I followed nervously. What was it about the tattoo that interested him so? Should I really be running the other way? I watched him closely, ready to draw my weapons if he made so much as one wrong move.
He led me back to the bank of elevators and pushed the call button. It took mere seconds for the doors to slide open. We stepped inside and he pushed the button marked ‘Lobby’. In no time, we’d passed the floors separating us from our destination and stepped onto the smooth linoleum.
A crowd of people surged inside, not bothering to let us out first. We pushed past them as they blatantly ignored us.
The last woman to crush into the elevator turned as the doors closed. Her perfectly pressed clothes were immaculate and her black hair was confined in a twist. She wore her identification card on a lanyard around her neck: Doctor Sharnee Fould.
My breath hitched.
I glanced at her face and her familiar features swam before my eyes. I turned as fast as possible, hoping she hadn’t seen me. She spoke into her cell phone and I could barely filter her voice out of the crowd with her distinctive accent. The last time I’d seen her I was hallucinating and sick, what on earth was she doing here?
She didn’t appear to have noticed me, so I spun and followed the boy. He recognized my tattoo and the woman who’d made my entire life hell was in the same building. Did he know more than he was letting on? I unzipped my leather jacket so I’d have easy access to my gun if I needed it.
Halfway down the hall he stopped, pulled a swipe card from his pocket and slid it along the electronic lock on a door. He pushed it open to reveal an old concrete staircase. He started down the steps, taking me another two floors below the ground.
We came to a tiny office so small there was barely space for the desk, on which stood an old computer. He slid onto a chair with the worn seat and gestured for me to take the straight-backed chair opposite.
“Could you write down her full name and date of birth? Also, note any dates that you know she was here, for any reason.” He pushed a sheet of paper to me. One side was already ragged with notes, so I turned it over and wrote the details clearly before passing it back. He glanced over it while the computer booted up. It took ages; Mouse would be swearing at it by now.
It finally beeped. He logged into a black screen with white text and tilted the monitor away from me. I watched his keystrokes, reading what he wrote.
He hit the tab key, typed in Mom’s name and pushed enter. His fingers moved over the keys quickly, but nowhere near as fast as Mouse.
He gazed at the screen. “She didn’t have a middle name, did she?”
“No.” I shook my head.
“What are you?” I finally asked, curiosity getting the better of me. “You’re not a doctor, are you?’
“I’m a student. I do some work experience here on my days off,” he said, not lifting his eyes from the screen.
What sort of student had access to the hospital’s records? I shifted my hand nearer to my gun.
He waited until the machine beeped again then scrolled down the page. He clicked a few times and pressed enter again.
“There’s no point looking at the ones who are still alive,” he said, mainly to himself. “Uh-huh! Gotcha,” he murmured with a final mouse click.
His satisfaction lasted barely a fraction of a second before it drained from his face. He turned the screen and confusion surged into me. Flashing across the black screen were two words: File Deleted.
His eyebrows knitted as he went back and tried again. A hint of frustration flickered across his face but something I couldn’t recognize pushed it away.
“You’re sure this was only five years ago?”
He turned the screen back to himself and clicked again, typing something every now and then. I didn’t bother watching any more. Why would Mom’s file have been deleted?
Five minutes later, he clicked the mouse one last time and leaned back. The printer whirred and four sheets of paper whizzed out. It seemed oddly advanced in comparison to the ancient computer.
He handed them to me and I flicked through them. The first page was her basic details: name, date of birth, date of death, contact details and so on. My heart leaped when I came to a point, halfway down the page, where it said family contact. Listed under this was a name and number for someone named Cherelle. I’d only made it up for the purpose of getting my hands on the folder, but the idea of finding my mom’s family thrilled me.
“Can…can I copy this?” I asked, amazed I’d found something.
“We’ll sort that out later” he said. “Can you keep reading?”
Uncertain as to why he’d asked that of me, I did. The next three pages were pretty much the same; three sheets of dates and times. Nothing else. I scanned my eyes down the list and several of the dates sprang out at me—the first was my date of birth, the second a month before mom died and the third was the date of her death.
“Do any of those dates mean anything to you?” He leaned forward over the desk.
I nodded, pointing out the ones that did and explaining why.
“That’s what I thought,” he said. “They’re admission dates. Usually on these sheets, there would be detailed notes beside each one, but there’s nothing. Can you wait here for a minute? I’m going to try and track down some of the associated paperwork.”
Checking my watch, I nodded. I still had time.
He didn’t take long, barely five minutes. For the entire time I kept my hand on my gun and my eyes on the door. Was he going to call security? Did he know about the project? It swung open and he stalked through, something glistening in his eyes like anger, which didn’t make sense. Moments after he stepped back into the office, the phone next to the computer rang.
“Jake speaking,” he answered, holding the phone to his ear.
He said nothing else, but he did look at me strangely. Hearing what the person on the other side of the line said, I could understand why.
“This is security. We’ve been advised that there may be a young woman in your office who is of interest to the police. Is she still there?”
I shook my head, panic clouding my features. The scientist may not have seen me, but someone had.
He watched me before his eyes flicked down to the folder in his hands.
“There was a young woman here, but she left some time ago.”
“Please alert us if you see her again,” the voice said before the phone clicked and the line went dead.