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The Makeover

By: Dale Uhlman

Miriam's bony legs, protruding from beneath the folds of her soiled, blood-stained white smock, buckled from shock and horror. Dropping to her knees, she frantically searched for the shards of jagged, stiletto-sharp glass from the recovery room's wall mirror that her petite fists had just shattered. With her emaciated, lacerated right hand, she grabbed an especially large shard and furiously tore her left wrist, opening deep gashes in the soft, sensitive flesh. Bitter tears of humiliation and self-loathing filled her swollen eyes and her wailing shook the walls of the small, tacky, cosmetic surgery clinic run by a man whose latest alias was "Antoine Cartier."

Dr. "Cartier," still in his aqua green cotton cap and scrubs, sprang into the room, his patient's back toward him.

"No, no, cherie!" he shouted, in his Creole accent. "Don't! Don't!"

With cat-like quickness, he pounced on Miriam from behind and grabbed her by her waist, atrophied from months of starvation dieting. The stout "Cartier" subdued her in a grizzly bear-like hug, dislodging the make-shift glass weapon from her hand. Still, the frenzied patient managed to tear herself from his grasp and face her butcher.

His assistant and nurse, the tall Cajun woman whom he called "Brigitte," came running from the operating room, where she had been cleaning up, and tried to reason with the distraught girl. "Miriam! What do you think you're doing? You must return to your bed immediately!"

"You devils!" the thing that, just a few hours before, had been a perfectly normal teenage girl, answered. Her raspberry-red hair hung in straggly, ragged strands around her seared, grossly exposed scalp. Her cute freckled complexion had been so ravaged by the doctor's acid peels-a "preventive measure" against aging of the epidermis, he had explained-that she now resembled a cross between an over-ripe banana and a grizzled walnut. She buried what was left of her face in her hands and ran screaming from the clinic, out into the drizzly March Chicago night.

Mouth agape, "Cartier" stroked the gray strands of his otherwise thick black beard, which matched his dark complexion, with the short, stubby fingers of his right hand. He closed his eyes, and his face fell to his chest. "Brigitte" snapped him out of his self-pity and reminded him of the present danger. "She'll go to the police," she warned him. "We've got to get out of here. We've got to go to a place where nobody knows you-where you can start over, where you can continue your work."

"Cartier" was silent for a moment, but, as always, realized she was right. "Yes," he answered, opening his eyes and raising his head. "Nothing is more important than that." Holding her two hands tightly in his, he reflected on this "setback." "We came so close this time, so very close. She was PERFECT--until the acid peel enzymes took effect. They must be diluted-reduced by at least twenty percent intensity. The next time, there will be no mistakes. I will learn from my failures, and I WILL succeed. And YOU, 'Brigitte,' YOU, who have been so loyal, YOU, who have been so patient, will be the beneficiary!" His hard, pebble gray eyes softened, and he tenderly caressed her right cheek with his left hand, enraptured again with a beauty that he was obsessed with preserving forever. "I would put my scalpels through the faces of a hundred women-destroy each and every one of them if I had to-to find for YOU, and you ALONE, the secret of eternal beauty. The great Baron Samedi, the vodou spirit of the dead, will settle for nothing less for you, the incarnation of his own Maman Brigitte!" He embraced her passionately and kissed his goddess.

"Of course, you'll succeed, my darling," she smiled. "Of course, you will. But we've got to hurry."

As the two prepared to leave, they were unaware that a new test subject awaited their services nearly three hundred miles away. Missy Hawkins, a freshman student at the University of Miami, Ohio, had the requisite low self-esteem that would appeal to Cartier. Naturally curvy, but fat, in her own estimation, she had long let her bathroom scale become the sole arbiter of her happiness. Whenever she lost a pound a day, per the 3,700 calories she had decided to limit herself per week, she was ecstatic-but then would spend the rest of the day and night wondering why she hadn't been able to lose more. What if she had eaten only one piece of buttered, whole wheat toast that morning with her coffee instead of two? Better yet, what if she had skipped breakfast altogether? For yesterday's lunch, couldn't she have left the other half of her gyro, and gotten by with only a cup, instead of a whole bowl, of chili instead? By simply chewing on some more of the ice cubes in her diet Pepsi to suppress her hunger, she could have, she estimated, cut out an additional 12000 calories. And if the scale showed that she had gained any weight from last week, even a mere pound or two, she felt worse yet. She would now be what her Weight Watchers group leader called the lowest form of life on earth-a "backslider." She would have to confess her sins before next week's group, wear the emotional equivalent of sackcloth and ashes, and do dietary penance in order to cleanse herself of her body's original sin, its inability to lose weight.

