PROJECT ANIMA

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Chapter 5

"What are you able to tell me about your time there as the director?” I asked.

“Everything I can remember.” He said in a weak breath.

“Where would you like to begin?”

Mr. Olmo sat there staring into space with a blank expression on his face. His bloodshot red eyes aimlessly wandered the room until it locked unto me, his eyes were a mirror of regret and sorrow far too great for just one person to carry. He looked at me intensely as if he was struggling to find the right words to begin, he kept on adjusting his oxygen tube until his wrinkled lips finally parted again to speak.

“I was a puppet, even after witnessing first-hand the atrocities that were taking place I said nothing, did nothing.”

“What kind of atrocities?”

“The children at Mercy Grace aren’t there for rehabilitation, they’re lab rats.”

His choice of words caught me off guard because at the end of the day it could have meant anything, Behavioural science isn’t something that’s set in stone but constantly evolving, finding new ways to best treat children of a particular nature. So sure they could be called lab rats but I’m sure it’s not something as heinous as he’s making it sound, right?

“Lab rats for what exactly?”

“Everything you could think of.” He said as his voice shook. “Those in charge at Mercy Grace used it to play God. The children are experimented on to push the boundaries of human limitations, they were oftentimes referred to as the spearhead for human advancements.”

My stomach turned as my mind dove into the possibilities of what his words meant. It sounded sick, vile even to think that there are individuals out there who still believe that such things are attainable. “What kinds of experiments were performed on these children?”

“I can’t say for sure because I was only there as the puppet, but their screams are forever embedded into my heart, their soul-less eyes burned into my mind.”

“Why didn’t you report it?” I asked.

“I valued the life of my child over the suffering those children had to endure. I know from the outside it seems evil but for me it was necessary.”

“Did they threaten your daughter?”

“No, their hiring and recruitment process is targeted. Everyone who works there has something precious to lose. They approach you in hopes of exploiting the helplessness you’re feeling.” Mr. Olmo raised his arm and that’s when I noticed the uncontrollable trembling. “Duchenne muscular dystrophy has plagued my family for generations; nearly two out of every new birth in my family has DMD but my daughter sadly won the raffle for a fucked up life because she also got diagnosed with Angelman syndrome which causes physical and intellectual disabilities.”


His words brought me back to the question I oftentimes struggle to answer myself; what makes someone truly evil? His part in the cover-up of such heinous acts is indeed despicable but beneath that he was just a helpless father who wanted the best for his child regardless of the path it might have taken him down. I wonder what my wife had to lose, what was so damaging about her life that even I was not aware of.

“So they paid for your daughter’s treatment in return for your service and silence? Is this the case with all the employees?”

“No it's not, it was only those who had to come into direct contact with the children but if that was all that they were offering most of us wouldn’t have taken the deal. The Heinz family needs no introduction so you can imagine the sheer magnitude of the deal proposed to all of us to keep quiet about this evil… for me they offered a cure along with lifelong assistance for my daughter.”

“Impossible! There isn’t a cure for such things only treatments.” I proclaimed.

“That’s what I thought to myself at first, but what kind of father would I be if I didn’t try? They sold me the deal under the guise of it being a clinical trial but after working for them I doubt that it was even a trial. They already had a cure.”

“Why isn’t this public information?”

“That’s pretty obvious kid…money, status but more importantly power. This is a dynamic the Heinz family knows all too well, with the information on things they possess and keep a secret they can have anyone eating out the palm of their hands that’s why they’ve been untouchable for centuries.”

I sat back in my seat being devoured by confusion and disgust, I had too many questions but I didn’t know where to begin. Well actually I knew what I wanted to ask but the fear wouldn’t allow me to and I guess Mr. Olmo noticed that as well.

“Your wife wasn’t like us.” He said sharply. “She wasn’t there because she was desperate for an answer to her prayers the way we were. They brought her on board because as you know she was a wonderful child psychologist but after she discovered the truth she did something a lot of us were unable to…she took action.”

