Arrogance was Their Downfall

Arrogance was Their Downfall

By Jamie Lee

The man sat on the porch of an old Victorian style house, reveling in all that his group had accomplished, while reading a book and acting neighborly as joggers, dog walkers, and other neighbors passed by. All of the houses they set up throughout the state were of the same style house, the exteriors all restored per the historical guidelines set for those houses in those areas, making the houses look as though they had just been built, just like the day they had first been built. All of the houses they chose were also located near old warehouses, which were used to allow discerning clientele a place to park their cars without worry. The inside of all these houses was special, very special, for a special clientele with very specific tastes, so refurbishing the insides took somewhat longer to get everything just right. Another requirement of each house was a very large basement, one which allowed very special equipment to be housed, and allowed a tunnel to surreptitiously be dug from the house to the chosen warehouse behind the house.

His group had also done their research, looking into all the houses that had failed and gained those who ran them extended terms in the State prison. Of course, once it was known what those people had been doing, none lasted past their first month; they all suffered unquestionable death dealing accidents. His group was NOT going to fail because of what they learned.

Two things caused the downfall of those other houses, and the owners eventual deaths. With people coming and going at all times a day, and parking wherever they could find a parking place, the neighbors started complaining to the police, which forced the clientele to park elsewhere and walk to those other houses. While this did lessen the complaints, there were still complaints about people coming and going at all times during the day.

The other thing which caused their downfall were high-end exterior security equipment, which no other house in those neighborhoods had. And the fact that some enterprising person hacked into those cameras, both exterior and interior, and passed what they’d found along to the police. Needless to say, the houses failed, and those running them...died.

The group decided, after careful discussion, and suggestions, to not have any exterior security which could be hacked and/or questioned. Or to have any wifi cameras inside the house, which could also be hacked, but to have hard-wired cameras inside the house which would run to a room on the first floor which could be watched by any and all in the house. Actual security would be done through the use of hardware, locks, deadbolts, and the like.

One suggestion that was at first rebuffed, was finding a hideaway where cars could be parked and clientele could enter and exit without being seen. It wasn’t until the person who made the suggestion had done extensive research, and put it again before the group, that the idea was accepted. His idea was simple, there were neighborhoods which butted up against old industrial areas, areas which contained large warehouses. A member of the group would pose as a contractor needing a place to store his, or her, equipment where it wouldn’t be vandalized. Equipment would then be brought in as if it was a storage place, then they could surreptitiously dig a tunnel well below any utilities which would then be the real entrance into the houses. And so far, everything was working out as planned.

As the man sat on the porch, a paperboy delivered a newspaper to the man’s neighbor on the west side of the house, then to the neighbor on the east side. This boy looked interesting, one who might just fit the needs of his clientele. After the boy continued down the street, the man ventured next door to the widow on the east side and because he new she had been alone most of the time since a car accident took the life of her husband, she was more than willing to accept company and chat about any and everything just to have the company. So it wasn’t long before the man knew that Kyle Fisher was the paperboy who delivered the newspapers, a boy the man knew would be perfect for his clientele. After going back home, the man made a phone call, setting in motion something that wouldn’t be know about until three months later. Something which, unbeknownst to him, was the beginning of the end for his whole Statewide network, and a lot of people.

^^**^^ Chapter 1 ^^**^^

Three Months Later:

Dr. Stephen Thomas Thompson, who acquired the nickname of TT in high school, was ten minutes west of Mercy City on I2, having finished his shift at Mercy City Hospital as an ER doctor at 2 a.m. After cleaning up and changing clothes, Irene, his wife, knew he wouldn’t be home until around 3 a.m., due in part to the 25-30 minute drive he had to reach the small suburb west of Mercy City.

Stephen and Irene met while in college, through a friend of hers and classmate of Stephen’s, Irene studying accounting, and he on the road to medicine. The friend had been right, they clicked, and stayed together the rest of their time in college, getting married after they both obtained their Bachelor degrees.

And it wasn’t only the friend that saw they were a couple, but both of Irene’s and Stephen’s parents, when first Irene took Stephen to meet her parents during a school break, then he his during another break. What the couple didn’t know, or the parents let slip, the parents knew each other through business dealings, and set about planning their children’s wedding, which they would get permission, of course, once Stephen asked Irene to marry him. They did, of course, ask permission during the couple and parents getting together at a restaurant, when in front of everyone, other patrons as well, Stephen asked Irene to marry him. Irene was so taken aback she could only respond by nodding her head several times, holding out her left hand so Stephen could place the ring on her ring finger. She still couldn’t speak when both sets of parents told the couple, “It’s about time you two quit dancing around this subject,” and the other patrons gave the couple a resounding applause. And as it turned out, because of the engagement, the meals were on the house.

After they were married, a couple of months later, thanks to the work of the parents, who planned everything, including Irene’s wedding dress, which her mom knew exactly the one she had been looking at, the couple moved to the City where they would be attending their next step in education, Irene her MBA and Stephen in Medical School. Fate fell on the couple because a leading accounting firm in that City had kept an eye on the graduates of the school Irene had attended, and they particularly liked what they saw in Irene. The College of Accounting of her previous school, always had a competition open to any of the accounting students to see who could spot “fixed” books the quickest, with the only prize of bragging rights, and a small warming cup.

The books used were actual books which came from local law enforcement or on occasions, the forensic lab of the FBI. No one could cheat on this competition because the books were delivered by courier from the respective agencies the day of the competition, and representatives of the respective agencies were present. And so it was when Irene walked out of the competition after only thirty minutes, amongst snickers and groans, that when time was called, only Irene had discovered how the books were “fixed” and to her credit, how much had been embezzled.

That accounting firm contacted Irene the minute they learned she and her husband were coming to their City, offering her a part time job so it wouldn’t interfere with her schooling. She discussed the offer with Stephen, and his opinion was that if she could handle school and the job, do it. He got his reward that night after the chickens had gone to bed.

The couple knew Stephen’s medical education was going to be long and time consuming, but also knew neither could do anything without the other being in their life. So even though Stephen would be late coming home sometimes, Irene endure the time when she was alone. She earned her MBA long before Stephen had started his internship, and gone on to set for his medical license, so her part time job became her full time job and did much to help keep the creditors from knocking on their door. It also wasn’t long until first Jennifer came along, followed eighteen months later by Christopher. And again the accounting firm worked around her motherhood to ensure she still worked for them.

