Scarce lamp posts and a full moon provide limited lighting for Brian and his younger brother, Aidan, as they tour the streets of an old village in Italy. The two continue alongside a brick wall and weathered building and notice a light shining from the small upstairs window. A floor-level door bursts open and startle the tourists. A scrawny lady wearing a white lab coat shouts in their direction.
“Quickly, quickly, you must get inside!” She motions for them to come toward her. “They’re coming! You must get off the streets!”
The brothers hesitate. Brian squares his muscular shoulders, and Aidan glares at the anxious woman.
“Who’s coming?” Aidan asks.
“There’s no time to discuss it out here!” The frantic lady waves her arms. “You’re not safe outside. Just come–Now!”
Brian shifts his eyes to look at Aidan and sees him lift a shoulder in half a shrug before moving toward the lady.
“Yes,” the lady encourages. “Come inside! Hurry!” She whips her head left and right to scan the street. “My name is Margaret. Go upstairs! I’ll explain everything in a moment.”
The brothers step inside the building, proceed up the staircase and head into the room on the left. Brian scans the room and realizes a portion is set up as a laboratory. Equipment and supplies, located in the far left corner, sit upon a countertop. He spots a tourniquet, several tubes, scalpels and needles, tape, some gauze, and half a dozen stainless steel tables. In the corner on the right are a series of white floor to ceiling cabinets.
Brian looks directly to his left and finds a cozy lounge area with a beige couch, two leather chairs, a coffee table, and a television. Off to his right are a couple of desks with large desktop computers. A bleach smell invades his nostrils and causes his nose to wrinkle.
Margaret enters the spacious, well-lit room. She exhales and wipes her brow.
“What is this place?” Brian asks.
“It’s my lab,” Margaret responds and points to the lounge area. “Go ahead,” she begins. “Have a seat. You’re safe up here.”
Aidan heads over to the couch, and Brian sits in one of the leather chairs.
“So,” Brian begins. He crosses his burly arms. “What’s up? Who are we hiding from?”
Margaret walks over to a desk, grabs one of the chairs, and rolls it toward them. She plops down on the chair, presses her hands to her sunken cheeks, then sighs.
“Any minute now violent people are going to shoot at the tourists they find on the street. They hate tourists, and they patrol the streets every night.”
“They just shoot at people? How would they even know we’re tourists?” Aidan asks.
Margaret pulls out a pack of cigarettes from the pocket of her white lab coat and taps the top of it in the palm of her hand. “Locals wouldn’t be anywhere near this particular street at night. They know better.” She pulls out a cigarette, places it in her lips, and lights up.
“Oh,” Aidan mutters. “But you aren’t from around here either. Why do they leave you alone?”
Margaret takes a deep inhale, then blows smoke in their direction. She shrugs her shoulders and stands up. “Beats me. Maybe it’s ‘cuz I’ve been here a long time–and I stay off their streets at night.”
“Well, we certainly appreciate your heads up,” Brian adds.
“Stay here,” Margaret calls over her shoulder as she heads toward the tiny window on the far wall. “I’m going to have a peek.”
Brian watches Margaret as she crosses the room. He sees her lift her face to peer out the window before grabbing an item off the sill. She stares at the small device in her hands, then pushes one of its buttons.
Four glass walls shoot up from the floor and surround the lounge area. The brothers jump to their feet but find themselves trapped inside the enclosure. Aidan looks up and contemplates climbing out from the top, then spots a glass top sliding down from the ceiling. Smoke begins to spew from several holes in the floor, causing the tourists to pass out.
Margaret takes a puff of her cigarette, then exhales. Wonderful! That was almost too easy. She begins humming, then reaches for the microphone hidden in the pocket of her lab coat. The deranged scientist tips her chin down and speaks into a device. “Lars, they’re ready for you.”
A moment later, an enormous man enters the room. He walks over to the glass enclosure, pushes a few buttons, then rubs his bald head while he waits. The smoke clears, and the glass walls and ceiling return to their previous positions.
Lars gathers the brothers, one at a time, and carries them over to the stainless steel tables. He lays them atop, removes their cell phones, then fastens nylon straps around their legs, arms, and chests.
Margaret gets right to work and begins drawing blood and runs a series of tests. She injects the brothers with intravenous sedation to assure they remain relaxed and cooperative. “Thank you, Lars. That’s it for now.” She gives him a dismissive wave of her hand.
Without uttering a word, Lars leaves the room.
