Chapter 2: PANDOLF

CHAPTER 2: PANDOLF

April 2025

Pandolf Medical Center, California

Garcia jerked his head out from under the printer and turned toward the sound of running footsteps. 

“Dr. Garcia! Are you OK?.”

“Oh, hi Shelly.”

Relieved, he exhaled and sat up.

Shame, he thought, that so many doctors did time in a lab.

Shelly often slowed him down, interrupting a complicated algorithm or a time-sensitive experiment. Having lost his stream of thought, he stared at the screen and murmured brief responses until she returned to her goggles and pipette. 

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Just checking patterns!”

No, I’m deleting unauthorized experiments from the Drukker’s memory. 

He retrieved his glasses from the floor and stood up. “The company rep said it’ll be a while before they can finish our updates. I just started a minor patch.”

Leaving cables and tools still under the printer, he returned to his desk.

“Come, I want to show you something.”

He opened a case.

“For laser testing,” he said and moved a light cable over its refracting glass base. 

Across the room, the printer hummed. 

“Wait here,” he said and walked to the printer to confirm that the destruction of his files was complete.

“See these patterns…,” he told her, when he returned with a printout, the colorful kaleidoscope Drukker logo in 3D.

“I will go finish my experiment,” she interrupted him. “Sorry, we discussed it yesterday, remember?”

He wondered. How could she not be interested in chaos analysis?

“OK,” he said, “I’m leaving. Have a good evening.”

Halfway to her bench, she turned around.

“Where are you going, Dr. Garcia?” 

“Errands. Oh, I forgot.”

She looked expectant. 

“Shelly, have you organized the backup data drives?”

Her face turned stony. “Come look,” she said brusquely, now walking to a storage cabinet. “All lined up and labeled.

“Sorry I was late just now,” she said. “My schedules are crazy because I’m working on the Pandolf fundraiser with Dr. Nepski. We can go over my questions about my new project another time?” 

“What fundraiser?”

“Oh, Dr. Garcia, we had on our green armbands. There were posters and ads and announcements everywhere! See.” She pointed to a flyer on the wall.

He remembered waiting for people to show up for their lab meeting that morning. To get into the building, he plowed through a green-clad crowd starting a 5K run, cameras, banners, and the distant thud of music.

“Oh, yes, the Green Martian Microbe-athon,” he muttered.

“What’d you say?”

He shook his head.

“Shelly, you know what I think. Pandolf is part of this grand medical-academic-pharmaceutical-government system that feeds itself. 

“They don’t even pay taxes by being non-profits,” he muttered. “But you know how much our CEO was paid last year?” 

“I’ll be right back with the keys for the cabinet.”

At least the kids at the Dock enjoy my rants, he thought. They see me as an old ’60s type guy. They had passed on his idea, the vegan option, instead of leather for all the Drukker’s seat coverings in its operator chamber. 

He accepted Pandolf’s lab position after he found out that they were going to buy the Drukker. His personal research required its multidimensional modeling and big data analysis.

Now he would load an experiment file and sit at the control board, forgetting even to eat or drink. Over hours, data spewed onto his monitors as endless as the dust in the universe. As the composer, he needed the right tunes to turn noise into music.

An avatar lounged on one screen, “The Frog Den,” the nerve center of a make-believe galaxy. On the Toccata Touch keyboard, he clicked a “TEST” red dot that opened windows of theories and flashing algorithms. Pursuing them through dense woods of numbers and patterns, minutes and years, disease and disaster, he ordered the chaos of information in a patient’s file by biochemical motifs across an entire sequence of medical metamorphoses. 

Garcia had led the Pandolf team in setting up their first Drukker. Shared by many labs, different teams worked simultaneously on the powerful machine. But the scientists discovered that the greater the number of users at any time, the slower the processing of their experiments. 

