[previous chapter] [start from the beginning] “Hello, Simon, nice to see you again,” said the nurse manning the main station on the ground floor. “What’s it going to be this time?”

I gave her my most friendly smile. “Oh, you know, the usual. A lot of paperwork, a little bit of good, and I’ll be out of your hair in no time.”

“Well, it’s too bad you can’t stay longer. We miss your smile when you’re gone.” Dear me. She’s enjoying this. Alright then, she gets another smile, and a barely-there wink for good measure.

Yes, playing the kind of guy nobody notices would have helped me a lot not get caught. But to be honest, I did like the attention. So I got cocky. It was fun while lasted, to be sure.

You know what’s really weird in all this? I became more popular with the lady nurses after I got HIV positive. Although, come to think of it, it may be that I became more attractive the minute I committed to Claire. Women are such devious creatures. They always go harder after the men who are taken. And for what?

At any rate, it would have been better for my future prospects if I’d managed to be bland and forgettable. But no. Everywhere I went nurses reacted like this.

I chose the name Simon Taillon to go with the completely made-up identity that had cost Abdul a fair chunk of change to create. Simon was 39 years old, and worked for an outfit called Nursing Data that was under (completely fake) contract with the ministry of health to help monitor residents in long-term care homes and facilities and keep track of various health indicators, especially those related to oral and dental hygiene.

It was a great cover. I’d spent a few months establishing my routine with the nursing homes and now they were all used to it. “It’s a new and innovative project,” I’d explained to an already administratively overwhelmed coordinator once, “it’s a longitudinal study done in partnership with the Université de Montréal on the effects of a diet especially formulated for an aging clientele on their teeth. The university researchers,” I nodded approvingly as I said this, “are interested in finding ways to improve dental health in older people and we are interested in finding out whether the diets we are recommending the nursing homes follow are as sound as we hope, dental-hygiene-wise.”

They bought it right away. It’s amazing how much you can get away with when you speak like a government press release. As far as the administrator was concerned, it made perfect sense to hear that somebody somewhere in the number-crunching department had noticed that nursing home residents had a lot of mouth problems, especially teeth falling out of people’s mouths for no apparent reason. She’d noticed the same thing herself. It didn’t help that many of those residents couldn’t remember losing the teeth in question, since they couldn’t remember much of anything anyway. Trying to figure out whether a better diet might save the nursing homes dental drama was a splendid idea indeed, and every administrator reacted like this one. They all gleefully opened their doors to me. I mean, to Simon.

Abdul had even created a fictitious company and given it a fictitious government contract to collect random samples from nursing homes, in the form of used toothbrushes. My routine consisted of coming around, taking a few toothbrushes from selected residents, wrapping them in ziplocs, sticking labels onto same. Oh! I was almost about to forget the most important part. I would leave behind brand-new toothbrushes.

Win-win, right?

Ah, yeah. I guess. Except for that one toothbrush in the lot that was coated with a water soluble film containing a double dose of Ondansetron. That’s an anti-emetic drug. What it does is prevent barfing for up to four hours. It’s a mighty useful drug when you’re trying to kill people by poisoning.

****

Today, as was my custom, I made my rounds late in the afternoon, just before dinner. I had noticed that one of my “nurses”, a plump middle-aged single mom to a teenager who rather needed more money than regular nursing could ever give her, had indeed started her evening shift that would last until 11 that night. She would supervise my target as he brushed his teeth and, a little while later, she would help him take his evening pills with a glass of water containing a high dose of pentobarbital, which would cause death by respiratory arrest.

It was the method of choice for assisted suicide, as everyone who’d ever googled it knew, and it worked quite well, especially with old, frail individuals. Most of the residents we’d taken out like this had wanted very much to die. A few were suspected of being ushered into a more or less involuntary suicide by their families, but who were we to question them? Of all the suicides I’d personally arranged over the last few years, I could not think of any who weren’t better off dead. Life in a nursing home, no matter what grand names administrators gave them, was dreadful and it was cruel in plenty of those cases to wait for Mother Nature to do its thing.

No, like I told you before, I have no moral problems doing the job I do. And neither did my nurses. I mean, my “nurses”. We all made good money providing a service that, while technically illegal, was not in this case immoral. I wondered sometimes about the risk of getting caught, of course. Although the issue has been debated for some time and there are lots of progress being made, especially in Quebec, it was still a federal crime to provide someone with the means of killing themselves. Which forced people seeking an end to their pain and suffering to go through indirect channels to get what they wanted, a quick and painless death.

When Abdul first suggested launching our suicide service, I was skeptical. I didn’t think there’d be enough demand to sustain a business.

Boy, was I wrong. We’ve been in operation for four years now and have not come close to being suspected of anything. This was a tribute to our discretion and our choice of nurses who were picked for their ideological support of assisted suicide, their stable lives and of course their ability to remain quiet about what they were doing.

And as for demand, pfft. We got at least one client a week just in Chomedey, and at $9,995 a pop, you could say death provided a fine cushy living indeed.

[next chapter]