Red Room

by Kevin Z. Garvey

For the briefest instant after Jessie Stone awoke, she thought she was in her own bed. Then the smell hit her. It was a nauseating combination of blood, decay, and bleach. The assault on her nostrils sent a bolt of panic through her. She tried to sit up, but found she couldn’t move. Looking down, she saw that she was restrained, secured by straps to a hospital gurney. Adding to her horror, she saw that she was no longer dressed in the clothes she’d worn last night. She was wearing a hospital gown.

I’m in a hospital? She looked around the room. She was flat on her back, so her field of vision was limited, but by the looks of things, it did appear to be some kind of hospital room. Medical equipment was everywhere, the same kind of equipment she saw regularly in her job as a nurse. To the right of the gurney, she saw a heart monitor that was powered on but not connected to anything. Next to that stood a cart containing dynamometers, pinch gauges and other clinical assessment devices. To her left, Jessie saw a table upon which sat apparatus such as ET tubes, feeding tubes, catheters, BP cuffs, IVs, and other equipment. But everything was placed haphazardly, and the equipment looked old and in disrepair. It was like no hospital she’d ever seen.

She struggled against the restraints, but it was no use. The straps were tight. She wasn’t going anywhere. She lay back, catching her breath, and tried to figure out what was going on.

Recounting the events of last night, Jessie recalled leaving the hospital after her shift had ended at midnight. Then she and Rebecca, a fellow nurse, had gone out for drinks. They’d split up after an hour or so, after Rebecca had run into an old boyfriend and ducked out with him.

Jessie then sat alone at the bar, finishing her drink, and fending off the advances of a creepy, insistent guy. He’d taken the seat next to her, and had badgered her into conversation. Jessie spent the next ten minutes or so texting friends, and even reading old texts on her cell phone–anything to show the guy she wasn’t interested. But he was persistent.

He must have spiked my drink, Jessie thought. That had to be it. Because after that, her memory got hazy. She remembered staggering from the bar and throwing up in the alley, and then fighting the man as he dragged her to the curb where she’d been picked up by a livery vehicle. That’s where her memory ended. There was nothing else. And now she was here. Wherever here was.

Panic began to set in despite Jessie telling herself to keep calm. She fought against the restraints until her muscles ached. She was about to cry out when the door opened and a man entered. He was short and slight and dressed in hospital greens, his face covered by a surgical mask. Jessie could tell from his small stature that he wasn’t the guy from the club, though she wasn’t sure what to make of that.

“Hello,” he said.

“Where am I?” Jessie said, looking at the man. It was hard to get a read on him because of the surgical mask. All she could see were his dull gray eyes.

“Where do you think?” he said.

She looked around the room again. “It’s like some sort of bizarre hospital.”

The man’s eyes lit up. “Yes! That’s it! That’s it exactly!”

“A hospital?”

The man stared into her eyes. She saw that his brow was furrowed now, as if he were puzzled. “Have you seen this place before?” he asked.

“No, never.”

“Then why did you call it bizarre?”

“I’m an ER nurse. This room…” Her voice trailed off. “Are you a doctor?”

“You’re a nurse?” he said, then burst out laughing. “Wonderful! Just wonderful!”

“Who are you?” Jessie said. “What am I doing here? What’s going on?”

“Let me ask you something,” the man said. “Have you ever explored the deep web?”

Deep web? Jessie was familiar with the term. She knew the deep web to be a dark and dangerous part of the internet. “I’ve heard of it,” she said. “But I’ve never, you know, visited.”

The man nodded. “Then the fact that you called this place bizarre must be a sign from the gods.” He held his fists to his chest. “The gods themselves!”

He’s crazy, Jessie thought, as she watched him spread his arms and look towards the heavens.

The man leaned over her. Jessie cringed as he brought his face close to hers, just inches away. “You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?”

She shook her head.

“I’m excited for two reasons,” he said, standing straight again. “First, you’re a nurse. That’s wonderfully serendipitous. Second, you called my humble hospital bizarre. And that’s simply…sublime.”


