I crossed my arms and hugged myself as I lightly wept. How was he still alive? I thought he had burned to death in the fire along with our daughter Danya. Robert’s hand reached over to my face to wipe the tears from it. My self consciousness got the best of me as I blushed, but that was soon interrupted as I backed away in confusion and anger.
“It’s been more then ten years and you think you can just come back into my life? Just like that huh? You think you can stand here and comfort me as if nothing has happened?” I said as my lips quivered in anger.
Robert walked toward me slowly while holding his hands out in a pleading way, as if he was in the process of motioning for me to calm down. Lockley quickly arose from the BMW to deter a scene.
“Maribel please, have a seat in the car and relax. Robert will tell you everything about the experiment, and why he’s hidden himself away for so long as soon as we get to the observatory,” Lockley said.
My eyebrows furrowed in curiosity after hearing the word “observatory”. Was Robert living in an observatory all these years? I slowly shook my head as I wiped away my tears and entered the car. I sat in the back seat beside Lockley while Robert sat in the front seat as the driver. Not one of us spoke a word as Robert drove toward the observatory. We were all deep in thought.
“We’re just about there”, Robert said as he let out a deep sigh.
The silver dome of the observatory attracted my eyes as Robert pulled the car into one of the many empty parking spaces. It seemed so small and trivial to be more then just a place to sightsee. Only the sound of crickets could be heard once the car engine was shut off.
“Step out of the car if you would please Maribel”, Lockley said as he in turn exited the car.
I gave Lockley a plain look in silence before exiting the car. Robert led the way around past the entrance of the observatory to a cellar door on the side. Lockley stood behind me as if he was doing so in order to deter me from fleeing. My eyes fixated on Robert as he knelt down, and began turning the knob on the number lock to the cellar. Seeing him again was very awkward, but it wasn’t so bad.
It made me remember all the good times we had together as a family when Danya was still alive. Danya was such a beautiful child. Her beautiful brunette hair reached down to her mid back, and her face was like that of an angel. Losing her made me feel less like a person. I was easily consumed in my work as if I was a zombie. The sound of the number lock clicking released me from my daze.
“That’s it, it’s unlocked now. Follow me,” Robert said as he flipped the light switch beside the doors, and lowered his head to walk down the narrow cellar stairwell.
Lockley motioned for me to follow Robert down into the cellar while scanning the location. The sound of Lockley closing the cellar doors behind us made me feel like I was a prisoner. Goosebumps formed on my skin as I heard the click of the number lock. My eyebrows furrowed in confusion as I reached the bottom of the stairs, and looked into the room that seemed to be a small laboratory. The room contained a small television next to a twin bed mattress, a small kitchen table with a metal folding chair sitting nearby a large file cabinet, and a large table covered in empty vials.
The room also contained another small table with a microscope sitting on it, and with a wooden chair sitting aside the wall space between two doors. The door on the left was wooden, large, and seemed very sturdy. The door on the right was also large, but it was metal as if it was the door to a walk in refrigerator. Robert held up his hands as if he was told to do so by a police officer, before he interrupted my frantic questions that he could see coming.
“Wait Maribel! Before you say anything just let me explain what this place is, and why I’ve been living here,” Robert said as he lowered his hands to calm me down.
“Take a seat Maribel. Robert is going to tell you some things that might…, take you by surprise,” Lockley said as he pointed to the metal folding chair.
He crossed his arms and stood in front of the stairwell entrance, as I sat before giving a nod to Robert to begin his explanation.
“First of all, I’d like to say that I’ve always loved you Maribel and I still do,” Robert said.
I rolled my eyes in response and impatiently motioned my hands for him to continue.
“Do you remember “the day”, that horrible day? You contacted me to ask whether or not I could watch Danya and her friends during lunch so you could run an errand. As soon as I stepped through the door, I noticed I had left some important files behind. I was so anxious…, I was so consumed in my work at the time and even more so now. I promised Danya and the girls I would be back in fifteen minutes, but right after I left the house…, well, you know what happened. You have always known my profession as biology, but it has actually always been biochemistry.”
I slowly shook my head in frustration as Robert spoke. When we began dating years ago he told me he was a biologist, and I admired his great knowledge in the field, but I didn’t understand how his mentioning of his occupation had to do with anything. So he was a biochemist instead of a biologist. I didn’t care; it was all the same to me. All I wanted to know was where he had hidden himself all this time and why. I quickly stood up from the metal folding chair I had been sitting on.
“Robert! You’ve got me sitting here and you can see that I’m anxious. Tell me where you’ve been all this time and …,” Lockley’s words interrupted mine before I could finish.
“Let him continue the story how he wishes Maribel. It’s very important that you understand everything down to the last detail. We’d like to have your full cooperation without force if it isn’t necessary,” Lockley said ever so calmly.
