Audrey sat the empty, stained coffee mug on the counter then positioned herself at the surveyor-microscope.
She changed the power rotating the lenses to a higher magnification and re-adjusted the focus. In total disbelief, she continued
to adjust and re-adjust it.
She rubbed her arid eyes. The combination
of caffeine and lack of sleep, caused her to feel as if she had been living in a dream the past few days and her vision was
wavering in places where it had always been solid.
Biting her lip, she
glanced once more into the microscope.
"No-- no way-- it can't
be! It's-- it's just impossible! But how? I can't believe this! I really can't believe this!"
The DNA nuclei she'd experimented with, had morphed into a result she hadn't anticipated.
She was now looking at a mutation. A brand new gene. But what? Am I interpreting it right? she questioned.
Previously, she'd isolated an enzyme permitting the manipulation of DNA molecules where
the enzyme nicked a segment along the DNA strand at a point in the chain that allowed the union of her IQ gene. But she hadn't
expected it to mutate into a new gene.
She wasn't sure if she should
be elated or apprehensive. Her finding was more than she'd expected, or ever dreamed of. It was like some kind of procreation
that God hadn't yet introduced to mankind. Maybe hadn't created-- maybe on purpose.
Audrey reminded herself she was a scientist. A genetic engineer. Scientists don't factor in theologies of religion
or philosophies of God. Her field was based on facts, coupled with unlimited possibilities and probabilities-- the 'what-ifs'
of the realm of things. This definitely fell into the latter.
doubted her ability to comprehend and rationalize-- not sleeping for thirty-three hours, experiencing difficulty reading the
computer monitor, made it harder to concentrate and calculate data.
she also doubted the validity of this newly mutated gene. She was doubting everything, but she wasn't willing to give
up regardless of the consequences. She couldn't. She was too close now.
over to the sink, stretching her arms and arching her back, Audrey paused turning on the cold water. While allowing the water
to run, she untied the ribbon from her hair granting the curls permission to freely fall down around her shoulders.
As she combed her fingers through her thick mane, she stared at her reflection in the mirror.
She wasn't shocked to see bags under her eyes, she expected that. But she was shocked to see how ashen her complexion
had become and she couldn't help notice her age had begun to show. Not having the need to wear makeup before, she silently
acknowledged to herself that she certainly needed to start.
her head under the gooseneck faucet, drenching her hair and face with the icy cold, but refreshing, water. Normally it would've
been a rude shock to the average person, but she had become accustomed to it, even liking it. The cold water had bought her
some time before she'd completely zone out.
Patting her face dry,
she wrapped the towel around her head, neatly tucking in her long, raven hair while wondering if she should cut it off short
once and for all. Stretching her arms, trading off with knee bends, she walked around the room feeding oxygen into her brain.
Stretching, then knee bends, and stretching again.
She stood in front
of the coffee pot staring blankly through it as if it were invisible. She intuitively reached for the handle, her mind on
her work at hand, and poured herself another cup. Like the numerous cups in the past-- how many hours? She couldn't
Sipping as fast as she could, considering it was still hot,
she held back the urge to upchuck as the burnt flavor gagged the back of her throat. It tasted pretty awful, but it was the
caffeine she was interested in, not the flavor.
She went back to the surveyor-microscope
and looked into the oculare not knowing what to expect from another examination. She ran to the computer skidding to a clumsy
stop, bumping her knee on the desk. Quickly entering data on the keyboard, she hit the 'ENTER' key and waited
for the result.
While waiting for its response, she dried her hair and
tossed the towel in the corner when she'd finished with its usefulness. She took another sip of coffee while nervously
twisting a curl of hair, unaware that she was impatiently tapping her toe.
monitor beeped and flashed its response;
"NEED MORE DATA
INFORMATION TO COMPUTE"
"Damn!" What more info? All I have
She knew her calculations were more scenario
than fact, and typed a new calculation on the keyboard. While waiting again, she thought about molecular genetics; considering
scientists thought there were only a possibility of manipulating DNA coding-- she proudly acknowledged to herself that she'd
already discovered it really was possible-- after trying for years.
altered the multifactorial chromosome, producing superior intellect, and had the documented proof she'd genetically altered
the IQ of one-hundred and forty, to an amazing two-hundred and three. Audrey knew in any other scientific environment, she'd
get the Nobel Prize for her discovery. But in this lab, she wouldn't. The Defense
Department wouldn't allow her
or her work, to be known to the public.