Stephen’s long, arduous, work finally paid off, with his sitting for his testing and earning his medical license; only to be snatched up by a private practice which had specifically been watching him. Of all the candidates they looked at, Stephen had an almost innate ability when it came to diagnosing problems. And it was this ability the three doctors who owned the practice wanted in their office.

It took only five years before Irene started seeing boredom radiating from Stephen, something he himself admitted when Irene asked him about it. He was bored with the everyday “bandaid” work he was doing, he really wanted to help people who were unexpectedly in need of top medical treatment. Smiling, Irene laid the classified section of the newspaper in front of Stephen, not pointing out the red circle she’d drawn around one particular ad. This time it was Stephen who was smiling because that ad was an announcement from the Mercy City Hospital seeking doctors for the hospitals’ Emergency Room. Stephen dialed the number listed to make an interview appointment, making the appointment for the following day, his day off. Irene then called her boss and told her what was going on and asked for the following day off so she and the kids could go with Stephen to his interview--and see their parents.

The three-hour drive seemed to fly by, and both kids were the best they could have been. As requested, Stephen had brought all of his personal records with him, and when he came out of the interview room an hour later, he told Irene they better go see a realtor because they’d need to buy a house in Mercy City, or somewhere nearby. Little did Stephen know that the hospital administrator had been following Stephen’s progress in his walk into medicine. And while the administrator wasn’t sure, he hoped Stephen would apply in order to bring Irene and the kids back closer to the parents and grandparents. And by the end of that month, Mercy City Hospital would have one of the best diagnostic doctors anyone had seen in a long time.

That very day Stephen and Irene were shown a sweet little house in a suburb about 30 minutes west of Mercy City, a house they closed on that same day, knowing they had the money and credit to do so. The following day, Stephen notified his partners of his intentions to leave their practice and start work at Mercy City Hospital the first day of the following month. All three offered Stephen more money if he stayed, but he was honest and told them his heart lay elsewhere in medicine and that place was the Emergency Room. At the end of the month, goodbyes were said, all three gave Stephen an added bonus plus each a folder with their opinions of his abilities as a doctor, something which they’d also sent to the hospital in Mercy City--all could see as Irene had that their type practice wasn’t for Stephen. Movers came, packed up the house, and with Irene and Stephen following, left for Mercy City and their new life at Mercy City Hospital.

^^**^^ Chapter 2 ^^**^^

The area Stephen was driving through, after the sun went down, gave a new meaning to pitch black, because without any lights a person couldn’t see their hand in front of their face. It was also an area where more than one driver had met wildlife standing in the road or crossing it. And it was some of these same drivers that Stephen or his colleagues had treated because the animal the driver thought dead, was only stunned, and either kicked, bit, or butted that driver right into the emergency room. So when Stephen steered his car around a curve, and the brights of the headlights shown on something lying on the shoulder of the road, Stephen’s mind flashed back to all those drivers they had treated because they thought the animal dead.

Stephen checked the rearview mirror to see if there was anyone behind him, not likely at this time in the morning, abruptly slowed down, and pulled over to the shoulder of the road; stopping about fifty feet from whatever was lying on the shoulder of the road. He put the transmission into park, set the parking brake, and turned on the emergency flashers before taking a flashlight out of the glovebox and grabbing his cell phone off the passenger seat. Checking again for traffic, Stephen got out of his car, turned on the flashlight, and slowing walked toward the object lying on the ground--getting a tingling feeling in the back of his brain as he did so. It wasn’t more than four more steps and that tingling feeling became a realization that what he was seeing was the naked body of a person lying before him, and one who’d taken quite a beating from what Stephen could see.

Abandoning his fear of it being a wild animal, Stephen rushed up to the body on the ground, first checking for a carotid pulse then breathing. The pulse was weak, but steady, and the breathing was shallow, but steady. Stephen played his light on the face and was horrified to see that someone had used this...and he shown his light on the groin area, only to see a boys’ genitals, which looked like they’d met a meat grinder. Someone had used this boys’ face as a punching bag, with his eyes completely swollen shut, nose broken, and maybe damaged cheekbones. The boys’ lips were swollen and split; Stephen could even see a few teeth missing.

Stephen played his flashlight down both shoulders, making note of the bruising and two inch strap marks all over the boys’ upper body. His light played down the left arm and saw more bruising, with circular bruising around the left wrist. Playing the light down the right arm, Stephen noted that the upper right arm was not supposed to be bent in the position he was seeing, meaning the humorous was broken; circular bruising was also present about the right wrist.

Stephen moved the light further down the boys’ chest, noting there may be several broken ribs, given the deformity of the chest. The light then went to his abdomen, noting besides regular bruising, a large, pronounced, bruise in the lower left quadrant of the abdomen. From Stephen’s experience, this was possibly the most serious injury he’d seen on this boy, meaning there was internal injury of some kind--maybe the spleen. Stephen had already noted the genitals, so moved quickly down to the legs, when he saw the same belt pattern and bruising on the legs and around both ankles. He did note that the lower left leg shouldn’t be bent as it was, meaning both the tibia and fibula were broken. While opening up his cell phone, and calling 911, Stephen walked around to look at the boys’ back. What he saw made him want to hang someone by their thumbs. Besides fresh two inch belt marks, there were bruises, fading belt marks, burn marks, and what looked like whip marks. Someone had literally tortured this boy and thought he was dead from the experience, so just dumped him.

When the 911 operator answered, Stephen identified himself, gave his approximate location, and then proceeded to tell what he had found. While the operators are supposed to be professional, Stephen wasn’t unsympathetic when he heard her say, “OH MY GAWD.” Even before they disconnected, Stephen heard first one siren, then another; the first being the State Trooper, the second the paramedics--after fifteen years, Stephen knew the sounds of every siren and the department that used it.

