"How successful were the tests," he asked, adjusting the volume on his shirt.
Black Island noise fusion swallowed her sigh. "I don't want to drink gin in a hot tub. Give me the shit."
"I'm asking about the tests. Who'd you get them from? You know, the wrong doctor..."
Tara had a tension headache. Motherfucker sensed it. The music was just another way of trying to jack the price. She fingered the plascash in her pocket, prepared to evaporate any and all haggling.
"Self-diagnostic, with redundancies. The kits were generic, procured from punks like you."
She could tell from his body language that it wasn't good enough. He was determined to go through the routine.
"Assisting in an abortion-- fuck assisting, I'm facilitating! I give you something and it goes wrong, you get found out, they try and trace me. I have to have assurances."
The noise fusion reached the peak of its cycle, a lightning bolt of discord, oscillating off the bricks. Tara held up a piece of plascash. "This is written for the amount you asked." She fanned her fingers, exposing the second chit. "This is a bonus, written with insurance. My real name, tax status, everything. This one makes me your hostage." She tucked them both in Motherfucker's breast pocket and tapped the volume on his shirt back down to where it was tolerable. "Now. I need the fucking Sickness."
He rubbed the diamond stud in his lower lip. "I can't stress this enough."
"Give me the shit or I split." The whole scene was giving her the copper jitters.
He touched his right eye. Twisting the tripod of his fingers, he opened the ocular safe and tilted his head down. A sulfurous pill fell out.
He screwed his eye shut as he handed her the pill. "Teacher's always right."
Tara snarled. No reason not to. The deal was all but finished. "You know as well as I do that we don't have that kind of relationship."
"Not now, we don't."
Tara put another ten minute chit on the stall lock, swallowing nervously.
Ten minutes. No evidence. The pill dissolves, the caplets activate. Ten minutes later, everything in the uterus has been converted.
It hadn't tasted like anything. Not even glycerin. Just slid right down.
Tara looked at her watch, listening to Michaels (social studies 9-12; phy. ed., all grades) do a line off the dispenser in the stall beside her. Of all the times for that frog-faced Southerner to hype himself up. Why couldn't he take mini-thins like everyone else?
We're past leaving things in the toilet for the cops to find. Break the would-be baby back down to components the body can use. Safe, simple.
Michaels banged his elbow and the cornflower blue cubicle shook. Tara gave his general presence the finger, watching his expensive tabi-style sneakers shuffle in a circle. At least he wasn't teaching algebra this year. Maybe a few students would actually graduate.
Does it hurt?
Michaels' stall slammed open. Tara imagined him having to stand with his calves against the toilet, bending backward so the door could clear his gut. Disgusting man. He had a plaque in his office that read, 'I cuss cuz it makes Momma proud.'
I can't say. Your kind of customer doesn't cling to the same lightning rod too many times, so nobody tells me. I hear it's painless. You get a little warm, maybe a little dizzy. Supposedly that's it.
The door to the bathroom banged, and the shuffling ceased. The quiet was hollow. Tara had to assume Michaels was gone. The only person she had to curse now was herself. Was she getting warm, or was it only her imagination? She checked her watch again.
She had left Motherfucker and gone straight inside, hoping to get the thing done before lunch was over. He'd been a decent student. Not excellent, but intelligent enough to pass all the tests. He stopped attending classes after graduating to twelfth grade, opting instead to take up a position in the breezeway, doling out medicine to anyone sick enough to afford it. She doubted he made the Sickness himself. He'd never shown that much initiative.
She didn't have any pangs of conscience about it. The pill cost as much as three hours' bed rent in a hospital-- a bargain by anybody's standards. If it worked as advertised, she'd be able to make up the difference in savings within a couple of months. No mandantory leave. Of course, she still had to get the bacterial engine in her car recharged, and she'd like to be able to change apartments within the year, but that was...
The bathroom door banged again. Tara heard a gentle crackling sound, like a geiger counter. She watched as five pair of reinforced tabi accumulated around the base of her door. The geiger rattled, rabid now, fierce and insistent. She heard Motherfucker's voice.
She couldn't bring herself to answer. A hard hand hammered on the door. A different voice.
"Ms. Banks. This young man tells us he sold you a pill."
The rattle of the geiger reached a crescendo, then switched off. Tara's eyes prickled, swelling.
"You know that you're not allowed to do that." The voice was calm, patient, directed. A teacher's voice. "What this young man sold you was a transmitter, activated by stomach acids. You've given us just cause. Make this easy. Come out, sign this affidavit, and we won't have to put you in the back of a car or anything."
Another hand slammed against the door. "Murderer."
"I didn't!" Tara knew she was about to cry, but couldn't stop. Her tear ducts burned. She couldn't stand up. She couldn't do anything.
Motherfucker spoke again. "Ms. Banks. These are good men. You should come out." She couldn't see his feet. Tara reasoned that he was standing behind the police.
"Let's just yank her out before she tries to suicide."
The cornflower pressboard disintegrated into yellow dust, and kevlar hands took her by the shoulders. She was surrounded by black faceplates with numbers on them. Tara pulled against the officers, bruising herself, kicking and thrashing; screaming.
Motherfucker stood off to one side, looking small and lost in the blue tile room. Tara had time to shriek--
"You should have been born dead!"
--then they hauled her away.