As I run down the dark alley, I have to stop. I am out of breath, but I can feel I am closer than ever before. My lungs burn and my body screams for rest. As I stop I scan the alley for the best way to go. This stop must be short and will provide a shorter rest than I truly need to have.
I know however, they are not very far behind me, close enough so I can hear them. Looking up the fire escape of the building next to me, I can see someone staring down. From just inside of the second floor window, I can see him. It is Zayack. I muster all my remaining strength to climb the ladder and enter into the room.
Now for the biggest surprise of all. I am standing in the same room with Demetrious Zayack. He didn’t run ahead as he always has before.
Why is the only word I can think to say. Breathing heavily, the needs of my body have taken over and it is all I can get out.
“Why what?” is the response from Zayack, to which he quickly adds, “Not much time for a chat, as I think you should know by now.”
The chase still has taken most of my ability to speak, but I need to know the why of running, the why of leaving, and the why of staying away. These are the only thoughts running through my head I need to get them out. Just another moment to catch my breath before I can ask.
I jump as a phone rings from behind me. Other than Zayack and myself, I notice it is the only other thing in the room.
“You will need to get that,” Zayack says to me as I look back to him.
As I stare at him, confused yet trying to understand, he adds without my obvious question, “Because it’s for you!”
As my eyes slowly work their way open, I realize the ringing phone is real and again, Zayack and the chase were not. The logic of having the phone across the room to think before answering is not helping right now, as I stagger to the phone. Time, what time is it? I question as I reach for the phone. Looking at the clock, I see it is well after midnight as I say, “Hello?”
“Walter, is this Walter Smithton?” asks an edgy voice, quickly and strongly.
“Yes, this is Walter Smithton, and who is this?” I ask, turning on the light.
“Walter, Jan did not come home from work today. I first thought you might be working late and called, but her line is out or something. Is she with you? I am worried about her. If she is with you…I… well… at least I would know, is she with you?” The final question is coming from a paused and defeated voice hoping the answer is “yes,” but is not “yes.”
While listening to his questions and comments, I know it is Jan’s husband, James.
“No, James, she is not here. I don’t know where she is. She left work early, I believe. Have you called…?”
“Everybody, I have called everybody I can think of,” James says as he cuts me off.
“I am on the front walk outside your door. Can I come in?” he asks quickly.
Just from the tone of his voice, I know he wants proof; he needs to see for himself. He is on the edge of losing it and I understand.
“No problem. I’ll buzz you right in.” I go to the hall and hit the auto lock and I hear the door open. It only takes but a moment and he is at the door. As I invite him in, I let him walk ahead of me into the living room. I want him to see quickly I am alone and am not hiding anything.
“Can I get you a drink or something?” I ask as I walk to the kitchen.
Again, I am giving him the opportunity to look for himself, letting him look around to confirm Jan is not here and never was here. Jan and I have become close, even good, friends, but nothing more. She says I scare most people away with the cold stare I seem to give.
You really have to be a good friend to make this kind of observation and get away with it; at least with Jan and me. We are as friends should be; no fear in what we say to each other, just truth and open honesty.
James doesn’t answer, so I get us each a drink and come back into the living room. James tries to hide having looked into my bedroom while I made the drinks. I gesture at a chair and he nervously sits down.
“I know she was at work today,” he starts. “She called me and said there was a meeting and she might have to stay late.”
Typical Jan in action, already knowing something was up even before our meeting was over.
“You didn’t see her leave or even know when she left?” James asks bluntly. The smallest of hope for a better answer is in his eyes, but it is surrounded by what he knows he is going to hear.
“I was in the meeting until early afternoon. I didn’t see her when I got back. I went right into my office, as I had several experiments and reports due. When I left around six, Jan was already logged out. I thought she had gone home. I didn’t, until now, think anything of it.” I say the last part knowing it is a bold-faced lie.
James and I spend the next hour going over all the possibilities of what and where. Both James and Jan are from small families who live far away and not in regular contact. The list of friends turned up nothing and the difficult calling of the hospitals has been handled by their best friend and neighbor, Sally. Sally, who is an ER nurse, even checked the logs of all the calls to emergency services. Nothing has turned up. The police will not open an investigation until someone is missing for at least twenty-four hours.
