People didn’t become doctors by accident. Stephen Carlin had always deluded himself that his choice had been motivated by a willingness to help others. Maybe it was more like an incapacity to ask for help. As he waited outside his best friend’s office, he felt like he was about to get his nails pulled out.
“Mr. Griffith will see you now,” the secretary told him and opened the door for him.
“Thank you,” he mumbled as he blew past her.
“Stephen!” Peter rose from behind his huge desk. “I didn’t know you were coming.”
“Sorry. I should have called ahead.”
“Don’t be stupid. Come on, sit down.”
Carlin sat on the edge of his seat, somehow feeling like he was likely to run to the door at some point. The impulse strengthened when Peter’s sharp eyes ran up, then down Stephen. They narrowed, and he stopped smiling. “What’s wrong? You look a wreck.”
Stephen stroked a hand down his face, feeling every bit said wreck. He barely slept at all, he often forgot to eat – or shower. Whenever his exhausted body tried to shut down, he remembered the deadline he was running against, or he drew an energy boost from his growing fascination with his new subject matter.
“I’ve got a problem.”
“Oh. What’s going on?”
Something – maybe disappointment – filled Peter’s eyes. He probably expected that another friend had come begging for a hand-out.
He was right.
“It’s Berenice. She…She’s dying.”
Carlin buried his face in his hands. His eyes burnt, but no tears came out.
“My God, Stephen, what’s wrong with her?”
Stephen’s face went warm. The scientist in him knew there was no shame in it but, all the same, Trances weren’t like episodes of another illness. They caused unease, fear, disgust. He shrugged away his friend’s hand on his shoulder. “The night of the Nobel Prize-” Maybe it was irrational, but he was angry at the Prize. “-she had a Trance.”
“Jesus…I’m sorry. I don’t suppose there is any hope?” Peter asked.
Stephen let his silence speak for itself. Slowly, he raised his head until his eyes met his friend’s. “Do you still believe I can change the world?”
Peter Griffith sat in his chair again, on the other side of the desk, composure slowly coming back to normal. Gravely, he replied, “Yes, I’ll always believe that.”
“Well, I think I can find a cure.”
“To the Sight?! You think you can cure Oracles?!” Disbelief warred with compassion on his face, then some other, unnamed emotion joined in the mix, and he quickly glanced around, as if afraid someone could have heard. He leaned over the desk and, in a deliberately lowered voice, he asked, “Do you really think that’s possible? Can you do it?”
“Oh, given time, I can. But I don’t have much time.”
“You…” Peter faltered, then his eyes darkened when he realized why the deadline. “Sure. What can I do? What do you need?”
“Money. Means. Complete confidentiality.”
“Of course, a cure would be priceless.”
“That’s not the issue,” Stephen replied, dreading the next words out of his mouth. “I need confidentiality because of the shortcuts I might have to take regarding methodology.”
“Methodology,” Peter repeated, and sat back. He clearly knew what that meant. “Illegal or simply unethical?”
Silence fell between them. Stephen Carlin started chewing on his lips. He had to bite back the urge to apologize, explain, something like, “I realize I’m asking you to take a huge risk.”, or “I’m already getting promising results.”, or “I know what I’m doing.” He didn’t say any of that. He hated whiners and over-explainers. Peter did too.
At long last, though, he felt compelled to break the silence, “You’d…”
Peter raised a hand, interrupting him. “I’m thinking. Just give me a minute.”
Peter swung to his feet and started pacing around the office. “You know I trust you, admire you.”
“I feel the same.”
“You say you can do it and I believe you, but it’s my company’s money I’d be risking on that. And if you break the law, I’ll be just as liable. I’ve got responsibilities toward my board, my family, my employees.”
“I know,” Stephen acknowledged, and braced himself for rejection.
And Peter paced back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth. “But if you can do it, God, that’d be a game changer. They’d forgive about everything for a cure. The possible benefits…” He paused, looked pained. “I don’t mean to sound insensitive, I understand that those are crass motives, compared to your daughter’s life, but those are motives I can pitch to a board.”
“I understand. And you’re right.” Stephen shrugged. “There is a lot of money to make here. Over a million people worldwide.”
“Let’s say I’m ready to give you an agreement in principle. The Griffin Group would have to own all your researches and all you produce.”
Something deflated inside Stephen. “Yes.”
“You’d have to work on the premises we’ll make available to you.”
“With personnel we’d provide, and you’d only get to vet.”
Peter took his seat again. “Alright,” he said, every bit the confident CEO. “What do you need? I want a list. Money, personnel, equipment, facilities.”
Back to Bitter and her one-night stand in Chapter 5.