After the computer beeped her
back to the bright lights and cold sterilization of her surroundings, she read the answer displayed on the vitreous screen.
The computer's equation showed a uniquely distinct and original gene with its own string
of nucleotides mutating into its own genetic chromosomes. The gene had broken the segment in the chain, so the introduction
of her gene could be spliced in. It was more than she'd hoped possible.
experiment was a chemically treated enzyme she'd isolated in order to introduce into a nucleotide. This meant the alteration
using mutagenic substances; chemically altering, is a possibility after all. But she hadn't produced the correct mutagen
yet-- or so she'd thought.
Her goal was to achieve an increased rate
of mutation that could be used on her IQ gene in order to speed and enhance the process. Mutagens would change everything
in genetics, if they worked with this new gene. It had mutated to a new level beyond her expectations.
She scurried to the gelid cold-vault reaching in, selecting the 'B-4' enzyme that
she'd previously treated using mild, controlled doses of radiation. She had a definite plan for it now.
The next morning started off with excitement, high expectations, and simple pleasures. She'd
had enough sleep to hold her another twenty-four hours. Enough before she'd become frazzled again, like she had in the
past few months.
Silently thinking to herself as she made a cappuccino,
it's a special treat, for a special day. She savored the sweet taste with complete bliss.
Heading to the door, she grabbed her notebooks that were crammed full of loose notes and data research. Juggling
them, she retrieved the clipboard that'd become too small for its job any longer.
She hurriedly placed her clammy palm on the image scanner, permitting the door to open. A 'whoosh' sounded,
and a computerized voice confirmed her ID number, security level, and the time and date, of her exit. She hated the frigid
mechanical world that engulfed her.
Audrey postured herself on the electronic
elevator's chair that expeditiously ferried the staff from one destination to another.
Programming her destination on its digital console, her thoughts drifted back to the past when she'd survived
the thirty-day test period the Defense Department had required her to endure. She'd passed with flying colors. She thought
she knew what she was in for. Affirming to herself, she couldn't blame anyone but herself-- twelve years, and it's
still cold and creepy.
The device took her down two levels through
corridors ending at her intended target, Sub G-Section 24-H. After dismounting and gathering her notebooks and clipboard,
she entered her lab using the same method she had used leaving her quarters.
struggled trying to put on her lab coat. Strolling over to the sink, retrieving her hair ribbon she'd left abandoned
earlier, she bent over gathering her hair with a twist, and tied the ribbon in place for the day. She peeked in the mirror
checking her mascara for smudges. Pleased at her amateurish attempt of application, she smiled at herself contentedly, blowing
a kiss at her improved, newly found, reflection.
be ready for testing, she thought. She removed it from the shelf along with the petri dish containing the new gene.
Carefully placing both on the counter, she located the dropper in order to introduce 'B-4'
to the gene. After completion, she placed the newly married couple in the environmental control unit and set the timer. She
realized that waiting and staring at the ECU was like watching a pot boil. Audrey conceding to the fact that the timer would
notify her, decided to fix breakfast instead of waiting out that eternity.
waited-- trying to rest. She methodically ate her breakfast. The timer interrupted her with a buzzing, symphonious sound.
She retrieved the petri dish and examined the result through the microscope. Unable to contain
her excitement, she yelled out,"It worked! It actually worked!"
she hurriedly entered data of her experiment in the computer, she ran back to the surveyor-microscope to look again. Now,
the gene with its new genetic chromosomes, had a dissection and a reassembling in the chain and its genetic coding, in a direct
result of 'B-4' enzyme.
She heard the computer beep, displaying
the answer to her computation.
The monitor read:
IQ GENE ENZYME INTRODUCED: B-4 RESULT: GENETIC
PROGRAM PROBABILITY OF INTRAVENOUS
HOST: POSITIVE PARALLEL OF
NUCLEOTIDES MUTATE INCREASE
OF SENSES INCREASE OF MENTAL
CAPABILITIES CONCLUSION: INCREASED PERCENTAGE
USAGE OF NEUROLOGICAL BRAIN PROBABLE
The actual probability of injecting the gene in a host subject, could result in not only increased
intellect, but also senses; sight, smell, taste, feel, hearing and the probability of an increase of mental capabilities;
awareness, alertness, tolerance. Who knows? To be able to utilize the brain's full capacity!
