Authors: Ken McClure
Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Suspense, #Mystery & Detective, #General
DUST TO DUST
Table of Contents
About the Author
Other Titles by Ken McClure
For dust thou art and
unto dust shalt thou return.
‘But this is crazy. Are you absolutely sure?’
‘Yes, sir, I’m afraid there’s no doubt. The test results were absolutely crystal clear.’
While clinics and consulting rooms in the public domain tend to look the part, with equipment and medical paraphernalia much in evidence and the smells of antisepsis lingering in the air, those in the private sector strive for the opposite. Sir Laurence Samson’s consulting rooms in Harley Street were very much the model of English town-house furnishing at its best, giving well-heeled patients the assurance that money and privilege would help with medical care as it had in all other areas of their lives.
‘Christ,’ said the young man, sinking down into a leather armchair as if he’d suddenly lost the power of his legs. ‘You’ve just sentenced me to death, Samson.’
Sir Laurence maintained an uneasy silence.
The young man rubbed his forehead, as if subconsciously trying to erase the terrifying implications of the news he had been given. ‘How long have I got?’
Samson attempted a calming gesture with his hands. ‘Let’s not dwell on that, sir. These days, with appropriate drugs and careful monitoring, the onset of major symptoms can be delayed considerably.’
‘But in the end … it’s going to get me, right?’
‘There is no cure, I’m afraid.’
The young man stared into the abyss for fully thirty seconds.
‘Would you like a glass of water, sir?’
‘Fuck water, Samson, I need a drink.’
Sir Laurence thought for a moment, as if wondering whether or not to comply, before getting to his feet and walking over to a writing bureau which he opened to reveal a drinks cabinet. He poured a generous measure of neat malt whisky into a crystal tumbler and handed it to the young man.
‘You’re not joining me?’ asked the young man accusingly. ‘Is this the start of the journey down that long and lonesome road? Your doctor no longer drinks with you?’
‘I still have other patients to see, sir.’
‘Of course you have, Samson,’ the young man conceded. ‘Christ, what’s my father going to say? This could kill him.’ He swirled the contents of his glass one way and then the other. ‘Of all the … Jesus Christ, what rotten luck. You won’t tell him, will you?’
‘I’m duty bound, of course, to keep whatever passes between us confidential, sir. But, if I may offer an opinion, I’d advise you to confide in him as soon as possible. The repercussions for you and your family are … well, I need hardly point that out to you.’
‘Fucking enormous,’ said the young man with an air of resignation, taking a last gulp of the whisky in search of some escape from the accusing arrows flighting into him. ‘What are the chances of you chaps coming up with a cure in the near future?’
‘Not good, sir, I’m afraid. I attended a conference on the subject three months ago and the general consensus was that we are no nearer that today than we were at the outset.’
‘Don’t beat about the bush, will you?’ murmured the young man.
‘I’m sorry, sir, but I don’t see the point of false optimism. There are those who might take a different view, but their motives usually have more to do with the attraction of research funding than anything else.’
‘I suppose I should be thanking you for levelling with me, Samson, but I find myself desperately in need of something other than plain unvarnished truth right now,’ said the young man, swallowing and sniffing – just the once – as he fought with his emotions.
Samson gave a sympathetic nod. ‘We should start you on the drugs I mentioned as soon as possible.’
The young man nodded and put down his glass, declining the offer of another with a shake of the head. ‘I’ll be in touch soon.’
‘And your father, sir?’
‘I’ll inform him … once I’ve had a bit of time to come to terms with it myself.’
FOUR DAYS LATER
Sir Laurence Samson had explained to a female patient that tests had shown that she would be unlikely to conceive in the normal way, and was starting on an explanation of the alternatives when the phone on his desk rang. He picked it up, snapping, ‘I specifically asked not to be disturbed, Eve.’
‘I really think you should take this one, Sir Laurence,’ the receptionist said calmly.
‘Very well,’ said Samson, already regretting having snapped at the woman who had been with him for six years and wouldn’t have dreamt of interrupting without good cause, but he was on edge; he had been for the past four days. He offered an apologetic smile to his patient, then stiffened when he heard the voice. ‘Yes, sir, it is.’ He silently took in what was being said, aware of his patient’s gaze and trying not to betray any emotion. ‘Very well, sir, I take it you’d like me to come there? … Fine. Tell the driver I’ll be at the Harley Street address … I’ll see you at eight this evening.’