The buzzer at the door rings. It’s Sally. I buzz her in, but James is heading for the front door and I follow. A flurry of questions from James, but nothing he wants to hear comes in the replies. I invite them both in, but Sally says it’s late and she asks James to go home. I say I will report this to the office first thing when I get in.
“The best place to wait is at home,” Sally says as they turn and start to walk away,
Sally looks back, possibly to say something polite about their abrupt departure. I wave her off. No comment is needed. James then looks back and asks me to call if I hear anything, and I say I will.
I sit down and see it is now past two in the morning. So much for a good night’s rest. I can’t help but wonder if it is somehow related to yesterday. And what about the dream? What does all this mean? Am I getting closer to finding where Zayack is, or went? Could it be possible he is still alive? It was a first that I caught him. I… Reality strikes back hard. It is a dream and only a dream, now starting to become a nightmare, a horrible nightmare.
I awake on the couch as the sunlight floods the room. No more Zayack. Nothing but a couple hours of sleep, on a not-very-comfortable couch is all I have gotten from the night. A quick shower and a cup of instant coffee, and I am ready for the door. Unfortunately, a call to Sally gives me no good news on Jan. No Jan anywhere; now, their best hope is if someone at the office knows anything.
I tell her I planned to head in early if Jan had not shown up by now. The police will start an investigation at noon today if I can confirm when she was last seen at the office. I say it will be the first thing I do.
On my way in, I try to think of the best way to approach the security staff. I realize regardless of what I do, James will not wait too long to call in himself. I hope my role of a concerned boss and friend will get us more action than he would get himself.
With everything going on at the office, it could not have come at a worse time. Thinking this stops me cold. Jan is missing and I am worried more about my experiment and my own problems. What type of person have I become, to be so cold and absorbed in myself no one else seems to matter?
Jan is kind, trustworthy, and above all, loyal without fail. She balances my inability to keep schedules and documents, with her sometimes fanatical desire to see everything in its place. She allows me to stay in a creative state without the constant interruptions that can bog down experimentation.
Could Jan have another side? I think I would have known and besides, she would not just disappear without a word. Too early to tell, but this could all end with a simple explanation, a missed communication. She had this all planned and forgot to check in or somehow James forgot their plans. I, like James, am looking for something to hold on to. In my heart however I know something is wrong. Now a slow-forming idea begins to enter my thoughts.
She has disappeared, just like Zayack. Has this been the reason for my dreams all along? Could this not be about me or the experiment, but always about Jan? Is it my mind telling me to watch out for her?
As I enter the front lobby, I head straight for the security desk. There is already a more-than-normal buzz there. I get to the desk and before I can say a word, I am asked if this is about Jan Alexander.
“Yes, she is missing…”
I am cut off by a curt, “We know, we are looking into it and will speak with you when we get to you.”
“She works for me, I am her supervisor…” I start to say, but I am cut off with another curt response.
“We know who you are, Dr. Smithton, and again, we will speak to you when we get to you.”
The anger is beginning to rage inside of me and while it begins to overtake my thoughts, I can feel a mind reader, Jonathon, trying to probe my thoughts. I feel my body starting to tense, and I know to immediately begin to slow my thoughts. As I feel him probe, trying to work to enter my mind, I know not to resist. I need to find a way out of here without him having any suspicion.
“Get me a supervisor, now!” I bring forth with my teeth clenched.
The security agent starts to say, “We will…” But this time, I cut him off before he can finish.
“NOW, I SAID!” This time I am loud enough for everyone to stop and look. Showing anger will slow the reader; he will start to watch my emotions and think he understands the thoughts by the words and the body language.
“I am the Security Supervisor and you need to calm yourself, Dr. Smithton!” he says, answering me through his own clenched teeth.
“You don’t treat humans like animals unless you want them to act like animals,” I say, again with a tone and volume carrying through the lobby. “Jan Alexander is missing, and a lot of people are very upset, including me. The thing I need to be able to tell her family is I believe the company is doing everything it can.” As I look directly at him, I add, “And everyone, in particular you and your group here, sees this as important.”
