He farted. All the pungent gases that had accumulated deep within his bowels were released in one loud bellow. He waited for a brief moment and then did what he loved to do: he inhaled the aroma. He savored the carbonated garlic and refried beans and let his senses wander merrily among the toxic levels of hydrogen sulfide. Even though he knew she hated him farting in bed, he didn’t care. It made him feel exhilarated and alive; like a ‘man’s’ man. He rubbed his large, blotchy red belly then patted it in appreciation for a job well done. He smiled to himself at the thought of her lying next to him and covering her nose or, better still, holding her breath until the rich aroma dissipated. ‘This is indeed a man’s world’, he thought to himself as he held back the laughter that bubbled deep within him. He waited for her complaints and moaning but none came. She didn’t even move. All the years he had treated her mean to keep her keen had paid off with interest. She was now like a little mouse – so anxious for a morsel of cheese that she would do anything. He slept around just like his daddy had done and came home reeking of the evidence and she had given in and stopped fighting and complaining. He took her money and spent it on whatever and whomever he chose and she kept quiet. He had trained her well. He sighed contently. Today she was going to get a loan for him in her name because his credit was bad. He told her that he needed the loan to start a business with a friend in San Diego but in actual fact he was planning to take nineteen year old Tatiana, a girl he had just met, to Disneyland in Anaheim. She had not long arrived from Czechoslovakia and had not yet been to Disneyland. She had said on the night he had met her at the ‘Singles’ bar he often visited that ever since she was little she had dreamed of going to Disneyland and seeing the real Mickey Mouse. So far nothing had happened between them but he figured that if he obliged her and fulfilled her dream, she would have to oblige him and fulfill one of his dreams. He had no qualms about using his wife’s hard earned cash or the money she often borrowed for him and had to pay back in monthly installments, to pay for his extra-marital affairs. As far as he was concerned he and Dorothy had taken wedding vows and the words ‘For richer or poorer’ were read on the day – he literally took the vows, well, those four words, seriously. His wife was currently richer than him (because she worked two jobs whilst he only did one part-time job) and on account of him being poorer she had to take care of him and everything this encompassed. He closed his eyes and thought about Tatiana’s young, firm and nubile body. His breathing became shallow as images of her talking dirty to him in her vibrant Czechoslovakian accented voice and pressing herself seductively against him filled his mind and made his senses twirl. ‘First things first’ he thought to himself as he pushed the images out of his mind and concentrated on what lay ahead. He needed to get his wife up, dressed and off to the bank to get the loan or he could kiss Tatiana goodbye. He braced himself, the smell of the fart had faded, she had no evidence to hold on to and he would do what he always did – deny everything she accused him of.
Why do you have to break wind in bed, Nigel?
“I did no such thing, woman. You’re dreaming. It must have been you that farted while you were asleep.” He would say. It often made him laugh, the way she referred to farting as breaking wind – like it was a gust of fresh air.
You’re snoring again, Nigel.
“Woman, I do not snore, it must be you snoring in your dream. As a matter of fact, you woke me up with your damn snoring just the other day. You know you snore like a farm animal, I’ve told you so many times. Next time I’m gonna use my tape recorder to record your snoring ass.”
Treat her mean to keep her keen was his motto, his way of life. It had paid off over the years and he had no intention of changing. He inhaled deeply, turned over and faced his wife. Slowly he opened his eyes. He knew that he would see her lying next to him with her thick, polyester, flower-printed, old-fashioned nightdress on (which he had purchased from a dollar store as a birthday gift), her headscarf adorned like a hill-billy farmer’s wife and a frown apparent; she was as predictable as the rising sun. He needed her money so he had to be nice today; he smiled and opened his eyes fully. The shock hit him hard as he stared at the sight in front of him, his heart fluttered and his tongue struggled to formulate words. He could barely breathe as he started to shake uncontrollably. “Aliens! . . . Aliens!” He whispered before his mind went blank, darkness descended and he passed out.
Julius followed Nurse McKenna down a poorly lit corridor. His hand rested on the butt of his gun, which was tucked into the back of his pants. He had still not made up his mind as to whether or not he could trust her. She had now stopped muttering to herself and walked briskly as one did when they had a sure destination. For some reason he couldn’t imagine that she was on his grandfather’s payroll, but he had seen so many things in his life that nothing surprised him now – nothing shocked him anymore. With each step he took he became more and more anxious at the thought of his wife, Cara, and their baby being held somewhere and used as a bargaining tool. He was sure that no one in his Mafia family knew they were married let alone how important Cara was to his very existence. He knew his grandfather wouldn’t harm Cara or the baby, but he had given up on trying to predict Johnatus and the things he did or the reasons behind the things he did.
“They are in here,” Nurse McKenna said as she stopped in front of a large door. She pressed some numbers on a keypad by the side of the door. “This is our old Intensive Care Unit. It became redundant when the new one was built a couple of years ago. Since then we have put private patients in here or patients who we think need an extra bit of attention. Right now, except for your wife and son, it is empty.”
“Why did you move them here?”
