The phone rang, its shrill ring echoing across the nearly empty lab and startling Dr Sarah Lee out of her deep concentration. She reached blindly for the receiver, still concentrating on the screen in front of her. Absentmindedly she wondered who would phone the lab phone at this time of night. Her family would have used her cell number, although now she thought about it, she wasn’t sure where her cell was in the chaos that was her desk. "Hello" she answered. If this was a telemarketer they would regret disturbing her. Although her number was unlisted so she realised that couldn’t be. The harsh whispered voice that came over the line drew her full attention. "Sarah" it asked almost pleading. "Yes who is this, what do you want?" The relief that transferred across the line through a barely heard sigh, made her pause. "Sarah you have to get out, you need to run" as the voice became more pleading and desperate, she began to recognise it. "Dr Walsh? Is that you" She would have thought that her assistant was playing a prank if not for the fact that she knew him: his stern character had never played a prank in his life. "Oh Sarah, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to, well I didn’t realise it would turn out like this” "Like what, what’s going on?" She interrupted his self-pitying tirade. “I needed money, you know how expensive my wife's treatments are, the cancer seems more aggressive than ever, and the amount they offered would have gotten her the best specialists in the world" A growing sense of dread formed a hard ball in the pit of her stomach as she listened. “What have you done" She spoke calmly, belying the sense of panic, confusion and grief that welled up inside her. She trusted Dr Walsh, they had worked together for years. She had visited his wife just last week with yellow daffodils to cheer her hospital room. She had contacted friends and anyone she could think of to help with the treatment. And now her worst fears, the ones she hadn’t even consciously acknowledged were coming true. "Who did you sell it to?" Her voice a cold whisper that she didn’t recognise. "He is an arms dealer, he is ruthless and evil. I didn’t realise at first, I just thought about the money. I was only giving him basics but now he has realised the depth of the discovery and he wants it all. He threatened me, he wanted the formula. I tried to hold back but" his sob was an indication of the torment he was under. A flicker of concern washed over Sarah before she reasserted herself. She needed more information if she were to survive the night. “Who is he" She repeated. The name sent shivers down her spine before she was aware of it, she thought it was familiar and only then remembered it from news stories of failed arrests and horrific crimes. "What should I do" She asked aloud, more to herself than the phone but Walsh answered anyway "That’s what I’m saying, you need to run, destroy it all and run. HE is coming for you. I told him it was my idea but he saw through that instantly, he knows he needs you to make it work. Sarah, I’m so sorry, but you need to run. Now" His voice got louder and louder, his desperation clear. Mixed feelings rose, he had been the one to betray her but now he was probably saving her life. Sarah knew how important her research was, how much certain people would go through, what they would be willing to do to get their hands on it. Ruthlessly shoving her mixed emotions deep inside, she started typing in a specific set of commands into her computer. She took a moment as numbers started scrolling the screen to say 'thank you' to her betrayer, knowing she would likely never see him again. A dull dial tone met her words. He was gone. Now it was her turn to flee. Running between desks she gathered up all the papers she could and put them in a big bin. Grabbing a Bunsen burner she lit it and dropped it in. The flame flared high and the papers shrivelled. Knowing the fire would spread but not allowing herself a moment to feel anything as her life's work went up in flames; she moved to the other computers, checking that the system failsafe had triggered a mass deletion. She took a moment to look around the lab, trying to get her muddled mind to think clearly enough to see if she had missed anything. Realising the smoke was making it hard to breathe, she started towards the exit. On the way she remembered and rushed to a near computer to shut off the sprinkler system. Then she grabbed her bag and fled.
Sarah made it to her small compact Audi and threw herself inside. Grabbing her car keys out of her handbag, she started the car. She took a deep breath, only to start coughing and choking. Knowing there was no time, she opened both her windows and tried to drive. After stalling twice in her panic, she finally started to move toward her flat. Praying her house keys were in her bag, she didn’t spare a glance to check. There was no way to go back inside to get them anyway. Seeing flames flickering in the big office windows, she turned away and started to drive away from the place that had been a second home to her for years. Concentrating on the road, which was thankfully nearly empty at this time of night, she drove as fast as she could without drawing attention to herself. The last thing she needed was to be pulled over. A moments dream of being able to just explain it all to a cop and have the authorities take over clouded her mind, but she know it would never work.. The scale of this discovery, the benefits and the unwitting potential for destruction, would reach high levels. No ordinary cop could protect her, at this point, she wasn’t sure anyone could.
