EJAX-472: Ch. 10byfmcchris©
"Ah!" Dr. Hagstrom said, looking straight at Beechcroft. "The vulture finally comes flying out of the darkness to descend upon her helpless victim!"
The idea of any sound coming from the taciturn Dr. Hagstrom, who had been silent for so long, startled us all.
Beechcroft made no reply. She merely cocked her head further to one side as she focused one of her bird-like eyes upon her erstwhile accomplice.
"Yes, I am talking about you Millicent Beechcroft! You deceiver and betrayer! You are nothing more than a coward!"
Beechcroft stepped back a few paces away from Dr. Hagstrom, who was slowly coming closer with each step. I noticed a faint glimmer of fear in the woman's eyes as she sought protection from one of the officers.
"That's enough!" the judge said to Dr. Hagstrom. "Say what you have to say."
With a look of infinite regret, Dr. Hagstrom turned to me.
"Ah, my dear Christiana! You think that I have deceived you, but I tell you that it is not true! Do you hear that Michelle and you girls? I tell you it is not true! Your work is not destroyed. It is still safe and sound. Safe and sound!"
I stared at her in disbelief. "But you just admitted..."
"No, Christiana, no. Did you hear me say anything?"
It is true she had refused to answer all our inquiries. And even though all of us misconstrued her silence as an admission of guilt, we did not stop to think that it might have also been a ploy to outwit a fiend into confessing a far greater evil.
"Then...then are you saying that my research is all intact?"
"Yes, dear one! Anna has kept it all safe for you. I do this because I love you so much!"
I stood there for a moment contemplating her words. Just minutes before I had believed that all my work had perished in flames and deception. It was almost too much to hope for.
"This is wonderful news!" Stephan exclaimed.
"I can hardly believe it," I said, feeling giddy. "But why didn't you say anything?"
Before she could answer, Beechcroft moved between us, her face livid with anger.
"You told me you destroyed everything! And I was foolish enough to believe you! How could you do this to me?"
Dr. Hagstrom laughed in her face. "I did nothing to you, you stupid woman. Nothing but prevent you from hurting an innocent person!"
"I will tear out your eyes!" screamed Beechcroft, extending a bony hand.
Dr. Hagstrom moved to counter her antagonist but the two officers interceded, forcing the two belligerent women to stand at opposite sides of the room.
"Dr. Hagstrom," the judge said. "Would you care to enlighten us to what the hell is going on here?"
"Of course, your honor. Of course."
She turned to me.
"Christiana, I will not lie to you. I was involved with this woman's plans to defame you and steal your great work. In the beginning I was jealous of you because you accomplished something that I could never do. Something she could never do! But when I came to know you better, I grew to like you. Yes! I Anna Hagstrom grew to like you. And I do not like too many people!"
As she said this she gave Beechcroft a harsh look.
"She wanted to ruin you so that you would be forced to befriend me, and in this way she hoped you would divulge the missing genetic codes necessary to replicate the drug. But, when the judge dismissed the case, she had to ditch that whole plan. She was afraid that you would get too chummy with me and then she would be left out of the equation. So you see, she betrayed you and she betrayed me."
All eyes slowly turned on Beechcroft, who had now moved into the shadows of the late day sun. She looked like a wounded bird fluttering about, chased away by a far stronger opponent who would not allow her to savor her kill.
"You are a fool Anna," she said with a rasping voice. "A greater fool than you know. You will pay dearly for your treachery I promise you."
"I do not think it is I who will pay when I tell them what you did."
Beechcroft's body seemed to fold in on itself as she slithered backwards into the shadows.
"Ah, yes!" Dr. Hagstrom exclaimed. "Go hide in the dark. Better for us not to see your lying face!"
The woman in black retreated further still, her eyes never leaving her adversary.
Dr. Hagstrom turned to me. "What I tell you now is the truth. And I am ashamed because for a little while I was part of it. But she is the one responsible for burning down your Clinic. Yes, Christiana, it is true. She is the one who did it!"
