The Lost Hour
Short story by Iris Carden
I woke up. My head felt like a jackhammer was working behind my forehead. My eyes were having trouble focussing.
The car wasn’t moving. Why had we stopped?
Carl, the driver and Bill the guard were both asleep in the front seat. Asleep. How could we all fall asleep in the middle of something this important?
I thought of the crown. It contained the world’s third largest diamond, flawless and perfectly cut. That was surrounded by deep red rubies, vibrant green emeralds, and rich purple amethysts. In a panic, I checked the briefcase. It was still handcuffed to my wrist, and still locked. Even so, it seemed to me that it was lighter. I couldn’t check of course. The key was at the museum, waiting for us to arrive.
Looking at my watch, I realised I’d been asleep at least an hour. Had the others been asleep just as long?
“Hey guys,” I said. “Wake up, you two.”
Neither of them responded.
I reached over the seat to shake Bill’s shoulder. He felt cold, and as he slumped forward, I realised with horror that he was not ever going to wake up.
Sliding across to the driver’s side I reached up to check Bill’s pulse. He was also dead.
What had happened in that hour? Why was I alive when the others weren’t?
I pulled my phone out of my handbag. Who should I call? My boss or the police? I opted for the police. Let them deal with the trauma of telling the museum director his precious crown might be missing. (Two staff members dead would not bother him anywhere near as much.)
I made the call, finding that my fingers were shaking and the whole world seemed to be swirling out of focus.
The next thing I was aware of was being in the back of an ambulance, with an ambulance officer leaning over me saying, “How the hell is she even alive?”
The world swirled again, and I woke in a hospital bed.
That’s my story. You know everything I know. It doesn’t matter who questions me or whether I’m threatened with arrest or anything else. I don’t have the crown. I don’t know where it is. I don’t know what happened in that lost hour. And I don’t know how I survived the gas that killed my colleagues.