“Good morning Mr. Chasez, are you ready for your operation?” The nurse bustled around him checking his vitals and changing the drip that was feeding into JC’s arm.
JC was surprised at how thick his voice sounded, he snagged the hem of the nurse’s uniform and tugged weakly. “Water, please.”
The nurse disentangled his fingers from her garment and tucked his hand back under the sheets tucking him in and effectively strapping him to the bed. “I’m sorry Mr. Chasez you are nil by mouth. They are getting ready to take you down. Try to relax, the doctor will be with you in a few minutes.”
JC felt himself drifting away again and jolted himself awake hearing the door open again. “Good morning young man. Are you ready for your operation?”
“Nurse asked me that too,” JC slurred.
The doctor picked up his charts. “He’s been nil by mouth since when?” he asked, addressing the nurse.
“Since he arrived last night. He asked for some water but I haven’t given him any.”
The doctor looked at her over his glasses. “Good, good,” he said. He turned his attention back to JC. “Now young man, the reason you are feeling so sleepy is because you are being given your pre-med. This gentleman is your anaesthetist and he will stay with you now till after the procedure.”
The other man replaced Phillips in JC’s view. “Hello there,” he said kindly. He took a syringe off a tray being held by the nurse and injected the contents into the plug in JC’s hand. He put his fingers on JC’s throat. “Close your eyes and swallow for me then count back slowly for me from ten.”
JC swallowed as he was asked then started to count backwards. “Ten, nine, eight, seven.”
The anaesthetist smiled satisfied that JC was unconscious, chuckling to himself that no one ever lasted past seven. The nurse pulled back the sheets and thrust JC’s robe up, exposing him so that she could shave his belly and groin. She washed him down and pulled his robe back into place. “All done sweetness,” she said softly just before two men came in and lifted him onto a gurney.
The operating theatre was brightly lit. All the surgical instruments were set out. JC was wheeled in and the two men transferred him to the operating table and erected sheets that isolated his mid-drift then left. Phillips came in, his gloved hands held up so not to get them contaminated. He nodded at a woman sitting at the back of the theatre and she started a tape recorder.
“January 15th 2004. Patient number 33. Twenty seven year old male. Vitals pre-op normal. Experiment in male fertility commencing at” Phillips glanced up at the clock on the wall. “11.35 am. Nurse please swab the area.”
The nurse picked up a swab and painted JC’s belly and lower abdomen yellow. Phillips picked up his scalpel. “I’m making the first incision,” he said coldly.
Justin was nearing hysteria as he listened to Lance making yet another call to another LA printers. “I’m sorry I must have the wrong number.” Lance hung up shaking his head. “No Simon working there either. “
“This is doing no good. We should be out there looking for him not making stupid phone calls,” Justin ranted as he checked his watch. He groaned it was 11 o’clock, time was against them.
“And where do you want to start looking Justin. Do you have any idea how big this city is?” Lance snapped.
Chris placed a calming hand on Justin’s shoulder. “Lance knows what he’s doing. Trust him.”
Lance held up his hand, cautioning them to silence. “Hi can I speak to Simon please?” he listened for a minute then said, “damn I’ll have to call back, I have an important call on my other line. No, no message.” He hung up and gave a triumphant grin. “Got him.”
The three friends piled into Justin’s SUV and with Justin driving, negotiated the heavy city traffic. They pulled up opposite the printing business and Justin popped his seatbelt so he could get out of the car.
Lance grabbed his arm, “not yet j. Start the car and get ready.” He got his cell phone out of his pocket and dialled the printers. “Can I speak to Simon? “ Lance waited till the phone was answered, “is this Simon?” Chris and Justin listened in confusion hearing only one side of the conversation. “Georgina has gone into labour. Yeah she flagged me down as I was driving past your house. She was in a bad way but she refuses to go to hospital without you. Maybe you should come straight home. Yeah okay, bye.” Lance ended the call and grinned at his band mates. “Now we follow him to his bitch.”
