by Cathy Faye Rudolph
isty Peabody pushed the steaming platter of crispy orange-flavored beef in his direction. She helped herself to another serving of fried rice, then took a long draw on her bottle of RC Cola. She peered through her black-rimmed glasses at him while nibbling stir-fried green beans.
"Oh, you mean you don't understand how I came to my conclusions?"
Sherman Boyd pushed the hot peppers to one side of the platter, then added spoonful after spoonful of steaming beef and orange rind to his plate. His initial hunger assuaged, he decided to use chop sticks instead of a fork this time around. Her question caught him with a full mouth, so he nodded vigorously.
"We knew that the theft at the genetic engineering lab was an 'inside' job, and one that required knowledge of the breakthrough they'd made that day. The final analysis on the genetically altered bacterium had been completed at 4PM, and the only researchers to hear the results were the ones in the pharmaceutical department at the company, and their collaborators from the university."
Misty drew a little circle and check mark in the air with her chopsticks to indicate this relevant point.
"The police called us in soon enough for me to visit the laboratory at which the theft occurred. It was obvious that the valuable samples had been taken by someone who did not work on-site, for someone familiar with the lab would have known the precise sample tubes to remove. Instead, several racks of samples were missing, and many others had been upended and scattered in an attempt to disguise the fact that the new bacterium had been stolen. "
Sherman, who had managed to ingest the single hot pepper remaining in his helping of beef, gulped down his glass of water, and motioned frantically at the waiter for more. Misty serenely continued her explanation.
"If the bacterium wasn't removed by someone at the company, the thief had to be one of the graduate students from the university. That's why you and I spent the weekend at the university lab, posing as maintenance workers. By the way, you did some fine work, Sherman, logging the comings and goings of the students."
Sherman's nose had finally stopped running, and he mumbled a thanks from behind the tissue.
"So it had to be one of the graduate students: the hard-working 'morning person' Kurdish student, or his rather morose, 'night-owl' countryman, the Swede with the wrap-around shades, the Korean wearing the purple Nikes, or the butch Californian. I knew that the thief would try to determine which of the samples he or she had stolen was the valuable bacterium. The company gave me a list of the restriction enzymes that a researcher would use to characterize the bacterium's genetic material. It was a simple matter to watch the enzyme supplies and determine who was analyzing the stolen samples while performing their other routine analyses."
Misty shrugged slightly, and took another long drink of her cola. Sherman wiped a dribble of brown sauce from his striped shirt, and then hurriedly scribbled what he could recall of Misty's comments on the back of the paper napkin, all the while expressing his amazement at her investigatory abilities. Misty wrinkled her nose, and shook her head.
"No, I should have known from the start. Given the cast of characters, it was obvious: there was only one person who could be an agent and courier for a foreign power and have the requisite skills to analyze the bacterium."
Sherman's mouth was open, and his pen hovered above the napkin. His blank stare amused her. She looked at him reprovingly over the top of her glasses.
"Oh, come now, Sherman. Surely you've heard:
'It's the early Kurd that fetches the germ.'"
from And Another Thing... © 1994, 1995 Cathy Faye Rudolph.
Contents © 1994, 1995 Wayward Fluffy Publications.
Last revised: August 16, 1995 by Wayward Fluffy Publications.