Nineteen Forty-Six. Virobane.

26 Dec

A white pea-soup fog filled San Francisco Bay on the morning in early February 1946 when Adam Colze arrived by ferry from Oakland. The golden-haired bacteriologist felt a stinging sensation in his azure eyes as he hailed and boarded a taxi in the thick cloud of mist.

He gave the cabbie the Geary Street address of the building housing the Boer Virus Institute. As they moved slowly into downtown traffic, the rugged, sinewy scientist grew nervously impatient. How would today’s interview go for him? Much depended on the success of his presentation. He had to maintain an inward and outward equilibrium if his purpose was to be realized.

The cab stopped in front of a dark, narrow office structure. Adam paid the driver and hopped out into the fog. The picture of health, physically sound and solid, he sensed an unusual electric tension within himself. He was at a crossroads of his career. Could he convince the heir to a great California railroad fortune, Henry Boer, to support and subsidize the unprecedented project he had conceived of all by himself?

The entrance he rushed into was musty and antiquated. A directory board on the wall informed him that the Institute was located on the fifth floor. Adam pressed the elevator button. The door opened in seconds and an old man sitting on a side seat asked him his destination and was told. Soon the mechanism was ascending at a slow, secure speed. An abrupt stop occurred and the operator leaned over to open the sliding door. Adam exited and before he knew it stood before the glass door he was after. He took a deep breath and entered.

A squat, bandy-legged little man rose from behind a nondescript yellow desk. His dark brown suit matched his coffee-colored hair. Glaucous green eyes peered from the circular face coming toward Adam Colze.

“Professor Colze, I presume,” smiled the stranger, extending his right hand. “I am Henry Boer. It has given me great pleasure to correspond with you. I have waited to meet with you in person for some time. Welcome to the Virus Institute. I mean what there is of it here in downtown San Francisco.”

The two shook hands energetically. Then Henry Boer led the visitor into the interior office where they sat down on a sofa that had experienced years of prior use and wear. The wealthy philanthropist began a long, one-sided discourse.

“My father and mother taught me to use our family fortune for the good of humanity, but to do it in an independent manner. They passed away years ago, leaving me with the means of fulfilling whatever dreams I might harbor about helping my fellow human beings. I had been quite sickly as a child, suffering several infectious diseases. Diphtheria and whooping-cough came close to ending my young life. The idea of a career in medicine seized hold of me, but my scholastic grades were nowhere near adequate for that. So I hunted for a means of satisfying my hope of bringing greater health to others.

“Extensive reading brought me to the marvels of the microbe hunters and their startling breakthroughs. I was enthralled by what was occurring in biology. Just before Pearl Harbor and the war, I set up this Virus Institute to support research projects holding promise of new cures and treatments. I would finance investigations that no one else was willing to. I started a search for lone, unaffiliated scientists with new, unconventional ideas and methods. I looked for the great new pioneers who did not repeat the mistakes of the past but explored with daring.

“The war came and delayed a lot of what I had in mind. I myself spent four years with the War Department in Washington and only returned to San Francisco with the peace last year. But now the Institute is going into full swing, the way that I first conceived and planned it.

So. here I am. My funds available have grown larger. Many proposals have been sent and presented to me. Let me confess: none of them is as fascinating and interesting as yours is. I believe you can see why. If you can develop what you wish to, then all viruses can be controlled and most will be conquerable. Science will become able to defeat them all. That prospect makes my head swim, Dr. Colze.”

The latter smiled with joy, sensing his victory. “I have been working in the laboratory for a number of years in that direction, but the war interceded and held me back. But now, the opportunity to advance is again on the horizon.

“Your Institute can provide the means for an immediate search for what is needed in medicine. For me, it will make my past work and struggle worthwhile. Science will thank you for sponsoring my research, Mr. Boer.”

The philanthropist, his green eyes blazing, leaned forward and peered at the scientist.

“You believe that a virus can be killed by an inner substance of its own?” he asked.

Adam, lifting his chin, nodded affirmatively.

“Today, researchers attack separate diseases by studying the causal virus separately, all by itself. I considered the notion of a single, unified front. Do you see what I mean? My search has been for one, common means of combatting viral infections. It is not yet found or identified, but I think it can be discovered and applied in medical practice. Sufficient effort and resources will make the possibility into a reality.”

