He knew he was playing with fire but he couldn’t resist.
Max brazenly ran his eyes over the receptionist's curves, grinning as he studied the voluptuous mounds that bulged beneath the cut of her shirt.
“Hi there” said the receptionist looking back with a smile, running her black fingernail down the list of appointments. “Mr and Mrs?”
“Emmings,” said Max, imagining her sweaty and naked, writhing around on the end of his dick. He read the name on her badge. Black italic letters embossed on brushed gold. Gloria, it said, gleaming.
“Ah, here you are. Mr and Mrs Max and Rosa Emmings.”
They both forced a smile.
Gloria tapped the interface display. “One thirty with Dr Patel?”
“Yes,” said Rosa, taking a step forward and breaking her husband's view.
“Great.” Gloria gestured to a leather sofa parked over by the window. “If you’d both like to just take a seat - the Doctor will see you both shortly.” She flashed her set of perfect white teeth. “Shouldn’t be a moment.”
An uneasy silence followed, broken only by the clacks of Rosa’s stilettos as they walked across the marble floor. Rosa sat on the sofa first, then did Max beside her, eyes riveted on Gloria’s exquisite form as he sat in the full glare of the sun. Shifting uneasily in his seat, he soon became aware of a flat television screen playing up above. It was the eleven o'clock news, the volume only just audible. A female reporter was shouting earnestly into the face of a gale, live and direct from the beach roads of Vietnam with the latest on the regions' tidal flood disaster. Max noticed her breasts, firm but hidden under her white vest, khaki shirt. He ran a quick comparison in his mind; the presenter was even more attractive than Gloria
“Sit the other side, in the shadow” said Rosa sharply, scraped-back hair glinting in the sun. “You’ll only sweat in your nice new suit.”
Max said nothing, did nothing. Just nodded.
The news report changed, the reporter now covering the nationwide man-hunt for Arbhul Caine. Pictures of a swarthy face filled the screen, the wild eyes of a convicted killer staring back and down. Absently, Rosa began to play with her crucifix.
“You haven’t forgotten about your meeting now have you?” she asked, referring to his scheduled AA appointment later that morning.
Another sigh followed whilst Max made an effort to bury his contempt. “No dear, I haven't.” It was a trip he made in peace and quiet, on his own, very much unlike the fraught ones he and his wife endured on the way to counselling. Or on the way to see Doctor Patel for that matter. “I’m quite looking forward to it actually.”
“Oh...” Rosa twitched at that, unsure of what to say next. She smiled weakly. “That's good I guess.” But she didn't sound glad. Then she heard the reporter on the television speak the words “extremely dangerous” and looked looked back up to images of Caine. “Oh Max,” she said, remembering a charge sheet that the media always liked to recite; nine murders, four attempted, three rapes and one arrest. A subsequent escape from jail, numerous assault charges. “Oh Max, that man...”
“Hey” said Max, softening, reaching out to squeeze her hand.
“I mean, how could the authorities let him escape?”
Max didn’t have the time to offer any vague kinds of assurance.
“Mr & Mrs Emmings” called Gloria over the address system. “Please come through to Room One. Doctor Patel is ready to see you now.”
The air inside the room was ice-cold, the hum of the air-conditioners casting every surface into a state of thin vibration. Doctor Semat Patel sat in his large leather chair behind his pine desk, in front of his large and glazed curving panoramic. The parched city-scape beyond shimmered in the sun.
“Morning” he said, adjusting his glasses and gesturing for them both to sit down. “Please.”
“I trust you are both wondering why I asked you over here so quickly?”
“Yes, to be honest” said Max, meeting Rosa’s eyes, “it had crossed our minds.”
“I am not a man for small talk Mr & Mrs Emmings so I'll get straight to the point.” He made a bridge with his hands. “Yesterday I received word from the lab. There have been some complications, quite major complications regarding your child that I must stress from the outset.”
“What?” Rosa said, bolting forward. “What kind of complications?”
