What do I do? I wondered as I paced back and forth. It had been a couple hours since I saw Kellen with the blood–blood!–and medical supplies. I was just getting myself more and more worked up. All sorts of crazy ideas poured through my head and none of them really made sense. But what sense was there? Blood and… and sharp things.
There’s got to be an exlanation, I thought once it started getting dark. Well of course there is an explanation, it just might be like–some sort of psycho-stalker-killer. He’s not, though. I mean, he’s too nice. But I’m sure people have thought that before about killers. But if he had killed someone, he wouldn’t have been sitting out there in the open with blood all over himself.
I needed to calm down and try to think rationally. Rationally, it was work. Maybe some vials of blood got knocked over and spilled everywhere. And Kellen just… left without getting cleaned up and started wandering around town. Right. Yeah. That made sense.
I jumped when my phone rang, falling off my couch. I stared in horror down at my pocket and then slowly pulled it out as I stood up, already knowing who it was.
Kellen, the ID said. Of course it did. He was fulfilling his promise to me. He was calling me, going to tell me why he had blood on him, why his phone had been off for four days straight, why… why he was so…
I pressed ignore and then closed my eyes, guilt welling up in me. I didn’t want to hear his excuses. He would either lie to me or else say I couldn’t know. But I had to know. His hands were so bloody that they soaked through a sweatshirt within a couple minutes. If it was just a little bit of blood, it wouldn’t have been that bad. And it was fresh blood… otherwise it wouldn’t have soaked through like that. Whatever he had done, he had done it right before I talked to him.
I need to know, I thought as my phone rang again. This time I didn’t even bother looking at it. I was forming a plan.
I had to know what was going on. So I would take the initiative. It was the weekend and if work was as busy as he claimed, he’d be working. It’s about time I do some looking up on Acinert, I decided. And I think I should check the actual place out, too.
As soon as the library opened in the morning, I was there. I felt kinda jumpy and looked around for Kellen but there was no sign of him. I got on one of the computers and went to the internet, still looking around in fear that someone would see me and know what I was doing. And then for some reason they’d report it back to Kellen, Kellen would know I was looking up stuff about him and then… come kill me in the middle of the night.
Whoa, stop being so paranoid, I commanded myself as I typed in “A.C.I.N.E.R.T.” and “Riverview” in a search box. I watched the results come up.
Anthropological Coexistence In Nature Research Team. That’s what Acinert stood for. I clicked on the homepage and saw a picture of five men and woman standing outside a large brick building. It was an older photograph, probably from eighty, maybe ninety years
The original founders of A.C.I.N.E.R.T., I read, standing outside their building in Bridgeport. Bridgeport? I scrolled down the page and read about how they had moved out to the middle of no where to be closer to nature about seventy years ago. Three of the founders left, then the Dearg corporation made a bid and bought the entire operation. That’s when they moved to Riverview, and things ‘took off’ but then they pretty much shut their doors to the public. Everything they did was in secret and nobody really knew what was going on there. Fences went up everywhere, guards at all the entrance. It was hush-hush.
I did some more research and discovered that the general rumor was that they had been bought out by the military and were doing things for them. Over time, things started getting a bit lax. People went up there to find out what was going on but there was nothing to see and soon interest diminished until Acinert was left alone.
Not anymore, I decided, getting directions to the place.
Acinert was on a long, winding road that took me far from Riverview. I had taken a taxi to the entrance to the gravel road then walked for what felt like miles until I arrived at the Acinert building just outside some woods.
There were no windows, no doors. Nothing but an old grate and a sign. This is it? I wondered, looking around but not seeing any cars or any indication that this place was even still running. No people. Nothing. It was kinda creepy, actually. Just a rundown little building with a low metal roof.
I glanced furtively around and then began creeping over to get a better look at the sign.
Anthropological Coexistence In Nature Research Team, it said in fancy script and then below that, A.C.I.N.E.R.T. Storage facility. No Visitors Allowed. Violators will be arrested.
Storage building? I stood up, scowling angrily. According to all the information I found, this was the right place. This was supposed to be the main building not some… storage! I turned and walked back over to the trees and took in a few deep breaths. Think. I had to think. I could call Milla and get her to look up directions, I thought, pulling my phone out and saw that I had no signal. Oh great, this was getting better and better.
“…N’T CARE WHAT DR. RALEIGH SAYS! I WANT ANSWERS, NOT EXCUSES!”
