J. A. Jance Casebook

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The Billing

© KB Shaw

Joshua Flynn stood guarding the closed hospital room door as his wife slipped off the medical gown. His gaze lingered on her lustrous red hair, emerald-green eyes, flawless skin, and perfect breasts — now swollen and ready to nourish their newborn.

Emma saw the admiration in her husband’s eyes and took her time getting dressed. Josh was the ideal man: tall, with rugged good looks, piercing sapphire blue eyes, and the firm body of a tri-athlete.

In a few minutes their baby would be brought to them and they would leave the hospital as a model family.

Josh left his post at the door and helped Emma zip her dress. “I love you,” he whispered in her ear.

Emma turned, wrapped her arms around her husband and laid her head against his chest. “I love you too.”

She tilted her head up. He tilted his down. They kissed passionately.

There was a knock on the door and the couple parted.

“That must be the nurse with our daughter,” said Emma.

Both parents were filled with a joyful expectation as the door swung open.

But there was no nurse — only a prim, middle-aged woman in a business suit with a tablet in her hand.

“Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Flynn.” The woman tapped the screen of her tablet and it displayed a photo of their baby.

“Congratulations on your beautiful baby girl,” gushed the woman. “She’s perfect in every way.”

“Thank you,” said Josh, beaming with pride at the compliment.

“Where’s Allie?” asked Emma.

“Your daughter will be brought to you as soon as we settle the billing.” The woman noticed the Flynns’ confused looks. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. “Let me introduce myself. I’m Mrs. Higgs from the accounting department. I have the itemized invoice for your daughter Allie.”

“Invoice?” said Josh.

“Yes, a few extra items showed up in patent scans.”

Emma said, “Patent scans?”

“As you know, parents’ genes are passed on to their children, determining such things as hair and eye color, body types, even susceptibility to disease. When a person has had gene augmentation, those designer genes can be passed on as well. Of course, such genes are patented and owned by the companies that created them. Although you’ve already paid for the genes you elected to have augmented, the genes that were passed on to your daughter still need to be reckoned. I have the list right here.”

Mrs. Higgs swiped the screen and said, “Here, look.” The couple took up positions on either side of the accountant so they could see what was displayed on the screen. More than a dozen items were listed.

“You both had hair and eye color augmentations, so she was almost sure to get one or the other.”

Mrs. Higgs swiped the screen, displaying an extreme close-up of an iris. “Right here…” she double-tapped a spot in the lower-left region of the iris until the image zoomed to near-molecular resolution.

“Atomeyes®” was clearly visible.

“She has your eyes, Mr. Flynn — or, to be more accurate, your Atomeyes eyes.” She chuckled as she swiped back to the itemized list.

“Now, you see here, here, here, and here that there are no charges for corrective gene therapies to eliminate the hereditary diabetes and pancreatic cancer on the paternal side of the family or the breast cancer on the maternal side. Those genes occur in nature and can’t be patented.”

She tapped another item on the list. “This is your daughter’s hair. As you can see, it’s your registered FlairHair color, Mrs. Flynn.” She displayed an electron-microscope image of Allie’s hair showing the neatly arranged copyright atoms: ©FHCorp Red2712. It was the highlighted shade of these atoms that gave FlairHair its patented luster.

Josh looked at Emma’s hair as if seeing it for the first time.

Emma sensed his gaze and guiltily avoided eye contact. “I am a redhead,” she mumbled. “I just adjusted the shade.”

Mrs. Higgs quickly navigated back to the list.

“Likewise with Mrs. Flynn’s permaBreast36c.

Emma couldn’t avoid Josh’s sharp look this time. “So?”

“You never told me.”

“You didn’t ask. Anyway, you seem to like them, they’re technically natural, and they’ll never sag.”

“Moving on,” said Mrs. Higgs, “Mr. Flynn’s Penile 7.5 enhancement is moot…”

“What?” It was Emma’s turn to shoot a look. “You claimed it was an 8.5.”

Josh shrugged in reply.

The accountant continued “…and Mrs. Flynn’s PearlNails were not passed on. You both contributed MegaDerm’s ClearSkin gene. But don’t worry, you only get charged once.” She chuckled again.

“That’s all there is. Patent royalty fees come to $13,754. That’s a discounted price, of course because the genes were inherited. Then there’s the sales and genetic inheritance tax… The total is…” She held out the tablet so the young couple could see the full-market value of their child’s genetic inheritance.

“As you know, this isn’t covered by your insurance. So, how would you like to pay for your perfect little baby? Credit, debit, or one of the hospital’s convenient, long-term financing options?”

 

The End

 

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