Chapter 9

Written by: Suraya Dewing

They waited nervously at the receptionist’s desk. Charlotte clutched the briefcase and glanced at Art whose mouth was firmly fixed to ensure his features were unreadable.

Doctor Syed entered the airy area, smiling widely and holding out his tanned hand in greeting.

Their security clearances jiggled on their chests as they followed him through to the lab where technicians looked up from their work then resumed. Some were fitting wired caps to people's heads as they sat patiently like robots. Others were entering results into computers. 

A small group clustered around a man presenting on a large electronic white board.

Charlotte looked at Art sharply. “Now there’s a face I didn' expect to see.” She ducked away hoping Clarke had not seen her. 

Clarke gave a half hearted wave then went back to presenting to his small but attentive audience. 

2.40pm. Security shutdown was only five minutes away.

“Dr Syed,” Art ventured. “Show me your work. I’m interested.”

Dr Syed rolled his eyes. “You’d be one of the very few.” He pointed to Clarke. “He’s the star…Dr Franklin.”

2.42 pm.

The door huffed open and they entered Dr Syed’s meticulously tidy work area. 

Clarke followed them.

“Where is she?” he demanded.

Art waved his hand casually. “Probably the ladies.”

Clarke's evasive eyes settled, reading Art's mind.

“No…nnnnn….no she’s not.”

2.43 pm.

Charlotte was swallowed by the corridor’s blackness.

“I thought your boss was coming.” 

“She has.” He pointed in the direction Charlotte had gone. Completely confused, Clarke began to follow but Art stepped in front.

“I’m sure you don’t want to follow her there.”

Knowing Art lied Clarke tried to push past. 

 2.44 pm. 

Charlotte lightly knocked on the cleaner’s door. Not waiting for an answer she ducked in.

“We have a six minutes.” Charlotte rested the briefcase on the cleaner’s cabinet.

2.45 pm. Security on alert

There was a light metallic sound and the case unlocked with a loud click. It was empty. The woman in a cleaner’s uniform pulled a stack of papers from a shelf covered by a draping curtain and as she carefully laid the documents in the briefcase, Charlotte observed, 

“I keep meeting the strangest man.”

There was a click and the briefcase locked.

Five minutes to get out before security alarms rang.

The cleaner dismissively waved a hand. “Oh don’t worry about Clarke. He’s one of those strange people who is always predicting Armageddon.” She chuckled. “We only keep him because he is also an amazingly brilliant chemist.”

Charlotte hefted the briefcase from the shelf. It was now heavy with papers that held the secret to mind reading and thought implantation.

She made her way to an emergency exit while Art casually walked out of the building with Clarke escorting him.

They met down the road and climbed in the waiting car.

“Three hours to catch the 6:40 Express,” Art said. Although the station was nearby, the city traffic was famous for its constant congestion.