This story is fictional, but it takes place in a world that does exist. Various locations may appear in this story without permission with the owner(s) of the buildings or businesses in question. Any property described as such is not the property of the author, but the property of its owner.

Classic R/R rules apply, I'll be happy to review any of your stories if you review mine. Although, I prefer to not hold the readers hostage and demand reviews before posting updates, so they'll come steadily.

A more detailed summary of this story and the ones I'm planning can be found on my FP profile. Click my name above to see it.

Enjoy the story.

"Thank you. That'll be all." – Larisa

Larisa felt crushing dread creeping up on her. She couldn't avoid it, no matter how hard she tried. And she definitely did try. She'd been telling herself that James, her husband of three years, was completely faithful. None of the clues were damning, they all had rational explanations, right?

Coming home late? Must just be extra work. She worked late often too.

His cell phone being off during the day? Probably did not want to be bothered. She was the same way…what kind of doctor would she be if she answered her cell while performing neurosurgery?

It was either a moment of weakness or a moment of strength that compelled her to call a private investigator. Larisa couldn't tell which, but she didn't think it mattered. It was just a precaution, right?

The investigator had called her earlier today, and said he had some news. Larisa spent the next half hour trying to talk herself into various reasons the investigator wouldn't tell her that James was clean over the phone. Maybe he wanted to show pictures of him bowling with his friends or something. She didn't know, and she was definitely giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Larisa was still at "the office", UCSD Medical's Thornton Hospital. Thornton had no shortage of patients that had various head injuries. From brain cancer patients to poorly-skilled and helmetless skateboarders, Larisa had to try to either wake them from their comas, get the tumors out, or at worst, lobotomize them.

She hated lobotomies. It was easily her least favorite procedure. Who wants a chunk of his or her brain cut out? Nobody, that's who.

Larisa's thoughts followed the tangent. She remembered an odd condition she had just read about in the medical journals she subscribed to. Called "body integrity identity disorder", or BIID, it was a ghoulish illness. It sufferers developed a need to amputate their own limbs.

The story went on about a BIID sufferer that had decided he'd be better off without his left hand. After driving around with his arm hanging out the left window at high speeds, being frighteningly careless around the heavy machinery he worked with, and other disregard for his own safety, the poor guy finally decided to take a buzzsaw to his wrist. The scary thing? He was happy about it. He felt better now that he'd shortened his left arm to a stump.

The hand was healthy, there was really nothing wrong with it. The patient simply was convinced that the hand had to go. The journal compared BIID with disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, and other "self-image" type disorders. The journal was technically for psychologists, but that wasn't far from her own discipline. She always liked to stay on top of new ideas. She never knew when one of them might save one of her patients. Like any good doctor¸ she told herself, the patients come first.

She had only one last thing to do today, and that was to go over David Williams' charts one more time for his surgery tomorrow afternoon. Poor guy. 43 years old, kids are just about to go to college. Was working twelve hours a day, six days a week to keep his family afloat, and he'd just about made it to the finish line when the guy comes down with a massive tumor in the parietal lobe. His company provided for health insurance and included regular check-ups, but he was working himself to the bone, and he couldn't come in to try and catch it early. His kids said he was having trouble writing for a while. He had started to have his kids sign the checks to pay his bills for him. When his daughter began to get annoyed with him calling her by her son's name, they thought something may be wrong. Agraphia is almost a sure sign, and visual agnosia is a dead giveaway. When his wife brought him in three days ago, Larisa was actually amazed David was still alive with a tumor that size. The MRI was scarier than any ghost story she'd ever heard.

His wife. Larisa looked down to her wedding ring.

Larisa knew she didn't deserve this. She'd dedicated her life to helping others. She wasn't selfish. She often waived her fees for lower-income patients. She didn't want their money, she just wanted them to live. She honestly didn't know what she'd do if it were true.

Stop it, Larisa scolded herself. You've got an extremely difficult tumor removal procedure tomorrow. If you mess this up, even if you don't kill him, the guy will probably be wondering who these strangers in his house are until he dies, not realizing that they're his own family. Pay attention.

Larisa gritted her teeth and got back to the scans and her notes.

The tumor was accessible, so surgery was decided upon. The craniotomy was straightforward, Larisa was a whiz with the bone saw. But once inside and after the tumor's removal, she was severely worried about the leftovers. Sure, she could cut the cancerous lump out, but there are almost always a few straggling cancer cells on the fringes, remaining in the brain. If they metastasized and spread to other areas of the brain, David would have the same problem again later, only worse. So she'd have to necrotize the surrounding areas of her primary incision, which kind of struck her as odd. It reminded her of an old med-school joke.

