Authors: Wayne Simmons
by WAYNE SIMMONS
Copyright © 2012 by Wayne Simmons
This electronic format is published by Tantor eBooks,
a division of Tantor Media, Inc, and was produced in the year 2012, All rights reserved.
The grey-haired man sat on his chair, one bloodied hand hanging over the armrest.
The dog watched from across the room, reading the man’s mood: the low-hanging head, the gritted teeth. A sense of dread hung in the air like muggy heat, like a sound the dog couldn’t quite hear or a scent that wasn’t strong enough to trail.
The dog moved towards the man, sniffed his hand, and licked it, enjoying the salty taste of the blood. The dog’s stomach began to growl. It was hungry, ravenous.
The man spoke: “I have to do this,” he said, tears filling his eyes. “It’s for the best.” He pulled his hand away from the dog’s mouth, stroked its head, tickling behind its ears. “You have to understand that, pup.”
The man pulled himself up from the chair and walked to the table where the shotgun lay. He lifted the gun. Traced his fingers along the barrel. He pulled back the hammer, turned, then aimed at the dog.
The dog froze. It feared the gun, knew what it was capable of. The dog wanted to run, wanted to hide, but there was nowhere to go.
A sudden noise interrupted them. Like the sound of a car starting, only faster, stronger.
The man lowered the gun.
He looked quickly to the dog, listening intently to the sound.
“My God...” he breathed.
He bolted for the stairs.
The dog followed, ears straining to trace the sound. As they moved upstairs, the sound got louder, more defined.
They reached the landing. There was blood on the landing carpet. Its scent was familiar, and the whiskers on the dog’s nose danced. For a moment, the dog forgot about the sound. It sniffed the blood, tracking its smell. The trail led towards the bathroom.
The bathroom door was ajar. The dog dipped its head through, sniffing. Body parts filled the bath. They were coated in plastic, like the rump steaks the man used to bring home every weekend. The dog’s mouth watered.
The man was shouting.
The dog’s ears pricked up. It left the bathroom. Followed the man’s voice into the bedroom.
The man stood by the window.
A woman lay on the bed, shaking and struggling against the bonds around her hands and feet. Her mouth was taped, her eyes bulging. The dog recognised the woman’s smell. It jumped on the bed to greet her.
The window was open. A blast of wind blew in, caressing the dog’s fur. The dog looked away from the woman, followed the man’s gaze out the window.
The dog moved off the bed, climbed onto a nearby chest of drawers. Leaned its front paws onto the windowsill to look out.
The light was dazzling at first, revealing a spectacular view across the fields.
Countless bodies lingered outside, surrounding the house like a drunken army. Their coughs and wheezes faded into the new mechanical sound. Their smells were dense and putrid, mixing with the summer air like freshly-made silage.
The new sound was stronger now, almost deafening. It filled the whole house, drowning out everything else.
And then the dog spotted it—the thing making the sound. The thing the man was so excited about. Was calling for, waving to.
There was a helicopter in the air.
And it was coming straight for them.
Alturn Labs, Belfast 1st May
He switched the light off, reached for her.
“No,” Ellis said, pushing him away forcefully.
“Why not?” Blake said.
“Because I said so. I told you: I want to talk not—”
“Blake!” She hated him being crass. He was an HSO, for God’s sake. Men like Dr Blake Farrow shouldn’t talk cheap. Ellis wanted to bring him home to Derry one day, show him off to her family, but Mother hated a potty mouth.
“Okay, okay,” he said. He sat down on a nearby stool. “What is it, babe?” he said.
His voice gave her goose pimples. It was one of the things that had attracted Ellis in the first place. Being an American company, Alturn had migrated some of its most experienced staff when setting up the Belfast lab, their investment welcomed by Stormont. But Ellis was invested in other ways: there was something about Blake Farrow’s Southern-fried drawl that stood out from the crowd. It reminded her of Sawyer from the TV show,
. The accent worked for her, and Blake Farrow knew it.
Ellis sighed. “This,” she said. “Meeting in your storeroom. Hiding our...” She checked herself, chose her words carefully, “Hiding
from everyone else in the lab. I just can’t do it anymore, Blake, I—”
She stopped talking. In the poor light she watched Blake rub his eyes with a forefinger and thumb. She knew what that meant. She’d seen him do similar after looking through a microscope for too long or coming out from a meeting with Johnson.
She was boring him.
Ellis reached for her lab coat, pulled one arm into it.
Blake went to touch her, but she tore away from him. “Don’t!” she said firmly.