The millionaire grew excited, his face becoming red. “What do you intend to call it?” he inquired.

Adam thought a moment, then answered. “I call the factor inherent in the glycoprotein of which every virus is composed its virocidin. This is the suicidal toxin that I plan to activate to destroy the virus from inside. The substance that I intend to add into the virus in order to set off the process can be called virobane. It will halt the growth and reproduction of the virus in question, then finally finish it off by stimulating its self-destruction. That is what I mean to hunt for and uncover: virobane.”

“It may take a lot of time and considerable funds,” said Boer with a sigh. “Do you have the staff for such a venture, Doctor?”

“My facility, the Berkeley Bacteriological Laboratory, has everything needed for the beginning of the program I envision. All that we now need is outside financing. The University of California will provide the building and the basic staff. But very expensive equipment and supplies will have to be purchased in order to start the hunt for virobane.”

“How soon can you start?”

“At once, sir.”

“I see that you are eager to begin the practical work involved. Well, some money can be transferred as soon as you outline your plan before the other two trustees of the Institute. First, there is my personal physician, Dr. Karl Lueke. You can see and talk with him at his downtown office. The other trustee is my wife, Fanny. I’ll have you driven to our home in Sausalito so that you can explain the program of research to her. Neither one of them will turn down a promising venture such as yours, I guarantee. This will be more a formality than anything else. They will be capable of seeing the possibilities in what you propose to create.”

“When can I meet with Dr. Lueke?” asked Adam.

“I’ll call him and arrange it right now.” Boer rose slowly to his feet. “He should be available to you sometime this afternoon. I anticipate that he will be as excited about the virobane as I am.” The would-be benefactor smiled.

The short cab ride to the medical office on Grant St. provided a chance to think and consider.

There had been no way to foresee that Henry Boer could not by himself authorize the desired grant of funds. There were two other persons who had to be convinced and converted, as well. How easy would that turn out to be? Before he realized it, the taxi had reached his destination.

A house built shortly after the 1906 earthquake served as the medical office of Dr. Karl Lueke.

Adam climbed the steep front steps and entered the empty reception room. No one was about or visible, it seemed. But a voice out of the blue startled him.

“Come in, Dr. Colze. I’m here in the back by myself.”

The biologist advanced down a darkened hallway toward a lighted area in the far rear of the old house, passing what appeared to be examination rooms. At last, he turned into the physician’s private study, where a man dressed in white jacket rose from behind a cluttered desk.

Everything about Lueke, except what he wore, was dark. Of medium weight and height, his eyes were a velvety black.  Their expression was wall-eyed and intimidating. The hair was a wiry jet color, as if touched up with a solid paint. There was an air of unreality about the man.

“Welcome, my friend,” gushed Lueke. “So glad to meet you, finally. Henry has shown me his correspondence with you. He is greatly impressed by your program to conquer the world of viruses with a single weapon.”

The two shook hands and sat down facing each other. Adam could sense how the doctor was intensely studying him. He decided not to attempt the same thing, perhaps because of feeling a painful unease in being examined by this person. Several moments of uncomfortable silence occurred before Lueke spoke again.

“What I have learned about your plans indicate that your ambitions are by no means of the modest type. It is breathtaking to imagine a frontal attack on viruses in general. The world would certainly welcome a weapon like that. Of course, we must remember that all viruses are not enemies of our health. Not all of them are carriers of disease and illnesses. Someday, there may well exist such a compound as you envision, but I fail to see it as possible in 1946. The dream you have may become practical one day, but I question whether it has any foundation in the present.

“How many years do you believe it will take you to make something that can be used, Dr. Colze?”

The researcher felt himself at a loss as to how to reply without starting an argument.

“That is uncertain and I hesitate to give any time figure. It could happen at once with good luck or take a decade or more. No one can say for sure. I wouldn’t dare make any prediction, because there are so many unknown factors involved.”

Unexpectedly, Lueke smiled. It was obviously a false one, decided Adam.

“Do not misunderstand me,” apologized the physician. “I am not denigrating or criticizing your concept of a universal killer of viruses. Not at all. It is a desirable target to aim for.