"What kind of brain surgeon kills brain cells for a living? A thorough one."

And the risks of intentionally killing brain cells were large enough. Larisa considered herself a paragon of professionalism, any post-procedure side effects were not acceptable.

Larisa eventually looked at her watch. Wow. She was still here forty-five minutes after she intended to leave to meet the investigator at the restaurant. Urgently, she reached for her cell phone.


"Maury, it's Larisa."

"Hello, Mrs. Hatfield. I was just about to call you."

Call me? Larisa wondered. Why?

"Mrs. Hatfield? Are you there?"

"Yes," Larisa hastily replied. "I'm just swamped with work and called to tell you that I just got out. I'll be late for our appointment tonight."

"It's okay," Maury began. "I got bogged down with another case, so I was going to call you to tell you I'm running late too. I've already called Donovan's and had them bump our reservation back an hour. Still coming?"

"Of course Maury. You said that you had news for me, didn't you?"

"I do, Mrs. Hatfield. I'll see you at the steakhouse shortly. Goodbye."

Maury clicked off before Larisa could try to convince him to share the news with her.

And there she was again, wondering why the hell Maury didn't just tell her what it was.

After she parked her car, Larisa conducted a quick inspection using her car's vanity mirror. The mascara was good. No need for lipstick. Were those crow's feet under her eyes?

Am I ugly? Is that it? Does James not find me attractive anymore?

Larisa gasped, and was taken aback. No. Settle down. Nothing is wrong, Maury just wants to keep the good news a surprise. Larisa made her way into the restaurant.

Larisa wasn't dressed to kill, but dressed well enough to get by. Her little black dress, the old standby of feminine fashion, went well with her straight, black hair. Sometimes she wore it in a bun held together by chopsticks, when she wore her glasses she really liked the look. Today, though, she was wearing it down. The glasses were thin-framed, and black, forming rectangles around her brown eyes. She didn't consider herself gorgeous, but she could have been a lot worse off in the looks department. She had her share of requested dates in high school and college.

Donovan's Steak and Chop House was an "in between" restaurant. Not too expensive and not too cheap. Not too formal, not too casual. The side effect of this was that no one really stood out, which is probably why Maury recommended that they meet there. Larisa figured that someone who spies on other people for a living probably preferred the anonymity.

The host led Larisa to the table Maury reserved. To her surprise, Maury was already there and seated. Wasn't he supposed to be later than her?

"Hello, Mrs. Hatfield, glad you can make it," Maury uttered as he began to sip at his drink.

The drink was nearly empty.

Larisa sat down. There was a menu in front of her, but seeing the glass killed her appetite.

"How long have you been here? I thought you were running late?"

"No, I've been here the whole time. When you called, I needed to make sure you'd still come."

Larisa sized Maury up. Short and thin, Maury couldn't possibly clear five-six. His age definitely showed, Larisa wouldn't be surprised that Maury was pushing fifty, or even over the hill.

"Why would you do that?" Larisa asked.

The question meant she was worried, but she didn't show it. The doctor's poker face was solid. As for Maury, he figured that the best course of action was to just get it over with sooner than later. He reached for the packet he had next to him on his seat.

"Here's what I found, Mrs. Hatfield," sliding the packet across the table.

Larisa was too seasoned to show her terror. She's had patients nearly lose all brain activity before, she'd seen all sorts of complications. But she'd always dug deep and fought her way through. She'd never lost a patient and never failed to complete her procedure's objective.

She opened the packet with a blank stare, and examined the first photo.

Maury was amazed. He'd put the picture of her husband kissing another woman on top, to convey the message so he didn't have to, but Larisa wasn't even fazed. Most people are at least slightly shocked at proof that their spouse is an adulterer. Maury figured that Larisa must've known for some time now. Maybe she just needed confirmation?

There were about fifteen pictures in the packet, Larisa only bothered to look at the first three. She pushed the photos back into the packet, and slid the envelope back across the table.

"Those are yours to keep, Mrs. Hatfield. They're evidence in any legal action you may decide to take."

Keeping her expressionless face, Larisa picked up the packet and put it under her arm as she stood up from the table. Maury wasn't surprised that she wouldn't stay for dinner. They almost never do.

