This i s chapter two of "The Chiasmus Cipher" Let me know if you want to read more at patgunny@gmail. com If you haven't read chapter one or the prologue....those have been posted in previous blogs, search for them in the side panel under previous months. Sorry I haven't figured out yet how to list all blog titles. But just click on a month and the various month titles will come up. If you like Chiasmus Cipher, you may enjoy some of the other stories about hospitals, nurses, and the dogs in our family. Happy Reading to You All....pat writergrams.blogspot.com
0515, Tuesday June 11,
300 N. 42 W. Young’s Farm
It was a little after 5:15 a.m. and still dark when Talon slid into his well-worn brown sedan parked alongside Tory’s truck. He saw a sliver of yellow light appear and then widen on the gravel driveway. He paused and watched a tall silhouette exit the side door of the house at the front of the property. The man was herding two complaining teenagers who acted half asleep. The bigger of the two had a piece of toast in his hand and his unbuttoned shirt flapped. Talon smiled when he heard the protestations.
“Dad, you don’t need both of us to tend the cows, this is the first week of vacation and I wanted to sleep in. Can’t Jake and I take turns helping you with the stock? And besides, how come the girls never help?”
“The girls have plenty to do with the chickens and helping Mom in the house. Just because school is out doesn’t mean the cows don’t need to be milked and fed. The more people doing the work, the quicker you can get on to other things, you know that!” The man looked across the yard at Talon with a puzzled look on his face.
Talon remembered back to his days of getting up early to help his Pop on the reservation and wondered if he would ever again have the luxury of sleeping in. If he got into med school he knew that sleep would be at a premium, but then he was used to running on empty and getting up before dawn. He cranked over the engine and let the cold car run for a minute while he watched the family open the gate leading to the large field. The old friendly cow was already there waiting for the familiar head rub readily given by the younger boy.
Talon pulled out onto the dark street and figured he would have time to drive back to his duplex and get a quick shower before he had to get to the clinic. He worked as a medical assistant on weekends and Friday nights for the last two years at ASU when he didn’t have track meets. He was soon lost in thought about what may have been the real reason Tory’s place was ransacked but came back to the present abruptly when he saw the traffic signs warning to slow for the upcoming town.
The 25 mile per hour was a joke for town folk, but if you had an out of state license plate and drove a few miles above the limit you were sure to get a speeding ticket—plus a warning from local authorities not to waste natural resources. There were plenty of times growing up that Talon and his friends had been weaving back and forth on an empty road late at night, obviously drunk, or too tired to be driving. If they were spotted and stopped by the Sheriff they were just given a warning. Talon never drove because they all knew if he was at the wheel he would have gotten a ticket, but most of his friends from school were descendants of the white settlers in the area, and were off limits to getting petty tickets. But, everyone knew if an Indian was behind the wheel—well that was another story. The politically correct ACLU protection against discrimination he experienced at the university did not penetrate the mentality of the small town, and he knew if you even remotely looked native there was no mercy.
0600, Tuesday June 11,
Medical Services Housing
His car crunched into the wide carport he shared with the three others living in the low roofed prefab building. He quietly closed the car door after he got out since his parking spot was right next to the window where Jenny, the nurse practitioner, slept. The State Department of Health rented this duplex year round and those on assignment got a free room along with the job. The doctor had been there for almost three and a half years and had eighteen more months to go in order to work off his medical-school government loans. Talon shared one of the apartments with the Doc and his bird, Cujo. The other side of the duplex was used by the two nurses, one was a registered nurse and the other was the nurse practitioner. They were friends and had signed up together to work at the clinic for lucrative one-year contracts.
Talon applied to work to at the clinic over the summer when he saw the job advertised. The clinic was only an hour from the reservation and the pay looked good. He knew he got the position because he could speak Paiute, and some Navajo dialects. The clinic was mostly frequented by natives who lived on nearby tribal lands.