Never mind the fact that Missy's167 pounds was perfectly normal for her 5'9 1/2" frame, or that the size 14 she wore was the average size of most college-age American women. Missy felt fat, and that is what she saw in her bathroom mirror every morning. She desperately wanted to be a size six, and would do anything-including starving herself-in order to reach that goal. And if she died of an anorexia-induced heart attack, she reasoned, so what? She was certainly not happy now. Only one thing, she was convinced, would cure her unhappiness: thinness. She wanted to eliminate her naturally womanly curves, and have a waist and shape as thin and as straight as a boy's.

In addition to her size, Missy loathed the rest of her body, too. In fact, she had once written a reflective essay in her freshman College English class entitled, "My Body Is My Enemy," in which she had painstakingly catalogued the features that had always disappointed her. Her 32 C breasts, she had written, were neither big nor "perky" enough, her lips were too thin, and her nose was too pointed. These "deficiencies," as she had called them, were responsible, she argued, for her comparative lack of popularity with the boys during high school. Formerly a short-cropped brunette, she had recently let her hair grow out more, to the length of a medium permanent, and had died it blonde, in order to look more "glamorous," but these changes, she felt, were not enough. She still felt she still looked like the same "nice," but "plain Jane" girl who had stayed home during most evenings instead of being asked out on dates, or for prom night. This lack of popularity, which she attributed to what she was convinced were her own physical imperfections, had seemed to follow her during her first two years of college. She was certain that her own body, which she regarded as substandard, would continue to plague her for the rest of her life-unless she did something about this "problem."

She had since convinced herself that breast implants would inflate her bra size to a more voluptuous 40D, cosmetic surgery would make her lips Angelina Jolie-fuller, and an extensive nose job would make her profile seem, from her viewpoint, less hawkish. In addition, why not pay a little extra for the latest in what Rachel derided as "vanity surgery," chemical peels to address a problem she would just have to deal with further down the road anyway-aging. No one, Missy would tell anyone who would listen, would love either a fat or an old woman, and certainly NOT a woman who is both fat AND old. As a result, she had worked two retail jobs during the past three years to supplement her income as a student Writing Center tutor and Student Center cashier, to raise the estimated $2,500.00 down payment for liposuction, breast augmentation, skin peels, and nose and lip reconstruction. To raise the rest, she had applied for, in her mother's name, a Discover credit card. She had substituted, on her application form, her own college dorm address for her mother's, so that the bills would always be mailed to her. Missy regretted deceiving her, but she would pay the minimum each month, so her mother would never know about the subterfuge. The fact that she was technically committing both identity theft and credit card fraud did not matter to her; she was so utterly desperate for this makeover that even prison time seemed an acceptable risk. She was determined, at all costs, to shed herself, like a snake of its skin, of a body that she blamed for all her frustrations and unhappiness.

The cosmetic surgeon she had decided upon?-a newly arrived doctor named Francois Cimetiere ("Cartier," who had shaved off his beard, had selected his alias cleverly-"Cimetiere" was one of Baron Samedi's numerous incarnations). He and his nurse, Marie LaCroix (a name "Brigitte" had chosen in homage to another of the Baron's voudo pseudonyms) had just set up an office in an old building in the downtown east side of nearby Athens, a small town of about 22,0000 University of Miami, Ohio students and 17,0000 townspeople. They had advertised in the local newspapers an affordable five-for-one $5,000 special that included the very treatments Missy had set for herself. Her friends tried to talk her out of the upcoming consultation she had scheduled, trying to convince her of the risks involved. Most outspoken was her friend and Sociology classmate, Tschara Dubois.

