Friday, January 09, 2009
Past Life - Chapter 2, scene 1
(Latest installment. To read the story in order, go to the Writing - Past Life (story) category)
The morning ride to work took Katherine through some of the better kept parts of town. She scooted along leafy avenues and through a large, well maintained, park where the Chestnut trees arched over the pathways like benevolent elders, ready to pat the heads of the morning joggers. Normally she would have taken it all in, relishing the pleasure of living and working in such an attractive city. This morning though, Katherine's thoughts were elsewhere - mentally cataloguing the items she needed to collect from the computer lab.
Entering the university campus, an unease began to close around her: an unease that gained substance when she saw the two police cars in the car park next to the laboratory block.
Katherine dismounted and chained her bike to the rack, all the while keeping her eyes on the door to the block. The police cars only hinted at what might be going on inside and she was already wondering whether there might have been another death. She approached the block with some trepidation.
Stepping inside, out of the morning sun, it took her eyes a moment or two to adjust enough to see a police officer standing at the far end of the corridor - right outside the door to the lab. She walked briskly and authoritatively down the corridor, deliberately bolstering her nerves with a sense of indignation that someone was invading her work place.
"I'm sorry Miss, you can't go in there." The large sized policeman said.
There was yellow and black tape across the doorway and inside two or three men in white coats were packing equipment and files into plastic crates.
"What's going on?" Katherine asked.
"I can't tell you, I am afraid. I'm just here to make sure no one gets in."
Katherine detected a sense of resentment in his tone, as if the job were beneath him.
"But I work here. This is our lab. What are they doing with all our equipment?"
The officer looked at her carefully. "Just a minute", he said, turning toward the open door. "Mr. Anderson, there's someone here to see you."
One of the white coated men looked toward the doorway, stared questioningly at Katherine and came across the room. His white coat was undone revealing neatly pressed dark trousers, a white shirt and tie. His garb would have looked better with a suit jacket than a lab coat, though his balding head and wire framed glasses went with the coat quite well.
"Katherine Shuuman?" It was the second time that day she had become a question: weird. Weird that it had happened twice. Weird that she should be keeping count.
"Yes, I work here. What are you doing with all our equipment?"
"All the equipment is being packed and transported elsewhere. I can't tell you any more than that. It's been approved by the university and, if you need to, you should speak to the Vice Chancellor. We have his full authorisation to remove the equipment."
Anderson smiled. His tone wasn't brusk, but it was business like and firm. The smile was just a sweetener to the bad news. Katherine knew bureaucracy when she met it - there was enough at the university - and she knew there was little chance of getting past this bureaucratic white coat, but it was worth a try.
"I have some of my personal research papers in there for my PhD, can I retrieve those please?"
"I am sorry that won't be possible. My orders are to pack and ship everything." He laid special emphasis on "everything".
The exchange had been short but already Katherine was getting impatient at the brick wall being erected in front of her.
"How did you know who I was?" she asked.
White coat paused momentarily then, looking her straight in the eye, said "I was expecting you. Good morning Miss Shuuman, we will contact you if we need anything." With that, he turned and walked away.
Contact me, Katherine thought; who do I contact?
Clearly it was time for a visit to the Vice Chancellor's office.