Where was Chen?
Sam set the alarm on his phone and dozed off. 90 minutes later the alarm went off and his eyes opened. He lay still and listened. There were voices drifting in from the grounds, but the room next door was quiet. He waited a few moments, got up and listen at the wall. Nothing.
Washing his face, he combed his blond/white hair and scowled at his own reflection. Blue eyes looked back at him. He hated inaction and he was overwhelmed with a feeling of nameless dread. That something bad was about to happen or had already happened. Leaving his door, he paused again outside Chen’s room. It was silent. He knocked and there was no answer. A frisson of fear washed over him.
He scurried to the dining hall. Ignoring the waves and calls from Lydia, he planted himself heavily next to Huang. Straining his neck around, he looked to see if the kid was here. No Chen. He swallowed some bites of food. Washing it down with some tea, he leaned over to Huang.
“Can I talk to you, after dinner?”
Huang turned slightly toward Sam. A look of concern crossed his face.
When dinner was over, the usual contingent of people crowded around the master, but he was able to gracefully wave them away. He looked at Sam.
“Need to be in your office,” Sam told him.
Huang nodded and headed back to the main office. Settled in the sanctum-sanctorum, Sam closed the door. Huang raised an eyebrow but sat back in his chair.
Finally, “Yes?” was all he asked.
Sam hardly knew where to start. It was all so fantastic. Red Chinese, glowing bunnies, disappearing scientists. Was he crazy?
“It’s like this,” he started. Pretty soon it was all tumbling out before Sam even knew it. Huang nodded, his face serious.
“So, what now, Sam-Shi?”
Sam pause and took a deep breath. He thought.
“We need to find Chan. We need to find him now.”
Huang nodded. He picked up a little brass bell and rang it. His major-domo appeared and there was some rapid-fire conversation between the two. The language, which Sam now knew to be Korean, was a complete word salad to him. He understood nothing. The conversation stopped abruptly, and the Domo turned and left. Sam could hear him calling out to other staffers giving what sounded like commands.
“What now?” Sam asked.
“We wait.” Huang replied.
Sam shifted uncomfortabl. Huang responded. “They will find him. If he is here.”
They sat in silence and sipped some of the golden tea Huang always kept simmering in a pot on the side board. A long twenty minutes passed. Suddenly, there was a commotion at the front door. It was the Domo, he was back, waving rapidly.
“Come, come!” he shouted.
Huang and Sam hurried out of the building and were herded over to the laundry facility. The door was open and the light was on. Sam could see people inside the room, bending over something. He rushed inside to see Chan slumped against the wall, legs stuck straight out in front of him and bleeding from the forehead. He ran to the young man’s side, terrified that he was dead.
“Chan, Chan.” The eyelids fluttered, and a huge red shiner was raising on his forehead. Chan groaned.
“Oh, thank God,” Sam said holding Chan’s cold hand. “Can you hear me?”
Chan’s eyes fluttered open. “Sam,” the eyes closed. Someone had called 911 and Sam could hear an ambulance siren wailing in the distance. Soon, paramedics arrived and took over.
An hour later, Chan was on his bed with a bandage around his head. He had been cleaned up and given a pain killer.
“He’ll have a slight concussion,” the medic told Sam, “but he’ll be okay. Don’t let him drive.”
Sam and Huang both nodded and waved goodbye as the ambulance left.
They were now both in Chan’s room sitting on chairs next to him. He was coming around. Sam could see that Fluffy was back in his cage and that Lee’s suitcase was gone.
“Tell us what happened, my son,” Huang prodded gently.
Chan started to cry. “I’m going to get fired. I’ll never work in this state again. I’m going to jail.” He was holding his head in his hands.
Huang looked at Sam and back at Chan. “Breath, my son, breath. In and out. In and out.”
Chan finally started to slow his breathing and calm down a little. He opened his mouth several times and nothing came out.
“One step at a time, Chan. One step.” Sam said slowly.
There was a little gasp. “He took my card.” Chan pointed to the lump on his head.
“Your card?” Sam asked.
“My, my ID car for Bio-tech. He’s got my card to get into the lab.”
“Okay, okay.” Sam tried to stay calm himself. “That’s not a problem is it? Certainly, there are other levels of security there?”
Chan started to cry again and was rocking himself back and forth.
“You don’t understand. You don’t understand.” He was almost incoherent.
Huang put a hand on his arm. “Tell us Chan, so we will understand.”
Chen sucked in a big breath. “He got my finger prints.”
“Your fingerprints,” Sam asked, “how?”
Chen’s eyes got wide. “He had these soft plastic gloves.” He stuck out his hand to demonstrate. “You put your hand in the glove and press down. It molds to your fingertips and leaves an impression of the prints.” He pointed to his own fingertips. “When it dries and hardens, it’s a permanent glove with a set of your prints.”
Sam and Huang looked at each other blankly.
“Don’t you understand?” Chan’s voice was starting to rise. “He can get past the 2nd layer of security and into the lab with my prints.”