She knew she had to develop a serum in order to introduce the gene into a
host, and quickly dashed to another computer to notify Central Control of her need for a volunteer.
A human volunteer. She wished she had someone willing and ready, someone here--
wanted to know the results. She needed to know.
The siren blared as fluorescent lights feigned the morning sun. The artificial
dawn, failed miserably simulating its warmth, and it didn't resemble any freshness dawn normally extended the day.
Victor woke startled once again, as the day of the week made no difference
to his habit.
swung his bare feet out of the narrow bed grimacing, while standing upright on the cold and non-compliant cement floor. After
performing it two-thousand, one-hundred and ninety plus mornings, he hadn't gotten used to it, or had learned how to endure
Victor took a few
short steps walking on his heels as he tried to prevent exposing his feet to the floor's rude coldness, as if there were
any such possibility. He stood at the stainless steel facilities trying to balance himself on his heels, while proceeding
with his morning business and wishing he could flush himself down with the tainted, swirling water. Its final destination
would be a better place than this, any place would be, he thought.
He heard familiar sounds of electronic doors opening then closing one by one.
Guards walked down the long hallway as echoing clicks of their every step roared from the paunch of the ceramic tiled floor.
One guard whistled the same tune he'd composed every morning, another slid the breakfast tray through the slot of his
cell door that some brilliant architect had cleverly designed.
He wondered if people like himself, and all the other jerks living on 'row,
where predestined to use such specially designed equipment. He puzzled silently, questioning with curiosity, were the friggin'
architects and their engineer friends, all clairvoyants? Were they designing that brilliant shit for the destinies of poor,
unfortunate, souls like me, then conveniently cashing in on it for their own greedy gain? He'd become use to quizzing
himself about such profound cogitations. There wasn't much else to do.
Feeling disparaged, Victor placed the food tray on the narrow table that conveniently
doubled as a small desk. Sighing under his breath, he straddled the small stool while looking at the food slopped on the plate.
He believed it probably symbolized his lack of importance.
One crisply-laced fried egg, hung half off the plate, suspended in time as
if prolonging its inevitable fall. A slice of dehydrated toast, blackened from times' neglect, laid nearby awaiting the
dollop of grape jelly imprisoned in the container, that was deeply embedded in hardened, heaped grits. It appeared to be the
center of attention, as if it were something of importance to behold.
Victor, not really caring about where the jelly sat in correlation of any
visual appeal, or the lack of, acknowledged that he preferred apple to grape jelly.
As he finished eating everything, his appetite insatiable, he habitually folded
the soiled napkin, carefully laying it down beside the barren plate. It was an polite mannerism ingrained in him by his mother's
civilities, growing up.
got up from the desk, dropped to the floor, and did the fifty push-ups that were a part of his morning routine. He stood up,
slightly out of breath, then laid down on his cot.
Before he could tune out the loud rhetoric of the imbecile he shared living space with, he heard guards
walking down the hallway. It was unusual considering the time. Only one, picked up meal trays. If more than one walked the
hall, it meant either he, or one of his fine upstanding neighbors, were going to go somewhere.
The jingling of keys and sounds of footsteps ceased as three guards stopped
in front of his cell. The tallest, holding hand and foot shackles, another standing expressionless, like a statue serving
no purpose, and the third one, short and dumpy, looked almost bedraggled. The shortest one of the three, gave Victor instructions
as he unlocked the cell door.
on over here Victor. You know the routine. Hands together extended in front, and feet slightly parted."
Getting up and taking four steps to the door as Victor was told, hands extended
together, he stood in place with his feet parted slightly, "Where am I goin'? It's not shower time yet."
"Your attorneys are here to talk with you."
"I don't want to see 'em. I've already told 'em that."
The guard didn't look him in the eyes. "You don't have to talk
to them Victor, but you do have to go, like it or not-- unless it's arranged otherwise. It's how the system works.
