Part 20

In that sleepless, dizzying state, we waited to hear what came next. The man seemed very calm, though his breathing grew rushed, the tripping of his pulse almost heard above the night jungle.

He licked his lips. It was she and that man. They came to me with Heléne weeks ago, wanting to know about the neighbouring tribes, if any anthropologists and the like had reported conflicts with the farmers from further east pushing in and up the rivers and hills. I introduced them to a local guide and they did not stay long. I did not mind the company, but something about the pair seemed too over-eager for my liking, that boy, that look of his, too hungry.

However, he continued, however, several days later, after an expedition to find more materials, cuttings and the like, I returned to find this place ransacked. I had discussed with the young Melanie some of my work, though some of it was lost on her laity. They must have searched specifically for my results. They only took the one set of memory cards and the loose printouts I kept for rough notes. The sum total of my last few months, my absolute breakthrough!

Here Lena leaned over and touched his forearm. Why didn’t you tell anyone? Why didn’t you come back immédiatement?

I could see Três trying just as hard as I to keep up. The closeness of the space, the cloyed, nutty smell in the air and the flickering of the suspended work lights fused together.

You know why, ma cherie. None of them believe in what I’m trying to do. I thought even you paid me lip service. But you didn’t inquire on your last visit. You didn’t know how close I was! I found it, Lena. I found the compound I was looking for. There needs to be testing and development, but oh by all those that have come before and failed, I think I did it.

She leaned back, slowly. Took off her hat and held it shield-like as she fanned at her face.

Did what? I asked, my tone a bit more than pointed.

I’m a botanist originally, but I’ve also been looking into pathogenesis, delivery vectors, unusual compounds, treatments, effects on the cellular level. I’ve taken preliminary trials to halt effects and mutations in various specimens out in the lab. But they took the main body of my reportings. Or one of them did. They have to know it’s still highly experimental, but if corroborated, the value, the value of the thing…

Doctor. Please. Graham sighed. What research did they take?

The man stared at the corner where his journals lay, imagining the long gone stack of material.

Lena breathed out, mumbling some soft, surprised thing.

My work with the carcinomas, the doctor said. I’m sure I found it. A viable cure for cancer.