There was a long pause. “What does he want?” Sam asked.
“The embryo,” Chan answered simply. “He wants the embryo.”
Sam felt fear wash over him. “We got to go,” he told both men. “Get him up, Huang!” he ran for his room to get his phone and car keys. He hustled the two men out and into his truck, starting the engine and hitting the speed dial for the FBI.
On the way to San Francisco, Sam broke all speed laws and all laws against talking on the phone while driving. He got hold of Phillips, his contact at the bureau and gave him a very abbreviated version of the facts. They would meet at Bio-Tech. It usually took an hour and a half to get to the big city; Sam did it in less than 60 minutes.
They screeched up in front of Bio-Tech. The Bureau guy was there in an un-marked and a couple of SFPD were there, sirens off. They pushed Chan out of the truck and into the foyer. His crying had subsided to some low moans interlaced with hiccups. Brother Huang kept patting his hand and consoling him.
The entire contingent sped into the building. Chan presented his card to the two guards at the desk who were, by this time, ogling at the cops.
A fat middle-aged security guy with the name Stanley embroidered on his shirt answered their questions.
“Well, yes, Dr. Chan. Dr. Lee was in here about, when?” he looked at the other guy, “About an hour or so ago. Said he left his briefcase and had to get it. Going to catch a red-eye flight at the airport. Didn’t he say that?” The other guy nodded silently. “But he had his proper badge, Dr. Chan, he did have access to that little office. And we had seen the brief case before, didn’t we?” The other guy, younger, nodded, not too happily.
“You say about an hour ago?” Sam took over.
“Bill, look that up on the log for the man, will you?” Stanley asked the younger man.
Sam grabbed Chan by the elbow. “Let’s get upstairs and see what’s missing.” The FBI agent followed, and Huang and the cops stayed in the lobby.
They ran to the elevators and Chan punched the buttons. “I got to let you in. just a minute.” Stanley yelled at them. Sam patted his foot. The elevator door slowly opened, and they got in. Chan pushed the button for the 6th floor.
Getting off the elevator, Chan seemed more in his element and raced down the hall. He punched in a code at the security portal and pressed his right hand against the tiny flickering screen. There were a series of beeps! And Sam could hear clicks and the big, heavy white door was open. They hurried inside.
Chan began racing around the lab checking this and that. Phillips and Sam stood awkwardly waiting for him to do his checks. Phillips was checking information on his cell phone. He showed the phone to Sam.
“Red-eye to Beijing, 11:00 pm.” Sam nodded.
“Not here, not here. They could hear Chan talking to himself moving deeper in to the lab. It’s okay, it’s okay.” Then there was a pregnant pause and “Oh, shit!”
He came slowly back to them. “He has taken the cryo-center with the baby embryo. The latest one.” His face was ashen.
Phillips started making phone calls immediately as they all ran down the stairs this time, not waiting for the elevator.
On the lobby floor, they gathered up the rest of the crew. Phillips gave quick instructions to the cops who peeled off to their pandas. Lights on and sirens blaring, they all headed for San Francisco International Airport.
Chan was mute with shock and Sam pulled a small silver flash from his back pocket. He made the young man take a swig. Chan coughed but got some color back in his face. They were in the car with Phillips and he was talking non-stop on his phone, giving orders.
They got to the airport in record time and parked illegally in the red zone in front of Departures and ran out of the cars. Two cops stayed behind to see that Airport Security didn’t interrupt.
Phillips located the gate number and pointed. Two men that he seemed to recognize came running up to him.
“This the guy?” They both asked. Phillips nodded. “He had to give a positive ID for us to stop him.”
They practically ran to the gate, Chen virtually lifted off his feet and hurried along by the beefy agents. They got to gate 21; there was a line of people boarding. Chen stopped and looked around wildly. Then, “Him, that’s him!” he screamed.
Dr. Lee saw Chan and the cops and tried to run but the agents were fast on their feet. They grabbed the man and his precious cargo. One agent immediately relieved Lee of his old brown briefcase and brought it over.
He put it down at Chen’s feet and opened the bag. “This it?” Chen poked his nose inside the bag.
“That’s it.” He sagged so much, Sam had to hold him up. He thought for a minute, the kid was going to faint.
Hours later, Sam, Chan, Phillips and Huang were at an all-night coffee shop. Huang was eating bacon and eggs and coffee.
“What?” he asked Sam.
“Oh, nothing, I just thought. . ..” Sam didn’t finish his sentence.
Huang held a butter knife to his temple. “Can’t be good all the time, Sam-Shi. Not good for you. Not the way.”
Sam had to laugh and sipped on his very black coffee and nibbled on a sweet roll.
“So,” Agent Phillips said to Chan. “tell us when it started.”
Chan sighed and sipped his hot herbal tea. He paused to pour a ton of honey into his cup.
“It started when I took a trip to China. I met this girl…” Sam and Phillips shifted and smiled at each other. “I’ve always been kind of a book worm,” they nodded, and she was so friendly and pretty and. . ..”