After one team “accidentally” terminated Garcia’s experiment, perhaps to speed up theirs, Garcia now sat in the console for hours, vigilant for interruptions, while the computer worked on his projects. When he briefly left, it was for a bite from the vending machine or oatmeal in hot water mixed with dry milk from his research supplies. For a dash to the restroom, he threw his backpack, coat, and papers onto the seat to prevent anyone else from occupying it. 

Shelly now returned with a key. Without a word, she clanged open the steel cabinet door with its archives. 

“Shelly,” he said, “I’m sorry I just remembered that we were going to discuss your project. But I can’t right now because I must go. You know, about your fundraiser, do you really think that if a cure for cancer came along, these folks at Pandolf would be any better than the Romans with Jesus or the Church that almost burned Galileo on the stake? What would happen to their careers, money, buildings, the porphyry marble, their fountains…?”

He looked behind him. No hidden colleague had jumped into “his” machine.

Then he inhaled, bringing shoulder blades together, then arched his back like a cat and exhaled, raising arms. 

“All that sitting in the Drukker, hard on the body. I’m getting old, not young like you.

“P1456, P1457, Q2954, Q2955…,” he said, counting plastic cases. “Good job.

“Shelly, I have to go to the airport now to pick up my son. Let’s set up a time next week to go over your experiment, just text me?”

Now she smiled. “I didn’t know you had a son.” 

Embarrassed, he looked away. People saw he spent most of his time in the lab, and when he came to social events, he was alone. What did they think he was: divorced, single, gay, lone wolf…?

“Yes,” he said, “my wife’s name was Pia. She’s passed. Jorge is 15 now. He wants to be called George.

“Because my work situation wasn’t stable,” he continued, “George was living in Argentina, then France and now with my sister in Chicago.

“But now that my job is stable, he can move here with me.”

“I understand,” she said. “my original name was Sushila. But I go by Shelly. Maybe your son likes the name George because it makes him feel more at home in the United States, instead of …Jorge.”

 She mispronounced Jorge.

“My father’s an immigrant too,” she continued. “He sometimes reminisces about India. Like you, Papa did not come to the United States until he was an adult. He shortened his name when he moved to Texas so people could pronounce it. 

“Mom is from the States,” she went on.  “When we were growing up, my father worked very hard as a country doctor. It is a treat when he tells us stories about his childhood. Like when we sit around the dinner table. I remember once how he explained that the word for the color blue, in English, resonates sad and jazzy. But in Hindi, his native language, the same word makes one think of the bright blue of a peacock feather or a pretty woman’s sari.”

Unexpected, Pia’s young face drifted before him, her warm smile, kiss, embrace, and their son’s birth. He willed her away, her aura and the sadness that would follow. 

Distantly he heard Shelly say, “Or my dad said about pink. In American English, it is hot pink, cotton candy or a pop star’s lipstick. But in Hindi, it’s the color of desserts you share with your family or festive powder that you toss at friends in Holi, an Indian spring celebration. 

“I think he missed India a lot,” she said, “especially living in rural Texas. We go back for visits. He’s always very cheerful then, chattering with all his relatives in Hindi and revisiting all his old haunts.

“Have you been back to Argentina?” she asked.

Her soft monotone faded. Breaking the silence that followed, she said gently, “OK, fine, Dr. Garcia, you better not be late. I’ll text you a couple of times that we can meet.”

He hesitated. “I’m sorry I didn’t know there was a fundraiser. This morning, I thought we had a meeting, all us lab rats, foreign postdocs. I looked out the window and yes, I did see a bunch of people, runners, crowds, and lots of green masks. I thought it was some Irish celebration.”

“Dr. Garcia, that was us. I guess it would be more exciting to have your own lab?”

“Yes, but people like me have no futures in our own countries. Still, I am grateful, yes, for the best technology here.

“As for you, Shelly,’ he continued, “I think Dr. Nepski’s ideas are recycled, just new names for the old disease, toxemia. But you need to learn the changed terminology, eclampsia, gestational hypertension, XYZ? It will be on your endless tests.

