“Don’t you fuckin’ toss off an email when you’ve got information, Archer!” Elijah Kaczmerak spit the words out, his breath catching in his throat with the effort. “You get on the damn phone –” (breathe) “– and you talk to me like a man.” (breathe) “Do you understand me?”
Kaczmerak’s chest rose and fell with each labored gasp. The old man closed his eyes, listening to the private detective on the other end. He worked to remain calm, regulating his breathing as withered muscles uncoiled.
“I don’t’ care what you think–” (breathe) “– You consult with me, and do the job for which I am paying you –” (breathe) “– Find my daughter–” (b-r-e-a-t-h-e) “– Bring her back.”
“Now, have you anything worthwhile to share?” His voice little more than a whisper, Kaczmerak slumped back, his body collapsing in on itself.
The old man was unsure how long the phone had been silent. He opened his eyes and rasped into the still room, the chair’s receiver funneling his voice back to Keenan Archer. “So you don’t really know a fucking thing, do you? –” (breathe) “– Please remind me why I am paying you such an exorbitant sum.”
The old man held a rag up to his mouth coughing into it, the searing pain given voice by the grating sound in his throat.
“WHERE ARE MY RESULTS!”
A long silence enveloped the room as Kaczmerak listened to the detective’s excuses.
“I deal in certainties, Mr. Archer–” (breathe) “– Not fucking hypotheses.” Kaczmerak could barely free this final word, his body rebelling against the strain.
Wheezing loudly, the old man’s eyebrows arched as a response came from the detective. “Do not fucking patronize me, Mr. Archer.”
Kaczmerak paused, dropped back into his chair once more, listening with more interest. A smile curled at the edges of his mouth as his fingers began to tap on the arm of the chair – slowly at first, the pace quickening as the detective’s monologue continued. Finally, the old man slapped his hand down on the chair arm, the sharp impact skittering across the room.
“She’s gone to New York?”
“Would it not be prudent to ascertain the veracity of your hunch?”
“I expect a report tomorrow evening–” (b-r-e-a-t-h-e) “– And do not make me call you this time.” Kaczmerak tapped the console on the chair’s left arm cutting off any more discussion from the detective. The old man closed his eyes and heaved a long sigh.
“Are you awake, sir?” Gregory was standing above Elijah as the room came into focus. Kaczmerak couldn’t remember falling asleep and had no idea how much time he’d lost. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand he looked up at his butler.
“What is it?”
“The doctor is here, sir. She’s been waiting in the vestibule.”
“Set her up in the –”
“Already done, sir. The doctor unpacked and organized her belongings before having me call on you. I told her that might be best.”
“Well send her in for Christ’s sake.” Kaczmerak ran fingers through his thinning hair as he worked to sit up in his chair.
A minute later, Dr. Sylindra Ziantara strode into the library, concern crossing her features. Kaczmerak didn’t like that. “What the hell is wrong, doctor?”
Dr. Z, as she was commonly addressed, always found Elijah Kaczmerak’s hostile demeanor off-putting. “The tests came back negative.”
“What the fuck do you mean negative?” Kaczmerak turned away and rolled over to the window. Outside slate clouds crowded out the sun’s warmth, dropping a monochrome haze over everything.
The doctor reached Kaczmerak’s side, setting her hand on the back of his chair. “We can’t produce any more stem cells. Your body’s too full of cancer. They metastasize rather than grow healthy cells.
“We tried difference cocktails, but the results are always the same.”
“Why don’t you go back and try again, doctor!” The final word dripped off Kaczmerak’s tongue like a virus as he turned and stared up into her eyes. He held her gaze for a moment but had to turn away when he was overcome with a hacking cough once more, the heavy phlegm burning deep within his throat, refusing to move.
“Elijah.” The name landed solidly between patient and physician. “You know you don’t get to push me around. Try it again, and I’m out that door.”
Elijah Kaczmerak looked out at the heavy clouds sitting on the horizon, his final sputtering coughs subsiding. It was nearly two minutes before he replied, the doctor waiting him out as she wandered the room admiring his book collection.
Finally, his voice barely audible – “So what do I do now?”
Dr. Z walked over and knelt beside him. Taking his hand, she lifted Kaczmerak’s head so that she could look him in the eye. “We keep fighting. Maybe another cocktail will work, but I’m not holding out hope.”
“Best case scenario,” she continued, “is that you find a donor that shares your DNA.
“Otherwise, there’s not much else except bio-modification.”
“Fuck that,” he spat as he pulled his hand away.
To Be Continued . . .