The man stared at her. By the way his eyes crinkled, Jessie could tell he was smiling behind the mask.

“Because this place is not just a bizarre hospital,” he said. “It is the Bizarre Hospital. And I am its chief surgeon, Dr. Bizarro.”

You must be joking, Jessie thought. This has to be some kind of prank. If she weren’t shackled to a gurney, and if she hadn’t been drugged and taken against her will, she might have laughed. But this was no laughing matter. Still, her mind rebelled against the reality of what she was now facing.

“Is this some sort of joke?” she said. “I feel sick. Please. Help me.”

“If you’re sick, you’ve come to the right place.”

“I didn’t come here. I was kidnapped.”

“Tomato, tomahto,” Bizarro said.

“Please,” Jessie said. “I can’t breathe. And the restraints are too tight. Untie me.”

He shook his head. “I’m afraid I can’t do that. You’re scheduled for surgery.”

“Surgery? No. There’s nothing wrong with me.”

“You just said you have breathing issues. It’s not something I specialize in, but I’m willing to open you up and take a look.”

Jessie struggled again against the restraints. The time for calm was over. She had to get out of here. She had to alert someone. She took a deep breath and screamed.

Bizarro watched her impassively for a moment. Then he opened a black medical bag and took out a syringe.

Jessie screamed as he filled the syringe with an unknown drug. She screamed as he swabbed the side of her neck with a cotton ball. She screamed as she felt the needle pierce her flesh.

And then she stopped screaming. And felt nothing at all.


The first thing Jessie saw when she awoke was the creep from the club. She tried to remember his name, but couldn’t recall it. Like her, he was restrained, though not on a gurney. He was on an operating table, lying on his back, struggling against the straps, moaning.

Jessie’s gurney was now positioned upright, so that she was sitting. The man from the club was in the center of the room, with Jessie off to the side. She could see the entire room now. She noticed several cameras mounted on the walls, and one mounted on the ceiling, directly above the man from the club. Taking in the scene, Jessie felt as though she were trapped in a nightmare. The room shimmered and her head ached.

“Hello again,” a voice from behind her said. It was Bizarro’s voice. “I’ve rescheduled your surgery.” He walked to the foot of Jessie’s gurney, coming into her view. He was once again (or still) dressed in greens, including the cap and mask. “I hope you don’t mind.”

Although still terrified, Jessie felt calmer than the last time she had spoken to Bizarro, possibly as a result of whatever sedative he’d injected her with. She wasn’t sure how much time had passed since then, but she hoped it was lengthy. She knew her friends and family would realize she was missing and begin to look for her. She hoped that a security camera near the club had picked up the license plate of livery car. Maybe the authorities are already involved, she thought, praying they were.

“What’s he doing here?” she asked, thinking that if she could get Bizarro talking, it could buy her some time.

Bizarro looked over at the man on the table. “Zachary’s condition is more dire than yours,” he said.

Zachary. Yes. Now she remembered. “What’s wrong with him?” she asked, despite believing that, like her, there was nothing wrong with him. But she wanted to keep the conversation going. The more time that went by, the better her chances of being rescued.

“He talks too much,” Bizarro said.

Zachary arched his back against the restraints and said, “I didn’t say anything! I swear!”

“Shut up,” Jessie said, surprised at the confidence in her own voice. “You do talk too much. You wouldn’t shut up at the club either.”

Bizarro nodded. “You see, Zachary? Even Nurse Stone agrees. There’s your second opinion.”

Jessie felt a jolt of surprise at hearing her name, but then realized that Bizarro was in possession of her purse. Not only did he know her name, he knew where she lived. The thought was chilling.

“How are you going to shut him up?” she asked, trying to keep Bizarro talking.

Bizarro walked over to Zachary. He put his gloved hands on Zachary’s throat and probed. “There are a number of options. But for simplicity’s sake, I’m leaning towards the removal of his vocal cords.”

Vocal cords? Jessie knew upon hearing the term that Bizarro was no real doctor. The proper term is vocal folds. She wondered if she could somehow use that information to help herself.

“What are your other options, Doctor?” she asked.