“Youth should be about igniting a fire,” he said, looking directly at her, “about burning the old and creating the new. But you doctors memorize and regurgitate to pass marathon tests. So they bully you, keep you on our toes, not allowing you to stop long enough to wonder? Or to question? Just another generation of robots well-trained to work their machine: ‘never the captain of your soul or the master of your fate.'”

“My father likes that poem.”

“How deep in debt are you?” he asked, “more pressure to do what you are told.”

“Enough, Dr. Garcia, you’re depressing this Zombie MD.”

“Bye Shelly,” he said and walked out. Shadowed glass doors slid open into the dark corridor. His back bowed with the weight of the faded backpack. 

Walking quickly outside, he wondered how it was night already? He had just seen the blurred sun out of a lab window as it set over the tall buildings of the medical center.

His phone beeped that he was on schedule with that inscrutable god, Time, which had taken away his wife and morphed his sweet baby Jorge into a hairy adolescent named George.

He remembered Shelly’s project. They had discussed it over dinner at the Palatine.  After taking notes about her experiment, she put her phone away. 

Next, she rolled her fingertips on the table, back and forth, intensely looking at the scratches in the lower crescent of his glasses where the fine cracks formed a pattern. 

He removed the Drukker prototype glasses, wiped his eyes and smiled at her. Blurry now, she looked puzzled, perhaps wondering if she had been watching too many surgery videos.

She had the sharp eyes of a surgeon. Surgeons, originally butchers in the history of medicine, they see but don’t understand. He admired her. Training to perform operations, she had the self-discipline and attention to detail that her path required. She had stamina and even ran marathons. 

Working with delicate lab equipment beside him, Shelly’s long fingers had the dexterity that good surgeons possess. Why could he not recall the actual day they had dinner at the Palatine but remember so well the length of her fingers and how they moved?

Their eyes had met, hers a liquid brown with the candlelight flickering in their lucid centers. He reminded himself that he was her mentor, a duty that precluded romance — even if the god of love didn’t care about duty or trust. 

Anyway, he thought, any romantic spark within him was a distraction right now. The gap in their ages, pasts, and futures put a thick pane between them. 

Now a brisk wind rose to greet him from around the tall buildings of Pandolf Medical Center. A surprising number of people — for a Saturday night — roamed the sidewalk around the hospital complex. They strolled ahead or sat at restaurant tables or were shadows among the glows of cigarettes and phone screens between fountains, sculptures and trees. 

Many still wore masks, prepared for the next global pandemic and also carried guns after all the outbreaks of violence. As an alien, he could not conceal-carry in California.

He too had purchased a pistol eight years ago after Pia was diagnosed with cancer and took classes in its use. Voice weak with illness, back in Argentina, Pia pointed out that firearms ownership was “problematic” for their shared pacifist beliefs. 

“It’s for self-defense,” he reassured her as his range instructor advised. 

“Most people are a pestilence on our planet,” he then added.  “But don’t worry, you won’t see me in a crazy Internet crime story to sell advertising on their news.” 

Dark and grizzled, his driver’s license picture would be perfect to parade on their online streets — for hawking politics, chips and booze.

Leaving behind the chill of the spring air, Garcia entered one tall lighted building into the hospital’s main lobby. The floors were marble, and the fountain glittered many colors. The gift store beckoned through its glass walls. On its shelves, crystal dreamed, and porcelain gleamed, among silk flowers, stuffed animals, and a dazzling palette of face coverings on mannequin heads, many of them shades of green from the recent fundraiser. 

Medical fundraisers, he thought, were a feeding trough for the healthcare establishment — while since his excited arrival at the NIH nine years ago, all his own hopes, dreams and plans had dissolved, his wife had died from cancer and their only child was growing up with relatives.

If there are no medical breakthroughs, he badly wanted to tell Shelly, maybe it’s because public funding goes to crooks and cronies at palaces like Pandolf. Then there’s the media, telling sensational stories about so-called cures to sell their advertising.

