Late the next night Stuarts gets a heavy knock on his metal door. He knows it Robby as he’s the only one that pounds on his door. It’s like the man is trying to break his way in, but he isn’t.
Stuart retracts the bolts, drops the chain and opens the door just enough for him to peer outside. Sure enough stood before him is Robby wearing his brown sheepskin coat. It makes the already bulky man look even more like a mountain, Stuart thinks as he notes the loan shark is not alone. At his side is a clearly heavily intoxicated young man with a shaved head and half open brown eyes. His dark lips parted slightly while Robby grasps his shoulder to keep him upright. Stuart doesn’t like the look of this. The young man, a kid really, doesn’t look down on his luck in his skin tight blue jeans and plain white shirt, the collar of which is open.
“Are you going to stand there all night or let me in?” Robby fires with a sneer.
Stuart jumps back as he quickly retreats pulling the door along with him so that Robby and the young man can enter. Stuart notes that the young man looks somehow familiar, but he doesn’t know why. Maybe he saw him in the hospital once? Stuart thinks as Robby shoves the young guy into the chair, while he is left to close and bolt the door.
“Really? The bolts. What do you think is going to happen while I’m here?” Robby asks impatiently with a shake of his head as Stuart finishes sliding the second bolt across. He decides not to waste any more time with the third bolt before crossing the room to join Robby and the young guy. He knows if he continues to delay, even though it is unintentional, then Robby will get angry. The loan shark has a short temper, but after the threat delivered to him last night he isn’t willing to test the hulking man any further than he already has.
“So what we got here then?” Stuart asks as he begins to survey the latest ‘client.’ They’re victims really and he knows it. He’s even complicit in it. He pays them three one hundred bills each yet the base amount he makes off every auction is more than three times that. But that’s not his problem. His problem is paying Robby. If the people that come here desperate and needy will take three hundred he’ll give them just the three hundred. It just means to can pay Robby more each time.
“This is a job. Not a patient. You don’t need to study them. No one cares if they’re in good health.” Robby offers without a care for whether Stuart wants to hear it or not. The loan shark is blunt, which is unsurprising in his line of work. There is no fluff or sugar coating, just the facts as he sees them, as well as the threats. He and Stuart could not be from more different worlds. Y Robby is the one rolling round in a sheepskin coat, driving a top of the line brand new hundred thousand set of wheels. Meanwhile, Stuart lives in this grotty place. He doesn’t know what the building used to be and doesn’t want to. He knows that Robby owns it but he doubts it was purchased legally. Maybe it was payment for a debt, maybe it wasn’t. He isn’t going to ask and even if he did he doubted Robby would tell him.
“He doesn’t look like the usual types.” Stuart offers honestly.
“I didn’t ask for your opinions. I bring you merchandise. You rip the mems. That’s the deal. But if you must know this kid owes me big.” Robby says with anger in his eyes. He hates people that try and skip their debts.
“And he has no ties?” Stuart asks wanting to be sure. He can’t afford to have a client that has family or loved ones. They have to be nobodies. Those that will not be missed, by anyone, ever. That’s the deal set in place so that nothing can come back on him or Robby.
“Course Doc. Now can we get cracking? I want this done as soon as.” Robby says with his trademark lack of compassion or patience.
“Of course. Let me just get setup.” Stuart says as he hurries himself round to the young guys head and quickly slips the band around his forehead before tightening it.
Robby licks his lips. Stuart isn’t sure this time whether it’s because of the anticipation of money or whether he actually wants to see this guy suffer. Nevertheless it sends shivers down his spine as he feels at the back of the guys head.
It’s so much easier when they have shaved heads, Stuart thinks as he drives the needle in. The guy cries in pain. It’s a short, sharp cry, but a cry nonetheless.
“Shut up Eric you big baby. You owe me. You knew this was coming. I warned you what would happen if you didn’t pay up.” Robby says as he holds the young guy down in the reclined chair.
It isn’t like Robby to get this close to the action or keep this much of a watch, let alone actually hold the client in place. This Eric must have really pissed Robby off, Stuart thinks as he activates the extractor. But as soon as he does Eric starts to fidget and wriggle. Robby continues to hold the man down but the reality is that his twitching body is not the biggest danger. Instead, it’s the needle plug in the base of his skull, which Stuart is clinging to desperately so that it doesn’t break. If the needle does breaks it will kill Eric and Stuart knows that. It’s why so many other black-market mems clinics have fatalities. The people that run them aren’t doctors. They just want the money. Stuart might leave many of his clients’ brain dead, but at least he’s never lost anyone, at least not yet. And he doesn’t plan to today either, he promises.
“He needs to stop moving or he’ll break the plug.” Stuart exclaims.
“So what?” Robby fires back. He doesn’t care if Eric dies. In some ways it will make things easier. Help tie up a loose end. Dumb kid thought he could get in deep with me and that he’d never have to pay the money back, Robby thinks to himself.
“If the needle breaks we could lose the mems.” Stuart blurts alarmed.
“How about this?” Robby says as he grabs Eric by the jaw and holds his head steady. The young man tries to fight but Robby is much stronger. Though, the loan shark’s face is clearly enjoying the fact that his grip if causing Eric discomfort, seeing as he is smiling sickly.