Bizarro’s head perked up. He looked over at Jessie, and although she could only see his eyes, she knew that he was pleased to have been addressed as if he were a real doctor.

“Well,” he said, “I could sew his lips shut, for one thing. Or maybe extract his tongue.”

“No!” Zachary cried. “I told you, I didn’t say anything!”

Bizarro sighed. “This is why I moved him ahead of you on the schedule.”

“Help!” Zachary screamed, thrashing against the restraints. “Help!”

Bizarro watched Zachary scream for a moment. Then he shook his head and went over to a medical cart. He wheeled the cart back to the operating table and began opening drawers, eventually producing a large hypodermic needle.

“If you insist on screaming like a stuck pig, I’m going to stick you like one,” he told Zachary. “So be quiet. There’ll be plenty of time to scream later.”

Jessie watched Zachary slump down on the table. He lay there now, whimpering.

Jessie said, “I concur with you about the tongue extraction, Doctor. He’s a prime candidate for that procedure.”

Bizarro put the needle away and walked over to Jessie’s gurney. He stared into her eyes. “You’re not just humoring me, are you?”

Jessie forced herself to maintain eye contact. “He talked my ear off at the club,” she said, “and then drugged my drink. He’s a thug with a big mouth. That’s a tongue extraction candidate in my book.”

“Interesting,” Bizarro said, tilting his head from side to side. “But there are certain, ah, problems with that procedure. I’ve learned the hard way that when you put your hands near a patient’s mouth, they have a tendency to bite.”

“But the anesthesia–”

“I don’t believe in anesthesia. And neither do the observers who watch me operate.” He gestured toward the overhead camera. “They’re the ones I do this for.”

Jessie looked up at the camera and wondered if people were watching right now. “There are ways you can do it without anesthesia,” she said, hoping Bizarro didn’t hear the desperation in her voice. “I can help.”

“So I suppose I should untie you now?”

“You’re chief surgeon,” Jessie said, willing herself to remain calm. “I’m just a nurse.” She shrugged. “You called it serendipitous, not me.”

Dr. Bizarro stared at her for a moment. “I need to prepare the broadcast. I’ll be back soon.” Then he turned and left the room.

Jessie sat back, dejected. It felt like she had been gaining Bizarro’s trust, but she might have pushed too hard. Her situation seemed hopeless.

“He’s going to kill us both, you know,” Zachary said, turning his head towards her. “That’s what he does here. It’s a red room.”

Red room? Something about the term jogged Jessie’s memory. She thought about it and remembered a YouTube video she’d seen about the horrors of the deep web. The narrator had talked about red rooms, which were purported to be places where live murders took place. Viewers on the deep web would watch from their computers as a killer live-streamed murder. But the video also mentioned the fact that no evidence of a real red room had ever been found. They were supposed to be urban legends, nothing more. And yet here she was, in one.

“Did you hear me?” Zachary said. “He’s going to kill us!”

Jessie’s first instinct was to converse with Zachary, to question him. He obviously had worked for Bizarro and had to know the location of this room and other things that might help her in her quest to escape. But she realized that she couldn’t take the chance, because more than likely Bizarro was watching and listening in on them right now. So she decided on a different tack.

“Do you do anything besides run your mouth?” she said, keeping up her previous charade. “You didn’t shut up at the club and you’re not shutting up now. Give it a rest already.”

“He’s going to kill us, you idiot!” Zachary said. “I told you, this is a red room!”

“No,” she said. “This is Dr. Bizarro’s Bizarre Hospital. You’re a patient here, and I’m a nurse. And I really hope Dr. Bizarro lets me assist him in operating on your ugly mouth.”

What? Are you out of your mind? You’re as crazy as he is!”

“We’re medical professionals,” Jessie said. “Deal with it.”

Zachary started to respond but stopped talking when Dr. Bizarro came back into the room. Bizarro ignored his two “patients” as he walked to a metal desk in a corner of the room. Next to the desk was a computer. Bizarro powered it on and turned on the monitor.

“What’s going on?” Zachary said, his voice panicky.

