The rumble of the truck turned out to be the man’s vehicle. We’d all started yelling the moment we heard the sound, hoping it was someone coming to find us. Instead when the engine cut off. We heard the outside door slam open and then close. After a few moments, and more muffled curses, the man came back into the donation area. Now that I know for sure that he’s keeping us in the Plasma Center, I understand what room he’s keeping us in.
He yelled at us to be quiet or else he would come back again and kill us all. Once again, I didn’t believe him, since the man would rather torture than kill straight out. We spent the rest of the night at each other’s throats trying to force memories to resurface to no avail.
“Barry,” Emily said, “don’t you have a smartwatch?”
“Uh, yeah,” Barry said. I could tell something was wrong with him, because his usual intelligence lacked since day one. “Why?”
“Can’t you say ‘hey Siri’ or something?” Emily asked.
“Oh,” Barry said, and then fell silent. “What should I ask it?”
I looked at Barry in the dim light. His skin looked pale, and sweat dripped from every pore on his forehead. I don’t remember hearing any coughing yet, but I worried that it would come soon. This year’s craziness with the coronavirus and about every other possible form of chaos made the worst threats real.
“Ask it if it can call 9-1-1,” Emily said. I could hear the sass through the words. “Who else would you call?”
We waited. I wanted to jump down Emily’s throat for being rude to Barry, but maybe that’s what he needed to get out of his stupor. Barry gasped for a few breathes of air and then I heard a chink of metal chain.
“Hey, Siri,” Barry said, through a raspy voice. The ding from the watch sounded. “Call 9-1-1.”
I closed my eyes and sent up a prayer to all of the gods that I could think of, from the christians to the greeks, I tried not to miss any. The tone came back from the watch with false promise.
“I’m sorry,” Siri said, “I cannot complete this request until I connect to your phone.”
Everyone let out an exasperated groan of frustration. A few others had the same watches, though mine wasn’t Apple, I tried it with mine. None of our watches could connect to our phones, if they even responded. The next few hours felt dull. Barry took the news about Luke better than I thought. There seemed to be a general sadness amongst the group. Today was the day the man promised another death. I didn’t know who it would be, but I couldn’t let it happen again.
“Okay,” I said, “I don’t know when this guy will come back to kill one of us, but we need to figure out who he is so no more of us die.”
“Great,” Emily said, “well he told us that you should know better than anyone. So who is it Ben?”
“I—“ I started to say.
I realized that “I don’t know” wouldn’t dissuade anyone from coming after me now that he singled me out. I had to try and think. The rumble of an engine returned. Fuck!
“Okay,” I said again, not sure that it helped my case. “He said that we ruined his life. When Luke was, well, uh, when he was dying, he begged to live for his family. The man claimed that the deferral caused him to lose his family.”
“No, that’s good Ben,” Emily said. “Did the managers have any reactives that morning?”
I honestly didn’t know, but I tried to remember if the opening manager stayed in the office longer than usual that morning. Ugh, I hate how much the days blend together at this job. A door opened, the pistoned door hinges hissed as the pressure caused the door to close quietly. Yes, one of the Operations Supervisors mentioned working on a long one, saying someone must have been cheating, but there were two other units they were taking care of as well. I grumbled to myself in frustration.
“Well, my Biolite employees,” The man said, “have you found the plasma necessary to save your lives?”
A click and then hiss. What the hell was that?
“Ben,” the man said, “will you shoot your shot, as you like to say, and take a guess at who I am. Remember, if you guess correctly you all go home.”
The man stood in the center of the circle of beds. I saw an object next to him that looked like a tube with a handle on top in the dim light. Okay, so what day was the 28th. Two months prior to when the man took them was hard to remember. I can’t save myself today. I hope they can figure it out without me.
“You have the time from now to when I start the procedure on dear Emily,” The man said, “and I’ve been practicing.”
A good phlebotomist could set up and stick a person in under four minutes, and an expert phlebotomist could do it in three. I hope he’s the latter. I heard the drawer pull open, and looked across the way the best I could to watch Emily.
“Ben, figure it out,” Emily said, frantic. “Why aren’t any of you talking.”
“I wouldn’t have had anything to do this mess,” Niel said. “Why am I even here?”
“You didn’t catch the error,” the man said. “You’re waisting time.”
“Uh,” I said, “Paul Rodgers?”
“Wrong,” the man said, “Paul Rodgers started to donate a year ago, and I started long before then. I’m not done yet, so please guess again.”
“Ben!” Emily screamed.
I could see her writhe in the chair. The pumps on the machines were loaded, and the anticoagulant primed. All the man needed to do was clean the venipuncture sight and stick Emily.
“Frank Wilcox?” I guessed. At that point I just used any name I could think of.
“He’s not deferred,” the man said as he finished his scrub. “It’s disappointing that you don’t remember me. I gave you so much good advice.”
All donors tried to give me, and my coworkers, what they thought of as good advice. For some reason the donors viewed Biolite employees as not really working in a worthwhile career field. But the man was right, Frank donated on the last day that I worked.
“Chaz McCoy!” I yelled as he leaned in for the stick.
The man stopped. My heart started to slow. Did I just get it? Then the man stuck Emily. She screamed again, but I thought it sounded more like fear than pain. Emily started to hyper ventilate.
“No, no, no,” the man said. “I need you calm. You don’t get to go into a hypotensive reaction unless I say so. Now relax.”
I couldn’t see Emily but I’m sure she looked as scared as I felt. Why is he killing off the office people first? I would go for the source of the problem first, but then I remembered that the man wanted to torture, not a swift punishment. The man hooked up a clear harness tube, not connected to the PQR3 machine, but the tall tube that… Oh shit. I saw the bike pump in his hand.
“You see, a small air bubble won’t cause any harm,” the man said, as if reciting comforting words given to him. “It would take a hole line of air pushed into you rapidly to cause any damage.”
The man lifted the bike pump handle and I heard the hiss of air sucked into it’s chamber. Then without any show of regret the man slammed the pump handle down and Emily began to cry and gasp for air. In the shadows I could see her mouth open and close trying to get the air that her brain thought it needed, when instead the air embolism probably has already reached her brain. She coughed raspy and hardy coughs for a few seconds before she fell silent again. Emily’s body trembled and shook as it most likely tried to fight off the air embolism.
“Maybe that will make you think harder over the next few days,” the man said. “Isn’t it crazy to think that such an easy error and lack of awareness could cause so much pain. You’re the reason my wife and daughters left me. I was a good man before this, but you will never forget me, Ben.”
With that he walked out to leave us with the dead body of our coworker once more. I still had no idea who the man was, and why he wanted us all to die.