Terrible thing to want to kill everyone, everything, but what could he say? He hated…
Except his dad.
Dominic pushed the door open with his elbow, balancing the laden tray of food in his hands. “Hey there, Dad. Sorry, I didn’t get here a little sooner. She’s downstairs again and she demanded I make her lunch, too.” He set the tray on the nightstand beside his father’s twin bed.
His dad blinked and mustered a smile. Crust at the sides of his mouth and eyes made him look so much older than sixty-seven. He struggled to move his arm. His fingers twitched and Dominic pretended he hadn’t noticed the worsening condition.
Dominic spent the next thirty minutes feeding his dad broth, dreading the return downstairs.
She ran her fingers through her platinum bleached hair and sneered. “You have plenty of money, Dominic. Get him into a nursing home already.”
Dominic set the lighter tray on the counter and braced his arms on the sides of the sink. The view outside lacked more than beauty. Nevada desert matched his dad’s skin – dry, cracked, and colorless. Looking any longer would just drive him into one of his depressions. His gaze angled down and he tried ignoring her exaggeration of his wealth.
Envelopes piled on the counter marked “final notice” and “past due” didn’t exactly scream rich.
He bit his tongue. Nothing he said or did would make a difference. The bitch got meaner and meaner toward the end of each month. She didn’t get her allowance from Dominic until the first. Dominic sighed in defeat and put the dishes in the sink. “What do you want, Mother?”
Hair hanging down her back and wrinkled breasts pushed upward, she pressed her hand to her chest. “I don’t know what you mean. Why can’t I visit my only son without a guilt trip?” A bit of outraged spittle flecked to her chin.
Dominic turned to face her and crossed his arms. She wouldn’t stop there. She never did. He hid his cringe behind a sarcastic smirk. And waited. She’d never changed. She’d been selfish and cruel as long as he could remember.
She didn’t make him wait long and dropped her hand to her side. No humility or grace colored her skin, no, she sneered when she should’ve plead. “I could use a little extra money.”
“I don’t have extra.” He chewed the inside of his lip. A Pavlovian-style fear built inside him. Even as a grown man, he didn’t have the balls to face her. Please. Please don’t demand it. Please.
His mother stepped close to him and traced his arm with her blood red nail. Lips painted to match the talons drew tight. Lipstick bled through the tiny cracks and up close gave her the look of a creepy clown. She looked at him from under thin lashes. “You’ll get me money, Dominic. Or you know what I’ll do.”
Dominic swallowed. The last time she’d said that, he’d come home to find his father in an ice-filled bath. His dad almost hadn’t survived. The authorities had interfered, convinced Dominic had been the suspect. She’d whispered in all the right ears and even the university had been alerted to a potential danger. He didn’t know how, but… he nodded.
She smiled and patted his arm. “That’s my boy. I’ll come tomorrow to get it.” Breasts pressed against him in a sick reminder that he was her son and she could do whatever she wanted to him… had done to him. His groin tightened and he bit his tongue to cut off the reaction she’d trained in him.
A purr, husky with smoke history, his mother’s breath brushed his ear. “And, Dom, this time, nothing less than ten-thousand, okay?”
Hatred colored his vision with red, but she slid out before he could do anything about it. Not that he would… or could…
The door slammed on his answer.
Oh, how he’d love to kill that wench.
How the hell did he come up with ten-thousand dollars when he didn’t have money to pay for electricity?
Dominic grabbed his car keys. His dad would be asleep for a couple hours. The Duncans didn’t live far.
Connie would help him. She had to.
He pushed at the door, desperation shaking his voice. “Let me in. I need to talk to you.”
Connie shook her blond hair. She looked behind her and closed the door even further so only her face showed. “No. I told you not to come here. We’re over, Dominic. This was just a…” She flicked her fingers in the air. “A thing. I don’t know what it was, but it’s no more.” She looked behind her again. “You have to go.”
