Felicia was startled by sudden howls of pain and distress. Her eyes shifted in the direction of the surgical bed, where a woman’s body lay beneath clot-stained fabric. Heavy breathing and peculiar whispers rose from beneath the sheets, merging together as the wobbly overhead fan cooled the intense tropical heat. Why did the screams remind her of Felix? She poured a glass of wine and returned to the laptop, and to her murky thoughts.
Trapped inside her head were the words Mayer and Rokitansky, bouncing mutely off the walls of her subconscious. She was only fourteen when the doctors told her about the syndrome. Felicia knew that she would never have a child to call her own, but none of this mattered any more. Even on the rare occasion that her mind drifted to the beating black hole in her chest, Felicia had no regrets. She blamed fate, not herself, for everything. For everything...
Another hour passed and with it another glass. There was no sign of Felix, no call from Jimmy and nothing on the computer. Frustration and intoxication were building up, but she was not afraid. Her nerves were made of steel, and her emotions were just as impenetrable.
The voices returned, only this time they were louder and much clearer. It was definitely not the wine, or the heat, and it wasn't Felix either. The woman on the surgical bed whispered something about frolics and children, war, famine and plagues. "If you want to talk say something useful," yelled Felicia. Her voice echoed through the concrete walls and in response came silence. "Warmth, sympathy and understanding," she scorned as she scratched the desk with a scalpel. "They call it the 'oath of Hippocrates'. What a joke, eh? They don’t outweigh the knife and the drug, you know. Nothing does. 'Oath of hypocrisy' I’d say." She filled up the glass with more wine.
Ring… ring… ring… Felicia answered the phone.
"Jimmy!" she squealed. "What a pleasant surprise… Why, do I sound tipsy?" She laughed out loud.
"It, Jimmy. It. And by the way, it won’t be fresh for long…
You can have the whole lump if you want. I don’t care what you do with it…
Research or not, it makes no difference to me. You can eat it for all I care, but the price is the price. You know how we work..."
Her eyes grazed over the computer. An unidentified user had left an encrypted message on the Dark Web.
"Shit!" she uttered. "That’s enough, you’re out of time. Transfer the funds." She hanged up the phone and removed the SIM card, slicing it into several pieces. "Prick. I wasn’t born yesterday," she smirked. Felicia threw the pieces into a disposable sharps bin labelled 'hazardous waste - incinerate'. Used syringes, needles and broken ampoules were piled on top and the container shut. A new SIM card was unpacked and the numbers from the decrypted message dialled. "… Zero… Nine… Three…" She paused momentarily to look at the calendar. "Fourth day… third week… la-di-da…"
Ring… ring… ring… ring… Felicia hung up and redialled the number.
Ring… ring… ring… She hung up again and waited. Seconds later, an unidentified caller was on the line.
"We have a match."
"Are you positive?" he thrilled. The speech scrambler disguised his voice, but not his accent.
"Positive. I tested it myself - twice." She lit a cigarette, sat back and stretched her legs over the desk.
"What are you waiting for?"
"There’s a problem. This isn’t one of the villagers. It's a patient, from the Hospital."
"How many months?"
"Um-hum. Real shame isn’t it?" Felicia waited for him to speak.
"Name the price."
"Mister Hu!" she mocked, almost melodically. "Are you suggesting that-"
"I don’t have time for this. Just name your price."
"Another 'zero' at the end would do."
"What?! Have you lost your mind?"
Felicia exhaled, blowing smoke in the direction of the overhead fan. She waited for the smoke to disappear and for the dust to settle.
"Do you have any idea who you’re dealing with?" he warned.
"I do. And I know you can afford this."
A conversation exploded at the other end of the call. She waited for his anger to turn into acceptance. Eventually he conceded.
"And what will you do with all that money, doctor?"
"Retire," she declared, just as the intercom buzzed. Felix was at the door. Mr Hu was still laughing.
"Transfer the funds. My associate will contact you."
"Very well then. But you cannot escape this, doctor. It will haunt you to the grave."
"Pleasure doing business with you." She hanged up.
Muffled cries filled the air as the hooded man, led by Felix, walked through the corridor and past metal crates. The cries intensified no sooner than Felicia spoke. "Over here," she declared, stabbing the scalpel into the desk and pointing at the floor by her feet. Felix forced the man on his knees.
"Did you find anything?"
"Nothing. Nobody’s seen her; nobody knows her."
"What about this piece of crap?" The man in front of her trembled like a leaf.
"Very well. We’ll do it the hard way." At her signal Felix lifted the hood and removed the handcuffs and the duct tape. The man’s face was freshly bruised and swollen.
"Bobby. Have I not been kind to you? Tell me - am I not kind?"
"Yes, doctor. You are," he whimpered.
"Am I not paying you enough? Is that it?"
"No... Doctor, please..."
"Then why Bobby? Why? Why?"
"I swear, I don’t know anything… Please…"
"Nothing? Didn’t Felix explain?"
Bobby and Felix made eye contact; Felix smiled, waving his hand. Bobby seemed astonished, almost dumbfounded.
"Is that… is that Felix?" he asked.