The shower was hot and quick and Talon was in his scrubs before Dr. Bob came out of his room. One thing was good—he didn’t have to share a bedroom or a bathroom. He had never even stepped a foot beyond Bob’s door, and that suited him just fine. So far, it seemed they made good roommates; both loved sports, and didn’t talk much. The clutter and strange smells coming from the refrigerator didn’t bother either one of them. Talon soon found out he needed to be suspicious of everything and anything if you were planning to eat it. Talon was used to clutter and strong odors from living with five guys from the track team for three years and living with Bob after that was almost antiseptic,
“I didn’t hear you get home last night”, Bob probed.
“Didn’t,” Talon grunted.
Bob thought better than to pursue the question and Talon didn’t offer anything. Talon looked over at the Doc and noticed he had a funny grin on his face.
Talon had been on the job a month and since the Doc didn’t ask much, and he didn’t offer much, they shared the rooms somewhat like strangers. Talon read all the time, asked about medical school at UCLA, but the only time they shared anything was when they watched baseball games together with Bob hooting and rooting for the Dodgers and Talon remaining stoic.
Talon was almost to the front door and leaving when the Doc chimed in with an unusually large amount of information.
“I don’t have any patients until this afternoon. Jenny has all the baby exams this morning and I gotta get some shopping and laundry done. I spent most of my free time last week on the Internet with Stacy so my family thinks I’ve dropped off the planet. I’d better send off a lengthy e-mail or my mom will show up for a visit, and you don’t want that to happen, trust me… see ya later Dude.”
Talon went to the table by the front door to retrieve the keys to the clinic. He turned with surprised at the Doctors’ excess of words, then shrugged, “Yeah man, and when you’re at the store, get some cereal and milk. You ate all the crunchy puffs I bought a few days ago.” He remembered the granola with wheat germ he had to eat the other day then added, “And none of that high fiber junk! It tastes like wood chips. You California guys are all tree huggers.”
Talon grabbed his stethoscope hanging on the front doorknob and was out the door, letting it slam behind him. The bang of the door got Cujo squawking away. The bird was so loud when he started up Talon swore it was going to bust his eardrums. The large green nanday conure had a cutlery-sharp curved yellow beak and survived on nachos and beer.
“No wonder it’s always noisy and out of sorts, but maybe the commotion from the green devil will get Jenny and her friend moving. When the girls are late, everyone ends up behind all day and I’m the one who ends up with no lunch,” Talon griped.
Once outside, Talon knew it was the kind of morning he liked, magenta dawn sky, clear and crisp with the smell of cut hay. He was glad he could walk to work and get some of the cobwebs from his head. He realized he was going through the motions since he got here, just waiting to see about his exams. He felt there was nothing in his humdrum life to make it exciting and was looking forward to medical school somewhere, anywhere, to improve his dull life. Right now he felt stuck in first gear—or the mud.
“Maybe getting into a good school will get me excited about something again.” In the back of his mind trying to get out, “Maybe someone just walked in the door…or called… to make life exciting.” He pushed the thought away, like always.
All the employees who lived in the medical services housing walked to the clinic. It was only a few long country blocks over to Main Street between the post office and the small grocery store. Talon went in the back entrance, turned on the lights, checked the answering machine for messages, put on coffee, and pulled the charts for the day’s patients. It was almost 8 a.m. when he unlocked the front door and saw a squaw wrapped in a blanket sitting on the sidewalk near the door. She stood up, and he saw that she held a tiny baby with dark eyes and wild ebony hair. She immediately bowed her head and muttered in Navajo,
“Can I come in Doctor?”
“I’m not the doctor, just the medical assistant. The nurse practitioner will be here in a few minutes, but you can come into the waiting room and sit,” Talon answered in his rough Navajo.
He had been working at the clinic long enough to know the simple routine. The hardest thing was convincing the patients he was not the doctor and that Jenny, the nurse practitioner, along with Dr. Bob were the ones in charge. He knew it didn’t bother Jenny that the patients always came to him with questions, but he was not sure whether or not it bothered Bob. Talon thought he probably didn’t care and was preoccupied with getting his obligation completed and back to the city and his girlfriend. Talon was surprised when he saw a picture of the Doc’s girl. She was taller than him, athletic, and stacked. He remembered from school, those girls usually went for the jocks, not the pudgy, bookish guys with thick glasses like Dr. Bob.
