Copyright © Liza Rose. All rights reserved. Last Updated October 2019.

Liza Rose

NYC Midnight Flash Fiction 2014

Round 2: Group 9

Drama; Bank Vault; Drop of Blood

Cold Storage

When a research assistant opens his late professor’s safety deposit box, he finds an unexpected link to his own past.

Ryan followed the manager into the vault of the First National and waited while the safety deposit box was retrieved. Looking around the walls of boxes he wondered idly what great treasures might be hidden in them. Letting his imagination run free, he contemplated family jewels, treasure maps or perhaps the proceeds of a great bank robbery of the golden age. Breaking his reverie, the bank manager placed the box on the table in front of him and discretely withdrew to allow Ryan to open the box in private.

Recalling the late Professor Nicolai as a shrewd and stern individual, Ryan had been surprised to hear that his will had left everything to his ‘dear research assistant Ryan’. Granted, Ryan had been his constant companion for the last 15 years, before that, sharing the duty with his twin sister Breanne. The Professor had a daughter in Spokane, who ought to have been the sole beneficiary, but she had never shown interest in her father or his research. Perhaps that was answer enough. 

Having cleared the apartment at the college and bundled up the clothes for Goodwill, the only thing left to sort was this box. Who knew what lay inside? There was only one way to know.

He inserted the key, turned it and opened the lid. On top was the usual detritus stored in bank safety deposits, a 30 year old passport, the deed that granted the Professor the lifetime rights to the apartment in recognition of his contribution to the college, a few assorted photographs and a file or
two of research papers that had long been surpassed by subsequent developments.

Going through the photographs brought a sorrowful smile to Ryan’s face. A photograph of the class of 94 showed himself and Breanne both smiling with pride, alongside their graduating friends. As always the Professor stood aloof to one side. A second picture held the smaller research group, again his twin smiling up at him. In the 15 years since she had died there was not a day gone by when he didn’t feel the hole left by her absence. Looking around at the rows and rows of boxes, he doubted that there could be anything stored in any of them that could equal the value of what he had lost in her passing.

He had continued on with the research they had shared although his heart was no longer in it. The taciturn professor had not commented on Ryan’s loss, but had let the young man come to terms with it in his own way. After his own friends had overwhelmed him with unwanted sympathies and suspicions, Ryan had been so thankful for the peace he gained in the professor’s employ. Losing his sister had been hard enough. To be suspected of her murder had been far worse. The professor had even helped to clear his name. Ryan had been grateful enough to stay on and help when the professor no longer had the energy to work, and needed help writing his memoirs. 

He rummaged further in the box and recognized the hand-bound notes of the professor’s life story. Nothing new there, Ryan had written most of the notes down as dictated, and although the professor had brought research grants to the college that would last for years after his death, his life story
had not seemed that riveting. 

Delving to the bottom of the box, something caught his eye. A large envelope addressed to ‘Ryan Feinberg’. Opening it he shook out the contents, a plastic bag containing a white piece of cloth with a small dirty mark on it, and a letter. Opening the letter, he began to read. His face clouded, then
cleared, then caught a look of excitement. He looked again at the contents of the plastic bag. Holding it up closer he saw what the letter had explained. The mark was a single drop of blood. The handkerchief was his sisters. 

His sister’s cold case just got a fresh lead.