Stuart is sure that if Eric was not drunk he would be screaming in pain and not from the mems extraction, but just from Robby’s grip on his jaw.
“That’s it. That’ll do.” Stuart rejoices as the extractor pings to say it’s completed sifting.
Shit, Stuart thinks as he realises he hasn’t seen the mems. It’s too late now he knows. He’ll just have to rip them and hope, he thinks as he activates the rip protocol. The machine quickly goes to work as Eric’s face contorts into an effigy of pain. But this time Robby is ready and holds the young guy in place.
Stuart doesn’t understand why Eric reacted so badly during the sifting. He’s never seen anything like that before, but he needs these mems. Especially as Robby is here and seems to think they’ll go for a sizable amount. Stuart has no idea how he knows that and honestly he doesn’t want to as the rip completes.
“All done.” Stuart says moments before Robby releases his grip on Eric and backs away.
Robby sniffs loudly as he looks at the young man who doesn’t answer.
It could be the alcohol, Stuart reasons as he moves round to check on Eric. He snaps his fingers several times in front of the man’s face, but gets no response. His eyes stay closed as his head lulls back and forth slowly.
Retrieving a light from the counter Stuart peels back one of Eric’s heavy eyelids and shines the light in one eye and then the other. They don’t react and nor does he. The man is definitely still conscious but there is no response. He’s brain dead and Stuart knows it. If he is honest with himself he knew it as soon as he snapped his fingers once. But he doesn’t feel anything. Not anymore.
“Brain dead?” Robby asks with a wide smirk.
Stuart simply nods as he sets his light down and takes the band from around Eric’s head.
“Oh well. We got the mems. Now upload ‘em. I want to see what I we get.” Robby says as a smile breaks out across his thin pale lips. His shaved head shining in the light of the room.
He really is a heartless monster, Stuart thinks as he drops the mems chip into the main console. It uploads and opens auctions across the black-market immediately. Each of which is collated into a single mass as the bidding begins.
Within seconds they have passed ninety thousand. Stuart can barely believe his eyes. Ninety! He’s never seen numbers this high and it’s not slowing down either. Soon he sees the figure race past one hundred thirty thousand. His jaw drops, visibly, while Robby, who is stood behind him, nods happily. The loan shark knew this would be a great pay day. He just hopes Stuart doesn’t get any bright ideas. Not that it would help if he did because this auction is on his account, not Stuart’s. Robby switched accounts while the doctor had been messing with his door and its bolts. It hadn’t taken long. Maybe six seconds, tops. And he’ll tell the disgraced doctor as much when the auctions over.
Robby knows the bidding won’t go on too much longer. It’s now at a value where only the top one percent of the bidders will bother. So Robby guesses that the auction will be over in maybe another minute or two, at most.
And with that the bidding comes to an end. Eric’s mems go for one hundred ninety three thousand. Stuart can barely believe it as he turns round to see Robby’s beaming smile.
“Good haul.” Robby says with a lick of his lips. He’s made his money back from Eric and then some. That isn’t always the case in this line of work. Though, Robby is never out of pocket for long. He just has to squeeze Stuart for more and that always works.
“I’ll get you the chip.” Stuart says as he turns to take the chip.
“No need.” Robby replies much to Stuart’s shock.
“It’s my account it was sold through.” Robby adds with a sideways smile.
“What?” Stuart exclaims shocked as he whips round to see that the sale really was conducted through Robby’s account and not his own. He isn’t surprised the loan shark would do such a thing. He just didn’t know he’d done it.
“I’ve got my money. So I’ll be taking young Eric here and be on my way Doc. Enjoy.” Robby says as he hauls the brain dead Eric to his feet and then leaves.
Stuart stands there his mouth agape in shock as his heavy metal front door sits wide open, the cold air blowing in, chilling him. He has no idea what mems he ripped from Eric but they had certainly been in demand. Maybe its better he doesn’t know, he quickly concludes as he rushes to his open door and shoves it closed. Sliding the bolts into place and then tugging on the metal handle to make sure it’s secure. He doesn’t know why he does it. He knows it’s secure. It’s a habit. He knows Robby won’t be back until next week at the usual time. This was an added visit and a very lucrative one for the loan shark at that. He wonders how much more of his debt there is left to pay, but he won’t ask Robby, not after last time. It’s part of the reason why he didn’t argue with him tonight about the switching of accounts. How could he? Robby would simply have beaten him if he had. He just has to keep working. Though why he’s taken Eric with him Stuart has no idea. Maybe he plans to dump him somewhere. But what does it matter? It doesn’t and he knows it. Stuart doesn’t care. He got the mems and they’ve been sold. Robby’s happy so that’s all that actually matters. Plus his record still has no blemish on it, which is a plus. Stuart doesn’t know why he cares that his illegal mems extraction has no deaths, but he does and he finds it odd. It’s like he feels a sense of pride in his work. Except this isn’t work. Its exploitation and it doesn’t bother him. In fact, if it wasn’t for Robby and his visits he thinks he’d be quite content doing this for himself. What’s wrong with him? Stuart wonders as he heads for the small kitchen and the bottle of vodka in his freezer. He quickly pours a shot, then decides to fill the tumbler instead. Seconds later he knocks the drink back in one and soon feels the distinctive sensation of alcohol entering his bloodstream.