“We’re going live,” Bizarro said without turning around.

“No!” Zachary shouted. “You can’t! Please! Please!

Jessie watched Zachary squirm and plead for his life under the restraints. And although she knew that he was responsible for drugging her and having her taken to this place, she couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. She also wondered if Bizarro heard the conversation she and Zachary had just had. If so, he gave no indication. He just sat there, staring at the monitor, watching the computer boot up. Not sure of what to do next, Jessie focused on remaining calm and keeping a clear head.

Once the computer was fully powered up, Bizarro started working the keyboard. Jessie could see that he was engrossed in the process, which went on longer than she had expected. After several minutes, when she realized it could be a while, she took the time to try and quietly wriggle out of her restraints. But it was no use. Her wrists and ankles were securely fastened to the gurney, and sore from previous efforts.

Exasperated, she looked at Zachary. He was quiet now, save for an occasional whimper, and was no longer struggling. It was as if he’d given up and was now resigned to his fate.

“I won’t give up,” Jessie whispered to herself. She knew she had too much to live for to let a madman take it all away. She thought of her parents and her two brothers, and it broke her heart to think of how worried they had to be by now. She also thought of her friends and coworkers at the hospital, and about all the hugs that would be awaiting her once she got free of this place. But for that to happen, she needed to stay cool, and stay smart. She felt that she’d connected, at least a little, with Bizarro. That was the key to her survival and she had to work that angle as best she could.

“We’re live,” Bizarro said, interrupting her thoughts. He was standing beside the operating table, looking up at the camera.

She looked at the monitor and could see Zachary lying on the operating table and Bizarro’s face looking up. The shot was from the camera mounted on the ceiling directly above him.

“Welcome to another edition of Bizarre Hospital,” he said to the camera. “I’m your host, Dr. Bizarro.”

Zachary moaned as Bizarro spoke, but he remained motionless. It was as if he had no strength left.

Bizarro stroked Zachary’s hair. “Don’t worry, Zach, you’ll perk up soon. Once your surgery begins.” He looked back up at the camera. “Don’t go away!”

Bizarro then approached Jessie’s gurney. “There’s only a couple of viewers now,” he said. “But they’ll come trickling in. And by the way, Nurse Stone, I heard your conversation with Zachary.”

She looked him in the eye but said nothing.

“I still don’t fully trust you, you know. I’m sure you can understand why. But the thought of a real nurse assisting me while I operate is just…irresistible. And I’m certain my fans would love it as well. Are you willing to assist me, Nurse Stone?”

“Yes, doctor,” Jessie answered without hesitation.

“Can I trust you not to do something stupid?”

Jessie hesitated a beat as she thought about how to answer. “I’m a highly qualified and experienced nurse, Dr. Bizarro. I don’t make stupid mistakes.”

Bizarro’s eyes crinkled, which told Jessie that he was smiling under the mask. “That’s not what I meant.”

Jessie knew that, of course. But she wanted to emphasize the fact that she was a medical professional and was here to assist him. Bizarro was obviously a doctor-wannabe, and she wanted to fuel his fantasy, to become part of it.

They stared at each other in silence for a moment and then Bizarro moved behind her, out of her line of sight. Not knowing his intentions, Jessie felt a jolt of adrenaline. She could feel her heart pounding in her chest, but she forced herself to remain outwardly calm. After a minute or two, he came back into view, holding a hospital cap, mask and several large tie wraps.

“I’m going to make you a deal,” he said, waving the items in front of her face.

Jessie nodded.

“I don’t usually operate on males,” Bizarro said with a shrug. “I guess you could say I specialize in gynecology, more or less. It’s what my fans want. But I’m concerned that some of them may decide to skip the operation once they see that Zachary is the patient. So here’s what I propose.”

He paused and looked Jessie in the eye. Jessie sensed that he was debating with himself. “What do you propose, Doctor?”

Bizarro took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “If you assist me today, I’ll let you go. Simple as that.”

Jessie could hardly believe her ears. She was so stunned, she couldn’t even respond.