Fumbling through her bag as she pulled up outside her front door, Sarah finally snagged her beaded sun key ring with relief. Unlocking her car door and leaving it open, she run inside. Once in her room, she locked the bolt and released the breath she had been holding on her sprint inside. Looking around her small cherished flat, she felt grief well up inside her once more. She loved this place, had worked hard to make it her home, lonely though it often was. The cheerful butterfly patterned print on her bedspread in contrast to the deep blues of her thick blanket and light airy curtains. All of it was mismatched, and a bit chaotic at the best of times, but she had chosen and loved every piece. Realising that she had been standing still for too long, Sarah looked around in a more critical eye: what did she need to take. As much as she hated the thought of running, leaving all she had known; she knew, right then, there was no other choice. Sarah hurriedly opened her cupboard and grabbed an old backpack, tossing some t-shirts and underwear in with her toothbrush and a torch. Not knowing where she was going to end up, she had no idea what else to take. But she rationalised, she would find a way to buy things there. Right now, her only need was speed. Sarah knelt under her bed until she felt the small metal box magnetised to the underside of her black metal bed frame. Pulling it out and opening it, she gave a regretful sad smile: the last evidence of her formulas. She picked up the memory stick and walked into the bathroom. She dropped it on the tile floor and stamped her heel down on it. Her comfortable sneakers didn’t make much damage unfortunately. She looked around and grabbed her sturdy heels that she had worn to a family dinner a few nights before, from the floor near the wash basket. She should have really tidied those away she thought as she brought down the heel on the stick, cracking it, over and over until it snapped. Trying hard not to think about what she was destroying. Sarah stood and picked up the pieces before flushing them. It took a few tries before her environmentally friendly toilet finally swallowed them all. Taking a breath, she grabbed deodorant and a hairbrush, smiling at her vanity. Sarah went to the other room, and taking one last look, she threw back the bolt and opened the door.
Only to run straight into a very large, muscular chest. The impact knocked the breath out of her and she tried to right herself by stepping away. Only to find her arm in a vice-like grip. Looking up she saw a slightly dishevelled, hard face. Eyes that looked like a grey storm cloud and a face that looked chiselled from granite and about as forgiving. Sarah had a moment of panic, she froze and then realised she had to do something. She tried to wrench her arm away and run past but only succeeded in jarring her shoulder and feeling herself yanked even harder against the harsh lines of his chest, she could feel the buttons on his shirt against her cheek. Knowing her danger and willing to try anything, Sarah tried to stamp on his foot, but her sneakers remained ineffective. At the same moment, though, she threw herself back and started to flail around, trying to hit any part of his body she could. When he just grabbed both of her wrists and didn’t even flinch, she knew she needed help. Sarah opened her mouth to scream. Her breath was cut off as he pressed his mouth against hers. The kiss was savage, the intent to shut her up without releasing her hands. It was bruising and forceful, from a stranger who no doubt intended to harm her; yet even so, Sarah could feel herself responding. The force of his lips on hers as he tilted his head and pushed himself deeper against her. Momentarily forgetting the situation, everything blurred except his mouth and hers. The moment when his tongue swept across her lips and she instantly opened up to him. Feeling him sweep her away with just the brush of his tongue against hers, she made a barely there moan of pleasure. He tasted so good, like peppermint and smoke. She pushed up against him to deepen the kiss and felt the shape of his gun at this hip. Cold reality wrenched her back in an instant: what the hell was she doing. She bit down forcibly on his surging tongue, drawing blood. At his expletive, he drew his head back and looked stunned at her. Using that moment, she swung herself around him and tried to reach the door. She felt him move, without sparing a glance. Her momentary momentum wouldn’t last long if he caught her. She felt his hands as they released her to garb something out of his pants pockets. Fearing he was reaching for his gun, she sent up a swift prayer and continued to try move away. Knowing she would never outrun a bullet. Instead of a harsh burning pain, she felt his hands grab her and a sharp sting in her neck. Blackness invaded her vision as she dropped into his arms.