“And….” Sam added.
“And she took me to this orphanage and showed me these kids. Those poor kids. They had so many things wrong with them and no one wanted them, and they were just throw aways in that society. It was just terrible.” He sighed again and sipped his tea, remembering.
“Then. . ..” Sam nudged.
“Then, well, she told me I could help. How can I help I told her? I am just one guy. I can’t adopt all those kids. No way. I’m not married. . ..”he paused. She told me there was another way I could help, with my research. My genetics research.”
Sam took over for a little while. “What the wiz kid here does is cutting edge research on embryos where the embryo is genetically altered before they start to go to eliminate ‘bad genes’ or genes known to cause chronic illnesses and diseases. Am I right?” He looked at Chan who nodded.
“But it is in a very experimental stage and there is no way the US Government will allow us to do that with a real baby unless and until there is a lot more research done. We don’t want to have. . . mistakes.”
“And, create a monster when all we are trying to do is help, etc.” Sam added.
Chan nodded and stared at his tea.
“However, the Chinese government is not so cautious and would like to start those experiments as soon as possible,” Phillips continued.
“She told me she was with the orphanage,” pleaded Chan.
“Dr. Chan, I am not exactly sure yet,” Phillips added, “but I am pretty sure this entire operation, start to finish, was financed by the Chinese military who are desirous of creating a super-army.” He looked at Sam. “Sooner rather than later.”
“But the girl. . ..” Chan continued.
“Part and partial, sir. Part and partial.”
Chan seemed unsettled.
“Sir,” Phillips said softly, “did it never occur to you how odd it was that someone you just met, in a foreign country would know about your research?”
“Well, she was so interested in what I said. I guess I just assumed I must have mentioned it. I guess.” Chan stared into his tea.
Over his head Sam and Phillips shook theirs.
Phillips picked up the bill. It was 3am. Sam said he and Huang would drive the kid home.
“Am I going to be charged?” asked a tremulous Chan.
“Well, Dr. Chan, nothing was actually stolen it looks like, since we got everything back. And, Dr. Lee has diplomatic immunity, so he will go home very soon. As for your employer, well. That’s up to them.” Phillips gave a knowing look to Sam. “Someone will have to tell them something. You have about 4 hours to figure out what to say to your boss.” Phillips saluted to Sam.
“Thanks for your help, Mr. Sam Reynolds.”
“Anytime Phillips, any time.”
Phillips turned to leave.
“Oh, last thing Dr. Chan.”
Chan looked at him.
“I wouldn’t advise any more trips to China soon.” He got into his unmarked and drove away.
“Let’s get you home, bub.”
Phillips had dropped them at Bio-Tech. Chan got everything back where it was supposed to be in the lab.
He patted the canister. “She’s okay.”
“She?” asked an incredulous Sam.
“Yes, she. I peeked.” Sam felt his head spinning again.
Downstairs, they piled into Sam truck. He drove them to Chan’s apartment.
“Thanks, Sam.” Dr. Chan told him ruefully. “And thanks to you too, Brother Huang. I don’t know if I’ll have a job Monday. But, I have been a complete fool. I guess it could have been worse. He could have gotten on that plane.”
“Yup,” Sam answered. “It could have been worse. Night Dr. Chan.”
Sam rolled up the window and pulled into the street. He looked at Huang.
“So true, Sam-shi. Glad you brought that up.” Huang responded to the unspoken remark. “It could have been worse. He could have been killed by Lee, not just hit on the head.”
“Exactly, Huang. Exactly what I was thinking.” They both laughed and headed into the new dawn of a new day, going back to the Green Veil.
Sam slept very late the next day and awoke to the sound of his phone pinging at him.
“Hello, hello,” he was groggy.
“Sam, it’s Kristie!”
“Hello, darling, what gets you up so early?”
“Sam, it’s after 11 am, what are you talking about?”
“Oh, yeah. Late night. What’s up?”
“Well, the thing fell through with the kids. The boyfriend got sick and Chelsea sprained her ankle.”
“So. . ..”
“So, the weekend is off. You still want me to come up? I can go shopping at Nordstrom’s!”
Sam paused. Shopping.
“Then there’s the pool at the Clairmont Hotel, wine in the jacuzzi. Couples massages, Chateau Briante for dinner.”
“Hum, sounding better all the time.”
“Super, I’ll make the reservations and pack. I should be up three maybe four hours. Oh, I love you Sam. You’re so dependable. Such a quiet weekend. Just the two of us. Kiss, kiss.” She was gone and off the phone.
Sam rolled over in bed and held the phone to his chest. “Just the two of us. Quiet weekend. Wonder if Brother Huang has some eggs and bacon hidden somewhere, that old rascal. Maybe some coffee too.”
Sam rolled out of bed and pulled on jeans and a T-shirt. With his boots in place, he was ready for the day.
You can see more stories at Kindle Vella – Courtney E. Webb