“I’ll drug you and have you driven to the same place we found you. That way you’ll still be in the dark about the location of this facility. So even if you go to the authorities, nothing will come of it. Does that sound fair?”

Too fair, Jessie thought, knowing that when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. But she wasn’t going to let Bizarro know that.

“Yes, fair,” she said.

Bizarro’s eyes crinkled again, and Jessie hoped he wasn’t playing some cruel kind of joke. She felt sick to her stomach at the thought.

“I figured you’d say that. Who wouldn’t? But it’s the truth. Still, I need to take precautions, and that’s where these come in.” He held up the tie wraps. “Insurance.”

Bizarro went behind Jessie. She flinched when she felt him touch her head, then but then realized that he was putting the cap on her. He then affixed the mask to her face and moved to the foot of the bed where he used a tie wrap to bind Jessie’s ankles together. Then he wheeled her to the operating table.

Zachary was moaning softly, but that was all. Jessie’s gurney was beside him now. The smell told her that at some point Zachary had soiled himself. Once again, she felt a deep pang of sympathy for him.

Bizarro put his hand on the back of Jessie’s head. “Lean forward, I need to bind your hands.”

She did as she was told. Bizarro then released the restraint on her left arm and brought it around behind her back. He did the same with the right. Once Jessie’s arms were free, she felt an impulse to fight, but her legs were still shackled to the gurney and to each other, so she willed herself to be patient. Now wasn’t the time.

Bizarro used a tie wrap to bind her wrists together. Then he released the straps on her ankles. He swung her bound legs over the side, further tightened the tie wrap, and helped her down from the gurney. It was the first time Jessie had been on her feet in who knew how long. Her legs felt unsteady. She’d been drugged twice and was still feeling the aftereffects. Still, it was progress.

“I really need to use the bathroom,” she told Bizarro.

Bizarro sighed and began to walk her over to a closed door. The tie wrap gave her a couple of inches of room, barely enough to shuffle her feet. The going was very slow. He opened the door and gestured for her to go in.

Jessie shuffled into the bathroom. Bizarro closed the door about three quarters of the way. “I’ll give you some privacy,” he said. “Don’t try anything funny.”

It was a small mercy, but she was grateful for it. Inside the bathroom, Jessie sought some means to improve her situation, but there was nothing helpful. Just a toilet and a sink. She had to sit sideways to accommodate her arms being behind her back. She hoped the urgency to relieve herself was a sign that a lot of time had passed since her abduction.

When she came out, she saw that Bizarro was once again typing on the keyboard. She shuffled to the operating table. Zachary was lying there with his eyes closed. Jessie felt another stab of sorrow for the guy, but also a flash of anger. He needed to resist. To fight. It was obvious that he had given up. He’d let his spirit be broken. Jessie vowed not to let the same thing happen to her.

Bizarro finished up at the computer and joined her at the foot of the operating table. He looked down at Zachary. “Pathetic, isn’t he?”

Jessie nodded. “Have you decided on a procedure?”

Bizarro spread his hands. “Well, you said you could help with a tongue extraction, so that’s the direction I’m leaning.”

“We’ll need a surgical mouth gag,” Jessie said, which caused Zachary to open his eyes.

“No, please,” he said weakly.

“Yes, please,” said Jessie.

Bizarro chuckled. Jessie was glad she was able to amuse him, because she needed to bond with him as much as possible. But the sound of his laughter was repulsive. She was dealing with a sicko of the highest magnitude here. And her life was very much still in danger.

Bizarro looked at his watch. Jessie fought the urge to ask him what time it was. She once again hoped that the police–assuming they had already been alerted–were making progress.

“It’s almost time,” Bizarro said. “Let’s get everything in order.”

“Doctor, if I’m going to effectively assist you, I need to use my hands. They’re of no use behind my back.”

Bizarro looked at Jessie and shook his head. “Too risky,” he said. “Sorry.”

Jessie shrugged. She looked down at Zachary and said, “This is your lucky day, Zach. I had plans for you. And you weren’t going to like them.”

“Plans?” Bizarro said.

