( iv )
There is an abandoned farmhouse almost an hour away from Mont-Gaspard, with an empty and dilapidated two-storey house. Silos that were once rich with grains is now empty and are barely holding up. Red drove his black van followed by the armoured truck near the house. Once he turned his engine off, he emerged from his vehicle and opened the truck’s backdoor. His agents emerged carrying the body bags and two large plastic barrels. Their entrance triggered a series of silent alarms. They were being watched. Red looked directly at one of the hidden cameras. He smiled and waved as if greeting an old friend.
Red took his heat-sealed carrier and stepped inside the house. Instantly he was greeted by a musty and damp smell. The furniture was covered in white sheets and cobwebs populated the corners of the walls. He took the stairs down to a dark basement with an active flashlight. Stacks of dust-covered wine bottles of respectable vintage were organized on a series of shelves. Red noticed a particular shelf that contained a bottle at the bottom right corner. All the bottles were covered in a thick layer of dust, except that particular bottle. The neck had no layer of dust as if it was touched regularly. He pulled the bottle by the neck and triggered a series of mechanical whirring. A circular platform on which he and the shelf were standing started to rotate and revealed a dimly lit path. Motion sensors picked up on his presence and faintly illuminated the chamber, at the end of which he found a metallic door with a black and glossy console on the side. He put his thumb on the console and a series of heavy deadbolts moved to unlock the entrance.
Red walked inside and found a large hall containing a series of doors. Inside the hall, there were computer screens, a series of laboratory workbenches and a plethora of complex pieces of equipment. In front of the screens, he found a man deep in his work, on a swivel chair, his back towards his unannounced visitor. Red noticed on one of the screens that his agents finished putting the cemetery victims inside large plastic barrels outside.
“Hello, Bazin. It’s been a while.” Red greeted his host with sincere happiness.
“To what do I owe you the pleasure?” The man responded without turning.
“Bazin. Will you at least say hi?”
The man turned by swivelling his chair. His bloodless face of pallid complexion was sharp, but his stare and dishevelled hair made him look almost maniacal. He didn’t look a day past thirty, yet he had a worn-out expression of an angry, tired, old man. His eyes of bright, glowing red pupil met those of his visitor’s.
“I have no pleasantries to spare, especially with Jean-Pierre’s favourite lap dog.” Bazin spoke with cold disdain while revealing two sets of overgrown canines protruding out of his gums.
Red was taken aback by his host’s lack of warmth. But he wasn’t surprised by his behaviour.
“You’re working here all by yourself? I thought Jean-Pierre gave you some agents.”
“Some agents they are!” Bazin swivelled his chair back to his screens and started typing loudly with his claw-like long nails. “He was scraping the bottom of the barrel if you ask me. As if exiling me here wasn’t punishment enough.” He kept typing loudly as he glanced at Red’s reflection on one of his screens. “They’re in town. I gave them some time off so they won’t muck up my experiments. What brings you here?”, Bazin stopped typing for a moment. “If we must talk shop, then let’s talk shop. Stop wasting my precious time”.
“I need to borrow some chemicals.”
“Borrowing implies you’ll give them back.”
Red realized that his futile attempt to reconnect with an old-friend-turned-sour-acquaintance would bear no fruit.
“I will need a few containers of hydrofluoric acid.”
“Door to your right.”
A door slid open after Bazin put his finger on a scanner placed on his table, his eyes still glued to his screens.
“Since we are still talking shop, I have some tissue samples for you. I want a thorough analysis, including PCR.”
Red walked to Bazin’s table and put down the heat-sealed carrier containing tissue samples from the cemetery incident.
“If you still feel raw about what happened last time, I hope it does not get between our work.”
Bazin scoffed as Red went into the open door.
Red entered a large storage room with various kinds of chemicals. With his agents, carried large plastic containers of hydrofluoric acids outside. They carefully poured down the liquids inside the barrels. Within moments, the victims started to dissolve. He knows how strong this acid is. It would eat through, glass, ceramic, or even metal. Their flesh, bones, teeth-fillings, clothes, or even jewellery would break down in a matter of hours. But not plastic. Hydrofluoric acid would eat through virtually anything except plastic. Which is why he separated their identification cards and burned them separately, removing their physical trace altogether.
Red received a text from his agent at the cemetery saying that they installed a sheep in the middle of the graveyard. A sniper held his sight locked onto it from the parish tower. Not having slept at all for the past twenty-nine hours, he went upstairs to catch up on his sleep. As soon as he took off his shoes, he collapsed on the musty piece of linen covering the bed, launching dust particles in the air. Befoer the flying dust particles could fall down and settle again, Red slipped into a gentle slumber.