As Stephen stood and stared at the young boy lying on the ground, and trying to understand who would do something like this to such a young boy, the State Trooper’s car arrived, stopping behind Stephen’s car with its emergency lights flashing. It wasn’t until Stephen heard,

“Hey, TT, I heard you found a nasty one.” The voice belonged to Sergeant William Toliver, a twenty-year veteran of the State Troopers, stationed in Mercy City, and a lifelong friend of Stephen’s.

Stephen’s family moved next door to William’s family when both boys were six-years-old, and from the moment they met, they were like two peas in a pod. Where one went, the other was right there as well. All through school, elementary, middle, and high school, the two remained tight. Even college couldn’t tear apart their friendship, even though William went the route for law enforcement and Stephen medicine. The entire time Stephen and Irene had been away, they kept in regular touch, getting back together when the couple returned to Mercy City.

“Hi Bill, yeah, this is a nasty one. Worse one I’ve seen since that pile up three or four years ago. Come look for yourself...but brace yourself, it’s bad.” William had almost reached Stephen as Stephen spoke to his friend.

“Holy mother of all that’s precious,” William said out loud as he played his light up and down the boys body. “OH HOLY...look at his genitals,” but William never finished what he was going to say, as the paramedics had arrived. William stepped towards the highway and using his flashlight, motioned the paramedics ahead of where the boys’ body lay. “Yeah,” Stephen said to his friend, “I did warn you it was a nasty one. And look here, here, here, and here. This boy was restrained by his ankles and wrists. Given the location and type of marks, I’d say he was strung up vertically.”

When the ambulance stopped all of its work light came one, turning the area from dark to almost like looking directly at the sun. Patty Taylor was first out of the rig, followed closely by the driver, her husband Clark. Stephen met the couple when he first came to Mercy City Hospital and soon found out they were one of the best paramedic teams in the State. As William and Stephen watched, Patty had the gurney off the rig and was in the process of pulling out all of the carrying cases which contained all of the needed medical supplies. Clark reached in and pulled out a backboard and the Sat phone, and helped Patty take everything over to the scene. Even as Patty and Clark were getting out their equipment, Stephen was rattling off everything he’d found, including the damaged chest and possible damaged spleen. As Patty went about checking for vital signs, Clark opened up communications with the hospital, giving them everything Patty said out loud. When mention of the pronounced bruising in the left lower quadrant of the abdomen, things from the hospital sped up dramatically.

Once all of the instructions were received from the hospital, Clark and Patty were like a blur in getting the boy stabilized. They first carefully rolled the boy onto the backboard, so they had better access to the areas with broken bones. A cervical collar was placed around the boys’ neck, then an IV was started, and finally the broken bones splinted. When they were ready, William and Stephen helped lift the backboard and the boy onto the gurney, which was then hurriedly moved into the ambulance. Patty climbed into the back of the ambulance, Clark shut and secured both doors, then ran to the drive’s side and as William and Stephen watched, Clark carefully turned the ambulance around, and then squealed the tires as he put the accelerator to the floor, causing the ambulance to fly off into the early morning darkness. Stephen walked to the back of his car, opened the trunk, and took out a plastic garbage bag and two pair of disposable gloves. He walked back to where the boy had lain, put on one set of gloves, gave the other to William, snapped open the garbage bag and proceeded to pick up the trash left by the paramedics as they worked on the boy. When that was done, the bag went into the trunk of Stephen’s car, and he then pulled out his cell phone and called Irene to let her know he wasn’t sure when he’d be home and why. Her response? “I’ll pray for him.”

William had turned his cruiser around while Stephen was talking to Irene, and when Stephen turned his car around, William led the way back to Mercy City and to the hospital--the return trip to Mercy City only took them almost five minutes, especially when they hit speeds of 80-90 MPH.

^^**^^ Chapter 3 ^^**^^

The boy had been unloaded from the ambulance and was in exam room 3 by the time William and Stephen arrived at Mercy City hospital. Both men had designated parking so they were able to park quickly and rush into the hospital. It wasn’t hard to tell which exam room the boy was in, because of the flurry of activities going in and out of that room. Stephen and Bill stood in the doorway, watching as Drs. Phillip Sven and Tory Sales gave the boy a thorough examination, now that he was in a brightly lit room. Phillip turned to Stephen and asked,

“Did you see anyone else out there, someone who might identify this boy? We really need to get him into surgery, given that bruise,” and he pointed to the pronounced bruise on the boys’ lower abdomen. “And we need pictures so we can see what other injuries this boy has.”

“No, sorry Phillip, there was no one else around out there, just that poor boy lying on the shoulder of the road in the state you see him now.”

Stephen knew he couldn’t do any more than what Phillip and Tory were now doing, so he tugged on Bill’s arm and the two walked out into the waiting room. Bill got on his radio and notified his dispatch where he was and would be there until he learned the extent of the boys’ injuries. As Bill started filling out his report on his tablet, Stephen got up and grabbed two cups of coffee from the customer service area. Stephen had just sat down when he noticed a woman come into the ER and walk up to the receptionist, asking about any 12-14 year old boys who might have been brought into the ER. She looked to be about forty-five-years-old, but haggard enough to look fifty-five. Stephen nudged Bill, and both men watched as Phillip came out, spoke to the woman, and escorted her back to room three. Both men were still looking in that direction when they heard,


Phillip was supporting the woman, as he brought her out to the waiting area; her wailing could not be missed. He sat the woman down next to Stephen, who put his arm around the woman and held her as she cried. Phillip knelt down in front of her and said,

“Mrs. Fisher, we are going to take your son to imaging and do both a CT and MRI on him, to get a good idea of his injuries. Right now, we feel he has internal injuries, maybe a damaged spleen, so after we get some pictures, we need to get him into surgery. May we have your verbal permission to operate on your son?”

Vivian Fisher had been looking for her son for the last three months, after witnesses told the police that they saw two men in a white van grab the thirteen-year-old off the sidewalk as he was coming home from school. The police did find the van, but it was stolen from a town 100 miles away, and it was totally empty--no DNA, fingerprints, nothing. It was absolutely clean. When the police had nothing more to go on, Vivian had started her search with every clinic, hospital, and shelter in her City. Because of needing to find her son, her supervisor gave her every weekend off, and she expanded her search until she finally reached Mercy City Hospital, where she was able to identify her Kyle thanks to a large scar behind his right ear he acquires at six years of age.