Tschara had decided to meet Missy for lunch, and try to talk her out of her consultation. The two sat at the small but crowded Student Center, following Missy's shift.

"Why do you want to do this to yourself, Missy?" Missy asked.

"Do what?" asked Missy.

"You know what I mean-risk your health by changing yourself into some Pamela Sue Anderson clone."

"I just want to be happy," she explained, staring and picking at her hot roast beef sandwich and mashed potatoes and gravy with her fork. In her mind, her entire plate was one disgusting mass of fat.

"Are you gonna eat that?" Tschara asked, noticing her half-hearted interest in her lunch, while she was heartily enjoying her dish of stuffed peppers.

"Who are you, my mother?" the girl asked, finally looking up from her plate.

"No, girl," Tschara calmly answered, "just a friend-a very concerned friend"

"Look, I'm a big girl now, and I know what I'm doing."

"A 'big girl,' yes, but you're just fooling yourself if you think a smaller dress size and bigger boobs are all there are to life."

"That's easy for you to say," Missy answered. "Look at you. You've always had a beautiful body." It was true. Tschara, a young black girl from Wisconsin, had a naturally trim figure, voluptuous figure and beautiful, high-cheek-boned face, but put no special pride in such traits, which she gratefully chalked up to favorable genes. The fact that men had always found her attractive had, unlike Missy, never been the driving force in her life, and not the sum and total of her self-image. She had both brains and ambition, and she knew it; she had set her goals to becoming a successful accountant.

"Missy," she began, "Good looks aren't that important. Besides, the Lord made us each of us is unique and beautiful in our own way. You are, too. You just don't seem to realize it."

"I realize one thing," Missy insisted. "This way-my way-isn't good enough, and never has been. That's why I've decided to do something about it."

"What do you mean? By starving yourself? You know, I don't think you've taken one bite of your lunch, and I've practically finished mine. If you call what you're doing 'dieting,' I've got news for you; it won't be long before you're anorexic."

"Well, if you're gonna keep nagging me about my eating, I might as well go to back to work," Missy complained, rising from her plastic folding chair.

"No, please," said Tschara. Missy complied and sat back down again.

"If you have your heart set on changing yourself into a living, walking Barbie doll, that's one thing, but have they told you about the risks you're facing?-of liposuction alone? You know, it isn't a manicure."

"I know!" Missy protested.

"Well, what did they say?"

"Dr. Cimetiere's nurse said there was only a slight chance of minor complications."

"Missy, I wouldn't consider death a 'minor complication'-and people have died from lipos!"

"Oh, come on!" Missy retorted.

"Look, if you don't believe me, maybe you'll believe Naomi Wolf. She wrote The Beauty Myth. She talks all about the dangers of this 'miracle' surgery you think will change your life so much!" Tschara pulled a reprinted paperback copy from the suede purse that hung over her left shoulder, and placed the book in front of Missy. "She explains how chemical peels can damage the skin, how breast implants can cause massive scarring, how . . ."

"Stop lecturing me, okay?" Missy interrupted, shouting so loudly that she startled the other patrons, who now looked up from their own meals and stared in their direction. "I'm sick of your preaching! You're just trying to scare me. Well, it won't work. I have the right to do what I want with my own body!"

"Of course, you do," Missy agreed. "Any woman does, but you're not doing this for yourself-you're doing this for other people-for their approval. And you don't need that to be happy. The only ones who're happy are the cosmetic and beauty industries who're thriving off of your insecurities over your weight, face, and tits, and the surgeons like this doctor, who have a job only because of women like you. Don't give in, Missy!"

But Missy was deaf to Tschara's advice. "I've had enough," she stubbornly announced. With an abrupt "I'm outta here," she left Tschara, still seated at the table, and contemplating the terrible mistake she was certain Missy was making. She was yet determined to find some way of dissuading her.