“Doesn’t matter now,” Jessie said. “I’m just a spectator, like the people watching on the deep web.” She shrugged. “At least I have a front row seat.”

“Oh, dear,” Bizarro said, and chuckled again. “You’ve given me chills.” He paused for a moment. “I’ll give you one free hand.”

Jessie was in no position to argue. She’d take what she could get.

Bizarro said, “I’ll use a tie wrap to bind your left hand to the table and leave your right hand free. Fair?”


Bizarro grabbed a few tie wraps from Jessie’s gurney and then moved to the medical cart where he picked up a scalpel. He went behind Jessie and began cutting through the wrap binding her hands.

As Bizarro worked on the tie wrap, Jessie’s mind raced with possibilities. Her hands were about to be free, but her feet were still tightly bound. Could she successfully fight Bizarro? She doubted it. This wasn’t a TV show, and she was no action hero. Her chances of success with such limited mobility were close to nil. Besides, he had a scalpel. She had nothing.

Keep killing time, Jessie told herself. That was really her only play. The authorities had to be moving on the investigation into her disappearance. The cavalry is coming.

She heard the tie wrap snap open. Her hands were free. If she were going to fight, now would be the time. But Bizarro knew this as well. She heard him moving back, out of range.

“Don’t forget,” he said. “I have a scalpel.”

Jessie put her left hand on the table. “I didn’t forget.”

Bizarro approached, tentatively. He studied the situation for a moment. “You’re going to have to tie-wrap yourself.”

Is he that much of a coward? Jessie thought. But of course he was. All bullies were cowards. And Bizarro was a bully to the extreme.

“No problem,” she said. “Hand me one, please.”

“No!” Zachary screamed. He began to thrash. “Stop!”

Bizarro tossed a tie wrap onto the gurney. Ignoring Zachary’s cries, Jessie used it to secure her left hand to the railing. As she tightened it, she felt sick. Had she just sealed her fate by denying herself the one chance to attack Bizarro, slim as it was?

Bizarro approached. He checked to make sure the tie wrap was tight. “Excellent,” he said. “Now we can operate.”

Jessie felt a wave of nausea roll over in her belly. Time was running out. She had promised Bizarro something that she wasn’t sure she could deliver. And he was about to call her bluff.

“By the way,” he said, “I’ve changed my mind about the tongue extraction.”


“Because the audience likes to see my patients’ faces while I operate.” He looked up at the camera. “Isn’t that right, everyone?”

“So what do you suggest, Doctor?”

“Let’s start on the other end. Send his little piggies to market.”

Zachary screamed again, louder this time. Bizarro reached under the gurney and picked up a roll of duct tape. He took his time cutting off a length of tape. Jessie was grateful for the delay. Every second counted.

Bizarro went around to the head of the gurney and loomed over Zachary. He held the strip of tape in both hands. Zachary screamed and thrashed his head from side to side, but Bizarro managed to affix the tape, which muffled Zachary’s cries. Bizarro then cut two more strips and reinforced the tape over Zachary’s mouth.

Zachary was still able to produce sound, but it was muffled.

“Much better,” Bizarro said, admiring his handiwork. He turned to Jessie. “Shall we begin?”

Feeling the bile rise in her throat, Jessie didn’t attempt to speak. She nodded instead.

“In some cases, medical instruments are not the most effective means of operation,” Bizarro said as he went over to a cabinet against the wall. He rummaged through it and came back with a pair of long-handled garden loppers. He handed the tool to Jessie.

Jessie held the loppers by one handle. She looked at the tool and then back at Bizarro.

“You can brace the other handle against your body,” he said. “We’ll start with his toes and work our way up.”

Jessie shook her head involuntarily.

Bizarro stared at her. “Are you prepared to operate or not, Nurse Stone?”

Jessie hesitated. She thought about swinging the loppers at Bizarro, but she had no leverage. It would be a futile gesture.

“Nurse Stone?”

“I’m prepared, Doctor.”

“Then why did you shake your head?”

“Sorry, I’m just disappointed we’re not taking his tongue out. But I’m ready to amputate.”

“Good. Proceed.”