Garcia opened his notepad. At Nepski lab meetings, Garcia often doodled in it — often his own ideas for research, embedded in Drukker patterns that he was working on. One page had a hospital campus map where he had marked his route.

Moving into more remote areas of the hospital building, he clipped his ID badge onto his jacket. His paper map, hand-drawn to bypass possible hackers, led him through endless corridors, on bridges over streets and past the last signs of a cafeteria, the Pediatric Emergency Room, the patient floors and further back into the oldest sections of the complex, dingy and under renovation.

Finally, he slipped past construction signs and carefully placed his laptop and drives into a scratched steel locker, one of several rows against a dingy wall. On its door, he pasted a browned name sticker (he had used a gas flame in the lab to darken it): “Dr. Arjun Jagdishwar Bhattacharya.” After he tore a corner off and scratched the label with a steel key, it looked as old as the others around it, just as faded by time.

He still had to drop off the map for Campbell, to guide him to this old doctors’ dorm to pick up the things. He tore the paper out of the pad, folded it, stuck it in his jean pocket — and felt his phone.

Oh God!

On the phone, several text messages from George were streaming: “Landed,” “OK waiting,” “Still waiting,”…”DAAA…AAD!!!”

Shelly had messaged him about times to meet. 

Garcia texted George to let him know he was OMW, on my way. Tomorrow morning, he would put away the tools and hide the map for Campbell.

Mist wetting his hair, he walked quickly to his car. The parking lot was set against dark woods that encircled part of the campus. Clouds hid the moon.

Hospital complexes leak opioids, he thought.

Pandolf really needs to clean up the gang activity near the campus. 

The sidewalk was deserted– until red and blue flashes glowed over his right shoulder. But he did not hear ambulance sirens.

He turned around. Someone grabbed his elbow. 

“ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Please come with me, Dr. Garcia.”



 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 2: PANDOLF

April 2025

Pandolf Medical Center, California

Garcia jerked his head out from under the printer and turned toward the sound of running footsteps. 

“Dr. Garcia! Are you OK?.”

“Oh, hi Shelly.”

Relieved, he exhaled and sat up.

Shame, he thought, that so many doctors did time in a lab.

Shelly often slowed him down, interrupting a complicated algorithm or a time-sensitive experiment. Having lost his stream of thought, he stared at the screen and murmured brief responses until she returned to her goggles and pipette. 

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Just checking patterns!”

No, I’m deleting unauthorized experiments from the Drukker’s memory. 

He retrieved his glasses from the floor and stood up. “The company rep said it’ll be a while before they can finish our updates. I just started a minor patch.”

Leaving cables and tools still under the printer, he returned to his desk.

“Come, I want to show you something.”

He opened a case.

“For laser testing,” he said and moved a light cable over its refracting glass base. 

Across the room, the printer hummed. 

“Wait here,” he said and walked to the printer to confirm that the destruction of his files was complete.

“See these patterns…,” he told her, when he returned with a printout, the colorful kaleidoscope Drukker logo in 3D.

“I will go finish my experiment,” she interrupted him. “Sorry, we discussed it yesterday, remember?”

He wondered. How could she not be interested in chaos analysis?

“OK,” he said, “I’m leaving. Have a good evening.”

Halfway to her bench, she turned around.

“Where are you going, Dr. Garcia?” 

“Errands. Oh, I forgot.”

She looked expectant. 

“Shelly, have you organized the backup data drives?”

Her face turned stony. “Come look,” she said brusquely, now walking to a storage cabinet. “All lined up and labeled.

“Sorry I was late just now,” she said. “My schedules are crazy because I’m working on the Pandolf fundraiser with Dr. Nepski. We can go over my questions about my new project another time?” 

“What fundraiser?”

