Dr. Abraham Sorkin opened a desk drawer and withdrew a gray plastic box. He
hesitated before returning the gun to its place with shaking hands. He rubbed his bald head, glistening with a thin layer
of perspiration, then wiped his hand on his plaid wool vest. His throat was dry. Abraham thought about getting a cool drink
of water, but that required going to the back of the office, abandoning his “watch”. He knew it wasn’t safe
to leave until all of the protesters had gone.
Abraham paced, frequently peering out through the curtains. He wished he’d
stayed home; Sundays spent sleeping and reading weren’t so bad. But his old nurse, Maxine, the woman who had plagued
his life for . . . how many years now? Twenty? Could it really be that long? That woman pushed and pushed.
“You’re behind on your dictation, Dr. Sorkin.”
Behind, behind, behind. Somebody was a behind. A horse’s behind. Sometimes
an old biddy. But Abraham would never dare call Maxine either of those things to her face. She’d kill him.
So here he was on a Sunday he could be loafing, a prisoner in his own office, with
crazies carrying signs up and down the sidewalks. He’d read about a shooting in New Jersey, the
doctor killed right in front of his grandkids. Abraham clenched his broad, square hands into fists, then released them.
He almost regretted the deal with Austin.
“Abraham,” the man had said, “think of all the lives we could save. Our names will go
into history books along with Salk and Pasteur.”
That was the clincher. It’s just that things were so complicated now. The President deciding to limit
research, the silly cloned sheep getting sick and dying, preachers calling their faithful to renounce researchers like them
as though they were Satanic. He could handle the Right-To-Lifers, but he was in over his head with this stem-cell thing.
And it wasn’t only Austin. He had a feeling that something was wrong. Like when Abraham heard a noise in
the Dart. A noise he couldn’t identify. Not a belt. Not tires. Just…something; an uneasiness that made him listen
when he shifted gears, and turn off the radio to catch faint whistles in the engine. Okay, so the Dart wasn’t human,
but it might as well be. It was a constant in his life. He could count on it.
The windowpane exploded, and Abraham ducked as a bottle clunked against the reception desk. He peered over
the sofa to see an officer wrestling a man to the ground. For just a moment something flashed in his mind: another uniform,
a small boy and cold, such cold. Abraham Sorkin shivered and cursed softly. An old Yiddish curse.
If it weren’t for Austin….
“Think what this could mean for all those people waiting for organs. Do you know how many people
sit and wait on transplant lists? Just sit and wait for hearts and lungs and eyes…? I saw a list, Abraham. The United
Network Organ Sharing list. On that one alone…40,000 names.”
Abraham was surprised. He’d figured there were many, but 40,000? And that, on just one list. Still.
. . .
“A third to a half of those people die, Abraham. Some of them, kids. Babies. Die before anyone can
even find an organ for them, let alone do the surgery. Think, Abraham, think.” Austin crossed the
room, leaning down to make eye-contact with the doctor. “You are the only one who can give us what we need…the
findings from the camps.”
In the end, he’d agreed. They’d been at it for fourteen years now. Separate research, he and
Austin. Comparing notes, exchanging figures, percentages, ratios. Until recently. Until the surgeries.
Until Steve Voight.
Such painstaking preparation for Voight’s surgery, such an intense gallery. But at
last, there was vindication. Abraham remembered wiping sweat from his forehead, worrying the pockets of the plaid vest…the
same one he was wearing now.