But it was too late. Missy's mind was made up. During the consultation, she had been totally won over by Dr. "Cimetiere's" confidence, warmth, and charm. For her, there was no turning back now, and she scheduled her surgery for the first of the month, about three weeks away. In the meantime, Tschara tried one last ditch attempt to change her friend's mind.

"Is he board certified in cosmetic surgery?" Tschara asked Missy one evening from her dorm, over her cell phone.

"Well, he's licensed by the State Medical Board," answered Missy. "Isn't that good enough?"

"That doesn't mean anything," Tschara answered, her voice rising impatiently. "ALL practicing physicians are licensed. What you need to know is, is he board certified in his specialty, in cosmetic surgery? How many times have I told you?"

Suddenly, Tschara heard a loud click over the other end. "Hello? Hello? . . . That little shit!" Tschara exclaimed, rising from the sofa. She pressed the "end call" button and softly but firmly tossed it onto the nearby Lazy Boy.

Tschara, for the time being, gave up, and Missy was counting down the days to her radical cosmetic surgery. It was now two days before the scheduled surgery, and she had scheduled a final consultation with Dr. "Cimetiere" and his nurse and administrative assistant "Marie." They would meet at 5:15PM that day. Before Noon, however, "Marie"called, informing Missy that the doctor had decided to hold the consultation at a private cigar club, so as to make this final consultation more informal, and qualm any last-minute fears she might have about the upcoming surgery. Although she found the change of location a bit unconventional, Missy agreed to meet them at the Paradise Tobacco Shop, about five minutes from the clinic, that afternoon.

When she arrived at the shop, she approached the front counter, behind which sat, on a wooden bar stool, the proprietor. He was a burly-looking young man with a shaved head, two matching sterling earrings, and a light brown goatee. His jet-black tank top generously showcased his biceps, which were braced on opposite ends of the table; he was reading the Classifieds section of the local newspaper, which was stretched out before him like a gigantic treasure map. She couldn't help notice his matching dragon tattoos, one blood red and the other deep blue.

Nervously, she asked if Dr. "Cimetiere" and his assistant were there. The young man looked up from his newspaper, raised his right forearm, and jerked his thumb in back of his head, in the direction of the rear door. "They're in there. Just knock," he said, in a surprisingly soft voice.

"Thank you," Missy responded. Her knock was immediately answered by "Marie's" distinctive voice. "Come in," she answered, "and please close the door behind you." Missy did as she was instructed.

The room was softly lighted, with several plush, apple red chairs in the center, and a matching colored sofa to the left. A large, plasma screen television on the west wall blared stock market reports from MSNBC.

"Good evening, mon cherie," uttered a familiar voice from behind her.

Missy turned, and emerging from behind a sable curtain was Dr. "Cimetiere," as she had never seen him before. He was wearing a white top hat and black tuxedo, a pair of dark sunglasses, and, inexplicably, white cotton nose plugs, making his face look like a skull. His white gloves completed the bizarre attire. Clenched tightly between his teeth was a pungent Cuban cigar; in his right hand was a bottle of rum. He grinned broadly.

Then, immediately following him from behind the curtain was "Marie," garbed in a flowered sarong and a chartreuse head scarf that hid her recently red-dyed hair, and sporting a gaudy silver necklace and medallion. The two looked as if they had just stepped out of a Mardi Gras parade.

"Why are you dressed like that?" Missy asked in disbelief.

"Why, how should we be dressed?" laughed "Cimetiere," chuckling. It was obvious he had helped himself earlier to the rum.

"I don't understand," replied Missy.

"It's just an artifice, Missy," answered "Marie." "You see, my dear, the doctor and I are from New Orleans-Cajun country-and we're merely honoring our heritage-in our own way."

"It's just a little thing we do before every surgery-to ensure good fortune from the voudo loa, or spirits of the earth," explained "Cimetiere." "We just thought you might find it interesting. Rum?" he smiled, lifting the bottle jauntily.

"No, thank you," nervously answered Missy.

