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Undercover secrets, p.14

Undercover Secrets, page 14

 

Undercover Secrets
 


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  ‘It’s unlikely, I’m afraid. I would love to put you with Frank, but he works on highly specialised research projects. His assistants need highly specialised expertise.’

  ‘Oh.’ She couldn’t help feeling a tiny bit disappointed. Simon — like every man at the Institute — was very attractive, and she was more than happy to be working in his lab. But Frank was a class above any man she’d ever met. He was almost disturbingly flawless. If he had chosen to be a model rather than a scientist, he could have earned a fortune. There was something intriguing about such a beautiful man. She wasn’t sure whether she wanted to sleep with him or just stand and stare; just to see him naked, to touch his sculpted flesh, might be enough. That’s what he was, she thought — a living sculpture; an artist’s painstaking vision of male perfection, made real.

  He chuckled at her obvious disappointment. ‘Sorry, Anna, but Frank’s studies are so complex that only a handful of our staff actually understand them. He’s our best… scientist.’

  Peter’s hesitancy was puzzling; he was always so sure of himself. Frank’s almost childish annoyance before was strange, too. But perhaps he was so completely immersed in his work that he’d lost track of normal behaviour. ‘He seems very young to be the best.’

  ‘He’s exceptionally gifted.’ Self-satisfaction widened Peter’s mouth. ‘He’s my son.’

  Anna tried not to look as surprised as she felt, but it was hard to believe that Frank and Peter were related. Unless…‘From a previous marriage?’ It was Peter’s turn to look surprised. ‘Oh, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked, it’s none of my business. It’s just that —’

  ‘Frank looks nothing like either me or Joan. It’s all right, Anna. Lots of people have said that to me.’

  His smile was sinister — or was Anna just jumping to conclusions? The trouble was, it all added up. The pieces slotted into place with alarming ease: genetic engineering, cloning, Mary Shelley, a man named Frank…

  ‘We created a monster.’

  Anna jumped. She looked at Peter, shocked to think he’d read her mind. But his eyes were glazed and he was staring into the distance. He laughed at some private memory, and met Anna’s anxious eyes.

  ‘That’s what we said, when Frank was born. He was an absolute terror, always screaming for attention. I don’t think we slept for two years.’

  Anna struggled to smile along with him. It was hard to imagine Joan and Peter in their spotless white lab coats, bending over their baby’s cot and cooing soothingly. It was even harder to imagine that two dark-haired, grey-eyed people of medium height and build could possibly conceive a son like Frank. Was he a genetic experiment, a clone, precisely engineered to faultlessness?

  ‘Joan and I couldn’t have children,’ Peter said. Sorrow clouded his eyes. ‘That’s why Frank doesn’t look like us. He’s… adopted.’

  ‘Oh.’ Was he lying? It was impossible to tell.

  ‘Anyway, back to business.’ Galloway sat up straight, shrugging off his sadness. ‘I want to ask you something, Anna.’

  ‘Yes?’

  His gaze turned to granite. ‘Do you trust me?’

  Anna faltered at the challenge in his voice. What was this all about? ‘Sorry?’

  ‘Trust.’ He made the word sound like a threat. ‘We trusted you, Anna. We offered you a place here, at the Institute. Now, I’d like to know whether you trust me.’

  Anna wished she knew where this was leading. Uncomfortable, and feeling slightly cold, she closed the gap down the front of her dress, pulling the two sides of material together. ‘Of course I trust you, Peter,’ she lied.

  He nodded sagely. ‘I’m glad to hear it. So, if you had any questions about the Institute, say, or the work we do here, you would come to me?’

  There was an ominous tone to this. ‘What sort of questions?’

  Sighing impatiently, he stood up. ‘It would be normal for a new staff member to want to know about her new environment. Have you any questions? Is anything worrying you?’

  ‘I don’t think so.’ She swallowed, trying to find some saliva in her dry mouth. Galloway stalked to the door in the far corner of the room.

  He turned and waved at her with a cursory flick of his hand. ‘Come here.’