“Who knew these days, what went with what, or who goes with who?”
The three exam rooms were occupied, the intake of the patients’ vital signs were done and the assessments were in the charts before Jenny came through the back door. Most of the babies needed immunizations, so the place quickly sounded like a torture factory. He tried to have the moms hold the babies on their shoulder when he pushed the needles into their chubby buttery thighs so they wouldn’t know where the pain came from. He hoped the next time they came to the clinic, the kids wouldn’t associate the shots with him and start wailing. He hated having them cry just because he walked in the room. A few of the patients had colds and one had asthma so he gave a breathing treatment. Most of the morning appointments were uneventful and gave him a chance to practice listening to lungs and hearts—trying to absorb some information for future reference. Before he knew it, he was on his way next door to the grocery store to get something for his lunch break since he didn’t have time to make the stop before the clinic opened. At the check out counter the cell phone in his shirt pocket rang.
“Yup,” answered Talon, then recognizing his father’s voice, he said, “Oh, Hi Pop, I was going to call you later, anything happening?” He walked out onto the street and around the corner to the alley behind the store, then leaned on the wall beside the back door to the clinic.
“Can you come to the res. this weekend? There’ve been problems with townies coming out here. You know the typical, digging at the knolls and over on Elephant Foot Mesa looking for petrified wood and riding their ATV’s, breaking down fences. We lost some cattle, and I need help rounding them up before we find them stuck in the mud or dead from broken legs like last month,” his dad responded.
“I can come out Friday afternoon? Saturday I’m going hiking with a friend from the track team. I can be there by1:30. We don’t have any patients in the afternoon. The doctor is meeting with the county social workers so I’m off the hook.”
“Okay, see you then. I’ll have a few men ready to go with us and look for the cattle. I figure they must be on the homestead land to the south, or over the main road to cane beds. Umm, boy, have you been working on the legend? I’ve been meditating on the solution every night and so far haven’t had any ideas. Which way to go, where to look, or even if this is the right time to look.”
“I don’t know Pop; I’m probably the last person to solve a mystery, but the friend I’m hiking with is really smart with solving puzzles and could always come up with a winning strategy in our statistics study group. I’ve already kind of asked her to help.”
“Her, huh…just who is this, her?
“Never mind Pop, trust me, I’ll see you Friday afternoon and maybe then I’ll tell.”
Talon quickly went through the back door into the staff room with two cokes, chips and a ready made spam and mayonnaise on wonder bread sandwich for lunch.
2245, Tuesday June 11,
Eddie Nguen pulled into the parking lot of Alpha-Sigma Botanical Research and Pharmaceutical late in the afternoon. He was tired and had a three day beard, which on him looked like a one day shadow. Using his key card to enter through the back security door, he made his way through the maze of halls to his office which was adjacent to the office of his buddy Chance Bertram. They had been friends since they were at the University of San Diego. He met Chance in molecular biology class at the University and became good friends after they both joined the pharmacy fraternity, Alpha Zeta Omega.
He dumped his base-jump-pack in the corner, went to sit at his desk and checked his e-mail. He had only checked the first few messages when he picked up the phone and pushed interoffice communication to get Chance.
“I’m baaack…get over here.”
Chance sighed and wearily pushed his 200 pounds of toned muscle out of the chair. At six-feet tall, he was a bit over the limits of healthy body fat but didn’t care much. His only pleasure these days, since his wife had left him, was his love of gourmet food and hitting the gym. He hoped that heavy workouts would counter the cholesterol he consumed. When he got to Eddie’s office he immediately went to the large comfortable chair in the corner and pulled it over to the desk, rejecting the little uncomfortable visitors’ chair across from Eddie. Stretching out his legs, he slipped off his loafers and dorsiflexed his feet toward his knees to get rid of the cramps in his calves. His toes snapped like dry twigs.
“Ech, you’re the only guy I know who can crack his toes individually.” Eddie said disgustedly.
Chance ignored the jibe, “Okay. Tell me. I know I got bits and pieces over the phone during your, Achemm,” he cleared his throat, “commute.”
