Dad, how can you be calling me?
This isnt a good time.
When would be a good time? Your
mother and are worried sick over you. Nobody answers the phone
at your apartment.
When were you going to tell us?
We were afraid you were dead. We havent heard from you
Leave it to my parents to believe the
worst when I had just lost my head, or my body, I forget which.
Everythings fine. I got
a new job.
Whats that? I hear people
Im at a party.
Doctor Chertov, Maria, and Perry were
gathered around my dome-less head, champagne glasses in hand,
taking in every sentence and heaving with mirth at each exchange.
(I hate the word mirth, but thats the only
word I can find to describe what they were engaged in.) They
could hear both sides of the phone conversation quite clearly.
Dr. Chertov could turn up the volume on the phone in my head
at any time.
As far as the dome, Dr. Chertov had
decided to leave it off permanently. He told me a few days
earlier, I dont think youll have any problems
with dust or other contaminants. And if you do, well, maybe
Ill just let you suffer.
Um, Dad, can I call you back?
Yeah, I will. Promise.
You better, or Im coming
up there to find you.
You dont have to leave
Florida, Dad. Ill call.
He hung up.
How did he get my phone number?
This occasioned more laughter from
my co-workers, even though I wasnt talking to them.
I sent it to him, Steve
told me in my mind.
Why? I whispered.
I thought you needed to stay
in touch with your parents.
Great. Now I had a computer with a
I was in the middle of a farewell party
and the phone call with my dad had provided a necessary lift
to the celebration.
Because I had shredded the Rat Macht
contract Dr. Chertov had with the city, the lab was in big
trouble. Maria, an employee with the doctor for 25 years,
was being let go. Perry was going on part-time status. He
would work just three days a week. Everybody was drinking
champagne, but the mood was pretty down and a little edgy.
Perry took advantage of the lift in
the party by putting a clown nose on my face. He pointed at
me and laughed. As if nobody else would get the joke unless
he directed their attention to the cherry-red rubber bulb
on my face.
Maria built on the good cheer by pouring
her champagne all over my head. This occasioned more laughter.
There is nothing worse than having
your co-workers laugh at you, except when youve allowed
your head to be cut off and joined to a computer.
Steve made me sneeze. The clown nose
shot off my face at rocket speed and plunked into the wall
of computer servers at the other end of the lab.
Perry roared and Maria and the doctor
followed with their own little chuckles.
Id had enough.
Youre no prize, either,
you know, I told Maria. Your
face looks like a rutted road. Your hair is disgustinga
blow-dry nightmare. Its all cracked and dead. Look at
yourself in the mirror. Youre a hag.
My friends were stunned. Maria started
Hey now, thats enough,
the doctor said.
Youre not even a good employee.
You told Perry here about all the creepy things going on here.
I said thats enough.
Then I rounded on Perry.
And look at youMr. Beached
Whale. You asked me to try to stop the Rat Machts. You cried
for me to do it. And now youre acting all jolly.
Its not true. Hes
lying! Perry pleaded with Dr. Chertov.
I know, he said soothingly,
patting the big lug on his fat-choked shoulder.
I wasnt going to stop.
And you work for Dr. Douche Bag
here. Hes one of the most awful people Ive ever
The doctor pulled a phone out of his
lab coat and dialed a number. That stopped my rant.
My head exploded. It was like bathing
in a sea full of sharks. Steve felt it too. He sent an image
into me of a Great White gnashing at a bloodied tuna.
My head, what was left of it, sank
Bregen needs a rest, Dr.
Chertov said. That wasnt enough for Maria. She threw
another glass of champagne in my face. My eyes stung and my
nose burned. But it tasted pretty good in my mouth.
The champagne may damage your
circuits. But who cares? the doctor said.
Yeah, who cares? Maria
Im just kidding,
the doctor said. I had the wires double-coated with
insulation after the roach got into you.
Steve heated me up so the champagne
dried out quickly. I still felt like hell. I smelled like
a stale party, my head throbbing with what felt like a hangover
that wont quit.
The party broke up quickly. Maria cried.
Ive been here 25 years!
