max went to put something in his centrifuge, I snuck a peek at the piece of brain he was messing with. Nothing all that interesting. I poked it and it jumped. Curious, I poked it again and it opened a mouth, baring fangs at me. Obviously, I was perplexed. I had to know more, but before I could poke it a third time, it jumped at me and began to chew my collar. Stumbling back and swiping at it, I hit the latch on the freezer. Out stumbled a zombie.
Whew, never have I been so glad to see a zombie. If anyone could help me fend off an attacking brain, it would be a zombie. The carnivorous brain stopped and sniffed at the air, which I consider quite the accomplishment for a cortex. The zombie shambled for me, releasing a moan, but was cut off as the brain practically flew at it, biting into the pale flesh of the zombie.
Relieved, I kicked the zombie back into the freezer and shut the door. When I turned around, I found Doc and Max just looking at me, arms crossed. “You done screwing around?” Max asked me.
Before I could answer, the news caught all of our attention, “Bennett Long, owner of the Long Life Corporation, has expanded on his statement about working to clean up Kingscrow of supercrime with a $500,000 bounty on noted supervillain The Good Doctor, who reportedly attacked him in his office before being fended off by Long Life’s new Peace Enforcement Teams.”
I looked at the Doctor, who knew what I was thinking if the knife he palmed was any indication. Max stepped between us, hands up. I noted the wrist sprayers under his sleeves. “Knock it off, Gecko.”
“It would be imprudent to try, Gecko,” came from Doc.
“Cut it out, Doctor,” said Max, still trying to keep the peace.
“Lungs, liver, or lymph nodes?”
“None of the above. If you, EITHER of you, start anything in here, I’ll dose you. The moment you take off those masks, you’ll be paralyzed or worse. So here is what we are going to do. We’re going to sit down and I would like to hear why the richest man in the city wants our Good Doctor. Then, you two leave through separate doors.”
Reluctantly, we backed off, Doc and I standing on opposite sides of the room. “Sit,” commanded Max. Keeping our eyes on each other, we sank into chairs.
The Good Doctor spoke: “You know I kill people for their organs and sell them, but what you didn’t know is that I had an employer. Bennett Long, the city’s benefactor, has been paying me to provide organs for research and transplant purposes. If you were wealthy, secretive, and well-connected, Ben could get you what you needed to live. For more, he could even get you the organ of someone with powers. That an organ transplant was incapable of transferring special abilities meant nothing. It was something of a status symbol, in their sick way. There are heiresses and aristocrats walking around with organs stolen from men and women who risked their lives or notorious crime figures. They were stolen by me for a man who used to be my friend. At least until he turned on me last night and attempted to liquidate me.”
“Ben and I knew each other from college and medical school, my aspirations aided by the gift I discovered in those days. At that time, he was unaware of my abilities. He dropped out of medical school, but found a way to get into the medical profession with Long Life and offered me a job at one of his private clinics. I chose to work in a hospital he sponsored instead. “
“I met the love of my life due to that friendship. She had secrets in her past that she never let me in on, but her relationship with Ben was not one of them. Ben had moved on and gotten married, so it didn’t appear to affect our friendship. It is unfortunate that Alice proved to be the impetus of so many unfortunate events as well. Her pregnancy was troubled from the start, but I didn’t expect anything would put her into labor prematurely. I acted then and there at home, but I lost her. Our daughter, Aneta, was saved, but needed more time to develop.”
“The police found drugs in Alice’s system. I never knew her to be an addict. They were hospital-grade pharmaceuticals and sedatives, so I came under suspicion and they were going to take my daughter from me, but Ben stepped in for me. He hushed things up and supposedly his company’s testing threw their results into question. He even covered Aneta’s care at no immediate cost to me. I later found out his price was to help him in this new endeavor, organ acquisition from those who were doomed to those who could help fund more hospitals and outreach clinics. I thought he was taking a risk by covering up Alice’s test results. Later, he held them over my head to force me to continue. He made a killer of me. I tried to balance this with caring for Aneta, but she found one of my scalpels and began to notice things. I thought that if I sent her off early enough, she would never even suspect what I had become. I sent her to my best friend, that damn traitor!”
“Last night, he told me he was planning to take a more active role in the city’s and state’s politics. He needed to clear skeletons out of closets and then he called in his men. I had to fight my way out. He’s got everything to make it look like I was drugging my wife, he knows all about my role as his damn assassin, and he’s been raising my daughter for 13 years. I have money saved, but not what he’s offering. Is there anything I can say to convince you two to help me fight him rather than turn me in?”
“You had me at ‘turned on me last night and tried to liquidate me,’” I told him. Let’s be smart about this. The guy already broke his deal with his former friend, the Doc. What are the odds he’ll pay me that kind of money?