"My God, is that you, Asher? We thought you were dead!" The short fat man stopped before the bench as people swirled through the huge lobby. The Johns Hopkins hospitals were known throughout the world, and all nationalities appeared to be represented in the crowds coming and going.
The gaunt, sandy-haired man looked up from his newspaper. "It wasn't for want of trying," he said coldly.
Benton sat heavily, wheezing. He put down his briefcase. "I had nothing to do with it, you know."
"You were there, Benton," said Asher. He folded his newspaper and sat looking levelly at the other man.
"But it was a tradition," Benton whined. "It was part of the initiation."
"They put me out of the car with no clothes in the middle of the Connecticut countryside on the coldest night of the winter. It was a blizzard."
"They were supposed to leave you a blanket."
"Well, they didn't," Asher snarled. "Let's not mince words. Clarke did it because you all knew I was gay. He said so when they threw me out. 'Die, faggot!' is what they yelled when they drove away. I spent two weeks in the hospital and lost three toes."
"I'm sorry," said Benton. His face reddened as he gasped for air. He coughed violently and swallowed. "You know, they found the car buried in the snow two days later. It had gone off the highway into a ravine. The bodies of both Clarke and Dennis were still inside, frozen stiff."
"Good!" Asher hissed. "I wish you all had been killed."
"We thought you'd been thrown clear. The police searched the entire area but by then the snow was so deep they couldn't find anything. You never came back."
Asher got up and straightened his long white coat. "The moment I got out of the hospital I transferred. I finished university here at Hopkins," he said.
Benton struggled to his feet. He gasped for breath. "They say I have tumors throughout my lungs. I'm here to consult with some high-powered cryosurgeon."
"That would be me," said Asher. He turned and walked away.
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