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Chapter 23

Almost instantly a smile appeared on Shelly’s face. He looked as handsome as she remembered, sharp eyes and wild hair, but what’s with the lab coat? “I didn’t expect you,” she said, surprised at how glad she felt to see him.

“You must be feeling better?”

Shelly saw Dodd gazing at the guard who was watching everything from his desk. “I am.

Thank you again for before.”

Dodd saw the guard watching. He wished he could tell him to mind his own business, but that would arouse suspicion, make it easy to remember. “It wasn’t anything.” He gave her a hint of a smile.

Shelly felt better seeing Dodd smile. “I was a real shit,” she said, recalling how confused he looked when she had been talking to Allen, that pest. “I’m sorry. I was in shock.”

“I’ve forgotten about that already,” Dodd said, his eyes again darting over to the guard who he now was sure was watching them from his desk. “I’m really surprised to see you here though,” Dodd said. “Didn’t you say tomorrow? You should be resting.”

Shelly tensed. Was he going to tell her she couldn’t meet with Dr. Lasker today? Was that why he’d been sent up to meet her? “I didn’t want to wait,” she said. I can’t wait.

Dodd turned to the guard. “I’ll take care of her,” he said. “Thank you.”

The guard nodded, but his eyes were still on Shelly. For some reason he couldn’t explain he wanted a photograph in his brain of her face. “Sure,” he said, wishing he had sent her back before this weird-looking character in a lab coat had shown up.

Shelly wondered what it was that was making the guard look at her so intently. Maybe he’s jealous, she reasoned, feeling Dodd very close to her. “I’d really love it if you could help me see Dr. Lasker today,” Shelly said to Dodd, giving him a warm smile. “Is that possible? I don’t have an appointment.”

Dodd glanced over to the guard again, as if checking to see if he was eavesdropping. He leaned closer to Shelly, so close he could smell the strawberry scent of her shampoo. “He rarely sees anyone outside of classes, and definitely not without an appointment. Dr. Lasker is

extremely busy.”

Shelly nodded. “I understand. I’ll just have to keep trying. I’m not going to give up until I see him.”

Dodd wished she hadn’t said that. It would have made life so much easier. He heard a voice saying, “I told you so.” “You don’t have to worry. I’ve already told him about you and that you would be coming to see him. Everything’s been arranged. You’re just a day early…but it will be okay. You’ll just have to wait awhile.” He called to the guard, giving him a smile. “We’ll be a bit late so you won’t be here probably when we leave.”

The guard nodded. Apparently the girl knew this guy in the lab coat so it would be fine. “Thank you, sir,” he said. “Thomas will be back tomorrow.”

Dodd nodded, pleased the guard was apparently just a temp. It was about time he caught a break, he thought.

Shelly sensed Dodd was trying to take credit for helping her obtain an audience with the great parapsychology genius. All males are alike, she thought, wondering if this was his way of gaining an advantage over any other possible suitors she might have. Was Allen right after all about Dodd’s true intentions toward her? Was he really just another horny boy using his position with Dr. Lasker to coax her into bed? She wondered if that would be such a bad thing? She

realized she wanted that too…at some point, sometime soon. “I really appreciate your help, Dodd,” she said, trying to cut him off before he delayed much longer. “You’re a good friend.” That should raise some questions in his macho brain, she mused. She suddenly had an image of Dodd standing by her bed wearing only an unbuttoned white lab coat. Whoa! Not a good thing to think about right now.

Dodd’s face showed no disappointment at her remark about ‘friendship’. “Sure. I’m happy to help. But you are feeling better? No more close calls?” He hadn’t counted on her getting here a day early. Damn, he thought, as he weighed his options given this change of circumstances. “How did you get here?” He had to find out if someone was waiting for her. Who else knew she was here? The guard would be leaving soon. His shift was almost over. He’d think she left after he was gone….but who had brought her? “Did you take the bus,” he asked.

“Not after yesterday. No way! I got a ride with a friend.” Shelly replied, wondering why she felt the need to hide Susan’s name.

“That was nice.” A friend? He found himself wondering if the friend was male or female, but knew there was no time to be jealous now. He touched her arm with his hand. “I’ll be happy to give you a ride back unless someone is waiting for you?”

Shelly smiled. He’s jealous. That’s why he sounds so strange. “That will be very nice,” she said. “I’ll have to call my friend after we’re done and tell her I’ve got a ride.”