This was Jessie’s moment of truth. If she backed out now, she’d find herself on the table like Zachary. But could she amputate a man’s toes for no reason?

He drugged you, Jessie,” she reminded herself. He’s why you’re here.

Jessie try to position the sharp beak-like lopper blade around Zachary’s toe. But he was wiggling his foot, making it impossible.

Bizarro grabbed Zachary’s foot and held it steady. “Now,” he said.

Do it, Jessie told herself. Just do it.

She positioned the blade, pressed one handle against her ribcage, and forced herself to pull the other one. The lopper severed Zachary’s right big toe as though it were a tree branch. Zachary screamed a muffled scream behind the tape as his toe fell to the floor. Jessie cringed at the sound of it.

“Do the next one,” Bizarro said.

“Shouldn’t we stop the bleeding first?” Jessie asked, trying to buy time.

“After they’re all off.”

As an ER nurse, Jessie was familiar with the site of gore. She was not squeamish in the least. But this was far beyond anything she’d ever experienced. She struggled to keep the contents of her stomach down.

“Nurse Stone?”

Jessie let out a sigh. “This is ridiculous, Doctor. I can’t assist you with only one hand. My shoulder hurts and it’s taking away the enjoyment of the operation. Can’t you let me use both hands? My feet are still bound. I’m not going anywhere.”

She watched as Bizarro thought that over. She had the urge to say “please” but didn’t want to sound desperate.

“Free me up to really hurt this bastard,” she said.

Bizarro laughed. “You are a feisty one,” he said. “And I really want to trust you.” He paused. “Okay, fine. I’ll release your other hand. But fair warning. Try anything and you will live to regret it. And by live, I mean for a much longer time than you’ll want to.”

“I understand, Doctor. Thank you.”

Bizarro stared at her for a moment, and then picked up the scalpel and went around behind her.

Jessie’s heart was thumping in her chest. This was her one chance, slim as it was, and she had to take it. There was no way she could continue to torture Zachary. It was now literally do-or-die.

Which was why, the moment she felt her hand break free, she didn’t hesitate. Feeling a rush of adrenaline at the sudden mobility of both her arms, she balled her hand up and spun around, arm extended, fist hurtling towards Bizarro’s face. The blow landed with a thud on Bizarro’s cheek, surprising him and causing him to fall backwards. Jessie saw the scalpel skitter across the floor as Bizarro landed on his butt.

Bizarro cursed as he frantically rolled onto his hands and knees and crawled towards the weapon. Jessie’s feet were still bound, so there was no way she could get to it before he did. Instead, she shuffled forward and threw herself on top of Bizarro, landing on his back.

Using every ounce of energy she could muster, Jessie threw ferocious punches at the back and sides of Bizarro’s head. With her feet bound, she didn’t have much leverage, but she didn’t let that stop her. This was her one chance to escape. She wasn’t going to waste it.

Bizarro struggled beneath the blows, but had no answer for them. Instead of fighting back, he covered up. He truly was a bully, Jessie saw, someone used to hurting the helpless. But when the tables were turned, his true colors came out.

At some point, Jessie didn’t know exactly when, Bizarro had stopped struggling. He lay on his stomach, motionless. Jessie wasn’t sure if he was playing possum, so she grabbed his hair, lifted his head and then smashed it down on the floor several times. Now she was sure he was out cold. It was time to get out of there.

The scalpel was just out of reach. Using her arms, Jessie pulled herself to it and then sat up and cut the tie wrap binding her ankles.

As she got to her feet, she heard the door open. She looked up and saw a man rush into the room, waving a pistol.

“Thank God,” Jessie said, thinking the man was a plainclothes police officer.

The man surveyed the scene briefly and then turned and looked at Zachary on the table.

“Hello, Zach,” he said. “Did you think you were gonna make it out of this alive?”

“Please, Arno,” Zachary said. “Don’t.”

The color drained from Jessie’s face. She stood there, frozen, wishing the scalpel were still in her hand. But she’d left it on the floor.

“Who are you?” she said.

