Thursday, April 22, 2010

Human Trials, Part Two

I meant to post this yesterday, but I got distracted by White-nose syndrome, a disease that is devastating bat populations. It is slowly spreading west from it's first reported location in New York. Now they say it is in Missouri. Bat mortality rates are 80 to 100%. Speculation is that if the disease isn't controlled it could extirpate whole bat species. Want to learn more, go to Bat Conservation International. I'll post some photos when I can.

For now, here is part two of Human Trials. New point of view character is Richard.

Monday: God does it this way too.

Richard drove to work on Monday, his normal route taking him within a block of the girl's crappy apartment complex. The bus stop where he picked her up on Friday was in front of the Minit Mart where he bought a cup of coffee every morning. It would be wrong if he didn't stop today.

Richard hadn't been careful, picking up a neighborhood girl. If he'd planned ahead instead of acting on impulse he wouldn't be so damned jumpy. But he always acted on impulse.

Across the street was the Pizza Hut where he occasionally stopped for take-out. Two blocks up was the Thriftway where they had both shopped, maybe even passing one another in the aisles, she with tampons and orange juice in her cart, he with frozen dinners. He'd seen the receipts in her wallet and almost crapped his pants. Local.

How stupid could you get?

When he arrived at work, Richard logged in and checked his e-mail. His boss wasn't in her cubicle, although he saw her jacket slung over the back of her chair. A meeting. There had been a lot of meetings since Sal Preciado died in the observation booth last week. The worst of the blood spatter was still there, fused like black glue to the safety glass. Maintenance would need razor blades to get it off.

The official story was that Sal shot himself. Most of the office drones believed it. Old Sal eating his gun was the worst thing they could imagine.

But Richard had been first on the scene after Connie Mack started screaming, and he never bought the suicide story. Her grinding, mechanical shrieks had wafted into his office through the cold air return. Richard went downstairs to the lab level to investigate and found Connie screaming into the safety glass while Sal's brains dribbled to the floor.

Sal and Connie had been working on a vaccine for several years. Richard didn't understand the chemistry behind it, but he processed the invoices and he understood that a great deal of money had been thrown at this project.

"Did you hear?" Jill from HR stopped at his desk. She was a cheerful, tuna-sandwich-and-cookies sort of woman with a pear-shaped bottom that Richard found inoffensive. "She-boss has been called upstairs."

"Are we in trouble?"

"Someone is." Jill wrinkled her nose. "One of the experiments is missing."

"Missing how?" He cracked his knuckles. "The mice got out? The computers crashed?"

"No, the stuff. The drug. The vaccine. It's gone. They're pretty sure Sal took it before he died, but Dr. Mack is convinced someone in the building took it. I heard She-boss and Mack having it out. Pretty nasty stuff."

Richard minimized his e-mail and rolled his shoulders. "It had to be Sal. No one else around here knew what they were doing in the lab."

"Did you know what they were doing, Richard? I bet you didn't know anymore than the rest of us." Jill giggled, a sound he hated. He visualized squeezing her spongy middle until the giggles wheezed out of her. Oblivious, Jill made a few other conversational gambits but he turned away and she finally took the hint.

1 comment:

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