Author: Ken Carlson

“Where did you find this one?”

“Does it matter?”

“No, I suppose it doesn’t.”

“Then stop asking!”

Norris kept his mouth shut. What was the point now? He and Sheila decided this was the path to follow. That was that.

Norris and Sheila stripped the body, roughly removing the stranger’s sweatshirt, flannel shirt, khakis, boxers, socks, and shoes. The watch, wallet, and book bag contents were placed in the safe below the shelf reserved for their automotive supplies. Norris noted to himself how the man would have been considered underweight just a few years ago. Now, things had changed.

It was a typical Saturday afternoon. It being fall, the leaves had mostly fallen. They could take solace in that comfort. Norris looked forward to these afternoons more than any other time in the week. From this suburban split-level home garage, this was where he used to work on his car with a buddy or two, putter on some woodworking with a beer and listen to a game. Now it was time set aside for something else.

Norris and Sheila had joined the freelance economy as a side venture. They still had their regular work at the plant, but with their kids locked away upstairs, to avoid the move into company housing, more income was needed. Norris was cleaning his tools foolishly wondering if it could be considered moonlighting during the day. He couldn’t remember the last time he thought something was kind of funny. Each dreary day blended into the next. He couldn’t wait for all of them to end.

“You act like this is all my doing,” Sheila said, “that somehow I enjoy this.”

Norris didn’t respond. He knew it was unfair to lay this on her. She was the stronger one. She heard about the idea and suggested they give it a try. She sent away for the training course and equipment. She browbeat Norris into taking it on and being a man for once and actually committing the physical act. She also managed the procurement of the necessary subjects. More than once she muttered that all those acting classes were paying off and the part she played at luring these men made her look like a natural.

Norris took stock of the tools on hand. If he were a doctor, they could be instruments, but he was nowhere near that. He was a college dropout and blue-collar worker who read a couple of books, watched a few videos and was on his own. The first few had been grizzly failures. Then they got easier.

“If you must know,” Sheila said, “he was at the university library. He was probably a student there a while ago. It was that hard to bring him in.”

Norris opened the shipping containers. They arrived once a month from the company, along with instructions, requests, and a company newsletter of sorts, listing bonus options and Employees of the Month to instill competition and team spirit.

Norris paused. He stretched his gloved fingers. His safety goggles, mask, and gown were in place. Sheila typed the specs and set the timer into the company console so their techs could follow along from their offices.

He gave one brief look at their latest subject, hopeful the anesthesia would hold. He had heard from somewhere that sometimes it didn’t. He chose the #60 blade, one of the longer ones. The checklist called for a heart, some lungs, a kidney. Anything else would be sold to someone sometime.

He made the cut and the young man screamed his last breath.