Tuesday, April 29, 2014
I tucked the last stray stands of hair into my braid then grabbed a lint brush and gave my blazer a couple of go-overs. The last time I wore these clothes was at the interview that garnered me my current position with the public library. Now I’d be using them to commit a felony—or was it multiple felonies? Breaking and entering,...I planned to snoop, but not actually remove anything from Homian’s offices, so that seemed like one felony, unless this could be consider industrial espionage.
I grabbed a grey trench coat from the hall closet, then took one last look around my apartment. The lights and stove were off, and my computer was in sleep mode. Sighing, I headed out the door, locking it behind me.
In the alley behind my apartment building I took of my heeled shoes, holding one in each hand then closed my eyes. In my mind I pictured each bone in my body, imaging them full of holes like a birds. I imagined my lungs swelling with air, picking me off the ground the way a hot air balloon would its basket. Slowly I rolled onto my toes, until they could no longer touch the ground, and gradually I gained altitude.
In the distance I could see the Sears Tower—causing my stomach to flip. Why had I agreed to this again? Because I was a sucker, and the picture of the pretty girl in my trench coat was convincing. How did I know this wasn’t an elaborate trap?
Once I reached the Tower, I manoeuvered myself toward the alley where I’d first met Jason. As I descended, I peered over my toes to spot the ground and watch for possibly witnesses. The alley looked empty from my vantage point, several stories up, so I focused my energy into my feet, pushing against the air as I continued to lower myself down. I tightened my abdominal muscles to keep myself upright, and prepare for the landing that was soon to follow. When my toes brushed the ground I relaxed all the muscles I’d been holding tight, and settled onto my legs, which had been inactive during the journey.
“Wow, Claire. You look great. If I hadn’t seen you land, I wouldn’t have believed it was you.”
I scowled, but didn’t respond. He must have been hiding, possibly behind the dumpster a few feet away. I dropped my shoes to the ground and stepped into them.
“Ah come on, Claire.” Jason stepped toward me, motioning as if he wanted to grab my wrist or shoulder, but ended up shoving his hand in his pocket. “Sorry. Thanks for not being too late, I wasn’t looking forward to waiting for you all night.”
“I’d be more suspicious if I was lurking around Homian’s offices at midnight, don’t you think?” I checked my watch: quarter past eight. “I’m going in. If I’m not back in an hour, just go. I’m probably not coming out on my own, and you’ll have another person to try to rescue.”
To be continued...look for another installment of the story on Thursday, May 1st, 2014.
Thursday, April 24, 2014
A hand clamped down on my shoulder, anchoring me to my spot.
“Please don’t take off.”
I sighed. “I won’t. Not here. It's still daylight.”
“Do you trust anyone?” Jason released the pressure from my shoulder as his hand slid down to the crook of my elbow. A tingling sensation washed over my skin, unaccustomed to such close contact with another person, even if it was through the fabric of my jacket.
“I trust me.” I pealed Jason’s hand from my arm.
“That must be lonely.”
Oddly, I was disappointed he didn’t try to touch me again. What was I thinking? Jason was trouble. I was sure. And we were trying to rescue his girlfriend. I shook my head to dislodge the confusing thoughts that lingered there and continued walked. “What do you want me to look for when I break into Homian’s offices?”
Jason dug through his pockets, and after a moment held out a folded sheet of paper. “All I want is the location of Homain’s other research facility—the one where the conduct human research.”
“And how do you expect me to find that out?” I’d practically been reeled in now. All I had to do was wait to be gutted and placed in the frying pan—which was probably what would happen when I tried to sneak into Homain.
“Check the administrative files. I’m sure files and records are being couriered back and forth between locations. Even if the assistants don’t know what’s going in those facilities, they have to know their addresses.”
“Hm.” I picked at a fleck on my jacket.
“The sooner the better.” Jason said as he tentatively extended his hand and the paper further toward me.
I snapped the sheet up between my index and middle fingers. “Fine. I’ll go tonight.”
