Chapter Fifteen

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“Good. You’re finally here. Come in.” Stewart complied, entering the office belonging to Dr. Jerome I. Harrison, Director of the Department of Clonology. Walking forward, he heard the door slide closed behind him, blocking out the ...

“Good. You’re finally here. Come in.”

Stewart complied, entering the office belonging to Dr. Jerome I. Harrison, Director of the Department of Clonology. Walking forward, he heard the door slide closed behind him, blocking out the soft chatter of students passing through the hallway.

This left him alone with his client, who sat behind his desk with elbows perched on the wooden surface while his folded hands rested against a long chin. It did not require close inspection to notice Harrison glaring at him through thin rimmed glasses, his blue eyes cold and unwelcoming. He watched Stewart’s every move as if looking for any opportunity to chastise him.

Stewart felt his neck stiffening—not out of dread but rather from annoyance. Of all of his clients, Harrison was by far the most bothersome. Since the disappearance of the alien woman, the man had badgered him regularly, inquiring as to whether she had been located and returned to the shop, constantly reminding him of the amount of credits paid for his missing purchase. There was not a day that Harrison’s number didn’t appear on his phone screen.

His substantial payment for the woman and Stewart’s need for the University’s E.T. adoption program were the only reasons why Stewart allowed this man to berate him over the phone last week. So at this moment, it took all the strength he could muster to not batter Harrison’s face with the damned carrier and end it for the night.

Regardless of his aggravation, Stewart could not afford to lose his connection to the department’s adoption program due to the exchange of acrimonious words. So he deemed it sensible to tolerate the professor and his hostility for the time being, keeping his thoughts buried as he stood in the middle of the office.

Harrison lowered his hands from his chin. “Where is it?” he asked evenly, his glare locked onto the shopkeeper.

Stewart lifted the carrier slightly so Harrison could see it. “Here,” Stewart replied mildly, dismissing the professor’s antagonism. “Where would you like me to place it?”

Harrison smoothly rose from his desk and approached Stewart, nearly towering over him. “You stay put,” the professor replied, his tone unchanged. “I don’t trust you to even move with it at this point. Hand it over it to me.”

Stewart handed the carrier to Harrison, who carried it to his desk, walking carefully as if not wishing to stir the man inside the carrier.

Meanwhile, Stewart fought to bite his tongue. The professor’s behavior towards him was becoming a bit too melodramatic and he wondered if Sarah was somehow an influence on the old fool. “I hope this one meets your standards,” he managed, feigning professionalism.

“For your sake, I hope so as well,” Harrison said, placing the carrier in the middle of his desk, “especially after what happened last week.” He then turned to look at Stewart, who still found no trace of appreciation in his eyes. “For a week,” Harrison continued with a clipped tone, “I’ve been struggling over the fact that your security cameras were unable to capture any evidence of that creature’s whereabouts until after the occurrence. What’s worse is that you still haven’t found it because you didn’t brand it.”

“I assure you—“

“Stop, Wayland,” the professor interrupted bitingly. “Do not say another word. Do you realize how many credits I paid you for the one you lost?”

“I am aware of the twenty thousand credits you paid, Doctor,” Stewart countered steadily as he took a couple of steps towards his client, “which is why replacing her with another had become my upmost priority. Thus, compensating for my negligence was paramount.”

“Negligence?” Harrison asked, frowning while he moved towards the shopkeeper, leaving a slight gap of space between them. “Ignoring your mortgage payments is negligent, Wayland. Allowing an undocumented E.T. to leave your place of business unnoticed, on the other hand, is completely asinine. I swear if my very freedom were not on the line, this would be grounds to sever all ties with you.”

“Be that as it may, Dr. Harrison, I feel that I’ve done everything possible to obtain another ET for you. In fact, I went above and beyond to make certain to place one aside exclusively for you.”

“So what? Are you looking for a pat on the back for simply doing your job?”

“Absolutely not, but I do want you to recognize the levels to which I strive to satisfy my clientele. I again hope that this one is to your liking.”

“We’ll see about that,” Harrison muttered distrustfully as he turned away from Stewart and returned to his desk.

Stewart watched as the professor lifted the cover off of the cage and bent over to peek through the small diamond shaped bars to see the creature. Suddenly, Harrison quickly straightened and shifted his attention onto him.

“He’s not even stirring,” the professor pointed out, his tone stained with tension. “What happened to him?”

“He’s under sedation,” Stewart explained, suppressing a groan. “Our friend proved to be a bit—spirited, so precautions were taken.”

The professor’s eyes widened. “So you just administered a sedative without any knowledge of his physiology?!”

“Due to his erratic behavior and my ignorance of any extraordinary abilities the creature may possess,” Stewart continued, “I deemed it a risk worth taking.”

Harrison removed his glasses and sighed heavily, rubbing his eyes and face with one hand as if the gesture would somehow alleviate his anger. He then dropped his hand from his face and once again gave Stewart a disdainful look. “Hope that your ‘risk’ hasn’t caused any permanent damage,” he accused as he bitterly pointed his finger at Stewart.

“I assure you that no harm has come to him.”

“I’ll need to conduct a thorough examination to be certain,” the professor declared before releasing a low, exasperated sigh. “Any leads on the other ET?”

Stewart shook his head. “Unfortunately not,” he lied. “I and my associates, however, are working diligently to locate her.”

“That would be wise for all involved, Mr. Wayland.”

“As I am well aware. I will keep you informed throughout our investigation.”

“Make sure of that.”

“Of course, Doctor,” Stewart assured with a strained smile. “Of course.”

 

 

 

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