Bane(4)

By: Brenda Jackson


Dillon nodded. “Do you know where she is now?”

“I didn’t know up until a few hours ago. Bailey lost contact with Crystal a year and a half ago. Last week I hired someone to find her, and I got a call that she’s been found. I’m heading out in the morning.”

“To where?”

“Dallas, Texas.”





                      One

Leaving her job at Seton Industries, Crystal Newsome quickly walked to her car, looking over her shoulder when she thought she heard footsteps behind her. She tried ignoring the sparks that moved up her arms, while telling herself she was probably getting all worked up for nothing. And all because of that note someone had left today in her desk drawer.

Someone wants the research you’re working on. I suggest you disappear for a while. No matter what, don’t trust anyone.

After reading it she had glanced around the lab. Her four colleagues seemed preoccupied, busy working on their individual biochemistry projects. She wondered who’d given her the warning and wished she could dismiss the note as a joke, but she couldn’t. Especially not after the incident yesterday.

Someone had gotten inside her locker. How the person had known her combination she wasn’t sure, since there hadn’t been any signs of forced entry. But whoever it was had taken the time to leave things almost exactly as she’d left them.

And now the anonymous note.

Reaching her car, she unlocked the door and got inside, locking it again behind her. After checking her surroundings and the other cars parked close by, she maneuvered out of the parking lot and onto the street. When she came to a stop at the first traffic light, she pulled the typed note from her purse and reread it.

Disappear? How could she do that, even if she wanted to?

She was currently working on her PhD as a biochemist, and was one of five chosen nationally to participate in a yearlong research program at Seton Industries. Crystal knew others were interested in her research. Case in point: just last month she’d been approached by two government officials who wanted her to continue her PhD research under the protection of Homeland Security. The two men had stressed what could happen if her data got into the wrong hands, namely those with criminal intent. She had assured them that even with the documented advances of her research, her project was still just a theoretical concept. But they had wanted to place her in a highly collaborative environment with two other American chemists working on similar research. Although their offer had been tempting, she had turned it down. She was set to graduate from Harvard with her PhD in the spring and had already received a number of job offers.

But now she wondered if she should have taken the men’s warning seriously. Could someone with criminal intent be after the findings she’d already logged?

She glanced in her rearview mirror and her heart pounded. A blue car she’d noticed several traffic lights back was still there. Was she imagining things?

A short while later she knew she wasn’t. The car was staying a few car lengths behind her.

Crystal knew she couldn’t go home. The driver of that blue car would follow her. So where could she go? Who could she call? The four other biochemists were also PhD students, but she stayed to herself the majority of the time and hadn’t formed relationships with any of them.

Except for Darnell Enfield. He’d been the one intent on establishing a relationship with her. She had done nothing to encourage the man and had told him countless times she wasn’t interested. When that hadn’t deterred him, she’d threatened to file a complaint with the director of the program. In anger, Darnell had accused her of being stuck-up, saying he hoped she had a lonely and miserable life.

Crystal had news for him. She had that already. On most days she tried not to dwell on just how lonely the past five years had been. But as far as she was concerned, Loneliness had been her middle name for further back than five years.

Born the only child to older, overprotective parents, she’d been homeschooled and rarely allowed to leave the house except to attend church or accompany them to the grocery store. For years, her parents wouldn’t even allow her to go outside and play. She remembered when one of the neighbor kids had tried befriending her, the most she could do was talk to the little girl through her bedroom window.

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