The crack of the pistol shattered the silence of the musty storeroom, as I dove to my left on instinct more than thought. The bullet slammed into a support column, dislodging a chunk of concrete that struck my forehead. Blood from the cut was already flowing toward my eyes, as I sprinted down a darkened aisle between two sets of shelves along the outer wall.
“What the hell, Thomas,” I yelled in confusion, wiping the blood from my eyes and continuing my rapid retreat. My vision had not fully adjusted to the dark at the back of the room and I crashed into something laying in the aisle, falling to the floor on my knees. I grimaced with the pain, swearing under my breath so as not to give my new foe the satisfaction of knowing I was hurt. But it seemed he already knew.
“Easy there, Jeremy ol’ boy,” Thomas Jones called back to me, pronouncing my name in the sing-song fashion someone might use with a toddler. “You don’t want to kill yourself. No, let me do that.” His calm, mocking tone was unnerving.
“Is this about the money? No one kills for a lousy $1,000,” I shouted.
“You have no idea,” Jones replied. He was correct; I had no notion why he wanted me dead.
I pulled myself over to the shelves to stand, but as I got up, my arms and legs started trembling. It was, I knew, the adrenalin pumped into my bloodstream as part of a fight or flight response. The problem was, it was just wasted hormones. There was no place to run and no way for me to fight someone armed with a gun. I needed calm. I needed to think, but my racing heart and sweaty palms were not making that easy.
“Let me shed a little light on your situation,” Jones said and a bank of lights about 25 feet over my head came to life. When we had entered the storeroom, it had felt empty. The pool of light on that end had revealed little except open space and the ends of three sets of shelves. But now that the entire area was illuminated, I could see a space of perhaps 75 by 75 feet.
One side of the room was crammed with worn-out furniture – desks, tables, bookcases, chairs – all layered in years of dust. On the other side, shelves spanned the entire length and reached at least 15 feet into the air. They were filled with old computers, keyboards, displays, and terminals … there might have even been a card punch machine in there, as ancient as some of this equipment seemed. In my blind flight down the darkened aisle, I had tripped over a broken desk lamp that had been left there. Dust motes swirled in the stale air at the site of the collision.
I was still hoping that I could reason with him. I swallowed the lump in my throat, hoping to master any tremble in my voice, as I called out, “Seriously, Thomas, you can have the money. I won’t say anything.”
“I know I can, and no you won’t,” he answered, just loud enough for the sound of his voice to carry across the room.
So much for reasoning with him.
I came to the end of the aisle and wedged myself into a narrow gap formed by the end of a set of shelves and the far wall. But no sooner had I taken up my hiding spot than I realized how ridiculous it was to think it might conceal me. Jones would simply walk to the end of the row, spot me cowering here, and it would all be over.
As I extracted myself, my fear and disbelief morphed to determination. I clenched my fists so tightly that my nails bit into my palms. At a minimum, I had to make him work for his kill, make him hunt for me, make him hit a moving target. Maybe I could even inflict some damage along the way. Hoping to create some misdirection to mask my location, I grabbed one of those lights that clamp to the edge of a desk and tossed it over into the pile of furniture on the other side of the room.
Jones started laughing. “Nice try, Jeremy, but what … you think I’m blind? Or was I supposed to shoot the lamp out of the air, like a clay pigeon?”
So much for misdirection.
The sound of Jones’ footsteps told me he was slowly working his way down the aisle between the second and third sets of shelves, while I was still ‘hiding’ at the end of the first set. My eyes darted around the room, seeking a possible way out. When I stood on my tiptoes, I could just make out an exit sign, most likely above a door on the other side of the storeroom, beyond the furniture. But if Jones had spotted a lamp flying in that direction, what chance would a running man have? And besides, the door would be locked. Who left an outside door to a storage area open? And yet, it was the only option I could see.
The aisles between the shelves were only about four or five feet wide, so in a break for the exit, my exposure would only be a second or two, before I disappeared behind the pile of desks and tables. But was that too long? I gritted my teeth and feigned a dash across the aisle – a quick step out and a lunge back. No shot. No word. Hadn’t he seen me, or was he just baiting me?
“You pass out from fright, Jeremy ol’ boy? Or just pee your pants and too embarrassed to come out? Hey, we’re all friends here. I won’t tell anyone. Yeah, you can be sure. I won’t tell a soul about anything that happens here tonight.”
