Wednesday 6 – Thursday 7 February 2013
The hotel was nothing special; just a regular, run of the mill room decorated in white and three or four shades of brown. What it looked like didn’t really matter to Eden Gross. Her criteria for a comfortable hotel room consisted of a shower or bath that ran hot, a decent bed that wasn’t too worn, spare pillows and blankets, a refrigerator, TV, power points and telephone. That was it. Anything else was an added bonus.
She’d picked up a couple of pizzas and a bottle of vodka on the way back to the hotel. The bottle of vodka sat three quarters full on the small table that was supposed to act as a dining table for two, and there were two slices missing from each pizza, the boxes also on the table. The bed and floor of the room were covered with sheets of paper – some computer printouts, some hand written notes, and others clippings from a variety of newspapers. The theme of all of the pieces of paper was the same – Blackwood Research and Development.
Eden lay contorted on the bed, arms and legs twisted around the paper, with a notebook computer precariously positioned near the edge of the bed. The screen displayed a web page from the Blackwood Research and Development site. Via video streaming, the unmistakable Terence Blackwood was preaching the virtues of environmental care and Blackwood Research and Development’s place in the environmental cause. Eden had muted his speech somewhere near the two-minute mark. It was the same crap he spewed out to any and all media outlets in order to justify the secretive existence of his company, and Eden had heard it before, many times over.
She contemplated another slice of pizza. Deciding that one more slice would do her, she carefully slid off the bed not wanting to disturb the pieces of paper strategically spread out around her.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Eden stopped moving. I’m not expecting anyone, she thought, so who the fuck is that? She waited for her visitor to knock again but there was nothing.
Working on the Blackwood story had taught Eden Gross many things, the most important being that Terence Blackwood and his namesake company both had a very long reach. People had disappeared after investigating Blackwood. Good people. People Eden knew and cared about. She had ideas about where these people went and none of them were pleasant. She did not plan to end up the same way that these others had finished, which, she presumed, was six feet under or dumped out at sea or something just as unpleasant and final.
Near on ten minutes passed before Eden allowed herself to move, and even then, she did so in almost silence. She crept across the floor to the door, forsaking the extra slice of pizza for the moment. It was too late to turn off the lights to mask her movement to the door, and hopefully, who so ever had sought her had given up and moved on. Standing on tippy toes, Eden stood off to the side of the door and cautiously peered through the peephole. She’d seen a movie a long time ago, where an unsuspecting woman had looked out of the peephole on her door after hearing a knock, only to see a man levelling a gun at the hole. Eden had closed her eyes tightly before the man pulled the trigger. She’d not wanted to see the fate of the poor woman who’d innocently checked who was outside her door, and she certainly did not want to end up the same way.
When she was sure that no one was outside, Eden opened the door a few inches. She was alone. Her visitor had knocked and left, and Eden was safe, albeit a little paranoid that Blackwood had sent someone after her. Opening the door wider, she poked her head outside and quickly looked up and down the length of the verandah, and sighed in relief to discover that there was no life to be seen in either direction. Her visitor, however, had left her a gift of sorts.
A small, padded envelope addressed to Eden sat on the doormat. Further thoughts of Blackwood’s nasty nature crossed her mind. Was it a letter bomb? Had Blackwood had enough of her and decided to sabotage the envelope or whatever it contained to kill her? Or, worse still, did the envelope contain something that might incriminate her for the destruction of Facility Five? She knew the Blackwood removed those who stood in his way, and for the last eighteen months she had been nipping at his heels trying to get the scoop on what Blackwood Research and Development was really up to in its Facility Five labs.
Curiosity got the better of her. The instinct that made Eden Gross an outstanding investigative journalist kicked in as she assessed the envelope where it laid. Convincing herself that if Terence Blackwood wanted her dead he’d use some elaborate ruse such as a random road rage attack on a random day and not a letter bomb attack in the vicinity of, and on the day that Facility Five went in to catastrophic failure, she decided that the envelope would be reasonably safe to handle and open. Swiping it up off of the mat, she gave the envelope a little squeeze, and then closed and dead bolted the door shut.
Turning the envelope over in her hands as she walked back to the bed, Eden deftly grabbed the extra piece of pizza that she’d being thinking of earlier. She bit in to the pizza, holding it in her mouth as she used her free hand to sweep some of the papers in to a pile on the bed, Eden shook the envelope near her ear, hoping to hear the contents. There was no sound.
She sat on the bed with the envelope in front of her, and slowly ate the slice of pizza. If it was to be her last meal, she would savour every bite of it.
‘Hmm, maybe a shot of vodka before I open it? Nah, need steady hands if it’s going to go boom.’ She wasn’t amused by her own joke and rolled her eyes as she wiped the pizza grease on her sweat pants.
‘Here we go.’
Eden tentatively prised the envelope open, expecting it to end her life at any moment. Relief washed over her when it was fully open without having exploded. She tipped the contents of the envelope in to her hand and was surprised to find a USB flash drive. Nothing about the envelope or the contents gave any indication as to who it might be from.
‘Should I or shouldn’t I?’ she wondered out loud. She held the flash drive up to eye level and examined it.
‘Nothing special. Standard sixteen gig drive. Doesn’t seem to have been tampered with. Screw it, Eden. Take the risk and plug it in, baby.’
She thrust the flash drive into one of the two USB ports on the left side of her notebook computer. There was no light on the drive to show that the contents were being read, but after a few seconds the drive displayed on her desktop. It, like the envelope, carried only her name. She double clicked on the icon and a window displaying the contents of the drive opened on her screen.
‘Holy shit! Motherfucker. This is too much,’ she said while she scanned through the drive’s contents.
Opening the first document on the drive, her eyes widened and her face grew pale with the realisation that she had legitimate information incriminating Terence Blackwood and Blackwood Research and Development in all manner of environmental and criminal activities, and at least one document exposed Blackwood’s dabbling in biological and chemical warfare.
. . . To be continued . . .