“Besides, no research project has any guarantee of final success. Where would science be if such assurance was necessary before a study was begun? We know that many attempts at something will turn out to be failures before there is a victory of true discovery. That’s the way it is and will forever be. Many ideas must be tested and tried out before the right one is identified. Everyone knows and recognizes that most notions will end up in the waste basket of science.”

He paused for a time, peering at Adam with a fixed gaze.

“Now, tell me how you propose to find your virobane that will compel a virus to destroy itself.”

Somewhat more at ease now, Adam Colze proceeded to discourse at length about antibodies, the macrocytes, and the leukocytes found in human blood. After awhile, he decided not to delve too deeply into detail, but to summarize and generalize.

“So, any foreign antigen, such as an invading virus, must contend with our natural glycoproteins, produced by the B lymphocytes in the blood. All these antibodies are composed of globulines, which I believe will be the primary weapon that can cause viral suicide to happen.”

Lueke seemed to perk up, as if he had picked up some kind of unintended signal.

“I take it that your laboratory will need great quantities of gamma globulin,” said the physician in a subdued tone.

“Yes,” replied Adam. “That is where the first series of tests will lie, using gamma globulin in various combinations and compounds. There have been positive results in its use in holding back the virus that causes poliomyelitis. It has caused a sensation in our understanding of the mystery of the virus.”

Lueke suddenly sprang to his feet. He no longer wanted to discuss this particular subject.

“I believe that your proposal for support from the Institute will now have the qpproval of both Henry Boer and myself. That makes two out of three. And there is no question in my mind that the third trustee, Fanny Boer, will have no objections to our decision. You shall be meeting with her, too?”

“Yes. This weekend, Mr. Boer said he will have me driven out to Sausalito, on my side of the Bay.”

Karl Lueke gave him a happy grin. “You will like their place, I assure you.”

Adam rose and the trustee of the Institute saw him to the front door. In a short while, he succeeded in hailing a taxi cab willing to take him back to Oakland.

The guest wore his finest, most expensive blue serge suit. A limousine picked him up from his apartment in Berkeley. The chauffeur said fewer than ten words to him. The ride went rapidly.

Adam had only been to the village of Sausalito on the north shore once before. The narrow, curving streets gave him an impression  of Old World Mediterranean life. Am I still in America? he asked himself. Red tile roofs, high stucco walls, steep roadways and narrow paths. Where in reality is this place? he wondered.

Henry Boer came out to greet him, a tiny woman standing behind him. “Let me introduce you to my wife, Fanny. And this is Dr. Adam Colze, my dear.”

The bacteriologist shook hands with the short woman in a black taffeta dress. He took in her straw-colored hair, pug nose, and reddish-brown eyes. Her petite, trim figure was an attractive one. This was a lady in control of herself, he realized at once. She was much younger than her husband, the heir to the Boer fortune.

“Let’s go in,” proposed Henry. “I hope you enjoy the meal that Fanny has supervised for us.”

The three climbed the broad wooden steps leading up to the double doors of the towering structure.

Henry opened the portal to the house and the two others entered. Fanny talked about the residence with Adam as her husband followed them. She pointed out imported landscape paintings, gilded furnishings, and antique tapestries. Adam felt that the woman was somehow trying to cast a spell over him. There was an exotic quality, a self-confident aura of allurement about this tiny female, he thought.

She continued chattering away as the trio sat down at a long table in the ornate dining room. Husband and wife were at opposite ends. Adam was placed in the middle, closer to Fanny. Was he expected to concentrate on her unending series of words?

“I am a native of Marin County, Dr. Colze, and have lived here all my life. It is Henry who loves to travel about on Institute business. Now that we are at peace, I expect he wants to travel all over the world. I hate being left here alone, but am overjoyed when he returns to Sausalito…”

Neither man said much as a maid served plates of baked salmon to the three of them. From time to time, the two males made comments on the subjects that Fanny touched upon: San Francisco’s congested traffic, the sad state of the city’s railroad connections, the lateness of spring that year, the terrible public fear of the approaching polio season…

Henry suddenly interrupted his spouse. “I think that Dr. Colze should outline his plans for finding the virus killer to you in detail, Fanny. Since he has already talked it over with me, it is best that he explains it all for you in private, since I do not wish to influence your opinion or your vote on the proposed subsidy he is seeking from the Institute.” He grinned down the table at her. “What do you two say? I have some letters to prepare and that should take me the next hour or so. Why don’t you show Adam the library, dear? That would be a convenient place to talk over the plan.”

