The man on the operating table moaned softly and stirred, his eyes still closed. A blue plastic cap covered his hair and a blue plastic sheet covered his body. The only things exposed were his face and his chest, straps holding him steady.
“He’s almost awake,” Gav said. He was standing on the other side of the operating room table.
“Hand me that hypodermic, would you?”
Gav leaned over and gave me the needle. I inserted it into the man’s IV on his wrist. Now that he was strapped down nicely to the table, a gag in his mouth, I could bring him out of the anesthesia cleanly.
It was early morning, and the operating room was dim, the way I liked it. Light jazz floated through the room from the stereo system. Mood music for murder.
As the stimulant ran into the man’s veins, his eyes opened. He looked at me, then tried to move his arm. Of course, he couldn’t.
“What kind of straps are those?” Gav asked.
“Standard nylon,” I said. “I get them from the medical supply wholesaler online.”
“Hmm. Not leather?”
“You know, I used to do leather. It’s hard to get the blood out, though.”
“Right. I forget that you get them here when they’re still conscious.”
The man’s eyes flashed back and forth between me and Gav, questioning. I could see the fear beginning to come through on his face. He knew that this wasn’t normal operating procedure for plastic surgery. He opened his mouth to talk, and I tamped the gag down a bit farther into his mouth.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “This is just a friend of mine. He’s going to be here for the surgery. I hope you don’t mind.”
The man frowned and yelled something through the gag.
“Sorry, Bob. I can’t hear you.”
“Is his name Bob?” Gav asked.
“Who cares? He’ll be dead in a few minutes.”
Bob shrieked behind the fabric. I turned back to Gav.
“The nylon straps. I can hook you up with some if you need. If you decide to get back in the business.”
Gav sighed and looked down at the man on the table. Bob was trying very hard to talk now, but the gag in his mouth made it awfully difficult. If I had to guess by the look on his face, I’d say he was pleading.
“I’ll keep it in mind,” he said. “But really, I’m quitting for good this time.”
“Quitting for a girl? Say it ain’t so, Gavriel. For a girl?”
“You don’t know the girl,” he said, smiling. He held out a scalpel, the largest one, for the initial cut.
“Want to do the honors?” I asked.
Gav looked down at Bob, who by this time had realized that he was not going to be getting the kind of customer service that men of his status normally got when getting plastic surgery. His muffled yelling rose even louder from behind the gag. I picked up the stereo remote and turned up the volume on the jazz. A low horn sang a dissonant melody under the steady beat of the drums.
“I probably shouldn’t,” Gav said. His tongue licked his bottom lip, and I knew he wanted to.
“Come on. Just a little cut. You can’t go cold turkey.”
“It’s not even like you’re killing him. Just a cut.”
“Okay. Don’t tell Kat.”
“Tell Kat what?”
Gav twirled the scalpel in his hand and then lowered the blade to the skin. Bob’s muffled cries turned to a high-pitched scream as Gav ran the scalpel across his hairline. Blood ran down both sides of the man’s face. I pushed the gag into his mouth farther, and he choked on the scream.
“God, that’s good,” Gav said. Beads of sweat glistened on his upper lip. He looked down at the scalpel which was dripping blood and offered it to me. I smiled and shook my head.
“Don’t stop. We need a chest incision.”
“I can’t do it all.” He wanted to, I could tell. Oh, he wanted to.
“I have another couple coming in tomorrow afternoon,” I said, waving the scalpel away. “Please.”
“Are you sure?”
“This?” I asked, holding up the saw. “Los Angeles Police-grade forensic bone saw. Jake got it for me.”
“Is he still in the game?”
“Everyone’s still in the game, Gav. Everyone but you.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. Shut up.”
Gav moved down to the man’s bare chest, ignoring his screams. As he cut into the skin, I used forceps to pull back the skin and clamped down the retractor to hold the incision open. The man’s heart was beating quickly. Almost in time with the high hats in the song. Maybe with a few more cuts, we would get there.