“Come on, Ellie,” he said, “I was listening. Really.” She went to leave but then stalled by the storeroom door. She froze. Waited.
“Ellie?” Blake pried.
She stepped back from the storeroom’s small glass pane. Looked to Blake, her eyes wide.
“What is it?” he asked, but she placed a finger over her lips.
“Kill the light,” she said. “Someone’s coming.” Blake fumbled for the nearby torch, switched it off. Ellis returned to the glass pane, watched as someone entered Blake’s office, flicked the light switch then looked nervously around.
“Who is it?” Blake said, peering over her shoulder. “Shush!”
The intruder was at Blake’s desk, opening and ruffling through each drawer. He stopped, looked around for a moment, said, “Come on, come on, where are you?” He reached for a line of files on a shelf, pulled each down separately, flicked through them.
“It’s Chris Lennon,” Blake whispered. “One of the reps.”
Ellis shushed him again.
Lennon looked towards the storeroom, and Ellis froze, but something in the corridor outside disturbed the rep. He swore under his breath, replaced the file in his hand, and then quickly left the office.
Ellis opened the storeroom door.
Blake pushed past her. He reached towards the line of files, picking one from the shelf just as Lennon had done.
“What was he looking for?” Ellis said.
Blake didn’t answer. Ellis watched him flick through the file. It didn’t look like anything special: experiment checklists, health and safety memos. The kind of paperwork she would see in the lab every day.
“Blake?” she pressed.
He looked up, met her gaze. “No idea,” he said. But the expression on his face seemed guilty, like he knew
what Lennon had been after.
“Come on, Blake,” Ellis said, “He was looking for
. I’m not stupid.”
“Call security,” Blake said. He retrieved the phone from the wall and handed it to her, but Ellis replaced it, folded her arms and continued to stare at him. “Look, I don’t know any more than you do!” Blake protested. “Johnson handles all the contract stuff. I just do what I’m told.”
you been told?” Ellis countered. “Blake, you’re an HSO. You’ve been told a hell of a lot more than the rest of us.”
Blake went to move, but Ellis blocked him. She wasn’t going to let this go. He knew something, and she wanted to hear it. Damn it, she deserved more than this!
“Come on, Blake, talk to me!” she pressed.
Still Blake said nothing.
Ellis threw her hands into the air, deflated. This wasn’t how it used to be between them.
When they had first started seeing each other, they’d talked a lot. There were stories from Blake’s years of working as a surgeon, prior to joining Alturn. Stories about Johnson and other characters they both knew within the lab. He talked of how Alturn had lured him away from a career in medicine to work as consultant on a range of anti-viral drugs. But once Blake took over as head of Project QT, a new contract that made lab monkeys like Ellis very uncomfortable, the talking stopped.
And now some rep was digging around his office... Blake threw his hands up in the air. “You see, this is the problem,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“You want to know why we can’t be more than,” he searched, finding similar words to those she used, “
is why. There’s stuff I’m not allowed to tell you. Stuff I’m not allowed to tell
, even my—” He stopped short, looked at her. His face fell.
,” Ellis finished for him bitterly.
“Forget it, Blake. I’ve had enough of this. We’re finished.”
Ellis slammed the door as she left. She stood for a moment, seething.
The using bastard
, she fumed, and then marched quickly down the corridor.
Ellis used her pass on the security door, moving into the lab’s second admin block. She turned a corner then stopped dead in her tracks.
In the distance she noticed Chris Lennon. This time the rep was heading for Johnson’s office.
Ellis decided to follow him.
Ellis didn’t know Lennon. She knew some of the other reps. They came into the lab frequently: selling equipment; giving demos on whatever product they were peddling; littering the place with catalogues. But this Chris Lennon guy was new to Alturn. He didn’t look like a sales rep. His bleached-blond hair and perma-tan lent him the appearance of an ageing boy band wannabe. Not great for cloak-and-dagger stuff; the poor beggar stood out like a sore thumb.
Ellis watched as he slid his card onto Johnson’s office door reader and entered.
She had always questioned the security clearance for reps. They weren’t meant to have their own access cards, but lab assistants would often lend them out, saving the bother of having to babysit all morning. With their own cards, the reps would have access to almost everywhere.
Everywhere apart from the QT labs, of course...
Ellis slipped out from behind the corner of Corridor B4 and moved down B 1. She reached Johnson’s office, took a cursory glance through the door’s glass pane. She could see Lennon, going through Johnson’s desk the same way he’d gone through Blake’s.
What was he looking for?