I turned, my heart leaping into my throat at the sound of yelling. There was a quieter voice and I couldn’t make out what was being said, then someone said something in answer. There were people near here. And violators would be arrested. I took a few steps, heading away from the voices but then a familiar one half-shouted loud enough for me to hear.
“…eeded medical help!”
That was Kellen’s voice. I spun around, staring into the woods. Kellen, I thought, putting my hands against my chest. Without thinking, I began stepping past the trees, heading towards the voices. They were low again and I couldn’t make out words, but they were getting louder and louder as I got closer. I was scared more than I ever thought possible. I need to turn and leave, I thought, my head swarming.
I stopped in my tracks when I spotted him, and ducked behind a tree. “I am sorry,” he was saying, “but Dr. Raleigh did all he could. There’s only so much staff, Dr. Dearg, and we’re doing all we can.”
I raised my eyebrows. Dearg Corporation, I remembered. I bit my lip and peeked out, trying to see who he was talking to.
“I don’t like it,” Dr. Dearg replied. I felt a shiver going down my spine. There was something about her voice that I didn’t like, but I still couldn’t get a good look at anything but her shoes from where I stood, unless I peered out more and if I did that, I’d probably be seen. I definitely didn’t want that. “That incident should not have been such a crisis,” Dr. Dearg continued as I took a wide berth around some trees. Whatever Kellen replied, I couldn’t quite hear anymore and then I settled myself behind a couple trees.
“We’re doing all we can,” Kellen said, looking a bit weary.
I shifted my gaze and then my stomach lurched violently. No, I thought, gripping the tree tightly. No, no, no, that–that’s not–that’s impossible.
“I hired you for a reason, Mr. Wright,” Dr. Dearg said a bit softly. “You are talented. But I need you to use your abilities. Can you work tomorrow?”
“I–” Kellen’s eyes widened a bit. “Well, I was hoping to have plans.”
“Hoping is not the same as actually having them,” Dr. Dearg snapped. “I need you to work tomorrow. Understand?”
I curled my hands together, pressing them against my lips to stop myself from making any noise. To stop myself from throwing up. It’s not true, I thought desperately. I’m seeing things. I slowly inhaled then, holding my breath, I took another look. I had to clutch the tree again to stop from collapsing as my father’s stories poured through my brain at about a million miles per second. I have to be wrong.
Black hair, as black as her heart, I heard my father say. My father always said she wore glasses, and when I saw her–she had them, my father’s voice continued, the words feeling heavy as if they were dragging me down.
Oh, Watcher, no, I thought.
She had this arrogance on her lips when she did smile. When she said she was better than anyone else, I could tell by her smirk that she really did think that.
No, Kellen, I thought wildly, feeling as though I were going to faint now. Why are you working for her?
And her cold green eyes, my father had said with a shiver. I swear, snakes have warmer looks in their eyes than her. I know ice isn’t green but her eyes really are a sort of icy green…
Oh, Watcher! I thought, closing my eyes and turning away. Dearg. Dearg is Irish for red, I thought, the sick feeling taking over my entire body. Red. Redding.
It was her, there was no doubt in my mind. I wanted to cry out but even though my mouth opened, I managed to stop any noise from coming out. I slowly closed my mouth and leaned back against the tree, rubbing my temples.
“I understand, Dr. Dearg,” I heard Kellen say to whatever it was she had said–I hadn’t been listening. “I’ll do my best.” I looked over as anger started mingling in with the fear.
“Your best isn’t good enough, Mr. Wright,” Dr. Dearg–or rather, Dr. Redding–said.
Jay Redding. The name was imprinted in my brain, the enemy of the family, the one everyone despised and feared. The one they were all worried that I was taking after. Right there, right in front of me. And Kellen, the man I had trusted, the man I had even thought about–about possibly having a relationship with. He was working for her. My enemy, the woman I was always…
It honestly felt like everything was crashing down around me, and I had no idea what to do. I wanted to go over there and hit her. I wanted to grab her shoulders and shake her, to hurt her, to… to…
But then slowly I realized that no. The violent, hateful feeling wasn’t towards her. He’s working for her, he probably only ever talked to me to get close to me, she probably ordered him to befriend me.
It was Kellen I felt this anger towards. Kellen, who had betrayed me more than I imagined anyone ever could.