"We've already settled up, Mrs. Hatfield. Is there anything else you'd like me to do for you?"

Larisa paused, and twisted her head back to Maury.

"Thank you. That'll be all."

Larisa went straight home. No radio, no stops. The only thing she did was dial her home phone to see if James was there. She got the machine.

It was a short drive to her house. Parking in the garage, she grabbed only her keys and the photo envelope. She left her briefcase containing her patient's charts behind.

Ginger was there when she opened the door, wagging her tail as always. Larisa usually stopped to pet her and play with her for a few minutes. Tonight, she walked right by. Ginger sat there for a moment, and went back to her favorite spot on the floor to finish her nap.

Larisa was asked once what she wanted her tombstone to say. It was a long time ago, when she was a lot younger. Her answer was succinct: "She sacrificed herself to help others."

Sacrificed herself.

Larisa's expression didn't change at all while she did it. She didn't see James' car in the garage or the driveway. So, she went straight to her "study", which was really a room where she kept all her books she didn't read anymore and happened to have a desk in it. Before a procedure, Larisa liked to practice her surgical skills in there. She kept a scalpel she "borrowed" from the hospital inside one of the drawers, and she usually she'd use an orange or something as the practice patient.

Still in her dress, she opened the drawer and removed the scalpel. She didn't bother to get the orange.

Larisa plunged the scalpel's edge into her wrist, tracing a line six inches up her forearm. She switched the scalpel into her other hand and repeated the procedure.

She then lied down on the desk, clutching the photo packet tightly in her gushing arms.

She could feel something pushing into her chest, near her heart, like there was a weight on it. She didn't pay it any mind, as tears welled up in her eyes.

It took about forty-five seconds for her to bleed to death.

There was a hard, hairy object pressing against Larisa's hand. Larisa's eyes opened.

Ginger had been pushing her head against Larisa's arm, which was dangling over the edge of the desk. Larisa's legs moved to the edge of the desk as her body sat up, looking down at Ginger. Larisa's face looked confused, and so did Ginger's.

A dog? She wondered.

Larisa's arms put down the packet and stood up over Ginger. Ginger was wagging her tail with her tongue hanging out until now. When Larisa's body stood up, Ginger stopped. Ginger lowered her head.

Larisa's hand reached down towards Ginger's head. Ginger cowered away, but didn't move. With nowhere to hide, Ginger squinted as the hand touched her head.

Instinctively, Larisa's hand reached behind Ginger's ear and scratched there. Ginger sat up and began wagging her tail again.

She likes being scratched behind her ear.

"You like that." Larisa's mouth uttered.

Larisa's arms were covered in blood. Her blood. They came up to be examined by her eyes. It certainly was blood, but there was no cut on either wrist.

"Did it work?" Larisa's mouth asked to no one in particular.

Larisa's body looked around. She was surrounded by books.

"My books."

Larisa's body left the room, paying no heed to the blood stains on the carpet. Ginger followed her as she walked to the bathroom. Out of habit, her left had shot to the light switch as Larisa faced the mirror.

Her mascara had run from the tears, but Larisa didn't seem interested in those. Her eyes focused on her bloody hands. Her fingers moved.

Index. Middle. Ring. Pinkie. Thumb.

"My creation. It is still here. After so long, it's still here!"

Larisa's face lit up with elation. It was true.

"I'm free…I'M FREE!" she exclaimed.

James got home late. He'd called ahead and left a message on the answering machine saying he was working late. His wife usually bought it, if she was even home yet. She worked late all the time nowadays.

He moved his hand to open the garage door, but it was already open. Larisa's car was inside. So she was home, and she must've forgot to close the door.

James parked the car in the garage's second spot. Grabbing his briefcase, he got out toward the car and made toward the door. He pressed the button to close the garage door. He then opened the hallway door and walked into it.

Larisa stabbed him in the neck with a butcher knife on the other side.

James was in shock. He dropped his briefcase and lost his balance. Larisa caught him, holding him tight in a strong embrace. Her arms were clean.

"I don't know why you did it," Larisa began, "but thank you. You destroyed your wife, and now I can exist in her body. I'm free."

James's vision was blurring, and he was too weak to move. Larisa was clutching him too tightly. He was about to black out.

"I was in Hell, James. Now Larisa is, and I am not."

James couldn't see anything anymore. As he lost consciousness, he heard the last thing he'd ever hear.

"Thank you."