"Well, sit down, my dear, sit down," he beamed. Missy sat on one of the chairs, while the doctor and his nurse sat together side by side on the sofa, "Cimetiere's" right arm affectionately draped over "Marie's" shoulder. She helped herself to and lighted a cigar from a silver case on the table in front of the sofa.

"You mean to say you believe in voodoo?" asked Missy incredulously. She was now seriously reconsidering her decision.

"I can see you're passing judgment on us, mon cherie," observed "Cimetiere." "I assure you, we are not mad. Have you not heard of "nontraditional" medicine, such as herbal and holistic approaches?-acupuncture?"

"Did you not know that even chiropractics are considered 'nontraditional' by the medical community?" asked "Marie.

"Why, yes," answered Missy.

"Well, then," chuckled "Cimetiere," puffing on his cigar, "Our spiritual beliefs enhance or complement the highly 'traditional' medicine we do in our clinic-not take its place. "But it provides, for us, a spiritual underpinning that strengthens our faith and commitment, and enables us to better help our patients."

"Vodou is not about dolls, pins, and curses, my dear," assured "Marie."

"Oh, no, that's Houdo!" sneered "Cimetiere." Ours is a belief in the elemental spirits of the earth and universe, and in a Supreme Being-Jews once called Him 'Jehovah.' You call him 'God.' "Muslims call Him 'Allah.' We call Him Damballah-Wedo, or Father. He has a feminine side, too: Aida-Wedo-Mother. Not unlike your multi-sided Trinity. In fact, we're not really that much different from your Christianity. Look at the wall," he instructed, pointing with his left forefinger.

On the west wall was a bizarre amalgam of New and Old World iconography. In the middle of the faded eggshell white plaster was a large green serpent, a mamba flanked by crude drawings of the Madonna and Child, and various Catholic saints.

"As you can see," remarked "Cimetiere" proudly, "we are very eclectic."

"Why the snake?" inquired Missy. "Wouldn't that be a symbol of evil?"

"Not at all, cherie," he answered, obviously amused by her remark. "You're thinking of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. But for us, the snake is a symbol of renewal-of rebirth. Think about it: Does not a snake shed its skin regularly? And does it not, each time, enjoy a new life? Is that not why you have come to us?"

"Renewal . . . rebirth . . . a new life"the possibility of being born again, but in a way her Methodist church had never preached. She saw herself again as fat, and unloved, but this man, she was convinced, could change all that-work the miracle in her life that God had refused to do for her at conception, when He could have given her the genes capable of making her envied and loved, but had for some reason, bestowed those gifts on others. But a new god, named "Cimetiere," could, she felt, do the impossible: change that plan, through Divine Medical Intervention. "But those get-ups?" she still wondered.

"These 'get-ups,' replied "Cimetiere," "allow us to honor the great vodou loa of the dead, Baron Samedi."

"And I," explained "Marie," "am honoring his wife,Maman Brigitte. We naturally do not want death as our guests at the surgical table tomorrow, and so we honor them tonight instead."

"I see," answered Missy, convinced that that maybe this was really not much different from Catholics, like her childhood neighborhood friend, Sally, saying novenas, and, if anything, showed their sincerity and commitment. So what if they were a little eccentric? What she had seen and heard had not caused her to doubt their expertise, and she knew she couldn't get a better deal anywhere else. The alternative, to live the rest of her in a body that she had convinced herself was the cause of her unhappiness, was unthinkable. She wanted to be like that snake-she wanted to shed her skin-to enjoy a new life, to be reborn.