“I don’t think there’s anything else I can say. I put out the crumbs for our Gretel to follow, and then waited up there to make sure she took the bait, followed the trail and found the samples I left in the pond. But you already know, she ‘somehow’ heard me breathe and rather than make small talk about why I was up there before the season, I got her to chase me to the edge of the cliff.” He leaned forward for emphasis, “I actually hoped she would bail off the ridge after me, and then we’d be rid of her.”
“Oh, that’s great thinking,” Chance was getting edgy, “We need her to find the substance decoy and make sure the department is going in the wrong direction, not get the whole forestry department up there investigating an accident. Sometimes I think you just don’t think! It’s a good thing I was able to find out the survey schedule of the national monuments so we can keep ahead of the survey teams and keep them away from our research plot.”
Eddie chimed in, “Yeah, and I’m not worried about the other contracts. All the other ones who got the bids are old guys who will get up to their sites, have blinders on, and won’t notice anything but what the department wants, or do the survey from the comfort of their lounge chair. By the way, after I went through the records in her apartment and went to the Forestry office to see if she had any other data.
“Better not have left finger prints.”
“I’m not that stupid, I had on gloves. At the office, there was a fax from NASA but I never had a chance to look at it. I thought she might come back and wanted to get out of there. Good thing they don’t have any security in that office. I didn’t see any surveillance and getting in the door was easy.”
As he spoke, he went back over to his brief case and pulled out the pilfered paper.
Looking at the fax Eddie exclaimed, “Damn, wish I’d checked this before I took it. This could’ve helped us if I’d left it there. Crap, didn’t have time to look and see what it was, only that it came from her boss at the Modesto Ames Research Center. I thought maybe they’d found our plots using the satellite heat detectors or wanted her to look for those toads she’s researching up at pink cliffs and taking this would stall her from poking around.”
“Let me see that!” Chance grabbed the paper. “You’re right, this looks like it would’ve been another confusing lead and got her running off to nowhere. Look at this, those guys at the research center want her to investigate toad habitat, and that would have kept her away from our plants.”
“Sorry man, I was in a hurry, worried about cops, I’d be no good to you in jail and I still think we could’ve grown them in controlled conditions, but no matter how hard I’ve tried, I can’t get anything to germinate in the lab.” Eddie, continued, “When I was doing my mycology thesis on poisonous mushrooms in Cambodia I saw European scientists were way ahead of the U.S. in mushroom cultivation. But even they haven’t been able to get certain species to grow except at natural sites near the Province of Itdar.”
Chance shrugged, “Well, I thought we had an isolated test site and couldn’t believe it when my aunt told me there were contracts going out on all the Utah monuments after we’d already planted the test plots.”
“I worry some hotshot like our research chick will find our little farm.”
“I’m still not sure we can keep up our operation going without anyone catching on. Last summer when we salted the area, I was more concerned about the NASA satellite picking up our activity. The canopy of those dead trees and the shrubs they’re under should shield the plants, but if the new growth changes the atmosphere composition or the ozone, the eye in the sky will detect them.”
Eddie scratched a red raw spot on his left calf that seemed to be creeping up to his knee. “Yeah, this is becoming a big pain, more trouble than I first thought when your Aunt Julie suggested that…Ha! Remote growing area.
“But you know with all the spruce forests being stripped by that stupid bark beetle, trying to hide anything local is useless.”
“Don’t tell me, the marijuana farmers are having a hard time concealing their operations from the satellites because the new digital cameras have much better resolution and I can’t get my weed anymore. I swear from what I heard the other day, the satellite cameras can see a pimple on a bug.”
Chance just groaned, and let Eddie rattle on to get out his frustration
Eddie continued not paying any attention to Chance, “But we’re in this too far now. Anyway, I took the fire road access running along the gorge below the cliff drop-off where I landed after my jump and found a spot that looks like there’s quick access up the east side cliff face. We’ll have to climb up on ropes in a few areas, but if we put in anchors and drop some heavy lines after the first time up, it will speed the way up to under thirty minutes instead of one and a half hours from the front off the main road.
