Excerpt: Wolf in League
A bright glow spotlighted the place where Matthew Dietrich worked. Other than that solitary bulb (and even its glare had been tightened down to a six-inch radius), the only lighting in the room was the strip of blue fluorescents that ran above the counter and under the row of glass and metal cupboards. It was enough for Matthew. Though his optometrist wouldn’t condone the activity in the least, especially since his most recent eyeglass prescription had been increased in severity yet again, Matthew believed it helped him focus. In the daylight hours it would be impossible to do as every single light in the facility would be on, the sunlight would be streaming in through the windows, and although his crew was small in comparison to some of the other teams at the Genetics Development and Biological Connectivity Group (aka the GDBCG), none of his team members had his preference for ruining his vision for the sake of his concentration. Some, he knew, wouldn’t be caught dead in any of the labs while it was dark and quiet. He’d never quite figured out why, but he was only a resident. Maybe in a few months—less, really, if he kept putting in the hours he was putting in these days—when he finally got offered the staff position he coveted so terribly much, maybe then he’d know what made the doctors and the administration staff cast nervous glances over their shoulders when they walked down certain hallways or passed some of the doorways.
Staff and administrators aside, he’d learned very quickly that the executive staff didn’t give a single hoot about when one came to work or whether one worked alone. As long as the work got done, as long as the results were definitive and stunning, he could have told them that he wanted to work in the basement underneath a tarp with Beethoven’s Fifth playing on loop for all they’d care; and stunning work was not something Matthew ever had to struggle to achieve. He had to work hard, yes, but he didn’t have to struggle. He’d been born with the need to dig into things and he didn’t stop until he’d wrung everything he could out of a topic. So while he hadn’t had the highest MCAT score in the state, he had been in the top five. Nor had he been top of his class when he’d graduated UCLA. He had, however, been second. During his internship at the DGSOM, while he’d still been debating between joining a family practice or specializing (not that he’d really debated too hard, to his father’s great disdain) he’d been told that he was one of the most vibrantly talented young men that his professor had ever had the pleasure to teach.
Of course, his professor had also been three Scotches into the evening at that point and sitting across from Matthew in a lowly lit, very private booth in the far corner of a bar that had been thirty miles out of the city. Matthew hadn’t put much faith in the man’s gushing promises of “limitless experiences and opportunities.” Besides, by that point, he hadn’t had a single reason to put the sleep-with-the-guy-in-charge-and-excel theory into practice. When he’d decided he really was going to pursue Board Accredited status in genetics, the GDBCG had practically kicked in his door to find him.
Always a pleasure to be wanted, it was. And considering they left him alone and let him do his thing at will, he’d decided within a couple of weeks of his residency that he just might like to stay there. There were dark and interesting corners in the GDBCG’s facility and Matthew wanted to know them all. Even if there wasn’t something about the place that tickled his subconscious, the GDBCG was iconic in the field of genetic research. A hundredfold more doctors were laughed off the list of applicants than were allowed to pass through. The fact that they had given him, the mere son of a simple pediatrician and a quiet housewife, a residency was astounding. Good was good and smart was smart, but the people in the know at the GDBCG had seen something special in him that they’d chosen to pursue. For that he was ever-grateful. He’d often thought that he’d give up his eye teeth, without sedation, if they would grant him a permanent position. Preferably tenured.
It wasn’t just pride working its ugly self through his blood, either. It was purpose. The GDBCG granted him purpose. It was here, right here in the hallowed embrace of the Center, where Matthew would make a difference in this world where mothers and fathers could die of cancer, babies could be born without fully-formed skulls, and some kids had to grow up knowing that they were boys trapped in female bodies and not be able to fix that in a viable, utilizable way. He, however, was going to find a way to fix all of it; through the grace of God, he would, darn it. And there was no place better than here to do it in the entire world. If he could do it in solitude, tunelessly humming the relevant bars of Monster Mash while he worked, that just made it all the better.
It was late—early, really—and his eyes burned and his shoulders ached. Posture, he reminded himself as he straightened and stretched, was something he definitely needed to work on. He’d told himself he was going to pack it in earlier than usual. Though his findings on his newest project were fascinating they were also as slow as molasses in January. Still, his mind always seemed to find something to pick at. Once again, most of the night was gone.
“And I need a breather,” Matthew whispered to nobody.
What he really needed to do was go home and sleep, but that didn’t stop him from tugging off his glasses and dropping them onto his desk. His eyes would appreciate the break and he didn’t need them for things that weren’t up close, anyway. His vision was plenty sufficient to navigate the hallways toward the balcony that many of the staff members used for breaks.
As always, the moment he stepped outside he was awed by how bright the September sky was. California skies had been positively gloomy in comparison, Los Angeles’s more than the rest. While there were places where the stars weren’t drowned out by light pollution or hidden behind the smog of ten million vehicular emissions, even the best of the best of places weren’t Wyoming. He’d been in Wyoming just over three months and his system still hadn’t gotten used to how clean and fresh the air seemed. He knew it wasn’t. It couldn’t be. There were far too many oil and gas operations in Wyoming to convince Matthew that was all clear in the star-studded or baby blue beyond, but it was a heck of a lot better than it had been back home.
It wasn’t the stars that drew him here in the wee hours of the morning, though. It was the bats. There was something about the construction of the Center that drew a bucket load of bats, not that Matthew could have said what it was. The thing he found most interesting about the phenomena was that one could find them swooping and swaying around the building’s concrete block walls and its flat, thermoplastic roof at times other than the hour or so between dusk and darkness. Common sense told Matthew it had to do with insect population, reflective lighting, and a lack of predators, but the owls and hawks that were common to the area made that last reason somewhat unlikely.