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Alternate Ending for Vector By Robert Cook
Friday, October 22
By the time Jack and Laurie got home, it was well past 4:30AM. Jack wasn’t able to fall asleep, not after what happened. He had just spent the next couple hours reading and taking a shower to wash off the bleach he had been forced to bathe in earlier.
It seemed all too good to be true to him. The crazy Russian switched the anthrax powder with flour and cinnamon? That way instead of hundreds of thousands of people dying, no one did. Sure the panic outside in the streets of Manhattan got out of hand. However, only a few people got hurt. No one died. Jack thought it over on his bike ride to work.
“That crazy Russian saved the lives of thousands,” Jack whispered out loud while taking a right turn onto the street where the medical examiner’s office was on. “That’s absurd. He obviously didn’t mean to save all those people’s lives. He locked me and Laurie in his basement for hours! He inevitably doesn’t have a heart of gold.” Jack locked his bike and hurried up to Laurie’s floor to see if she was there. He knew it was very early, but he had a good feeling that, after last night, she would be in her office. “Laurie!” He said as he knocked on her door.
Jack spun around startled. Laurie had her head cocked to one side smiling at him. She was still holding her coat and her morning coffee, indicating that she had just arrived to the building.
Jack smiled back. “Some night, huh?” Together they laughed. Although, Laurie had done some thinking over the past couple hours, so her laughing settled down quickly and she gave a look of concern to Jack. “What is it?” He asked her, touching her shoulder.
“I-It’s just. I’ve been thinking Jack. This all seems too good to be true.”
“My thoughts exactly.” Jack nodded. He knew what she was going to say next.
“Maybe it’s not all okay like we think it is.” Jack rubbed her shoulder and led her inside her own office. Although they were alone, he wanted to speak with her in private.
Laurie threw her coat over a chair in the corner and put the coffee down on her desk. She plopped down in her chair. Jack did the same opposite her in another. They sighed in synchronization. Laurie leaned back in her chair and rubbed her temples. “Maybe it’s not just flour and cinnamon that’s floating around in the air right now.” Laurie suggested.
Jack shook his head in the negative. “No, it has to be only that. The man we talked to at the FBI last night said they did a lot of tests and that’s the only thing that showed up in the results.” There was a long stretch of silence between them. “Maybe flour and cinnamon isn’t as harmless as we think it is.”
“Don’t be silly, Jack”
“No, I’m serious. Breathing anything dust-like is bad for you, and cinnamon clings to anything wet. It absorbs moisture.” Laurie stared at him in disbelief.
“Quick visit to the hospital to see what’s going on?” Laurie suggested, trying to hide the panic in her voice.
The very next second, the pair of them were sprinting down the flights of stairs to the lobby. Jack said a quick hello to Chet as he entered the building, but didn’t pause. Chet stared back in confusion, then shrugged.
As soon as Laurie and Jack entered the building, they knew something was wrong. Every single person they passed was coughing uncontrollably. Some people were coughing so hard that they were on the floor, tearing up because they couldn’t breathe. The employees were wearing masks. Laurie stared back at Jack in utter horror. Jack quickly went over to an elderly man tumbling over. Laurie ran to the front desk.
“What’s going on?! What has happened?! Tell me everything you know.” Laurie flashed her medical examiner’s badge at the receptionist as she spoke.
“Over 300 diagnostics of new cases of respiratory problems, 264 of them being asthma. Make that 265. In the past 8 hours. It’s awful. I think it was that dust that went in the air late last night. The radio said it was nothing to worry about. Just a prank by some kids. Perfectly harmless. However, these results say otherwise. Nothing fatal so far, but who knows, at this rate…” She was interrupted by the sudden appearance of Jack. Jack flashed his badge and Laurie caught him up to speed.
“Asthma isn’t fatal though, right? If taken care of, I mean.” Laurie asked already knowing the answer, but hoping the facts would somehow change with the situation.
“I’m afraid it can be. Especially for the elderly and young children. About 67 people have already gotten pneumonia from having a weaken immune system. It usually takes much longer than that. I don’t know what to do.”
Jack rubbed the back of his neck and groaned. What could they do? Jack saw a pair of spare scrubs hanging in the corner. He dashed over to them and put them on, then tossed a set to Laurie. “What can two more sets of hands do?” At that, Laurie kissed him. His bravery and his willingness to help people made Laurie realize what a wonderful man he truly was. So what if he wasn’t ready for a commitment yet. Laurie could wait.
Jack smiled widely as they pulled away from each other. Then, they ran down the West wing looking for something for them to do to help.