And now I have to leave because of him! She pointed
a long crone-like finger at me.
I didnt think it was a good time
to point out that the lucrative city contract Steve and I
destroyed involved murdering truckloads of people.
Now, now, Maria, well try
to find something for you soon, the doctor said. He
took her in his arms.
Im going to miss you,
she sniffled, her cracked hair brushing against the doctors
Ill miss you too, Maria.
Well keep in touch. Maybe well get some project
work where we need you. Perry will call you. Perry,
walk her out.
Come on, Maria.
Maria turned to walk out. But she didnt.
She swiped a champagne flute and threw it at my head. It smashed
against my forehead, the glass exploding into my skin, then
showering downward on the desk of my workstation.
I tasted blood in my mouth.
Thank you, sir! May I have another?
I asked her, as little streams of red raced over my nose and
cheeks and down my neck.
Dont worry about it, Bregen.
The computer wont be hurt.
Perry took the crying Maria out of
the lab. When he came back, Dr. Chertov said, Clean
up the Bregen here, Perry. He has work to do.
Perry glared at me, but did the job.
Thank you, Perry. Now, please
The big whale shuffled out. I almost
felt sorry for him.
I want you to procure a woman
for me, the doctor said.
At first I thought he wanted me to
get a random woman, but the doctor took a slip of paper out
of his lab coat pocket and taped it to my screen.
Her name is Nona Donna Lyris.
Bring her to the office.
I have a new contract with the
city. Not a big one, not like the Rat Macht job, which you
so thoughtfully executed. But its something.
Whats it for?
The city wants to study the role
of cocaine in brain damage. Apparently, in this economic environment,
too many Wall Street bankers are blowing their brains out
with coke and the city is concerned.
Theyre worried about bankers?
The city is always worried about
bankers. They provide a lot more cash to the treasury than
your precious public relations people, or average restaurant
What does that all have to do
with this woman?
Shes got brain damage from
doing too much cocaine. Do I have to lead your nose right
into the shit every time?
OK, but why her? She lives in
Locustwood, New Jersey, according to your address slip.
Nona did a lot of drugs in college.
I knew her.
You knew her? How old is she?
Shes 51about my age.
I dont get it."
The doctor sighed, sat down in one
of the labs wheeled swivel chairs and moved about three
feet away from me.
She was my girlfriend.
The doctor put his chin in his hands,
She was going out with an acquaintance
of mine, a rich boy with a powerful father. I was a biochemistry
major. She was studying literature. We had nothing in common.
But she came after me for some
reason. You know how capricious girls can be. She was a coltish
young thingbeautiful. And aggressive. One time when
I was talking to a girl in the student union, she came up
from behind me and hugged my shoulders. My whole body was
on fire from that hug. I was thrilled by her.
I felt like I was in a psychiatrists
office and I was the psychiatrist. I couldnt think of
anyone less well-equipped for such a job with such a personmy
employer and tormentor, no less.
I didnt like where this was going,
but had no way to stop it.
She was beautiful, Tottenkopf.
Beautiful. A wave of strawberry blonde hair over her forehead.
Deep brown eyes. Peaches and cream complexion, with little
freckles on her apple cheeks.
She broke up with the rich boy
over something stupid and she and I started dating. It was
OK for a couple of months, but it turned bad quickly.
The doctor took a long pull of champagne
from a glass left over from the party.
I love this stuff. She was doing
a lot of drugs. I didnt. After our dates, she would
sneak off to do drugs with other boys.
Howd you know?
She would tell me! She loved
drugs. She smoked a lot of pot. And hashish. Took some LSD.
Of course there were massive amounts of cocaine. I saw her
a few times when she was high on the coke. She was very excited
and happy. Happier than Id ever seen her with me, or
I nodded my head.
Thats not even the worst
of it. While she was going out with me she was sleeping with
every little Johnny who walked by her path. There was the
captain of the basketball team, who had a girlfriend himself.
