What Really Killed Dr. Lake?
Keith ran quickly and quietly down the halls, peering discreetly into empty labs and dark offices.
He was alone.
Keith had no fear of security cameras, from the back he looked like Bert, and he had been extra careful not face them. He punched the stolen combination into the pad beside Bert’s door. Bert was the only one who got an electronic lock. What was so darn special about Bert? All the man ever did was sip coffee and shoot the breeze with the bigwigs. Perhaps that’s why he’d gotten that extra funding. Keith doubted any of Bert’s crazy ideas were worth a sinch otherwise.
With a beep, the door opened. Bert’s computer monitor shined like a beacon of hope. Keith knew exactly what went on between Bert and that hot young supervisor. Their relationship had certainly played a huge part in Bert’s project getting raised to priority six, a position Keith had been stalking for the past five years. It was, of course, against company policy to promote your lover. If only Nora’s dirty little secret was common knowledge –
Keith’s fingers flew across the keyboard, typing out the sequence he painstakingly recorded one digit at a time with the camera on his phone. Bert loved to show off his office. Even to his enemies. It had taken multiple occasions of sucking up to the man for Keith to sneak enough pictures of his finger work so as to learn the entire password.
Yes, he was in . . .
Minutes ticked by . . . adding up to an hour. Keith felt stupid.
Why would Bert and Nora need to send lurid E-mails to each other when they could just hook up after work? Most likely he was wasting his time.
Then he heard footsteps.
Keith logged out instantly, hid in a dark corner, and waited, glad he’d had the foresight to close the door.
Bert stormed in, gathered some papers, and left. Bert was burning the midnight oil it seemed. A sudden thought occurred to Keith. He grabbed a hefty triple hole punch and crept after him. “Don’t think.” He said to himself. “Just act.” Keith needed that grant. Keith really, really, needed that grant.
Bert was due for an extended vacation. Nora wouldn’t go with him, as it would give their affair away. It would be some time before Bert was missed. No one would suspect mild-mannered Keith Waterson of anything. No one even knew he harbored a strong dislike for the man.
Hoping to catch a glimpse of his prey, Keith peered through the small glass window in the specimen room door. What he saw made him forget all about Bert’s Murder, and rush inside. Seemed someone had beaten him to it.
Keith had once mentioned Burt’s crazy experiments to a janitor. They had laughed about Bert’s obsession with mind control and dissecting monkey brains. The janitor soon revealed herself as an undercover animal advocate. Sarah said that Keith’s own gene mapping project was of no concern to her organization, and that helping to expose Bert as an abuser would force a company renowned for it’s ethical practices to either sack him or lose face. Keith’s boring but far less controversial work would rule the day, and all would be right with the world, and it would have been – had it not been for Keith’s cold feet. Now however, there would be no turning back.
On the damp tile floor sat Sarah, the dying Bert in her arms. “It was an accident.” hissed Sarah. “No it wasn’t.” hissed Keith. “No one has to know about this.” They said. Almost in unison. Keith smiled and they kissed.
Their interlude was interrupted by one of the companies elite security guards. Grail Industries employed some very expensive and dangerous substances, as well as some equally expensive and dangerous people. The Guard raised her gun, and without even blinking, put three shots in Burt’s chest, finalizing his ordeal. The couple didn’t even have time to wonder if they were under arrest, before the guard spoke. “Thank you” she said. “for helping me catch a terrorist.”
“What?!” They responded, both shocked and relieved. “Mr. Bertram Lake” She went on, “was filmed talking to some suspicious persons outside his car last night. As you probably know the technology he was working on is of special interest to the government. It could be a valuable tool in our nation’s defense. In the wrong hands, however, it could be deadliest thing since the invention of the atomic bomb.” So that’s why Bert was getting all the special treatment. Thought Keith. “Ma’am, may I ask what -” “Sorry Sir, but that is all I’m allowed to tell you. There will be a de-briefing, so any further questions can be addressed then.”
They waited in silence. Till a second guard barged in.
“Report to Central.” Said their captor. “I will.” said the new guard. “just as soon as I take care of business.” He raised his gun. “Stand back.” Yet another bullet struck Bert. Keith was starting to pity the man. “What was that about!” Shouted the female guard. “This man was refusing to cooperate with quarantine!” “He’s a terrorist!” “He’s also been infected with Q2 Pariah!”
Gasps filled the room.
“Don’t panic.” said the male guard. “Q2 runs its course in a week. We will however, need to remain under observation for at least a year.” “There must be a cure.” demanded Sarah. “This a level three facility!” “There is a cure.” said the guard, but I don’t see why they’d bother. The cure causes a severe allergic reaction in twenty percent of recipients, and Q2 has never killed anyone.” He regarded the body on the floor. “At least not directly.” Keith stood up. “Then why even bother -” The new guard was big man fresh out of black ops, he had probably gotten fired for being too trigger happy. He shouted in Keith‘s face like an angry drill sergeant “Because it just a dangerous disease!”
The people in the room started to fidget. “What he means to say.” said the woman. “Is that while Q2 Isn’t harmful in and of itself, it can be easily manipulated by a terrorist to create something far worse.” Keith relaxed, even though he knew he was being fed bull. It was becoming clear the Bio-agent in question was a closely guarded trade secret rather then a killer scourge. He did his best to reassure Sarah, yet Keith still couldn’t dismiss the feeling that something was terribly awry.
The sudden appearance of Burt’s fling would confirm those feelings. Nora’s voice rang loud and clear over the tense tableau. “This whole section is blocked and no one will let me use the phones!” She pushed past the two guards and was confronted by Bert’s battered body. The look on her face brought on a pain like nothing Keith had ever known. He sincerely regretted what had had to happen. Burt’s death had been necessary – or had it been?
He saw Nora’s face go from twisted to spiteful. “Good riddance.” She said, and began to kick the corpse repeatedly. A guard put a hand on her shoulder. “Easy ma’am, we know how it is to be betrayed by a friend.” “Friend!” She screamed. “That two-timing bastard had lots of friends!” Keith couldn’t remain silent a moment longer. “Does it bother anyone that we all suddenly hate Bert?” They looked at him like he’d just said something crazy.
The containment team arrived before Keith could finish. All were led to sealed plastic cells to await screening. “You may not even be infected.” Keith was told by his long time friend and associate Howard Means. However, if you are infected, this bullet-proof prison may be more for your own protection then anyone else’s.” “What do you mean?” said Keith, pressing his hand on the glass between them. “I’m not supposed to tell you this but – Q2 has only one symptom – those who die of it – “They said it wasn’t Fatal!” “It is not directly fatal, but let me finish. Those who die of it, are murdered.”
tightly written, very very gripping story. you have a wonderful way of writing stories.
Thanks for the feedback. It’s always welcome.
I’ve got another flashfiction on the way, if your
Those who die of it are Murdered.. no way out… :-). clever tale…
Hope you are well my friend… and enjoying the last of November Days..
Just got back from a Renassance fair
in Texas – rained the whole time, but
I picked up some truly badass crafts.
Came home covered with mud and
smelling like horse sweat, and yet I
still had a great time.
Amazing! I always love surprise endings!
Thanks for reading. 🙂