“Dr. Sven, I’m an ER nurse in one of the hospitals in my City,” Vivian told Phillip, “And I know the necessity of getting serious injuries into surgery as quickly as possible. Take the pictures, then get my Kyle into surgery. And Phillip,” Vivian said, getting personal, “I saw his genitals, they can’t be saved, do what needs to be done so he, maybe I should say, she has some gender if she survives all of this.” Phillip patted her arm and told her, “We’re going to do everything to make sure your daughter pulls through.” Phillip left Vivian in Stephen’s care, as he got up, ran back to room 3, yelling out instructions to the receptionist as to who to call and tell them it was a Code Blue.

Vivian was starting to calm down, and Bill had moved so he was on the left side of her. Stephen got up, and pulled a bottle of water out of the cooler at the customer service area, walking back and handing it to Vivian. She took the water but looked up at him and asked, “You don’t have anything with a bit more kick, do you?” She smiled and Stephen smiled before telling her, “Sorry, coffee is about the strongest we have.” It couldn’t have been more than five minutes later when one after the other, those the receptionist had called started arriving, totalling twenty when the last one came through the doors. All took a different route, one Stephen knew lead to the operating room. And it was about an hour later that Phillip came back and explained everything they’d found with Kyle. Vivian listened intently, cursed several times, and told the three men, “I want someone’s balls hanging on some sticks because of this.” The only things she heard was, “Amen.” This time Phillip had Vivian sign all consent forms, which would allow the necessary surgeries to be performed, including the SRS. And once again, Phillip ran off, this time in the direction of the operating room.

Stephen walked off a short ways and called Irene, explaining everything that had occurred, even about the boys’ mother showing up. They both knew Stephen would get little sleep before needing to be back for his shift, but it wasn’t anything new to them. Vivian needed his support right now, and that was more important. When Stephen returned to Vivian and Bill, Bill was asking questions, the usual what, when, where, how things. He then got on his tablet and pulled up the missing persons report and found the one for Kyle Fisher, thirteen-years-old, abducted while walking home from school three months ago. He then created another report that showed the boy had been found and was currently undergoing surgery at Mercy City Hospital.

Given all the injuries Stephen had seen, he knew Kyle was going to be in surgery a long time, too long for them to just sit and wait--though he suspected that’s exactly what Vivian would do.

“Vivian, let Bill and I take you to the cafeteria to get something to eat, you look like you could use something, Kyle’s surgery is going to take some time. Unlike some other hospital cafeterias I’ve eaten at, our food is far better.” Vivian smiled at Stephen, because she knew hospital food is notorious for being terrible. “Thanks guys, I think that’s a good idea, I haven’t had anything to eat since lunch yesterday.”

“Oh, and I’m terribly sorry, Vivian, I’m Dr. Stephen Thompson, and that gentleman is Sergeant William Toliver of the State Troopers, stationed here in Mercy City,” Stephen told Vivian, before the three stood and Stephen led the way to the hospital’s cafeteria, with Stephen quickly telling the receptionist where they would be, and to make sure the Brenda Hofster, the hospital administrator, knew what was happening; the hospital had set up special care for families of patients who would be in the hospital long term.

Vivian didn’t realize how hungry she was until she starting eating, though slowly because of her concern for Kyle. As the three ate, Bill and Stephen learned more about Vivian and Kyle, how Vivian’s husband had been a twenty-year veteran of her City’s police force, killed in the line of duty saving the life of a ten-year-old girl who was being used as a shield by a bank robber. That as a young girl, she had felt a calling to become an ER nurse after she had to be taken to the ER where she witnessed the people there work their hardest to save a severely injured man. Kyle gain that bug to go into medicine when he witnesses a horrendous accident and saw the work the paramedics did to save the lives of those involved. Now she didn’t know if that was still going to happen, Kyle going into medicine.

Bill, Stephen, and Vivian heard, “So, Stephen, you still hanging around with that old reprobate? I thought by now you’d found better company to keep.”

Bill slowly turned when he heard the woman’s voice, Brenda Hofster, and gave her his best stink face. “What do you mean, ‘old reprobate’? I’ll have you know, young lady, that I’m am not a reprobate.”

“Well you know how it is, Brenda, it sometimes is rather hard to scrub all the mold off once it gets on you.” Bill slowly turned from Brenda to face Stephen.

“Now listen you two, if you don’t knock it off I’ll write both of you out of my will.”

Vivian just watched the banter going on between the three before her, and finally understood when the woman put her arm around the Trooper and said, “Hello daddy,” and kissed him on the cheek. “Hi sweetheart, how have you been,” Bill replied before Brenda introduced herself to Vivian.

“Hello, Mrs. Fisher, I’m Brenda Hofster, the hospital administrator. Have these two old men been taking good care of you? And please, it’s Brenda” Vivian stifled a giggle as both Stephen and Bill turned to face Brenda and gave her their best, ‘watch out’ faces.

“Yes they have, Brenda, they both have been very supportive,” Vivian told Brenda as she laid a hand on each man’s arm. “Do you have any news about my son, um, daughter?” Vivian asked Brenda, as she pulled out a chair and sat down next to Vivian.

Brenda took Vivian’s hand in hers before telling her, “She is still in surgery, and from what Dr. Sven told me, it will be several more hours. That’s why I’ve come to speak with you. Some years ago the hospital found a need to help support families of patients of our hospital by providing apartments for those patients which were going to be long care patients--as I’ve been told your son, soon to be daughter, will need. There is no charge to the families, in fact, when news got out about your son, a generous donor notified me and said to send all medical bills for your son to them. And to get you whatever you need while you stay with us. This person knows what you’re going through from something similar in their past, so they wanted to do what needed to be done so you could concentrate on your child.”

Vivian burst out in tears when she heard what Brenda said, then reached over and pulled the other woman into a tight hug; Brenda returning the hug. “Vivian, why don’t you let me take you over to the apartments, you need rest, and just sitting around this hospital isn’t going to provide the rest you need. We’ll send someone to get you when there’s more news about your son. And while you’re resting we can have your clothes laundered and fresh when you can see Kyle. We’ve anticipated needs so you’ll find a wide range of clothing sizes in the closets in the apartment, not that I’d party in any of them, but they’re good for around the apartment. Come on, come with me, get a nice shower, then lay down and rest.”