“Oh, Dr. Garcia, we had on our green armbands. There were posters and ads and announcements everywhere! See.” She pointed to a flyer on the wall.

He remembered waiting for people to show up for their lab meeting that morning. To get into the building, he plowed through a green-clad crowd starting a 5K run, cameras, banners, and the distant thud of music.

“Oh, yes, the Green Martian Microbe-athon,” he muttered.

“What’d you say?”

He shook his head.

“Shelly, you know what I think. Pandolf is part of this grand medical-academic-pharmaceutical-government system that feeds itself. 

“They don’t even pay taxes by being non-profits,” he muttered. “But you know how much our CEO was paid last year?” 

“I’ll be right back with the keys for the cabinet.”

At least the kids at the Dock enjoy my rants, he thought. They see me as an old ’60s type guy. They had passed on his idea, the vegan option, instead of leather for all the Drukker’s seat coverings in its operator chamber. 

He accepted Pandolf’s lab position after he found out that they were going to buy the Drukker. His personal research required its multidimensional modeling and big data analysis.

Now he would load an experiment file and sit at the control board, forgetting even to eat or drink. Over hours, data spewed onto his monitors as endless as the dust in the universe. As the composer, he needed the right tunes to turn noise into music.

An avatar lounged on one screen, “The Frog Den,” the nerve center of a make-believe galaxy. On the Toccata Touch keyboard, he clicked a “TEST” red dot that opened windows of theories and flashing algorithms. Pursuing them through dense woods of numbers and patterns, minutes and years, disease and disaster, he ordered the chaos of information in a patient’s file by biochemical motifs across an entire sequence of medical metamorphoses. 

Garcia had led the Pandolf team in setting up their first Drukker. Shared by many labs, different teams worked simultaneously on the powerful machine. But the scientists discovered that the greater the number of users at any time, the slower the processing of their experiments. 

After one team “accidentally” terminated Garcia’s experiment, perhaps to speed up theirs, Garcia now sat in the console for hours, vigilant for interruptions, while the computer worked on his projects. When he briefly left, it was for a bite from the vending machine or oatmeal in hot water mixed with dry milk from his research supplies. For a dash to the restroom, he threw his backpack, coat, and papers onto the seat to prevent anyone else from occupying it. 

Shelly now returned with a key. Without a word, she clanged open the steel cabinet door with its archives. 

“Shelly,” he said, “I’m sorry I just remembered that we were going to discuss your project. But I can’t right now because I must go. You know, about your fundraiser, do you really think that if a cure for cancer came along, these folks at Pandolf would be any better than the Romans with Jesus or the Church that almost burned Galileo on the stake? What would happen to their careers, money, buildings, the porphyry marble, their fountains…?”

He looked behind him. No hidden colleague had jumped into “his” machine.

Then he inhaled, bringing shoulder blades together, then arched his back like a cat and exhaled, raising arms. 

“All that sitting in the Drukker, hard on the body. I’m getting old, not young like you.

“P1456, P1457, Q2954, Q2955…,” he said, counting plastic cases. “Good job.

“Shelly, I have to go to the airport now to pick up my son. Let’s set up a time next week to go over your experiment, just text me?”

Now she smiled. “I didn’t know you had a son.” 

Embarrassed, he looked away. People saw he spent most of his time in the lab, and when he came to social events, he was alone. What did they think he was: divorced, single, gay, lone wolf…?

“Yes,” he said, “my wife’s name was Pia. She’s passed. Jorge is 15 now. He wants to be called George.

“Because my work situation wasn’t stable,” he continued, “George was living in Argentina, then France and now with my sister in Chicago.

“But now that my job is stable, he can move here with me.”

“I understand,” she said. “my original name was Sushila. But I go by Shelly. Maybe your son likes the name George because it makes him feel more at home in the United States, instead of …Jorge.”

 She mispronounced Jorge.

“My father’s an immigrant too,” she continued. “He sometimes reminisces about India. Like you, Papa did not come to the United States until he was an adult. He shortened his name when he moved to Texas so people could pronounce it. 