Felicia burst out laughing. Felix joined in, and eventually Bobby laughed too.
"How hard did you smack that empty head of his, little brother?" she joked, wiping the tears from her eyes. As she turned around to pour a glass of wine, Bobby covered his head and his face, shielding his most sensitive bits from Felix's fists. Tasting the wine she signalled Felix to stop.
"Over here Bobby. I wanna show you something."
Felix dragged him like a wounded beast and dropped him on the floor, next to the surgical bed.
"Go on, get up. Remove those sheets."
He hesitated. Maybe it was the smell of iron and other bodily fluids. Something shaped like a human lay beneath the fabric.
"Come oooon… it won’t bite you," she teased. Felix smiled.
With trembling hands Bobby lifted the sheets. He dropped them on the floor and then he threw himself to his knees and emptied his stomach.
"Christ almighty!" he screamed. "What have you done?"
"At first I wanted to scare her," she admitted. "But she wouldn’t talk. She wouldn’t even scream - I tried everything. In the end I got carried away." She could feel Bobby’s heart thumping and his lungs gasping for air.
"Enough games. Tell me who she is."
"... She? Is that… a woman?" His voice was fragile and shaky. Felicia stood over the old woman’s body - it was maimed beyond recognition. She opened the bin liner and emptied the freshly dismembered body-parts right in front of Bobby.
"I’m asking you again, and for the last time. Who is she?" Bobby seemed entirely bewildered. Her eyes turned to Felix. "Did you tell him?"
"I did, I did," nodded Felix.
"This crazy old hag appeared out of nowhere, knocking on our door. You hear me Bobby?" She grabbed his face with both hands and screamed. "On. Our. Door." Bobby was trembling and sweating beyond control.
"How did she get here Bobby? There’s no footage, no footprints. Nothing. Did she drop from the sky?"
"I… I swear…" he sobbed.
"And what did she tell us?"
"That she had an abortion," continued Felix. "Right here. Two years ago."
"Two years ago Bobby! And then?"
"She said it was twins, and that the boy is still inside her. He is too afraid to come out."
"That’s crazy!" protested Bobby. "Doctor, you know me, I’d never-"
"Do you think I’m stupid?" she roared, smashing the empty bottle on the floor. "She named you Bobby. You! She said you sent her here. 'Like the villagers' she said. Like the bloody villagers."
"Why would I do that? Come on Feli… Doctor, think about it! It’s a set-up!"
"Set-up or not, we’re compromised. And I’m gonna get the truth out of you. Felix, come here!"
"But… he's not Felix," whispered Bobby, with tears rolling down his cheeks.
"Take him downstairs."
"No wait, wait-" begged Bobby. "There is something…"
"I’m listening," she said. Felix waited.
"There was a call… Yesterday."
"From a woman."
"I don’t know… she said the same thing. I thought it was a prank, I swear to God…"
"Who is she?"
"I don’t know… I said nothing, I swear it on my children!"
"Why didn’t you call us?"
"You tried?" she screeched, waving her hands in the air as if signalling for help.
"I destroyed the SIM card… When the new one came on I received the same call. I didn’t know what to do. It’s crazy!"
"You think that’s crazy? I’ll show you crazy."
With a sweeping motion she removed one of Bobby’s ears and threw it on the floor. The screaming was at its most unbearable when he realised that it was far from over.
"Take him downstairs and tie him up. Let the rats lick the wound. We'll continue this conversation when I’m done with the woman. And give that thing to his family - if they want the rest of him in one piece, they better tell us everything."
"No!" cried Bobby. "Leave them out of this! Leave them alone!" The screams disappeared into the basement.
"Just you and me now. You don’t have to suffer like this, you know." Felicia looked at the woman more closely and tried to read her pulse. "Fuck!" she yelled, throwing the scalpel across the room. "Unbelievable." She sat on the chair, stretching her legs over the table and plotting her next move.
"Felix. We got the job."
"Hu’s order. He wants the heart."
"How’re we doing it?"
"No, the mother. She is eight months."
"There’s gonna be heat. A lot of it."
"It’s worth it. Get rid of everything - we are closing shop. Burn the phones, the gear, the clothes, the lot of it."
"What about her?"
"Leave her and Bobby to me." Felicia dropped her clothes and headed for the only other functional room in the compound.
The corridors were pitch black, somehow more eerie than usual. A cold, thin air blew from the open ceiling and whistled past her ears, almost like a scream. She could not shake off the feeling that she was being watched. A hot shower and a change of clothes later, she was back to the surgery.
"Unbelievable… Felix! Your damn phone…" He had taken everything else, presumably to burn, but his telephone had been left behind. She was about to collect it when her ears were assaulted by a raucous and sharp weeping. It sounded like a baby, except that the crying was partly muted - as if it came from the inside of a box. With senses overloaded she followed the noise - it led her to the surgical bed. Its source was inside the body of the dead woman.