She slept with a volunteer EMT boy in the college ambulance
squad. The editor of the school newspaper, toohe liked
to pour beer on his thighs at parties. And the drug dealer,
of coursesome two-bit street punk named Donnie. He had
an Afro the size of a basketball, aviator glasses. A white
boy, from the suburbs, Long Island. Donnie sold cocaine and
pot out of his dorm room. God, I hated that little creep.
Howd you know about these
My friends would tell me. Theyd
see her walk out of Donnies dorm room at 8 oclock
in the morning. Or the EMT boy or the basketball captain.
It was horrifying.
Did you ever confront her about
No. I didnt know what to
do. I was crushed, yet I couldnt let go of the relationship.
I clung to it. I was desperate to keep it going.
I couldnt believe all the things
the doctor was telling me, his Bregen, his brain
of a slaughtered animal, but I pumped as much information
out of him as I could, in the hopes that I could use it somehow.
What year was this?
1977. More than 30 years ago.
But its still so vivid and real to me. Did you know
she once told me she wanted to sleep with my older brother?
Can you imagine what that feels like, Tottenkopf?
Im an only child.
Well, its terrible, let
me tell you!
She didnt like that I didnt
do drugs. I was too straight, she said. She didnt
like that I was a biochem major. She told me I was studying
the equivalent of auto mechanics, while she was reaching for
the highest truths of humanity by delving into literature.
One time she told me that it
was difficult for her to be seen with me around campus. She
said, I live in a fishbowl here, Armandeverybodys
watching me. In other words, she was embarrassed to
be seen with me.
She really hurt you.
We went out for only three months
in the fall term, junior yearnot even a semester. But
I dropped out of school, during the spring term. I couldnt
take seeing her on campus. The only way I could get her out
of my mind was to completely remove myself from the environment.
What did you do?
I went home and got a job in
a jewelry factory. I made gold wedding rings. Ironic, no?
I went back to school next year.
I stayed as far away from her as I could, and then she leftwent
to Spain for overseas study.
That sounds good.
I never met anybody who nullified
my personality so completely. God, I hate her.
I didnt know what to do with
that information, and neither did Steve. Holy crap,
he whispered to me.
After all these years, why do
you want to see her?
Nona wanted to be a poet and
a writer. She aspired to be a bohemian. At least thats
what she said. Then she married a big-shot lawyer from New
Jersey, had two kids. The brain damage came later, in her
Can you tell me more about that?
She cant workshe
How do you know all this?
I kept track, through mutual
acquaintances. I wanted to know. One of her girls is learning-disabled,
because of Nonas extensive drug use, no doubt. I was
glad to hear about it.
Having an innocent punished for someone
elses crimes was very much in character for the doctor,
so I let his sadistic urges pass without comment.
So, why get her for this study?
Shes a great example of
brain damage from cocaine. I thought you would see that clearly.
Go get her.
Thats your problem, Bregen,
Chertov got up from the chair, pointed
at the address slip taped to my computer screen, and walked
Im looking forward to seeing
her very soon, he told me, holding up his cell phone
so I could clearly see it.
The psychiatry session was over, ended
by the patient in this case.
Steve and I talked about what to do.
Can we FedEx her to the lab?
I laughed at his naïve suggestion.
Whos going to package and
ship the contents?
Yes, I see the problem. What
about kidnapping her?
We need to find a way to get
her to come on her own. Kidnapping is potentially violent
and very expensive. Im not comfortable hiring thugs.
We need Nona here alive and well. Or else were going
to get zapped with the phone.
We need to find out more information
Right. Lets do a Net search
on her name.
Steve dug into the Web. Nona had published
some obscure poems in a few small university journals, while
still in her twenties, which no one read anymore. One was
a bad poem about clowns.
Her most notable work was not a poem,
but an academic paper titled, A Post-Modern Deconstruction
of Cocaine in Literature. Right up her alley, I suppose.
That was published when she was in her early thirties.
Then there was nothing. Maybe the brain
damage had set in by that time.
How are we going to get her here?
Steve asked, his metallic voice sounding strained.
You sound like actually care.
Im worried about the effects
of another phone call.
Now, see thats interesting
to me. How can you really think ahead? Thats very human.