“I need you. Connie. Please.” How could she hurt him like that? He lifted his chin and tried sneering. “I’ll tell Travis all the different ways you like it.” He’d never tell, he loved her! But at that moment, he’d say anything…
In a second she stood before him. The door closed behind her. Inches from him, she jabbed her finger in his chest. “If you do anything of the sort, I’ll report your activities to the university officials. Stealing lab material and money isn’t exactly approved of, you know?”
Shrinking back, Dominic tried to keep his bravado up. Connie loomed one inch taller than him, but it might as well have been a foot. He wasn’t the tallest guy, but he somehow continued to end up with women who were larger than life… towering over him.
He forced a smile and spoke fast. “Ain’t no thing, sweetheart. I’ll keep your secrets.” He tilted his head her way. “You keep mine.” Thank hell, he’d never told her he loved her – she’d run him under a knife and up a damn pole.
She applied pressure to his bare skin showing above the open vee of his unbuttoned dress shirt. A moment later, she slipped back inside.
The door shut in his face.
Dominic turned on the front stoop. The forcefully bright afternoon wanted him to be something he wasn’t. Despair filled him. Shit. That bitch was the last hope he had and she’d spit him out. All women needed to be beaten down, enslaved, put in their place. His favorite position for a woman was raped and naked. That way they never forgot their place – beneath a man.
Paying his mother would take a huge chunk from the research grant he relied on at work. The modest seventy-thousand for the eighteen-month project had been intended for a meager income of a thousand a month. His teaching and tutoring hours had been slotted to make up the rest of his extremely minimal living. The pitiful amount of pay had added to his mother’s list of grievances about him and he’d grown to resent his job.
He had a plan, though. Curing his dad would win him all kinds of awards and make him tons of money. He’d be able to get the hell out of Vegas, away from his mother, and get his father the best care possible.
Lou Gehrig’s, one of the worst diseases he could think of. The body pretty much fell down around the mind. So the body becomes decrepit but the mind is sharp as ever – essentially nature ensnaring a person in the most confining trap possible – their own skin.
Dominic leaned back in his tweed covered desk chair. The small closet-sized office, organized just so, was crammed with a stack of filing boxes, a table that couldn’t be more than two feet by two feet, and his seat. He had to tuck his briefcase and jacket under the table. Yeah, Vegas ghetto at the university.
A rap on the door didn’t garner a reaction for a drawn out moment.
He continued staring at the pitted ceiling. “Yeah.”
The panel opened, nudging and shifting the filing boxes as it passed. Justin, his idiotic assistant, poked his head through the opening. “We have a read on the strain. The mice are responding as well.”
Blood no longer dormant with fear, Dominic sprang from his chair. He shoved out the door, ramming past Justin and his untucked polo shirt. Oh, for some reason, that damn shirt irritated the hell out of Dominic. He couldn’t even look at the kid.
Down the dark hallway – no, even fluorescent lighting didn’t do anything to dispel the darkness – Dominic rushed the twenty feet or so to the lab where the majority of the physical research on his design took place.
His design. When he proved successful, he’d name it the Dom Virus. Or Dominance. Or Dominate. Because he had to have a part of him attached to the most amazing virus ever created.
Footsteps echoed on the linoleum-covered cement. The door was open and the lights left on. His anger sparked. The microscope and all the containers and vials and, oh, hell, his research notes, had been left on the counter like a graduate student’s thesis work. More anger simmered.
Jerking to a halt, Dominic waited until Justin passed through the door before slamming it shut.
The small display of potential nerves excited Dominic. He started with a hiss and let his anger boil over. “What the hell are you trying to do? Destroy me? You cannot, I repeat CANNOT leave my research out for everyone to discover. If Duncan or someone else got wind of this, they’d steal it and I’d be out of a job.” He omitted the fact that his eighteen-months had three days left. He had thirteen thousand left in the funds.
To apply for FDA approval with the proper research presentation materials he would need fifteen.
Justin’s eyebrows knit together and his face paled. “I’m – I’m so sorry, sir. I didn’t…” He swallowed. “I wasn’t thinking. I’m so sorry.”