Vivian let Brenda pull her out of her chair, saying their goodbyes to Bill and Stephen, and walked her to the apartments the hospital built some years ago, when one family had to spend a fortune in motel costs to stay with their daughter for six months while she recovered from an accident caused by a drunk driver. And Vivian did exactly what Brenda suggested, not worrying about undressing in front of Brenda, so her clothes could be laundered, then taking a nice hot shower before drying off and almost instantly falling asleep when she stretched out on one of several beds in the apartment. It was 4:30 a.m.

Vivian woke to a firm knock on the apartment door, glancing at the clock on the nightstand and seeing it was ten minutes to noon. Donning a robe, she answered the door, only to see a young woman standing before holding a tray of food.

“Good day, Mrs. Fisher, I’m Piper Milton, head hostess of the apartments. Dr. Sven suggested, in as strongest terms possible, that you needed something to eat before meeting with him. His exact words were, ‘you get her to eat or I’ll put her in the hospital and force feed her.’ He also told me you daughter is now in recovery, and by the time you ate everything I brought you, and showered, and made yourself presentable, barring any complications, she would be in her private room. Now she won’t be awake when you see her because they’ve put her in a medically induced coma, to help keep her from experience any pain and allow her body to heal itself. They also wanted to make sure she wasn’t moving around and possibly do more damage. So, how about something to eat?”

Vivian had to snort a bit after Piper gave her speech, and before inviting Piper into the apartment. “That was a good speech, Piper, one almost as good as some I’ve given family members.” Piper bowed to Vivian before turning and setting the tray of food down on the kitchen/dining room table. When she turned back to Vivian, she saw Vivian had covered her face with her hands and was quietly sobbing, thankful that Kyle was going to live. Piper softly walked over the Vivian and took her into a hug which caused Vivian to hug Piper and cry openly on the girls’ shoulder.

“It’s okay, Vivian, she’s alive and will make it. She has a long road ahead of her, but we’re here to help all we can.” Piper continued to hold Vivian until the woman had cried herself out.

Vivian sniffed as she pushed herself off Piper’s shoulder. “If that food will still be good, I’d like to shower before eating,” Vivian told Piper as she turned and walked back into the bedroom then into the bathroom, turning on the shower to let the water get hot. As Vivian was in the bathroom, Piper answered a knock on the apartment door and found another of her team standing there and holding Vivian’s freshly laundered clothes. She thanked the young man and closed the door before taking the clothes to Vivian’s bedroom. Thirty minutes later a freshly laundered Vivian came out of the bedroom, sat down at the table and started eating what Piper had brought; inviting Piper to sit with her while she ate.

Another thirty minutes passes until Vivian had eaten everything Piper had brought, all the while both women getting to know each other better since Vivian would be spending a lot of time at the hospital. Just before Vivian was ready to leave, she told Piper she needed to make a long distance phone call to her Supervisor. Piper didn’t bat an eye when she told Vivian, “Make your call, it’s no charge to you as long as you’re here.” Vivian called Chad Marshal, her immediate Supervisor, and explained the situation to him, only to be told that since she hadn’t taken any time off in five years, any serious time off, she had more than six months accumulated and to return when she could bring Kyle back with her. And not worry about her job, she was on a very well deserved vacation.

As Piper walked with Vivian, directing her towards Kyle’s room, Vivian asked, “Piper, does this city have a really good bookstore? I’d like to get some of Kyle’s favorite books and read to her until she is allowed to wake up.” Piper said there was one, and if Vivian gave her the titles, or authors, she’d make sure the books were purchased. Dr. Sven intercepted Vivian as she and Piper reached Kyle’s room, taking her into a small conference room just down the hall. After both were seated, he asked how she slept before going into detail about Kyle’s injuries. He then told her everything they did to repair the injuries and that barring any unforeseen problems, Kyle would make a full physical recovery. But her mental recovery, he felt, would take much more time. Vivian thanked him and gave the man a hug before he walked with her to Kyle’s room, telling her to ask the nurse in the room with Kyle for anything she might need. Vivian had seen numerous patients after surgery, some in worse condition than Kyle, but it was different this time as it was her own child. And this time her tears did fall.

^^**^^ Chapter 4 ^^**^^

Six Weeks Later

Chad Marshal had been called up to John Milton’s office, the head cheese of the hospital. Chad already knew what John wanted, and was already prepared for a battle John was going to lose; John was actually walking on eggshells anyway.

Chad knocked on John’s office door, entering when he heard John tell him, “Come in.” “You wanted to see me John?” Chad asked the administrator, as he remained standing in front of John’s desk. “Yeah, I did. I’ve got a problem you might be able to explain. Seems you have a nurse in the ER that hasn’t reported to work in six weeks. Care to explain why?” The eggshells John was walking on just became a lot thinner, and he didn’t know it.

Chad knew that by letting Vivian take as much time as she needed, legally anyway, he was going to be called on the carpet by the pimple in the administrator office. So Chad had contacted the president of the Board of Directors, and explained everything about Vivian and Kyle, including all of the injuries Kyle suffered. Brian Miller, Board of Directors president, told Chad he made the right call, forcing Vivian to take a much vacation time as she needed in order to be with her child. Chad then went on to explain what he felt was going to happen with John, but was told not to worry, that pimple on someone’s butt was about to hit the road, he just didn’t know it.

“John, you knew Vivian’s son had been kidnapped, right? Had been missing for three months? Vivian finally found him yesterday, or rather early this morning over in Mercy City Hospital, severely injured. According to her employment record, she hasn’t taken a proper vacation in over five years, and had accrued over six months of vacation time, which given her situation, she deserved to take.”

“John we are not running a charity ward for our employees, they are here to work. It’s a shame about her situation, but if she isn’t back to work by tomorrow, she’s fired. Now get out of my office and see to it she’s back to work, tomorrow.”

Before Chad could move around the desk to and pop that pimple, John’s door opened and Brian Miller walked in uninvited. “Um...Brian, what a pleasure. How can I help you,” John said in a greasy voice, as he stood up and walked toward Brian.

