With the exception of April’s gummy bear nightmares, which actually persisted for a while and forced me to give them up temporarily—the idea of having them in the house inevitably led to her sleeping badly and dreaming of headless zombie bears coming after her—we settled quickly and quietly into a married existence. It was nice.
Right up until the time when I found that memo.
You really had figured I’d forgotten about that, didn’t you?
No, but I was trying to lead up to it. A few things in there distracted me, I’ll admit, but there really was a memo, and it really did have to do with all of this. The conspiracy was about to unravel. I was about to get in over my head.
And it all kind of started—well, after the memo—with me getting in a fight with April.
“You snuck into my class today, didn’t you?”
Clayton put his jacket down on the back of the couch and forced a smile. “Now why would you say that? I was working today. Cubicle. Office. Hidden away, sorting papers, looking for spies in boring people eating dinner, that sort of thing—”
“You know, no matter what age you might happen to be at the time, you still look in some way like yourself, and I’ve seen all of them by now, having known you and loved you and dealt with plenty of random shifts,” she said, folding her arms over her chest. “Don’t even try to lie to me.”
“I wasn’t lying. I just asked—”
“Trying to avoid answering is like lying. It’s called a lie of omission, Clay, and I don’t like lying. You didn’t think it would be my class or you never would have done it, but yes, I knew it was you, and I knew that you didn’t belong there, and I said nothing—making me the liar by omission. And I don’t like that, either.”
Clay sighed, moving closer to her. “I’m sorry. It’s been—all this time, they haven’t done anything. We haven’t found anything. It makes me… nervous. I keep wondering what they’re up to, wondering what they might be planning, and things have been going rather well… I don’t know. I’m worried. Whenever things are good, I keep thinking that something has to go horribly, horribly wrong.”
She sighed. “You and your worst case scenario thinking. Enjoy the good times. Sometimes… Well, we all know that they don’t last, and you know that any minute now, Larabee will be knocking on the door, telling us he’s got to go over the house again.”
“And he’s really just doing it that because he’s lonely and misses us.”
“Yes. Even though he sees us every day, he thinks we spend all our time here alone because we’re married,” she said, shaking her head. “We don’t get a lot of time to talk with your schedule and mine—being a substitute teacher isn’t easy, going in there with all those kids used to someone else and expecting them and sometimes I don’t even know if I’m working until that morning. It’s been tough on both of us and—”
“Oh, you thought I snuck out to join your class because I missed you? Should I just have said that? It’s kind of romantic when I do that, right?”
She gave him a look and walked away into the kitchen. He almost wanted Larabee to interrupt them. This wasn’t looking good. “April, there is something else.”
He winced, not liking the way she said that. He took out the copy of the memo he’d made and passed it to her. She looked over the top with its eyes only and classified stamps, and then at him. “How much trouble are we both in right now?”
“I have no idea, but—just read it. Something… It doesn’t have a lot of details, but it still worries me. A lot. I’m… I don’t know. Am I overreacting again? Like usual?”
She took a deep breath before reading over it, shaking her head. “Exactly what do you think this is? That you’re the fountain of youth?”
“Or that I’m a part of their experiment to find it, yes. Doesn’t it sound a bit too close to my ability to be a coincidence?”
“Someone could have shoved this in your files for you to find and lead you down all kinds of wrong paths and get you in so much trouble that—”
They both jumped a little, turning to face the doorway Larabee had just entered. April looked at Clayton, and he shook his head. He hadn’t given Larabee a key. He would never give Larabee a key. That was a bad idea on so many levels. Clay shuddered. If Larabee had a key…
“Uh, Larabee, this isn’t your home. Your home has a lab in it, remember? And… well, at least you’re wearing pants, but what are you doing here?” Clayton demanded. April reached over and put a hand on his shoulder.
He looked back at her, and she held up the paper. “Maybe Larabee should find out more about this for you—though I don’t know. I really don’t like this, Clay. I don’t know what to think, and I have a bad feeling about all of it.”
He wrapped his arms around her, and she sighed as Larabee came over to take the paper from them. He read it over with a frown. “Uh… Oh. Ouch. This is not good.”
“Is it one of your projects? Because if it is, then we can just not worry about it and—”
“No, this is bad, bad news,” Larabee said, putting the paper down on the counter. “See this mostly blacked out name there? He’s like… the would-be Dr. Moreau or Mengele or perhaps Rascher is a better example, though Mengele is more famous. It doesn’t matter. The guy is the kind of creep that doesn’t care about informed consent or medical morality.”
“Is this the person that they’ve talked about before, the one that went… rogue?” April asked, biting her lip. “What did he do? And could Clayton really have been a part of that? I mean, that says something about the fountain of youth, right? So this is… anti-aging research, isn’t it? It can’t be that bad, can it?”
“Well… If you were going to look at someone and study the effects of things at any given age, then you would have—”
“No,” April shook her head. “Don’t say it. Do not say that Clayton is the perfect thing for a twisted experiment like that.”
“Explains why I have a lousy superpower,” Clay muttered, shaking his head. He felt a bit sick. “So, wait, if that’s what the guy was trying to do, why… Why foster care? Why a normal life? Why any of it?”
“We may have been wrong about the conspiracy—or there could be two of them,” April began, and he frowned as he looked at her. “Maybe—maybe as creepy as it was that your boss just showed up like he did in those weird coincidences—maybe he was looking out for you. Maybe that’s why you got the internship and why there’s been people watching you. They know that this rogue scientist wants you for an experiment that they shut down.”
He took her hand. “You know, I’d like to believe that, but I don’t know. It’s… Isn’t it a bit much to think that they’d do all that instead of just… I don’t know—arresting the guy? Or making sure that I never lived to fall into the guy’s hands?”
“I like to believe we’re on the side of the good guys here,” Larabee began, shaking his head. “Not perfect—I’m not saying I trust everything they do—but despite the greed and the secrecy, I think there’s good work being done, too. Maybe it’s past time to ask the suit what he knows.”
“We don’t even know that the memo has anything to do with Clayton. There’s no way to know, is there?” April asked. She picked up the memo again. “I want to know more about this man. I want to know if he could have had anything to do with… Clayton’s past. I also want to know exactly what this experiment was and if Clay was any part of it.”
“That’s a lot of classified information,” Larabee began hesitantly. “I don’t know—”
“This is Clay’s life we’re talking about, isn’t it? Even if someone deliberately left that note in Clay’s papers for him to find, we need to know about it, don’t we? Maybe we’ll all end up arrested, but I think we have no choice. We have to know.”
“I think you missed your calling. I’m not so sure you were ever meant to be a teacher.”