PANDORA'S BOX (Con't)

Chapter 7. Chance Encounter
Saturday, July 28, 2029
Mark met Julia at the Washington airport as she arrived from California to change flights for Paris. The original plan to travel to Toronto had been changed. The deaths in France were far more important since they could help with their investigation of the alien creatures life cycles. Seven people had been found dead in a coffee shop in Rouen. All had the same characteristic marks on their necks as had been found on the dead guard in Julia's lab. With the deaths of the cows in Toronto and these deaths in France it was certain now that they were dealing with their second generation of creatures. It was crucial that they find more evidence on the life cycle of these killers before it becomes an epidemic.

They had to find a way to locate and exterminate these creatures, but first they had to find a live one.

Terry and Julia spent most of the flight chitchatting over old times, while Mark was busy pouring over his notes. When the plane arrived at the De Gaulle airport it was early in the evening and Terry bade them a fond farewell, giving Julia a short peck on the cheek. As he picked up his suitcase and turned to catch a taxi he shouted over his shoulder, "Keep in touch, we'll have to get together again." Little did they know their paths would cross again shortly, and under much different circumstances.

Chapter 8. The French Incident
Monday, July 30th, 2029
Julia and Mark had breakfast in Paris early next morning at an exquisite French Café called Le Village Buffet before they left to meet with the police Inspector in Rouen. As they were mulling over their coffee and croissants, Mark was intently scrutinizing the front page of Le Figaro he had picked up at the newsstand on the way to the café. "It appears the police are still searching for the murderers of those people in Rouen. They still haven't pieced it together yet. They are calling it 'ice pick' murders." "I suppose we'll have to let them think that, until we have more information to go on." "They will be very curious as to why two American scientists are here to investigate this incident, though". "We'll probably have to take the inspector into our confidence, if we are going to get any kind of cooperation," Mark said, folding the newspaper in half, and laying it on the end of the table.

As they drove the hundred kilometers to Rouen in the rented Peugeot, Mark had obtained in Paris, Julia was deep in thought about how they would contain these parasites, once they had located them. It would not be easy, not knowing their habits or peculiarities. Her mind wandered to thoughts of the dead cows in Canada. Strange, she thought, how they had attacked them. Obviously they sought out warm-blooded mammals and not just humans. She really wanted to find a live one to study. There was so much they didn't know about these creatures.

Inspector Coulomb greeted them warmly in Rouen, but with a certain amount of curiosity. Mark took the inspector into his confidence and explained the happenings to date. The inspector did not seem entirely convinced, although, as he explained, this would answer some of his questions about the neck wounds on the victims. He had not released any information on the second smaller wound marks found on the necks of each victim. He hadn't been sure how to explain them, or even if he tried, how to keep the media from spreading panic. The inspector agreed that, for the time being, it would be best to let them continue thinking they were searching for a madman with an ice pick. They spent the rest of the morning talking to the café owner and looking over the bodies in the town morgue. Four of the victims were elderly men, local residents that stopped by frequently to chat over a chess game, and a younger couple that were traveling to Paris and had stopped by for coffee and lunch, before continuing on their journey. Two were middle-aged women, and the waitress, a girl in her mid twenties. All the bodies bore the same grotesque, pained expressions on their face and were frozen in contortions, as they died in convulsions. Julia had seen this before and now there was no longer any doubt as to the cause of these deaths.

The café owner had heard the commotion from inside the café as tables and chairs went flying. He had rushed outside, but all he found was the bodies writhing on the ground. He hadn't seen anyone or anything else around but did recall hearing a high pitched buzzing sound in the distance, as he described, "like a hundred humming birds".

Julia surmised that they must have struck simultaneously, within seconds of each other, like a swarm, and then disappeared as quickly. Almost, she thought, as though they had picked out their targets in advance and then struck in a precise attack. Julia, on a hunch, asked the inspector if there were any small caves or abandoned buildings close by. The inspector didn't know of any caves, but there was an old abandoned warehouse about ten kilometers outside of town. Julia suggested to Mark that they check it out on Monday. Mark agreed and asked the inspector if he had any protective clothing they might wear. Bulletproof jackets and helmets would be the best he could provide. "I've got something that might just do the trick," Julia added, with a smirk.