Ive acquired some of the
elements of your personality. I thought you understood this
Not really. This is all new for
We decided to give Nona a grant. I
wrote a letter on behalf of the completely fictional Stevens
Foundation, inspired by Steves name. It stated, in part,
that our mission was to re-discover artists and writers who
had shown early promise, but felt compelled to leave their
fields because of lack of funds, or other problems. I wrote
that we were very interested in her paper on cocaine literature
and that we wanted to help her continue her work in this area.
I ended by inviting her to come to our handsome offices on
the Upper East Side of Manhattan, with her portfolio of work,
no matter how aged.
A week later, an explosion of dyed
blonde hair showed up in the lobby of the office, carrying
a black leather portfolio and walking with a jagged gait.
Maybe that was the brain damage talking. Steve beamed the
security camera from the lobby to my screen. Nona wore a black
jacket over a creamy white blouse with black pants and what
looked like very expensive pointed shoes. How do women wear
There was a spot of red sauce on Nonas
pretty white collar. Apparently, no one had given her the
classic pre-interview advicenever eat pasta with tomato
sauce before a meeting.
Perry met Nona and escorted her to
He took her through the double doors
to the lab, where she met me and swooned.
I thought I was going to a conference
room. What is that thing?
Thats Head, Perry
A wax head. Great.
Armand! What are you doing here?
This is my lab. Welcome.
The doctor turned to me. Howd
you get her here?
We gave her a grant.
He gave me a thumbs-up. Good
That thing talks? Nona
screamed. She started waving her free hand in front of her
face, as if she were going to faint.
I protested. I am not a thing.
I found myself attracted to her, despite the fact that she
was fairly wrinkled about the eyes and mouth. Maybe it was
the spaghetti sauce or the dye job.
Armand, what have you got me
I just wanted to see you again.
I dont want to see you.
Perry, stop her.
The guy with a belly the size
of Rhode Island? I dont think so.
Nona turned to go, then slipped a little
on the tiles and her feet went out from under her. She hit
her head, loudly. It could have been the brain damage. Or
the pointy shoes.
Chertov was on her immediately. He
jabbed a needle in her neck.
What is that? I asked,
worried for the lady.
THC, the active ingredient in
marijuana. It should relax her.
And prevent her from leaving.
Thats a strong term. My
thinking is that shell be so happy that shell
want to stay. Perry, youre our last line of defense.
If, despite the massive amounts of THC in her system, Nona
somehow persuades herself to leave, youll stop her,
Perry saluted. Aye, aye, sir.
Ill lock the doors to the lab.
Now, I have work to do. Tottenkopf,
What choice do I have?
He turned and left the room.
Nona woke up about 15 minutes later,
groggy and nauseous.
I feel like vomiting.
Go right ahead.
Why are you talking to me? Youre
made of wax.
I am not.
She seemed to accept this.
You got any cigarettes?
This endeared me to her further.
No. I could order some for you
over the Internet.
That would take too long. I want
a cigarette right now.
Steve sent in an order to a Canadian
outfit for cigarettes.
Sorry. I cant help you
Youre just another impotent
man. Men always apologize and think youll accept it.
Im not happy with any of you.
The remark stung a little. I was a
little hurt. But I was feeling a little attracted to her too.
I thought THC was supposed to
make you relaxed and groggy.
Is that what Armand put in me?
She laughed. I have so much THC in me that I probably
have, what do you call ittolerance?
You smoke marijuana? Youre
On a regular basis, waxling.
I smoke marijuana because Im a mother, you idiot.
I was finding myself more interested
in her with every barb.
I also do cocaine, any chance
I thought you had brain damage.
Do you have brain damage?
Some. I dont remember what
post-modernism is. I wrote a paper about it and I cant
tell you what it is. Even when I read it over and over again.
That doesnt seem too serious.
Sometimes when I look in the
mirror, I cant even see myself.
I thought that problem might not have
anything to do with drugs, but I kept quiet, out of politeness.
What did you want to do with
Write a memoir about taking drugs.
Thats been done, many times.
Listen, waxling, I dont
even know why Im talking to you. Maybe because youre
the only thing around. Maybe Im higher than I thought.
