“I see,” James said into his phone. Carley came into the dining room through the front foyer. She could tell by the tone in James’ voice that something was very wrong. The past twenty-four hours had been rough on the family. Kai Mena had called them from the Lab to tell them what had happened to Rory. Ericka was the first to react, which in her own odd manner, was to not react — at all. One would think she hadn’t been married to Rory for the past several years. Odd, that had he died at home, her reaction might have been — well, a reaction.
Carley frowned, wondering just where her mother-in-law was, hopefully upstairs resting. Rory’s unexpected demise came as quite a blow to the family. Carley was certain the majority of them were still in shock. “Okay, thank you, Kai. Yes, I do hope we can amend the situation. And soon. Goodbye.” James ended the call and slipped his cell phone into his front pants’ pocket.
“Amend what situation?” Carley asked. James stood on the opposite side of the dining room table. He didn’t answer, at first, obviously deep in thought.
“We can’t just come and claim Dad’s remains.”
“What do you mean? Why can’t we have his remains? I mean, I do understand he fried himself to death, and that perhaps he’s little more than ashes at this point, but that’s no reason to keep us from claiming him.”
“That was Kai Mena. He says they’re on lock-down.”
“Lock-down, what? That’s positively ridiculous. What’s going on down at that lab anyway? Is there something more to your father’s death than what they shared?”
“I — don’t know,” James ran a hand through his thick red hair and sighed heavily. “But, I think I may have a way for us to find out,” James suddenly sounded excited. He came to stand in front of Carley and took her by her upper arms. “I think it’s time you got a job.”
“Because your father has passed on? James, we agreed I could stay home and take care of Trenton. He’s just a wee boy. He needs his mother.”
“Stay with me on this, Carley. The lab suggests they’re on lock-down so we can’t have my father’s remains. What if you were to get a job there?”
“Are you asking me to be a spy? That’s your mother’s profession.”
“No, I’m asking you to take a job there, so that you can find Dad’s urn and bring him home.”
“But, if they’re on lock-down — how?”
“If you’re working for them, they have to let you in and then out again, right?”
“I-I guess. Where are you going with this?”
“All you have to do is get the job, go to work, find Dad’s urn and bring him home again. Easy-peasy.”
“Easy for you, maybe.”
“It’s better than trying to break into the place and getting arrested. Because that’s my only other option.” Carley looked into his handsome face, his brown eyes. He was clearly counting on her for this. She took a deep breath and let it out again. Nodding, ever so slowly.
And that’s how it came to be that Carley took a job at SimsLab. She got up that morning, grabbed a bite to eat, showered, and paced back and forth, nervously until it was time to head off to the desert for her very first, ever, day of work. Her biggest fear, she would get caught. An urn wasn’t exactly a knickknack, after all. A small something or other that could be easily overlooked. The type of things she normally snatched. The importance of it was overwhelming.
“Now, remember,” James said, again holding her by the shoulders. “All you have to do is locate the urn, grab it, and bring it home.”
“What if they try to stop me?”
“Easy, just quit and race home again.”
“Of course, why didn’t I think of that…”
Carley stood just outside of the lab, rubbing her clammy hands together. It was a pretty day, blue skies, a slight breeze. A reddish sand desert that stretched on and on and on, meeting the horizon in the far-off distance. She realized she was in the middle of nowhere. She just had to find the urn, grab it, quit, and go home, she reminded herself for the umpteenth time. She hardly slept last night, coming to the conclusion, she wasn’t exactly spy material. But she loved James, and she loved old Rory. Least thing she could do was to bring him home again. Taking a deep breath, she squared her shoulders, pushed open the front door, and went inside. The lab had a rather utilitarian look to it. A large warehouse with various weird pipes and do-dads she could never explain in a thousand years. A weird humming, thumping sound coming from — somewhere. A person greeted her from the front desk.
“Hi, you must be the new person,”
“Yes,” Carley smiled nervously, taking a few tentative steps toward the desk.
“Welcome to SimsLab. Here’s your badge. Make sure you wear it at all times. And if that little circle changes color beat feet out of the area. Mean’s we’ve got a radiation leak.”
“Oh, radiation? Yikes. Not so friendly a workspace, is it?”
“No, not really. Our Lab Leader just fried himself. We left him where he fell. Well, not exactly,” the receptionist said, seeing the horrified look on Carley’s pretty face. “I mean, he’s been properly interred and we left the urn right there.” She pointed to the inner sanctum. Carley walked passed the desk down the narrow hallway, all the while pinning her badge onto her bluish lab coat. She found a door just opposite the radar left standing in the passageway. She had a moment’s thought to snatch that, too, just because it looked interesting.
Stepping through the door on her left, the work space was cluttered with equipment. Some funny odd thing that could be a porthole of sorts, the chemistry table, just steps away, and beyond that in a corner of the room, a round mechanical thingie.
The whole place just looked so odd. There near the chemistry table, stood a gorgeous golden urn. That had to be it. Already creeped out by the place she scooped up the urn, hiding it under her long lab coat and raced down the hallway again toward the exit. “I quit!” she called, waving at the receptionist, flinging the badge at her in passing, her heart thumping as she went. Why did the door seem so very far away?
“Well, you wouldn’t be the first,” said the receptionist.
At last, she made it home again. Panting, sweating buckets, she carefully set the urn inside the door. “James!” she called, hoping he hadn’t gone off to work, yet. “I did it, I’ve got it. Your Dad is home. James, are you here?”
James was upstairs busy repairing his grandfather, Joseph’s, computer. He heard the front door open and shut and then heard Carley calling. He got up, and ran down the stairs to the first floor. Carley stood, waiting.
“You’re back early,” he said.
“Yeah, it was easier than I thought. I just snatched it and ran. Now, we need to place him out in the yard with the rest of your forebears.” She picked up the urn and headed out back. There near the tree, but on the west side of it, she placed Rory, whose urn instantly became a tombstone.
Carley walked very fast. James found himself having to jog to keep up with her. His wife was a woman on a mission, he decided. But, then again, she was a bit of a Klepto, so despite how initially nervous she was, this really was something only she could do. He caught up with her, hugged her and then gave her a hip bump.
“Thank you, my lovely wife! I knew you could do it.”
“Yeah, well, I’ve had a little practice, here and there. And it helps they didn’t seem too interested in chasing after me. They all seemed so focused on whatever they were doing. I’ve never seen people so oblivious to what’s going on around them before. Gave me the creeps.”