Fanny turned toward their visitor, her eyes large and bright. “You will have to keep it as simple as possible, Doctor. I have little scientific background of my own. Everything I know has been self-taught, with the help of my husband, of course.” She finished with an audible laugh.

“I will try to make what I say as clear as possible,” promised Adam, nodding his head to her.

The library contained rows of shelves on all four sides. Most of the books were concerned with health, medicine, and the life sciences. The pair sat across from each other in expensive chairs of black leather.

“I have read the proposal you made to the Virus Institute,” began Fanny. “Is it possible to make a virus stop growing and multiplying, and force it to commit a kind of suicide? I ask myself whether it is within the ability of our science in 1946 to produce what you call virobane. Can any substance compel a virus to poison and destroy itself? What makes you so confident that this can be done? I pray that my Henry will not be wasting his money if he finances this project of yours.”

Adam drew a long breath, then spoke in a confident manner, his eyes fixed on hers.

“I believe my proposal is more than an empty, speculative hope, Mrs. Boer. What if we were able to increase and focus the anti-viral effects of the particles called macrophages, lymphocytes, monocytes, and leukocytes? That would be a colossally powerful shield against the invaders from the outside environment. It would guarantee the human body victory against its viral enemies.

“It is the white blood cells that produce the type of warrior proteins that we need. Those that come from the moncyte cells are called monokines. The macrophages and the lymphocytes create the lymphokines. These varieties of the general category of cytokines are the specific area that I wish to explore for the best antibiotic qualities. A combined compound formed from all of them may prove to be the way to enhance and increase their virocidal force and power.”

Fanny intervened with excitement. “And you already have a name for this undiscovered miracle substance of yours?”

“Virobane will be the means of arming the cytokines to do a full, complete job, Mrs. Boer. It will enable us to use a virus and its characteristic properties against itself.”

“Call me Fanny, please,” she cheerfully told him. “What you say is intriguing. The topic is very interesting. But aren’t all these antibodies made of extremely complex proteins? Do our chemists or biologists understand their makeup yet?”

Adam found it difficult to answer the question directly, so he did not try.

“Yes, you are correct, it will not be an easy task at all. Not at all. But we do have a base to work from, the blood component called gamma globulin. It has already been isolated and refined. This compound is the blood system’s primary source of antibodies of all types. That is where I plan to begin my exploration for an effective virobane. We know that this globulin can prevent a virus from reproducing itself, and it can lead to its final destruction. My first goal will be to find a way to concentrate and multiply its antiviral potency.”

“You will need money for equipment and supplies, a lot of it, I suppose,” she ruminated aloud.

“The prospect is truly breathtaking,” said Adam from his heart. “The results will be a revolution in medicine. All of us connected with virobane will be remembered forever.”

The pair looked at each other for a while as if expecting something magnificent.

“You have my support, along with that of my husband and Karl Lueke. It will now be a unanimous vote of approval. But there is one requirement that must be made now, at the start.” She seemed to frown at Adam Colze. “For purposes of accounting accuracy, the business aspects of the program must be directed by the trustees themselves. That will please Dr. Lueke, our financial supervisor. He will be in charge of purchasing all equipment and material supplies. Would you have any objections to that? Your decisions would be approved and authorized by Karl himself. He will be the one handling all these aspects of things. He is experienced and able at such business.”

For a moment, Adam felt confused, but then his mind accepted what she had presented as something already established inside the Institute.

“Yes, that is okay with me,” he said.”I can live with that.”

She smiled, her face radiant and aglow.

“That is settled, then. Let’s go back and tell Henry that we are ready to roll.”

Work proceeded faster than anyone anticipated. The Berkeley Bacteriological Laboratory received the resources that Adam ordered through Karl Lueke, both research apparati and gamma globulin supplies. By the end of summer, the project seemed to be well under way.

Henry Boer asked Adam to report directly to him every weekend in person at his Sausalito home.