Samson felt nervous, which for a man so used to being in control was an unusual experience, but his surroundings would have been intimidating to most. He felt as if he’d been thrust on to a stage in a starring role without full knowledge of the script or any real desire to be in the performance. He’d even had to wipe his palm free of moisture by surreptitiously reaching into his trouser pocket and scrunching up a tissue before shaking hands with his unsmiling host when he entered.
The formalities were brief; Samson declined the offer of refreshment.
‘I think we should cut to the chase, Sir Laurence. My son has told me everything. God, what a mess.’
‘It is most unfortunate, sir, but I’m afraid viruses are no respecters of …’ Samson was about say wealth and privilege but thought better of it and settled for ‘persons’. The stare he received in reply was not filled with understanding.
‘I’m glad he confided in you at this early stage, sir,’ Samson continued. ‘It couldn’t have been easy for him given the circumstances, but I feel duty bound to remind you at the outset that, as my patient, I’m still not at liberty to …’
‘Yes, well, let’s not bother with all that Hippocratic oath stuff,’ Samson’s host interrupted with a dismissive wave of the hand. ‘It sounds like a tired line from a film. I don’t want to discuss any of the details of the condition. I just want my son cured. I want him well again. I need him to free himself of this … thing and resume the course of his life.’
Samson swallowed, an act made more difficult by the fact his mouth had gone dry, but he was thrown by the unexpected lack of rationale in what his host had just said. He found himself stammering, ‘I’m sorry, sir … while it’s perfectly possible to achieve a considerable period of … remission, if I can put it that way, a cure is simply not possible … at this stage at least … although of course advances in medical science are being made every day …’
‘I’m told that a cure has already been achieved.’
Samson felt that the stare he was being subjected to was some kind of examination and one he was bound to fail. When the silence became unbearable, he decided to blink first. ‘I’m sorry, sir, I don’t think I understand … I appear to be unaware of the advance you refer to …’
‘Since receiving this bloody awful news, I’ve been making enquiries – discreet enquiries – and I’ve been told that a cure for the condition is no longer outside the realms of possibility. There is apparently a valid alternative to simply lying down and accepting one’s fate.’
Alarm bells rang in Samson’s head on hearing the word ‘alternative’. He feared he was about to be drawn into the world of complementary medicine, something he had little time for, believing its so-called ‘therapies’ to be either bogus or, at best, variations on the placebo effect. ‘Really, sir?’
‘As pioneered in Berlin.’
‘Berlin?’ echoed Samson, before suddenly realising what his host was referring to. ‘Ah,’ he said, looking down at his shoes as if not entirely pleased with the direction the conversation was moving in. ‘I think I do recall something about the unique case you’re referring to, sir.’
Samson’s host was clearly annoyed at Samson’s perceptible lack of enthusiasm. ‘What is it about you medical people?’ he demanded. ‘You’re so bloody conservative when it comes to anything new. Well, what do you think? Was a cure achieved or wasn’t it?’
‘I’m not exactly au fait with all the details of the case, sir, although of course I did read the reports. I would, however, say that … sometimes
medical procedures are carried out on patients who are believed to be beyond help.’
‘Are you suggesting this patient was used as an experimental animal?’
Samson threw up his hands in horror. ‘Far be it from me to criticise the decisions of European colleagues. As I understand it, it was a one-off, carried out on a patient who was already facing a poor prognosis for other reasons. It was a very risky course of action and could perhaps only be justified by another condition the patient was suffering from. It was a very long way from being a routine procedure; it’s doubtful whether it ever could be.’
‘My son is a very long way from being a routine case, Sir Laurence.’
‘The importance of his being able to father healthy children at some time in the future cannot be overstated.’
‘Can it be done?’
Samson hesitated, clearly unhappy at being unable to dissuade his host from the course he was set on. ‘It’s theoretically possible, I suppose, if a perfect donor were to be found and everything else were to go like clockwork. The conditions, of course, would have to be ideal … but I feel I must stress that the preparations for such a procedure would demand a very great deal of the patient. It has the potential to be a catastrophic undertaking …’
‘And the alternatives to this potentially catastrophic undertaking, Sir Laurence?’
‘Point taken, sir,’ Samson conceded.
‘Then set it up. I’m putting my son’s health in your hands. I want him cured and I want it done in complete secrecy. No one must ever know of this.’