  Shakily, she got to her feet. Her fingers fumbled to rebutton her dress. She wasn’t sure why, but it seemed a sensible thing to do; to hide herself from his penetrating gaze, to try to protect herself in some way. Galloway had an uncanny knack of seeing what was going through her mind. And he was different from normal — calm, as always, but with a hint of anger which was unnerving. Anna was still confused by the way she had acted before, and now, as well as dealing with her suspicions about Peter’s ‘son’, she had to handle whatever confrontation was coming. Her brain reeled. Sharp fragments of thought seemed to scratch the inside of her head, making it hurt.

  What was all this talk of questions and trust? Had someone seen her sneaking out to her car to phone Mike? Had her surveillance equipment been discovered? She hadn’t seen Simon yet that day; had Galloway forced him to reveal what he and Anna had talked about last night?

  Peter stepped through the doorway and motioned Anna inside. With a palpitating heart, she followed him into the flickering light.

  Her jaw dropped at the sight that met her. The room was dark, which made the scene all the more creepy. A continuous desk went round three walls. Above the desk, right up to the ceiling, were rows of television screens. Mesmerised, Anna stepped closer to the bank of monitors. She could see everything: the front of the Institute; the car park, with her car at the distant corner; the cafés, the pool; every lab and every bedroom. Her blood ran cold at the thought that collecting hard evidence was going to be almost impossible. Then she felt as if her blood stopped altogether, frozen stiff in her veins, as she realised that someone had seen her last night, in Simon’s room.

  Terrified, she was barely aware of Peter as he stepped up to the console set into the desk. He flicked a switch, and a red light flashed in the corner of one of the screens.

  Startled, Anna jumped as two clear voices broke the silence in the room. It took her a moment to realise that the dialogue she was hearing — perfectly clearly — related to what was going on on the monitor. A doctor and his assistant were in their lab, discussing the science programme they’d watched on TV the previous night. Every sound was picked up, from a loud laugh to the faint clink of a test tube being put in a rack. Even their footsteps were audible. Peter flicked another switch, and another red light flashed. In one of the bedrooms, one of the staff sang to herself as she changed the sheets. Anna watched, horrified, realising there was a hidden camera and microphone behind every bedroom mirror.

  Peter turned his back on the screen and folded his arms. He was waiting for Anna to speak, but what on earth could she say? Her poor mind was racing as she tried to remember exactly what she and Simon had discussed, and how loudly they’d discussed it. The microphones were highly sensitive, but was it possible they had managed to pick up their whispering?

  ‘I know what you’re thinking.’

  You couldn’t possibly, she thought, trying to summon a smile.

  ‘You’re wondering why there is closed-circuit television in every part of the Institute. The answer is simple. The research we are conducting here is highly sensitive, ground-breaking, even. We have to constantly be on guard against industrial espionage.’

  Anna nodded.

  ‘Our research is top secret. It has taken us many years of painstaking work to make any progress in our field. If a mole from another lab managed to get into the building, she could potentially collect enough data to bring her lab up to speed with ours — without the years of hard work. Now, that wouldn’t be fair, would it?’

  ‘No,’ she said, wondering why he’d described the hypothetical mole as a ‘she’.

  ‘So we have cameras everywhere. If there’s an intruder in the building, or one of our staff is up to something they shouldn’t be, she’ll be found out.’<
br />
  There was that ‘she’ again; it made Anna flinch.

  Peter sat down in a swivel chair and invited Anna into the one next to his. ‘I’m explaining this to you, Anna, because I don’t want you to think of this —’ he swept his hand across the bank of screens ‘— as an invasion of privacy. The cameras are an unfortunate but necessary precaution. There’s always someone out there who wants what you’ve got without having to work for it. The world of science is no exception. Do you understand what I’m saying?’

  He was saying he thought she was a spy; that he’d seen and heard her with Simon. But what Anna couldn’t work out was why he was revealing his suspicions. With all these cameras, there was nowhere to hide. Why didn’t he just wait and catch her in the act? ‘I think so,’ she said.