What was with the ‘ol’ boy’ stuff? In the five weeks I had known Jones, he had never addressed me that way. In fact, he rarely said a word, other than to grunt in response to my ‘good morning,’ often failing to even look up from his newspaper. He did so little around the lab that I had come to believe his job was to clean up after hours. And was that what he was doing now, cleaning up some unfinished business for Dr. Johannes Schmidt, the man who had hired me and who conducted this research? But no, Schmidt had left hours ago. He knew nothing of this; it was all Jones’ doing.
“You know, I gotta lesson for you, Jeremy. Before you shoot somebody with a throw-away, you really should pop off a few rounds. I mean, take this one. It drags a bit more than I’m used to. But I think I got it down now. Shall we give it a dance?”
If he was trying to unnerve me and get me to do something stupid, I was winning the first battle. The continual taunting was serving to strengthen my resolve. What I was less certain about, however, was whether my life-or-death dash to the exit door was the stupid part he was trying to goad me into or not. It was a ploy that was dicey, at best. I took a deep breath and slowly released it, steeling myself for the sprint.
Just as I was about to leap forward when, I had an idea.
It had been a long time since I had played hide-and-seek as a kid, but I still recalled a strategy that had worked surprisingly well. It was, simply, ‘go high.’ I was always amazed how climbing up a tree 10 or 12 feet seemed to almost make me invisible. I remembered sitting there in the branches, while my cousins trampled down every bush and shrub, over turned every table and chair, and scrutinized every corner and crevice in our hiding area. Go high now meant on top of the shelves. Perhaps it would provide the cover I needed to get past Jones and back to the door we had entered. I was pretty sure he had not bothered to re-lock it, believing there was no way I could get past him. Unlike running to an exit I was nearly certain was secured, I saw a glimmer of hope in this new stratagem.
The shelves were wooden units, built at a time when lumber was solid and construction was designed to last a lifetime. I had no doubt they would hold my six-foot-one-inch, 185-pound frame. All I had to do was climb to the top of the first set, and then slowly make my way back to the wall where we had come in. And fortunately, the top shelf on this outer unit was only lightly used. The gaps between the antique equipment were wide enough for me to squeeze through. And maybe I could find a hundred-pound computer terminal to drop on his head as I went by. I allowed myself a smile at the thought … however unlikely it might be.
I started climbing up the outside of the first set of shelves, hand over hand, foot over foot. Just as I was reaching the top, however, my foot slipped off the board and drove into the outside wall, jarring my hands free. Falling backward, I grabbed the outer edge of the top shelf stopping myself from plummeting the 15 feet to the ground.
Even as solidly built as these shelves were, they were not that stable. They started to tip. Pulling myself up against the boards to stop the momentum just seemed to accelerate the fall. I managed to get my head out of the way, just as the shelves smashed into the second set. In turn, the second unit crashed into the third. The room reverberated from the sound of the collisions, as a cloud of dust smelling of mold and burned-out electronics rose into the air. Fortunately for me, the first set of shelves came to rest on top of the second, sparing me from being trapped between it and the floor.
Jones, however, was not as lucky. The third unit slid away as the second hit it, allowing the second unit to fall to the ground. Just as it struck the floor, a shot rang out. Had it been aimed at me, or merely a reflex? But whichever it was, it had missed and Jones was pinned against the floor, at least temporarily. This was my chance.
I wiggled out of the gap between the shelves and the floor, my heart racing, the sounds of the collapse still pounding in my ears. I ran to the door we had entered. Relief flooded through me as the door handle turned and I slipped back into the familiar confines of the equipment room. It housed the most incredible array of machines, with racks filled with computers, power supplies, and displays, all humming and aglow when in operation. A reception room lay beyond, which was littered with posters and promotional materials that sang the praises of the company doing the research here. But the focus of all this marketing and the reason for all the electronic equipment was the object between these two rooms. It was the ‘Environmental Barrier,’ a door that had changed in form and appearance as the study proceeded. Currently, it was a one-inch thick piece of solid steel – one of those plates that road crews put over holes or new concrete on the highway.
Over a week ago, I had watched as the plate had been slowly lowered into place with a thud. What Dr. Schmidt had done then to make it the penetrable barrier it was now, I had no idea; the technology was well beyond me. I hadn’t even been able to ask, as it was all confidential and involved tightly held trade secrets, a fact that was emphasized nearly every day I had worked here. But for the last week, we had been conducting experiments with this massive sheet of metal. And when I had returned from lunch earlier in the day, even Dr. Schmidt’s gray beard and mustache couldn’t hide his grin, as he declared in his thick accent that the project was a complete and unqualified success. Even though it was only Thursday, he gladly counted out my $1,000 completion bonus and had given me Friday off.
