Sam dreamed that he was seated in a large conference room. Janet, his two children and the lawyer were there, plus Nick Tarkas and a group of faceless men. One of the faceless men, who appeared to be chairing the group, was speaking; but no sound came out of his mouth. Sam looked down and noticed that he was naked from the waist down. Suddenly the chairman said "The meeting is adjourned!" As he was wondering how to stand up without revealing his nakedness, a nude woman who was jingling a small bell approached him and said in a seductive voice, "Would you care for some cock....tails?"
He was dimly aware that the bell was actually the phone ringing. He fumbled for it blindly and juggled the receiver to his ear, heard a cheerful female voice say "It's seven o'clock."
Sam performed his morning ablutions and went down to the cafeteria. Nick, who was already in line, looked around with exaggerated suspicion and whispered, "Are you ready for our secret meeting?"
"How can I be ready when I don't have any idea what I'm supposed to be ready for?"
"Didn't Levering give you a hint?"
"The only thing that I was told was that Arthur Zabalka was in on it. Since you're a microbiologist, Zabalka a virologist and me an epidemiologist, I assume that we're here about some epidemic disease -but what? What kind of epidemic would they want kept secret?"
"It's probably some Russian flu. Those government people like secrecy --makes them feel important," Nick quipped.
"Is Levering like that?"
"Not really. If Levering is keeping it a secret, he probably has a damn good reason. I just can't figure out why anyone would want to keep a disease secret; confidential might make some sense; but secret?"
A woman who was standing behind Sam in the line said, in a British accent, "I couldn't help overhearing you. I'm also going to Dr. Levering's conference."
Sam introduced himself and Nick, and invited her to join them at a table. She introduced herself as Sue Harwell from the University of Chicago.
As soon as they were seated, Nick asked Dr. Harwell if she was in microbiology. He was reasonably certain of an affirmative answer.
"No, I'm a pharmacologist; my specialty is psychoactive drugs."
"Psychoactive drugs?" Sam said incredulously, "How are psychoactive drugs and viruses and epidemics related?"
"They're not!" Nick said. Then he turned to Dr.Harwell: "Are you a friend of Dr. Levering?" He was trying to find some reason for her being here.
"I've never met him. He telephoned me; said that he needed my expertise and that he had been impressed by the chapter I wrote in Wilson's Textbook of Pharmacology."
"Dr. Harwell, do you have any idea what this meeting is about?" Nick asked.
"I haven't the foggiest."
Sam offered to explain: "You see, I'm an epidemiologist and Nick is a microbiologist. The only place I can think of where our fields might come together would be an epidemic of some disease among drug addicts. But that would hardly be something to keep secret."
Sam found Sue Harwell singularly attractive for reasons that were quite obscure to him. She was not particularly attractive, in the conventional sense. She was about 5'8" tall and of medium build. She wore a tweed suit which concealed whatever female shape she had. Her eyes were framed by horn-rimmed glasses which seemed out of place with her finely carved features. Her red-tinged auburn hair was tied back in a bun. Perhaps it was her sprightly way of speaking which suggested a lively mind. Perhaps Sam was just starved and imagined sexuality where there was none. He guessed her to be in her late thirties and thought that it was impressive to have a chapter in an important book by that age. His thoughts were interrupted by Nick.
"Maybe its secret because it's X-rated."
"Sex?" Sam asked.
" Yeah, "said Nick, "Look over your left shoulder at the corner table. That's Monser and Bast, the sex researchers."
Sam looked and saw the two faces that had graced the cover of
Time magazine. He laughed, "Fat chance. If there's sex in
it, it has to be about a venereal disease; nothing as interesting
as behavior. There must be some other reason for Monser and Bast's
being in Bethesda. After all, it's a damn big institute."
At 8:30, Nick led them to a path that was worn in the large lawn which occupied the border areas of the National Institutes of Health. It had been created by the tramping down of the grass by the many people who went from the motel to the institute via the most direct route. Since neither Sam nor Sue had ever been to Bethesda, Nick obligingly pointed out its more important features, and what each building contained -or more appropriately, who each building contained.
"When did you learn all about N.I.H., Nick?" Sam asked.
"While you were busy starting your new job in Utah, I was here learning all about medical politics. How do you think I ended up as head of a department -I learned the most important part of my job: here how to get money. That's why I'm at this meeting. By the way, how did you get invited.?"
"I'd like to think that it's because I'm such a great epidemiologist, but actually, I was invited because my department head got sick. What's that monstrous building with the roof that looks like a European nun's hat?"
"That, old buddy, is the National Library of Medicine. Some day, if you ever need some rare bit of scientific information, you'll come here. It has everything."
"They had reached a number of red brick buildings which had what looked like halves of Greek columns cemented on their fronts."
"Sue smiled, "What do those half columns do?"
"Make them look like they're government buildings. It's an old style of architecture called Greco-bureaucratic."
Sue giggled and Sam realized what had attracted him to Sue. He had sensed that underneath that austere exterior was a very playful little girl.
They arrived at the Administration Building and ascended to room 214.
Nick was the first to reach the room. He looked in, then turned to Sam and said, "They're here!"
"Monser and Bast!"
"Well, I'll be damned," said Sam, shaking his head in disbelief.
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