“It was only time. I see that now,” Simon Green said cradling Larry’s small suitcase.
“What about him?” the man with remnants of pie on his face and a cracked rib said wincing every time the van turned or went over a bump. “I’d like to end him if you have what you want. I’ll make sure he doesn’t come back. Take of his head, maybe. He nudged Larry’s head back so he could inspect his neck. He then tapped Larry’s chest and looked over to his employer. “Or his heart?”
Simon Green ran his eyes over the bound and drugged Larry Emerson with a shrug of his shoulders.
“Hmph. I don’t care what you durakov* do. It is of no importance now.” Mr Green paused for a moment, thinking. “Although, yes, dead is better. I have what I need. I don’t need him. I don’t need you both. I’ll make sure you get your money for services, and happily not see any of you ever again.”
The car slid to a stop on loose rocks.
“Go, get out of my sight. Kill Mr Emerson so I never have to lay eyes on him again.” Mr Green stared inside of Larry’s suitcase, ignoring everything else. “I have business.”
His driver kept the car idling in the carpark of the deserted factory, while the two bodyguards unloaded their cargo. A sold sign had been stuck to a “For Sale” sign out the front.
The van skidded away to take them back to Kinglake where his new facility would begin testing, aided by the Australian and US military, and run by his CEO, Harry Childs. Then finally he would leave this country and return home to New York and oversee the beginning of a very lucrative first week of sales.
It had been a long and arduous few months. At last the Kinglake facility would run the tests as was needed. The local community would contribute significantly in that regard.
The military had been only too happy to offer their services and personnel once Harry Childs had given a presentation on how the viruses could be used to improve a soldier’s strength, speed, healing time after an injury, as well as exhaustion following a full day.
As a prospective purchaser of the technology, the governments offered Tech Dynamics men and women to help with the tests and guard the facility. This also gave the facility a federal military standing, allowing them anonymity from local authorities.
Simon thought back to his early beginnings. He laughed. Gorbenko was going to a name no one would forget. Russia would again have to respect all the Gorbenko people. As a genealogist intern for his first job he had been paid a pittance. Now he owned an advanced research company. Employed people who worked very hard to make his dreams come true. People that were not even aware that they worked for his Russia’s way of life. And all he had needed to do was undermine the late Lee Gorbenko and take his job from him.
He had then shaped the company into the greatest human performance research facility seen anywhere in the world. Except, possibly, for his grandfather’s work that had been accomplished under the old government of the Soviet Union decades ago.
His cousin, always a drunk, had lost control at an outing with a Tech Dynamic client. Leaving the client at one bar while moving onto the next. Later ending up at a gentlemen’s establishment, and causing another scene.
He had not come to work for the next week. Either because of his shame or because he had continued to stay drunk. Simon took the opportunity to fill his cousin’s position and take on his work with greater zeal.
A further week passed before Lee arrived, interrupting a board meeting in a suit so stained it looked like he had not changed it for a week. He further exasperated the intrusion by turning up disgustingly drunk. Again.
Simon did not back away from his cousin’s hard stares. He had openly told the board of the man’s behavior, and what clients were now saying about Tech Dynamics.
Too drunk to do anything about his shame, Simon saw it as another weakness shown by his cousin.
Lee handed in his resignation as CEO that day, although still kept his board privileges and shares.
A proposal was put forward and passed; Mr Green would be the new CEO at Tech Dynamics.
Lee passed away a few months afterward and left all his shares to Simon. Simon became the largest shareholder allowing him to override decisions made by the current board of directors, in the end forcing them off the board with bribery or at other times, violence.
Simon employed Harry Childs as his new CEO, a ruthless man in his own right. Smart, resourceful and obeyed Simon without question.
Simon knew he would have to watch this man closely, lest he fall victim to the man’s own growing greed.
Larry felt every stone bite into his head and back as they dragged him across the carpark feet first. His clothes tore and skin shredded, leaving a trail of blood. One of the men unlocked a shiny new padlock attached to the door, and pushed open into a ratty workshop.
They dragged their cargo further into the building of the dim dank room full of cobwebs, broken rusting machines and smashed pieces of glass over the floor—just waiting for someone to snag their skin.
