3. “Dr. Howe–if you are hearing this, let me begin by saying that I have the utmost respect for your work as a physician. While I was in medical school I read about your experiences researching and treating infectious diseases, and I thought I saw in them a woman dedicated not only to her profession, but to all of humanity. Which is why I want you to know what I know.
“My name is Jorge Canosado, and I am a doctor from
“I have no illusions about the purity of the
The tape ran out. Madeleine, her face drawn with concern, looked up at Charles, whose expression had not changed as he stared out at the lake through her sliding doors. When she first heard the tape she had been puzzled, intrigued; now, after viewing the videotape of which Dr. Canosado spoke, she could barely suppress a wave of emotion on hearing his voice.
“I know what you want to do–” began Charles.
“I would hope so,” said Madeleine. Charles paused and sighed before he continued.
“But we can’t do it.”
“Why in hell not?” said Madeleine, reverting to her youthful Cockney accent as her anger mounted.
“Because if we do, our funding will dry up. Along with that of many of our colleagues. And all the good we’ve staked our careers on will turn to air.”
“Wait...,” said Madeleine, a dark realization spreading from the corners of her consciousness. “You mean–,”
“I don’t want you to think less of me, Madeleine, because I’ve kept silent about this. You have to think about all the possible costs.”
“You already know? How long, Charles? How bloody long?”
“That doesn’t matter. Here’s what matters: the man who left you these tapes is probably dead now. And that’s how you’re going to end up if you speak to anyone else about this research. You have to understand, Madeleine, that the men in that video draw their support from sources who aren’t so...civilized...as we are.” Pronouncing ‘civilized’ here with bitter irony.
Madeleine was silent. She thought of Coleridge’s image of slimy things crawling on a slimy sea, of a world turning demonic before her eyes and grant money hanging like an albatross from her neck.
“I take it from your silence that we’re in agreement?” said Charles, his voice laced with caution.
“I don’t know,” said Madeleine. “I’ll have to think about it. The prospect of losing–Charles,” her thoughts changing track, “why didn’t you tell me what was going on, if you knew?”
Charles rubbed his forehead. “I just didn’t want to saddle you with the guilt.” He smiled ruefully. “It gnaws at the insides, you know.”
They couldn’t think of anything else to say. He crossed the room and opened the door to leave, pausing with one foot in the hall. “Promise me you’ll let me know first if you decide to do anything rash,” he said.
“I promise,” said Madeleine.Two days later Charles received a package in the mail from Madeleine. She had copied the VHS tape of the doctors’ conversation to DVD. Included in the package was a brief note: “A reminder. In case the gnawing ever subsides.”
A week after that, Charles received another package, this time from an anonymous source. It was another DVD, with another note: “We know you know.” The gray sky outside was pressing down like the surface of Earth’s menacing double. He went immediately to his living room and played the DVD, only to see:
(con't at the post of January 15, 2008)