When I woke up the next morning, I went for my usual tea and scone. Then I caught the trolley to work. When it reached the far side of the Steel Bridge, I hopped off. I took the steps down to the lower level and took the narrow walking path back across the river.

I saw no one get off the trolley with me, and I was the only one walking west over the bridge. No one was following me. I think.

Yesterday I had dismissed the idea that someone, or some Crown organization, was watching me. Now I was back to being paranoid, skulking through the morning streets of Portland. But I wanted to see if I could see my shadow. Maybe if I did, winter would come early and kill off the Cholera.

I suppose with my behavior I made it all the more obvious I was up to something. Maybe I should wave a red flag and shout that I was up to no good. But I was committed. If I was being followed, I was going to either find the person or lose them.

When I got to the west side of the Steel Bridge, I got back on the trolley and jumped off on the other side of the bridge. Again, no one got off the trolley, and no one was going east on the walking path. This time I got on the Westbound trolley, went three blocks, hopped off, and walked to the Meier & Frank. I went in the northeast entrance, took the elevators to the top, then took the escalators down to the second floor, then the steps to one, then out the building on the southwest side.

All the time watching for anyone who was trying to keep up with me, as I walked as quickly as was polite.

Nothing. Either I had lost my shadow, or no one was following me. Or I am a fool. So, I had a cup of tea at the cafe in the mall, then walked to the River Weekly office.

This time there was a secretary at the front desk, and I waited while she sent a message back to Shaun Colvin that I was requesting a meeting.

“Please make yourself comfortable,” she said. “He is in a meeting with the editor but should be available shortly.”

I sat in a chair and tried to read the last River Weekly, but my concentration was poor.

“Mr. Bruno?”

It was Colvin. He was behaving as if I had never met him before.

“Yes,” I said. “And you must be Mr. Colvin.”

“I am.”

We shook hands and started towards the back of the office.

“Come on back,” he said. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

We made it to his office, and he closed the door. “I assume,” he said, “That this is important?”

“Very much so. I think we know not only what is causing the Cholera, but how to stop it. We don’t have a complete understanding by any means, but if I can get what we have discovered widely disseminated, we might be able to stop or at least slow it down. Maybe, if we are right, we can prevent thousands of cases and save hundreds of lives.”

“That is quite an extraordinary claim. I assume you have extraordinary evidence?”

“I have evidence; I’ll let you decide if it is extraordinary enough to prove my claims.”

I spent the next hour explaining to him all we had discovered about the Cholera. I told him about the animalcules in the water and the experience with the Atwood’s. How boiling water seems to kill off the animalcules. I told him how the majority of patients who drank the pump water containing the animalcules went on to get the Cholera. And I told him about the nosodes and how they were responsible for the cases in Lake Oswego and Hillsboro. I even told him I drank some pump water and was waiting for the flux to begin.

The whole time he took notes. “Are you saying the Homeopathic Philosophers are giving people Cholera shit mixed in Cholera contaminated water?” he said in a disbelieving tone.

“I am.”

When I finished my explanation of the Cholera, there was a very long pause while he re-read his notes, pencil drumming on the desk.

“This,” he said, “is both the scoop of the century and a potential bomb that could destroy us both. This puts us directly in opposition to the Medical Societies, especially the Homeopathic and Naturopathic Societies, and by extension, the Crown. They could squash us like a bug, especially you. You realize that, don’t you?”

“I do,” I said. “I am no hero, but people are dying, and more are going to die. I just have to hope that by being right, it will protect me from the worst of it.”

“Being right,” he said, “is unlikely to be protective. You know, I will have to corroborate all this information.”

“We can verify some of it. I can show you the animalcules in the water and, if you want, some in the stool. But you might have noticed that I did not mention any names. I know the trouble this may lead to, and I am not taking anyone down with me.”

“Except for me.”

“Well, there is that.”

There was another long pause while he considered. “My editor has to hear this. It’s too big. Can you repeat what you told me to her?”


He got up and returned 20 minutes later with a middle-aged, slightly frazzled looking woman.

“Mr. Bruno,” she said, holding out her hand. “Isabel Howitt. Editor and publisher of the River Weekly. Mr. Colvin just told me a most remarkable story. Could you repeat it for me?”

“Of course,” I said. And I told her everything I told Colvin.

There was another long pause after I finished.

“This,” she said, “could be the story of the century. A shoo-in for the Orwell Prize or perhaps a Pulitzer, even for a weekly paper at the fringes of the Empire. It is huge, if true, the first understanding of the Cholera. With both a cause and treatment. If the concepts here could be applied to other diseases, it could revolutionize our approach to illness.”

I had not considered that before. I had assumed that what we had discovered applied only to the Cholera. That would be a short-term annoyance to the Societies, fading as the Cholera faded. But if these ideas could be applied to all the other outbreaks that plagued humans, could it put the Societies out of business or severely hamstring them? This could be more dangerous than I had thought.

