Shocked and appalled, Frank sees a video of his car being trashed by a leggy blonde. At first he doesn’t recognize her, then it becomes all too clear.
Over the crashing and scraping of his car being sent to hell, Frank could hear the woman’s voice. Realization dawned.
“I had a call a few days ago. . . . Oh, hell! It was earlier that day. I’ve been covering for the personnel manager since she’s out on maternity. I had a bunch of applications come across my desk and I had to call the people to set up appointments. She was rather insistent that she didn’t want to interview with me, she wanted to interview with the personnel manager. I told her if that was the case, she’d have to wait a few weeks, but she was adamant that she needed the job now. It was a circular argument that got nowhere. I had another call come in, so had to cut her off. But how does that make her this mad?”
“You said she’s got a son?” Marka asked Shay.
He nodded. The women exchanged a look.
“Your son?” Cherry asked Frank, her tone harsh.
He blanched, backing up a step, nodding slightly. “I don’t know,” he mumbled. “She never told me after—what happened, we didn’t talk.”
“It’s complicated,” Marka explained the Cherry before she could get upset. “And he really didn’t know. But I still don’t see how refusing to give her a job would make her that ballistic.”
“Does the kid have any health problems?” the young man asked.
“Hemochromatosis,” Frank murmured. “He could be undiagnosed. She’d have no idea. . . . He could have all kinds of problems, symptoms. . . .” He groaned, sitting down hard on a folding chair. “She needs this job because of the medical benefits. If she’d just told me. . . .”
“Right, you’re gonna have some chick tell you, hey, my son—who happens to be your son—needs medical attention. . . .” The young man, whose name was Brad, quipped. “I’d take that about as well as a hammer to the nuts.”
“Instead, she took it to my headlights,” Frank said. “I didn’t ask for any of this!”
“You got her pregnant,” Cherry said, starting to get an attitude.
“That wasn’t my fault either.”
She opened her mouth to protest.
Frank pointed his finger at her. “Don’t. Do not go there!”
Marka put her hand on Cherry’s arm as the other woman started getting cranked up. “There are mitigating circumstances. Trust me.”
“That one makes sense,” Shay agreed. “And when we’ve figured the rest of this shit out, you can talk to her about it.”
“I should tell her now,” Frank said, pulling out his phone.
“Do you really want those other folks to know he’s your son?”
Frank hadn’t thought of that. “Of course not.” He slid the phone back in his pocket.
“At least one mystery is solved,” Marka said with a smile. “And a second on its way. We know it’s Jeff. Let’s figure out why.”
“We haven’t got enough to tie him to this,” Frank said. “His image on a tape won’t convince a judge of anything. We need evidence that puts him in there.”
“We’ve got pee,” Cherry said. “Don’t you have to go through some sort of screening before you can work at that place? Drug testing, blood work?”
Frank smiled. “Yes, we do. And we’re required to submit to random testing. Part of my job is scheduling that.”
“There’s a starting point.”
Marka walked over to Frank. Taking his hands, she brought them to her lips.
“Want some unsolicited professional advice?”
“Sure.” He shrugged, shaking his head.
“Figure out Jeff’s motivation. Sooner or later, he’s going to crack. You need evidence when he does.”
Frank nodded. Kissing the top of her head, he wandered over to the computers. Once he was settled, Marka took Shay back to the kitchen. Speaking in a low voice, she told him about her conversation with Frank and his strong revulsion and terror at the idea of being hypnotized.
“He’s tough, he can get past that fear. Frank hates to lose control.”
“Colonel Shay, you need to take this more seriously. This isn’t a man who simply wants to be in control. This is a man who’s been conditioned somehow. By someone extremely thorough and completely ruthless. We may never get past this memory block.”
“You can’t regress him, even a little?”
“There will be triggers in place that could incapacitate or kill him. We can’t risk that.”
“How can you know a thing like that?”
“Because that’s what I would do to protect myself—if I were an evil genius. We have to find out another way so we don’t set off a mind bomb.”
“We have to do something, even if it’s dangerous.”
“I won’t risk his safety or his sanity, Colonel.”
“What he knows could save countless others.”
“If we force him, we have no idea if he’ll tell us the truth. We don’t know the mechanism used to manipulate him. Anything he told us could be suspect. Or, the process could kill him.”
© Dellani Oakes