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Dr. Pender’s eyes burned as he drove down the post rush hour Fifteenth Avenue. The posh and mature Encanto area of Phoenix drifted past him and his racing green Jaguar XJ-12.
Pender knew that he needed some real sleep and not the kind that lay in the pharmacy vial next to him. That sort of Dr. Fox induced deep-down sleep came hard and fast through one of Pender’s many collapsing veins. It always came with the highest price. A price he’d been more than willing to pay of late. Pender knew he couldn’t keep on like this, so he just stopped thinking about it.
The four door Jag turned easily into one of the older and more distinguished of the area neighborhoods. The subtle mix of adobe, red brick, unique shapes and designs of the various custom bungalows and ranch-style homes winked pleasantly as Pender drove by. The glass bricks, ceramic tiles, tasteful fountains and deep, sculptured lawns of dark winter grasses hinted of quiet wealth.
With a sloppy turn, Pender was in the driveway of his own little slice of heaven. He got out of the car, twisting his knee for the millionth fucking time. He cursed and grabbed his pharmaceutical that had dropped. Bending over to retrieve his salvation in a bottle elicited another jolt of fire in his knee. Pender wanted to cry from the frustration. This really blows.
He stood upright, wiped the bitch tears from his face and hobbled up the cobbled pathway to the front door of the main house. Pender’s home was every bit as stunning in it’s muted display of taste and elegance as the rest of the neighborhood, but he hardly ever noticed anymore. And when he did, the opulence just made him angry and sad.
Pender had been able to buy both the big house and the studio guest cottage from the DesMartin estate. The old folks sure liked the quiet Dr. Jon Pender. Their family gave him a very fair price, to keep the beloved place in good hands.
Pender disarmed the alarm system and turned the key in the lock. He entered the foyer. On the other side he could peer easily into the spacious and superbly decorated formal living room. It always stayed clean because of the maid service and the fact he never stepped foot in the room.
It was a lovely room though. The decorator set the mood of the room by painting it in a light cheery yellow. Pender couldn’t recall the name of the shade. It was something ridiculous like ‘Harvest Morning’, or something equally pointless. Waverly window treatments unified the inwardly opening white painted French doors. There were Armstrong moldings just below the white painted ceiling to add what the decorator called ‘presence’.
On the side wall to the right of Pender stood a baker’s rack filled with plants that were maximizing the sunny space. An off-white Berber carpet covered the original wood flooring nicely, keeping the precious wood safe for future surfacing and polishing. Pender doubted he’d ever get around to it. On top of the carpet several richly hued pieces of upholstered sitting furniture stood sentinel. A Kincaid entertainment center dominated the main wall. Inside the closed doors a large, powerful Sony sound and audio system hid.
It would have been a perfect room for Pender to entertain guests, but he would never consider such a thing. He had no friends to speak of, besides the lab animals. Interestingly Pender regarded them as colleagues too. Regardless, his home spoke too loudly of his newly found mega-wealth that Pender felt so guilty about.
Good old reliable ViraStat, he mused, the ever-producing cash cow.
Pender made his still painful way as quick as he could manage through the rest of the house and out the back door. Security lights flooded the lush garden courtyard, a pre-recorded Cujo barking to beat the band.
“Fuck,” Pender muttered, “Stop!” and the alarm ceased. “Jesus.”
Pender went to his old studio guest house. It was re-decorated as a study, but Pender was resting on his laurels. There wasn’t anything left to study. He liked the comfort of the small space. It made him feel a little nostalgic. Pender hauled the thrift store shit back in and made it mimic the old days as close as he could.
Pender opened the door and entered. All the shabby chic décor was even more frayed than before, but it was Pender’s favorite spot on Earth right now. It was his tiny little cave. He kept the shades drawn, rarely taking the time to air it out. Pender’s mind was also beginning to fray like the furniture, so he didn’t mind his funk so much.
Pender dropped himself onto the couch, a dust cloud poofing out. He placed the pharmacy bag on top of a loose pile of un-cashed ViraStat profit sharing checks from Hudson-Smythe. He brought out the mortar and pestle from beneath the table. He opened the bottle and placed two pills in the stone bowl.
Pender remembered vividly the way Hannah Bergh had looked as she spoke of the riches they would make. He crushed the pills into a finely ground soluble powder. Pender also vividly recalled the face of the baby he experimented on. He recalled how he rationalized its use.
I heard it cry, he thought. His own tears fell and mixed with the powdered pills and some saline he squirted on it. It was not supposed to be able to cry. Pender rolled up his sleeve. He stirred the mixture around until it thinned enough to draw up into his syringe.
Pender’s eyes bleared with the memory of it and the only way to silence his demons are the pills and the needle. For a time, they will get him stoned out of his mind. Then Dr. Jon Pender won’t have to remember anything at all.
At least my father is proud of me, Pender thought, because he sees nothing beneath the mask. He was gamely hunting for a usable vein, a tourniquet clamped in his teeth. Maybe, Pender realized, there is nothing under the mask. Perhaps this loaded syringe is all there is.
A bump was targeted, the needle inserted, blood drawn. Mixed with the liquid pain pills, Pender pushed the drawn blood and its new companion back into the vein from whence it came. When the meds hit, they hit hard. Pender’s eyes fluttered and his chin hit his chest. When his airway closed enough to lower his oxygen critically, his body forced him to slump over on his side. The airway reopened and Pender breathed in enough oxygen to keep him both alive and asleep.
Sweet blessed oblivion.