The biologist grew increasingly familiar with the philanthropist and his wife. He witnessed the nature of the relationship between them, a warm and sincere one in his estimation. It was in early June that a jolt was given his image of their ties to each other.

Adam, entering the library, found the small woman in tears, sitting an armchair.

She looked up at him in shock. He was not expected there so early on a Saturday morning. Hurrying over to her, Adam felt his head swim. What did this mean? He had obviously surprised her by his presence at such an hour.

The two looked at each other, the one standing, the other sitting. Thick liquid was visible in her reddish-brown eyes, lending them an eerie shine.

“What is it, Fanny?” he dared to inquire after a few seconds.

She replied with a question of her own. “Did you see Henry? Has he left the house?”

“I think he must be gone, because I can’t find him anywhere. What has happened to you? Can I help you somehow, Fanny?”

Adam began to knell down, lowering himself so that he could look directly into her face at a similar level. His body was balanced in a crouching position now, resting on his lower thighs. His right hand rested against the front of the chair.

Fanny leaned her small head forward and spoke to him in a soft undertone.

“Henry and I quarreled a little while ago, before you came in the library. No one realizes it, but my husband is an extremely cruel man toward me. He decides everything. What I wear, where I go, how I look, even my hair. His control is all-powerful. And I am kept penniless. I can’t even go to a five-and-ten by myself and buy what I choose to.

“He gives away unlimited funds to science, but has me under his thumb through strict money control. I have had to resort to secret bank accounts that he doesn’t know about or see. But this week, Henry became aware, somehow, of what I’ve stashed away for myself. This morning he confronted me about this account. How did he ever learn about it? Now he has an excuse for even greater cruelty. How can I live like this, a beggar in poverty? I don’t know what is going to become of me now. Henry means to take his revenge on me for what I’ve been putting together behind his back.”

She cast a pleading look at Adam, who felt a sudden embarrassment for his intervention.

“Is there anything I can do to help you, Fanny?” he managed to ask her.

All at once, her expression changed to one of certainty and triumph.

“Yes, there is. When can you see Karl? The two of you must talk as soon as possible.”

“About what?” he said with a gulp of anticipation. He was entering an unknown territory, he sensed.

She furrowed her brow in serious concentration.

“I have been discussing a certain business scheme with him. It could produce enormous wealth if successful, but there would be a need for cooperation on your part, Adam. I can’t explain the details now. They are too complicated for me to relate. It was Karl who first brought it up. He will explain to you all the specifics. Can you see him about the matter soon?”

“At once,” answered Adam. “I can go to San Francisco on Monday. To his office downtown.”

“Good!” she squealed in her excitement. “You are the man who will rescue me.”

He rose, his mind still confused, took his leave, and went out of the library.

All that weekend, Adam worried about what he was going to hear from the physician. What had Fanny contrived with him ? How were her economic problems to be alleviated? What did she imagine his role was going to be? He had no answers to any of these puzzling questions.

Only after taking care of two patients was Lueke free to see him. The two men retreated to the personal study in the back of the old house. Karl told his nurse not to disturb them.

Lueke began with a direct admission that came close to being a confession.

“Fanny telephoned me yesterday and told me that you were coming here. She said that you are unaware of the nature of what I am doing, or what the plan for the future consists of.”

“That is correct,” said Adam. “She was closed-mouthed about anything like that, though.”

Sitting behind his office desk, Lueke pondered what to say next as he studied the face of Adam. At last, he resumed his explanation in a lowered tone of voice.

“Three years ago, in 1943, I figured out how to siphon off a small percentage from the grants that the Institute was distributing. One famous research organization was so hungry for the money that it willingly agreed to what I labelled and put down as a “facilitating fee”. Each time it happened, I devised a new name for this charge. There was room for a lot of ingenuity. The amazing fact was that no one refused to pay or raised any argument against the exaction that I demanded. Not one outfit made any fuss about the payment. Of course, it grew in size each time.

“Fanny aided me in disguising this underground channel of funds, so that it was never uncovered.”

“You cut her a share of the pie?” asked Adam, growing increasingly agitated.

The dark eyes of the other dilated ferociously.

“Let us say that I saw to it that she felt satisfied for the risks she was taking.”

Lueke watched the face of Colze carefully, for a sign that he understood this last statement of his. It became clear to the physician that he did.