“Mom is from the States,” she went on.  “When we were growing up, my father worked very hard as a country doctor. It is a treat when he tells us stories about his childhood. Like when we sit around the dinner table. I remember once how he explained that the word for the color blue, in English, resonates sad and jazzy. But in Hindi, his native language, the same word makes one think of the bright blue of a peacock feather or a pretty woman’s sari.”

Unexpected, Pia’s young face drifted before him, her warm smile, kiss, embrace, and their son’s birth. He willed her away, her aura and the sadness that would follow. 

Distantly he heard Shelly say, “Or my dad said about pink. In American English, it is hot pink, cotton candy or a pop star’s lipstick. But in Hindi, it’s the color of desserts you share with your family or festive powder that you toss at friends in Holi, an Indian spring celebration. 

“I think he missed India a lot,” she said, “especially living in rural Texas. We go back for visits. He’s always very cheerful then, chattering with all his relatives in Hindi and revisiting all his old haunts.

“Have you been back to Argentina?” she asked.

Her soft monotone faded. Breaking the silence that followed, she said gently, “OK, fine, Dr. Garcia, you better not be late. I’ll text you a couple of times that we can meet.”

He hesitated. “I’m sorry I didn’t know there was a fundraiser. This morning, I thought we had a meeting, all us lab rats, foreign postdocs. I looked out the window and yes, I did see a bunch of people, runners, crowds, and lots of green masks. I thought it was some Irish celebration.”

“Dr. Garcia, that was us. I guess it would be more exciting to have your own lab?”

“Yes, but people like me have no futures in our own countries. Still, I am grateful, yes, for the best technology here.

“As for you, Shelly,’ he continued, “I think Dr. Nepski’s ideas are recycled, just new names for the old disease, toxemia. But you need to learn the changed terminology, eclampsia, gestational hypertension, XYZ? It will be on your endless tests.

“Youth should be about igniting a fire,” he said, looking directly at her, “about burning the old and creating the new. But you doctors memorize and regurgitate to pass marathon tests. So they bully you, keep you on our toes, not allowing you to stop long enough to wonder? Or to question? Just another generation of robots well-trained to work their machine: ‘never the captain of your soul or the master of your fate.'”

“My father likes that poem.”

“How deep in debt are you?” he asked, “more pressure to do what you are told.”

“Enough, Dr. Garcia, you’re depressing this Zombie MD.”

“Bye Shelly,” he said and walked out. Shadowed glass doors slid open into the dark corridor. His back bowed with the weight of the faded backpack. 

Walking quickly outside, he wondered how it was night already? He had just seen the blurred sun out of a lab window as it set over the tall buildings of the medical center.

His phone beeped that he was on schedule with that inscrutable god, Time, which had taken away his wife and morphed his sweet baby Jorge into a hairy adolescent named George.

He remembered Shelly’s project. They had discussed it over dinner at the Palatine.  After taking notes about her experiment, she put her phone away. 

Next, she rolled her fingertips on the table, back and forth, intensely looking at the scratches in the lower crescent of his glasses where the fine cracks formed a pattern. 

He removed the Drukker prototype glasses, wiped his eyes and smiled at her. Blurry now, she looked puzzled, perhaps wondering if she had been watching too many surgery videos.

She had the sharp eyes of a surgeon. Surgeons, originally butchers in the history of medicine, they see but don’t understand. He admired her. Training to perform operations, she had the self-discipline and attention to detail that her path required. She had stamina and even ran marathons. 

Working with delicate lab equipment beside him, Shelly’s long fingers had the dexterity that good surgeons possess. Why could he not recall the actual day they had dinner at the Palatine but remember so well the length of her fingers and how they moved?

Their eyes had met, hers a liquid brown with the candlelight flickering in their lucid centers. He reminded himself that he was her mentor, a duty that precluded romance — even if the god of love didn’t care about duty or trust. 

