“John!” Alex broke out of his fugue, closing the distance between them in three long steps. He barely even felt the pain when his knees slammed into the ground. Fumbling for a pulse with one hand, he said, “John? Sweetheart? Can you hear me?”
John moaned. It was a soft, hollow sound, like the kind made by ghosts in bad horror movies, and it made Alex’s blood run cold. “Alex?”
“I’m here, honey. Be still. I’m going to call 911. You just…you just keep still.”
“They beat me, Alex.” John Kellis managed, somehow, to roll over enough to look up at the man he’d loved since college, when they were both so damn young, and so wonderfully full of optimistic fantasies. “Line at the Chinese place was too long. I went for Indian. Drove past the lab…lights were on. I thought you’d gone out again. I thought you were choosing those damn monkeys over me.” The venom in his voice made Alex jump. Oblivious, John continued. “Stopped the car. Went in to get you…found them. They let them out, Alex. They let them all out.” John closed his eyes. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t stop them.”
“Stop who?” asked Alex, frozen.
“Said you were…experimenting on animals. Said it was unethical. They said…we deserved what we got.” John sighed. “They said we deserved…everything we got.”
“Stay with me, sweetheart. Stay awake. Stay with me.” Alex fumbled his cell phone out of his pocket, dialing as he raised it to his ear. “Hello, 911? This is Alexander Kellis. My husband has been badly beaten. We’re located at…” He took John’s hand in his as he gave the address, and held it until the ambulance arrived, waiting for John to say something—anything—to let him know that it would be all right. To let him know that this wasn’t how it ended.
John didn’t say a word. The ambulance arrived, and the EMTs loaded John into the back, leaving Alex to follow in his car. If John woke up on the way to the hospital, no one noticed; no one heard whatever he might have said. Jonathan Kellis was pronounced dead on arrival at 9:53 PM on July 10, 2014. If there was any mercy in this—and there was no mercy to be seen, not then—it was that he died early enough to stay that way.
* * *
Jonathan Kellis, husband of infamous genetic engineer Dr. Alexander Kellis, died last night following a beating at the hands of unidentified assailants. Mr. Kellis had apparently surprised them in the act of vandalizing Dr. Kellis’s lab. No suspects have been identified at this time…
July 13, 2014: Allentown, Pennsylvania
After six days of snooping, bribery, and the occasional outright lie, Robert Stalnaker had finally achieved his goal: a meeting with the college student who had blown the whistle on the leaders of the Mayday Army. It had been more difficult than he’d expected. Since the death of Dr. Kellis’s husband—something that was not his fault; not only did his article not say “break into the lab and free the experimental virus,” it certainly never said “beat the man’s lover to a bloody pulp if you get the chance”—the security had closed in tighter around the man who was regarded as the state’s star, and really only, witness to the actions of the Mayday Army. Robert carefully got out his pocket recorder, checking to be sure the memory buffer was clear. He was only going to get one shot at this.
The door opened, and a skinny, anxious-looking college boy stepped into the room, followed by a pair of visibly armed police officers. Stalnaker would have attempted to convince them to leave, but frankly, after what had happened to John Kellis…these were unsettled times. Having a few authority figures present might be good for everyone involved. Especially since they were authority figures with guns.
“Thank you for meeting with me, Matthew,” he said, standing and extending his hand to be shaken. The college boy had a light grip, like he was afraid of breaking something. Stalnaker made a note of that, even as he kept on smiling. “I’m Robert Stalnaker, with the Clarion News in New York. I really do appreciate it.”
“You’re the one who wrote that article,” said Matt, pulling his hand away and sitting down on the other side of the table. His eyes darted from side to side like a cornered dog’s, assessing the exit routes. “They would never have done it if you hadn’t done that first.”
“Done what, exactly?” Stalnaker produced a notepad and pencil from his pocket, making sure Matt saw him getting ready to take notes. The recorder was already running, but somehow, it never caused the Pavlovian need to speak that he could trigger with a carefully poised pencil. “I just want to know your side of the story, son.”
Matt took a shaky breath. “Look. I didn’t—nobody told me this was going to be a whole thing, you know? This girl I know just told me that Brandon and Hazel could hook me up with some good weed. I was coming off finals, I was tense, I needed to relax a little. That was all.”
“I understand,” said Stalnaker encouragingly. “When I was in college, I heard the siren song of good weed more than a few times. Was the weed good?”
“Aw, man, it was awesome.” Matt’s eyes lit up. Only for a moment; the light quickly dimmed, and he continued more cautiously. “Anyway, everybody started talking about revolution and sticking it to The Man and how this dude Kellis was going to screw us all by only giving his cold cure to the people who could afford it. I should have done the research, you know? I should have looked it up. It’s contagious, see? Even if we’d left it alone, let Dr. Kellis finish his testing, we would have all been able to get it in the end. If it worked.”