You know that."
thought about all the times he'd gone before. It wasn't his attorneys he didn't want to see. He liked them. Throughout
the years, they'd become close friends. It was the fruitless outcome he didn't want to face ... the parole board's
denials, and all the appeals that hadn't helped-- and worse, the stay of execution that had prolonged the inevitable.
He wanted to stop the madness of the empty hopes, and stop the foolery, and torture of his soul. "It's not gonna
do any good. What do I gotta do to stop 'em from comin'?"
Although the guard knew prisoners asked questions, especially for advice,
they weren't permitted to answer. He'd learned to dance around them as best he could. It always made him feel cold
and uncaring-- which he wasn't. On the contrary, he cared too much. The job had taken it's toil on him throughout
the years, and he wasn't suited
for it like he thought. But he had only a few years left, and he could retire.
"I can't advise you Victor, you know that. I'm only a guard,
not a legal advisor," the guard told him. "I'd lose my job if I told what you should do. I can tell the Warden
you want to see him. He's the only one that can recommend anything. Or, you can check out some law books from the library,
if you want to." He took a mental note that Victor was just another name to add to the long list of prisoners wanting
to see the top-dog. He'd lost faith in the judicial system a long time ago, and saw a lot of men that he felt, might be
innocent, punished and put through unnecessary agony. Since DNA testing had cleared a lot of innocent men, he wondered how
many were executed before the new technology.
The guard looked up, nodding at the surveillance camera, signaling for the cell door to be opened,
after the other guard had motioned he'd finished shackling Victor.
They led him to the visiting room. Victor stood calmly looking through the
window at the landscape outside. As the door opened, Victor was ushered through, only able to enter in steps that ungraciously
allowed him, an inch at a time. One guard unshackled him, then the three left the room as the electronic door shut with a
mechanical thud behind them. Victor hadn't become used to the sound.
P.J. was sitting at a rickety conference table, cracked from dryness due to
disregard-- its age probably older than the prison itself. Her assistant, Richard, was seated directly across from her.
"Hi Victor," she said, smiling. "How have you been holding
up since we last visited?" asking him, while brushing a curl from her face.
Before Victor could answer, Richard got up and pulled a chair out nodding
for Victor to sit down. He tried to be as matter-of-factly as he could, and smiled greeting him. "Hey buddy, you're
looking pretty well. 'You been okay since we last talked?"
Victor sarcastically took the chair and spun it around, mounting it backward,
"'Been all right 'guess, if you're some kinda damn glutton for punishment-- like a crazy sadomasochist. Do
ya'll really give a damn?"
his attorney who's usually a sympathetic woman, quickly became intolerant of Victor's sarcasm. She'd spent numerous
sleepless nights writing appeals, and countless hours waiting and standing in crowded courtrooms. She'd also spent big
bucks on a private detective to help get to the bottom of Victor's case, hoping to prove his innocence. Richard, her right-hand,
had spent so many long hours preparing appeals, that his wife had almost divorced him over the case.
Being perturbed as P.J. was, after remembering the grueling hours she‘d
endured, she scolded Victor in an dogmatic tone. "Victor, don't feed me your line of crap. Spare me today, okay?
We came with some good news, so I don't need to hear any bullshit that‘ll make me feel we've wasted our valuable
time, and that it's all been for nothing."
Victor hung his head in a shamed, child-like manner, rotating his eyes as if searching for a comfortable
hiding place to retreat. "Sorry P.J., 'didn't mean to hurt your feelin's or piss you off. I appreciate all
you've done, but it's time to quit. I'm too tired to keep fightin‘ a loosin' battle. It's over.
I can't keep goin' through this anymore," he explained, bordering between being apologetic and feeling despondency.
"Don't you understand?"
Wanting to tell him about the good news, and skip over Victor's question, Richard put his hand
on Victor's shoulder, and smiled compassionately. "Look buddy, the private detective we've had on your case came
up with some awfully good evidence that could get you another appeal. We've got it prepared and ready to go. All we need
is your okay, so-- is it a green-light?" Richard hoped the tone of despair didn't creep back into the conversation
Richard-- no more damn appeals. I don't give a flyin' fuck what the dick came up with. 'Don't do any good--
'just false hopes and more disappointments."
