Author:Michael Palmer

    “And how did you do in that one?”

    “I knocked him out in the third.… Crunch!”

    He cracked his knuckles for emphasis.

    “Well, you don’t have to wait until the third round this time.”

    As if on cue, without a knock, the room door opened and Ivan Puchalsky strode in, his white knee-length coat so starched it looked as if it could stand up on its own. He greeted Lou and Cap, and may or may not have noticed that he was not offered a handshake by either man.

    “So,” he said, “word from the nurses is that you are continuing to improve. That’s excellent.”

    “Thanks,” Cap said.

    “So, Dr. Welcome, your message said it was urgent that I meet you here. I have ID rounds in a few minutes, so this really must be brief.”

    “Oh, it will be brief,” Cap said. “I promise you that. Doctor, do you know a man named Douglas Bacon?”

    Puchalsky’s blank expression may have been legit.

    “I’m afraid I don’t,” he said.

    “No matter,” Cap went on. “He knows you, and that’s what counts. In fact, in documents signed under oath by him, he names you as one of those hospital employees scattered around the country who was recruited by the group he directed—a group calling themselves the Society of One Hundred Neighbors.”

    “I don’t understand.”

    But Lou could tell now that he did.

    “You were paid and paid handsomely to use your expertise in nosocomial disease,” Lou said, “to slowly introduce the Janus strain, also known as the Doomsday Germ into this hospital.”

    “That’s ridiculous. Why would I ever do something like that?”

    “The list of possible reasons starts with a boatload of money, and moves on through your suddenly mushrooming importance in the field of hospital-based infection. Bacon says they had no trouble enlisting your services, either—especially when they needed you to help them cure the germ after it began mutating. So let’s add immortality and worldwide fame to our list. Then we should probably include the multiple donations on record that you’ve made to a number of right-leaning organizations, some of which are more or less recruitment fronts for One Hundred Neighbors.”

    Puchalsky, his cheeks flushed, could only glare at him.

    “You took my leg,” Cap said with far less anger in his voice than the man deserved. “I’d like to meet the person who led you in your Hippocratic Oath, or whatever oath doctors take wherever you came from. Now, get out of my room. I think you’ll find a couple of our friends from the FBI waiting for you just outside the door. I’m looking forward to testifying against you in court.”

    Puchalsky looked as if he were about to spit. Then he turned on his heels and stalked out the door.

    Lou could see Chuck McCall in the hall waiting for him, handcuffs dangling.

    “We’ll take it from here, Lou,” he called out.

    “You do that,” Lou replied in a near whisper. “You do that.” He turned to Cap. “Good thing it was your recovery program at work just then, and not mine,” he said. “I would have decked him.”

    “And that would have brought my leg back, right?”

    “Duncan, you’re the best, do you know that?”

    “Besides, I don’t like to think of the leg that’s gone. I’d rather focus on the six inches my surgeons left behind. I keep feeling the rest, though. I keep feeling the phantom limb pains. I’m told this is normal, so maybe the leg will be with me for a long time.”

    “Only you would think like that,” Lou said. “You know, I heard there’s a rowing club on the Potomac that allows amputees in their shells. How do you think we’d do as a two-man crew?”

    Cap held Lou’s hand in both of his.

    “When are the next Olympics?” he asked.

    The Boston Globe

    An open letter of thanks to the nurses, doctors, and staff at White Memorial Hospital, and all those who played a part in defeating the Doomsday Germ, especially those who helped in the development of PHAGECIL.

    My recent infection came close to killing me but all it did in the end was to strengthen my faith and my gratitude.

    The death of my patient and friend Becca Seabury, and my own devastating illness and recovery, helped me better appreciate the gift of every single day, and the beauty of being able to care for others. I cannot wait until I am able to return to nursing again.

    With all that in mind, I wish to announce my marriage, six months earlier than planned, to ANDREW GULLI of Cambridge, Massachusetts, on the day following my recent discharge from the hospital.

    God Bless You All.

    —Jennifer Sarah Lowe-Gulli, R.N.

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