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Today's Story by Darren Callahan

Jezebel tries to focus on the Port. Focus real hard. She wants to know everything.

City of Human Remains – Chapter 12



She repeats the word in a stuck loop.  Help.  Help.  The word soon is the only word rattling in her head.  It struggles to come out her mouth.  The damage prevents her from clearly speaking.  God, she pleads.  In the ambulance, and in those first few hours at the hospital, Jezabel Jackson is mute.  Her severed and swollen lips have overtaken her tongue – a cow’s tongue – and her jaw obstinately refuses to budge.  Her skull throbs as if thrown from a great height then replaced on the stump of her neck.

When she finally gets a fresh word out, it is nearly three in the afternoon, and it is in front of a tall, dark-haired Chinese-American nurse who speaks little English.

What you say?


I sorry.  I not understand.


The Chinese nurse leaves between blinks, and returns an indeterminate time later with a second nurse.  This nurse is a bottle-blonde Mexican woman who stands stiffly in her over-pressed white uniform and smock.

She say something.

You spoke?


The bottle-blonde smiles.  I hope you’re not referring to me.

Jezebel loses track again.

More flickers and there stands a doctor – or what Jezebel assumes to be a doctor (from his manners, tailored hospital coat, and indefatigable bedside calm).  He examines images on the health sensor and hums an unfamiliar song.  He also speaks in jargon to the nurses.  They begin to prepare the room, wheeling a reflective tin tray to the upper part of the bed.  The doctor bends into Jezebel.  He touches her shoulder.  He’s handsome – not too old, but cannot be considered young, either.  His face is a puffy and he has a thin moustache on his black-skinned face.

I’m going to raise the bed, he warns.

Pressing on a button on the side, the bed raises Jezebel to a 70-degree angle.  We’re going to have to do some more stitches, he explains in a voice without malice.  We put 5 in earlier above your eye, but it looks like the skin bandage on your cheek is not going to take.  We don’t like doing stitches on the face.

Will I have a scar?

I’ll try to minimize it.

In other words, yes, she thinks, and wonders how her future boyfriends will find the scar – endearing or ugly.

The nurses have prepared an injection.  The doctor sits back, waits for the anesthesia to take effect.  When a moment has passed, he takes the stitching needles and weaves 2 painlessly into the bulbous part of Jezebel’s cheek.

He comments matter-of-factly as he works. They can do wonders with lasers.  Might be able to get rid of anything I can’t fix manually.  I always hate doing something so primitive as stitches, but where the cut is located…this is the safest bet.

I don’t have insurance, Jezebel mumbles.

He ignores her.  Should we call someone?  Husband?  Jezebel shakes her head.  Mother?


Brothers or sisters?



She shakes her head again.

You’re an island.  He fakes a grin and hums a few more bars of the unknown tune.  With the dexterity of a tailor, his arm circles with the pass through the skin.  You were attacked, he adds without transition.  You know that, right?

Jezebel doesn’t respond.  Her face is numb from the ears to the teeth.

Attacked by a very dysfunctional woman.

They didn’t catch her, adds the Mexican nurse.

But they will.  The doctor knows this; he’s seen the circumstance before.  The woman’s name was Seneka…uh, what was her last name?

Rojas, answers the Chinese nurse, correcting.  Senalda Rojas

Senalda.  Not Seneka.  Right.  Did you know her?

Jezebel’s moves her head as the doctor clips the stitch and ties its end.

Hold still now, he cautions.  There.  All done.  Pretty fast, huh?  I’m speedy!

Jezebel looks into his dark almond eyes, with skin to match.   The name on his badge is Andre DaCosta.  Is the painkiller wearing off? he asks her.

It’s spreading to my neck.

The doctor snaps fingers to the nurses, who prepare another shot.  As he is injecting, Doctor DaCosta adds, They’d probably already have this Senalda Rojas in custody if there were any police to spare.  They’re all so caught up in this 81 thing.

Wha ding?  Jezebel’s eyes show confusion.  And her mouth doesn’t work right under the painkiller’s spell.  But it is better being numb than in pain, she supposes.

The missing 81.  You remember that, don’t you?

For a few seconds, Jezebel is unsure if she does.  The story is like distant headlights on a foggy country lane.

Turn that on.  The doctor gestures to the wall, where an broadcast pipe hangs suspended.

The Chinese nurse dials a local news channel and the story is there, as always.

But this time there must be something different, thinks Jezebel.  The people in the room stand transfixed.  Jezebel tries to focus on the Port.  Focus real hard.  She wants to know everything.

The crawl reads: 6 FOUND.

Holy shit, swears Doctor DaCosta.