They heaved Larry up onto a grubby metal table that smelt of dead things. The cool steel top soothed Larry’s torn skin for a moment, then began to warm. He tried to move but could not even make his eyelids blink. The paralyzing agent continued to course through his system. Both men put on leather gloves. He saw this through the corner of one eye. One of the men smashed his fist into his open palm as if he enjoyed the impressive sound of the explosion. Moments later, they began to work on Larry.
Blood poured from Larry’s eyes, nose, mouth, and chin.
Bone and teeth poked through his cheeks where the men had pummeled him without stopping for over twenty minutes. His nose was bent at an obscure angle, his jaw felt as if it had come unattached, eye ridges were so swollen he could only see through small slits.
During his beating he had tried to move by will alone, but it had not been enough. He had lain there and taken the beating. Watching on as each large man used their full weight with each punch, lost in the moment of inflicting as much damage as possible. Then their laughing at the cracking, breaking noises that followed, and sweating profusely as they did so.
During the constant pounding of fists to his face, Larry had begun to drift away and become unattached from the physical part of his body. He still hurt, but because he could not move, he could not react. He closed his eyes and let one part of his mind deal with the moment, while another part thought of how he might break free.
The two exhausted men sat back against a bench and talked and nodded toward Larry. A darkness had begun creeping in around his vision. It was horrifying. He would black out, and never be able to free himself. He tried again to shake himself awake, but his body would not budge.
Larry grunted a laugh at the thought of needing to be slapped around further just to stay conscious.
The drug had at least worn off enough for him to grunt. He tried moving again. First his mouth, then eyes, fingers, toes. But nothing happened. One of the men sprayed water on Larry’s face and washed away the blood to see what they had done. The water stung like they had mixed in vinegar, but his aching paralysed face did not move to show any expression.
Seconds slipped by as the men talked about how they should finish.
Larry’s limbs still would not obey him and now his mind wouldn’t either as his vision darkened further.
He blinked and his foot twitched, just a little. The darkness continued to close in on him as his mind worked toward shutting down. Through the fog he blinked again. And again. He moved his fingers, but found that this exhausted him much more than trying to stay conscious.
“He’s starting to move,” one of them men said. “So who should do it?”
Larry’s desperation increased. He had to fight soon or die here.
“I saw an old knife around here somewhere,” one of the men said and turned in a circle. “There. Bit rusted, but it’ll be okay.”
“I found a saw,” the other one yelled after walking to the back of the large shadowed factory and finding many old, barely usable tools.
Larry felt the blade enter his skin. It stopped at his rib cage. The man twisted the knife and jabbed.
“You’ll have to go under the ribs, it’s too strong there for that pissy little blade.”
While the two men stood back and talked about what they should do, Larry rolled. He rolled onto his side, still with the rusty blade sticking out of his chest, and fell to the floor. The blade luckily falling flat when he toppled over.
Strength returned and built within him like a fire hose turned on full.
He planted his hands firmly on solid ground and pushed up to his knees. The men stood beside him. One of them kicked his arms out from under him, his face smacked against the concrete floor.
They then picked him up, one at his feet, the other his shoulders, and together they brought him back up onto the table. Larry groaned. They lay him face first against the foul smelling rusted metal table top.
“Don’t bother turning him, we’ll cut off his head. Forget about the heart,” the one at Larry’s head said. “The fucker weighs too much. I’m not moving him again. Let’s just get it done.”
Before they could make another cut, Larry rolled off the table again and landed on his back this time.
The two men turned to each other with expressions that suggested they should have seen it coming. Both walked without a word to a second bench where they collected their gun holsters and jackets. Larry heard clicking and snapping noises as they readied their weapons.
The two returned to the opposite side of the table where Larry had rolled to the floor the second time. They raised their hand guns. Only Larry wasn’t there.
Faster than either men could react and quieter than a feather from a pillow, Larry landed behind the two men.
He twisted the first man’s head around at an ugly angle. Ending his life with a muffled crunch, the body slumped to the dusty concrete floor. The second man saw his companion go down, then found to his horror that his gun had been pulled from his hand. It went off, firing up through the base of his neck, the bullet exiting out the top of his head, sprouting brain and blood into the air.
