Contributor: Stephen Hernandez

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I was diagnosed with liver cancer on Monday 7th July 2002 at 4.45 in the afternoon. I looked out the surgery window as the Doctor gave me the news. It was cloudless and sunny outside. People were walking past the hospital in shorts and Hawaiian shirts, happy to feel the sun on their backs, whilst this man in a tailored suit was quietly telling me the reasons for my death sentence – hepatocellular carcinoma, HCC or liver cancer to you and me – the Big C. I had three months.
Afterwards, a male nurse escorted me to a ward where I was to spend four days undergoing fitness tests to see if I would survive a liver transplant. A long shot I was told, but my only chance of survival if there was one. After four days they decided I was. I wasn’t particularly surprised at that, after all, keeping in shape was necessary in my line of work. I was put on the liver transplant waiting list and I went home.
My job was of course severely compromised. Not that I really do what would be termed a normal job with normal hours. You see I’m a collector of sorts, I collect money. More specifically I collect money from people who owe money to the wrong people.
Unfortunately for me given my present situation the working hours are extremely irregular and I’m expected to collect said owed dosh in a very short space of time, usually in fact, straight away. The people I work for are not in the habit of sending polite reminders. I am given a name and an address and off I am expected to bloody well trot and bring back the necessary. Being on a twenty-four hour transplant waiting list for a new liver with fifteen minutes notice to prepare yourself to be picked up by an ambulance and rushed to hospital severely compromised my ability to carry out said task to the satisfaction of my employers. They were not known for being sympathetic to organ failure of any kind unless the organ failure had happened after and not before they had been successfully reimbursed by the owner. And you see I also unfortunately owed them money myself. Luckily in my case a compromise had been reached some time ago in which I agreed to collect what was owed to them by other unfortunate mugs and they in turn agreed to knock five per cent of the money I collared off of my debt.
I asked as humbly and politely as I knew how for a year’s leave of absence so that I could remain at home as much as possible in the hope that I would receive the call from the hospital which would mean my salvation. I didn’t tell them about the cancer and that I had been given just three months to live. In their eyes this would have made me a financial liability and they would have dealt with me accordingly; Instead I told them I needed a bit of a rest to sort my head out as the job was getting to me. So they gave me a compromise. If I didn’t choose to collect the money from the person who owed it there and then when I was told to I could instead provide the money they owed myself. I suppose it was fair enough. After all, it did give me more of an incentive to collect the money.
I still had some years left to pay off my own debt and I was lucky because they had left me with all my limbs intact and my organs in the places they were meant to be, that is - still inside my body. What it meant though was that just a few unrecovered debts added to my own and I would be working for them for the rest of my life or what little was left of it. My own debt was the last thing I had on my mind though. It was time that was paramount to me. When you have been told you have X amount of time to live time itself takes on a solemn weight and the ticking clock and the second hand on your watch become your enemies, remorselessly counting down the minutes and seconds you have remaining on the planet.
The waiting list for livers worked in a strange kind of way based around blood types and body weights and naturally subject to availability. So, you would think that having a common blood group like mine (O positive), would be an advantage as there would be more livers available, but no, it worked the other way around; because it was a common blood type it meant there were more people on that particular list. In fact the list I was on meant that at the current rate of transplants for O positive patients I would be looking at a wait of one and a half years. And I only had months not years. The cancer was spreading at an alarming rate. Evidently cancer tumours need a rich blood supply and having made their bed in my liver the tumours were reproducing so fast they could roll over, re-arrange the pillows and smoke a cigarette.
It felt like I was in a no win scenario playing out my own personal end game – all very depressing. But I have never been a quitter and as the saying goes: ‘when the going gets tough the tough get going’ or in my case they get a liver. So I looked for a solution. There had to be an answer, there always is. If I couldn’t get a transplant straight away then the obvious thing to do was to improve my chances as much as possible. As I may have mentioned previously my employers were not particularly concerned about the physical condition of the payee once they had paid back their dept. And in some cases they positively welcomed mortality as this usually acted as a form of encouragement to others to settle their debts promptly. It occurred to me that I could kill two birds with one stone – quite literally in fact. Get the money for my employers and improve my chances of getting a transplant by supplying fresh organs.
I would have to make sure the subject was not too damaged in the abdominal region. The liver had to remain intact. Hopefully this would greatly improve my chances on the waiting list. The debtor would have to meet certain criteria of course. About the same weight as me, obviously the same blood type and not have subjected their liver to substance abuse which was quite common in some of the wasters I collected from. The main thing of course was that the person would have to be dead but that, as they say, could be arranged. I drew up a list of qualities that in my opinion would constitute a good donor and meet my own particular requirements.
It was a while before a suitable candidate showed up. Most of the others were addicts of some sort or another and I didn’t like to think what state their livers might be in. But my fourth client looked good. He was young and buff and I was pleased to note a non-smoker. I roughed him up a bit first of course, just to let him know I meant business and then waited patiently whist he rang his friends desperately pleading for funds. He managed to get it all together in the end, they usually do; after all, the alternative is not pleasant and in between my persuasive fists and boot I was giving him plenty to ponder about what the future might hold if he didn’t come up with the goods.
