Part 21

C’est très improbable! Heléne cried.

That’s bullshit, Graham said, straight-faced.

There’s more than one type of cancer, how- I started.

Três shut her eyes, opened them, several times, checking to see how real this world was, no doubt.

As Manocarci settled back down into his chair, he nodded, putting his hands up, his hat sloped back on its precarious perch. I know, I know, he said.

How can you cure it? Três asked. It’s so complicated.

Wasn’t there a movie about this? Are you seriously engaging in Hollywood crap? Said Graham.

There’s more than one type of cancer, I said, leaning over, rubbing at my temples.

Yes, I have had all of these thoughts, said the doctor. That is precisely why I didn’t tell anyone. The theft occurred maybe a week ago. I had to be sure. I was trying to salvage the rest of what I had before running back down to the gentry, so I wouldn’t look a complete nutter.

Graham looked ready to call him worse. Lena got up and looked over to what I assumed was the pantry. I brought a flask of vin rouge, it is warm and terrible, but we should have a drink, she said.

Ave Maria, said Três.

Did Jennings know about this? I asked. Did anyone besides Lena? Any of your other colleagues? And then as it dawned on me, I added : Or did they know, but don’t care? Because they think you are a fool or worse…

The big man cleared his throat, shifted in the loose wicker chair. I assure you, there would be no point to telling anyone if I wasn’t certain, at least under these conditions, that yes, malignant growths were stopped and in some cases reduced, after a series of treatments. Yes, Jennings and a few other associates knew. They knew a year and a half ago when I said that we could do this, if we probed what the rainforest had to offer. Yes, they all left, for their own reasons. But!

He half stood as the wine came back with Lena, in little clay cups. The fact of the matter is that whoever this woman is, truly, she and her accomplice have taken a very valuable work, and though I can recover some of it, I won’t be able to recreate every step, every nuance, without that data. I have some notes, yes, but nothing complete.

The rest of us sat, hands full of undrank wine, the squealing and thrumming of bats and life coming from outside.

So this is a dead end, then. Graham eased back and ran a hand over his pack, considering.

I started up. There will be some trace of where they went or what they were up to. They didn’t come back by the camp, obviously. But if this is true, then they will want to get to a city where they can try to verify this thing, and possibly sell it, if they’re desperate enough. From what Ava’s family told me, and from what I’ve learned lately, I’m not sure which way that is.

Goodness, this is try and almost palatable, said Manocarci.

Três looked around and yawned. We are all very tired, she said. And if this data is what you say, you can pay someone a fraction of what it’s worth to get it back. I’m going to lie down.

We all watched as she found a corner and did so. Lena spoke. She is right, we cannot leave until the morning anyway. We must verify this thing. I knew that bastard man would come to no good.

Graham looked at me and said, Well kid, it’s your show. We can stay here tonight and maybe the good doctors will find a way to help us on our mission.

I was already gone. Lost in thought, at what Três said, at the very idea of what this could mean, if the research proved true.