A/N: Welcome to chap 65. Finally the time has come to bring Ella into the loop as a new permanent character. In the background I've long been working towards it and beginning with chap 66 she will be an integral part of the group. Her self-destructive, cynical nature is the polar opposite to Ashley, which makes writing the story even more thrilling (and hopefully reading it as well).

So have fun with today's upload.

Musical inspiration: Blue Stahli „Premeditated"


How shall I survive the hours until tonight without going crazy? Working is out of the question. Statistics are the last thing I can busy myself with now. Which other options are there to kill time? Well, I'm alone at the ward and unofficially I'm dating Kimo. Theoretically, I could get undressed and pay him a naked visit in the gym, where he's just so doggedly absolving his countless pull-ups. If my current situation would be another, maybe I really would do that. Although – no, better not. After all Pearl is also present and unfortunately the doors can't be locked. If that rascal catches us kissing every now and then, that's something I can live with, but everything else that will – hopefully – eventually happen between Kimo and me, should kindly take place undisturbed. Not to mention the fact that I wouldn't even dare to challenge him in such an offensive way. At least not yet.

I check my e-mails and find a message from Nadja. She reports about her search for the ideal diet and adds a link that could solve our weight problems in the blink of an eye, as she believes.

As unbiased as possible, I open the page.

Already after reading the first few lines I blow my top. I'm very well aware of the so called HCG diet – thanks to our patients with eating disorders. To lose weight quickly hormones are injected under the skin, sugar and fat are eliminated from the diet and the overall calory intake is restricted to a whopping 500 per day. That's less than the daily requirement of a nursing child.

It's beyond me how Nadja could be susceptible to a life-threatening nonsense like that. "Hands off!" I write back to her with three exclamation marks.

In fact, losing weight is so easy. You simply exercise on a regular basis and don't eat more than you burn up. Or you let a state of permanent stress spoil your appetite, like it's my current practice, albeit against my will. I'm almost sure that I've already got rid of four to five of the nine extra pounds.

OoO

In the afternoon I bring the silver-haired men their meds. Today the administration doesn't take place via the steel hatch like usual, but in person, as I decided. I went into the patients' area, put down the tray and threw myself into Kimo's arms. To be in his presence, to be able to feel and touch him, is balm for my nerves.

„You make a beautiful couple", Pearl notes. „The color of your hair exactly matches the one of Kimo's eyes, Miss Ashley."

„I know", I murmur against Kimo's firm chest. „I've got a soft spot for purple. It's the most beautiful color in the world."

My favorite patient touches my forehead with his lips. „I'm honored", he whispers and I embrace him even closer. I'd love to crawl under his T-Shirt, closer to his heart which is beating so calmingly.

„Miss Ashley, what exactly did Mister Bill want from Holly this morning? She hasn't told me anything and merely indicated that it's a surprise."

„Tonight she will look after you for a few hours", I tiredly answer Pearl's question. „Bill and I will be on the go together for an important appointment, that's why we asked her for help."

„HOLLY?" Kimo sounds utterly bewildered. Even his brother's jaw drops in surprise, and I nod, affirming my words.

„Tonya unfortunately still is tied up with other things", I declare, „and there's nobody else available."

„What about Sir Gunnar?"

„He, hum, also is indisposed."

Pearl frowns and darts a glance at his older brother. „How fortunate that my princess is so kind to cover the service", he casually says. „May she come and say goodnight and tuck me in, Miss Ashley?"

„No, that's prohibited. Holly won't enter your living area. If you want to communicate, the only way possible is by word of mouth."

„Cool. So then she may give me a blowjob in the contact room?"

I can feel my face changing its color.

„Pearl", the prince at my side gruntles. „Show a little decency. You wanted to be nicer with Ashley."

„But I am. After all I haven't asked her if she wants to have a little...", he pauses and grins.

Kimo gets all tensed up. „Don't dare to vocalize it."

„But I was just kidding", the boy quickly says. „Miss Ashley loves my sense of humor. Am I right, Miss Ashley?"

„Not really. Besides, I was talking about verbal communication via the mike. You can forget about Holly approaching you physically."