Larry stood over the motionless men and let out the breath he had been holding. A red pool spread out from the head of the shot man, as if in search of the other corpse.
Through a break in the factory roof Larry saw a blue expanse of sky and wispy white clouds. His ever evolving senses wondrously touched the heavens. Angled shapes of light and shadows danced across the roof of the building. Distant sounds of the city meandered by. A dreamy state came over him. He closed his eyes, his shoulders slumped. Everything around him became an essence he could reach out and touch.
After a full minute he opened his eyes and looked down again at the dead men lying in the cement dust and rusty random objects. He had never seen anyone dead before. He had never needed to shoot anyone either, even when in the military.
He felt no anger at what he had done, no shame or remorse. He wondered if that was the way he was supposed to feel.
Satisfaction. That was an emotion, wasn’t it?
Larry touched tenderly at his face and felt the lumps and cuts littering his skin.
At the rear of the factory he found a room, which in a better state may have once been called a bathroom. A morbid glow lit the room with a single dirty globe swinging to and fro like it were possessed. The water ran, although brown, but soon changed to a relatively clear opacity, still challenging the word clean. Larry washed the mirror of grime and dust so he could see his face and assess the damage done. It looked bad. He grimaced and his face became an even more horrible picture.
“The hunchback of Notre Dame,” he slurred through bruised lips.
In the corner of the room he found a scrunched up yellow towel lying on the equally stained tiled floor. After some thorough rinsing it became serviceable. He wiped at the dried blood on his face and picked at loose pieces until he could see the full damage. While holding his breath he moved his nose back into place.
A yelp became a moan. He continued adjusting anything that looked to be out of place so that the bones would set correctly. His cracked, torn face would already be mending and re-knitting, in an hour it would look like it had been a week since his injuries.
He removed his shirt, heavily stained with blood and sweat. His muscles had developed extensively. He wasn’t a huge man, but larger than he had been this morning. The condensed muscle mass was so compacted that he would still be called slim.
He returned to the corpses and watched as the blood continued to spread outward, coming close to staining the nice shirt that he had decided to take as his own. Larry bent down and lifted the largest of the two men easily above his head. The man must have weighed over 250 pounds
Larry smiled. He grabbed each of the corpses by the ankles and raised them so they dangled, although could not quite get them completely off the floor—considering the men had been a lot taller than him. He took the shirt off the one with the broken neck and put it on, doing up all the buttons except the collar.
Larry felt around for his phone and found it to be in tact and in his pocket. Almost 5pm. He would need to get to the airport in short time if he wanted to catch his flight. He would probably be eating in-flight after all.
He ran from the warehouse, the stone path crunching under foot, then slid to a stop. Not only was he standing in a completely deserted carpark, but for as far as he could see in every direction, each building had closed and been boarded up. He ran along the deserted industrial street and saw a, sold, sticker on each of the buildings. Tech Dynamics, he guessed. They no doubt had plans brewing.
Larry reached an intersection and stopped. He scrolled through his phone and found a Brisbane taxi service.
“Your pickup address,” the taxi operator said.
Happy to hear another voice, Larry said, ‘Hi, yes, how are you?’
He received a significant pause before she replied that she was well, too, and again asked for the pickup address.
Larry’s details appeared on screen when he swiped his members card for his flight. They then sent him through on fast track, only to be halted by a guard near the X-ray machine. He had been flagged; they wanted to know why he had no baggage and why his face looked like it had been used as a hockey puck.
“I was mugged on the way to the airport,” he lied. “I haven’t even had time to report it, but will be talking to the police before I board my flight.”
Larry received no look of suspicion from the guard who even managed to appear sympathetic. He allowed him to continue on unhindered. An amazing thing since he would not have believed the lie himself.
He stopped in briefly at the members lounge to collect his itinerary, which Emily had sent through. The manager handed it to Larry not even appearing to notice his injuries.