“Hello John, I just wanted you to meet a new member of this hospital, Deedee Stone. Your replacement.” Hearing her name, as planned, Deedee walked into the office. “Oh I forgot to mention, she is doctor Deedee Stone.” John stopped dead in his tracks after hearing what Brian said.

“What do you mean, my replacement, Brian? No one can replace me, I’m indispensable. Why, I’ve been running this hospital smoothly for over two years, and doing a fine job.”

“Have a seat, John. No not in your usual chair, in one of those,” Brian said as he pointed to one of the several chairs facing John’s old desk. About that time a plainclothes policeman and a uniformed policeman walked into the office, followed by the hospital’s bookkeeper. “You see John,” Brian started as he sat down in John’s old chair, “Samuel, here,” and he pointed to Samuel Bloomingdale, “Has been noticing some rather interesting things with the hospital’s books, specifically shortages. When he brought up his concerns with me, the Board of Directors decided to bring in a Forensic Accountant and have the books checked out thoroughly. And guess what, John, the losses pointed straight back to you, as did your bank account in that offshore account you have. Mr. Milton, you’ve been skimming from the accounts here at the hospital, and that gentleman with the officer is here to arrest you for embezzlement. Had we not discovered the problem, thanks to Samuel, we were going to fire you anyway, given your inability to work as a team member at this hospital. And after what you told Chad about Mrs. Fisher, you’re lucky I walked in when I did or Chad might have thrown you out the window.” Turning to the plainclothes detective, and the officer, Brian told them, “He’s all yours gentleman.”

Chad and Brian quickly brought Deedee up to speed with Vivian’s situation, only having her tell the two men, “This hospital is going to do everything it can to help that woman. Would you two gentleman see what we can do and get it done?” Deedee laughed when the two men gave each other a thumbs up, knowing they now had the right hospital administrator. Vivian was not going to want for anything when she returned, the hospital would see to that.

Mercy City Hospital

For the past six weeks, Kyle had around the clock care, with a nurse in her room day and night; partly because there had been concerns that whoever did all the damage to Kyle might come back to make sure she was actually dead. Her vitals were taken each hour, day and night. Either Tory or Phillip checked on her daily, as did the surgeons who operated on her. And Vivian was with her every day, reading one of her favorite books, in order to let her know that her mom was there and she was now safe.

After the first week the heavy bandages on her groin were replaced with lighter ones, and the surgeons’ handiwork checked to make sure everything was healing properly. Kyle was also taken weekly to imaging so repairs to her internal injuries could be monitored--something a few doctors thought redundant, only to realize, as their shifts were suddenly changed, their attitudes were not appreciated.

The bruising that basically covered Kyle’s body had almost all faded after the second week, and the swelling in her face had gone to such a degree that Vivian could once again recognize the face of her child. By the fourth week, most of the internal injuries had healed to the point that they were of no major concern anymore; and her right arm and left leg were healing nicely according to the scans. By week five the doctors thought it best to start gentle dilations so Kyle’s new vaginal canal remained open--another round of arguments ensued with this decision, but no one had their shift changed.

Kyle’s broken ribs had been of major concern when she was first brought into the ER. They had been broken into enough pieces that one false move of Kyle’s body and any one of the pieces could have pierced her lungs or even her heart. But after the loving care used to put them back together, using a newly developed technique, they were mending quite well. Because of all signs showing Kyle was doing better than they had hoped, it was decided to start bringing her out of the medically induced coma she’d been in for the past six weeks. And to hopefully find out who caused all the damage she suffered; and maybe put a few heads on pike poles when their identities were finally known.

It’s been four days since Kyle had been taken off the induced coma medication, four long days with hopes she’d wake on her own. It was day five and Vivian was reading another chapter to Kyle when Kyle started to stir, prompting the nurse to get a doctor. As it turned out, not only did the attending doctor arrive but almost everyone who’d been involved with Kyle’s recovery, making the room shrink pretty fast. As everyone watched, Kyle’s eyes fluttered open, and for the first time in three months and six weeks, she saw her mother again.

“Mom? Whe...where am I? What happened? May I have some water?” It was mostly slurred, but Kyle was awake and talking, bring huge smiles to the faces of everyone in the room; the news was also passed to the rest of the hospital staff. After drinking some of the water offered, Kyle drifted off to sleep, this time of her own volition. Vivian was wiping tears off her face, tears of joy that her child was alive and going to be alright, physically.

Three hours later Kyle awoke, complained that she was hungry, which elicited pleasant laughter from those there this time. It took only a few moments for the cafeteria to get a try to Kyle’s room, nothing real heavy, but it was filling and what her body needed right now. After raising the head of her bed, Vivian helped her daughter eat, all the while trying to answer her daughters questions.

“Um, Kyle, how much do you remember about what happened to you?” Vivian tried to ask the question as gently as possible, with William sitting in the background listening and recording their conversation--the bastards who did this were on every law enforcement list of people who needed to permanently disappear.

“Where am I exactly, mom? How’d I get here? How much do I remember? Too much,” Kyle asked and told her mom, as tears slid down her cheeks.

“Kyle, you’re in Mercy City Hospital, you’ve been here for the past six weeks. As to how you got here, a Dr. Stephen Thomas Thompson found you lying alongside the highway as he was on his way home in the early morning. You were naked, badly beaten, but clinging to life. You had a lot of injuries which the surgeons repaired, and um...this might be hard to hear, sweetie, but they had to do sex reassignment surgery on you because your genitals were severely damaged and couldn’t be saved. Kyle, someone castrated you then mutilated your penis. I didn’t want you to become a eunuch for the rest of your life, so I had them do the surgery to give you girl features.”

After Vivian told her son he was now a girl, she became very quiet. Both Vivian and Bill thought they would need to get a doctor to help sedate her, but saw it wasn’t needed when Kyle said, “But I’m alive, right?” Vivian gently hugged her daughter as tears again ran down her cheeks, and Bill found he had something in his eyes, after hearing what Kyle just said.

