Week 3: January 15-21
Prompt: Drama in and Out of the Lab
Dying For A Cure
“I’ve got chills, they’re multiplying, And I’m Losing Control…”
Sonja turned off the 8-track cassette tape of her current favorite, the musical Grease. As she pulled her 1972 Ford Pinto into the Bio Lab parking lot. She patted the dashboard of her car.
“Good job,” she said. She knew the 6-year-old car was doing her a favor by continuing to run. She had gotten it for a song because of its high mileage and always thanked it, and whatever car gods were listening whenever it got her to her destination. She grabbed her bookbag and purse, humming as she headed towards the building. Shedding her coat, she entered the office.
Her face immediately flushed. It was always so hot in here. Joan, her boss said it was because the little microbes needed heat to stay healthy. Stopping by her locker she left her purse as she looked at her assignments on the counter. Some of the lab work was often mind-numbingly boring but some could be interesting too. She strolled to the cubicle belonging to her boss.
She was still looking at her assignments as she asked, “Joan, did you want me to test the new batch of…?
She stopped as she saw her boss’s head down on her desk.
She moved quickly to the woman and reached automatically touching her neck for a pulse. She drew her hand quickly back at the cool skin. Hurrying to the phone, dialing an outside line, she called 911 and for the police to come also. She then called Macklin Cross, head of the lab and her boss’ superior. She told him she had already called and he told her to wait there, and not to touch anything. As she backed out of Joan’s cubicle she noticed a small blue-capped test tube lying on the floor. What…? That should not have been there.
She looked over at the locked cabinet where the special projects were housed. As just a college intern she had never worked with high-profile projects, but she knew about them. Joan had been trying to excite my interest in microbiology by talking about the promising new medicines they were researching at the lab.
Joan alluded to potential cures and treatments that could change the face of medicine for decades. Of course, most of these treatments were years away but ‘you had to start somewhere.’ Sonja remembered Joan saying. Some medicines cured and some killed. Most of the time researchers didn’t set out to develop one or the other but often stumbled on them. The little guys in the blue-capped test tubes were the current darlings. These possessed the ability to slow down the aging process in skin tissue. Sonja turned as the noise alerted her to the arrival of Macklin Cross, quickly followed by the police and paramedics.
She stepped aside to allow them to get to Joan’s body. “What happened, Sonja, was there an accident?” Macklin asked.
“No Sir. I was just coming on for my shift. I came into Ms. Bagly’s cubicle to ask about my assignment and found her at her desk like this. I called 911, and then called you.”
Sonja looked at the test tube on the floor. Macklin followed her glance, met her eyes, and shook his head slightly. “Way above my pay grade,” she thought and stepped aside as the police moved towards Macklin.
“Excuse me, Sir,” an officer moved in between them,” I am Percy Conway from the Danver County Police Dept, Are you in charge here?”
“Yes, officer, I am Macklin Cross head of the lab.” he said, this is Sonja Johnson one of our college interns.” Would you like to move to my office to talk”?
“In a moment,” the officer said, “Ms. Johnson, you found the body?”
My throat went dry, I knew she was dead, had known it from the time I touched her neck, but it jarred me a bit when he referred to her as a body. A mouth full of cotton allowed me to croak out, “Yes, Sir.”
His eyes looked sympathetically at me. I guessed he was used to people seeing their first bodies on his watch. “
“Just tell me what happened.”
“I don’t, I don’t know. I mean, I had just gotten here and walked into Joan, I mean Ms. Bagly’s office, and found her like that.”
My eyes welled up. She had been a good boss, a kind person, and hell, most of all, she had been alive, and she wasn’t now. I didn’t know where to put this information.
“I’m sorry, what?” I realized Officer Conway had been talking to me.
“I asked if you moved anything? Or was anything out of place when you got here?” I felt Mr. Cross’ eyes on me and answered,
“No, I didn’t touch anything. Well, that’s not true. I touched the side of her neck to see if I could feel a pulse. I didn’t feel one, so I called 911 and then Mr. Cross.”
I jumped at the noise of the gurney being lifted and the sound of keys hitting the floor. When Mr. Cross bent to pick up his keys his eyes met mine.
“Mr. Cross” Officer Conway said,” if we could move to your office now and talk so my officers can work here, that would be great.”
“Will I have to close down the lab?” Macklin began, then stopped, to consider me.
“Sonja, you can head home for today.’ He looked at Officer Conway, “Unless you need her further.” Officer Conway looked up briefly from his notebook shaking his head.
“Okay, then I’ll give you a call tomorrow, Sonja, and let you know when you can return. As you can imagine, things will be in upheaval here, but Joan spoke very highly of your work. I am sure we can find another technician here who can use your help.”
He reached for my jacket, helping me on with it as he walked me from the lab. Then he gestured Officer Conway towards his office.
I was all the way to my car when I realized my keys were in my purse which was still in my locker and still inside. Now what? I rested my butt against my car and pushed my hands into my pocket. My keys weren’t there but I felt a small glass tube.
Pulling out my hand I looked at the blue stopper. I paced not sure what to do. I thought I can’t drive home without my purse, wallet, and driver’s license, and what the “F” was that test tube doing in my pocket? How had it gotten there? What was going on? Why hadn’t I said anything to Officer Conway about the test tube when he asked if anything was out of place?
Darn it, caught between two authority figures I had chosen to obey the one I worked for. I wasn’t normally a liar. This wasn’t really a lie. Ok, it was but a lie of omission. I knew Sister Mary Francis wouldn’t buy that one and anyway, damn, damn, double damn now what?!
I turned and headed back for the lab entrance. I had made up my mind if I saw Officer Conway, I would say I had come back because I forgot to tell him something.
Of course, I thought as my steps slowed, how do I explain not only the test tube that shouldn’t have been in Joan’s office but was now in my pocket and how did it get there? Macklin Cross had ingeniously roped me into the middle of this, whatever this was.
The door opened and I saw Officer Conway and Cross standing there.
“I told Officer Conway you’d be coming back” Cross smiled and handed out my purse. “You were understandably shaken when you left that you forgot this.”
I looked surprised, “It was in my locker” I stammered.
“Yes, it was but fortunately I have a master key to all the lockers.”
He smiled but the warmth in his voice didn’t reach his eyes.
“Go on home, take a hot bath, have a cup of tea and this will all feel better in the morning I promise.”
I took my purse from his hand and heard the lock click as the two men walked away from the door.
A hot shower, not a bath, and a hot toddy later, I still didn’t feel any better and as I drifted off to sleep, I knew two things, something was very wrong, and I had somehow ended up involved.
(To Be Continued)