Everything was good … that was until Jones started trying to kill me.
Although I had no idea what all the devices in the equipment room did, I knew it could turn that sheet of solid metal into something with no more resistance to my passing than thin air … which was fortunate, because the door was currently closed. Repeating a series of steps I had witnessed many times, I flipped the appropriate switches and the racks of equipment started to emit the now-familiar hum. I took a run at the Environmental Barrier and the freedom beyond, hitting it square on at full speed.
I’m not sure, but I would guess that I bounced a full foot backwards when I hit, feeling the fillings rattle in my teeth and seeing stars swirl in my vision.
Sometime during that headlong dash, Jones had evidently freed himself, entered the equipment room, and was now nearly doubled over in laughter. I looked up at him from the floor, his muscled arms stretching the fabric of his black T-shirt. “Jeremy ol’ boy, you’re gonna hurt yourself. Not that I much care, now that you slammed me to the floor under all that crap.” And then, as if all my transgressions had become clear to him, his mouth curled into a sneer as he hissed, “Of course, I didn’t much care for you before that either.”
I shook my head, in an attempt to clear it, only to double the pounding at my temples and the ringing in my ears. So, I closed my eyes, laid down, face-first on the floor, and mentally shoved the anger and loathing from my mind. I had to think. What was wrong? The Barrier had worked perfectly earlier today, and every day for the last five weeks. I was still trying to regain focus when Jones shouted, “Hey, quit stalling and get the hell back into the storeroom before I just shoot you here.”
I turned my head and slowly pushed myself from the floor. But as I did, I noticed the data collection vest laying near a chair next to the wall. The vest, Dr. Schmidt had explained to me, was loaded with the electronics that were needed to collect information each time I passed through the Barrier. I had left it on the chair at the end of the last session; it must have been knocked off during my collision. But I wondered, was it possible that the vest worked in conjunction with the equipment in this room? It seemed the perfect security solution – if you had only one or the other, you had nothing. And security was everything on this project.
It was time to test my acting skills. I groaned softly and slowly dragged myself over to the chair, using it to raise myself to my knees. But in the process, I grabbed the vest and hit the power switch, as I shielded it from Jones’ view under my body. There was the familiar low-level vibration. Everything seemed right now – the hum of the equipment rack in the background and the vibration in the vest hugged to my chest. I just needed to create some distance between myself and Jones, to make one last attempt to gain my freedom.
While I wished that something more authoritative on the issue had come to mind, it did not. What did spring unbidden to my thoughts was the Sandra Bullock movie, Miss Congeniality. According to it, the instep was quite sensitive and stomping on it could incapacitate someone, at least for a moment. And since I had not been sure at the time just exactly what the instep was, I had looked it up online. Obviously, now that I had done so, I was fully trained and well-prepared for what I was about to do. Well, as prepared as I was going to get.
Slowly, I got to my feet, still doubled over at the waist and holding the vest under my body. For his part, Jones seemed to be playing right into my hands, as he stepped forward, grabbed my shoulder, and jerked me upright. But his mistake ended there, as he quickly stepped back. I don’t know if he was expecting trouble, or if this was just his normal defensive reaction, but he was nearly out of range. I dove forward anyway, aiming my heel at the inside of his foot. I missed.
But in the process, I had lunged so far that I lost my balance. My other foot flew up as a counter weight as I fell backwards … and it caught Jones directly in the groin. If I remembered the movie correctly, that area would also work … and it did. He doubled over in agony. I bounded for the Barrier. Feeling some unease from the first encounter, I slowed a bit before reaching it, but this time I passed through as if nothing was there.
Once in the reception room, I made straight for the front door and grabbed for the handle … only to see my hand pass right through. For a split second, I stepped back, my mouth falling open, eyes wide. Was this door constructed of the same Barrier material as everything else we had used in the study? Or was there no Barrier material, with a capital B? Was it all just everyday stuff – wood and plaster and metal and concrete? Surely, not everything in this room would have been treated, making it temporarily penetrable by the technology I was wearing and the contraptions in the backroom.
So, I stepped to an empty expanse of wall and cautiously walked forward. Almost before I knew it, I was standing outside the building. I spun around, staring at the wall I had just negotiated. The Barriers were not specially treated materials at all. The technology worked on anything and everything.