Anyway, he thought, any romantic spark within him was a distraction right now. The gap in their ages, pasts, and futures put a thick pane between them. 

Now a brisk wind rose to greet him from around the tall buildings of Pandolf Medical Center. A surprising number of people — for a Saturday night — roamed the sidewalk around the hospital complex. They strolled ahead or sat at restaurant tables or were shadows among the glows of cigarettes and phone screens between fountains, sculptures and trees. 

Many still wore masks, prepared for the next global pandemic and also carried guns after all the outbreaks of violence. As an alien, he could not conceal-carry in California.

He too had purchased a pistol eight years ago after Pia was diagnosed with cancer and took classes in its use. Voice weak with illness, back in Argentina, Pia pointed out that firearms ownership was “problematic” for their shared pacifist beliefs. 

“It’s for self-defense,” he reassured her as his range instructor advised. 

“Most people are a pestilence on our planet,” he then added.  “But don’t worry, you won’t see me in a crazy Internet crime story to sell advertising on their news.” 

Dark and grizzled, his driver’s license picture would be perfect to parade on their online streets — for hawking politics, chips and booze.

Leaving behind the chill of the spring air, Garcia entered one tall lighted building into the hospital’s main lobby. The floors were marble, and the fountain glittered many colors. The gift store beckoned through its glass walls. On its shelves, crystal dreamed, and porcelain gleamed, among silk flowers, stuffed animals, and a dazzling palette of face coverings on mannequin heads, many of them shades of green from the recent fundraiser. 

Medical fundraisers, he thought, were a feeding trough for the healthcare establishment — while since his excited arrival at the NIH nine years ago, all his own hopes, dreams and plans had dissolved, his wife had died from cancer and their only child was growing up with relatives.

If there are no medical breakthroughs, he badly wanted to tell Shelly, maybe it’s because public funding goes to crooks and cronies at palaces like Pandolf. Then there’s the media, telling sensational stories about so-called cures to sell their advertising.

Garcia opened his notepad. At Nepski lab meetings, Garcia often doodled in it — often his own ideas for research, embedded in Drukker patterns that he was working on. One page had a hospital campus map where he had marked his route.

Moving into more remote areas of the hospital building, he clipped his ID badge onto his jacket. His paper map, hand-drawn to bypass possible hackers, led him through endless corridors, on bridges over streets and past the last signs of a cafeteria, the Pediatric Emergency Room, the patient floors and further back into the oldest sections of the complex, dingy and under renovation.

Finally, he slipped past construction signs and carefully placed his laptop and drives into a scratched steel locker, one of several rows against a dingy wall. On its door, he pasted a browned name sticker (he had used a gas flame in the lab to darken it): “Dr. Arjun Jagdishwar Bhattacharya.” After he tore a corner off and scratched the label with a steel key, it looked as old as the others around it, just as faded by time.

He still had to drop off the map for Campbell, to guide him to this old doctors’ dorm to pick up the things. He tore the paper out of the pad, folded it, stuck it in his jean pocket — and felt his phone.

Oh God!

On the phone, several text messages from George were streaming: “Landed,” “OK waiting,” “Still waiting,”…”DAAA…AAD!!!”

Shelly had messaged him about times to meet. 

Garcia texted George to let him know he was OMW, on my way. Tomorrow morning, he would put away the tools and hide the map for Campbell.

Mist wetting his hair, he walked quickly to his car. The parking lot was set against dark woods that encircled part of the campus. Clouds hid the moon.

Hospital complexes leak opioids, he thought.

Pandolf really needs to clean up the gang activity near the campus. 

The sidewalk was deserted– until red and blue flashes glowed over his right shoulder. But he did not hear ambulance sirens.

He turned around. Someone grabbed his elbow. 

“ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Please come with me, Dr. Garcia.”

 

 

Next Chapter ⟶

⟵ Previous Chapter