Anyway, I dont need to justify myself to you.
I felt thoroughly spanked, mentally-speaking.
And increasingly attracted.
Nona held her arms out, like an angel.
You want to hear my take on it?
Everybody writes books about how drugs take you down and destroy
your life. You end up living in some cheap hotel with hookers.
Not me. I got married and moved to the suburbs. My book will
be about how great drugs are. They help get you by in the
stultifying environment of law partner dinners, golf dates,
Mommy and Me parties and the cheap melodrama of your kids
junior high school experiences. Cocaine has been one of the
most uplifting parts of my life.
I was intimidated by her, no question,
but I felt I had to ask.
But isnt it destroying
She jabbed a finger at me. Ah,
who cares about that? It would be a far better fate than attending
yet another law partner dinner.
I had no response to that, but Steve
laughed a metallic laugh. He now had a sense of irony.
For the next two hours, Nona sat in
a swivel chair and asked me every five minutes or so, You
got any cigarettes?
It hurt to have to tell her no. Her
face would fall and she would look like she was going to cry.
Then she seemed to forget and the process would start all
One time she said broke up the monotony
by saying, Youre really a useless piece of shit.
If I had any guts left, I would slap you.
If I had any arms, I would hug
I felt like a shamed dog, and never
so on fire with attraction. I tried to strike back, somehow,
to defend my wounded sense of dignity.
Maybe. But Nona Donna, youre
Ive heard that, I dont
know, about 20,000 times, waxling. Youre about as original
as apple pie.
I felt even worse than I did before
I spoke up. Why try to defend yourself with such a creature?
Its better to just shut up and really act like a wax
Dr. Chertov walked in and Nona perked
up from her somewhat frazzled state.
Armand, my husband is going to
find you. And sue you.
The doctor waved a strawberry-colored
folder at us.
I dont think so, Strawberry
(The guy was obsessive about this woman to the point of psychosis.
Matching folder colors to his nickname for her? Really demented.)
Not after I send this to him.
What have you got there?
An extensive record of your behavior
at the university.
This is a new record for obsession,
even for you. I thought you were buried in your science books,
I made time for other plenty
of other things. You dont know me. You never did. Anyway,
heres documentation of all the boys you slept with,
the dates you were with them. And Ive got descriptions
of the drugs youve been taking, with their effects on
the brain. Now your husband will find out whats causing
your brain damage.
Ruining my marriage is my job,
Armand, not yours.
Anyway, it doesnt matter
what you send him. Hell come after you. Hes a
partner in a big law firm. I may hate his guts, but Im
his wifehes got a lot of pride.
Well see. Tottenkopf, send
this FedEx overnight priority to Nonas house.
Roger that, I said.
Hows he going to do that,
Armand? The waxling has no arms.
Its all done by computer
now. If you werent so brain-damaged, youd have
kept up with events.
And thats another thing,
Armand. Your nickname for this thing Ive been talking
to is Tottenkopf? That was the insignia of Hitlers
SSthe deaths head.
I thought it meant skull head,
I said, weakly, as if that were an important distinction somehow.
She spat out the words as if I was
so stupid not to realize it. It has two meanings, wax-head.
Dr. Chertov smiled a crooked little
Who knew you studied such things,
little Strawberry? I thought you were buried in your great
You dont know me at all,
I know you enough to know that
youre a total bitch.
I wanted to defend her somehow. You
should leave her alone, I said.
The doctor pulled out his phone and
pointed to it. You should stay out of this, Tottenkopf.
Please dont tell me youre
attracted to her. Shes like a virus with men, I tell
you. Enough of this witty repartee. Its time for the
procedure. Im ready.
Perry walked in.
Youre going to strong-arm
I hope it doesnt come to
that, Strawberry. Ive got lots of good drugs for you.
You should be happy about that.
Nona looked sad and resigned and yet
angry at the same time.
I want to control what goes into
my body! And when!
Fuck you, Armand.
If you had done that more often,
you wouldnt be in this situation.