“Mr. Colvin informed me that we have to rely on you and only you for the veracity for what you have told us. There is no other person we can talk with to validate the details of your story. If possible, we prefer to have at least two independent confirmations for controversial stories.”

“I am afraid that is so. If this information is as explosive as we suspect, I am not going to put my friends and colleagues at risk.”

“Do you mind if Mr. Colvin and I confer together for a bit?”

“Of course.”

They left the room, leaving me with my thoughts. I was suddenly tired like I had pulled an all-nighter. I felt sweaty and all my muscles had a dull ache. I closed my eyes and tried to clear my mind. It did not work, and the anxiety in the pit of my stomach twisted slowly.

They returned after a little more than half an hour.

“All right,” she said. “We are going to run with this. But I want these animalcules confirmed. Can you show them to Mr. Colvin? We would like an illustrator to sketch what is seen in the microscope.”

“Absolutely,” I said. “That is easy enough. And I can probably find another Cholera case as well if you want to see one in the flux.

“That would be nice,” she said. “As much confirmatory information as possible. We are going to be crossing the Societies and with them, the Crown. And…” she paused. “We are going to have to quote you.”

I knew that was coming. It would likely mean the end of my career. “I am not thrilled with that. If you quote me, my job is likely history. And I like my job. Can’t I be an anonymous source or something?”

“You can. But don’t you think it will be obvious who is being quoted? The story will have far more power and believability if we quote you directly.”

I sighed and felt the ball of anxiety grow in my stomach. Lives were at stake. Was my career worth another life? No. “OK. Quote me if you must. But when you run the story, publish an obituary for my job as well. Requiescat in pace.”

“Maybe,” she said. “But you will have our support. The power of the press and all that. If all this is true, we might make you a hero, and you might get to keep your job.”

“A hero? Me? It’s not like I participated in a cavalry charge and survived against the odds. This is more likely to be a repeat of the light brigade.”

“Maybe,” she replied. “But if you save hundreds or thousands of lives because you have discovered the cause and treatment of the Cholera, I think that pretty much defines a hero. You become a great man, a sage, a wisdom. Only if this turns out to be a load of Cholera will you be fed to the dogs with no mercy.”

“Great,” I said. “I will either become one of the historical greats, with a statue of me in the park, pigeons on my head like Lord Nelson, or dog food.”

“Pretty much.”

“What’s the next step?” I asked.

“See how much of this you can prove to Mr. Colvin. You tell a good story, but we need to see some hard evidence.”

I looked over at Mr. Colvin. “Let’s get to it, then.”

I stood, shook hands with Miss. Howitt, and left with Colvin.

“First, show me this animalcule,” he said.

“Let us head to Kenton.”

As we rode the trolley, I explained the microscope, how it worked, and how I acquired it in New York.

“So, there is someone who already suspects that animalcules are the cause of the Cholera?”

“Maybe. I don’t know who thinks animalcules cause illness. Maybe Pasteur, a Frenchman, or so it has been suggested. When I received the microscope, there were no reports of the Cholera in Portland. It may all be serendipity. But given events, I am not so sanguine there isn’t someone nudging us in the direction of finding animalcules. But who and why I do not have a clue.”

“It is probably someone in a position of power,” said Colvin. “With resources to be able to keep an eye on you. And money. A microscope is a rare, expensive item. Do you have it with you?”

I opened my satchel and handed him the microscope. He took it and looked it over carefully. “This is a nice tool, very well made.” He looked at the bottom of the stand. “And here,” he said, pointing. “The name of the company on the Continent who made it with a serial number. With this, I might be able to track down who sent this to you.”

That was a surprise. After a moment, I said, “I don’t think so. Whoever it is, he wants his anonymity, and there is no point in riling him up by finding out who he is. That would likely only lead to trouble neither of us wants.”

“Perhaps,” said Colvin. “But it might answer some questions as well.”

“I’ll make you a deal,” I said. “Look into it you want. But. Keep it out of the paper. And don’t tell me. I have enough on my plate without worrying about antagonizing the rich and powerful.”

“Seems reasonable.” He wrote the information in a notebook. “For now. But I promise I will publish nothing about your benefactor without getting your approval first.”

“Thank you,” I said.

We reached Kenton and walked over to the park. I waved at Paul.

“Old friend,” I said in response to a raised eyebrow. He shrugged.



  • Mark Crislip, MD has been a practicing Infectious Disease specialist in Portland, Oregon, from 1990 to 2023. He has been voted a US News and World Report best US doctor, best ID doctor in Portland Magazine multiple times, has multiple teaching awards and, most importantly,  the ‘Attending Most Likely To Tell It Like It Is’ by the medical residents at his hospital. His multi-media empire can be found at

Posted by Mark Crislip

Mark Crislip, MD has been a practicing Infectious Disease specialist in Portland, Oregon, from 1990 to 2023. He has been voted a US News and World Report best US doctor, best ID doctor in Portland Magazine multiple times, has multiple teaching awards and, most importantly,  the ‘Attending Most Likely To Tell It Like It Is’ by the medical residents at his hospital. His multi-media empire can be found at