The next instalment of Generations.
Jessica searched frantically in the semi-darkness. This late at night the muted sounds of the nearby ward only occasionally intruded on her isolation but each one caused her to freeze in alarm. She’d gotten away with it every time so far, still it was only a matter of time until she was caught. Pushing the thought from her mind she opened another cabinet, keying in the stolen pass-number on the lock and selecting a number of medication packets which she quickly transferred to her backpack. A draft from the air-conditioner passed over her and she shivered involuntarily. The beads of sweat lacing her brow showed the stress she was under and made the otherwise comfortable temperature seem chilly. She made a mental note to clean herself up before emerging from pharmacy store. It would be disastrous to appear guilty in front of others.
Management had started to cotton on to the fact that items were going missing. The pharmacists had at first been reluctant to report the missing drugs; it was their necks on the line after all. However it had now reached the point where they had no choice, there was no latitude left for fudging the records. Not even with her mole on the inside.
With the net closing in, Jessica had decided to do one more take before quitting. The money was good. She now had enough to start a new life, plus a qualification that would allow her to travel. Nursing was in demand in so many places around the world. Not that the gang would be happy to lose their supplier. The chance that they would simply let her walk away was zero, which was why she’d been saving. She knew from the start that this was a no-win game if she’d been thinking locally, but she was happy to think bigger. The gang was small enough to have limited influence outside the city limits and none overseas. That gave her the chance to get away if she was willing to move far enough. It was always her plan to disappear once things started to get nasty. Little did she know just how accurate her plan would be.
A sudden noise, louder this time, caused her to the freeze again. A jet of fear shot through her petite frame as she realised that it was the outer door to the pharmacy store. Adrenaline surged through her, flooding her brain. She felt her tension levels ratchet up as the hormone did what it did best, narrowing her focus on the immediate, seeking to illicit either a flight or fight response. Caught for a moment in indecision, she tried to weight her options but failed. That door was the only exit. Damn, she was so close to getting away scott-free, the regret adding to her fear and shutting down her rational faculties even further.
Seemingly paralysed, she watched as the door opened, as if in slow motion thanks to the heightened stimulus of adrenaline. Inch by agonising inch it swung as she felt the intensity of her panic build. She could see the shoulder of the orderly framed against the half open door.
As he entered the room, the orderly thought he felt a rush of air. He couldn’t be sure that it wasn’t simply the movement caused by the door opening, but the thought that it was unusual did strike him momentarily before he was distracted. On the other side of the room sat a backpack, half opened in front of an open cabinet. “Who would be so careless to leave the place like this with all the extra security hoopla going on at the moment?”, he thought to himself. As he moved across the room to close the cabinet, his opinion changed. The backpack was half full of medication and it looked like the cabinet had missing packets too.
His sense of self-preservation kicking in, the orderly decided that now was not the time to turn detective. As he backed towards the door he called over his shoulder, “Hey Pablo, can you come in here for a minute man?”. From down the corridor came a complaint, but also the sound of footsteps. The orderly was definitely not getting this pinned on him.
Subsequent investigation determined that the medication contained in the backpack was consistent with the pattern of theft that had been going on recently. What it did not uncover however was the identity of the thief. Both the orderly and his friend swore that no-one had left the room before it was fully secured and yet no-one was found inside. The investigators drew a blank, unable to proceed further. They did note that one Jessica Donnelly disappeared the same night not to be seen again, but without direct evidence it was hard to pursue that lead.
And even harder because she had disappeared.
(To be continued …)