This accusation, as incredible sounding as it was, did not shock me as it otherwise might have if I had not already experienced a chain of similarly horrible events during the past several days. Yet it was a most distressing feeling for me to believe that Beechcroft could hate me so profoundly—she, who had never really known the object of her hatred other than what she might have learned about me though secondary sources—that the only way she could appease her wrath was through violent means. But this was indeed the case with her. Over a great span of years the jealousy and rage she felt toward me had grown to such a degree that it demanded physical expression, and her madness had finally found a way to accomplish it.
"Is this true?" I asked her.
She vacillated for a moment as though trying to gauge my emotional state, as if even at this late stage of the game she might yet be able to manipulate me in order to suit her own selfish purposes.
"You and I can still be friends doctor...Christiana," she said haltingly. "You don't need these others. All you need is me. I am a great doctor just like you. The only difference is that the world never recognized my greatness. But now, through you, they will. Together you and I will become immortal!"
Bonnie guffawed. "Look lady," she said to Beechcroft. "You're not strung too tightly here okay? Just answer my sister's question."
Beechcroft, paying Bonnie no heed, continued as if she had not been interrupted.
"You don't know what it's like. Never having suffered defeat yourself, how could you? I made discoveries too; some of them quite wonderful; maybe even more wonderful than your precious drug. But my colleagues at Harvard, they downplayed my ideas. They told me that my tenets were unworkable. And the more I struggled to raise my voice, the more they shouted me down. Even after all these years, I can still hear their laughter. But now I have a chance to pay them back for their insolence and lack of vision. I have you! You and I will show them what true greatness is. Together, we will throw their arrogance right back in their faces! And it will be Swensen and Beechcroft who will be the ones to laugh!"
She ended this diatribe with a long cackle as she replaced her black hat on top of her head. The rest of us just stood there dumbfounded, waiting for the effect of her crazed words to dissipate. There was no doubt any longer about the woman's sanity. She had been corrupted by hatred, and all I was now seeing were the burnt remains of an intellect that had long ago been consumed in the fires of unfulfilled ambition.
"It was you, wasn't it? I asked her again, feeling both pity and contempt for the pathetic woman.
She cocked her head to one side and gave me a disconcerted look.
"I didn't want to do it, but you gave me no other choice," she said as if admonishing me. "You know that miserable piece of excrement? That little man you call Luis? Well, I paid his cousin Antonio to do it. 'Burn it down,' I told him. 'She won't need it anymore. She's coming with me to America!' And he did a very good job of it too. Don't you think?"
Without a word Bonnie lunged at Beechcroft, forcing both her hands around the terrified woman's throat. And she would have succeeded in strangling her had not the two officers intervened. It only took a few seconds for the powerful cop to pull Bonnie away from the woman, but as he did so, she thrust her foot into Beechcroft's stomach and she fell back into the chairs, clutching her throat.
At that moment we heard and felt a loud bang, as though something heavy had impacted with the outer wall. In a matter of seconds, several policemen came running through the door to the courtroom.
"Get out! Get out now!" one of the cops said. "They've broken through the cordon! We can't hold them any longer! Everybody get out!"
It was a mad dash for the service door as we fought one another like crazed animals in a stampeding herd. I could hear the sounds of the tumult occurring just outside the door, threatening to spill into the courtroom at any second. We had miscalculated. We had stayed too long thanks to one frightened woman who now watched our exit with eyes full of confusion and horror.
Some of the officers ordered the dazed Beechcroft to accompany us, but she looked uncertain of what to do. By the time she got to her feet those same officers were now employed in preventing the crowd from penetrating the area we now found ourselves in. It was a losing battle for the police. As the bulk of our party scrambled out the service door, several men broke through the line looking for someone, anyone, to take out their frustration upon.
"There she is!" one of them said, pointing at me.
We were still waiting for several people in front of us to get through the exit. I grabbed onto Stephan.
"Get behind me!" he said, shielding me with his body.
Acting swiftly, two cops brought both men down with their nightsticks before they ever got close to us. But two more men suddenly caught sight of the woman in black, now cowering in the shadows, and dashed toward her.
"Christiana!" she screamed. "Help me!"