It wasn’t long before a short blond man came running out of the building and jumped into a small black convertible and peeled away into the traffic. Justin followed him at a discrete distance.
“What ever you do don’t loose him J.” Lance muttered leaning forward between the car seats.
“I won’t, don’t worry that son of a bitch and his witch of a wife know where my baby is.” Justin changed lanes and followed Simon up a residential street. The blonde man pulled into his drive and jumped out of his car and ran into the house. Justin pulled up on the opposite side of the street. “Now what?” he asked.
“Now we go and kick their fucking asses and demand they tell us where JC is right Lance?” Chris looked to his younger band mate for conformation.
Lance got out of the car. “Too fucking right,” he agreed.
The three men walked up to the front door. “I’ll go round back just in case they try to do a runner,” Chris suggested.
Lance nodded his agreement and waited until Chris was in place before knocking on the door. Georgina answered looking very irate. “Yes,” she demanded.
Lance put a restraining hand on Justin’s chest. “Georgina?” he asked.
The woman looked at him. “Do I know you?”
Lance smiled, “No, but we know you. Where’s JC?” he asked menacingly.
Georgina paled and tried to slam the door. Justin barged it with his shoulder, knocking her over. Simon came running out of the living room at hearing her scream and Lance grabbed him by the throat and slammed him against the wall.
“Get out of my house,” she screamed. “I don’t know a JC. Piss off before I call the police!”
Chris came through the back door. “That’s a great idea. Then you can explain to them why you have JC’s car in you garage.”
Simon groaned and Lance slammed his head into the wall. Justin twisted his hand in Georgina’s hair. “Don’t hurt her,” Simon begged, “she’s pregnant.”
“Do I look like I give a fuck?” Justin hissed. He yanked her head back further, making her scream. “I’m going to ask you one more time then I am going to smash your face into the wall. Where is JC?”
“It’s too late,” she whimpered. “He was operated on this morning.”
The three friends all tuned to the long case, tall clock that stood against the wall. 12:15pm.
Justin swallowed, closing his eyes, composing himself then opening them again. “Where is my lover?” he asked slowly and clearly.
Georgina gulped. “Phillips-More clinic. Take the interstate north, then the second junction. After that just follow the road. It’s really out of the way and it’s mountainside, you’ll need a four wheel drive.”
Justin twisted his fist in Georgina’s long hair once more and brought his face up to hers. “You had better start praying that he is still alive, because if he dies I will make you suffer pain like you could never imagine. In fact if I were you I’d give myself in because I’m going to get you, both of you. If it takes me the rest of my life I will get you. Promise you.”
He shoved her from him and Lance took hold of his arm, pulling him out of the house. “Chris is in the car. He’s called the police and Johnny. They are sending an ambulance and a surgical team.”
Justin followed him in a stupor. ”Too late,” he muttered. “She said we were too late.”
“Too late to stop the operation maybe. But maybe not too late to save his life.”
Justin’s face filled with hope. “We could still save him?”
Lance caught his teeth on his lip. “If god’s on our side … yes.”
When they got to the SUV Chris was just hanging up. “Ambulance is on its way. A surgical team too.”
Justin broke every road rule there was as he drove at breakneck speed to JC’s rescue, leaving Chris and Lance clinging to their seats frightened for their lives. He skidded to a halt out side the clinic and the three men dashed inside. The receptionist looked up, slightly perturbed at the sudden intrusion of her reception.
“She smiled sweetly. “Can I help you gentlemen?”
“Joshua Chasez, where is he?” Justin demanded.
“Mr. Chasez? I do believe we have a patient of that name he was admitted last night. Are you family members?”
Justin slapped his hands on her workstation. “Yes, yes he’s my.”
“Brother.” Lance butted in. “He’s our older brother.”
The receptionist looked at Chris, not completely convinced. “Well obviously I’m not his younger brother. I’m the oldest.”
Please ma’am, where is my brother?” Justin was almost in tears.
“He’s in surgery.”
“Where, where is the theatre?” Justin took off in the direction she had pointed.
