“Hope? How are you doing in here?” I asked, opening the door to R013 later that day. I disregarded Ruby’s advice to forget about this patient, partially because I felt I was too involved in whatever this mystery was surrounding Hope to just walk away and be fine with that and partially because I wanted to make sure the nurse I had sent down to Hope’s room with food actually did feed her. The latter reason was more of an excuse but it was still a practical reason. I frowned when I found Hope’s bed to be empty.
“Hope? Are you in the bathroom?” I called, knocking softly on the attached bathroom door connected to her room. No answer, so I opened the door and she wasn’t there either. Is she scheduled for diagnostics? Maybe she was moved to the MRI room or something, I thought. I pulled her records out of its slot again and looked through it, seeing a log entry that was unmistakably written by Ruby recording Hope being moved to the operating room about a half hour ago. “The operating room? But it doesn’t say anything about her needing surgery here…” I muttered.
This had suddenly gone from mild curiosity to a burning need to get to the bottom of this and I rushed to the hospital’s operating room to see if I’d be able to find out exactly what was going on with this patient.
I almost wished I hadn’t.
When I got there, I found Hope on the operating table but she was very much conscious. She was curled up on her side, shaking and crying while a group of doctors and scientists in white coats loomed over her with syringes, scalpels and blood bags. Ruby was among them but she held only a clipboard and pen in her hands, standing off to the side. It looked like she was recording what was happening. I couldn’t hear her through the observation glass but I could see her mouth move to give orders and instruction to the others. At least that’s what it looked like to me. I only had a partial view of her face from the angle she was standing so I couldn’t see her expression very clearly. In fact it almost looked like she was trying to hide her expression from the others behind her clipboard at times.
Hope’s screams reached through the glass, however, and they made my jaw clench. I stood there in dumb horror at what I was seeing for a moment before pure outrage bubbled up inside me until I felt like I had enough adrenaline in me to punch my fist through the thick glass. I don’t think I had ever been so angry before in my life. I could feel the blood pounding in my ears and my face flush red hot. This was illegal! They were torturing her! She had to be under anesthesia or have the area numbed completely before it was okay to perform any kind of invasive surgery on her! Why would they ever perform surgery on a patient without sedating her first and why was Ruby overseeing something like this?!
I was about to slam the door open and barge in to stop this inhumane procedure when Ruby said something to the other doctors and scientists and they put away their instruments of torture, starting to clean the area up. They filed out of the room in a group and I glared murderously at every single one of them but they just looked at me as if nothing was out of the ordinary and moved on their way. Ruby stayed in the room for just a moment longer. It looked like Hope had passed out from the pain. She walked over to the girl and put a hand on her shoulder. Her lips moved but I couldn’t tell what she was saying. When she turned around, she took off her glasses for a moment and rubbed at her eyes before slipping them back on and walking out of the room. She came face-to-face with me.
“Sebastian!” she inhaled sharply. “You shouldn’t be down here.”
“Whatever this horror show is down here, you’re not getting away with it, Ruby. It’s stopping. Now. No one’s going to hurt that little girl again and I’m going to make sure of it!” I snapped at her. I tried not to think about the fact that this was supposed to be my best friend because right now, she wasn’t the Ruby I cared about. She was a monster.
I stormed away before she said anything. I didn’t even want to hear anything she had to say. I wanted to vomit. Did the hospital board know about what they were doing to Hope? Why would they allow such cruelty? I had to find proof of what they were doing to her to take to the higher ups because as of right now, there was just some strange absences of information in Hope’s file and my witness statement against Ruby and all of her scientist colleagues. I’d never stand a chance in a legal battle against her. Her word was worth more than mine… but what proof did I have that I could use against Ruby? The fact that I even had to gather proof against Ruby at all broke my heart…
If Hope was a patient here, then a more detailed log of her records would be held in storage. I headed there, smiling and nodding at everyone I passed trying to pretend that nothing was out of the ordinary. I don’t think anyone suspected that anything was wrong. I’d become skilled at smiling on the outside for cameras and paparazzi even if I was falling apart on the inside.
“Jane Doe… Jane Doe… Jane Doe….” I muttered under my breath when I got to the storage room. I stayed away from the morgue’s files. I would only find dozens of Jane Does there, none of whom were Hope. Thankfully, Jane Does who were still living were rarer and I found Hope’s records easily. I opened up her extended file and began to read, my stomach twisting more and more as I read until I thought I was going to puke all over what I was reading.
Hope wasn’t a patient.
She was a science experiment.
There were pages upon pages of disgusting experiments and tests that had been done on her from the time she was born. The goal was to find a way to extract the string of DNA in her that caused her growth disorder and try to replicate it in other humans to unlock the key to immortality. I remembered there had been researchers hopeful that Brooke Greenberg might have been that key but she died at the age of 20. She was still physically an 11-month old baby at the time of her death. Now they were trying to forcibly extract it out of Hope by conducting procedures that were illegal and deemed inhumane in every country in the world that I knew of.
I blinked back tears and swallowed down a lump in my throat. It was easy to be detached when you thought of her as just a patient but what if she was my son? What if they had Leander down in that torture chamber of a basement lab? It’s so easy to say ‘it’s someone else’s kid, so it’s someone else’s problem’ but the truth of it was that Hope was my responsibility and my problem. I was a doctor and she needed help and that was more than enough of a reason to make her situation my problem. Hope’s file said she didn’t have parents. Her mother died shortly after giving birth to her and no one knew who her father was so she had become the property of the federal government as soon as they found out about her condition. She’d never known anything but white walls, lab coats and pain her entire life.
Well that’s going to change, I thought to myself. I was determined to get Hope out of this hospital. I had proof in my hands but I knew I couldn’t just go running to the board waving it around and hollering about child abuse with no plan. I needed time to organise a proper case. I needed to get lawyers and social services involved and build up evidence, private investigators needed to be sent in to conduct a proper investigation into what was happening. The more I thought about what would be involved in improving Hope’s situation, the more deflated I felt. All of that could take years to put together. Hope didn’t have that long. I wouldn’t let her wait that long for help.