He reached into his jacket pocket and retrieved a piece of paper and then slid it under the table to me discreetly.

“There was a child that she managed to free before they caught her; Alberto was his name I believe.”

My heart slightly thumped with joy to hear that my wife was not a part of these experiments whatsoever after finding out the truth but I still felt bad that this was something Cynthia took part in. Does one actually relinquish their integrity so easily when tempted with the right offer?

“Is there anything else you know?”

“Sadly that’s all I know, I believe that note will lead you to the rest of the answers you’re looking for.”

“How can I be sure that this isn’t a setup? Is this some sort of last chance at repentance?”

His old crinkled lips parted into a large smile as he looked over my shoulder. “We live in a world where it seems as if God has abandoned us ages ago so I would never repent for keeping my family safe.”

“Grandpa!” a little girl shrieked as she ran by my seat and into his arms.

“Hey, monkey!” He said lively while rubbing her head.

Looking at the sudden burst of life and warm radiance that was now emitting from Mr. Olmo I couldn’t help but realize that the influence of good and evil is like a nicotine patch, you can’t help but absorb what sticks to you. Would his life have turned out differently if his circumstances weren’t the same? Are the acts of someone truly evil if their intentions for it was pure?

I got up and said my goodbyes to Mr. Olmo and his family then he said something.

“I was never an animal, no trap ensnared me, and at the end of it all, I was a free man with an independent will who sold his integrity along the way. Don’t be like me detective Shaw, a man should stand for what he knows is right and remain standing no matter the cost.”

I nodded my head in agreement and left the building, his words resonated with me deeper than I expected. What do I stand for? I wouldn’t know how to answer such a question but what I do know is that whatever was going on behind those doors needed to stop but how could I do it? How could I go to war with something capable of dictating the narrative of someone's life? I took out my phone and dialed a number.

“We need to talk,” I said after the person answered.

---

Mr. Olmo sat in his room facing the sliding door which leads to the balcony, the curtains were parted and the soft luminance from the moon drowned a portion of the room in light. He took a deep breath through his oxygen tube to relax after hearing the door being closed behind him, he knew his time had come to collect the consequences of his actions.

“I have been waiting for so long, almost thought you forgot about me.”

“You know who we are?” The voice answered.

“You’re Alberto aren’t you? The one Olivia helped to escape from the facility. From I saw the note appear in my room with the instructions to give it to an officer who would come to see me I figured it was you.”

“We go by Jose now.” He said.

“What do you plan on doing Jose?”

“I’m returning the pain and suffering we all had to endure… I will tear it all to the ground!”

“I see, well before you begin I just w,”

“Save the words.” Jose interrupted. “There’s nothing to be said, an apology for your selfish actions won’t be able to soothe the pain we suffered.”

“I know it won't,” he said holding back the tears. “but it’s a start.”

Each step Jose took towards him felt as if it was echoing throughout the room; he placed a hand on Mr. Olmo's shoulder and he was quite relaxed as if he was sitting on a beach awaiting the impact of a cooling ocean breeze. He already had made peace with his faith, he felt as if he had to right to reject whatever would come his way. Jose lowered his lips to Mr. Olmo's ears.

“I won’t kill you despite every fiber of my being telling me to do so because I understand. When someone contemplates their sorrows and suffering of their physical existence they often romanticize the pleasures of the imaginary one and once they do they will surrender their will to live. I won’t grant you the satisfaction of relieving you of your suffering.”

Mr. Olmo's heart sank because he desperately wanted to die, he did not want to continue living with the screams of children in his head. He yearned for the peace that would accompany his death but he was too afraid to end it himself.

“No! Please you have to kill me, I’m begging you!” He pleaded.

Jose stepped away from his chair. “This is the hell you built for yourself, own it! If not you can always muster up the courage to end it yourself.”


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