Dodd nodded, his mind racing. “We were expecting you tomorrow, though, so Dr. Lasker is in a class…finishing up. Want to sit in? I’m sure he won’t mind. He’s quite the lecturer, very animated and definitely opinionated. Students either love him to pieces or want to kill him. I’m not sure myself sometimes,” Dodd remarked, a cloudy look coming onto his face. “I’m kidding of course.” He quickly replaced the dark look with a warm smile. “So do you want to see the Doctor in action,” he asked. He would find out who the friend was later. It would not be

difficult…not for him, after all, he had found Shelly. “I think you’ll find this an interesting experience.”

“That would be great,” Shelly said. “Are you sure he’ll be okay with that? I don’t want to disturb him.”

Dodd put his hand on her shoulder. “I told you, I told him all about you. He’s excited to meet you.”

Shelly felt Dodd’s hand on her arm, but wondered why it felt cold. She eyed him out of a corner of her eye. He was a foot taller than her, and his hand seemed muscular, stronger than she expected. She realized his eyes were probing her again and suddenly felt uncomfortable…it was like his eyes, so blue, so intense, could see through her clothes. Wishful thinking, she groaned

inside. “Are all the classes in the basement,” she asked, forcing herself to focus on her mission again…hard to do with those eyes on her.

“Not all. What do you think, we’re moles or something?” He laughed, and his eyes lost their intensity for a second. “We have to fight for every inch of space we’ve got. Most people don’t consider parapsychology a real subject. The university trustees and the state gave us a terrible time getting recognized as a science. Dr. Lasker always complains that the bean- counters, that’s what he calls the powers-that-be, would still like to give us the boot.”

“So that’s why you’re here? I mean, in this building at the end of the world?” Shelly saw the guard look up when she said that. “It looks like a headstone,” she said, and realized maybe she shouldn’t have been quite so honest.

“That’s funny,” Dodd said, but he wasn’t smiling. “In a way you’re right. It is the end of the world, but as you’re going to see, it’s also the beginning of another world.” My world, he thought, not yours. He dropped his arm and pointed to the stairwell. “I like to walk. Is that okay?”

Shelly still felt a little weak, but the elevators seemed oddly ominous. There were three in this building, three doors to choose from. Right now she didn’t want to make any choices...all she wanted was to be led by him. “Walking is great,” she said, even though she still felt dizzy and her head was throbbing.

“I never trust elevators,” Dodd said as he pulled open a doorway marked “RESTRICTED.”

Shelly couldn’t believe the weight of the door, like it was constructed of solid steel, no window.

“It has to be fireproof,” Dodd said, as if reading her thoughts.

Shelly was surprised when he reached back and she heard the unmistakable sound of lock cylinders moving into place. “Are we locked in or are they locked out?” she asked.

“They’re locked in,” Dodd replied. He reached for her hand to guide her down the six flights of metal stairs. He didn’t say who “they” were, and Shelly hoped it was a joke. He seemed to have a peculiar sense of humor.

Shelly was surprised that she felt winded by the short descent to the next landing but realized it was a result of her traumatic day.

“You still look beat,” Dodd said. “That accident took more of a toll on you than you want to admit. You could still be in shock. We should go to my lab. You can sit there, rest up a bit, and wait for the Professor.”

“No,” Shelly replied. “Please take me to his lecture hall. I want to hear him.” “You really don’t look well. How about some water at least?”

Shelly felt out of breath. The headache was getting worse. The windowless basement prompted a wave of claustrophobia. Even Dodd, so kind and considerate, seemed too close, his breath smelling like burnt charcoal…too close…stifling. “Yes. Okay. Water would be great.”

Dodd smiled. “That’s better. We’ve got to take good care of you.”

Shelly followed as he led her to the last door on the left side of the hall. The sign on the glassless door read Lab C. She watched as he punched some numbers into the keypad and pushed open the door.

“This is my lab,” Dodd said. “Come inside and I’ll get you some water.” He held the door for her. “I’ll be right back.” He walked away, returning with a glass of water.

“What’s that smell?” Shelly asked, a pungent odor assaulting her nose.

“There are always odors in the labs,” Dodd said. “Nothing to worry about.”

Shelly nodded, but the smell was strong, making her feel dizzy. “I’m not well,” she groaned seeing a look of concern on Dodd’s face.

“Just relax,” Dodd said, placing the paper cup in the trash. “It will be over soon.” “I’ve got to go,” Shelly said, moving toward the door.

As Shelly reached for the doorknob, her legs buckled. Dodd grabbed her before she hit the ground.

Shelly felt his arms holding her and saw his eyes looking down at her. She felt weak, like she was melting under his gaze. He was close now, his lips inches away.

Why doesn’t he kiss me, Shelly thought just before her eyes closed.

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