“Well, it seems that there's a chance…” The Doctor paused, grasping for tact. “In fact I would say it’s quite definite that your baby will fail to meet er... specification, so to speak.”
“Right,” said Max, brows raised. He was trying hard to appear calm, collected. He cleared his throat. “Please, Doctor.” He narrowed his eyes, harsh in appraisal. “Go on.”
“The scans taken from your foetus last week,” said the Doctor cutting to the chase, “along with DNA samples taken at exactly the same juncture presented an anomaly we simply weren’t expecting.”
“I see.” Max was clearly exerting a huge amount of restraint, his face paler than a sheet. “And what does this mean exactly Doctor? Please...”
“Mr and Mrs Emmings, we found that the genetic make-up of your unborn child contains heavy quantities of MAOA-2...M2 to you and me.”
“And?” bellowed Max, “speak English here for God's sake!”
“Monoamine Oxidase, as it’s known, is an enzyme which breaks down important neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin, n-pinephrine, dopamine, you name it. It renders them inactive, the very same transmitters that regulate mood, aggression, pleasure. ”
Max took a moment to take it in. “OK,” he said massaging his brow. “So, I take it this isn't good news?”
The Doctor shook his head.
“OK Doctor. Well then would you mind telling me how this affects our child exactly?”
“I mean, did you even do what we asked?” said Rosa. Her voice was small now, bordering hysterical.
“Of course Mrs Emmings. We did everything you asked of us.”
“Then how the hell did this all happen?”
The Doctor pushed his glasses back up his nose again, remade his bridge. “To be honest, it's precisely as a result of your myriad instructions that we are faced with such an event in the first place, Mr Emmings. You asked us to eradicate your addictive personality trait; we did that. But we did warn you that addiction, any addiction, be it sex, alcohol, drugs...hell, even violence is influenced by multiple genes, not to mention numerous environmental factors. It's a highly complicated process, no one person's the same and there are no guarantees. In this case we started out nullifying the allele of the dopamine receptor in the DRD2 gene, the gene we know that is inherent in you Mr Emmings, the gene responsible for some of the...” The Doctor faltered, searched for the right word. “Some of the problems that your marriage has been experiencing of late.” He cleared his throat.
“So?” Max shrugged. “You still haven't answered the question. What exactly happened to mess all this up?”
“If you would allow me to continue? You also asked us to remove your wife’s OCD tendencies. So, we removed all traces of the human serotonin transporter gene, which was simple enough but created another set of awkward actualities. We got round it eventually but then we still had to boost your child’s cognitive abilities, its memory, plus furnish it with a cerebellum cortex of beyond the average size. We did all of this because you asked us to Mr Emmings,”
“And paid for,”
“Yes,” the Doctor admitted, closing his eyes. “But we did tell you Mr & Mrs Emmings. No-one has ever made so many requests before. We made you fully aware of how unpredictable composition could be the more demands were made on specification. Still, you both agreed to continue.”
“Hold on a minute, let me get this straight” said Max, “we pay you twenty thousand pounds which you gladly take and all you can do now is just sit here on your fat backside and tell me that our child has a fucking anomaly? Just what kind of freak are you growing inside of her?” He leant forward and lowered his voice. “Because I'm telling you Doctor, you'd better have yourself a seriously decent lawyer--”
“Oh we do, Mr Emmings, I can assure you of that. But please.” The Doctor flashed a forced smile. “I have more information that I need to discuss.”
Max looked away in disgust.
“Right, well...as I said before, anyone with such a high concentration of M2 in their make-up will never be able to feel any kind of empathy or know any sense of love. They will only ever know aggression. Frustration. Anger. ”
Max shuffled in his seat.
“The child will be described as extremely aggressive, highly impatient, paranoid, at times utterly delusional. The child will be prone to episodes of great depression, will experience sudden fits of rage and will develop a severe case of compassion deficit disorder as the years progress. Our forecasts show that the subject is likely to be committing acts of murder before maturity, possibly before even adolescence.”