The man turned to her, and pointed the gun at her head. “I’m Arno, the guy who drove you here. I was watching the show from downstairs. I knew he was making a big mistake by cutting you loose.”

Jessie’s mind raced. She was in more danger now than ever. In a desperate ploy, she began shuffling towards the man as if still bound. “Please,” she said. “Help.”

Arno grinned and tucked the gun into his waistband. “Help?” he sneered. “Actually, I’m gonna hurt you worse than he would have.”

Still pretending to be shackled, Jessie began shuffling backwards, away from Arno, toward the medical cart. Arno smiled and shuffled forward, mimicking her, apparently enjoying himself. When Jessie got to the cart, she glanced at it and saw a pair of scissors lying on top of it. She reached out and grabbed them.

Arno scoffed. “Bringing scissors to a gunfight?” he said, as he reached for the gun his waistband. “Good luck with that.”

Jessie made her move. She lunged forward with her left leg and then threw a powerful kick at Arno’s groin with her right. Arno gasped as the blow hit home, and he doubled over in pain. But he still had the presence of mind to pull his weapon and fire. His shots were wild, however, and missed their mark. Jessie rushed in and thrust the scissors into Arno’s back, causing him to scream and drop the gun.

Jessie watched the gun clatter to the floor. She kicked it away and then scrambled for it. Picking it up, she pointed it at Arno.

“Don’t move!” she said.

Arno took a step towards her, growling.

“I said don’t move!”

Arno’s face was a mask of rage. He charged.

Jessie had no choice. She fired. The bullet hit Arno in the chest, stopping him in his tracks. His eyes went wide. Then he gasped and fell to the ground, moaning.

“Did you get him?” Zachary said.

Jessie ignored the question. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed movement on the floor. Bizarro was coming to. She moved towards him with the gun pointed at his face.

He looked up at her. His green hospital mask was now streaked red with blood. “I trusted you,” he said.

Get up,” Jessie told him. She went to the gurney, picked up three tie wraps and threw them on top of Zachary. “Tie yourself to the table, one arm, both legs.”

Bizarro moved slowly towards the operating table.

“Hurry up,” Jessie said. “I shot Arno, and I’ll shoot you, too. Move!”

Bizarro did as he was told. Once Jessie was convinced that he was fully secured, she checked on Arno. The bullet hole was on the right side of his chest. He was on his back, so she couldn’t see the stab wound, but she doubted it was deep enough to be life threatening. Arno was conscious, obviously in pain, his breathing shallow.

“Looks like a collapsed lung,” Jessie said. “You’re not going anywhere, but you’ll live. Maybe.”

Arno wheezed in response.

Zachary said, “Jessie, untie me, please.”

“I don’t think so.”

“I’m hurt. Please, help. My foot.”

Jessie hesitated. The last thing she wanted to do was treat the man who had abducted her, but she couldn’t leave him here like that. Cursing under her breath, she begrudgingly bandaged his foot. It wasn’t a thorough job by any means, but it was enough to last him until the authorities arrived.

She turned to Bizarro. “Where are my belongings?”

Bizarro pointed towards a cabinet on the far side of the room. Jessie began to walk to it, but then felt a sharp pain in her foot. She looked down and saw that her big toe was bent at a forty-five degree angle, clearly broken. It must have happened when she had kicked Arno. She also noticed that her hands were swollen and her knuckles bloody, and that she had ugly ligature marks on her wrists and ankles. In short, she was busted up. But that was okay. It was a small price to pay. She was alive.

She hobbled to the cabinet and put the gun on a shelf. Dressing quickly, she dropped the hospital garb on the floor and grabbed her purse and cell phone. Then she headed for the exit. It was time to go home.

As she reached the door, Jessie remembered the camera on the ceiling. She returned to the operating table and glared up at it.

“Hope you all enjoyed Bizarre Hospital’s series finale,” she said, staring up at the camera, into the eyes of the depraved souls who had paid to watch her get tortured and killed. “But don’t go away, you twisted basket cases. Because Cops is next.” She let that sink in for a moment before continuing in a singsong voice.

“Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?”

The Beach
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