Over the course of several hours, the doctors were brutally honest with Kyle about the injuries she suffered, explaining in detail what was done to fix her injuries. Kyle showed she had an understanding of what she was told simply because of the questions she asked. They even explained about her need to dilate and for how long in order to get her body used to having a vaginal canal. At the end of the doctors’ talk, Kyle simply told him, “But I”m alive.”

When it was determined Kyle felt well enough to answer questions, one of the hospital psychologist was asked to speak with Kyle, with William Toliver of the State Troopers being in the room to record anything Kyle might remember about her ordeal. The psychologist, Susie Pickton, a gentle woman who had great success getting children to open up, wasn’t happy to have William in the room during questioning, until it was explained to her why Kyle was here and that her one on one session with Kyle would be required at a later date. Right now the main concern was to shut down the bastards who was doing this to kids.

Susie and William walked into Kyle’s room, William taking one of the chairs near enough to record anything Kyle said, but far enough from Kyle to not cause her to become upset. “Hi Kyle, I’m Susie Pickton, I’m a psychologist here at the hospital. I’ve been asked to come talk with you and see if you can help find those people responsible for what happened to you. Do you think we could talk and maybe see if you remember enough to get these people?”

Kyle looked over to William, and gave him a small wave, which William returned, along with a smile. She then looked at Susie and told her, “Hi Susie, um, yeah, I guess we can talk, but I don’t feel like talking about the bad stuff right now.”

“Kyle, the bad stuff can wait until you’re ready to talk about it with me, no one will force you to talk about it in any way, okay? Can you remember what you were doing before all this happened?” Vivian had watched Susie and realized she had a very strong empathy with her patients, which is why she was so good getting kids to open up to her. She also realized, looking at Kyle, she was going to need a lot of help from Susie.

“Um, well, I was walking home from school when two men came out of a white van parked by the curb, and grabbed me. They pulled me into that van and I don’t remember anything until I woke up in some house. Some lady pulled me up some stairs and into a room, where a man...where a man...and a little girl..I don’t want to talk about that right now.” Vivian reached up and wiped off tears that had started running down Kyle’s cheeks.

“Kyle, sweetie,” Susie said, trying to get Kyle calmed down. “That’s okay if you aren’t ready to talk about that. Can you remember more?”

“Um, well, then that lady took me to the basement...I can’t talk about what they were doing there, please don’t make me. She said if I didn’t do what I was told I’d end up down there. Please, don’t make me talk about it.”

“Kyle,” and it was Susie who reached over and wiped the tears off Kyle’s cheeks, trying hard to keep her's in check; she saw both Vivian and William wiping their own eyes. “Kyle, did you see, or hear, anything else beside what the lady was showing you?”

“Um, yeah, I saw some people coming and going through a door in the basement wall. They said something about ‘these new houses were better than the last ones’ as they walked upstairs then came back and went out that door.”

“Kyle, do you have any idea where that house happens to be, it’s important.” Susie didn’t want to push Kyle right now because she wasn’t ready to talk about her experiences, and it was going to take time for her to come to terms with what she experienced.

“Well, I’d been there for a long time, and they made me do some things I don’t want to talk about right now, and the lady said we weren’t to look out any window or we’d regret it. Well, one day I looked out a window, and saw I was in a house right next to the widow woman, you remember me talking about her, don’t you mom?” Susie and William both looked at Vivian and saw her lost in thought, and William was delighted when Vivian rattled off the address of the widow woman’s house. “And then, I woke up here, I don’t remember any more,” Kyle said as more tears ran down her cheeks.

Susie leaned over and hugged Kyle, telling her, “It’s okay, you did good for our first time together.” When Susie looked over to William, she saw he was no longer there, and Vivian mouthed, “I’ll explain later.” “Kyle, why don’t you get some rest and your mom and I will talk, okay?” Kyle nodded her head, wiped tears off her face, and laid back in her bed, closing her eyes and was asleep soon after.

Susie and Vivian left the room with Vivian leading Susie to the small conference room Phillip had used when he broke the news to Vivian. When they entered the room, they found William on the phone talking to someone at his headquarters, by the sound of the conversation. “Right, that’s the address. We’ve got to be crafty about this because we don’t know who all is involved, maybe some our own people, who knows. Okay, right, I’ll keep you informed.” William hung up the phone shortly after Susie and Vivian sat down around the conference table.

“Vivian, the special task unit in your city is being contacted and given all the information Kyle was able to give us. Rounding up these pieces of crap is going to take time since other houses are involved, and they want to get all of them. Plus, without knowing who is involved, we have to be careful since some could be in law enforcement. But I’m told the guys in your City are good, very good, so no one should find out and pass the word along.”

“That, Susie, was what I wanted to tell you back in the room, but thought better until we could talk in private. William has explained about how these people work, snatching kids off the street and then using them for God knows what, before throwing them out like trash. When this all started, he was able to verify several other instances where naked children had been found lying along the side of the road, severely injured like Kyle, only dead. And when they could be identified, those kids lived hundreds of miles of where they were found. Kyle is the first kid to survive such a beating, and provide the first real bit of information in all this.”

Susie had reached out and taken Vivian’s hand as she explained what William had told her, reaching up every so often to wipe off a tear or two. “Vivian, we’ll get these bastards,” William told her with a lot of anger in his voice. “And when we do, you can bet when they get to prison, prison justice will be issued and those pieces of crap won’t live out the week.”

Vivian’s City

The man watched as a utility worker walked from door to door across the street, before he saw woman walking up to his house. “Excuse me sir, I’m Marsha Reed, I’m with the gas company; here’s my ID. I suppose you’ve heard about the gas explosions that destroyed houses in other cities, well we’re going through the City and checking for leaks so we don’t experience the same thing. I just wanted to let you know that we’ll be checking around all houses for leaks or any signs of bad pipes.”

“May I see your ID again, Ms. Reed? Thank you, I want to make sure you are who you say you are, since my wife and I have been scammed before so I always check IDs before I let anyone work on our property.” The man dialed the phone number on the back of the ID card, and yes, Marsha Reed was one of their employees, who was involved with an inspection project that was currently taking place in the City. The man was satisfied with what he was told, gave Marsha’s ID back to her and bid her a good day. He watched as she continued down the block contacting homeowners as she went.