“When I came in this morning your wife said that she felt like she had the flu, really hot and then cold. I could have taken her to another ward but they don’t take babies there and she didn’t want to be separated from your son. I figured that right here would be the best place, plus it’s quiet, warm and safe. I hope you don’t mind? Something kept telling me it was the right thing to do. Anyway, I got her started on some antibiotics and I’ve been monitoring her temperature. She is fine now. Did I tell you that your wife is a lovely lady? She is beautiful and kind and she was so concerned that you would go to room 14, not find her there and panic. She made me promise that I would let you know where they were as soon as you came in. She said you might not believe me but I was to get you alone and call you Maxwell, then you would know that I was telling you the truth because she is the only one you allow to call you Maxwell.” She frowned as if the thought suddenly hit her, “I guess I probably should have mentioned that part earlier, shouldn’t I? Then you wouldn’t have been walking behind me with your hand behind you like you have a gun tucked away back there.”
Shocked at her perception, Julius removed his hand from the butt of his gun. “Is she okay?”
“She is fine, they both are,” she told him as she pushed the door open.
He followed Nurse McKenna through the door and into a spacious, colorful corridor. There were several doors situated along one side of the corridor. Nurse McKenna stopped in front of a door mid-way along the corridor and gently pushed it open. She looked inside and smiled. She held a finger against her lips as she turned and beckoned Julius. He walked quickly towards her and looked inside the room. His heart fluttered at the sight of his wife and son, both wrapped up warm, both asleep, on the hospital bed. Tears stung his eyes and his throat constricted.
“Thank you,” he said as he discreetly brushed a tear away and walked into the room.
“You are welcome. I’ll go and put these flowers in water and bring them in later,” she said as she closed the door.
Jealousy can wear many hats and display itself in many forms. Anger, hate, fear and resentment are a few of the common ones. As Johnatus walked along the corridor of the Maternity ward of St. Matthew’s Hospital with a big bunch of flowers and some balloons, he felt anger and fear deep within him. He had told himself over the years that he was not jealous of his older brother. He was not jealous of the affection his grandfather openly displayed towards Julius. He could live with being second best as long as he was in the running, as long as there was a chance that he might one day do something to earn his grandfather’s love and respect. He knew that getting rid of Julius was not an option. The thought had crossed his mind many times but he never acted on it. Why? Because Julius wasn’t the problem – Julius had no interest in his grandfather or his grandfather’s business. And, Julius was the only reason his grandfather tolerated him. He had figured out years ago that getting rid of Julius would ultimately mean getting rid of himself. He stopped outside room 14 and pushed the door open. It took a few moments for his eyes to adjust to the darkness the room held. He noted that the room was empty and the bed devoid of covers. There wasn’t a crib in the room either. He stepped back and rechecked the number on the door. He had had his men search every single hospital in Los Angeles for the last 24 hours in order to find this mystery woman that was going to have his brother’s baby, then, thirty minutes ago, someone who knew someone he knew had said that they had seen something strange in this hospital. They had heard a baby crying in room 14 but when they had checked on the computer system to see who the mother was the room was logged on the system as being empty. Johnatus quietly walked over to the nurses’ station. He stood for a few moments and studied the nurse as she typed something onto the computer. He cleared his throat and she immediately looked up.
“I’m sorry, Sir, I didn’t see you there,” she told him.
“The lady in room 14, where is she?” Johnatus asked her.
She looked at the naturally tanned, handsome face of the man in front of her, his dark curly hair and his slim athletic frame. Her gaze wandered back to his dark, cold eyes. “Room 14, let me check the computer,” she told him and pressed a few buttons. “I just came on duty a couple of hours ago and when I got here there wasn’t anyone in that room. I think the heating on that side of the building isn’t working properly so they had to move some of the patients.” She stopped typing and read the information on the screen. “It says here that several mothers and their babies were transferred to St. Andrew’s Maternity. The note here also says that all their families were contacted,” she added.
“Are you sure that the woman and baby in room 14 got moved to St. Andrew’s?”
“They must have been because they’re not in there now are they? Who exactly are you looking for Sir?”
“Ummm . . . the girlfriend of my . . . of a friend . . . of a relative.”
“Well which is it? The girlfriend of your friend or the girlfriend of your relative?”
“Excuse me?” Irritation set in, “who the hell do you think you’re talking to?”
“You’re the only other person that I see here,” the nurse replied as she mockingly looked around. She had no idea who Johnatus was or who his grandfather was.
“Was there a lady in room 14 and is she still in the hospital?”
“No and no, so I suggest that you try St. Andrew’s, I can get you their address,” she turned and pretended to look for the address among the papers and medication cards on her table.
“I know where St. Andrew’s is,” he turned and quickly walked away.
“Sir, you forgot your flowers and balloons, excuse me, Sir,” she called out after him.
“Toss them in the trash,” he said over his shoulder.
The nurse waited for a several minutes then picked up the receiver and dialed a number. “A man came in asking for the lady in room 14 and I did exactly what you told me to do. He left a few minutes ago,” she whispered.
“Thank you,” Nurse McKenna told her, “and remember Susie, if anyone asks, you don’t know anything.”
“Don’t worry, Sister McKenna, I really don’t know anything.”