The Weatherman

When Serena Frost starts a new job at the British Weather Centre, she learns about a rival company, Readiweather.com, whose forecasts are uncannily accurate. A chance encounter with Readiweather's founder piques Serena's interest, but she soon finds both her heart and her life in danger, as some people will stop at nothing to discover Readiweather's secret.

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11. Chapter Eleven

“I’m just nipping down to the Library,” Serena informed Drew after the mid-morning tea break. “I need to look out an article on thunderstorms in a back issue of ‘Science Now’.”

Drew nodded. “See you in a bit then.”

Serena had barely left the room when her telephone rang. Drew pressed **3 on his keypad and put the call through to his own phone. “British Weather Centre. Drew Foot speaking.”

“Hi Drew, it’s Jeff,” said the voice at the other end. “Is Serena about?”

“She’s away from her desk right now,” Drew answered. “But I know she’s really upset right now about the way you threw her out.”

“That’s why I’m calling,” Jeff explained. “I want to apologise to her.”

“I really don’t think she wants to hear from you, Jeff,” Drew answered calmly. “I think she’d prefer it if you didn’t try to contact her again.” He hung up before Jeff had opportunity to reply.

 

Serena found the issue of ‘Science Now’ that she was looking for and flicked through to find the article. There it was, a glossy six-page article by an eminent professor at Yale University about thunderstorm structures. Except that in this particular copy it was only a five page article, Serena discovered as she read through it, because the last page had been neatly torn out. Sighing, Serena closed the magazine and returned it to the shelf. As she did so, she noticed a blister on her left wrist. Better get some cream on that, she thought, and went off in search of a first aider.

 

 

The sound of birds singing in the trees woke Serena the following morning. She rolled over in bed and looked at the alarm clock. Eleven a.m. She was about to swear under her breath when she realised it was Saturday. Still, she really ought to get up anyway. She got out of bed, dressed, and went into the living room. Where was Drew? Oh, of course – he’d got a football match this morning. She started making herself breakfast but was interrupted by the intercom.

“Who is it?” she asked into the receiver.

“It’s Tim Flannery. Is Drew around?” asked the voice.

“No, he’s out at a football match. Do you want me to take a message?”

“He asked me to do a chemical analysis for him. I’ve got the results here.”

Serena pressed the button. “OK, come on up.”

 

Tim entered the flat a couple of minutes later. He was tall, slim and with a few days’ growth of beard. In his hand he carried a computer printout.

“Sit down,” invited Serena. “I’m just as curious as Drew is. After all, it was me who went swimming in the stuff.”

“You’re a lucky girl,” Tim commented, laying the printout on the coffee table. “There’s some pretty nasty stuff in there.”

He pointed to a list. “This is what we found in the control scrunchie.” He turned the page. “These are the extra chemicals we found in the one you wore in the pool.”

Serena took a sharp intake of breath as she read the list. Good job she hadn’t swallowed any of it, she realised.

“Why would he store all that stuff in his swimming pool?” Serena asked.

Tim shrugged his shoulders. “You tell me. There’s no reason for anyone to have all those chemicals. Unless…”

“Unless what?” asked Serena, intrigued.

“No, it’s only hearsay.”

“What is?”

“I seem to remember reading a report somewhere that a University research department shone a laser beam through a beaker containing a similar mixture and discovered it had a peculiar optical property.”

“What property?” Serena sat on the edge of her seat.

“The light emerged from the beaker marginally before it entered it. Nobody knows why, and the research was dismissed. But even then I can’t think of any reason why he’d want to fill a swimming pool with it.”

“Neither can I,” Serena lied. Her mind was working overtime. Those flickering lights all round the pool were criss-crossing it with information. When she’d been for her swim, she’d blocked some of those beams, interrupting their signal, at precisely the time Jeff’s forecasts had stopped. No wonder he’d been so angry with her. That explained so much – the accuracy of his forecasts, and his own confidence in them. Even how he’d known what her favourite food was and when her house would catch fire. He’d been sending himself messages back in time!

            It seemed so preposterous though, that when Tim had left, Serena logged on to Drew’s computer and Googled the list of chemicals. There was one result – a paper from the University of Wisconsin, which was just as Tim had described. The time gain was tiny – five nanoseconds across the width of the beaker. With closely-based beams over the length, width and depth of the pool though – so that was why it was deep at both ends, she twigged – that could bring the time gain up. She opened up Excel and did some calculations, based on what she remembered of the size of the pool and the spacing of the lights. About a second. Obviously not enough for a weather forecast, but the principle was there. She shut down Internet Explorer, put the computer in hibernate mode and headed for the door. 

 

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