“Sir you can’t go in there.” The receptionist ran from behind her desk. “He can’t go in there. They are in the middle of an operation. No one can go in there.”
Chris had chased after the baby of the group and was wrestling him back to the waiting room. He shoved him down into a chair and had to shove him back down again when Justin tried to go straight back.
“Justin stop it.” Lance shouted. “You go charging in there and you could kill him.”
“They are the one’s that are killing him! We have to stop them.” Justin tried to leave again only to be forced back down.
“J, I know you are worried and frightened but if you go in there you will be the one that is putting JC to risk. It’s a sterile area. You go in there and what are you going to do? Knock out the surgeon? Who’s going to put JC’s guts back then?”
Justin sagged down and began to cry. He clutched at Chris’s shirt, pulling him to him and sobbing into his belly. The older man caressed the back of his friend’s head, offering what comfort he could.
Lance dropped into a crouch and rubbed Justin’s knee. “The surgical team will be here soon. They’ll help him. You have no choice Juppy. JC has no choice.”
“But what if they are too late?” Justin asked tearfully. “I don’t want him to die.”
Justin’s two best friends surrounded him with their loving arms and hugged him while he sobbed on their shoulders, praying that this time god would be merciful.
Nearly an hour passed before Johnny and the medical team arrived, Carlos and a dozen or more police officers were trailing a few paces behind them. The doctors descended on the receptionist demanding to know where the operating theatre and preparation rooms were located. The sight of their credentials silenced her protests. She came out from behind her desk and quickly led them to where they wanted to go. Two officers followed them while the rest spread out to search the rest of the clinic.
Justin had been reduced to an emotional wreck, his eyes blood red and swollen from his constant crying. Johnny dropped into the chair beside him and took the younger man, whom he had been looking after since he was a child, into his arms, rocking him gently and whispering comforting words into his ear. Lance took Carlos by the arm and led him to the far side of the waiting room, whispering urgently in his ear. The Hispanic man listened intently, nodding in agreement to what was being said then sat down in a nearby chair to wait with the rest of them.
The time ticked away slowly. Each minute lasting an hour to Justin, torturing his soul with each loud tick of the clock. The two police officers had removed Phillips from the operation within minutes of arriving; Justin and the others were waiting for news, any news.
Minutes turned into hours and left Chris pacing up and down like a man possessed. His face was set in stone, not displaying one emotion as he strode up and down the small room. Eventually Lance couldn’t take anymore and jumped out of his chair and grabbed the short brunette pushing him down into a chair and giving him a glare that would stop a charging rhinoceros in its tracks. The older man slouched back in the chair and folded his arms over his chest, glaring at his younger band mate sullenly. Another long agonising hour past and the waiting friends and colleagues became more anxious. Justin chewed his nails, not noticing that he had bitten them down past the tips of this fingers. He stared down at the floor counting the floor tiles. He had already counted the ceiling tiles, twice. The floor tiles were much more interesting. Fifteen inches by fifteen inches, pale beige with a mottled pattern. Justin discovered that if he stared at them he could distinguish different animal shapes. He wondered briefly if it was a deliberate ploy to distract worried relatives.
Justin’s head shot up. The surgeon stood before him, still dressed in his scrubs. His mouth went dry and he struggled to find his voice.
“JC?” he asked. His voice was cracked, betraying the heartbreak he was going through.
The surgeon pulled of the pale green cap that covered his hair. “He’s in recovery. It was touch and go for a while.” The surgeon paused, scratching his nose before he continued. “He’s not out of the woods by any means. Although we arrived in time to prevent the majority of the damage being inflicted, Phillips had already performed the first stage of his procedure and removed half of JC’s stomach to make way for the artificial womb he was planning to implant. Now, he has lost a hell of a lot of blood and is very weak but he’s fighting.”
“But he is going to be alright?” Lance asked shakily.
The surgeon shook his head. “As I said, he’s fighting. Only time will tell. You must understand JC is in a critical condition. He’s haemorrhaged and we had problems stopping the bleeding.”