  ‘I’ll tell you what I think, shall I?’ In the background, the gentle, lilting singing continued, strangely incongruous in the room’s tense atmosphere. ‘I think there may be something you want to ask me. After I walked in on you and Simon last night, I came back here. I watched you all night. I couldn’t take my eyes off you. You two could fuck for Britain.’

  Anna laughed nervously.

  ‘But there was more than sex going on, wasn’t there?’ Anna was silent. Peter shook his head slowly, menacingly, as if he couldn’t quite believe it. ‘You two were taking great pains to whisper so you wouldn’t be heard. What was so secret?’ He raised an eyebrow at Anna’s hesitation. ‘Let me guess… Simon was telling you he has worries about the research he’s doing. Am I right?’

  ‘Well…’

  ‘It’s all right, Anna. Simon said the same thing to me. There’s nothing wrong with him questioning what he does here. We all have doubts about our work, from time to time. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t.’ Diving for Anna, he clutched at her legs. Leaning right forward, he looked deep into her eyes. ‘If you have doubts, I want you to know you can come to me. You’re part of our team, Anna.’

  Sweat erupted from her palms. His words should have been comforting, but they weren’t; they were threatening. ‘Thank you,’ she whispered.

  ‘So?’ He held her hands in his, and spoke slowly as if she were a child. ‘Do you have any questions about what you’ve seen here so far — or about what Simon said?’

  Go on, she urged herself, ask him. ‘Well… I was a little puzzled by the eye-colour experiment I was typing up yesterday. I mean, why… What…?’

  Galloway nodded, as if he understood her curiosity. ‘I told Simon the same thing — that experiment has no use now. But in the future it may help eye surgeons, or it may be used in forensics… Who knows? As research scientists, we don’t place boundaries on our work. Genes are our area of expertise, and we have to study every gene.’ He chuckled softly. There was genuine warmth in his voice. ‘I’m glad you asked, Anna. It shows you have intelligence and an enquiring mind. Remember, you can ask me anything — we have no secrets here.’

  He was lying. But at least it seemed she was off the hook — for now, at least. Anna nearly broke down. Allowing herself to breathe again, she silently thanked any god who might be listening for saving her, and promised to be good for the rest of her life.

  ‘I’d like to put that mind of yours to good use. That’s why I’m entrusting you with special duties.’ He winked.

  ‘Duties ideally suited to someone as inquisitive as you. Will you watch the screens for me? I’m on the roster, but something more important’s come up.’

  What an opportunity. ‘I’d be happy to,’ she said.

  Peter stood up. Tenderly, he stroked one side of Anna’s head, running his fingers over her silky bob. ‘Joan’s wrong about you.’

  ‘Wrong?’ she said, trying to stop her voice from cracking, and hoping she was pulling off the expression of innocence she was aiming for.

  ‘You’d never betray me, Anna. You belong here, at the Institute.’ He turned at the door. ‘Here.’ He threw something at her, and in the dim light she had to rely on her reflexes to catch it. ‘In case you get bored,’ he explained.

  She looked down at the vibrator. When she looked up again, he’d gone.

  Anna was alone with her work for the next few hours. At first it was distracting, and a little nauseating, to have so many screens dividing her attention. But gradually she became accustomed to the constant flickering, and found she could switch between images and pick up what was going on. She thought of her flatmate, Suzy, and her infuriating habit of flicking between TV channels. Suzy rarely watched a programme all the way through; she would rather pick up a snippet of a soap, mixed with a fraction of the news and a pinch of a cookery programme. Suzy would have loved this.

  And as Anna switched the microphone from one image to the next, she began to enjoy herself. This was better than a soap. It was almost addictive, dipping into real-life scenes for a moment, sharing in their conversations and then moving on. It was like being on a train speeding through suburbia, and catching glimpses of people through their bedroom windows. Not one person was self-conscious — they obviously didn’t know they were being watched. Anna had typed up the security rosters when she’d been working for Peter, and she remembered that the same small group of names had cropped up in tight rotation. This job was clearly entrusted only to a few.

  Anna congratulated herself that she’d been selected to be one of them. It meant that Peter trusted her — or, more likely, that he had a growing soft spot for her. And that could only help her investigation.