So it was that she embarked on this new existence. Following Dr. "Cimetiere's" treatments, the mirror was no longer her enemy, but her friend. The person in that reflection seemed at first a stranger, but awelcome one. She recognized the old Missy in the eyes, but half of her nose cartilage had been removed, and her profile was flatter and shorter-like those of many of her friends. Her lips were now rounder and fuller (although Tschara felt these new lips made Missy resemble less Angelina Jolie, and more Daisy Duck). The liposuction had succeeded in eliminating her curviness, but her new, stick-thin waist seemed grotesquely out-of-proportion (to anybody else but her) to the 40D breasts that extended from her chest like mortars; so big and pointy were they that they could, like the cute little kid's Red Ryder BB gun in A Christmas Story, to put somebody's eye out! Worse yet, they were so stiff and immobile that a college boyfriend who was allowed to fondle them complained to his friends that they felt like cement. Her complexion was smooth, but pale, like a ceramic mask; the chemical peels had indeed done their work, but she looked, to many, like a mannequin, a fact lost on Missy. This was her "new skin," and she now felt fulfilled and contented. She was no longer unique-an individual-but an artificial New Age Missy Doll, but this was not important to her. She had succeeded in shedding her "old skin," and, like the mamba, had been reborn. She was, for the first time in her life, confident and happy, deaf to the jeers and snickers behind her back.

Just as jubilant was Dr. "Cimetiere," convinced he had now found the right combination of techniques to preserve his beloved Brigitte's youth forever, and remake her in the perfect image of Maman Brigitte. In his quest, he had left a trail of broken faces and bodies all over the country, as well as ruined lives, but what had either he or "Marie" cared? He had finally succeeded; they would take their latest guinea pig's money and return to New Orleans, with yet another new identity, and live the rest of their lives there.

But then, one morning, Missy began experiencing sharp pains to her pelvis. As she climbed out of bed that day, she noticed a trail of blood on the mattress. Each morning, for the next three days in a row, she would discover fresh seepage. Then, on the third day, her face suddenly felt burning hot, as if she had spent three months straight in a tanning bed. She dreaded to look in the bathroom mirror, but what she saw disturbed her. Her skin was definitely peeling, leaving ugly, pox-like scars on her face. Hurriedly, she called Dr. "Cimetiere's" office on the phone, but there was no answer-not even "Marie's" voice mail message. She called Tschara, who instantly rushed over to take her to the emergency room. There, the two received frightening news: the liposuction had caused a severe infection that had to be immediately treated with antibiotics. Even worse, the treatment had damaged Missy's ovaries-she was sterile. Meanwhile, the after-effects of the chemical peels were rapidly eating through her face like a worm; antibiotics would stop the process, but only extensive plastic surgery, further down the road, could remedy the present disfigurement, but even then it would resemble patch-work, and expose her to the risks of further infection.

Missy was devastated. She had bankrupted her finances, committed identity theft and credit card fraud, and had done irreparable damage to her body. She now knew she should have trusted her first instincts: that mamba on the wall had indeed been the Serpent in the Garden. She wanted to die.

Tschara, however, would not let her friend wallow in self-pity. "Look," she urged Missy. "We've got to get this guy before he and his squeeze leave town. File a police report, haul their asses into court, and make them pay for what they've done to you!"

"I don't know," protested a sobbing Missy. "My family will find out what I've done. I'll go to jail for forging my mom's signature and ripping off the credit card company!"

"Now, you listen to me, girl!" said Tschara, shaking her distraught friend by the shoulders. "You can't worry about that right now. You've got to think of other things besides yourself. What makes you think they haven't done this to other women, or that they'll stop with you? We can halt these butchers in their tracks! They may have used illegal drugs on your skin. That's a criminal charge. We'll go to the Prosecutor. We can do this!"

Missy realized her friend was right, and agreed. They filed the police report at the Athens Police Station, and convinced the Prosecutor to file arrest warrants. Dr. "Cimetiere" and "Marie" were about to board a plane for New Orleans, and were apprehended at the municipal airport. Naturally, they pleaded not guilty at the arraignment to charges of illegal drug trafficking and inflecting permanent damage on their patient, and were held for bail at separate facilities, $1,000.00 for him and $500,000.00 for his accomplice. In the meantime, the County Prosecutor, had, along with the Athens police and FBI, discovered strong photo and documentary evidence to pierce Dr. "Cimetiere's" and "Marie's" identities. Missy identified the photos of a bearded Louisiana doctor and a brunette nurse as "Cimetiere" and "Marie." What's more, the Prosecutor had been able to uncover their other alias; their real names were Pierre Duvalier and Alexis Laveau. Their criminal trial and error testing on gullible, vulnerable women had begun in New Orleans, and had spread over a five-state area, with Ohio being their latest stopping place. He was also able to secure the names and identities of as many as six women who said they'd be willing to testify as to the abuses they had endured. His prized witness, whom he had just contacted, was a young girl whose life they had destroyed while they had been in Chicago, named Miriam Santini.

