Friday, April 18, 2008

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“It would seem that the running here was involuntary. Just exactly how did a body disappear from the morgue? One heard such terrible stories about Northern Ireland, of course, but I was under the impression that things were better now. Yeats turned against them in the end, you know.”

Fiona looked puzzled, “Yates?”

“W.B. Yeats, the poet chappie. Couldn’t stand Devalera. Thought the whole thing was priest-ridden.”

Prof was on one of his famous digressions. Fiona knew better than to follow that hare. “The body was taken to the morgue on the Friday night and an autopsy scheduled for first thing Monday morning. When the pathologist came to do it, there was no body there.”

“Hm. Priest-ridden or not, we must presume that someone stole the body rather than it got up and walked away. Is there anything else that connects the two cases?”

“Yes, It appears that Kevin Murphy, the name the patient gave, was not his real name and all his other details were false too, including his next of kin. Grandmother Murphy was sorry to hear that Kevin was dead, especially since he was sitting there having tea with her when the hospital called.”

The professor sipped his tea. “I am afraid, my dear, that this has gone cold. Let’s retire to the kitchen and make another pot.”

As she waited for the kettle to boil, he sat at the table with his head in his hands. “Let us summarise. You have brought me two cases of a very rare type of leukaemia. They were both men of a similar age, both gave false details and both have disappeared, one alive and one dead.”

He thought some more. “I presume you have done a literature search?”

She brought the newly emptied teapot to the kettle and poured a small amount of boiling water into it. She swirled the water round and then emptied it down the sink. “Yes. The phenomenon of pseudo-Chediak-Higashi granules in acute leukaemia was first reported in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology in November 1974. Since then there have been around thirty similar reports from all round the world: Canada, India, Saudi Arabia, China, Sweden, Spain, most recently from the Sultanate of Oman.”

“No, not that one.” She was about to spoon tea from a packet labelled ‘Sainsbury’s Darjeeling’. He jumped up and bounded across the kitchen to the overhead cupboard from which he took a brown paper bag. “This is a special Darjeeling that Dr Chopra sends me. You remember Chopra? Or was he before your time?”

She spooned some of the dark tea leaves into the warmed pot. “Yes I remember Prakesh.” She poured the boiling water on the leaves and then closed the pot and surrounded it with the knitted tea cosy. “You know, of course, that the genetics of Chidiak-Higashi has been sorted out? It is due to a mutation in the lysosomal trafficking regulator gene known as LYST. Since the same gene is required for moving the pigment, melanin, around the kids are often albinos. They all have very poor immune systems and die young from infections, unless they have a bone marrow transplant.”

“LYST? I seem to have come across that before.” He opened a drawer of the dresser and began sorting through neatly stacked exercise books. He opened the one labeled with a large ‘L’ and flicked through the pages. “LYST”, he read,”thought to be affected in some cases of white tiger and white killer whale.”

“I see you still write things down.”

“I am afraid I am afflicted with this atrocious memory. I remember bits of things, but never the whole story. Unless I write things down, it all come out in a jumble. Dorothy is very good at filing things for me. I imagine that the same gene is not involved in the ‘pseudo’ cases?”

She winced at his memory lapse. During her own bereavement she had found herself talking of Graham as if he were still alive. “No, the gene is not involved. In fact, a whole host of different genetic abnormalities have been associated with the leukaemias. I am afraid that we are being distracted by the science. The most important fact is that we have two missing persons and we don’t know why.”


Pat Spiller said...

Frankly, Dr. Hamblin, I am enjoying your 'serialized' story a whole lot more than the current book in my book group (Gideon by Marilyn Robinson). I always like to say that the value in joining book groups is discovering lovely books that one might not -- probably does not -- choose for oneself. Gideon is not living up to my past experiences. I do, however, really enjoy the prof and the young doc and await the fulfillment of the mystery that is just emerging.....

Terry Hamblin said...

What ages do you think my characters are? I think he must be 75 and she 45.