If I bothered to look, I suspect Jason was grinning from ear-to-ear. As it was, his tone of voice was awfully jovial. “Prefect. Great. Their offices are on the twenty-second floor. Agatha’s card should get you in, and don’t worry the cards just active the doors, they don’t tell the security system who owns the card. All the passwords are that paper. We just need the location of their other research facilities. And…”
As Jason paused I could almost feel his gaze as it swept me over from head to foot.
“If you could wear something a little more professional…”
I frowned, but understood. I dressed like a poor grad student. “For the record, I think this is a bad idea.” I slipped the sheet of paper into my shoulder bag.
“You’ll be fine.” Was Jason an unsquashable optimist, or was he stupid?
I shrugged. “Whatever.” Then I turned preparing to leave.
“I’ll see you tonight…at the Tower.”
I didn’t look back, but kept walking toward the subway entrance a half a block ahead.
“Whenever I get there.” I jogged the remaining distance to the stairs, leaving Jason behind me on the sidewalk.
To be continued...look for more of the story on Tuesday, April 29th, 2014.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Not until my phone read 6:00 p.m. did I headed for the elevator and down to the lobby. The least I could do was make Jason wait it out a couple more minutes, make him wonder if I’d changed my mind. Of course, when I finally rode the elevator down to the main floor of the library, and the doors slid back, he was waiting for me.
“Don’t you have a job?” I said once we were within a reasonable speaking range from each other.
“Nice to see you, too.”
Jason smiled, but I kept my expression neutral. Seeing Jason wasn’t nice. Seeing him meant I was jeopardizing my freedom.
“Let’s walk.” I kept my tone even and severe. I wanted to remain in control of the meeting as much as possible. I rushed past Jason, down the steps to the sidewalk. I headed off at a random direction, keeping my eyes forward. Looking too much at Jason and his expressive features might cause me to lose my focus.
“Could we sit down?” Jason easily kept up with my brisk pace.
“No.” I paused on the street corner as I waited for the light to turn green. “I’ve been sitting all day.” The light turned and I charged across the intersection.
Jason stuck his hands deep in the pockets of his jacket. “How do I know you won’t just take off if you don’t like what I have to say?”
“You don’t.” I checked my watch. “I have somewhere else to be in an hour, so hurry up.”
Jason grunted. He probably didn’t like my unwillingness to commit, but that’s the way I was going to play. I’d been keeping my secret for nearly twenty years and I still walked the streets because I kept to myself.
“What’s the plan?”
He snuck a peek over his shoulder before he spoke. No doubt Agatha had spent a lot of time checking for eavesdroppers who may or may not have been there before she disappeared. “You’ll need to sneak into the Homain Research office—I’ve got a list of computer passwords.”
“Won’t they have changed the passwords by now?” Maybe I could reason myself out of this predicament.
Jason shook his head. “I’ve got it covered A friend of Agatha’s can get them and pass them on to me.”
“Convenient.” I checked out the store front displays rather than look at my companion.
“Maybe.” Jason’s voice took on a hard-edge. “Or maybe she’s just worried about what’s happened to Agatha. Didn’t that occur to you? That people could be nice with no strings attached?”
"No, there are always strings attached," I said then turned the corner.To be continued...look for new content on Thursday, April 24th, 2014.
Thursday, April 17, 2014
I didn’t return to my apartment until early the next morning. Once the sunset I spent my entire evening sitting on top of the Sears tower, the supposed location of Homian Power Research. What did they want with me? Agatha Morland? Or others who had special powers? I stayed on the rooftop until my teeth chattered and my fingers and toes had gone numb. When I arrived home I could barely manipulate my keys and fit it into the lock on my door. I went straight to my bedroom, peeled of my chilled clothing and replaced them with a thick terrycloth robe then crawled into bed.
Friday morning I made my coffee at home and as I approached the library I kept my eyes peeled for any signs of Jason. He had proven himself persistent thus far, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find him waiting for me now. I found no hint of him. Not his expensive jacket, nor his fine leather shoes. A small part of me was actually disappointed not to find him. How could I be disappointed? He way annoying, and he was going to wind up getting me into trouble. I dashed up the stars and crossed the lobby toward the elevators.
