The Missing Chapter
When initially trying to attract literary agents and publishers to Elementary Science 101, I decide to drop the original first chapter since most of them would sample no more than the first three chapters. So I wanted to get the story moving quicker and keep the word count to less than 110,000 if I could. When I latter went to self publishing due to the lack of interest from the above, I just ended up leaving it out rather than do a rewrite on the existing book. If interested, I hope you enjoy this chapter that never made it.
ROOM OF WONDER
Methodically the speaker repeated his notes, word for word. His monotone voice seemed to smother the importance of the data he was sharing. Professor Miller impatiently looked at his watch as he sat in the large conference hall, serenaded by the sporadic coughing and other noises a large bored audience often makes. Nothing really new was being said to those who kept up on the latest, but he politely stuck it out. Next year it might be him up there struggling to stay afloat. Finally the presentation ended, and the Professor filed out with the rest of the herd in desperate need of fresh air before the next one began. The lobby soon filled with conference attendees and the Professor stood there wondering if he had enough time to take a short stroll outside.
But before he could decide, a young woman walked squarely up to him and said, “Dr. Miller, Dr. Andrew Miller? My name is Molly Brennan,” she said with a captivating smile and face that threw his previous thoughts out of his mind. She politely extended her hand and continued. “I am with Earthtox Limited, and your colleague Dr. Sebastian Greene recommended you as someone we should contact. We came to the conference hoping to meet several experts in the environmental toxicology field. We wish to engage someone to consult with us on the final development of several devises of ours before we go to the marketplace with them. I hate to brag,” she said with a bashful sweetness, “But they should bring a new era to reclamation of contaminated soil, and eventually ground water. I would really appreciate a few minutes of your time if you could spare it to hear about our work, and how you could assist our efforts to bring these products to the public,” she said as the Professor slowly released her hand.
The Professor was so caught off-guard by her approach that he briefly stood mute as he took a deep swallow in order to reply. While he had never heard of this company, it was foolish to turn down legitimate outside opportunities like this when they presented themselves. So he brought a smile to his face and told her he was indeed interested. Though well known in his field for several years now, the Professor’s meager college wages never seemed to go far enough to meet his needs. His sister was a widow with four kids and being the good brother he was, he tried to fill the void the best he could. Especially when her money ran thin and this was quite often. A few years earlier their parents both needed considerable medical care, and that had rolled up a lot of deb too. What equity he had built up in his small condo had been taken by a second mortgage some time ago, and his credit card payments now just barely covered interest.
As a full-time bachelor his own personal needs were actually fairly small since he was by nature a frugal person. His VW would be the closest he would ever come to a sports car, and going out on the weekend meant grabbing takeout on the way home from work on Friday. If he could do some consulting on the side with this up and coming company ready to release a technology breakthrough, the extra money could make his life a lot easier. It might even be enough to finance a small vacation to the mountains he hadn’t been able to afford for five years now. Sitting on top of a peak enjoying a sandwich after a hard walk up was the best way he had ever found to put his worries beneath him, at least for a few minutes until you had to hike back down.
As they walked towards a meeting room the company had rented, the Professor tried to not look too eager, no reason to sell himself cheap. He looked down at his watch and figured he could spare no more than an hour since the 4 pm presentation promised to be the day’s best one, and he wasn’t going to let this pitch woman make him miss that. As she led the way through the crowd, he noticed that the rest of her was as pleasing as her face. She seemed to be of mixed race with Indian or Arab decent thrown into European of some sort. In any case, her appearance gave him no doubt why she had this job. What single middle age man wouldn’t follow her to a meeting he thought? She could work for the IRS and they would still follow her like a puppy dog, he mused to himself as they walked on.
Soon the crowds started to thin enough for them to start making small conversation. It quickly became apparent that she had more than just good looks. With each word and glance the Professor found this woman more and more pleasant to be around. She was smart, clever, and extremely engaging. The Professor’s last serious relationship ended shortly after his parents became ill. Since then he seemed to never have the time to look for someone else. And no one ever came looking for him.
The Professor wasn’t really bad looking for a middle aged man, but often he covered up his innate shyness with professional mystique, which seemed to be far more alluring for women in the movies than in real life. The good conversationalist seemed to always walk away with the few females he was attracted to, leaving him with all the things he should have said. But this woman’s piercing blue eyes, warm gentle face, and pronounced figure had reminded him in an instant of how much he missed having a close female companion in his life. Of course she was designed to have that effect he thought. Lure them in with her, and then a steely eyed suit beats you up to sign a contract favoring their position. Well he might be lonely, but he wasn’t stupid.
Finally they made their way to a lightly traveled hallway where they could walk side by side at a more leisurely pace. He slyly decided to spend the time seeing what little the spokes model knew, before the pitch men put the squeeze on him. He posed as many polite questions on the woman’s company as he could muster in public. However, her responses seemed unrehearsed and she was quite well informed. Not what he expected from the bait. Brains and a bod he smirked to himself, sounds like a real keeper. But then the real stunner came when she informed him it was only to be the two of them in the meeting. Actually the Professor was a little disappointed with this news since he figured at least a senior scientist would be there if they were really interested in him. So apparently she was just weeding the idiots out, and there wouldn’t be any offer made today. Well, it would still be a good break from the monotony of the meeting, no harm done, he thought to himself.
"The best breakout rooms were taken when we made our request, I think they stuck us next to shipping and receiving,” she said to the Professor as they headed down the last poorly lit back hallway. Now out of the public eye she began to describe in more detail her company’s recent research and mission. Again she was very well versed on the technical aspects of their projects making the Professor think that maybe she was one of the company’s top scientists. While they are always young and look like models in the movies, he had never run into that in real life. This possibility now made him feel a little better about his chances of getting the job. As they approached the only door at the end of the empty hallway, the solitary clicking of their shoes was the only thing he heard. After they entered the room and the door was shut, the deserted remote hallway returned to silence. A figure previously hidden in an unlit corner now slowly appeared. It walked over to some items waiting to be used for the next conference and remained so still, they became one.
The room though small, was well lit and appointed as one would expect. Several comfortable looking office chairs surrounding a polished wood table, with a stocked coffee cart at the far end. One wall that flanked the table had a big presentation board on it, and the other was filled with advertising for upcoming events at the convention center. Ms. Brennen made her way towards the cart as she said, “Dr. Miller, can I get you any coffee or water if you would like."
“No thank you, I had plenty at the conference. It's sometimes a necessity for staying alert or even awake with a few of the presentations,” he said with a smile. “And since I may have to go from here directly to the next session, I better stay away from the water too.” The minute his words left his mouth he thought great, young ladies always enjoy hearing how older men spend half their life in the bathroom. But she only gave a quick look of concern, and then covered the embarrassing situation with a quick smile.
"Very good sir, I will make my comments brief so you will have enough time to ask questions and still get back to the conference in a timely fashion,” she said in a friendly professional voice. “Now, if you would open the folder in front of you we can begin.”
As the Professor opened the folder a bright flash of light filled his eyes. He immediately passed out with his head falling rather abruptly into the open folder.
Almost in the same instant a large man in a trench coat entered the room in silence.
“Well, we have him,” Ms. Brennan said in a low voice. “Hopefully we can keep him.”