Larry’s head hurt again. He rubbed his eyes, then looked over to his phone on the side table and picked it up. Paul had brought it in for him during his morning visit. He hadn’t actually thought to turn it on yet. Truth was, he didn’t really want to. It would just be more about a life he had trouble working out in his head.
On startup no messages from anyone beeped or displayed. He searched through his calendar but found nothing set for any of the days and no names had been entered. He flipped through his address book and found Sincorp Board. He couldn’t remember who normally answered the phone. If the detective was right then no one would.
Larry hit the call button and handed the phone to Bradbury.
“Maybe this number will help you find them?”
“It goes to voicemail. Your boss, Michael Track,” Bradbury said.
Larry held his head for a moment. “Right, yeah, I spoke to him a few days after Tom told me what he knew about my work.”
“A friend I used to work with on base.
“And you only just remember this now?” Detective Bradbury turned away.
Larry thought he heard him swear, but ignored it and also ignored him when he turned back with a stare to melt ice. Larry felt a little guilty that he hadn’t thought to mention Tom, even if it wasn’t his fault his mind had more shadows than a wine cellar. He dialed Tom.
“Hey, Larry, how was your brother’s birthday? I hadn’t heard from you. Thought maybe you’d decided to stay for good?”
Larry had been prepared to talk to Tom like they were strangers, but when he heard his friends voice, he croaked an emotion filled word, “Tom...”
Worry lines softened around his eyes, the tension in his neck eased and his confusion drained away. He smiled. Tom’s voice brought back so many memories of them together that he found himself so close to tears he couldn’t breath. Then, suddenly he burst out laughing and couldn’t stop.
It took half a minute to calm down and then another minute of chatting about everything and nothing to his friend before he could bring himself to talk about the current situation. This, while watching the detective pace the hospital room.
Larry interrupted. His expression became impassive with some effort. “Actually, Tom, I’ve some weird news.”
Larry took a deep breath, turned the speaker phone on and began.
Once finished, Detective Bradbury cut in, “Before you tell us what you know, Major, I need your full name and address. We’ll be sending someone from SOG to make sure you don’t disappear.”
“I’ll explain later.”
Detective Bradbury made notes on a small pad from Tom’s information on Sincorp; where Tom had heard the information, who knew about it and others who knew about Larry’s work. The information made Larry think on some of the other things that had gone on at Sincorp.
White clothing, needles injecting, hospital equipment, people on surgical beds. Larry wrote with a green pen on a clipboard, notes referring to test subjects, details relating to new drugs. A code: A7-452. His name at the top: Larry Emerson.
The clipboard lowered from view to reveal a man lying on a hospital bed dressed in a white gown with pale blue stripes. Awake and alert with sensors taped to his head and body. Early thirties, apparently fit, healthy, nervous but calm.
Red bruised skin encircled a large lump on his right arm where a bone break had occurred. Fortunately it had not pierced the skin. The patient stared at the lights above him. They rarely had an idea of the tests they were to run, only that they would get better. A familiar voice spoke, it was his own.
“Everything looks good here, Mr Tyson, soon we’ll begin the procedure with an injection.” Larry gave a comforting smile. “Lay back and relax, it won’t last long, I promise.”
The patient nodded, “Thanks, doc.”
The patient breathed deep before letting his breath out again and appeared to relax.
A young female doctor dressed in a business suit with a white overcoat administered an injection. She barely took notice of the actual patient. She wiped the needle mark with a white cotton ball and taped another to the small wound. She looked back to the doctor, nodded and left for a different room.
Sweat dripped from the patient’s face, his heart rate increased to over 100 beats per minute. His calm demeanor disappeared. Rivulets of water rolled down onto the blue hospital pillowcase darkening the fabric.
The patient’s arm cracked and squeaked under the skin. A startled expression crossed the patient’s face and he looked up into Larry’s eyes then back to his arm. They could both see movement under the skin as repairs took place. The patient looked as though he wanted to ask an urgent question, then dizziness swept in, his eyes rolled up and he blacked out. Only the rise and fall of his chest disputed the possibility that death may have taken him.
Larry’s probing fingers moved over the patient’s arm, he felt skin, muscles, tendons, then deeper: bones; all intact. Nothing out of the ordinary. He scribbled something on his clipboard as he walked.
Bradbury said, “Thanks,” to someone.