The Security Supervisor takes the bait and, as I expected, begins to become beyond angry as this exchange is not going well.
“You will calm down when you talk to me, or else. You got that, Dr. Smithton? We will run this facility and any investigation as we see fit. You got that, doctor?” he snarls in an even louder voice as he stands up.
“No, I don’t ‘got that’!” I say as I turn and head for the doors. This is what he didn’t expect and what I wanted most. I needed an excuse to leave, and this is a good one. It’s a risk, but I have been taking risks for a while now and I need to get away. They are reading me and I am not sure why, or what they want. I need time to think and I need it now.
I walk the 100 yards across to the train station in good time, without looking as if I am trying to get away. As I enter the train station, I see my luck is holding, as the train is there. Looking back, I see the security agents headed out of the building and coming towards the train station at a run.
The doors of the train close and the train pulls away from the platform. Ten security agents stormed through the station doors, only to helplessly watch the train disappear into the tunnel. As I peer from behind the slightly open janitor’s room door, I can see they think I am on the train. My new, not-so-happy security supervisor friend is still standing there, looking down the tunnel when a man enters wearing a military-style suit. He motions them to him, and I can hear him telling them to get back to their stations. They move as quickly as they can.
As the supervisor starts to walk away, he is motioned to wait and I can see he is visibly shaken. The man leans towards him and while the conversation is guarded, it is obvious by the look on the supervisor’s face it is not going well for him.
As they leave, I am now not at all sure this is about Jan. I need to stop and figure out my next move and it had better be a good one.
“This was a catastrophe, a real screw up. We have no security tapes from the cameras at this missing lady’s desk or along the corridor to the outside. And now I have to explain why my security people can’t keep tabs on one of these so-called super doctors.” Security Chief Johnston briefly looks around the room at his security supervisors. He then continues his verbal assault.
“I have to go meet with some civilian manager guy who, like you, Davis, probably doesn’t know crap about real security,” Johnston says as he glares at Supervisor Davis.
“It’s not my fault that stupid Jones set him off!”
Johnston cuts him off. “You better hope none of this falls on me. You got that, Davis? You better have your story straight.”
The door opens and a man dressed in a dark, expensive suit enters the room. Johnston stares harshly at the man.
“You ever heard of knocking? And how did you get in here in the first place?”
The man holds open an identification wallet showing his credentials in front of Johnston’s face. Its inscription immediately changes Johnston’s demeanor.
While the man’s presence has caught the attention of Johnston and his men, they fail to notice the door did not close. What is entering now was not what Johnston or any of his men had expected in the least. One after another, with precision, the room fills fast with a half dozen World Alliance Troopers.
Johnston’s composure has drained, but with all the courage he can muster, he asks weakly, “How can I help you?”
There is no harshness in the man’s stare as he looks back at Johnston. “You and your… men… have helped enough. Are these all of your supervisors?”
Johnston looks over at them briefly and then turns back, nodding his head up and down to answer “yes.”
The man turns and says to the closest trooper, “Captain, take the Security Supervisors and have them debriefed. I will need to talk to Mr. Johnston, for a moment.”
The supervisors follow without question. They know the troopers will not hesitate when it comes to following commands. They are rumored to have license to kill anyone who gets in their way. It is said they are charged with world security and allowed freely to defend the world from anyone, including its citizens.
The man looks to Johnston and says again without tone or any concern. “Mr. Johnston, we make one simple request of you and you can’t do it, can you? But of course, you are you, aren’t you?”
Johnston starts to say something to defend himself but he is cut off by the man raising his hand.
“We will need to debrief you as well as your supervisors to determine what, if anything, you may know.”
Johnston quickly tries to comply. “Give me a minute to gather my notes and I will…”
“No, Johnston, that won’t be necessary, the Captain is going to debrief you here and now.”
The man leaves the room, but this time he closes the door behind him. As he starts down the hall, he is flanked by two men. He turns his head to the man on his right. “We will need all the film we don’t already have on this facility analyzed, starting at the beginning of the year.”
