Madie’s heart jolted but she remained still, frozen in the bare metal chair next to the man in the bed. The man she had brought back from death.
“Your name is not Adam Robert Monteller?” she asked.
He closed his eyes and rest his head on the pillow. “I can’t remember,” he said, “but I don’t think so. How did I get here? What happened?”
“You were in a car accident. Do you remember anything prior waking up here?” For some reason she felt the need to be careful with her words. She technically had not lied to him and decided she would try her best not to.
“Nothing.” He opened his eyes and stared into hers. She lost herself in the blue depths of those eyes, then caught herself and readjusted in her seat.
“You were found dead at the scene, but with emergency surgery we were able to bring you back. You may have suffered some neurological damage during the time your brain wasn’t receiving oxygen. We will be monitoring you during your recovery, but we believe you will regain your memories in time. If you need anything, just press this button,” she handed him the button connected to the side of the bed. It was programmed to a pager she would now keep on her at all times. Not that she planned on straying too far from her work.
“Get some rest. I’ll be by to check on you soon.” She left the makeshift clean room and went upstairs. A burning desire to shoot the coroner from whom she’d bought the body filled her entirely and she bit the meat of her thumb to keep from screaming. It wasn’t as if she could return the dumbass and demand further information. She’d risked enough just getting the body.
What she needed was time to think. She grabbed her keys and carefully locked the two deadbolts before walking to the corner coffee shop.
It didn’t matter if the man she reanimated was Adam Robert Monteller or not. The file she was given didn’t provide anything but a basis on which to judge if the final solution was needed. What really mattered was that she had successfully brought him back. He had been dead, and she had brought him back.
This was a success in its own right. Even if Adam, or whoever he was, wouldn’t survive beyond the week, her researched proved fruitful. She could replicate it if needed. If the file was wrong and this man had relatives who expected to see a body, then she would pack up what she could and destroy any evidence of her work.
She finished her coffee, paid, and left. The pager buzzed and she checked it. He was needing something and she had been gone long enough. She’d made up her mind after she first questioned him.
She bought a paper before returning to the house. A missing dead man would make the news and she would prefer to know if the authorities were searching for him, or if the coroner confessed to his dealings.
Madie entered the clean room and began checking the man’s vitals.
“I thought a nurse would come by and do that for you,” he said as she moved to check the readout of the EEG machine.
“Sorry for the delay, I was with another patient. What did you need?”
“I was wasn’t sure if I would need a new one of those.” He pointed toward the IV bag.
“You won’t,” she said, “now that you can eat and drink on your own.” She removed the needle from his arm and bandaged it.
“Oh, I guess that makes sense.”
“Are you in any pain?”
“I feel sore, all over, but it’s not terribly painful.”
“The surgery you went through was extremely invasive and taxing on your body. You will be in a lot of pain if we don’t maintain your medication.” She handed him two morphine tablets and a glass of water. He took them without question and handed the empty glass back to her. She opened the refrigerated drawer and withdrew the final solution. The dark red-purple contents could have been mistaken for blood. She pushed the solution into the port of the dialysis machine.
The man soon lost consciousness. She unhooked him from the dialysis machine. The last thing she needed was for her synaptic repair solution to be filtered out before it could work. If he truly wasn’t who she thought he was, she would need to know sooner than later.
He stirred awake and the restraints pulled taught. He looked at them, then up at Madie sitting in the chair at the computer station.
“Hey,” he said quietly. She remained fixated at on the screen in front of her. “Hey,” he called louder. This time he caught her attention and she looked over. “Where am I?”
“Good morning,” she said despite the hour, “How are you feeling?”
“Not too bad…for a dead man.”
She raised her brow at that. “So you remember?” She wasn’t terribly surprised at this. An hour after he had fallen asleep, the EEG readout became sporadic and only returned to a steady, normal pace after about thirty minutes.
“Yeah. I guess I can’t complain about feeling anything at this point. What happened? Where am I?”
“First I need you to answer a few of my questions.” She grabbed a clipboard from the desk and rolled over next to the bed. “What’s your name?”
“Last thing you remember?”
“Driving down 59.”
“And after that?”
“Waking up here.”
“Army Engineer. MVD.”
“Where am I? I’ve answered enough without knowing what’s going on.”
“How you answer next will determine if you get to walk out of here. Last contact with your commanding officer?”
He looked at her sternly. His face slowly relaxed and he answered, “Four days ago. I was leaving the base when I wrecked.”
Madie pulled the gun from its holster at her lower back and pressed it against his temple. He struggled against his restraints.
“Why?” he asked.
She looked directly into his eyes. “I’m sorry,” she said and pulled the trigger.
Within minutes she had wiped the computer, packed what she could, and destroyed everything else before setting fire to the house. She was on the edge of town when two black SUVs skid to a halt in front of her. Teams of armed men surrounded her and tall man stepped out of the second vehicle.
“Madeline,” he said, “What’s the hurry?”
“Pierce,” she said curtly.
“General Pierce. No need for informality here. Though I can’t return the favor as you no longer are associated with this outfit.”
“How did you find me?”
“Simple really. A trail of missing cadavers is not uncommon unless you know what to look for. They’ve already quelled the fire in Necaise. Poor Waldrop would still be alive, or could be again with your help, if you hadn’t painted the walls with his brain.”
Pierce smirked. “Come now, you wouldn’t have gone through such measures if you hadn’t been successful. It’s time you returned now that you have successfully performed the procedure.”
“I’m not going with you.” She pulled out her cell phone but one of the armed men quickly confiscated it.
“Madeline, you know you don’t have a choice in this matter. There’s no need to struggle. We already have a lab and a new patient waiting for you in Puerto Rico. We will be there in a few hours.”
General Pierce returned to the car. A gun prodded her toward the open door and she quietly followed the instruction and got in. The door shut and they were on their way.
“So what changed?”
“You. Actually. Once you went rogue, we followed your trail finding improvements along the way. You going off on your own actually proved exactly what was needed to convince the higher-ups that this project had legs. Of course, bringing you back in was the main contingent of the project moving forward.” He smiled at her. “You’ll have everything you ever wanted in Puerto Rico. A whole team. Any resource you want. They’ve gone all in, especially after I reported about what we found in the last hour.”
“Tell me. Was Waldrop a set up?”
“Nothing ever escapes you does it. Yes. Waldrop was planted. Not easy. Sergeant Houston didn’t know of course, but the incompetent coroner was paid and since removed.”
Madie sat in the back of the SUV, certain there was at least one if not two barrels pointed at her the entire way to the airport. Her mind was running scenarios. Weighing pros and cons. Determining whether to play along or plan her escape. An entire lab would be nice and would expedite the process. Resources were hard to acquire on her own, but she didn’t know what they planned to do with her solutions though she had an idea. It sat like mercury in her stomach. Heavy. Slowly killing her. If she stayed and finished her work through Pierce, she would have to abandon her humanity, and that was a cost she wasn’t sure she could pay.