This is the fifth chapter of a serialised story. The first chapter is here:

Chapter 5

Royal Holloway University. London England

‘I don’t understand it, Alison,’ said Professor Bush. Alison grinned to herself and metaphorically punched the air and shouted ‘YES’. She put her concerned face on and said innocently, ‘does this mean that I have been doing the experiments correctly all along professor?’

‘Well, err – yes, I suppose is does and I think you are due an apology from me. Firstly for doubting your ability to carry out an experiment correctly and secondly for sticking to the evidence when I tried to bully you to admit that you had made a mistake.’

‘Oh that’s OK professor, we all make mistakes,’ said Alison loftily. ‘Always be magnanimous in victory,’ her mother had taught her.

The prof. glanced at her, was she taking the mic? ‘We now have four results with two different operators, using two different methods and we have the same result, within the limits of scientific error, of course. This shows that the oxygen in the atmosphere has dropped from 31% to 27.3%. This is very worrying.

Alison was not worried at all, she had just proven her supervisor, and Lavoisier, wrong. She was chuffed to bits and had great difficulty in not giggling. She thought even the professor had cracked his face into a small grin – unlikely but you never know.


Birmingham England

Lee recovered a little in hospital. He had been helped by the oxygen and the medication he had been given. No one had found out about his feet and he had behaved himself and acted as a model patient. Even Dr Amos – ‘Call me Joss,’ he had said, but Lee had been unable to summon the courage to go that far.

He was now waiting for an ambulance to take him home. There was a lot of pressure on beds, there seemed to be a huge number of patients with breathing problems. He couldn’t wait to get away from the hospital. It wasn’t that he didn’t like it, more that he didn’t like the continual monitoring, he was more of a backroom introvert.

He was pushed out to the ambulance, in accordance with hospital regulations, in a wheel chair. He felt strong and would rather have walked but rules were…

They set off in the afternoon early rush hour traffic for the twenty minute drive home.

Lee died from respiratory failure about five minutes from his front door in spite of the emergency resuscitation efforts of the paramedics. He never did get the chance to wash his feet.


Pittsburgh PA. USA

‘Come in here, quickly John,’ demanded the mayor in his loud voice, making the use of the intercom nearly superfluous.

‘What’s up Doc?’ he said, sotto voce, as he walked in to the mayoral office.

‘It’s this report you wrote for me. You understand that now I have officially seen it, I will have to do something to get the air pollution levels down?’

‘I thought that was the purpose of the report you asked me to write!’ asked Joh Axelrod innocently.

‘No, you numbskull it was to achieve the exact opposite, to protect me from doing anything until the report was written. You could have taken several months to do it, not just a week.’

‘Well you did employ me to be efficient, Mr Mayor.’

‘No I didn’t. I employed you to help me keep the peasants off my back.’

‘Well, the peasants as you call them, the people who voted for you and pay your huge salary, are dying in increasing numbers because of this pollution so something has to be done.’

‘OK, OK’ grumbled the mayor. ‘This what we will do. We’ll put an emergency ten-fold increase on the congestion charge. That way we will reduce the traffic problems, reduce the pollution and increase dramatically our income – sounds win, win to me,’ chortled Boris.

© Richard Kefford                                                                                                        Eorðdraca


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