Maribelle looked at the creature. “Adam,” she said.
“He said that he had another name once,” Judith said. She pressed herself against the bars. “He told me that the Natarajans called him ‘Singh.’ The Sanskrit word for ‘lion.’ Not very imaginative, were they?” Judith touched the creature’s forearm with her fingers. “I am trying,” she said, almost a whisper. She pulled her hand back. “You must be patient, Adam.”
She turned to Maribelle. “The suits-and-ties in the upper floor offices still insist on believing that Adam is an animal,” Judith said, “and on treating him as such. Thus the cage and the straw. I am trying to convince them of what is to me so obvious as to be painful. That our friend here is more like a Human being than any of us might have suspected.”
“Well,” Judith said. “I do believe its lunchtime. Are you hungry, Adam?”
The Blackmane grunted, huffed and turned away. He went back to the center of the cage and lay down.
Judith sighed. “Come on, darling,” she said after a moment. “Adam prefers to dine in solitude. We can at least keep each other company as we have lunch, and I can catch you up to speed, as you are now my official assistant.”
“Yeah,” Maribelle said, still looking at the creature. “How did you manage that?”
“I’m an old expert at the pulling of strings,” Judith said. “I even got you a raise.”
“In that case,” Maribelle said, “lunch is on me.” She looked back over her shoulder as they left the lab. The creature hadn’t moved.
They took the elevator up to the first floor, and found the cafeteria busy. There were still several tables available, though, and it didn’t take long going through the line. Judith ordered grilled salmon with a side of rice, whereas Maribelle chose a club sandwich with side salad. They both ordered iced tea. They chose a table near one of the large windows, looking out on the manicured lawn and flower beds. Warm sunshine made little rainbows appear in the air as the sprinklers activated.
“It surprises me how tasty the food is here,” Judith said.
“Mmm-hmm,” Maribelle said, watching the rainbows.
“Not that you’re eating anything,” Judith said.
“Sorry. Guess I’m lost in thought.”
“Thinking about Adam?”
“Yeah,” Maribelle said. She tore open a packet of sugar and dumped it into her tea. The cafeteria never made it sweet enough. “Damn them,” Maribelle said.
“Who are we damning, dear?”
“The ones who did that to him,” Maribelle said. “The Natarajans.”
“Ah,” Judith said, taking a bite. “Yes, I second that.”
“There’s still no sign?” Maribelle asked.
“I’m afraid not,” Judith said. “The Natarajans have, for all intents and purposes, vanished from the face of the earth. As did a large percentage of their company’s finances.”
“They knew they were busted,” Maribelle said. “So they took off before it all hit the fan.”
“Oh, yes,” Judith said. “Of course the Natarajan Corporation is dead in the water, and indictments are already being handed down against several top officials.”
“But the unholy triumvirate got away,” Maribelle said. “Mom, Pop and Junior.” She shook her head. “I bet they’re sitting around somewhere laughing their asses off. Tickled pink.”
“Yes,” Judith said, taking her turn staring at the sprinklers. “But it may be that, before all is said and done, they too may come to regret this horrific thing they have done.”
“What do you mean?” Maribelle said. “The ‘thing?’ You mean creating Adam?”
“Releasing the genie from the bottle,” Judith said. “There’s no stuffing it back in, now. No shutting the lid on Pandora’s box.” She shook her head. “Oh, forgive me, dear. I find that I am more inclined to wax philosophical these days.”
“Go on, please,” Maribelle said. “You think Adam is that bad?”
“No, no, not at all,” Judith said. “It’s just that Adam represents something, oh, what I mean to say is, he is just the beginning of it all.”
“You think there’ll be more?” Maribelle asked. “More like him?”
“It is a certainty,” Judith replied. “In time.”