Beechcroft looked like a terrified animal caught in a trap. And, as she did on that day when she had been chased down in the Clinic, she lost her senses and dashed up the small flight of stairs leading up to a tiny balcony overlooking the courtroom. On either side of the balcony were two tall windows that opened up onto the parking lot below. One of the windows was open. In her frenzy, she crouched down and stepped out onto the ledge.
"Oh my God Stephan!" I said looking up at tiny figure in the window. "She's going to jump!"
Responding to her plea for help, I started to move toward her.
"No, doctor," Barney said suddenly coming up from behind us. "I'll go and get her. You two get the hell out of here!"
But it was too late. The crowd had now broken through and Barney had to run for his life. Bravely pushing Stefan and I ahead of him, he effectively fought off three attackers with one hand while he used the other to push me through the door. In that split second I looked up and saw the backs of two men kneeling by the window and then I heard a woman scream. The cowardly bird had fallen from her perch.
Christiana's journal entry dated August 1, Capri, Italy:
This is the first chance I have had since leaving Stockholm to enter into this journal all the events dating from the conclusion of the hearing up to, and including, my departure to Bonnie and Philip's villa located on the western shores of the island of Capri—their vacation home for the past nine years. For the past two weeks I have been enjoying myself here in this wondrous land, far away from the persistent press and the autograph hounds. It is an idyllic land, filled with ancient architectural wonders from a more civilized time, all ensconced in a landscape of timeless beauty.
The villa was built along the lines of the classical Roman style, replete with a shaded portico, sunlit atrium, an arboretum, and even a large black and white tiled dining room, which Phillip joking refers to as the vomitorium. Despite the nod to antiquity, the villa contains every modern convenience.
The weather here has been consistently sunny and temperate, and has afforded me the opportunity to spend much time by the ocean—where I am writing this now—finding it conducive to sit for hours by myself ruminating upon the motley patchwork of experiences that have formed the tapestry of my life.
Bonnie has been a constant source of love and support to me. From helping me with my halting Italian, to introducing me to the local cuisine, she has kept me from sinking too far into those insidious philosophical doldrums that I am wont to do when left to my own devices. Her vibrant nature, and warm and sunny disposition, is very much like the land itself; a perfect blend of tranquility and harmony wherein she and Philip have found their spirits refreshed and their love made whole again in the light of the healing Mediterranean sun.
Now I should like to attempt to recapitulate the myriad events following the hearing.
After all of us had made our hurried exit safely out of the courthouse, we were whisked away in a flotilla of paddy wagons and squad cars that took us far away from the mayhem. Rebecca, Michelle, Sheila, Jennifer, Dr. Hagstrom, and I were driven to the University, where we immediately began work on replicating the drug. Working through the night, we finally produced an oral medication that was delivered into the hands of Judge Carlsdotter himself and distributed to all the men who were suffering from the side effects of EJAX-472. The new medication would remedy their symptoms with only one dose, and then, within a day or so, their bodies would return to normalcy. The subjects of my experiment however would continue to take the drug once a day, as a normal part of their EJAX-472 regimen.
Two days after the dose had been administered, Dr. Hagstrom had the doors of the University hospital thrown open to admit the judge and all those who had been suffering from involuntary ejaculation. After all the tests were concluded, it was found that all the men had indeed returned to normal. All my test subjects, too, were tested after a one-week interval and each man was seen to be doing splendidly, with no side effects or complications whatsoever. With the help of Judge Carlsdotter, my patent was subsequently approved by the Pharmaceutical Association of Sweden and is now pending distribution through a company in England. The drug will soon be available throughout the entire world in the form of an oral medication to treat male reproductive disorders.
The media frenzy that resulted in the wake of the hearing was finally quelled with all the politicians and law enforcement officers—Judge Carlsdotter, the Mayor, Lt. Endland, Sgt. Richter, Mr. Gustafson, and many others—being let off the hook by the President himself, who upon hearing the whole remarkable story of the drug, felt it would not be in the city's best interests to incarcerate men who had otherwise shown exemplary behavior with respect to their roles as public servants. Philip, too, was exonerated of all wrongdoing after Stephan had shown that his willingness to assist the police had resulted in the prosecution and conviction of Luis Ramon Hernandez, who was apprehended not long after the hearing in Miami, Florida by Interpol agents. In due time, everything returned to normal, and the city's social and political life went on as usual.
