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EDGE OF BLACK
by J.T. Ellison

Genre: Thriller, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

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“Name?”

“Dr. Samantha Owens.”

“I’m just going to have a quick look.” He shone a light in her eyes, felt her pulse. “Ph.D.?”

“Forensic Pathology, thank you very much.”

He met her eyes then, a lopsided smile on his face. “Southern girl, too.”

“Nashville.”

“I’ve been there. Good barbecue. Any shortness of breath?”

“No. I’ve got no symptoms. I’m Brooke’s professor, we were in class at George Washington when she decompensated.”

“Okay. Fever? Cough? Tightness in the chest?”

“No. Nothing. I’m fine. As far as I know, so is everyone in my class except for Brooke. What is going on?”

“We don’t know. We’re seeing people from across the city who are all presenting in respiratory distress. You stick around, okay? Just in case, here’s a mask. We’ll do everything we can for her. Might want to get her parents in, if you can.”

He turned away, dismissing her. He wasn’t telling her everything. Despite his attempt at good humor, she could see the tight lines around the edges of his mouth and eyes. She put on the mask, then allowed the triage nurse to lead her back to the waiting room.

Reggie and Elizabeth had found a corner oasis free of coughing people. Sam took two masks from the nurse and went to the students. “Put these on.” They both slipped into the masks, eyes wide with fear.

“What’s happening, Dr. Owens?”

Long low beeps began, different tones and beats. All of the phones in the room were chiming, including hers. She reached for it, but Reggie beat her. He turned his phone in her direction so she could read the text. It was from Alert DC.

Washington D.C. Metro System is temporarily closed. Tune to your local emergency channels for updates.

Sam felt a massive ripple of unease.

Reggie got another text. “It’s up on GW Alert, too. What do you thinks happening, Dr. Owens?”

“I don’t know. You know how emergency services can be, though. They tend to overreact.”

They both knew she was lying.

“Okay, kids. Hopefully this is just a false alarm, a mistake, even a drill. We do need to get in touch with Brooke’s parents. Reggie, can you call the chancellor’s office and let them know what’s happening? Elizabeth, how about you get in touch with your RA. Let’s see if we can approach from two sides.”

Reggie received another text. Then another. With every new ding Sam’s heart beat harder.

“It’s official. They’re sending people with symptoms here, to GW.” Reggie finally started to look worried.

“Why?” Elizabeth asked.

Sam met her eyes. “Because they have the largest mass decontamination unit in D.C.” Decontamination. That was not the word she wanted to speak right now. Decontamination implied a biological or chemical attack. Which meant only one thing.

Terrorism.

Reggie nodded. “It gets worse. It’s happening right below us.”

“Below us?”

He looked at her in horror. “They think it started at the Foggy Bottom Metro.”