Chelsea stepped around the rats, unconcerned. These critters were clean. Someone had to scrub their cages every day, and that was usually her since she had tiny hands. She wouldn't miss that part of the job. Fletcher opened the door and let out all but two fat, pink rats clinging to one another.
Too stupid to save themselves, Chelsea thought.
The place looked like it had been broken into by people who wanted to save the 'fuzzy wuzzy animals'. The ruse would throw everyone off her scent until Monday, when it would dawn on Brenda that Chelsea, her wide-eyed intern, had disappeared at the time of the fire.
Before they left, she poured out the gasoline onto the computers, the old filing cabinet, and Brenda's desk. Chelsea lit a match, the most deep-down satisfying sound she knew. She felt cleansed, climbing into the pickup afterward, giddy from fumes. She listened to the smoke alarm while they pulled away and watched another window develop a sunny orange glow.
Fletcher drove in the darkness. The only sound was the low hum of the engine, and that quiet felt wrong to Chelsea. Fletch was never the best of conversationalists, but how could he be silent now? Couldn't he see that they won?
"We need a bigger cut." She fiddled with the radio. "This stuff has to be worth a lot more than he said. The first targeted aphrodisiac? Targeted. That can be our slogan. Put a fucking cupid on the logo. They're all gonna pay through the nose to get with whoever they want." She drummed on the dashboard. "Come on! Tell me that doesn't blow your mind. Whatever, I'm buying an island."
Chelsea found a country station and kept searching while the truck pulled into a carpet store's parking lot. It was well-past closed. Fletcher turned off the engine, but kept his eyes forward.
"With the intern cover, you took a lot of notes, right?"
He speaks! Chelsea smiled. "Boss said I should. More you know, the more prepared you are. Made a backup, even. I am prepared up the wazoo." Why were they sitting here?
Fletcher said "You should keep it on you, just in case."
"Inside pocket." She grinned.
Fletcher finally looked at her face, though not in the eyes. "He can't have any connection to the lab, not through anyone."
She understood what Fletcher meant and hated herself for not smelling danger sooner. The child locks kept her in. Pushing him back with all her strength, she wondered if Fletcher saw the irony of using safety as a weapon. He shoved a bag over her head, and eventually, she stopped wondering anything at all.
Roman joggers found a petite Jane Doe in the Tiber by Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Her pockets were empty. She had no identification, and no one claimed her at the morgue, but that was not what made the headlines. The dozen antique arrows in her chest did that.
That Monday, a new drug hit the black market.
-- from "Reading Arteries" by Erin Sneath