Larry Robbins had never been a particularly active or happy man. He went to work, he worked, he went home, and he slept. On certain days, he’d go out to bars and talk up a girl, take her home, enjoy her company, and then never speak to her again. On others, he’d go out to eat with an old college acquaintance, or call one of his brothers or sisters—it was a large family and there were many to choose from—and talk for a short while.
All this made it more unusual when, almost out of the blue, the woman had began flirting with him in the elevator. More so, she stopped by his desk once or twice to ask for things she already had, did her best to look seductive for him, and, more than once, allowed her hand to trail over his as if by accident. With the signs obvious, Larry had no choice but to make her formal acquaintance and, eventually, take her out for a night on the town.
He found the company pleasurable, in spite of his initial unwillingness in the whole affair, and after dropping her off back at her home, found the invitation of a second date appealing. The next Wednesday, he found himself anticipating her arrival at his desk after work. They met, exchanged pleasantries, and went to her flat for a night in and warm food.
Her cooking was exceptional, and Larry was finding himself more and more enamored. When she proffered herself, he graciously accepted, and the next morning, his desk seemed brighter and more inviting. His officemates made note, good naturedly ribbing the twenty-eight year old, especially when he noted that his third date would be coming up within the few days.
The restaurant he took her to was more expensive than he could comfortably afford, but Larry didn’t care. She looked ravishing in her burgundy dress. He had the chicken; she had the fish. They split a piece of tiramisu. All the while, Larry found himself falling more and more in love with the strange, wonderful woman who had pushed herself into his life so abruptly.
Within a year, they were married. Within another year, their first child was born.
A week later, the doctors diagnosed his beloved wife with renal failure. There were possibilities for finding a transplant but, due to her mixed heritage—his wife’s grandmother being Indian—the chances were more slim. Of course, he immediately volunteered, but the doctors told him it was a long shot.
It was with delight that they told him, in voices almost disbelieving, that he was a match. He was crying over his wife’s smiling face, holding their new born daughter between them, when he told her the news. They would be together forever.
The operation was a success. Within two months, they returned home with their quickly growing little girl. Her parents and his siblings rotated through the home, meeting and fussing, delighted for the couple. The doctors were pleased to announce that not only was Larry’s other kidney functioning normally, it was apparently much stronger than they anticipated, adapting to the absence of the other and increasing its function drastically. Not only that, his wife was responding very well to the transplant. Things were well on course for a wonderfully happy future.
A month after he returned to work, Larry was offered a promotion: Assistant Manager. It would mean an honest salary, good benefits, and additional vacations, but it would also mean time away from the new family he was building. His wife encouraged him to take it and, eventually, he did. His direct supervisor turned out to be very understanding of the young father, allowing for more time out of the office than he might otherwise. He, as a father himself, understood Larry’s situation quite well, and was extremely supportive, though firm.
When Larry went in for a checkup a year after the transplant, the doctor was different. He asked Larry if he’d had any unexpected side effects or problems that his previous physician had not warned him about. Larry replied a negative, stating that he felt better than he had in quite some time. The doctor nodded and instructed Larry to roll onto his side for an ultrasound, to check for scarring problems. Larry did as he was told, feeling the cold gel and the strange hum of the machine. When he was finished, he cleaned himself up, and the doctor took some blood and gave him a clean bill of health.
Oddly enough, the file must have been lost, because the hospital called him reporting that he’d missed his checkup. When Larry explained, they apologized, thanked him for his time, and told him they’d notify him if there were any further problems.
His manager at work, discreetly, mentioned that a friend of his, a Mr. Carter, was looking for someone to work on an overseas account. Larry was unsure of the implication until his manager mentioned the pay and that the job would be local with little travel. He clapped Larry on the shoulder, told him the job would be his if he wanted it, and then gave him his blessings, pushing a card into his hands. Larry stammered a thanks, telling his manager that they should still meet for lunch as often as possible, and called the number on the card.
The voice on the other end sounded pleasant, though professional. When Larry introduced himself, it turned almost chummy. He instructed Larry on where to come for the interview—a formality alone—and mentioned just how much he’d heard and how greatly he was looking forward to meeting him.
The interview was in an old office firm, barely three blocks from Larry’s family flat, and was carried out by two men in professional looking suits. They asked him a series of questions, sounding almost bored, while occasionally writing down some notes. After a few minutes, they showed Larry out and instructed a dour looking secretary to show Larry to Mr. Carter’s office.
She led him up two flights of stairs, taking him to a wooden door at the end of a well lit, cozy feeling hallway. Knocking twice, he heard a voice from inside asking him to enter. Walking in, a man, probably in his mid-forties, stood and smiled, gesturing for Larry to take a seat. He offered a drink, which Larry graciously accepted, and they talked.
He introduced himself as the current Mr. Carter, mentioning that his associates, Messrs. Marshall and Dark, were also anxious for his employ. They talked about the work he would be doing, the different people he would be working with, and the staff he would be assigned. When Mr. Carter noticed that he hadn’t touched his scotch, he encouraged a drink, proposing a toast to a new association.
Larry raised his glass, drank deeply, and promptly collapsed to the floor unconscious.
When he awoke, he was extremely groggy. The lights above him—far too bright after such a deep sleep—reminded him of the surgical table in the hospital from his transplant and, as he tried to raise his arm to shield his eyes, he realized they were restrained. A second attempt produced the same result.
A voice at his left drew his attention, and as he looked at the suited man smiling down at him, he felt a twist of dread in his stomach.
“We thank you for accepting our offer of employment, Mr. Robbins. We hope you’ll be with us for a very long time.”
As he looked, two doctors came into view on either side of the bed.
“Gentlemen, start with the same kidney. After that, we’ll start testing to see what else grows back. Mr. Robbins here is going to be a very good investment indeed.”
The drugs began to pump into his veins again. As his vision blurred, his last thought was of his family, less than a mile away, and then blackness.