“Good afternoon, Mr Emerson. We spoke to Emily who explained you would be looking for dinner when you arrived and that your paperwork should be brought promptly to you. When you didn’t arrive earlier as we had anticipated, I took the liberty of ordering what you ordered last time you were here and then have it on standby in the warmer from twenty minutes before you needed to be at the departure gate. By the time you sit down, we will have your meal ready to bring out to you. I hope that this is to your satisfaction?” The manager said.
The relief on Larry’s face must have showed as the manager smiled back.
Larry said, “I owe you a million.”
“A small tip will more than surface,” the manager said with a wink, while leading him to his table.
True to his word, the meal of rump steak with peppercorn sauce, vegetables and buttered potatoes lay before him less than a minute after he had been seated. The waiter poured a glass of wine not moments later. Larry relaxed and smiled and looked over the meal before him. He said his thanks to the waiter and devoured his evening meal with gusto that a starving would have frowned upon.
Larry sat in the waiting lounge not knowing what to do with himself while the staff prepared for passengers to board. So many days of rushing and running and fighting, that stopping to rest seemed alien. His eyelids drooped.
Larry’s phone rang and vibrated bringing him back from his semi-doze. Detective Bradbury’s name appeared on the screen, no doubt wanting to know his whereabouts.
“Mr Emerson, I spoke to Jones. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re supposed to stick to him like glue at all times. What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Bradbury continued on without pause. “Jones said you had some things to take care of, and that you would see him in San Francisco. Is there something I should know about?”
“I’m well thanks detective, thanks for asking.” Larry said, suddenly feeling hard done by and wanting to take it out on someone. “Mr Green’s men have tried to kill me for a third time. And you can be sure I’ll be extremely poignant on the subject when I meet with him again.”
“Damnit, Mr Emerson, what the hell did you do?”
“You’re not going to be happy, but I’ve accidently allowed the people behind the disappearances and murders, access to my viruses. You better keep a close eye on Tech Dynamics for a while.”
“Fine,” the detective said as if this was a minor matter at best, “Why didn’t you call me from Brisbane like you were ordered to—.”
“I should also mention that the two bodyguards who were with Mr Green are no longer in his employ and won’t ever be employed again,” Larry interrupted, “You’ll find them at an abandoned warehouse not far from Brisbane airport. Delta Street I think it was called. And Goose Street.”
“Larry,” the detective said using his first name for the first time. “It would be wise for you to come in and talk to me.”
“Can’t, detective, I have to go and make sure my brother is okay, I’m sure you understand. Give me a call in about 18 hours, I’ll be in San Francisco and we can discuss what to do from there. I have to go, we’re boarding. Thanks for calling.”
Once in the air Larry decided to test his senses in their increased capacity, and so concentrated on what the cabin crew were saying as they prepared the meal cart from behind a curtain.
“Glad I’m not eating these so called meals,” a female voice said.
“I like the food, I’d rather that than the shit in the sandwiches you’re eating,” a male attendant replied.
“You keep telling yourself that, Clint, and I’ll eat my fresh and light, ever so slightly glazed ham and salad sandwich with some low GI pasta on the side. And you have the fat-laden cordon bleu with greasy potatoes.”
“Stop it, my mouth is watering,” the male attendant replied while sniffing.
Larry read the words of a book another passenger held in their hands from five rows away. He adjusted his eyes further, which seemed to be increasingly easy to do, and stared out the plane window past the person reading. There he could see another plane heading in the same direction. And could make out the logo of the airline.
He thought back to the plane taking off and remembered feeling every slight bump along the tarmac. Although, now that he thought about it, that wasn’t especially amazing.
The virus agitating his muscles to increase their density would be temporary, lasting only the length of a common cold, so the discomfort of his body tightening into a knot of muscle would not last much longer.
Smell had remained the strongest sense. The aroma of the meals had been intense as soon as the door opened where the meals were kept.
He could tell that a man three rows back had not showered this morning. Strange thing, he also knew for a fact that the smell came from a man.
Another smell tweaked his interest, he had not worked out exactly what it was at first, but then remembered it as the same smell from the dead men at the warehouse: blood. He sat up straight and looked around for a sign of trouble. Then it dawned on him. He relaxed, although also felt ill for realizing what it was. There were at least eight other women on board this flight who all had the same symptom.