“Right away,” is the quick reply and his direction changes without missing a step.
“I want to know exactly what was said to Smithton this morning and what the reader got from his thoughts. We need to know where he went and where he may have stopped. We need to find him now.”
The second man does not waste any time either. “I’m on it!” is his response as he turns away.
Sitting in the train station bathroom may seem strange, but this may tell me something about how far this is going to go. With so many security agents running out after me, it has to mean something is going on. They were suspecting something, I think.
I am slightly surprised they did not check the train station, just in case I might not have gotten on the train. We do joke about our facility security as not very good at securing much of anything. I went into the janitor’s room, as I figured they would at least check the station bathroom. I didn’t think they would so quickly assume I boarded the train.
Going into the janitor’s room first was a huge risk. Being found there surely would have exposed I was hiding from them. If I was caught hiding, they might just ask themselves what else I might be concealing. The chance they would jump to the conclusion I was on the train was not as lucky as the train being in the station when I got there, but close.
Now to figure out my next move. Why did I leave so abruptly and why did I go to the station? These will be the questions they ask when they get a chance. I need to focus on the answers, first. If I am right, it is more than about Jan. Moving to the bathroom will be much easier to explain why I didn’t get on the train.
It has been a half hour and I am standing in front of the sink as I contemplate my next move. I do not hear the footsteps, but the door squeaks as it starts to open. I turn on the water and put my hands under it without looking over to see who is coming in. I look through the mirror as the door is opening very slowly. It is as if the person on the other side is but a young child or very old man.
The man who enters is anything but young or old. He is trim, middle-aged, and dressed in a dark, well-cut suit. I splash the water on my face and look over at him. As he looks at me, I turn off the water and slowly wipe my face dry.
The impression I need to give is that I am having a hard time and I still need to compose myself. The weaker I look and act, the better it may be if they do start to question my motives.
The man now smiles at me slightly and asks, “Are you okay? You seem a little shaken or maybe nervous.”
“Just not starting out as a very good day, difficult at best, not your problem though. Thanks for asking,” I say, still giving what I hope is a good performance.
“You are wrong, Dr. Smithton, your problems are very important to me.” He ends his sentence and I can tell he is looking for a response from me.
“I don’t believe I know you. Have we met?”
While I expect him to introduce himself and even extend his hand in greeting, he does nothing. If he was a reader, I would know it. I need to play along. With no time to give anything away, I have to act disturbed.
“Actually, right now, I don’t care who you are, my secretary is missing, and no one knows where she is. The so-called Security Staff are making it apparent they don’t care one bit,” I blurt out in a slightly on-the-edge tone I hope is convincing.
Going off a little should be expected. While I want to play the part of being headed out of control, I need not go too far.
“Everyone thought you got on the train and took off as if maybe you were guilty of something.” He pauses after saying this and then asks, “Do you know anything about her disappearance?”
I decide it is time to push him a little more. Before I can start, the door opens and several armed troopers enter the room. I step back and try to show surprise and a little fear. The fear part really doesn’t take much effort in the least. World Alliance Troops are not something you see every day. In fact, this close up was a first for me.
“What’s going on here? Is this about Jan?”
The man holds up his hand and says, “Escort the doctor back to the facility.”
I wait, not moving, wanting to see just how pushy they will be, and I do not have to wait long.
“Doctor, after you!” one of the troopers says in a tone that eliminates any desire to wait on my part. He motions to the door. The man and a high-ranking trooper do not follow right behind. I have learned a few things about this strange new man who seems to be someone important.
He does not answer questions, and from the way he gives orders, he is pretty high up with the military. He also gives me the direct impression he is very patient and smart. I do not see this as something good.
While we head back to the lab building, I believe they will want me one-on-one with their reader. If I am lucky, it will still be Jonathon. Almost everyone in my family believed when it came to “the gift,” it hopped right over me. Everyone except my great Aunt Diz; she would look at me and say I had the gift and it was strong in me, stronger than any, she would say.