Richard and P.J. had hoped Victor had changed his mind and attitude since
the last time they'd visited. They'd kept the detective on his case, knowing in their heart of hearts, there was an
answer. A logical explanation to the case. They'd always believed in Victor's innocence, and weren't about to
stop now because he was throwing in the towel.
Victor got up and walked over to the window, looking out at the trees and grass beyond the barbed
wire fencing. It reminded him of home and growing up on the farm. His father ran off when he was only six years old, and he‘d
never found out why. He could barely remember him now. His mother's uncle, Edward, had come to live with them after his
wife had died. He helped his mother work their farm. Uncle Ed had been like a substitute father to him, and a damn good one
at that, considering he never had any kids of his own. He knew he was his favorite out of his brothers, and one sister, John,
Lucas, Charles and Patricia.
was the last son, born only thirteen months before his sister Trisha. They were close, like twins. He, and none of his brothers,
had managed to graduate from high school, but he worked to put Trisha through, and then, on to vet school. He was proud of
his lil' sis. She was the only one out of the five kids, to go to college. After being convicted and transferred to the
prison's death row, it was he sister, Trisha, who moved to be close to him, opening a local vet clinic nearby.
After thinking about his family, Victor gave his answer. "No. I'm
not gonna go through the 'dead man walkin' routine again. 'Done it one time already, Richard. 'Not gonna do
it but one more time, pal. I'm not gonna put Trish through it again, either. Thank the Lord, my maw didn't live to
go through this crap like 'rest of 'em did. It's bad enough on uncle Ed and my brothers, but Trisha couldn't
go through no more 'good-byes' ya know? She just couldn't."
P.J. walked over to Victor. Wrapping her arms around Victor's broad chest,
she nestled her face between his shoulder blades. "I'm so sorry Vic. But, you can't give up now or ever. Trish
doesn't want you to give up. She loves you Vic, and she needs you. You have to help us fight for you. That's what
she wants." She patted his chest and turned him around facing her, with a need to cuddle his head between her bosom,
like a mother would a small child.
almost rolled down Victor's cheeks as he bit his lip trying to fight back his emotions. Richard, walking over to them,
placed his hand on Victor's shoulder like he always did. "She's right Vic, Trish is stronger than you give her
credit for. As long as you're fighting-- but it'd kill her if you gave it up, buddy."
Victor got up. He looked Richard square in the eye, then looked down at P.J.,
who was only five foot, one inch tall, and weighing one-hundred and five pounds soaking wet. She was full of dynamite for
sure-- but had a short fuse. He‘d thought about what they'd just said. After deciding his answer,giving a thumbs
up approval, but still not smiling, he answered them. "Okay, do it. Not for me. For Trisha."
The two sat back down at the table with him, P.J. by his side. It occurred
to him, they hadn't told him what the detective came up with, that could have made any possible difference. "So what'd
the dick come up with anyway?"
wanted to answer this question. Putting her hand out to intercept Richard from responding first. as he customarily did. "Our
detective, Mr. Lloyd, discovered hidden company assets and other hidden corporations, that your ex-boss owns. This, in itself,
is nothing. But, when he dug further, he found insurance policies buried so deep, it would take the police and experts, years
to dig up. We know just how efficient they are, that's why they didn't find it--"
Victor abruptly interrupted her. "Pardon me P.J., but could you hurry
and get to heart of the story?"
I'm sorry, where was I? Anyway, the fire was probably intentionally set by a hired arsonist, probably professional-- to
frame you of course, so they could collect the insurance money. What they hadn't planned, was people dying in that fire."
"Well-- why the hell didn't we think of this in the beginnin'?"
"You don't understand Vic, we did. When we looked into it, the insurance
was a typical policy. Not enough coverage, to have deliberately burned the business down for. It wasn't even enough to
cover their losses. That's why the investigators and D.A.'s office, concentrated on you. The big policy that paid
off, was buried eleven companies deep and didn‘t pay off until recently."
He was confused and amazed both. After they‘d explained how it could
take years to dig up, and unfold the identities of companies. Companies that were buried in stacks of paper twenty feet high,
with mostly dummy corporations-- and no paper trails. He had a glimmer of hope, once again.