“Is . . . is he going to die?” Justin asked his tone hushed, barely even a whisper.
The surgeon gave a big sad sigh. “I don’t know. All we can do now is watch and wait. The next forty eight hours will be vital.”
“Can I see him?” Justin whispered, biting back the fresh tears that were threatening to fall.
The surgeon shook his head again slightly as he replied. “Not yet. We’ll let you see him as soon as we can.” The surgeon started to walk away then stopped and turned to face the distressed group of people. “I think you should prepare yourselves for the worse. I have to get back into surgery, it seems that JC wasn’t the only patient that Phillips experimented on. I have two critical young men and three that are bordering on critical. I have call for more help then scrub up again. I hope your friend makes it.”
Justin’s eyes burned as he tried to be strong, the muscles in his jaw worked endlessly as he swallowed at the bile rising from his gut. Chris came up behind him, touching his shoulder gently and he jumped away from the contact as if he had been burned with a white-hot iron. The shaven headed man walked away, resting his forehead against the cool surface of the waiting room wall. He stood there for over thirty minutes not moving, not speaking while his friends watched helplessly, suppressing their own grief so that they could support him when he broke.
With a pain wracked cry Justin slid down to the floor, collapsing in a heap, sobbing.
It had been more that six hours since they had found JC. Unable to stand the waiting room anymore Chris had gone outside to start smoking again, a habit he had given up. He watched sullenly as a fleet of ambulances showed up and half a dozen patients were taken away. A police officer sat down next to him and Chris offered him a smoke. The officer took a cigarette and muttered his thanks.
Chris stared at the activity that was going on around him. “How many,” he asked quietly.
The officer took a long drag on his cigarette. “Still alive? Seven including your friend. The morgue, twenty. They are coming for them later. Some of them have been dead for months. Just shoved into freezers.”
“Do you know who they are? I mean they must have families.” Chris didn’t take his eyes off the ambulance that had just pulled into the drive and was currently standing with its doors open.
“We have people on it.”
Chris picked at a piece of lint on his trousers. “Did they suffer much?”
The officer dropped his cigarette butt on the ground and ground it out with the heel of his boot. “I’m not a doctor. I’m a cop.”
Chris looked up at him. “That’s not what I asked.”
The cop took a deep breath out. “Yeah, I think they did,” he said before walking away.
Lance came running out of the building. “Chris, they said we can see Jace.”
The head surgeon stood talking to Johnny and Justin was listening intently, his eyes red from crying when they got back to the waiting room. They joined the little group and listened in on the conversation.
“He’s awake, I will allow him no more than one visitor at a time. As soon as he’s stable I’ll transfer him to my own clinic.”
Justin sniffed and rubbed his nose. “Can I see him now, please.”
The surgeon nodded. “He’s in the intensive care unit. Down the corridor, second right.”
Nothing could have prepared Justin for the sight of his lover. JC was lying on his back, tubes attached to ever-visible piece of skin. The monitor that sat to the side of his bed beeped with every beat of his heart. Justin blinked back his tears and sat down beside his lover, squeezing his hand.
JC turned his head slightly, his mouth started to tremble. “I’m sorry,” he breathed. Tears started to run down his face and he turned away.
“It’s not your fault,” Justin said softly. “I should have listened to you. You wanted to talk to me and I didn’t listen. I love you.”
“I wanted to give you a family. I didn’t want to lose you.”
Justin squeezed his eyes shut against the tears gathering beneath his lids, blinking them away at JC’s emotion wracked confession. “You never lost me baby. You’ll never lose me.”
JC shuddered and his breathing became irregular. “Love you,” he gasped, always….”
The beep on the monitor slowed then flat lined, its loud constant whine filling the room. Justin backed away shaking his head, his hand clasped over his mouth. He was pushed aside as a team of doctors forced their way into the room. A nurse shoved him bodily from the room.
“You have to wait outside,” she insisted. Leaving Justin no choice but to watch through the small viewing window in the door as his lover fought for his life.