Finger thrust toward the boy’s face, Dominic growled. “You’re done. If I have anything to say about it, you’ll never graduate from this university. Do you understand? Get the hell out of here!” His groin throbbed – with a lust he didn’t have to attribute to his bitch of a mother. He grabbed a nearby cylinder and hurled it at the wall.
Justin ducked out the door.
And Dominic was alone with the only thing that mattered – his work. He settled into the chair and swiveled back and forth. If he looked, what would he see? He wanted to see a virus immune to the enzymes of the body. He focused on calming down his desire.
He breathed in. Out. Slow and steady to calm his excitement. Power did that to him. He should have messed with Justin a bit more, seen if he could make the kid cry. If Dominic showed an improvement in the mice, he’d be able to apply for human trials. He needed the money. With one positive increment in his research he would be overrun with offers of financial backing. All it would take is a whisper in the right ear of scientist journalists. He had some ready on a list in his pocket.
The pressure mounted against him. Anger pushed him forward. “Connie… Connie… You little bitch.” How could she do what she’d done? She’d abandoned him. She was just like his mother. Oh, but he still loved her – or craved her… or whatever.
Dominic dropped his hand before touching the microscope. Shit. He still had to come up with her money.
The mice had shown an improvement according to Justin’s notes from the weekend, but the improvement had been in strength and viability of sensory function. Dominic pushed his eyes to the rubber eye sockets on the microscope. Twist of the knob to the right and then a tiny bit to the left brought the molecules into focus.
A marker had moved. No, the main marker had moved.
“What the hell…” Dominic leaned back, his forehead scrunched. The mice. He had to see the mice. Maybe the symptoms had changed. They still had ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. How could they have improved in anything?
In the back room, research animals made noises in their own cages. His collection of gray and white mice had their own location in the back corner by the heat. The diseased mice required a bit more care and attention. Justin had maintained that part of the experiment because Dominic hated details.
Dry urine smells filled the air, closing in the tight space even further. Eight glass cages lined the shelves. Where previously mice had run like crazy in the hay and wheels on a continuous basis, nothing moved as he approached.
Red circles splattered the fronts of some of the containers. Dominic slowed. One mouse in the middle box gnawed on the remains of three others, the group had obviously been massacred but the brutality didn’t seem natural. He’d never seen anything like it. He’d heard of mice having no morals, going so far as to kill their young if they suspected something might not be perfect. But there were no babies in the cages. Dominic had stressed only male mice.
A high pitched squeak followed by a moan echoed dully from the bottom cage. Another mouse, face and paws covered in red, backed up, walking through the muck of his fallen fellow rodents. His beady eyes watched Dominic. Without warning, he ran full bore toward the glass…
A solid thud signaled his impact on the glass. He backed up and repeated the maneuver. The solid hit didn’t seem to faze him.
Dominic couldn’t look away as the mouse rammed himself over and over into the glass. Something almost desperate in the way he tried getting out.
Standing, fingers rubbing his chin, Dominic pondered the chaotic mess before him. If the mice were stronger and more aggressive without any sign of the illness, wasn’t that a sign of getting better? Pride mounted, growing in his chest like a cloud and swelling into his throat. He swallowed.
He needed human test subjects, but he didn’t have time. He’d reached the end and didn’t have enough documentation to get any further.
His injection could help people diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s, but without proof he’d never get the funding he needed. Dominic tapped the side of his jaw. Ethics be damned. A lot of money stood to be gained, not to mention his dad’s health.
Ignoring the mice and their blood lust proved to be difficult as more of the surviving animals rammed themselves into their glass enclosures. A small, flip-top box guarded the vials for injecting the manufactured virus. Dominic slid the jewelry-sized box under the loose panel of his shirt.
From under the sink in the lab Dominic grabbed an empty plastic grocery bag and swept the collection of research from the countertop inside. He palmed his cell phone and glided from the room. Sliding through the contacts list, he picked his first choice – the largest of all pharmacology companies and pressed send.
At the doors, Dominic glanced over his shoulder but didn’t let his last look at his work faze him. In no time, the fools would be kissing his ass. He’d have a Hugo and a Nobel Prize, maybe even a virus named after him. The phone rang three times before sending him to voicemail.
