Anna, part 18

Exhausted from the long flight, Gene couldn’t understand why he wasn’t able to reach Jill. He had tried several times to call her cell, but it was always switched off. And her email account seemed to be on the fritz — he kept getting the same vacation reply. Even more strangely, every time in the last week that he’d tried to phone the lab, he just heard a busy signal. He was pretty sure that had never happened before. Why would a research lab leave its phone off the hook?

As he rode the BART to Berkeley, he thought back to their big blow-up, just before she’d left to start this post-doc. He hadn’t really wanted her to go, but of course you can’t hold back somebody’s career. Not if you love them.

But that last day it had all gone wrong. The constant tension of being careful not to speak his mind had finally backfired, and things had erupted into a major argument, the worst they’d ever had.

So that hadn’t gone well.

But he knew that deep down she still loved him, he could feel it. He’d wanted to tell her he was coming, and he’d really tried, but there was just no way to reach her. In the end, maybe it was best this way. Just show up and let the chips fall where they may.

It had been a long time since he’d been to Berkeley, so he had a little trouble navigating on foot from the BART station to her research lab, just slightly off the main campus. Or at least, it was supposed to be her research lab. The building looked the same as in the pictures, except it was a burnt out wreck.

He just stared at the boarded up entrance to the charred structure, and shook his head in disbelief. “What the hell?”

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