The rest of the family and I thought she was as close to certifiable crazy as you could get. She told me one day it took more of “the gift” to hide thoughts than to read them. Unfortunately, she also said we were like two peas from the same pod. Soon after, she was taken away to an institution and I never saw her again.
Until now, I always figured and hoped she was wrong about me. Today, though, I will need all the help or any kind of gift I can get, especially if they don’t buy my story.
I need to keep the focus of my thinking on the whereabouts of Jan. I stop myself halfway through this thought and realize the focus should be on finding Jan. Has my paranoia and desire for self-preservation again taken over my thoughts and beliefs? While I am surrounded by the Government’s most loyal and fanatical soldiers, I must regain control of the person I am. The potential loss of a good friend, a person I trust and care about, needs to be in front of me. I need to help find Jan!
My thoughts are jarred back to reality as a funny thing happens. At the door of the building, I am the only one going in. The troops turn, and it seems as if we were not together and just walking in the same direction.
As I enter through the sliding doors, security is waiting, with as I had hoped, Jonathon.
“Dr. Smithton, we seemed to have lost track of you for a moment,” Jonathon says as he greets me.
This is not just a dig at the security agents, but a try to see if his comment gets a reaction from me. I am beginning to believe Jonathon likes to speak from what I call the edge of reality. With his slightly stinging commentary, he exposes a little truth he can easily cover as not what he meant. He then reads the thoughts of others to see how much truth in his comment. When the truth he has hinted at can hurt them, their thoughts betray them. It was my sister’s favorite ploy; it didn’t work on me for her then, and it won’t work for him now.
“I need to know where Jan Alexander is, she is my assistant and she is missing. Missing since yesterday afternoon and they,” I say slightly louder, as I want them all to hear, “should know something about when she left and I… her family and I need to know, if they know anything.”
After a short pause, Jonathon addresses the security agent. “Dr. Smithton has asked you a question.”
Now the agent is confused. Any answer he gives will be one he shouldn’t.
“Well, aren’t you the smart one!” Jonathon says, but this time he is back to his half-truths, because saying nothing is the smart answer.
“Have your supervisor call me. I want an update I can give the doctor as soon as possible!” he says to the agent, while looking at me.
Again, if this is true, it would be great; however, my gut feeling is that it won’t be an update, but a story to keep me calm.
“Thank you! Anything you can do is appreciated, thank you!” I say, thanking him again.
I can feel his mind searching, digging, and taking what I am giving him in my thoughts, looking for more.
“It is good to have someone to trust here.” The thought goes out as I weakly smile at Jonathon and I see him thinking he has gotten what he wanted.
“I’d best get to my office in case there is news from James, Jan’s husband.”
“Yes, indeed, I will get you with any news from Security as soon as we hear something, Dr. Smithton.”
“I’ll do the same,” I say as I walk towards my office. I finish with a “glad I met him” thought, just in case he could still possibly be reading me.
It feels different as I sit at my desk. Normally, Jan would have been on my coat tails when I came in. Always, when something big is happening, the first thing for her is to tell me about it. She would tell me what I need for the day. I can’t say why I feel her disappearance is more about me than her; it is just in my gut. I know somehow, I am to blame for this. I can also feel the presence of someone watching me.
I pick up the phone and punch in the number to call James. Sally answers with, “Hello, Alexander residence?”
“Hi, Sally, it’s Walt, have you heard anything on your end about Jan?”
Her reaction is slow and after a few seconds, I can tell she is moving, probably around a corner or something. “No, nothing I am afraid, how about you?”
“Nothing yet; the security people can’t tell me anything. I believe they are checking and they are to call me if they find out anything. I will keep trying though.” I stop; I am not sure what to add. I don’t want to say anything suspicious or unusual. While I am searching for what else to say, Sally thanks me and we just hang up.
I need to do something to get my mind going; I head to the experiment chamber. As the door seals, I reduce the lighting and prepare to open the orb holding the home and universe of my life form. As I switch the security system to full encasement, the lights go to total black. I check the monitor to confirm I have lock down and zero sound. I can now open the orb and enter the world of my creation, populated with my Creatures. I can now survey the world of the Zayans.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, William4OneWrite a Review