After the beep, Dominic charmed the machine. “Sally, this is Dominic with the research we discussed. I have positive findings and the go-ahead from the FDA to test on humans. I will be injecting the first human test subject this afternoon. I’ll call you with my initial results, but I suggest returning my call. I have a couple more people to contact. Thank you.”
A smirk lined his lips.
He trotted down the steps, a slight whistle under his breath.
In the parking lot, he kicked the side of his tire. If the mice were any indication, his dad was about to feel better than he had in months – if not years. Any creature that can ram its head into solid glass without a real indication of pain had to be doing better, right?
Dominic counted on it.
“Dad, I don’t think you’re going to be disappointed with my experiment.” Dominic set the tray on the side table. His dad hadn’t been able to eat solid foods or even move much in so long, Dominic feared he’d never be able to remember what Dad was like before the ALS affected him.
Unable to move his head more than mere inches, Dominic’s dad turned from the window. His lips moved enough to release tight words full of emotion. “I’m never disappointed, Dom.”
“Well… let’s get some food in you and then we’ll try the medicine I brought.” Dominic ignored the distaste molding his dad’s features. Eating had become a chore, even the soft dull food caused pain. The grimace did Dominic in. He slumped into the seat beside the bed and hung his head. “Okay, Dad, let’s ditch dinner. I… I have something for you, but I think you should know I haven’t tested it completely yet. You’ll be the first person, and I want you to be fully aware.” He raised his eyes and arched his brow. “There could be some side effects I’m not aware of.” His own fear dimmed with the possibilities.
“Okay.” Dominic’s dad didn’t hesitate. He never did when it came to Dominic. He backed his son one-hundred percent.
“Okay.” Nodding, Dominic breathed deep. According to the mice studies, his normally passive dad was about to become overly aggressive. Dominic could handle that. Maybe.
He’d transferred the box of vials from under his shirt to a bag in the car. A quick jaunt downstairs and back had him reseated with the box in his hands and a slightly elevated heart rate. “Okay.”
Eyes wide, his dad didn’t flinch with the alcohol application and didn’t move when Dominic tapped the side of the syringe. The needle slid into the top of the bicep, stopping at the base. Dominic exhaled and pushed the plunger.
Chills sent goose bumps down his neck and arms.
No going back now.
He discarded the needle and swiped the spot of blood from his dad’s arm. Dominic hadn’t been there when the mice had been infected. He’d heard from Justin that the process had taken a few times until it had taken in the small creatures. If he needed to, Dominic had enough vials to force the issue on his dad and three other patients. If he could document improvement in his father, then he wouldn’t have any problem securing more test subjects.
“How do you feel?” Dominic gripped his dad’s wrist.
The color had faded from his father’s face and then rushed back with a dark shade of red at the forefront. His dad closed his eyes and gasped. He grabbed his son’s arm.
Dominic looked down. He couldn’t believe the sight of his dad’s fingers wrapped below his elbow.
The last time his dad had been able to even lift his arm had been weeks, oh, hell, months ago. While the strength was a bit on the weak side, it visibly increased with each second.
A smile spread across Dominic’s face. He stood and jumped up and down like a child. A whoop escaped him. He couldn’t help it.
His dad smacked his lips. “Can I eat some of that?” The husky words warmed Dominic’s heart.
The injection had altered the appetite. In seconds, a documentable change had occurred. Dominic set the tray closer to his dad and moved to raise the spoon, but his dad cut him off and clutched the roll in one hand and tilted the bowl to drink with the other. He didn’t have one tremor.
Excitement coursed through Dominic. On the abandoned napkin, Dominic recorded the times of the injection and the response. He stood. “I’ll be right back, Dad. I need to make a phone call. Can I get you anything?”
Nodding, his dad spoke around a mouthful of food. “More food? I can’t believe how hungry I am.”
“Hunger means you’re feeling better. I’ll be right back.” All but skipping from the room, Dominic couldn’t help but grin. He had a gold mine on his hands. He was going to be so damn rich. And his dad… He was going to have his dad back.