Robert looked at Lockley and nodded in appreciation before starting where he left off.
“Alright…, as I said, I’ve actually always been a biochemist. The importance of this little fact is that I’ve been studying cloning ever since we met, and to say that I’ve excelled in the field is an understatement. We were progressing greatly at the institute in Iowa, and our hopes soared even higher after the first successful cloning in Ireland. Two other biochemists and I were split up from the main focus of cloning, and were given a different assignment instead.”
I was good at telling whether or not someone was lying, and I was sure Robert was telling the truth. He didn’t pause as if he was making it all up as he went, or if he had forgotten some speech he had memorized prior to us meeting. He was telling the truth.
“Our assignment was to utilize progenitor cells, cells that repair the body, to create an antiserum. Once injected, the antiserum would cause immunity to all diseases and sicknesses, poisons, and allow the body to heal at a much quicker pace then normal.”
I could tell there was something wrong with the whole thing. He needed test subjects for his work. It was obvious he utilized small animals, but was that all? Was the purpose of the antiserum for the military or civilians? I kept my thoughts to myself without giving off any weird expressions to ensure the two weren’t alarmed. Robert continued on with his explanation.
“The head of the institute told us to keep our mouths shut, but the other two biochemists didn’t do so well with that. It was obvious we were being watched after their deaths. I knew how to keep my mouth shut unlike them. I did what I was told and I never asked any questions. When Danya and the other children died in the fire I felt I was responsible, and because of this I attempted to flee the town, but I was stopped by an FBI agent.”
Robert looked over at Lockley. In response Lockley nodded his head as he slowly approached me.
“I am that FBI agent Maribel,” Lockley said while looking me dead in the eyes.
“Robert has been waiting to tell you all this for a long time now. He’s got a little more to tell you so sit tight.”
Lockley stood beside me as he motioned for Robert to continue.
“I was stopped by Lockley and believed he had killed the other two biochemists. As it turns out, he did. Basically, the head of the institute was being directed by the FBI to have us work on the assignment. Lockley disposed of the other biochemists because they were unable to stay quiet, and I was sure he would threaten my life, but instead he offered me a proposition I couldn’t resist.”
Robert eyes lit up in excitement as a bright smile formed on his face. I looked back at Lockley with a furrowed brow before my attention was drawn back to Robert. I could tell he was getting closer to end of his explanation. Lockley was cleverer then I thought. Was he both an FBI agent and town mayor, or was his position as a town mayor just a cover? Robert began slowly walking toward me as he continued his explanation; his hands were tightly clasped in front of his face to hide his joyful expression.
“He promised me a chance to bring back Danya. He allowed me to work on creating characteristics that were identical to our Danya’s characteristics, and he allowed me to utilize cloning in order to apply these characteristics, to a newly cloned human being nearly identical to Danya. Our sweet little child, I miss her so ...,” Roberts words were cut off by his quiet sobbing.
Robert hung his head to hide his tears as he knelt down before me. He lifted his head to look me in the eyes as he softly grasped my hands. The look he had in his eyes was longing and sorrowful.
“Maribel, we can be like we once were…, we can have a family again. You, Danya, and I. My research and progress has given us a chance to recover our family Maribel,” Robert said as his grasp on my hands slightly tightened.
I looked at him with curious eyes as he held my hands.
“Robert, I can see you’ve been living down here in seclusion all these years. I believe that your work is rather important, but where are your results and what were your test subjects?” I said.
“And you’ve told me about all of this when you informed me it was very important that no one knew. You’re confusing me with all of this.”
Robert suddenly arose and walked over to the large wooden door and stood beside it.
“After receiving favorable results I had no choice but to test the antiserum on a human being. My first choice was a dying child suffering from cancer, but I was unsuccessful. My second choice was a dying child suffering from aids, but I was unsuccessful yet again. I saw positive results after a little over a hundred attempts. The children the antiserum had no effect on died from their disease. The children the antiserum had a positive affect on survived, and were brought back home to be with their families.”
I assumed the dying children that were saved were provided with fake medical records, indicating they survived due to normal hospital procedures. What was behind Robert’s wooden door? Everything he was saying was so out of the ordinary. I didn’t know what to expect. Robert quickly unfastened the many locks on the door before firmly grasping the handle of the large wooden turn wheel. Lockley motioned for Robert to open the door. My sudden movement alarmed Robert enough to delay his reaction to Lockley’s command.
“Robert wait! What happened to the children the antiserum had a negative affect on?” I said as I looked back and forth at Robert and Lockley.
Lockley smirked at Robert before setting his eyes on me.
“Robert’s got your answer right behind that door,” Lockley said as a grin slowly formed on his face.
My heart began beating faster and faster as Robert turned the large wooden wheel until finally, the loud clank of the door opening and what was behind it took my breath away.