„And how long will you be gone?" my favorite patient wants to know.

„Not long. Our appointment won't take longer than two or three hours." I'm optimistically and haphazardly predicting things although in reality I have no clue how the woeful night will go off. „Holly will immediately call us though, in case there should be any problems over here."

Pearl tilts his head. „Why should there be any problems?" he asks like a real innocent.

„Holly is a problem", Kimo gruntles.

„Nah, we'll be able to manage her."

The brothers exchange conspiratorial glances.

I'm getting some awkward ideas. „You don't have to care about Holly. You spend the night like you always do. Watching TV, Playstation, reading."

„Of course", Pearl nods. „A night like any other. In that context of routine, Miss Ashley: Isn't there any bone marrow harvested from us anymore? Not that we would miss the poking around, but we wonder at the irregularity."

„I'm not informed about that", I punt. „There's probably a break scheduled for the time being."

„Hum, the first one in six years."

„Why six years?"

„Just six years, Miss Ashley."

I blink, irritated. „That can't be. It's only been a short time that the marrow is harvested from you."

„It's six years", the patient insists.

„Kimo", I say, shell-shocked, „is this true?"

He doesn't give me an answer, which is an answer in itself. I swallow and put one hand to my forehead. My thoughts begin chasing each other.

„What then have you been told, Miss Ashley?"

„That the surgeries are only done lately. For weeks or months. There was never a talk about years."

„Well, surprise. You have been lied to."

„Shut up", Kimo hisses. „You shouldn't even have mentioned the subject."

„Why not?" I fly into a rage. „You aren't opposed to me knowing the truth, are you?"

„Yes I am, because the truth can put you at risk."

„Me?! IF someone here is in danger, then it's you and Pearl! A pharmaceutical company wants to market your immune cells as a vaccine, they want to relocate you to Germany and harvest bone marrow from you on a daily basis!" The words bubble out of my mouth like boiling water from a geyser. „Bill and I are meeting one of these people tonight to argue them out of their plans!"

After this disclosure the patients look at each other and keep silent. Their facial expressions mirror unmoved indifference. Pearl incomprehensively even begins to chuckle.

„You see, how sought-after we are, Miss Ashley? The world scrambles to get us."

I'm shattered. „That's not funny. This company wants to make a fortune at the cost of your health!"

Kimo gives me a reassuring squeeze. „Please don't get yourself upset."

„Someone has to get upset! You seem to completely miss the gravity of the situation!"

My smartphone rings. Fuming, I rip it out. Bill, the Baron of Lies, would come in very handy. It's Linda though, and her first question is if I per chance met Ella.

„Ella?" I echo without understanding. „No, does she have a pass or so?"

She fled from the ward five minutes ago and is hunkering down somewhere within the building."

The phone almost drops from my hand. „What the heck happened?"

She has smashed a bottle on Joseph Connor's head in the visitors' room. He's received a gigantic laceration and currently is stitched."

I gasp for air. That's what I wish that fellow with all my heart, but for Ella's patient record tantrums like that are additional nails in her coffin.

Afterwards she's made use of the general commotion to disappear without attracting attention. We've informed the janitor and have the exits safeguarded. The police should be arriving at any moment."

„The police?! Why don't we handle this internally?"

Because we take care of sick people, not of criminals."

„A criminal is noone but that kiddy fiddler!" I scream into the phone. „This guy's just as much a dipstick as Ella's own father! Probably she's lost her head because he's crowding and pestering Jessi all the time!"

"Ashley", the head nurse spits, „come on. This here is not about the Connors, but about Ella. And as far as she's concerned, enough is enough."

„And now you want to have her arrested?"

She doesn't belong here anymore."

„But…"

If you're really that concerned about her, you should help us finding her before she attempts suicide. Where can I reach your brother?"

„Are you pulling my leg? You personally called him and ordered him to come up to you!"

"Me?" Linda asks in disbelief. „Not before now I've left a message on his mailbox. We've neither talked to each other nor have I set eyes on him today."

That throws me off the track for good. „You mean, Bill isn't with you?"

"No."

„Shit", I whisper and hang up.