It must be a joke… Somebody, somewhere, knew about the operation. They planted a device in her body - a radio, or maybe a telephone. It could be a disgruntled client or a victim seeking revenge. Felicia picked up the scalpel and performed a caesarean section on the corpse. The crying became louder as she lifted the patient’s skin, placing her hand in the area between the abdomen and the uterus. She searched for a mechanical device when her arm was sucked in by a mysterious force. She was scratched and viciously bitten; pulling back her hand, Felicia dropped on the floor and was paralysed by fear.
She became light-headed and dizzy, unable to stand on her feet. Something crawled out of the woman’s body, but Felicia could not tell what it was. Then came the feeling that she was falling down a spiral. Losing consciousness, the baby’s wailing was the last thing that she heard.
She woke up, on her bed, to a persistent door-knock. Felicia could not remember how she got home. The wounds in her arm were still fresh.
"Detective Howard, homicide. Please open up."
"Show me your ID." A card was slipped under the door; it seemed genuine. She took a snapshot and opened the door.
"It’s about Felix."
"The male 'midwife' at your ward, isn’t he? Have you seen him lately?"
She cleared her throat and folded her arms. "No, I didn’t. Well yes, I did, at the Hospital... Did something happen?"
"He was reported missing by his wife, two days ago."
"Two? Two days?" she exclaimed.
"Are you on holiday?"
"No… I, umm… I don’t feel well."
"I need you to come to the station."
"To answer some questions."
"What kind of questions?"
"About Felix. We found his body."
"What do you mean 'found'?"
"In a warehouse, outside the City. Strapped to a bed. Tortured and murdered."
Felicia’s eyes widened and her face turned white. She tightened her arms and shook her head.
"Impossible. It can’t be."
"He has been identified by his wife. The coroner says a C-section was carried out on his body while he was still alive. We believe a gang is involved. You need to come with us."
"Am I under arrest?"
"Not if you choose to come."
"Give me ten minutes."
Felicia was emotionally swamped. She could not remember whether the body on the surgical bed belonged to her brother or the mysterious woman which came knocking on the door that night. Everything was a dizzying swirl of logic. No, it couldn’t be Felix - this had to be a well-rehearsed trick. But for now she had no choice but to play along.
"Is everything alright in there?"
"I’ll be with you in a moment…"
She stopped by the bathroom to wash her face. The world suddenly ground to a halt.
Jumping backwards, skin crawling, she looked at the mirror. Her reflection was not an ordinary reflection - it was facing backwards. Turning around, slowly, she almost forced the image to reveal its face. But with her back against the mirror, Felicia sensed a pair of hands stretching out towards her shoulders. With a jerking motion she turned forward, facing once again the mirror and her reverse image. Immediately her eyes focused on the reflection of a child hiding by the laundry basket. His eyes were abnormally large, as were his fingers and fingernails. The sighting forced her to turn around, and the feeling of arms stretching out from the mirror returned. Confused she turned yet again, facing the mirror for the last time. The child now stood by her side.
With a loud scream she run out and pushed the Detective down the stairs. A surge of electricity sent her body into spasms - it was the only way for them to calm her down.
"Heeeeelp! Please help me!" she begged.
"Shhh" whispered the nurse by her bedside.
"You! It’s you!" Felicia shook violently but her body was restrained.
"If you don’t keep quiet, you won’t get better now will you?"
"What do you want from me? Who are you? Why are you here?"
"To make your dream come true."
"Please... let me go!"
"You always wanted a child. Now you can have mine." The skinny child with the long fingers and sharp claws crawled on her bed. He made an incision just beneath her belly-button.
"Please! I’m sorry! Let me go!"
The baby crawled inside Felicia’s body, pushing her internal organs aside to make room. The pain was as real as anything she had ever felt.
"Doctor Blythe. Focus."
Her lips were numb and saliva dripped from her mouth. Her legs wouldn’t stop shaking. He folded his glasses and placed them firmly, on the desk, in front of Felicia.
"You are facing trial. For your brother’s murder; hundreds of illegal abortions; selling organs and aborted embryos; plotting kidnap and murder. Mr Lawrence - Bobby - is testifying against you. Do you want my help Doctor Blythe? You have to help me first."
"From the beginning. Look at the inkblot. Tell me what you see."
The first image was a cranium sliced in half. The nerve endings were spread open and the soft tissues were fresh.
"It’s a… cloud. A fluffy cloud" she giggled.
The second image was a rat. Its chest was thrust open and the insides had been emptied out.
"I see a pretty bird…"
The psychologist sighed loudly.
"Do you recognise this man?" It was a photograph of Felix. Her eyes watered.
"And how about her?" He held up a mirror. Felicia jumped up and screamed. With her thumbs she squeezed her eyeballs deep into her skull. Everything turned dark. They held her down and injected her with something. A surge of peace and serenity flowed through her veins - they said it would calm her down.
"I’m gonna need a few minutes," said Howard. The prison staff nodded.
"Is this where you found her?"
"Right there. On the floor."
Howard walked into the cell. It was flooded with three inches of water.
"Where did the water come from?"
"A burst pipe. Over there."
"How many cells have been affected?"
"Just this one."
"How did she drown in three inches of water?"
"Beats me. Suicide?"
Howard looked at the surface of the water; his reflection starred back at him.