Larry barely heard him, but was aware of the detective staring down at him while he lay thinking on his bed.
Detective Bradbury broke through Larry’s daydream with a more determined and strong voice. His expression sure again. “...Mr Emerson, I’ll be visiting Sincorp shortly to check the validity of your friend’s story. I’ll also make sure you and your family are taken somewhere safe.”
Larry nodded to the detective, who had already turned and started out the door.
Larry’s daydream... or returned memory, was probably one of those things he was supposed to tell the detective about—if it was in fact real. Then all he would need to do is be sure that releasing such information to the police department would not get them all killed.
Bradbury opened the door to a simple grey room where a constable took notes sitting opposite a man in jeans and a T-shirt, with the words, Bioengineering DNAs all over Physicists, amusing himself by checking emails on his phone.
“Major Finch, how are you coming with that information? Anything else of importance come to mind?”
Tom stood and put his phone into his pocket. “Detective Bradbury is it?”
Bradbury maneuvered himself into the small room, not much bigger than a bathroom and shut the door. There was just enough space for two people, two chairs and a small table. After shaking hands with the major he leaned against the door.
“I tracked down the colonel who shot his mouth off over Larry’s projects,” Tom said. “You know, I wouldn’t have known what Larry was up to if I hadn’t been sitting so close to the Colonel. My ears pricked up because I heard Larry’s name mentioned.”
“And who’s this Colonel?” Bradbury said.
“Colonel John Redcliff. From what I hear he’s more of a politician than an officer. Actually, a pen-pusher is what was said. I didn’t care who he was at the time, I only wanted to see Larry’s face when I told him I knew what he was working on...”
Tom said all this as if he were apologizing and wanted Bradbury to absolve him of his sins. Bradbury, instead, stared at the man willing him to hurry the hell up.
“...I should have been more discreet. Larry tried to tell me, but I guess I was being an ass to get a laugh. Don’t feel too good about it now.”
Bradbury then stared at the constable, who had been sitting quietly watching the two men talk. Bradbury’s forehead creased further, lines crisscrossing down to the bridge of his nose. The officer took a moment to realize that it was his turn to give an update.
“Ah, right, Detective. We contacted a General Reginald Franks, the major’s commanding officer, he said Colonel Redcliff spends most of his time in the Australian barracks liaising with special operations officers. He appears to be interested in Australian troop’s techniques, primarily the special forces. He then offers the best ones premium wages to work in the US and train American military.
“I tried to contact the colonel,” the constable said, “but his office said he left on business and won’t be returning.”
“Where?” Detective Bradbury said.
He shrugged. “They wouldn’t say.”
“They did say he’d flown out, rather than driven out, if that helps,” the constable said.
“I might be able to find out where,” Tom said, and reached into his pocket and dialled his office.
“Hey, Space... Yeah, I’m okay, just out at the coppers, they’re getting some intel from me.”
Bradbury cleared his throat, not attempting to hide his impatience.
Tom said to his work colleague with one eye on Bradbury, “Hey, can you look out the window and see which birds are missing?”
Tom wrote down a serial number of the missing plane and registration number, then handed it to Bradbury.
“Thank you, Major,” the detective said, leaving the room.
Bradbury knocked on his sergeant’s office door and entered but strangely didn’t find him at his desk. Without asking reception where he had gone, he called his boss’s mobile number.
“What’s wrong, Bradbury? I’m not in today.” His boss rushed his words.
Bradbury explained he wanted details on a visiting military colonel and needed to know what he was up to.
“I’ll see what I can do,” Sergeant Boyle said, ’but you know we can’t go investigating US military without getting politicians up our ass. My meeting starts up again soon, so if I can’t find anything out in the next few minutes, you’re on your own.”
Bradbury paced the room from his desk to the window then to the water cooler. A murmur of voices and a barely audible ringing of phones hung in the air. Bradbury picked up his desk phone on the first chime.
“He has diplomatic friends here, Bradbury, I couldn’t get anything. They don’t list flight plans for security reasons, but I rang a friend of mine who’s got spotters reporting back to Civil Aviation. One said he saw your plane heading east near Kinglake. I think you better get back there.”
Bradbury and Jones hurtled along the highway with lights flashing. They stopped in at Healesville hospital to collect Larry and then sped to the Emerson home.