Brian’s muscular body allows for more resistance to the drugs, and he begins to stir. Careful not to alert Margaret, he cracks an eye open to check his surroundings. Aidan is unconscious on a nearby table, and Margaret stands at the countertop, focused on something in front of her.
Ring. Ring. Ring.
Margaret picks up the phone. “Hello?”
Brian cocks his head to the side to sharpen his hearing.
“Yes, I know,” Margaret begins. “There are two of them that wandered onto the street. But one of them isn’t up to par for your specific requirements for organ usage, so I plan to sell that one to another buyer for experimentation.”
Brian’s heart races and threatens to pound through his chest wall.
“Testing shows the other one does meet your requirements,” Margaret continues. “So I’ll prep him for pick-up. When can I expect you?”
Brian realizes his right arm strap is a bit looser than the other. He wriggles his arm to try and loosen it enough to slip out.
“Tonight at midnight? Okay, that gives me…” she pauses to calculated. “Three hours. Okay, I’ll see you shortly.” She hangs up the phone.
Brian ceases movement and keeps his eyes closed. He hears Margaret walk away from the countertop, toward the door. He risks a peek and sees her speak into her pocket.
“Lars, I’m going to the basement to collect a few more supplies. Meet me down there, and help me carry a few things back upstairs.”
Lars? Who the hell is Lars? Brian hears the door click, signaling Margaret’s departure. Realizing his time is limited, he lifts his head and rocks his body back and forth, trying to loosen the body strap. He flexes his right arm with enough force to break the old nylon strap. With one free hand, he unfastens the body strap, then hurries to release his left arm and finally his legs.
Brian hops off the table and rushes to release Aidan. He rouses him while releasing the straps. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”
The two of them rush toward the door but halt before opening it.
“Be careful,” Brian begins.” There’s some Lars guy with Margaret.”
Aidan steps up to the door, reaches for the knob, then hears movement on the stairwell.
“Shit,” Aidan whispers. “It’s too late. Is there anything in here we can use for a weapon?”
They scan the room.
“There,” Aidan whispers to Brian while motioning toward the countertop at the back of the room. “I’ll grab some of those scalpels!”
Aidan rushes toward the items, then returns and hands Brian a couple of needles. They see the knob turn, and the door starts to open.
Margaret enters the room followed by a large, bald man. She spots the empty tables, and her eyes widen. Lars’ giant finger points her in their direction, and she looks at the scalpel-wielding friends. The massive man takes a step toward them, but Margaret stops him. “Lars, wait. We must not damage the goods.”
Lars halts and glares at the duo. His lips, drawn back into a snarl, begin seething with agitation.
Brian’s eyes dart back and forth between Margaret and Lars. “That’s quite the obedient pet ya got there, Margaret.” He holds the scalpel out in front of his body.
“Oh, I wouldn’t taunt him if I were you,” Margaret warns. “He’s… umm… a few peas short of a casserole, if ya know what I mean. Anything can set him off.”
“Is that so,” Brian asks. He studies the large man and ponders in silence for a moment. An idea pops in his head. He looks at Lars. “Hey, big guy. Margaret just called you stupid. If I were you, I wouldn’t put up with that!”
Lars shifts his glare from Brian to Margaret. His eyes, filled with rage, bore into her.
“Lars,” Margaret yells. “Don’t be stupid!”
Brian whispers to Aidan. “Holy shit! This might work!”
Brian and Aidan watch Margaret and see her pull out a pen from the pocket of her lab coat. She aims at Lars and shoots a dart into his neck. The giant falls to the floor.
Margaret turns to face them and points the pen in their direction. “Anyone else,” she asks. “Cause there’s plenty more where that came from.”
“You said it yourself,” Brian begins. “You can’t damage the goods, Margaret.” He smirks and crosses his arms over his chest.
“Your arrogance won’t save you,” Margaret begins. “I won’t hesitate to kill you.”
Lars lifts his head, pulls out the dart from his neck, then flings it at Margaret. The needle lands in her back, and she drops to the floor. His head collapses, and he slips into unconsciousness.
The brothers flinch, and their jaws fall open. They slip past Margaret and Lars, then run down the staircase and out the door. Relief floods them as they bolt down the village’s darkened alleyway, unharmed and free.
Margaret sits up and looks at Lars. “That was terrific acting, Lars. That was our only option for assuring they didn’t get damaged.”
Lars sits up and the corner of his mouth curves into a smile.
“I alerted Marco the second we walked into the room and found them missing from the tables,” Margaret begins. “Marco’s guys will handle the situation. Now let’s get back to work and hope a few more tourists wander this way.”