A guard's voice blared over the intercom speaker announcing visiting time
was over. The electronic door opened, and the same guards as before, entered. "You know the drill, Victor."
Victor had already put his hands out in front of him, rolling his eyes in
a mocking manner of disgust for the inessential and repetitious procedure. "Yeah, yeah, I know. 'Been there, done
that, ya know?"
patted Victor's shoulder. By then, it was too late to shake his shackled hand. P.J. hugged him, whispering in his ear.
"I'll call you in about forty-eight hours, Vic. Hang in there, okay?" She kissed him on his cheek and left.
P.J. and Richard walked the mazened path while waiting for doors to open,
granting them entrance.
heard them slamming behind them as they passed through to the next one, and the next, granting them their exit, repeatedly
until taking them to the security check-ut point.
The check-out security guard, sat reading a magazine and didn't bother to look up at them, "Sign
out an' log da time," he mumbled with a Cajun accent, still not looking up.
"Must be a nice job buddy, sitting there reading that fishing magazine,
biding the time, and drawing a paycheck off the state," Richard commented, as he signed his signature... Richard
Morehead ... seven o'clock am, by Victor's pre-printed name.
"Don't be no smartass there, Mista' Fancy-Britches," the
guard said, finally looking up at him. "If I coulda gon' to a big city college like you done, I coulda been wearin'
high priced suits like that 'un," he said, pointing at Richard with his rolled up magazine, "and makin'
bigger bucks lettin' women like that 'un," then changing the directional point of his magazine toward P.J., "'doin'
all da work for me too," he concluded with a snickering smile, exposing his rotten teeth.
"First of all buddy," Richard said, "I think you owe Ms. Cockrell
an apology. She's the attorney, and I'm her assistant, who happens to work thirteen to sixteen hours a day, seven
days a week for my paycheck. And second of all buddy, this isn't an expensive suit. I don't waste my hard-earned money
on expensive clothes with a family to support."
"Well, tell me somethin' then, uh-- Mista," the guard looked in the log book for Richard's
name. "Mista' Morehead-- tell me what's a man doin' bein' som' assistan' to som' fancy high-pricey
female lawyer, an' how'd ya get all dat money to buy your fancy college smarts, ya know? You ain't tall or stout
'nough to be no basketball or football player-- ya tell ya didn't get no athletic schola'ship or nuttin.'"
"I don't have the time, nor desire, to continue this conversation,
nor do I find the need to explain myself to you by answering your questions. But any man, even you, can accomplish anything
he wants, if he wants it badly enough. It's called 'working' for it."
Richard left it at that, putting P.J.'s wrap around her shoulders, then
exiting through the main door.
shackled hands to feet, stood in front of his cell door dreading the sound the electronic monster would make when it opened
to devour him. It was another thing he hadn't gotten used to.
Laying down on his cot, he thought about the visit with P.J. and Richard.
They're good people. They've stuck by me for six damn years. We're pretty close, and we've been a hellofa
trio. P.J. and me, got really close. He thought about how compassionate she was, considering she was a little too explosive
at times. He figured it was the reason she was such a damned, good lawyer. That combination made her attractive, even though
she wasn't very pretty to look at.
Things were beginning to finally add up, and falling into place like pieces to a strange puzzle he'd
played for six years. He'd always believed his ex-boss, Doren Edmont, had deliberately framed him. Victor knew he was
innocent, so obviously someone else had set the fire. But why? he asked himself for the millionth time.
The prosecution had skillfully convinced the jury that he'd burned the
factory down, in order to get even with Edmont for firing him. Yeah right, another fuckin' disgruntled employee,
he thought, smirking to himself. He was only one of many. If Edmont had planned the fire to collect on the damn insurance
and frame an ex-employee-- why'd he pick me?
He laid on his cot wishing like he did with every silent moment he stole,
that he could roam the countryside free like the wild horses back home. He knew he wouldn't be free again. Not like he
wanted to be.
was always thinking about getting out for good. Even planning an escape with other death row inmates. He knew there were only
two ways to get out; death by execution, knowing it wouldn't matter to him anymore, or alive and freed by a pardon. He
needed to be free once and for all-- and get even with Edmont.
He'd do anything for his freedom...