I ran to my car, completely ignoring the pain in my knees and the pounding in my head. Shutting off the vest, I threw it in the back seat, leapt in, and started the engine. I knew exactly where I was headed, as I raced down the street.
Cops and doughnuts
The Robertsville Police Station was not my first stop, as I had intended.
No, something about the bloody face staring back at me from my rearview mirror convinced me that a quick detour to a drug store, followed by some scrubbing and bandaging in their bathroom, was in order. After I was done, the wounds that were still visible from my encounter with Jones were more than sufficient to back up my story. With the basic first aid out of the way, I was ready to turn the whole mess over to the police and return to my quiet, if somewhat dull life. Right now, dull sounded awfully good.
The population of metropolitan St. Louis is nearly three million people, but only about 320 thousand of them live within the city limits. The rest have found homes in the almost too numerous to count townships, neighborhoods, and villages surrounding the city. Robertsville is one of them. It is located well south of downtown, situated atop the western bluffs of the Mississippi River. It is my home, and the location where the research on the Environmental Barrier had taken place. Once the significance of the incident was established with the Robertsville Police, I was sure they would call in whatever resources they needed to apprehend Jones. Eventually, they might even need the FBI, I thought, although the reason I hoped this had more to do with the humdrum of my life than the crime.
When I arrived at the stationhouse, everything went smoothly with the individual on the front desk, a sergeant, according to his introduction. He was throwing around terms like first degree robbery and armed criminal action, most of which meant little to me, but they sounded like something serious. He recorded a few of the basic facts – names, times, and locations. After waiting for maybe 45 minutes, the sergeant walked me back to meet with a detective.
“Jeremy Reynolds?” the individual at the desk asked, as he studied the computer screen through his black, wire-rimmed glasses. “I’m Detective Vincent Underwood.”
The detective was small and wiry, with dark, close cropped hair that was graying at the temples. His white shirt, tie, and jacket were probably standard work attire, although he seemed uncomfortable with them, pulling at his tie and cuffs repeatedly.
“Yes, I’m Jeremy. Nice to meet you.”
“Likewise,” Underwood said, as he looked up from his computer. But when he saw me, he grimaced, a shocked look spreading across his face. “Are you OK? Do you need to see a doctor?”
“No, I’m alright.” Truthfully, I was still feeling every beat of my heart in my temples, but as somewhat of a klutz, this was a familiar state for me. “I just want to get this over with and go home. It’s been a long day.”
“Are you sure?” I just nodded. “OK, please have a seat.” Underwood’s eyes never left me until I was comfortably settled in front of him. Then, he returned to the computer screen. “So, let me take a look at your background information.” Occasionally, he muttered ‘OK’ or gave a nod, as his eyes traveled down the page.
“This 7212 number is a cell phone, right?”
“Correct,” I said, patting the holster that hung from my belt. I knew it wasn’t the height of fashion, but butt-dialing and cracked screens had convinced me that holsters were stylish enough.
“No other phones? Work number? Landline?”
“Nope, no cable TV either. I’ve been cutting the cord.” My comment was a bit off-topic for a question about having a landline, but wasn’t this the trend? No lines. Have a cell. Stream video. Of course, I didn’t actually stream video. The internet service that came with my apartment was much too slow. But there was one thing I liked about it – it fit my budgetary constraints perfectly. It was free.
“OK, sure,” said Underwood. “Let’s see. Three residences in the last two years.” He paused to peer over the top of his glasses at me, then turned his attention back to the screen. “Robertsville for about six months. The Hill for about nine. And before that, nearly three years downtown. That downtown address sounds close to the ballpark.”
“Yeah, Riley’s place. It’s close to Busch and has all the bells and whistles. Doorman, fitness center, pool, underground parking.”
“Riley’s place? Never heard of it.”
“Oh, sorry, that’s just what I call it. Riley was my girlfriend. It was really her idea to live there.” Underwood looked at me for a moment, so I added, “We split up, so I moved on to more economically friendly accommodations.”
After I spilled my guts about my ex-girlfriend, I wasn’t sure why I had done it. He hadn’t asked about my personal life … well not about that part of it anyway. It was something about the gap he left in the conversation. I had to fill it with whatever popped into my mind.
“So, you’re relatively new to Robertsville.”