“I better start working out more. I haven’t used my climbing gear in a while. At least the soil conditions up there are right for those fungi to really take off. And if we can verify the nematode growth on the mushroom stalks stop cell division of cancer mutations along the nervous system, we may be able to get the jump on all the other pharmacology companies looking at synthetic combinations.”
“I knew from all the success Cambodian village shamans were having with natural compounds it was possible, and with a little persistence on our part, I know we’ll hit the right mix. And you know, natural compounds always sell better than synthetics.”
Eddie smiled remembering the look on the researcher’s face when he glided to the gorge bottom.
“Damn what is this,” he leaned over to look at the rash on his leg. “I do think I have that girl messed up. At least she didn’t get anywhere close to where we have the fungi concealed, and I got the chemicals dumped to put her off the trail, she’ll find it eventually. And, don’t worry. NASA will send her another fax about the toads when she doesn’t get back to them. All that should keep her busy.” He continued with his tirade, “Maybe by then we can get some permits for legal research growth going. It’s irritating all the hippie environmentalists got Clinton to sign the monument bill and put the best fertile land off limits. It’ll be tougher than ever to get permission even if we’re onto something that can save lives.”
Chance was looking absently out the window, and Eddie brought him back to the issue,
“Ah, Chance, I really need to get into the lab and work on separating the nematodes from the spores, or no matter what we do the toxic effects of the splice with the trigger plants will negate any substance as unusable.”
He leaned over to look at his leg once again. The area was starting to bleed from all his scratching and sanguineous brown ooze ran down into his sock. Reaching over, he got a tissue out of the top drawer and put pressure on the area.
“Man, this itches. I hope I didn’t get poison oak or something. Naw, I think it’s too early in the season for that. Maybe it’s a tick. I was on a deer trail and they carry all sorts of bugs. I sure don’t want to go back there in a hurry, but we’ll need to get more samples in a few weeks. It’s your turn, next time big boy! Not having an airport near by has made this whole cultivation thing too time consuming. It’s not like we have a window box full of plants we can check on every day. At minimum, it’s a three day deal to travel all the way up there.”
Chance remarked offhandedly, “We should make Sutton come and take a bit of the heat. So far he only stays in the lab, messes with the numbers and leaves the field cultivation to us. If we’re splitting any profit from selling the process three ways, he needs to put in more of the grunt work.”
“Where is he anyway? We really need to get a growth site closer to our lab and some better equipment,” Eddie continued complaining.
“Yeah, yeah, I know. At the time it was the closest land growth area with the correct acidic content where we could guarantee secure access. Anyway, right now you better quit scratching that leg and get to a clinic or at least put some antibiotic on it. You know, I’ll tell you this. If I’m going up there, I’m wearing two layers. That sore looks nasty. Take care of it tonight and tomorrow you, Billy and I can spend all afternoon in the lab with the fresh samples you brought. Besides, you look like you could use some sleep. Give me the samples you brought back, I’ll take care of them.” Chance took the bag of mushrooms off Eddie’s desk, got up and was out the door before he could protest.
Eddie’s head was pounding by the time he got back to his apartment. He left the lights off as he got ready for bed because light seemed to make his head pound more. In the dark, he did not see the redness had crept up his leg over his thigh and was on its way up to his groin. His ankle was starting to swell and his foot was a cyanotic purplish blue, the swelling was cutting off the circulation. The open wound was hot and itched like mad. In the dark, he felt around and covered it with the cream he got from the grocery store and a cold wash cloth. Then he took three Tylenol #3 from a bottle of old pain killers and fell into a fitful sleep.
Under the skin of his leg, the toxin was rapidly breaking down muscle and bone, turning it to a thick bloody liquid. First the anesthetic properties of the compound began to invade and numbed all sensation of pain. Then the deathly poison pumped out like an open faucet from the botanical mixture of spores, toxins and nematodes. It traveled along speeding toward the neurons of his spinal cord. It swiftly started devouring his lower extremities, first the calf muscles and bones, then moved up to his thighs, hungrily eating away, and Eddie was the main course. But he slept on and didn’t feel the viscous fluid made from his own flesh as it pooled under him in the bed.