A day later, Marsha and another man were seen walking up and down the alley, carrying equipment and listening to the tones it gave off. After they walked from one end to the other, they then entered the backyard of each house and doing the same thing, listening to their equipment. Once one block was done, they moved on to another block, all the while giving the impression they were searching for gas leaks and bad pipes. In reality, their equipment was actually a newly designed ground penetrating radar, which operated at much higher frequencies and could detect a dime buried forty feet below ground. And that dime happened to be the tunnel they detected coming from behind their target house. By checking everything in the alley, they were able to determine which direction the tunnel ran and what building it ran under--a warehouse about forty-five degrees to the right of their target house.

While Marsha and her partner were doing their jobs, computer searches were being done on the owner of their target house, resulting in a lot of information which tied that owner with several others, which lead to several other houses throughout the State. Checks on those owners, lead to even more houses, and more houses, until twenty five houses were discovered in all. They even discovered legitimate businesses associated with those houses that had done all the exterior and interior work. Everything was kept under the tightest security, with only those needing to know given the information. And as had been done in Vivian’s City, the other Cities rolled out fake gas inspections in order to find the tunnels for each of those houses. Now the big question, how to catch everyone involved. There was always someone sitting out front on the porch, or in the yard doing yard work during the day. So taking the houses during the day was out. All of those involved realized it would have to be a night raid, but they also wanted to save all of the children in those houses; the last time a house like this was raided, all the children had been killed by those in the house.

One of the SWAT team members remember something the military was working on that would knock out a T-rex in moments, and was designed for penetrations so no casualties were realized. It was fast acting, lighter than air so it could be introduced and would permeate every crevice within a structure. He was given the okay to contact his military contact and ask if they could use the new gas, explaining why. His contact ask how much and where do we deliver it.

Because of the old industrial areas these houses butted against, it wasn’t unusual for big rigs to be parked for days at a time before being loaded and driven off. It took several days before enough big rigs could be outfitted, and rebranded so they’d blend in, before the trucks were rolled into the areas and surveillance could begin. The trucks would pull into position so that the warehouses could be monitored, then a passenger vehicle would pick up the driver and leave. What those watching didn’t know about were the people in the trailer who would be running the equipment. Each truck was equipped with enough food and water, and a chemical toilet, to let the truck last a week. When the week was up, the driver would return, that rig would be driven off and a different truck would roll up and be parked; not always in the same spot. This surveillance continued for two months, gathering information about the heaviest times of traffic and times of day, or night, until it was determined they had all the information needed.

Anyone who was going to be involved in bringing all these houses down were vetted, to make darn sure no one involved was involved with the houses and tip them off of the raids that were going to take place. Even the Judges who would be issuing search warrants and arrest warrants were vetted, as were the DAs of each City. A training seminar was schedule that brought everyone involved in the raids together; training seminars could always be used as covers for a multitude of things. Every piece of information gathered was presented, everyone involved in the houses was named, some in high places within each City. As with the house in Vivian’s City, there were lulls at every house, which made it the perfect time to strike. Plans were finalized, people assigned, equipment listed, everything was covered that would be needed for the raids. The only thing left to do was bring down all of the slimeballs so they could get exactly what they deserved.

Each City also happened to own several warehouses in the location of each house to be raided, so it wasn’t hard to back a trailer into one warehouse and unload, not normal cargo, but personal equipped with everything they’d need for a raid. Everything was going to happen at the same time, each house would be gassed through an opening drilled into the basement door. Each business owner was going to be arrested at the same time, and their business shut down. Those caught in the warehouses when the raid started would be darted before being arrested so they couldn’t warn the houses. Those who came to the houses would be arrested at their homes, or wherever they were followed to. None of these sick people were going to walk away from being prosecuted and put in prison--how long they lasted in prison wasn’t a concern, once it was known why those people were there.

By 1 a.m. everything was in place in all Cities. Radio contact was established with every City and at 1:45 a.m. the “word” was given and the raids commenced. As the warehouses were breached, several going to the houses or coming from the houses were darted. Even those just getting into or out of their cars felt the sharp prick from a dart. The gas cylinders were brought in, holes were silently drilled into the basement doors, tubes were inserted through the holes, and the gas turned on. The military contact had done the calculations, given the size of each house, and determined the time needed for the gas to reach every corner of the house. No one in any of the houses noticed as each other fell asleep, or thought it strange, until they all woke up to discover they’d been arrested and their houses raided.

When the computer techs got into the computers at each house, they couldn’t believe all the names of members they found; many very prominent people. So armed with arrest warrants, every member on those lists was rounded up and arrested. After all the arrests had been performed, anywhere from one hundred and fifty to four hundred people had been arrested who were involved at each and every house. The courts were going to be very busy.

As to what else they found inside those houses, the kids, what some saw made the toughest cop head for the nearest toilet, or need to be restrained by a fellow cop. Each house had about twenty to thirty kids in it, not all upstairs in the rooms. What was seen in the basement caused some of those arrested to have accidents while being escorted to the waiting wagons. Some of the kids in the basement were beyond help, but could only be comforted until their end came.

Word reached William Toliver about all the raids, and what was found and the number arrested. He went to the hospital and once at Kyle’s room, pulled Vivian outside to give her the information, information that made it clear that without Kyle’s help, these animals would still be plying their trade. He also made it clear to Vivian that with everything that was found in all the houses, none of those involved would escape prison time, and they’d be lucky if they lived very long after entering prison.

Vivian and William walked into Kyle’s room, Kyle waving to William as he entered. “Hi Bill, I, um, sort of heard what you told my mom. Then they got all of those who hurt me and those other kids? They’re going to prison, but might not live very long after they get there?” William could only nod at each of Kyle’s questions, not trusting his voice at the moment. And when he could, he told Kyle, “It all happened because of you Kyle, and the information you were able to give us. You see, those people thought they’d outsmarted everyone by not doing the things that brought down other such houses. But the didn’t count on one thing,” and here William pointed to Kyle.

Kyle looked puzzled for a moment before asking William, “I only gave you what I knew, William, how else did I help?” William chuckled a bit before telling Kyle, “Because, Kyle, you lived.”

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