“What do you wish to take from our project at Berkeley?” demanded Adam in a sharp, crisp voice.

All of a sudden, Lueke rose from his chair, stepped around the desk, and halted only a foot away from the biologist. His words were meant to enter his visitor’s ear as closely and directly as he could make them do.

“Look at what the medical profession is beginning to accomplish with gamma globulin. Its use is spreading everywhere in the treatment of polio cases. It is now the infantile paralysis season and parents are in panic to have something done by family doctors. Thousands are handing out prescriptions for it, but the globulin is in very short supply. Do you realize that there is a black market among the pharmacies here in California? It is expanding into the other forty-seven states with the speed of lightning. Parents are demanding it for their own children, but there is not enough being produced to go around.”

Adam grimaced bitterly. “Gamma globulin has limited usefulness protecting against polio. It works for only four to eight weeks, at most. It was separated from blood only two years ago, in 1944, as a weapon against measles. Isn’t that the original use that was made of it?”

“Thousands of lives were saved in cases of hepatitis, jaundice, and liver infection. But now the medical profession is turning its attention to the application of gamma globulin against poliomyelitis. Final tests haven’t been carried out yet. But from what we know today, physicians are yelling their heads off over it. Think what we can do, Adam, if the Institute succeeds in cornering a larger supply of it than you have already ordered. A gigantic fortune would easily result, in only a few days.”

The biologist sent him a cold, hard look. His mind reeled with shock and anger in equal measure. So this is what Dr. Lueke and his confederate are conspiring to accomplish. And they wanted to make him their instrument for exploiting demand for gamma globulin in the medical black market. He was to become a willing accomplice in their conspiracy.

Each man waited for the other to say something more. At last, Adam made an attempt to delay the actions contemplated by the physician.

“I must think about the matter, Karl. There are dangers involved.”

A stern look came from Lueke. “The risks of discovery are minimal, unless one of us becomes a traitor. Without knowing it, you have already been a participant.”

“What?” reacted Adam with unconcealed fury. “What do you mean?”

The other explained.

“Remember, you signed a load of documents for me. One of them granted me complete authority to order material supplies for the Berkeley Laboratory. So, I have been able to oversee the delivery and distribution of all the purchases. For your protection, all of this has been hidden from you. But now it is time to expand this business of ours beyond what has already been sold on the black market. It was Fanny’s idea to bring you in with us.

“Henry, of course, is ignorant of all these operations of ours. He is a very naive person, I dare to say.”

Adam had to calculate quickly. How was he to untie this knot? Could he free himself of these two greedy criminals? He suddenly hit on a plausible ploy. “You haven’t told me how much will be my share, Karl. What shall I receive out of the proceeds that you term a fortune?”

Lueke gave him a look of suspicion. “What are you saying? A third for each of us, fair and equal. And there is nothing for you to actively carry out. You will be like our silent partner in this.”

“I think that my cut should be half of what we make out of it,” asserted Colze, his face turning red with assumed anger and greed for more. “After all, I am the center of it all. The research program was my idea. Without it, there would not exist the excuse for buying up the gamma globulin. I should be the person in charge of what happens, shouldn’t I?”

For awhile, Lueke could find nothing definite to say. He had not foreseen such a problem arising.

The two stared at each other coldly, until Adam let off a laugh that surprised the other.

“I must see Fanny and talk to her about the division of our funds,” he slowly said. “We can settle that question, then I’ll come back and inform you of the decision we reach.”

Adam rose and left without another word. Having won himself some limited time, he had to figure out how to save himself and his conscience.

How was the terrible dilemma to be solved?

Perhaps he could convince Fanny that it was a diabolical undertaking she was involved in, winning profit from human illness and suffering. He had to put an end to the black market trafficking in gamma globulin. The key to that had to be Mrs. Boer. She was obviously a greedy, avaricious individual. What would make her drop her connection to Karl Lueke? he pondered. Are the two of them lovers, as well as fellow crooks? And then a strange idea occurred to him. Dared he to make a play for her, as insincere and false as it might be? Could that be the one move that might break her tie to the physician?

Adam attempted to look at the idea from every possible angle.

He decided to telephone the Boer residence from a hotel in downtown San Francisco.