  She had thought the game was up earlier, but someone up there was looking out for her. She would have to be careful, as Mike never stopped warning her — especially now that she knew Galloway was constantly on the lookout for infiltrators. But she was building up an incredibly useful relationship with Peter, one which made her privy to secrets like the monitoring room. It seemed that, the more she indulged in his sexual games, the further she was accepted into the Institute. It was as if she was being rewarded for her obedience.

  Anna’s mind began to drift as she watched the screens. Despite the progress she’d made, the Institute’s secrets were still heavily shrouded in mystery. There were hundreds of unanswered questions, and Frank’s appearance had raised a hundred more. Was it possible that he was a clone, or was she taking things a bit too far? If he really was adopted, then that explained his looking so different from his ‘parents’. Anna resolved to try to make contact with Frank again. She couldn’t remember ever seeing him downstairs in the leisure centre — she couldn’t possibly have missed him — but he must use the facilities some time. She needed to find out about the specialised research he was conducting.

  There were Simon, Joan and Peter to play off against each other. There was evidence to compile — although that would be incredibly difficult, with the ubiquitous cameras to contend with. And almost as intriguing as the Institute’s research was its liberal policy where recreational sex was concerned. That was another aspect that needed investigating, especially since Anna suspected it was somehow significant. She couldn’t quite believe that staff happiness was the simple reason Galloway allowed everyone to behave as they did.

  As if to illustrate her thought, a doctor in one of the labs moved behind his assistant and began touching her up. Anna turned on the sound and heard the woman sighing contentedly. Watching the man’s fingers rub the woman’s buttocks, then slide down her thighs and back up under her dress, Anna felt a surge of desire deep inside her pussy. Whatever the reasons for the Institute’s sex-laden atmosphere, it was a bizarre working environment. But she couldn’t pretend she wasn’t enjoying it.

  Her stomach lurched as she thought of Galloway. She shouldn’t like him: he was the enemy, her subject, and quite obviously involved in something strange. In fact, she didn’t like him; her feelings about the doctor were far more complex. There was something about him she found disturbingly attractive. It was as if he had a magnet where others had a heart and, try as she might to resist, in the end there was no option but to yield to the force which pulled he
r towards him. It was a first, she realised, for her to feel overpowered by a man. Perhaps that was what she enjoyed when she was with him — the way he made her feel; the way he reached into the darkest, most unfathomable depths of her soul and plucked out her thoughts before she could make sense of them herself.

  A camera picked him up as he strode down a corridor, and contradictions fought amongst themselves in Anna’s mind. An image flashed behind her eyes of her lying down on a medical bed, submitting to Galloway and allowing him to do whatever he chose with her body. But there was another image, too — an equally gratifying one — of Anna discovering what he was up to, bringing him down, and wiping that confident look from his face. It would feel so good to turn the tables on him, and to regain the position of control.

  As she was thinking all this, Peter disappeared from one screen and reappeared on another. Inside Joan’s office, he walked up to her desk and sat down in the chair opposite her. Anna eagerly turned on the microphone, but not a sound came out. She flicked the switch back and forth, hoping it was a temporary fault, but there was nothing.

  Frustrated, she leant forward and peered at the silent screen. The only way of telling what was going on was by interpreting their body language. Joan sat, tight-lipped and prim, continuing with her paperwork. Her husband, on the other hand, seemed to be laughing to himself. Opening his lab coat, he spread his knees and unzipped his flies. Through the gap in his trousers, he unfurled his long, proud cock. His hardness shocked Anna.

  It seemed to shock Joan too, because she glanced up quickly and then bowed her head determinedly, poring over the papers on her desk. Peter said something, resting his hands on the chair’s wide arms. Joan ignored him. Peter slammed his fist down on the armrest with such force that, despite the silence, Anna jumped. Joan jumped too, looking up worriedly. Slowly, she stood up and moved around the desk to her husband.

  Anna felt her pulse begin to race again, as if she was the one getting to her knees in front of Galloway, as if she was the one taking the swollen plum of his penis in her mouth. She wet her lips with her tongue. She held her breath as Joan’s head lowered into Peter’s lap.

 
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