"Oh, and here's another little tidbit," the Prosecutor told Missy and Tschara. Duvalier's accomplice is his actually his half-sister. Seems that they've considered themselves more than brother and sister for a long time! Apparently, no other woman, for him, quite measures up; this sicko's obsessed with trying to preserve her youth, and, with a few nips and tucks, even improve her, so she'll resemble his real goddess, this Maman Brigitte. What they've been doing is taking a few preliminary cracks at it, hoping to get it right when he's finally ready to work on her. She's as sick as he is; she's been all for it, and helping him along the way. Well, it stops right now."

The three began the trial with high hopes, but following opening arguments, their dream of gaining justice evaporated as quickly as Missy's reconstructed beauty. Inexplicably, not one of the six witnesses the Prosecutor had subpoenaed showed up. He could sill have medical authorities testify to the use of illegal drugs on Missy's skin, and to the permanent nature of her damages, but without corroborating testimony and evidence, the case would prove a weak one, indeed. Sensing his opportunity, the defendants' New Orleans family lawyer moved for an immediate dismissal of the charges. The Judge granted the motion.

Missy and Tschara were devastated. They did their best to console each other while the Prosecutor drew up Contempt of Court charges against his witnesses and planned an appeal. But in the meantime, Duvalier and Laveau were free to go, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Quickly, their lawyer dropped them off at the clinic, where they had left behind some documents that might prove incriminating at a possible appeals trial. He would then return about an hour later and take them to the airport.

As they frenziedly unlocked the door, they were in such a hurry they failed to notice that the rear window had been smashed, and broken into. Oblivious to this fact, they rushed to the inner office, and began unloading the contents of the filing cabinets into several valises and boxes they had taken with them. When they were satisfied they had gotten everything they needed, they headed for the outer lobby to wait for their lawyer.

The moment they stepped out into the waiting room, they found themselves staring into the face of hell. There stood before them a tall, emaciated girl with bony legs and a face that resembled a drug addict's worse nightmare: a hideously scarred, gnarled home for what looked like a nose and a mouth. Worse even than this grotesqueness were the eyes, which burned like a jack o' lantern's on Halloween, but with a frightening hatred. In contrast was the voice, calm and controlled.

"Dr. 'Cartier,'" the girl grinned chillingly. "Why, how nice to see you again. And 'Brigitte.' How are you? Love what you did with your hair!" The two stared, silent in disbelief.

"What? Don't tell me you don't recognize me. I know. You never forget a face, but you're bad on names. Okay. It's me-Miriam-you know, from Chi town?"

"Miriam!" exclaimed the doctor.

"Is that all you have to say, "Dr. 'Cartier?'" Oh, I'm sorry, Dr. 'Duvalier.' You know, I owe you two an apology. I smashed your mirror that night, and left without paying Well, how rude of me! You know, that's bothered me ever since. You two haven't been properly rewarded for what you did-but you will be."

"Miriam," pleaded Alexis, "We did the best we could for you! You've got to believe that!"

Miriam smiled sardonically. "Oh, I know you did, 'Brigitte,'-I mean 'Alexis.' I'm bad on names, too, but then again you two have had soooooo many different ones, haven't you? But believe me, I'm not mad at you. Why should I be? You two opened up so many new opportunities for me. I mean, look at me!" Her previously calm voice now rose with emotion. "I can work in a sideshow! Appear on Oprah and Maury! Shit! I can do better than that! I can have my own reality TV show!-Meet the Freak!"

Duvalier and Alexis had heard enough. They started to rush past Miriam, but their path was suddenly blocked by the appearance of five women who barred their way to the door.