It was Fanny who luckily happened to answer. “This is Adam here,” he started. “I just spoke with Karl, but I have to see you soon. There are things we have to go over. Where can we meet in private? And when?”

“Where are you now?” she asked him.

“The Presidio Hotel. Why?”

“Henry is going on a fishing trip to Lake Tahoe tonight. Why don’t you rent a room for the night? After my husband leaves in the station wagon, I can have our chauffeur take me over the Golden Gate to where you will be waiting for me. Is that alright with you?”

“Fine,” replied Adam.

He heard the click of her hanging up.

Now all he had to do was wait and think up what he was going to say to this woman.

The room appeared shabby and seedy, but it would do for this fateful meeting, Adam thought.

Enticement rather than confrontation was the plan he decided upon. But would it work with this particular female? Soon he was to find out.

Adam waited for his guest in a well-worn, threadbare sofa in the large lobby of the hotel.

The limousine rolled up. No one but he was around to see her entrance. He rose and approached the wife of his sponsor. Their greetings were brief. Then, he led her to the stairs they were to take to the second floor room he had taken for one night. They would be able to talk in private there.

Unlocking the door, Adam showed her in, then relocked the room.

Fanny sat down in an old sofa chair while he stood before her, not too close at first.

“Why do you claim to me that you are in dire penury? Doesn’t Karl give you half of what he swindles from the Institute?”

Her face became livid, as if in panic. She spoke to him with trembling lips.

“What can I say? Karl doesn’t allow me to spend what he claims that he is holding for my future. I am his partner, reporting to him what Henry says in my presence. Whatever Karl tells me, I do, without question. But there never is any pay-off , not a single buck. Everything is being saved for a future time. Maybe when I grow old and gray, Who can say?”

All of a sudden, she sprang to her feet. No longer were her lips shaking as before.

“At the start, being in this together with Karl made me happy. Perhaps I was a sap of some sort. Yes, I confess that he made me fall for him. What choice did I have? Henry treats me like a stupid child that has to be ordered about and can’t be trusted with any money whatever. And except for the Virus Institute, he is a stingy miser. At least he is with me.

“I’m still young and have years more to live. I have learned that Karl will not serve my needs, just as Henry didn’t. I need another road out of my troubles.”

Adam understood what it was she suggested to him. This is the overture to a proposition from her, the biologist said to himself. She is hunting for a new partner in crime.

He wished to say to her that it was necessary that she drop out of the racket that Lueke was running. That she must flee from him and his gamma globulin deals at once, before they were discovered and prosecuted.

But as she took advancing steps toward him his tongue refused to pronounce the words going through his brain. What was wrong? Had she conquered his conscience with her petite body?

In less than a second, his arms clasped her in a tight embrace. His body pressed closer and closer to her black taffeta dress. What next? was all that his mind was able to formulate before an unexpected event occurred.

Both Adam and Fanny heard a banging noise. They turned to the room’s outer door to see it had been opened. A squat, bandy-legged figure stood there.

Henry Baer held a small metal object in his right hand. It was a short-barreled derringer with a wide bore. When it fired, the large caliber made a hole in its target that proved to be fatal.

That autumn Henry Boer went to trial for the passion killing of his wife.

The multimillionaire had not tried to hit the man who was with her. Perhaps he was too exhausted in reason and emotion to create a blood bath. He made no resistance when the police were summoned. Adam himself led the shooter down to the lobby. Neither said anything to the other as they awaited the police.

The program to uncover a virobane ended at once. Dr. Karl Lueke fled the state and perhaps the country. No sign of him was ever found. The finances of the Boer Virus Institute were an impenetrable mess that the state of California took over and liquidated. Its grants and projects fell into oblivion.

No one was certain of what happened to Adam Colze, though some held that he ended up a scummy derelict near the San Francisco waterfront. The dream of virobane seems to have disappeared from his wounded mind.


One Response to “Nineteen Forty-Six. Virobane.”

  1. bluepearlgirl's world December 28, 2012 at 5:03 AM #

    What a fantastic read! I am a little… no a lot obsessed with SF history. Your blog is right up my alley! Thank you so much for putting so much effort into saving our outrageous history! Sincerely,
    Emelie Koshland

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