Bleakly Twelve

by
I did my best to calm and comfort her. I made tea, brought a blanket in from my car, and began mentally compiling any scrap of information that could help me figure out exactly what was wrong with Thomas. She finished telling me what she knew over a cup of tea. She told me everything- she’d gone to Bleakly, Bleakly had poked around. She’d bought him a sandwich.

He liked her, and it wasn’t hard to see why. She was earnest, intelligent, and heartbroken.

I shook my head. “The question is, where is he now? I know he hasn’t abandoned you or your father.I know Tom. He wouldn’t abandon a case. ” Especially not with a beautiful, heartbroken woman involved.

 


She stared off into space. “The only things he talked about when I met him at the cafe were… chemical names, weird history. Tax documents.”

I chuckled softly. “That’s what most of detectiving is, darling. Boring. Paperwork, history, seemingly random facts. It’s not all that sensational kiss, kiss, bang bang stuff.”

“But he was so weird. He said he’d been the library. He had a black eye.”

I puffed out my cheeks and exhaled. “That… that sounds like Tom, all right. Did he tell you anything specific? Any leads he found?”

A moment, and then she looked almost startled. “Um… yeah. Actually. He wouldn’t stop talking about this chemical, D.M.S. something.”

“He found a single chemical interesting enough to talk to you about it? It was a lead in his case?”

She looked at me. “I didn’t think he meant it was anything serious. It seemed like he was trying to impress me, or…”

“That’s fine, dear. Just tell me what you can about this chemical, and if it’s all right, I’d like to look at anything your father left…”

“Yeah. Sure.”

 

She took me to her fathers’ study. From an educated glance, it was very clear that the man was gone and did not intend to return. A well-worn coat-hook was vacant, some very carefully organized papers had been roughly tossed aside, things had been gathered up hurriedly: the man believed that he was in danger, or that there was some emergency.

I located some folders that appeared be some of the few that Smith routinely used. They were empty, of course. Smith didn’t want to be followed or found.

I scanned the bookshelves in the study. Old man Smith had been something of a polymath- a regular Major General. He had shelves devoted to advanced mathematics, quantum physics, biology, chemistry, history, psychology- old books and new.

I pulled a book at random and flipped through. The book was no more than a year old, going by the copyright date, but it was filled with notes, bookmarks, and underlined words. I slid it back into place and selected a volume on cellular biology. It, too, was filled with notes, but unlike the other, parts of the book were crossed out and replaced. I looked again at the cover: “Molecular Cell Biology, Volume Three: A Practical Reference, by Thurston and Smith.” I idly wondered how much of the library was the work of the man himself.

Having exhausted the room for any relevant thread of interest, I sat at his desk and accessed his computer terminal.

I sat at his computer and turned to Hannah, who had stood silently in the doorway.

“The chemical’s name, if you can recall?”

She couldn’t remember the whole thing, but she remembered enough. A description of the chemical’s properties and a few of its initials were enough for me to locate it in an online medical library. It was a lucky thing Bleakly had given her that much.

DMSO. Used to treat urinogenital infections, some types of nerve damage, and a cryoprotectant.

“Hannah, do you know what sort of work your father was doing at the time he disappeared?”

She shook her head. “Everything he worked on had wide ranges of applications, lots of it technical. Sometimes he’d say, ‘This could cure cancer,’ or ‘This will revolutionize the transportation industry,’ or something, but most of the time he’d just go on about differentials and equations and temperatures and doers, whatever those are.”

“Dewars? Cryogenics… I wonder.”

“What?”

“Well, these days, freezing things and people isn’t exactly a big business… but it seems like Nocter’s either very interested in freezing things or people. Or, they all have terrible urinary infections.”

She smiled slightly for the first time since I’d seen her. I might’ve been getting older, but deep down, I was still a PI and above all a gentleman.

Bleakly had told Hannah about the chemical D.M.S.O. for a reason. Cryoprotectant plus large investment in strange machinery equals… something important. Hopefully the key to the case, and to saving Bleakly’s ass.

I searched the computer for anything with the words ‘dmso’ or ‘cryogenic.” I found nothing.

Again: ‘dewar,’ ‘temperature,’ ‘lab.’ Nothing.

I had a thought, and searched ‘nocter’ and ‘cryo.’

I found a small text document in a hidden directory marked ‘nocter/cryo/HANNAH.txt.’

The file contained one sentence:

Beware the Neithermen.’

 

 

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