I’d only had enough time to take off my jacket and hang it off the back of my chair when my phone rang. I stared at the object sitting on my desk. No one called me. If anyone wanted to talk to me, they either walked over to my desk or e-mailed me.
“Good morning, Claire Lamont speaking.” I held my breath as I waited for the reply.
“Hi Claire.” It was Jason.
I sighed as I dropped to my seat, swivelling the chair toward the window and away from my coworkers. “How did you get this number?”
“It was easier than you might think.”
“Hm.” I said. The library website provided a great deal of information if you knew where to look for it.
“Have you thought about our talk last night?”
“Yes.” I had had plenty of time to think about it, although I hadn’t devoted much time to answering the question, since I knew what I’d do almost immediately after taking off last night.
I glanced over my shoulder to make sure no one was listening, not that my coworkers would have understood much from my end of the conversation. “I’ll need further instructions.”
“I knew you’d help.” Jason’s voice rang with triumph.
“I’m done at 5:30.” I kept my voice flat.
“Can we meet sooner?”
“No. And don’t call this number again.” I swung around in my seat to face the rest of the office and hung up. Closing my eyes, I leaned my elbows on my desk and rested my forehead in my hands. I stayed this way from a few seconds as a wave of nausea passed over me.
To be continued...look for more of the story on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
*So I missed last week, sorry about that...I'm working 2 part-time jobs at the moment. I'll keep these posts going until I've wrapped up the portion of story I'm intending to share.*
“You can’t ignore this.” Jason was close behind me.
I closed my eyes, and imaged what I’d have to do to ignore it. I’d have to leave the city, fine some obscure small town in the middle of nowhere—in need of an experienced librarian. “Do you want to rescue just your girlfriend, or anyone else who’s been kidnapped by Homain?”
“Everyone, of course.” The crack in Jason’s voice told the truth, that his girlfriend was his main concern, and if anyone else was freed in the meantime that would be acceptable.
I pivoted so I faced Jason, crossing my hands over my chest as I moved. His eyes were focused on the ground, turned slightly away from me like he might be on the verge of more tears. I sighed. “Do you have a plan?” I was flirting dangerously close to be sucked in.
Jason’s mouth opened, but he didn’t immediately reply.
“You don’t have one.” I sipped my coffee. Great, just great.
Jason swallowed, then stepped toward me, reaching inside his jacket as he moved. Is this it then? Is he from Homian Power Research? Am I about to get shot point-blank? I had enough time to step, or more like stumble backward before he withdrew his hand to hold out an ID card.
I stuttered as I released my breath.
“I need someone to go back into the Homain Power offices and locate their actual research lab.” Jason didn’t seem to notice my momentary freak out, or at least politely ignored it.
“What do you mean someone? Didn’t you say the security man could identify me?” I eyed the ID card.
“They chased me out of there once, I can’t go back.” He shoved the badge in my hand and totally ignored my question.
I held it gingerly, like it would explode in my hands, as I turned it over. A picture of a young brunette was printed on it, with the name Agatha Morland written beneath. “You’re girlfriend?”
Jason didn’t look directly at me, he was more focused on the wall behind me. “I found this card inside her day planner. She'd tucked it under her pillow.”
“Convenient.” I kicked at a loose chunk of ash fault. Neither of us seemed willing to face the other.
“Will you help me?” The words were nothing more than a whisper.
The small part of me that cared, the ounce of compassion still lingering inside me was gaining the upper hand. How could I look at the picture of smiling Agatha Morland and say no? I clenched my fingers tight around the card so the thin plastic edge dug into my palm. “I’ll have to think about it.” I said, then turned, dumped my coffee on the ground, and with two long strides, shot into the air.
To be continued...look for more of the story on Thursday, April 17th, 2014.
Thursday, April 3, 2014
“Hi Claire,” said the clerk behind the counter.
Regret flooded me. I shouldn’t come to a place where I was familiar, even if they knew nothing more about me than my first name. The overly friendly staff might ask me who Jason was on a subsequent visit, but I couldn’t turn tail and run now, it was too late. The only thing left was to cross my fingers that they’d forget I’d had a companion so I ordered my coffee to go.
Jason asked for the same then placed a five dollar bill on the counter.