Rosa cried out in despair.
Max stood straight up to his feet. “Come on Doctor, is this some kind of joke? Twenty thousand pounds for this? Just look at the state of my wife!”
The Doctor's hands dissolved the bridge and furrowed a plough. “Mr Emmings, I--”
“I ought to punch you into next week!”
“No Max, please.” Rosa clutched her husband's arm. “Please, just calm down. This won't help a thing.” She took a moment to compose herself, then stood, still simpering as she met the Doctor's gaze. “S...Sorry Doctor. You were saying?”
“Mr & Mrs Emmings, it is important that you both just stop and understand the next thing I am about to tell you.”
Max glowered from where he stood but said nothing.
“The government requires us to notify them of any embryo we develop which contains M2. Our very license depends on it. For twenty years now, no synthesized child developed by this facility has ever been allowed to leave the premises with such a high quantity in their blood stream. The last one that was allowed - in a situation very much like the one we are now presented with was…well.” The doctor looked up in confession. “I trust you’ve seen the news today already.”
Max and Rosa's mouths dropped open. It wasn’t long before the penny dropped.
“You mean Arbhul Caine?” Rosa stifled back a scream.
“He was the last known, convicted ten years ago for the serial killing of nine women--”
“Jesus!” Max slammed his fist down on the desk. “How could you even do this to us?”
The Doctor continued unaffected. “We have been trying to eradicate M2 from our procedures for decades now - millions of pounds' worth of research.” He trailed off, voice distant, mind consumed. “No matter. It seems that somehow nature always finds a way. No matter how hard we seem to try.”
“But surely there’s an exception to the rule,” Rosa pleaded, “for M2 I mean. Surely?”
The Doctor smiled but his tone remained firm. “I'm sorry Mrs Emmings. M2 has been found in the genetic make-up of over ninety-per-cent of our countries violent criminals over the last fifty years. It's why the government have developed the guidelines they have. This process happens to be one of the best pre-emptive methods for fighting violent crime that we've ever developed!”
Tears began to run down Rosa’s cheeks.
“So” said Max, voice low now in defeat. “What are these guidelines that you speak of?”
The Doctor sighed. “Well, you have a choice at least. Either have the child remotely terminated and induced now. Or wait until birth.”
“But we’ve waited ten years to get this chance!”
The Doctor ignored Max now, choosing instead to appeal to Rosa. “I’m telling you this in confidence Mrs Emmings; do this or the authorities will take your child as soon as it is born. I'm obliged to inform them of any M2 births at this facility by law. My very license as a genetic engineer depends on it.”
“And what if we have it abroad? Go to some island community, out of your hands? You wouldn't even know then, couldn't tell a soul.”
“You could do that,” nodded The Doctor sadly, “but I'd always suspect. And then how would you sleep at night - knowing the likely terror you’d inflicted on the world? The terror inflicted on all the future victims...their families, innocent families just like your own?”
“But how can you be so sure--”
“Mr and Mrs Emmings! Your baby will grow up to be a murder, a highly intelligent one, one capable of great atrocities just like Caine, trust me on that. What you have growing there inside you is effectively nothing short of a Monster!”
Rosa’s mascara was smudged. Her bottom lip quivered.
As if acting on some kind of sickening cue, Caine's gnarled expression appeared on the Doctor's wall-mounted interface as the news report repeated on mute.
Rosa clutched hold of her crucifix, found the strength of will to meet his gaze. Eyes transfixed, she watched the montage of images that followed his face, the succession of young women that had been raped, then decapitated, buried in the depths of his basement in his cabin in the woods all of those many years ago.
“The choice is yours, Mrs Emmings. We appreciate the pressure that you must be under. But...well.”
A lone tear splashed down on her belly as she clutched tighter on the crucifix. Then, slowly to start with, Rosa Emmings began to cry.