Chapter 12 – Ted & Mary

(Note: The text in orange is simply to provide some orientation as to where this excerpt would fit into the published manuscript)

            A staff member showed Chris around downstairs and introduced him to several research subjects and employees who stayed there long term. One even had two cats, which Chris played with for a few minutes. He regretted it afterwards, when he found a mess of fleabites, but was glad they didn’t itch, at least.

After cleaning up, Chris explored the extensive living quarters and met some interesting people. In one of the TV rooms he struck up a conversation with Ted, a poster-perfect couch potato, complete with a bag of chips.

“You been here long?” Chris asked.

“Oh, three years or so.” Ted spoke through a mouthful of chips.

“Three years?”

“Yup.” Ted patted his large belly, laughing. “Guess I’m not your notion of a gym junkie, huh?”

Chris flushed. He hadn’t meant to insult the guy.

“Ah, no worries, buddy. I know I’m no Morgan Charles. But that’s the great thing about Morgan. He doesn’t care what any of us look like. He just wants to help people improve their fitness.” He motioned to a plump woman coming into the room. “Isn’t that right, Mary?” Ted turned the bag of chips upside down and emptied the crumbs into his mouth.

“’At’s right, Ted.” She plopped into a nearby easy chair. “Morgan’s got hisself a right fine place here. We all stay long as we want—free food, free bed—so long as we attend three of them there i-robics classes and fill out them questionnaires ever’ week.”

“Yup,” Ted agreed. “Morgan’s a stand-up kind of guy. Great humanitarian.”

The conversation confused Chris a bit. What sort of study could Ted and Mary possibly be in?

He turned in shortly after that, but sleep didn’t come easily. That vague, unsettled sensation was back. Maybe because he’d missed his daily phone call with Susana for the first time in two months. Or because he couldn’t get a phone call through to Josh. Strangest of all, his transmitter didn’t work, and he’d never had trouble with it anywhere, even in the slave camp.


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