It was a statement, not a question, but it still made me squirm a bit. Was I not qualified for his help? “Yeah, like you said. About six months.”
Underwood continued his scan down the screen. “Let’s see. For an emergency contact, you listed Ryan Reynolds in Denver.”
“Yes, Uncle Ryan. No relation, no resemblance, if you’re thinking of the movie star.”
“Actually, I was thinking he’s pretty far away. No one closer? No one in town?” asked Underwood.
“No. My parents are dead. I have an aunt in Nashville, which I guess is a bit closer.”
“Probably something like 500 miles,” said Underwood. Geography was never my strong suit, and I gave Underwood a what-can-I-say shrug.
“Well, if we’re talking about emergencies, then Uncle Ryan’s the right person. My aunt would just freak out, have a couple of stiff drinks, and then call my uncle.” This quip didn’t even warrant a smile from Underwood; he just nodded and typed something into his computer.
“It looks like you were with Frederickson and White until about two years ago, doing accounting work?”
“Yeah, mostly setting up accounting software systems, but I had an adding machine and kept a sharp pencil handy, if the situation called for it.” Thinking this bizarre claim would surely gain a response from him, I was again disappointed. He just stared at me, deadpan.
As he worked, I leaned back in the chair, considering our talk thus far. Was I making a mistake, using my normal, somewhat sardonic way of speaking with Detective Underwood? Already, he thought my aunt was a lush and that I had some idea how to use an adding machine, when it fact, I’d only seen them in pictures. Maybe I should play this one by the book … or at least, a little closer.
“That looks like it was almost two years ago,” said Underwood. “Then, a string of temporary positions … none of which seem to involve accounting?” He gave me that questioning look over his wire-rims again.
“Yes, I’ve been taking some time off.”
After I had quit my job, I had tried out different socially acceptable excuses for just not caring about work anymore. I almost went with, ‘I’m taking some time to find myself.’ It had a nice, vague ring to it and it implied some interest in self-improvement … even if I had none. But I was worried that it might elicit a continuous stream of recommendations for everything from career counselors to psychics. I even tried, ‘I’m on sabbatical’ for a while, but everyone seemed to think you had to be in academia to take one. I wasn’t so sure, but I didn’t have time to change public opinion just so I could cover my lack of interest in work. But one thing I never tried was a real explanation of my situation. That would require understanding, and I just didn’t care enough to worry about it.
“OK, I think that pretty well covers your background. That’s all just a formality, reference information, in case we need it. I’d like to go through the incident report now. It looks like you have been working for a Dr. Johannes Schmidt on some type of market research study at 7677 East Collingsway for the last five weeks.”
“Correct. Lots of temp work is anything from an hour or two to maybe a week. Sometimes, it’s not on location at all. It’s take these three bottles of soda home, drink them, and write down what you think. So, I was really lucky when this five-week job came along.”
“And you finished it today, on Thursday?”
“Correct. I guess technically, it wasn’t a full five weeks. We finished a day early, around 4 o’clock and Dr. Schmidt paid me a completion bonus. A thousand dollars. Then, he left, and his associate, Thomas Jones, asked me to review a bunch of the notes I had written earlier for the study. Just what I’d observed, stuff like that. And I initialed each one if it looked OK to me. That seemed … oh, nothing.” I broke off, thinking that I was starting to ramble.
But Underwood said, “No, go ahead. It seemed what?”
“It seemed like busy work. I couldn’t remember anything today that I hadn’t remembered when I wrote the notes the first time. It seemed pointless.”
“You continued that until about 5:30, when Jones assaulted you and attempted to steal the bonus money. Is that right?” asked Underwood.
“Yeah, it was about that time.” I paused and closed my eyes, trying to recall the exact conversation. “Actually, I said something like, this couldn’t be about the bonus. And he said, you have no idea.”
Underwood sat back in his chair and rubbed the back of his neck. “That seems a little vague, doesn’t it? Like it could mean something else … even the opposite of him wanting to steal the money?”
Now, it was my turn to ponder the exchange. “I hadn’t thought of it that way … but you could be right,” I admitted. I wished I had reviewed the attack in my mind before coming in.
“You also indicated that he took a shot at you?” The inflection in his voice made it clear this was a question.
“Yes.” Detective Underwood sat looking at me. “Yeah, I know. It seems strange that anyone would try to kill someone over a thousand dollars.” I stopped, realizing that he’d done it to me again with his fill-in-the-silence ploy.