The idea had been creeping around inside
me ever since this episode started that the doctor had been
less than truthful about his research study on
Nona. But that statement crystallized for me that Chertov
had something really bad in mind for her. And I had played
a significant role in procuring the lady for him. Here was
another stain on my conscience. It couldnt be washed
Perry wrapped his elephant arms around
Nona and lifted her out of the swivel chair. She tore herself
this way and that, but it didnt matter. Even if she
hadnt been affected by the THC, she would have been
no match for this great mammoth. Perry wrestled her onto the
cold, flat tiles of the lab. The doctor jabbed Nona with another
needle and her face froze, then sank into her chest.
They all left together, Perry carrying
Nona easily in his massive paws. I was alone in the lab with
I thought about the strawberry envelope.
It wasnt right to send it to the husband. But I didnt
want to get zapped by the cell phone again. My life had shrunk
to pure self-interest. Maybe it always had been about that,
but now I really didnt have options about changing my
outlook, or my actions. I was becoming a criminal.
We should FedEx that envelope
the doctor left.
I took care of it already. The
printer is going to print out the form right now. The FedEx
guy will be here at 5 pm to pick it up.
I see you dont have a conscience
anymore, either. You lost it fast.
The only thing I care about is
not getting hit with a phone call that causes you incredible
So, youre my protector
Something like that.
Perry came in about a half-hour later
and picked up the strawberry file folder, with the address
form, to bring it to the front desk for shipping.
I fell asleep and lost track of the
time. It was a good way to forget what had just happened.
After several hours perhaps, Perry wheeled a hospital gurney
into the room. Nona was on it, unconscious, her head covered
in bandages, blood leaking out in little tomato spots.
I knew it was an optical illusion,
but her head looked smaller somehow. Perry placed the gurney
three feet away from my head. This was the same distance to
me in which a Rat Macht had once been positioned.
The doc says to observe her and
report anything she does.
Shell be waking up soon.
What did Chertov do to her?
How the hell should I know, doughnut
hole? Same old charmer.
Nona didnt move for hours. I
observed her. She had two IV tubes going into her right arm,
with the requisite metal stand to hold the fluid bags. The
sheet on the gurney was pulled tight up to her chest. Above
that, there was a flash of green pajama covering her top.
It was a hospital scene, but this was no hospital.
She woke up slowly, as surgical patients
do. Her head faced the ceiling, the white fluorescent lights
painting her face in a harsh palette. Nobody looks good under
those lights, but she looked especially sad.
I want to smoke a cigarette.
You just came out of surgery.
I dont think thats a really good idea.
She turned her face to me.
What are you? A talking head?
You dont remember me?
Did Donnie put acid in the cocaine?
I need to talk to him. Wheres Donnie?
I dont know.
I have to get to poetry class
and Im too high.
Nona rose up on the gurney, and placed
her arms straight up on the flat surface of the bed, the IV
tubes slapping against her arms.
This is too real.
Thats because it is.
No, no. Im high. And I
have to go to class.
She proceeded to climb out of the gurney,
What is this on my head?
Youve had surgery. Those
God, I want a cigarette. Then
I want to see Donnie.
Dr. Chertov walked in.
Hows our little patient
She wants a cigarette.
The doctor laughed a little. Same
Armand, what are you doing here?
And wheres Donnie?
Im afraid, Donnies
been dead a long time, little Strawberry. He died of AIDS
What the hell are you talking
about? Whats AIDS? I have to get to class.
You graduated, married a hotshot
lawyer, had babies.
Thats like the worst nightmare
I ever heard of. And completely ridiculous. Im going
to be a writer.
Chertov howled at that one. I
dont think so.
Whats wrong with her?
The doctor studied Nona for a moment.
She was bent down a little like that old hunchback Quasimodo
and shaky on her feet. He looked sad.
Im afraid the surgery didnt
quite work the way I anticipated. Maybe I didnt remove
enough of her brain. Shes stuck in 1977.
Like you are, I wanted
Armand, youre keeping me
from getting to class.
Quite right, Nona.
My curiosity overcame my fear of the
doctors cell phone.
Why did you do this to her?
I dont see why I have to
answer to you, Bregen.
