The action in this story is starting to ramp up. We have the good guys racing against the clock to find a solution while the bad guys are currently unaware of their efforts. It may not stay that way for long.
You can catch up with the first seven parts of this story here:
Please enjoy No Pain, No Gain – Part 8
Haybrook and Gini put Joyce’s blood samples in a bag and headed back to the lab.
“Where do you want me to start?” Gini asked. “I thought we should look at the cellular structure and compare what the tech did to Joyce’s blood compared to what it was supposed to do.”
“That’s a good place to start,” Haybrook said. “We can’t do it here, though.”
“Every test we run in the lab gets logged to the Kongo Fit central database. They’ll be on us in a matter of hours.”
“I could try to block the logging,” Gini said.
“It’s not necessary. I have another location with the equipment we need.”
“Yes. I set up a small lab when I first suspected problems with the tech. Not even Hanson or anyone else at Kongo Fit knows about it. I spent my own money on the setup.”
Gini seemed surprised by this revelation.
“You set up your own lab? How long have you known about the potential side effects?”
“Hanson stepped in and changed a bunch of my testing protocols. Corners were cut so the tech could be rushed to market. I suspected something when I looked at some of the early human trials. When Hanson found out, he shut down my access to the data.”
“You let this go on with what you knew? How could you do that?”
“Hanson not only threatened my job, but he threatened my career. Kongo has far reaching influence in the scientific community. He threatened to trump up incompetence allegations against me so I would never find another job as a scientist.”
“So your career was more important than saving these customers?” Gini asked.
Haybrook felt the heat rise in his face. Gini was judging him and she had a point.
“I felt like I wouldn’t be able to do anything if I was locked out. The company would continue down this path and I would be powerless. At least if I was on the inside, I could look for an opening and try to stop it.”
Gini seemed to ease up.
“I guess I can see your point. What made you decide to finally take action?”
“Hanson saw something that bothered him. He saw something even worse than I imagined. It shocked him into being on the right side of this. He’ll run interference while we figure this out.”
Gini seemed satisfied by the explanation. She visibly relaxed.
“So, where is this lab that you’ve set up?”
“It’s at my house. I have an outbuilding that used to be a woodworking shop. I made some modifications and turned it into a lab.”
“How do we want to do this? We can’t just leave and work at your office.”
“You’re right. They’ll miss you, but they won’t miss me.”
“Are you sure you can handle the work?” Haybrook asked knowing the answer.
“I think so,” Gini answered. “I’ll run the standard blood analysis. If I get stuck, I can contact you.”
Haybrook gave Gini his private cell phone number, address and the code to his garage door so she could get into the house. He also let her know where the key to the outbuilding was so she could let herself into the lab.
“Gini, be careful and don’t take any chances.”
“I won’t, Dr. Haybrook. I’m glad to be helping with this.”
As Gini left the lab, Haybrook wondered if she would be glad as things progressed.
Ray Hanson’s desk phone rang. It was Blaylock’s office. He immediately started to panic. He didn’t receive calls from Blaylock when news was good. He considered not answering it, but, if it was something urgent, his cell phone would be the next to ring and then Blaylock would send someone looking for him. He decided not to prolong the inevitable and picked up the phone.
“This is Hanson.”
“Mr. Hanson, this is Michele Rolfe, Mr. Blaylock’s administrative assistant.”
“Yes, Michele. How can I help you?”
Hanson was relieved it wasn’t Blaylock.
“Mr. Blaylock asked me to call you. One of the board members, Jeremy Alberg, asked Mr. Blaylock if you could meet with him.”
“I…I can. Do you know what it’s about?”
“Not specifically. Something about going through some product testing protocols. Are you free for about 30 minutes? Mr. Alberg is on the executive floor and I can send him to you.”
Hanson thought for a moment. He knew Alberg was a sharp entrepreneur and a self-made man. He had a reputation for balancing consumer advocacy with innovation. It might be good to see what he was curious about.
“Are you still there, Mr. Hanson?” Michele asked.
“Yes, yes. I’m still here. I can see Mr. Alberg. Please send him down.”
As Hanson waited for Alberg to arrive, he thought of ways that he might see if the powerful board member could help.
Gini pulled up to Haybrook’s modest 1,500 square foot house on the northwest side of Albuquerque. Haybrook lived in an area convenient to the lab which allowed him to commute against the flow of traffic each day and avoid going through the downtown area.
She parked in the driveway and let herself into the garage. The garage was highly organized with lawn implements and tools. It looked as if a car had never been parked in it. She let herself into the kitchen and found more of the same. Dr. Haybrook kept an immaculate house that was as organized as any lab. She found the key to the outbuilding. She continued on through the modest living room and out into the naturally landscaped back yard.
At one time, very few homes in Albuquerque were surrounded by green lawns. As people from the eastern United States migrated to the area, there were more and more lawns putting stress on the city’s water supply.
Haybrook’s home was not one of these. He had a back yard that consisted of sand, rocks and cacti. A path of smooth paving stones led to a small replica of the main house in the backyard. Gini used the key and let herself in.
The building was cooled by a separate air conditioning unit. Haybrook had set up a lab that rivaled many small professional setups. The expense must have been considerable. Gini placed the bag containing Joyce’s blood samples on a small worktable and decided to text Haybrook that she was there and ready to get started.
I’m here. Nice setup
Thx. Call me if needed
Gini needed to work quickly, but carefully. She settled in and began to examine the blood samples.
Ray Hanson was sitting at his desk when there was a soft knock on his door. When he looked up, he saw a young man with long dirty blond hair and a matching goatee wearing jeans and a silk checked jacket and open collar shirt. He motioned for the man to come in.
“Mr. Hanson?” the man asked.
“Yes. You must be Mr. Alberg.”
“Okay. You can call me Ray.”
“Great Ray. Thanks for taking the time to see me.”
Ray thought of the penalty if he refused to make time for a board member.
“It’s not a problem, Jeremy. What can I do for you?”
Alberg came in and took a seat. He gave off the aura of someone who was comfortable in his own skin. His grey-blue eyes indicated deep intelligence.
“As we were reviewing the huge success of the Buff Cuff in our meeting today, I asked Blaylock about reports that I’ve heard about potential side effects in some of the customers. He directed me to you. He said you were in charge of the testing and safety protocols.”
Hanson felt his heart rate climbing. Alberg had hit too close to home.
“That’s right, I was in charge after the initial testing was done when the military was still interested in the tech.”
“So you took over when it became viable as a civilian product.”
“That’s right. Initial human testing had already been completed. We took over testing based on some of the results.”
“Some of the results?”
“Well, like in any testing of this nature, there were different groups where variations of the tech was tested. I worked from the results of the successful tests.”
“And all of your tests were successful? Were there any side effects that would back up what I’ve heard?”
This was the moment of truth. Hanson could tell Alberg everything and ask him to help. Alberg could run to Blaylock, however, and Hanson would be exposed along with Haybrook. He could just deny what he knew and hope that Haybrook could manage the impossible in bringing the whole thing down. He knew that his next statement to Alberg would bring him to the point of no return.
An hour had passed since Joyce had been visited by the male and female that had taken her blood. She found herself slipping in and out of conscious thought. She kept repeating her name to herself so she could remember it and grasp on to the humanity that she had left. Her visitors had given her some hope in a situation that seemed hopeless before their visit. She felt an urgency to hang on to her identity so that she could give them the best chance possible to reverse what had happened to her.