Sally sat behind the wheel of her Yellow Corvette and started driving. Lauren’s head was in a daze. How did she have all those memories with her? How did they end up in her head? And that too, in first person? “When was the last time you had those weird dreams of yours?” Sally asked Lauren, keeping her eyes on the road. She loved her car and teenagers of Feli-City had a habit of trying to engage in a race with it or drive rashly around her car. When Lauren didn’t respond, she took out a tissue paper from her glove compartment and rolled it into a ball. The ball hit Lauren and fell in her lap. Sally repeated her question when Lauren looked at her. Lauren’s usual feistiness had dissipated into thin air. “I don’t remember”, Lauren said, drooping her head again. “Well, you must have some idea. Do you still follow Anna’s tips?” Sally asked, reducing her speed as she almost hit a Red Porsche being driven by a guy wearing black shades. “No, I don’t. I fall asleep on my own, and, I wake up just in time to make it, although I still don’t wake up as early as I used to”, Lauren said, fumbling with the paper ball in her hand. “So, what do you dream about then?” Sally continued poking her best friend to get some sort of an answer. Earlier, she had dismissed Lauren’s dreams as some regular lucid dreaming, but the dread on Katsumi’s face and the state which Lauren was in made her reconsider her thoughts. “It’s just a blank screen, I’d say. No dreams”, Lauren said and both of them fell silent.
The drive continued for another ten minutes until they were just a few yards away from the hospital. They saw a big commotion outside the hospital gate. Sally glided her car towards the commotion and saw Mileena. She stopped her car beside her and asked what was happening. Mileena was standing with a lovely couple who were thanking her for something when Sally called her out. “It’s Eric’s birthday! These are his parents, they have arranged a double-decker bus to bring the celebration to him” Mileena said excitedly. “Oh ma’am, don’t give us all the credit. This very idea was conceived out of Charlie’s head. He not only contacted through you, but it was him who arranged the bus. We were only tasked with bringing all the memories of our beloved father and his colleagues with us”, the lady beside Mileena happily chirped in. “And also the decorations!” said a happy but shrill voice as its owner ran towards the lady. Sarah’s excitement was too much for her to contain. “But, where is Charlie?” Lauren asked from the passenger seat? “We were also asking about his whereabouts. He was right here when the celebrations began. He had escorted father till here and then, suddenly vanished. We really want to thank him in person and ask him if he will let us pay some amount for all he has done”, the man said as he caressed his daughter’s forehead.
“Sally”, Lauren called out when they reached their laboratory. They didn’t see Anna at the reception counter, so they didn’t know if Wilson knew about their disappearance. “Yeah?” Sally said as she turned on the coffeemaker. “I just remembered that I had spoken to Charlie about my dreams once”, Lauren said, a memory was unearthing itself in her head. “I had told him about the dream I had and how I heard his voice guiding me. He had asked me if I saw him or not and I said that I had just heard his voice and nothing else”, Lauren said, as Sally perched herself on a stool beside Lauren. “What was his reaction? Did he say something?” Lauren thought that Sally was so desperate to connect any dots, that she was ready to create dots of her own. But, she also knew that deep down, Sally just wanted what was best for her. Besides, she was the one who brought up the subject of Charlie on the table. “Well, his reaction was a little somber-ish”, Lauren had Sally’s undivided attention. “He was very excited about my dreams initially, but when I told him that I heard his voice, I felt as if some alarm went off inside him. I can’t be absolutely sure about what he was thinking, but the air around him did change after that”, Lauren said, trying her best to recall the conversation between her and Charlie. Sally brought two steamy mugs of coffee to the table and passed one to Lauren. “He also asked me if he was calling me by my name, then, he also asked me to not fall asleep and try to scout the area”, Lauren said, taking a sip from her coffee.
Sally couldn’t find anything of relevance in Charlie’s words. They were as good as that of anybody. Just the ‘somber-ish’ demeanor of his speaking irked the interest of Sally a bit. Sally decided to get some work done in order to clear her head. She went inside the storeroom to get a fresh batch of the new variant of the medicines she and Lauren were running tests on but was shocked to see that its whole carton was missing. “Lauren!”, Sally called out loudly. Lauren ran to her to see what was wrong. “What is it?” Lauren asked, “There’s nothing here”, she said. “That’s exactly my point! There’s nothing here when a carton full of those new batch of medicines should’ve been here” Sally said panicking. “The lab was locked when we came in”, Lauren said. “So was the storeroom”, Sally exclaimed. A thought simultaneously flashed through both of their heads. “Someone broke in without actually breaking in!” they both said in unison.
“I hope master gets what he wants as soon as possible. He has chewed my brains out this entire time and those dimwitted women kept holding me back!” a man said as he picked up a powdery substance in a small plate in his hands and proceeded towards a man who was tied to a chair and was gagged. “Now then. Let’s see what music you produce when this thing strums your strings” he said with a sinister smile as he forced the powder inside the captive’s mouth.
“Asking Anna for CCTV footage might be useless. The guy is probably invisible or something” Lauren said, and before Sally could interrupt, “But! We can leave no stone unturned in our investigation, can we?”, Lauren said, trying to cover up for herself. “Aside from the investigation, this is also a case of theft. We obviously have to report it. Those drugs are part of a secret research project”, Sally said. They spotted Anna in the hallway talking to a someone and helping them fill a certain form. They barged inside the counter without warning. “Whoa! Take it easy, ladies!” Anna said as she saw two panting young women standing beside her. She signaled Daisy, her partner to handle everything singlehandedly for some time. “Where the hell have both of you been? Wilson was asking about you people. AGAIN! Where do both of you always run off to?” Anna asked, trying to vent out all of her frustration, but finding it extremely difficult to do so. The job of a receptionist made self restrain a second nature for her. “We need to see the CCTV footage of the hallway outside our lab”, Sally demanded, completely ignoring Anna’s questions. “Hello! I’m asking you something! Do you know how mad Wilson probably was? He didn’t even look at me when he was speaking about you two!” Anna said, raising her hands in the air, thinking that it will somehow help her raise her voice. “Long story, Anna. We have something which needs to be checked. Ignoring it will make Wilson definitely mad” Lauren said. Seeing Lauren join Sally for something impulsive was a rare thing. Sall decided to drop her questions for the moment and to cooperate with the request-cum-order of her friends. Anna logged into the security system and played the footage of the hallway outside Sally and Lauren’s laboratory. Both Lauren and Sally were silently watching the footage, trying to spot something odd. Anna on the other hand didn’t even know what was going on. She paused the video all of a sudden and turned to both of them. “Will both of you at least tell me what we are looking for?” Anna asked. Desperately trying to make some sense out of what was happening. “That”, Lauren said, pointing towards the screen. Anna had paused at the exact moment when the intruder was entering the laboratory. “Why didn’t this occur to me before? One of our own can also be the thief!”, Lauren said as all three of them saw the intruder, who was wearing a doctor’s coat, enter the laboratory. They couldn’t see who it was because his back was turned towards the camera. Sally being Sally, turned on the stopwatch in her phone to calculate how much time the intruder was spending inside. The figure emerged exactly after spending five minutes inside the lab. Both Lauren and Sally froze when they saw who it was. Looking at the camera, were the eyes of Dr. Arthur Wilson
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