Dr. Hammond’s lab was one of a kind, and I had no trouble finding it myself, thanks to the name plates on each door. The door was unlocked so I entered. White tiles graced the floors and wall, and the fluorescent lamp bounced white light off the walls. The roof was made with stained glass, like its a temple, his temple, where he worshiped science.
“Hello” I called out to the seemingly empty room.
“Back here”, spoke a thin voice, belonging to a lady.
I walked through a series of work benches on which various beakers, conical flasks and test tubes lay with various liquids of diverse hues in them. I turned at the end to find a lady in white lab coats, heating a liquid in a boiling tube over a flame, and watching the color change.
“The lab is off-limits to non-personnel” she said without even turning to me, “and my boss is not around”
“I know about that. I’m here to speak to you about him”
she turned at that. From her looks, she was in her early twenties. She gently lowered the boiling tube with tube holder into a test tube rack and turned towards me.
“Is he okay? I haven’t seen him in a while. Really unlike him”. She must be shy, as she couldn’t maintain eye contact with me.
“I’m Detective Larry, and I’m sorry I have bad news. Dr. Hammond is dead”
“What?! Dead? Please, no”. She broke into uncontrollable tears. I could do nothing in that case. I wasn’t good with people crying so I just offered her my handkerchief and waited for her to pull herself together.
“You know, he was the only one who believed in my talents as an aspiring chemist and took me under his wing. He was like an uncle to me”
“I’m sorry for your loss” I started, “but anything you can do to help will go a long way in helping us bring to book anyone who’s behind this”
“Okay. What do you need?”
“Did Dr. Hammond receive any strange visitors lately? Or talked to anyone strange?”
“I’m sorry, I have no idea. He lets me off early, and he’s been working late hours these days”
“Any idea what he was working on”, I asked
“No. No idea. He kept his works to himself. They never leave this lab. He only asks for help once in a while”
“Any strange behaviors?”
She hesitated a little. She was keeping something back.
“Anything you tell me won’t leave this place, I promise”, I assured her.
“Sometimes ago, I noticed that he was unusually uneasy around Ms. Cole. Its like she’s putting some undue pressure on him”
“You mean Ms. Cole, the director?”
“Yes. Please don’t mention this to her”, she pleaded with me.
“I won’t. Could you please show me Dr. Hammond’s work space?”
She led the way to a brighter part of the room with more professional equipment. I started probing around, looking for nothing in particular. I just hoped I’ll find something, anything. Not long into my search, I discovered an irregularity in a glass semi-fractionating tower.
“What’s this?” I asked the assistant, Kay.
“Fractionating tower, newest and best. Dr. Hammond got it installed two months ago, and its never worked for once”
I prodded here and there on the tower, everywhere sounding hollow except one place. Luck was smiling on me, I thought. I took a retort stand rod and smashed the glass with it. There was a look of horror on the assistant’s face as I broke one of the lab properties, but it subsidized when we all saw what was behind it. It was a safe designed to look like the fractionating tower.
“Do you know anything about this?” I asked her.
“No. Not at all. What’s in that?” She asked, equally surprised.
I didn’t answer immediately. I stood straight and observed the safe. It worked in two ways, by twisting the knob to fit the combinations or entering a code. A code. The realization hit me. I entered the numbers 4052 and the safe hissed open. I was happy with myself. In it was a laptop computer, very new by the looks of it, and a memory drive. This was one interesting breakthrough. I packed and put them both in my brown paper, and thanked the assistant as I made to leave.
“Wait. Don’t you have to clear that with the manager first?” She asked.
“No. Its evidence. And I have no time to waste. Thanks for your time, and I’m sorry for your loss, again”.
Those were the last words I spoke to anyone at Hex Tech. That day as I left, and headed for my office”