You asked me to observe her.
I brought her here. I have a right to know.
I suppose thats true, in
a way. Maybe this information will help you become a better
worker. I got a small contract from the city, nothing like
the Rat Macht project, as Ive said before. But it was
something to keep the lab going, make a little profit.
But it wasnt to study cocaines
effect on the brain?
The doctor looked at me and grimaced.
I didnt know if he didnt want to admit a lie or
get himself deeper into the moral muck.
The city has been looking into
the idea of creating a new type of worker for the private
What kind of worker?
Somebody who works and doesnt
There are thousands of illegal
immigrants here. They dont get paid much. And they usually
Yes, but you still have to pay
them, even if its a small pittance.
What would these new employees
Bregen, you always want to leap
ahead. Heres the thing. Were really talking about
maids herepeople who will clean up your house. Theyd
just do the work and not talk to you, or bother you. They
take your orders and do it.
You want a robot.
Yes, a robot. A human robot.
But you still have to feed them.
Oh, thats easy. Im
working on a liquid protein shake thats cheap. You feed
it to the maid once a day and theyre off to work like
a busy little bee.
What about a bed?
Theyd be so compliant you
could find a place for them on the floor, near the laundry
room, in the back of the house, that sort of thing.
And Nona is supposed to be a
Yes, but Im afraid she
wont be much use to us. The mayor has a close friend,
a big contributor to his campaigns, who has a house in the
Hamptons. The friend, who shall remain anonymous, even to
you, has been hit hard by the recession. He wants to fire
his maid staff and get a low-cost alternative. Nona would
have been the one to go.
I was about to ask how Dr. Chertov
and I could possibly kidnap more people for this project,
when Nona interrupted the conversation by trying to strangle
the doctor with her surgical bandages.
She had come up behind him and squeezed
his testicles. As he lowered himself to the floor in pain,
Nona laced the bandages from her head wound to his throat.
It was quite entertaining to watch. She was grunting hard
and sweating. Her skull was pretty well stitched up, blood
lapping at the ridges on her now bald head.
Nona put everything she had into the
effort to kill Chertov, but she was still pretty weak from
the surgery. Plus, she was still attached to the IV stand,
so her range of movement was constrained.
The doctor slipped his right hand under
the bandages and sliced it towards hers. Once he got out from
the grip of the bandages, he took her in his arms and laid
her on the floor, with the IV stand slipping with her, a twin,
in as gentle a move as I had ever seen him make. Considering
the fact that she had just tried to kill him and that she
was beating on his chest with her fists, I applauded the doctors
quality of mercy.
That didnt last long.
Nona struggled to her feet and took
up her Quasimodo-like stance again.
Nona, I want to hit you. But
I cant. You just had surgery.
Nona took a few moments to catch her
breath. I thought she was done fighting, but she clearly wasnt.
Armand, I dont know what
you did to me. But I have to go to class. I want to sleep
with the professor. Really quite badly.
You know, Nona, I think I will
And he did. He socked the lady right
in her bent-over gut. I didnt think the punch had much
energy in it, but Nona was pretty beaten up already. She slipped
onto the floor, the IV stand following, her head banging onto
the cold tiles in a way that made me wince. She lay there,
quite still, blood rippling from her bald skull. I felt sick.
The doctor, huffing from the effort,
talked to me in half-breaths. Tottenkopf, we need to
find a new woman for the project.
Youre going to continue
Yes, you stupid dog. The lab
needs the money.
He took a new address slip out of his
lab coat pocket (how many did he have in there?) and taped
it to my screen.
Find this lady for me. We need
her for the research.
This has nothing to do with revenge?
The doctor smiled at me through his
Furthest thing from my mind.
Tell me again why I should do
this thing for you.
The doctor pulled out his cell phone.
Gladly, Bregen. And thank you
for saying that in the most non-confrontational way possible.
The doctor dialed the number connecting
to my nerve cells. The call hit me, pushing me backward against
the soft, comforting wall of my cubicle. Steve sent to my
computer screen a picture of a double-barreled shotgun exploding
at my doughnut hole head.
I found my motivation.