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“Dr. Pender?” she called out. The woman was standing beside one of the half-opened sets of bleachers. “Excuse me, are you Dr. Jon Pender?”
Pender came to a halt and turned slowly about. He saw a very attractive lady in her late thirties. He smiled at her and she began walking purposefully toward him. Her business suit left plenty to the imagination, but there was no dismissing the fire in her eyes.
Yes,” he replied. The woman stepped up to him, her hand extended. Pender shook it and accepted a business card. “So Ms. – ah – (looking down at card) – Bergh. What can I do for you?”
“Hannah, please, Dr. Pender.”
Pender released her hand and read the rest of the card. He looked up, he said: “Only if you will call me Jon, Hannah.”
“Thank you, Jon, I will. I apologize for disturbing your work-out.”
“We just finished, Hannah. Do you know anything about basketball?”
“Just enough to know your team won.”
He laughed. “Yes we did and it’s unusual.” When she didn’t add anything he did with: “I think I’ve heard of your company, headquartered out of Dallas. Weren’t you the ones who developed the latest generation of antibiotics for active drug-resistant TB?”
Hannah said naught. She let her smile stay put as she nodded. There was no missing the ice as it re-entered her eyes. Pender knew the small talk was over. Whatever point she needed to make, she was fixing to get to it. Pender asked: “So tell me why Hudson-Smythe Pharmaceuticals has got you up so early on a Saturday morning, Hannah.”
“I’m here for you, Jon.” He smiled. She smiled. “I’m flattered you’ve heard of our little company.”
“Hudson-Smythe’s doing some good work.”
“Thank you. I’d appreciate a few moments of your time, Jon. I’d like to tell you why I’m here.”
Pender sat on the hardwood and began some cool-down stretching. “You don’t mind, I hope?”
“Of course not,” Hannah replied.
“Good. Then, fire away.”
“We are in the process of putting together a research wing at St. Anthony from scratch. We need your help.”
My help?
“How so?”
“What do you know about virus causing carcinomas?”
Pender stopped his stretching. Looking at Hannah he said, “Just enough to be frightened by the implications. Fascinated enough to wish I knew much more.”
“That’s excellent to hear. How would you like to be part of our lab? We need a lead researcher, Jon, and I want that to be you.” Hannah saw the expression on Pender’s face change twice.
“Damn,” he said. “I’d love to, but I can’t.”
“May I ask why?”
“I’m obligated to complete my residency at the hospital and then I owe – “
“Four years of medical practice to the federal government of these here United States of America. Yes, we know all about that.”
“How do you know that?”
“Come on, Jon,” she replied with a barely hid smug, “the card I gave you shows me listed as the Research Coordinator, correct?”
“Well,” she replied with a growing grin, “I coordinated some research on you.”
Pender was quiet a moment. No point getting mad, what she looked up was essentially public record. Sort of. “Then you must realize that I won’t be available until I fulfill my obligations.”
“May I impose on you a suggestion, Jon?”
“Sure Hannah. What’s on your mind?”
“I want to explore you coming to work for me. I believe I can figure something out regarding your civil service contract. What I propose is this: go home, get cleaned up and meet me in the research department in, let’s say, two hours. If you have the time, we can discuss this thoroughly then. Agreed?”
Pender thought a moment. When he quickly realized he had nothing to lose, he agreed. “My shift at the hospital doesn’t begin until this evening.”
“Very well, Jon. I shall see you shortly.”
Hannah Bergh then walked away without another word. Pender watched her go. He thought she had a great ass for a suit.
Maybe, he thought while resuming his cool-down routine, but she’ll never get me out of my civil service contract. I might as well have signed that motherfucker in blood.


Pender was next in line. The Quaalude he’d taken earlier was beginning to take effect. His nerves were relaxed enough now for Pender to realize just how damn cold they kept this pharmacy.
Pender wrapped his thin arms around his middle and shifted his weight from left to right. He could feel how tiny his cold upper arms have become. They were barely more than the bones that gave his arms structure.
A strong kid could snap them in two, he thought.
Most of the veins in Pender’s left arm had already collapsed from repeated use.
The little old lady in front of him retreated with her prescription. Pender took her place at the head of the line. The pharmacy technician standing behind the counter gazed at Pender with barely disguised disgust. It was almost as if there was a big scarlet letter tattoo on Pender’s forehead that read: Hi! I’m a dirtball junkie!
Jesus, he thought. The tech moved perceptively away from him. She glanced over her shoulder at a mirror. Now doubt it is a security camera. The tech is afraid of me, Pender realized. What have I become? People are afraid of me now.
Pender moved up to the counter and told her his name. Pender handed her his driver’s license for ID and this month’s coveted prescription from Dr. Fox. He had no clue as to who Dr. Fox was, or even if there really was a genuine Dr. Fox. All Jon Pender knew was that each month Hannah Bergh gave him a prescription for synthetic heroin, written by Dr. Fox, and each month he filled it. Lately, she’d also been giving him a variety of additional pills. He took them all. They subsidized his monthly usage enough to where he always had a nice drug collection at home.
Pender found he couldn’t look at the frightened tech, or anyone else for that matter.
Damn it. I should have never gone to that interview.

—END excerpt PHARMACIDE Post #9…’NEWER POSTS’ for #10!!

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