"I have some critical information for you, but I can't speak over the phone," a woman said, her words rushed and breathless. "Is there a place we can meet?"
Kate needed more before she dropped everything to go on what might be a wild goose chase. "And you are?"
"I don't want to say right now." Her voice was hushed. "You can come down to my office, and we can talk here."
"No, no. That won't work," the woman said. "It's too risky. Your office is the last place I can be seen."
"Ma'am, as you can imagine, I have a lot on my plate right now. So it would be helpful if I had some idea of what this is all about."
"I have information you're going to need," the caller whispered. "Things related to your case. Things I know because of my job."
That got Kate's attention. "Are you an employee of Mason Pharmaceutical Corporation?"
"I told you, I can't have this conversation over the phone."
Kate's heartbeat sped up at the strain in the woman's voice. "All right. There's a coffee shop in Colony Square on Peachtree and Fourteenth. Can you meet me there?"
"Yes. See you in ten minutes."
Kate hung up, and her mind went into overdrive. If this woman was truly an employee of MPC, then this meeting could be huge. MPC had corporate offices in multiple states, but the company headquarters and largest office was in Atlanta.
It was likely this woman was a disgruntled employee or that she was unstable. But something about her voice tugged at Kate. Her curiosity and desire to be thorough led her to take the meeting.
She made the short walk from her office across the street and down a block to Colony Square, which housed restaurants and shops catering to the Midtown Atlanta community. It was lunchtime, and there were
plenty of people out taking breaks in the warm Georgia sunshine. Since it was June, the humidity made the air thick and sticky, but it was better than being locked inside a stuffy office all day.
As Kate stepped into the coffee shop, she looked for someone who could potentially be her tipster. Not seeing anyone promising, she took a seat at the table in the back corner and waited.
After a few minutes, a woman who was probably in her mid-forties took the seat across from her. She had brown hair cut in a no-nonsense bob and wore simple wire-frame glasses that only partially obscured her bloodshot eyes.
"You're Kate Sullivan?" the woman asked in a low voice. Then she turned and looked over her shoulder. Nervous—and paranoid.
"Yes. And you are?"
"Nice to meet you, Ellie. Why don't you explain to me what this is all about."
"I'm scared," Ellie said as she clenched her pale hands together in front of her.
"There's nothing to be afraid of. You're safe with me."
"No, you don't understand."
Was this lady a conspiracy theorist? Kate had no idea what she was dealing with. "Just take it one step at a time. Do you work for MPC?"
"And what is your job there?" Kate felt like she was conducting a deposition, trying to get information out of a witness.
"I'm one of the senior R&D scientists." Ellie shivered, but the coffee shop's air conditioning was barely functioning.