Once the general public discovered that I had effected a cure for the problematical drug, and that the claims for its efficacy were substantiated by the leading doctors and scientists of the medical community, I was hailed a hero. Offers soon poured in from all around the world for me to speak on behalf of this new and acclaimed "wonder drug," but being uncomfortable in the spotlight, I refused them all. Rebecca, however, has decided to act as spokesperson for EJAX-472, and has done an admirable job of it, speaking in various cities across the globe and appearing on a slew of talk shows. I was delighted the other day to find a picture of her in a medical magazine promoting the drug; wearing a radiant smile and surrounded by a bevy of handsome men.
Plans for the construction of the new Clinic, I'm happy to say, are currently underway. The building will be part of a new corporate center located in the heart of the city's medical district. With the financing and support of many philanthropists, the new structure will have the distinction of being one of the most advanced medical facilities in the world. My brother-in-law Philip contributed over five million dollars of his own money to help fund the project, in deference to Bonnie's wishes. In the meantime, Dr. Hagstrom has allowed me to conduct any further research at Stockholm University with complete autonomy—made possible by my now elevated status as a modern medical genius.
I have been in touch with all my friends and colleagues over the course of the past few weeks via phone or e-mail. I was thrilled to learn recently that Cheryl and Craig have fallen in love, and have set a date next year for their wedding. With my help, Cheryl, Maria, and Lynette have found suitable employment at various other health institutions, and have expressed their desire to return to work for me once the Clinic is in operation. In my estimation, they have proven to be the most loyal of friends and I miss them dearly.
As for my colleagues, Michelle, Sheila, Jennifer, and Dr. Hagstrom have shown me nothing but affection and dedication during the whole of the EJAX-472 crisis. Without their help I would not have been able to complete my research. And to them I owe a debt of gratitude. To Dr. Hagstrom, especially, I am indebted. She could have easily ended my career if she had carried out her original plan. Thankfully, she came to her senses at the last moment. I have nothing but the deepest sense of affection toward her and she, in return, has shown me nothing but kindness and love.
But of all these people, Rebecca will always be my most trusted friend and confidant. Her loyalty to me cannot be measured in words, nor can her devotion to her work be easily estimated. For eight years she has been my friend, partner, confessor, and strong right arm, and without her my journey into the unknown territories of genetic science might never have taken place. Of all the people in my life, I hold her in the highest esteem.
I would like to conclude this entry with an update on the current progress of my test subjects, most of with whom I now share a deepening friendship.
John Cardelli and his wife Ann will be moving to the United States in a few months, he having accepted a professorship at Columbia University. Through the intervention of Ms. Stedman, he has been vindicated of all criminal charges and his teaching license has been reinstated. But because of the bad feelings that continue to exist between him and his former pupils and their parents, and the memories associated with the 'incident,' he and Ann have decided to leave it all behind and start anew in America. He told me that both Bridget Veerhoft and Helga Nelson have been expelled from St. Bridget's, but that the other girls, having since expressed regret for their actions, were reinstated upon the condition that they maintain a superior academic standing. As for Abby Rylander, she was recently accepted into our own Stockholm University, where she will major in speech pathology.
Jeffrey and Priscilla Ames sent me an e-mail yesterday to inform me that they are both fine and are looking forward to seeing me when I return to Stockholm in the fall. Stuart Borg and his fiancé Denise are all set to tie the knot in October and I am invited to the wedding. They are anxious to have a baby, Denise told me. Adam Hildebrand has found a job with a modeling agency and is currently working on a car commercial. He told me that he no longer fears encounters with women who have become familiar to him, thanks to my help. This will, no doubt, prove invaluable to him, and to his future wife, whoever she may be.
Luis Ramon Hernandez, as I mentioned earlier, was apprehended in Miami, Florida and is now serving a five-year prison sentence for his role in the burning down of the Clinic, attempted armed robbery, and drug theft. Lt. Endland informed me recently that one of the prison's biggest and ugliest inmates has taken a fancy to the little Hispanic man. I have little sympathy for him.