This is written a la Dan Brown, and if you think it stinks, then you know what I think of his style.
“It’s seven o’clock, Thursday morning! Time to rise and shine with those Albuquerque quirkies, the Morning Wake Up Crew on KABQ FM!”
Toryana groaned as she rolled over and hit the snooze button. It seemed as if she had just fallen into bed. As she looked at the clock, she realized that she had, indeed, only been asleep for two hours or so. Her big Black Lab, Buzz, bounded into her room and jumped onto the bed to lick her face.
“Oh, you just don’t want me to sleep,” she grumbled, as she rolled off of the bed and staggered toward the bathroom. Passing the mirror, she checked her reflection, and decided she could look a lot worse.
Toryana, or Tory to her friends, saw a tall, rawboned, Brazilian beauty, her strong cheekbones accenting her dark almond shaped eyes. Her long limbs and limber muscles lent her a balletic grace that attracted more than a few men. Tory’s colleagues at MediTech called her the ‘Heartbreaker’. All the young men coming to the labs, fresh from college, invariably fell head over heels for her, but she hadn’t a moment’s thought to spare them. Her life was her work, and her work was her life.
Right now, her long chestnut hair was a mass of tangles, and her eyes were bloodshot from lack of sleep.
“Gotta quit trying to kill myself over the Dorchester Project,” she muttered, and got dressed to take Buzz for his morning walk.
As Tory and Buzz visited this hydrant, and that tree, and the bush by the front steps, her mind wasn’t on keeping the dog from digging a hole in the neighbor’s flower bed, but on the as yet unsolved mystery her lab had dubbed the Dorchester Project. A new strain of pneumococcus bacteria had been found in Dorchester, England, and had been sent to the labs of MediTech for study and ideas on containment. So far, Tory hadn’t been able to find the key to a vaccine, and people in England continued to suffer. She hated that. Each day that passed meant one more day that someone could have been healing instead of coughing.
Tory’s attention was momentarily drawn by a troupe of street performers on a busy corner. She watched as one acrobat was tossed into the air, did a triple somersault, and was caught, seemingly in the nick of time before hitting the hard concrete below. She raised her hands to applaud their feats, but just then Buzz pulled his leash out of her hands, chasing something only a dog would want, and she was forced to sprint after him.
She got home, and flopped into her armchair, pulling her laptop to her. She had a few hours to waste until she had to get ready to go into work. She still felt sleepy. Tory had agreed to switch shifts with a coworker this week, taking the night hours in exchange for her usual morning shift. She didn’t really mind, but it threw her sleep schedule off by miles, and the dog had to be catered to.
She logged on to check her email, expecting to sift through the usual junk.
“Lewd, licentious, lusty babes want you, right here, right now!” was immediately deleted, along with another email with the subject line of “berkshire jumbo electrophorus shear chant” which was probably just an advertisement for some pills she’d never have a use for. Tory almost hit the ‘delete all’ button, when one subject caught her eye.
“Dr. Toryana Vasques – Please Respond!”
Tory opened this one with interest. She rarely got email at home. In the letter was a plea from a man named Joseph Turlington, who had gone to find her at MediTech during her regular lab hours, and seemed to be desperate to speak with her. He asked her to meet him at her office at nine pm, about an hour before she was scheduled to go on duty.
She dashed off a quick reply, saying that she would be in the building at nine o’clock, and he could find her in either her office or her lab.
The rest of the day was spent napping. She hated it for Buzz, but a girl needs her sleep.
That evening, at half past eight, Tory entered her office at MediTech to check for messages from her colleagues about the Project, and to compose herself for a night of serious research. The small room that held her desk, computer, and files was devoid of any ornamentation save for one framed photo of her and Buzz she’d used to cover the door to a utility panel. Disappointed at finding no news of further development on the odd strain of bacteria, Tory grabbed her coat and headed for the lab.
She was the only member of her team on duty tonight, and found the room locked with all the lights off. She flipped a switch, and the lab was filled with brilliant fluorescent light. She gathered her supplies and equipment and was soon deep in concentration, holding a dropper of corrosive liquid over a petri dish, when she heard the soft ‘ding’ of the alert on the door, indicating someone wished entrance.
“Oh yeah,” she thought, stripping off her latex gloves and making her way to the door. She pulled it open and stepped into the decontamination foyer, pressed the control, and waited for the mist to clear. Tory then pulled open the lab’s outer door to find the hallway empty.
“Hmm,” she said. “Can’t have been that important.” She walked down the hall to see if her visitor was waiting near her office, and still found no one.
“Boo!” said a man’s voice in her ear. Tory jumped in the silent hallway. She turned to face a tall man in a long dark coat, grinning nervously.
“Didn’t mean to scare you, Dr. Vasques,” he said. “Do you have a moment to speak with me?”
“Mr. Turlington? Yes, I got your message. We can speak in my office. Follow me,” and she led him into the room.
“What can I help you with? I only have a few minutes.”
“Oh, this won’t take long,” said Turlington, smiling. “I just need to talk to you about the project you were working on last December.”
“If you are referring to Frankfurt, I was only an assistant on that project. I can’t tell you much about it. All I really helped with was the grunt work.”
“Well, Dr. Vasques, you seem to be the last person available to speak with my employer about what was going on in Frankfurt, and he sincerely wishes to speak with you.”
“The last? There must be nine other scientists who know more than I do about the…”
“They’re all dead.”
Tory was stunned into silence. “So, the message you sent me was nothing but a smokescreen? You just had to lure me into speaking with you?”
“I need you to come with me, Dr. Vasques,” said Turlington, and Tory heard a noise from behind her desk. She turned to see a second man coming toward her with a rag in his hand, and the last thought that ran through her head as she faded out of consciousness was “Chloroform? Thugs really use chloroform?”