“Maybe,” Underwood said. “There are situations that can make people desperate for money.” He paused, stroking his chin again. “Did your job pay well? I mean, for temporary work?”
“Well, I was having some trouble coming up with the down payment on that vacation home in the Cayman Islands, but yeah, it paid OK.” Still seeing no reaction from the detective, I finished with the details he probably sought. “I was making $500 a week, before the bonus.”
“And Jones worked for Dr. Schmidt?”
A frown crossed my face. To me, the implication was that if Schmidt paid his temps well, surely the associate would be making good money. And with good pay, there was no reason for Jones to rob me. But if this was what Underwood was fishing for, why ask me? All of this would be answered as soon as he talked to Schmidt. He would be able to quote Jones’ salary to the penny, talk about their association, discuss whether Jones had a history as a hit man … whatever.
Deciding that Underwood had to know all of this, I just said, “Yes, Jones worked for Schmidt.”
“Was there ever any indication that Jones was on drugs?”
Good, at least Underwood was headed back to issues that would support my robbery theory. If Jones was on drugs, he might be desperate enough, and perhaps strung out enough to come gunning for me. There was just one problem with that explanation.
“No, I can’t say that I noticed anything like that,” I said. “If anything, he just seemed bored to tears. If he was using drugs, he was buying the wrong stuff.” More typing by Underwood.
“Your injuries, the bandage on your forehead, the bruise, all the scrapes and such. Are any of those gunshot wounds or the result of Jones hitting you?”
“So, they are all self-inflicted?” asked Underwood.
I didn’t like the sound of that, even if it was technically true, and sat up a bit straighter in my chair. “I got them from trying to get away from Jones,” I said evenly. “The cuts and scrapes on my arms and legs are mostly from when the shelves in the storeroom fell. That’s in the report.”
At that moment, an officer walked by. As he dropped a piece of paper on Underwood’s desk, the officer said, “Cleveland’s a go. Time’s on the pink slip.” And he walked away.
As Underwood picked up the note to read it, he said, “Yeah, I saw the report … climbing up there to hide.”
I uncrossed my legs and slid to the edge of my chair, my face going warm with his words. If Underwood was implying something about me, I needed to clear the air. Macho posturing against a guy with a gun was nuts in my opinion.
The detective finished reading and dropped the note on his desk. When his eyes came back to mine, he said, “Yeah, that was a clever bit of maneuvering in the storeroom. If you hadn’t thought your way out of it, I’d probably be interviewing you from a hospital room … or not at all.”
I slumped back, opening my mouth to speak … twice, but nothing came out, until finally I managed, “Thanks. Best I could come up with, on the spot.”
Underwood tented his fingers in front of his face, his eyes closed for a moment. Then, he asked, “The knot on your forehead – it’s pretty nasty. Did you get that when the shelves collapsed?”
“Um, not exactly.” I swallowed, searching for the right words. “I got it from running into a door when I was trying to get into the reception area.”
Wrinkling his brow, Underwood asked, “You missed the door handle and ran into it?”
“Well … it was more like I thought the door was open but it wasn’t,” I said slowly, searching for the right words.
Underwood rubbed his chin. “You thought it was open? You mean, you thought it was unlocked but it wasn’t?”
“Yeah … more or less.” I studied the papers on Underwood’s desk, not wanting to look him in the eye. I wasn’t prepared to say I thought the equipment was on and then nearly splattered my brains all over the lab when it wasn’t. He wouldn’t believe my tale about the technology, but that wouldn’t keep me from going to jail for telling him.
Underwood sighed, apparently resigned that I wasn’t going to finish my explanation. “Did you lose consciousness when you hit the door?”
“If I did, it wasn’t long.”
“Any problems with dizziness or hallucinations since then?” he asked.
“No.” I tried for a touch of defiance in my voice, but it came out sounding tentative. I thought about saying I was positive the incident was real, but if it was a hallucination, my certainty it happened would just be part of the illusion anyway. But all of these questions would disappear as soon as Underwood got to the lab.
“So, what were they studying at this lab on Collingsway? Was there anything important in the study?”
“Yeah, I’d say so,” I said, grinning at what I considered an enormous understatement from the detective. Earth-shattering, life-altering, or mind-blowing were all more appropriate adjectives than ‘important.’ Underwood waited, but I wasn’t going to fill the silence this time.
“I know you told the sergeant you couldn’t talk about the research there,” said Underwood, “but it might really help with the case if I knew what was going on.”