I knew by noon that things weren’t going according to plans.
What they were doing had to be a sensitive matter—whatever the boy was caught up in. And sensitive matters weren’t just chatted about lightly. The way the scientist scurried about was my first clue. There was a desperation in their eyes, giving them a sort of humanity I hadn’t seen before. My second clue was the phone calls. Tons of them, all asking for my father.
“This is Mr. Blackwell’s private residence, may I help you?” I murmured dully, wedging the phone between my ear and shoulder as I shifted a pile of papers.
“This is Tristan Gregor, I need to speak with Isaac Blackwell immediately.” I bristled immediately. Even if he hadn’t identified himself, I would have recognized the condescending and brash voice.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Blackwell isn’t available at the moment. Can I take a message?” I said with a cold sweetness. Although he was one of my father’s most prized employees, I’d never appreciated his presence. He was the king’s favored knight after making some revolutionary breakthrough in whatever it was, and he made sure everyone knew it.
“Scarlett, is that you? Let me speak to your father, now,” he commanded.
“Like I said, he’s unavailable.”
“And I’m saying he wouldn’t be if he knew what I have to say.”
“Then leave a message and he’ll get back to you,” I said cheerily, funneling the few acting skills I possessed.
“Fine. Tell him we have a code indigo.” Click.
“You have a good day too…” I said under my breath, replacing the phone in its cradle. I picked up another set of reports, shifting their weight as I sauntered towards my father’s office. My mother had always been his home secretary, and after she died I took up the responsibilities. Maybe it was just misguided hope, but it made me feel like I was spending some sort of time with my father.
The door to my father’s office was ajar, bits and snippets of his murmuring reaching out into the waiting room. His office was a grand room, with floor to ceiling windows hugging floor to ceiling book shelves. Thick red carpet clung to the floor, a sea around the coffee table, seats, and large oak desk. Seated at the desk was a man of about fifty, with pale skin, and slim features. There was no doubt he was an intellectual man—the gleaming eyes and perpetual thinking stare made it clear. Wrinkles surrounded eyes, no doubt from squinting at computer screens and taking careful measurements. The custom suit had its own set of wrinkles.
Clearly my father had spent the night in his office.
“Nancy Shirwhile called, saying they were finishing up the final drafts for the security contract and wondered when you would be back to sign it. I told her to just have it delivered here,” I relayed, running through my checklist of morning happenings. “Also, the courier delivered from patent papers.” I dropped the pile of folders on the corner of his desk.
My father never looked up, but I knew he heard me. He continued scratching notes onto his papers, no doubt filing ever more information away. While he was technically the owner of Comwell Incorporated, he let other executives take care of the finer details of business. As long as he kept finding ideas to make more money, no one really cared.
“Sylvia was also wondering where you would like to eat lunch.”
“I’ll take it in here.”
Maybe I did look a little like my father. Everyone always said it, but I never really understood what they were seeing. I had the same dainty nose and lack of hips. My face was rounder—like my mother’s—but I still had my father’s muddy brown hair. At least, before his hair turned gray.
“Oh, and Gregor said they had a code indigo,” I said carelessly. Maybe my father did know my distaste for his unofficial director of experiments, but I guessed it was more likely that he didn’t care enough to notice.
“Indigo?” A calculating stare was focused on my immediately, my father’s frame becoming rigid instantly. “He said indigo?”
“Yes. He insisted that he speak to you as well.”
“Is he still in the cave?” He asked quickly, using the pet name for his private laboratory.
“Last I knew.”
Isaac Blackwell was out of his seat in an instant and out the door before I could blink. I watched with half a smirk as he powerwalked across the waiting room and down towards the cave.
My guess was that lunch was going to be delayed.
The afternoon inched by. I couldn’t help hoping that maybe my father would need something—a coffee, a specific file, a special pen, anything—and call me down to the lab. Otherwise I was by myself till after midnight. Not truly by myself. The calls kept coming in, and Sylvia, our cook, was sweet enough to bring me treats and friendly conversation. But that couldn’t distract my frantic thoughts. I hadn’t a clue what code indigo could be—surely something serious if my father had left his office so quickly. It could just mean that they finally figured out how to assemble their new thingamajig. I didn’t know.
I didn’t know. That was just it.
Slowly, time crept by. Dinner came and went (alone, by the phone) and then lights started to wink out across the house. Nine o’clock rolled around, and I shut down my computer and switched the answering machine to night before quietly padding up to my room.
Sylvia appeared shortly after that. The grandmotherly woman had worked for the family since my father had been a teenager. With gray hair and a gentle smile she fit the part of caretaker perfectly. She knew me better than my own father, even if she did three children of her own.
When the last lights finally blinked out I began the countdown. I knew my father would be in his lab till at least midnight. At midnight, mother would always force him to go to bed, and he didn’t break that habit.
A stick blew into my window, startling me out of a half-sleep trance.
Would he be awake?
Would he even know what was going on?
At some point I drifted into a partial sleep. The sort of sleep that causes dreams but that could be broken at the slightest noise or touch. When I finally opened my eyes, nothing but black met my eyes. The red glow of my alarm clock was hidden, blocked.
I resisted the urge to sit up, and focused on keep my breathing steady. Carefully the figure shifted away and dissolved…
I opened my eyes to the red glow of my alarm clock. 12:27.
I sat up, trying to orient myself. A dream. It’d been a dream. I quickly pushed the covers away and climb out of bed, noiselessly proceeding to pull on a jacket and sweatpants.
I figured the scientists were part Eskimo, the way they kept the air colder than our refrigerator.
Instincts took over after that. I swiped my security pass at the door to the lab, watching to make sure the record of my entrance was wiped from the system (who knew a pair of VIP concert tickets were worth so much?) The lights slowly flickered on as I descended into the cave, crossing the large laboratory into the observation room.
I held my breath. What was I expecting, a welcome party and gift basket? I closed my eyes as I passed through the last security door, blindly facing the three pane window.
And there he was, sitting against the wall, head hung in defeat. At first I wondered if he was asleep, the way his chest rose and fell so gently… so normally. He seemed so peaceful. A moment later every muscle in his body went rigid, two foggy white eyes centered on mine.
I knew by noon that things weren’t going according to plans.