They were of different ages and ethnicities, but all, like Miriam, bore the tell-tale signs of the doctor's butchery: mutilations beyond description. All of them had been subpoenaed for the trial, but Miriam had convinced them that they, together, could administer a better brand of justice than the state. One of them held the two at bay with a pistol, while Miriam began tying them up with a strong rope she pulled from the pockets of her tan flannel jacket. "Come on, ladies," she commanded them when she was finished, "it's time to pay the bill!"

Miriam led the way to the surgical room. There, they used additional rope to tie Alexis to a stool, so she could watch the operation they were about to perform on Dr. Duvalier, who was buckled and strapped to a white-sheeted cot. "Let's play 'doctor!' announced Miriam, as she handed several scalpels to her partners, while she fired up the liposuction machine. She tore open Dr. Duvalier's white dress shirt, which he had worn that day with his best robin blue silk tie and gray, pinstriped suit, and crudely forced the hoses into his bare midriff. "Oh, wait a minute," she said as two of the women held his head in place while the three others stood poised, each with a scalpel in hand. "We forgot to ask. Sir, do you have your insurance card with you? No? Well, that's all right. But you'll need it for your next visit!"

She then looked at her assistants and smiled and nodded. They took their cue, and one by one, began enthusiastically carving deep scars into the doctor's face, ripping layers and layer of skin, which they casually tossed on the floor. Soon, the clean and waxed beige ceramic tiles became littered with blood and flesh. Dr. Duvalier's agonized wails filled the room. Alexis turned her face away and closed her eyes, but couldn't control the vomit that now issued from her nauseated stomach, and which flowed freely down her chin and over the front of her ruffled violet blouse.

Dr. Duvalier's face was now almost recognizable, but the operation wasn't over yet. He was barely conscious, but heard Miriam distinctly say, "Putting on a little gut there, haven't you, Doc? A little too much rum, huh? Well, a quick lipo will cure that! Don't worry-we'll bill your insurance company!" With that, she turned on the machine at full power. Soon, uncontrolled masses of fat were sucked from the doctor's stomach into the machine, so much, so quickly, that he could utter only a few more ear-piercing screams before passing out from shock. "There!" laughed Miriam, turning off the machine when she was satisfied. "I think he dropped a couple of belt notches already!"

She then turned her face toward Alexis. "And now, ladies, our next patient," she announced proudly. "The one who made all this possible-dear Brigitte-er, I mean 'Alexis.'" The five other women followed her to the chair where they had tied the doctor's nurse and administrative assistant.

"What . . . what are you going to do?" she asked, although she really didn't want to know the answer.

"Reward you," answered Miriam. "Give you what your inbred half-brother always wanted to give you-'eternal beauty,' he called it. We'll use the chemical peels. They worked so well on me!" With that, the other women began the highest intensity treatments possible, liberally coating Alexis's face with the toxic substances. The pain she suffered was indescribable, as the chemicals began turning her face into a hideous patchwork of scars and puss-filled burns. But it was obvious Miriam was not finished yet, as she forced Alexis's legs apart and pulled down her navy blue skirt and white cotton Victoria's Secret panties. Two of the other women kept them open, while Miriam took a still bloody scalpel from one of them.

"I'm sure," announced Miriam, "that your lover would like his Maman Brigitte a little tighter down there. We aim to please." With that, she 'treated' Alexis to a truly unique hysterectomy-without anesthesia.

Dr. Duvalier and Alexis Laveau-AKA Dr. Cartier and Maman Brigitte, AKA Dr. Cimetiere and Marie LaCroix-would butcher no more women. The story of their crimes, though, really wouldn't affect the cosmetic surgery industry. What they had done was little different than what other, less "colorful" surgeons had done-they had simply done it with more audacity, drama and flair. Besides, there would always be women whose self-esteem would continue to be wrecked by the glamour, cosmetic, and dieting industries, all with a profit incentive to manipulate sexist and superficial standards of acceptance. As long as that remained unchanged, the industry would never run out of customers.

As for Duvalier and Laveau, they didn't remain on the unemployment line for long. They would, ironically, enjoy a whole new career-under different names, of course-as the stars of America's newest reality TV show hit-Meet the Freaks.

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