“Is that together?” The clerk raised his eyebrow at me as he rang in our order. He almost seemed in disbelief that I could be here with someone. I couldn’t blame him, I’d come in alone almost everyday for the past year.
“No.” I dug through my purse for my wallet.
“Yes.” Jason pushed the bill across the counter.
“No, here.” I dumped my coins on the counter, one rolling away in my haste. I wouldn’t own Jason anything, not even the price of coffee.
The clerk’s gaze flickered between the two of us, clearly trying to figure out what was going on, so I fixed my most annoyed expression on my face to discourage inquiry. Whether he took the hint, or wasn’t all that interested after all, he took our money, handed Jason his change, then poured our drinks. Cup in hand, I left the coffee shop without another word. What had I been thinking? Jason’s good looks and sob story were clouding my judgement.
“Have I done something wrong?” It sounded as though Jason was stomping on the sidewalk beside me.
In no better humour myself, I pounded forward. “If you haven’t figured it out by now, I don’t like getting involved with people.” I was barely keeping my voice under control. “I avoid relationships to keep myself safe, and now you seem determined to force yourself and your problems on me.”
Jason grabbed my arm, forcing me to stop. He stared at me as he breathed heavily through flared nostrils, then yanked me toward a nearby alleyway. Once we were partially secluded from the street he released his grip, but the glare he gave me was sufficient to hold me in place. “You need to look outside your own bubble, Claire.”
“And you need to accept that I don’t want to get involved.”
“Then why did you save me?”
“Bad impulse.” I shrugged, then walked deeper into the alley. Sunset was still an hour away, but if getting into the air meant getting out of this conversation and away from Jason, I’d consider it. I kept my gaze focused on the rectangle of light that indicated the street on the other end. No footsteps sounded behind me.
“Homian Power Research.” He was testing me, trying to bait me. I wouldn’t accept the challenge. “They research humans with unique powers for the military.”
My fingers went numb. “Fuck.”
To be continued...look for more of the story on Tuesday, April 8th, 2014
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
I stayed at my desk until five-thirty, once everyone else in my department had left. I held my breath as I rode the elevator down to the first floor. Would he be waiting for me, or had he taken the hint that I wanted to be left alone? When the doors slid open, I had to prevent myself from sprinting to the exit, but then immediately wished I had let loose when I heard my name called from somewhere off to my right.
I bit my knuckles to muffle the scream that rose to my lips. I whipped around on my heel in time to see him crossing the library lobby. “Are you always this desperate and stalker-ish?” My voice sounded more like a hiss than a regular human voice.
“When my girlfriend’s life is at stake.” He bit his lip, and looked away for a moment, like he was trying to stifle a sob.
Uh-oh, tears. Even me, with my crusty, hard exterior hated seeing someone cry. I swallowed and shifted my gaze to the floor. “I’m sorry, but I can’t—”
“This affects you too, you know.” If I wasn’t mistaken, Jason’s voice broke slightly. “Their security man might be able to recognize you, and if he does, they’ll come for you.”
I curled my fingers into fists, as I slowly reorganized my mental armour. I wouldn’t relent. Distance was my only defense. I’d kept my parents aloof for years. As far as I knew, they had no idea of the freak show their daughter had turned into. It was safer for me, and for them. I turned to go. “They’ll only come sooner if I help you.”
“At least if you helped me you’d know who and what you’re facing.”
I closed my eyes and inhaled slowly. He was right, kind of, anyway. If I helped, I might have the chance to be prepared for a potential threat. Know who they were and what they intended to do with me once they caught me. I wanted to think if they caught me, but that was dangerously optimistic. I exhaled, my eyes still shut. “There’s a small coffee shop a few blocks away.”
I didn’t wait for a response. If he wanted to talk to me, he would follow, and sure enough, after a few strides I heard his steps fall in synch with mine. Neither of us spoke as we walked, which suited me fine. My nerves grew unsettled with each block. I never went out to coffee with anyone, let alone an attractive young man who knew what I was, and wanted to help me—for my help in return.
To be continued...look for more of the story on Thursday, April 3rd, 2014.