We finally ended up back in his flat after collecting all the dosh. A well-furnished bachelor pad in Chepstow, which coincidentally was also quite near the hospital in charge of my transplant. It wasn’t going to get better than this. After I had put all the cash safely in my briefcase I got out my donor questionnaire. Understandably the guy was a bit taken aback by this. I suppose he thought our business completed I should be on my way and not asking punters to fill in questionnaires. But I made him complete it despite his protests and enquiries into my mental condition; people as a rule don’t argue with me. There was one point he was not clear on and that was his blood type. Considering the amount of it he had lost over the past hours you would have thought this was something he really ought to have known. I just gambled that he was O positive the same as me. It was the most popular blood type and it’s usually only people with rare blood types that know them anyway.
It didn’t take much to finish him off. I had made sure during the whole softening up process to avoid any direct blows to the liver area. Now it was a question of getting the cadaver to the hospital as quick as possible. Time was of the essence. I put him near his front door so it would be easier for the ambulance crew and with the organ donation form I had made him sign clearly visible in his top pocket.
I phoned the ambulance service and waited nearby to watch the results. It was some time before the corpse was carted off because the police arrived soon after and promptly cordoned the area off. I went back home and waited patiently by the phone. But there was no call. It could of course have been down to several factors but the one poignant factor I realised is that the police would consider the death suspicious and probably wanted an autopsy.
I decided that the best way forward to speed up the whole thing was just leaving the torso next time. Then the police wouldn’t have to worry themselves about identifying the corpse. On the next job I decided I would take a freezer box, an apron and a good collection of butchers’ knives. Over the next few weeks I was lucky enough to get quite a few decent subjects one after another. It was much messier work than I thought it would be. Who would have thought the human body held so much blood and also the amount of flesh increased exponentially when it was chopped up.
Unfortunately the torsos were ignored just as much as my first job was and I only succeeded in terrifying half of London into believing that a mad serial killer was on the loose inevitably nicknamed by the tabloids as, ‘The Torso Terror’.
I had disposed of the limbs in one of the Firm’s furnaces designed for just such purposes. But the tabloids seized on the fact that none of the limbs or the head of the victims had been found and got the idea that the ‘Torso Terror’ was in fact a cannibal and painted vivid pictures of how he might be preparing and eating his victims. One paper had even gone so far as to ask readers to send in their cooking ideas.
The fuzz were getting pretty hot though so I eased up for a while. In the end they arrested some poor loony who confessed to all of the crimes and a few others that the Old Bill hadn’t solved.
A month and a half had gone past and I still hadn’t got the call from the hospital. I did however get a call from my employers. They were pleased with the results I was getting but were concerned that I might be becoming a bit over zealous in my work. The debt money was being repaid faster than ever so they didn’t complain too much. Word had got around that the killings were connected and the Firm were cracking down in a not uncertain manner so people were paying up double quick.
What I needed was a good old-fashioned disaster. A train accident or a motorway pile-up would be just the job. I stopped short of wholesale mass murder though. It didn’t seem right a load of innocent people dying like that. But I knew time was running out and if the worst came to the worst…
I racked my brains for days. And then I struck gold. I’d been watching an old re-run of West Side Story and it came to me - I’d start a turf war. It just shows how stressed I’d become that it hadn’t occurred to me earlier. It was bound to supply plenty of corpses and moreover corpses of people who probably deserved to be dead. I felt practically philanthropical. There was even a bonus supplied by modern technology which directly benefitted me. Lately the gangs had been opting for headshots due to the unsporting behaviour of some criminals who insisted on wearing bulletproof vests. This of course nicely protected most of their valuable organs, at least the ones that were valuable to me. I made a point of telling all my associates what a good thing they were and that wearing one on the street should be a matter of course, a bit like putting your safety belt on when driving a car.
It wasn’t difficult to get the gangs at each other’s throats. Most of them hated each never mind the other gangs. I waited in a dark alley and beat John ‘the Baptist’ Jacob’s (so called because of his habit of torturing people in a bucket full of water) brains out with a baseball bat. It was well known that this was ‘Mad’ Mick McCarthy’s weapon of choice and that he had a grudge against John. It wasn’t long before a full scale war had broken out and London’s streets were awash with the injured and dying bodies of villains and of course lots of fresh livers. By carefully and surreptitiously bumping off the odd popular villain I managed to escalate the turf war into a full scale Armageddon between those South and North of the river. It was like the Krays and Richardson’s feud all over again.
Inevitably it dragged in my own employers. They met their deaths by being force fed their ledger books. A brilliant innovation of sublime poetic justice. By a happy coincidence it also meant that with the demise of my employers and their books (which no one cared to retrieve,) I was no longer in debt when I did finally get my liver.
I was of course doubly pleased because it was obvious to me by then that my body was predisposed to only receive a villain’s liver.

I am well.

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