If you are stumbling upon this, the beginning of the novel can be found here.
I work for the Crown, in the Oregon Ministry for Social Hygiene (OMSH), as the head of the Multnomah County division. Portland, and the Kenton neighborhood, sit in the middle of Multnomah County. The Ministry response to the Cholera would be my responsibility in the morning. Crown Ministries are small, with limited personnel, authority, and resources. We did not have the expertise of the Medical Societies at our disposal, since no Naturopathic, Homeopathic, or other Medical Philosopher will work for the Ministry. I hoped the Medical Societies would be of help, but the Ministry and the Medical Societies had a long history of a cordial, but distant, relationship. There were … issues between the organizations.
As of tomorrow morning, the Cholera would be in my lap, I hoped only metaphorically. With the Medical Societies unlikely to be of help, I needed information on the Cholera, and I needed it tonight. Therefore, the telegraph to my friends and colleagues at the Fraternal Order of Archelaus, or as we liked to call it, Skeptics in the Pub. I expected my telegram would have the desired effect of rallying my fellow Order members to supply me with the information about the Cholera that would be, at best, slow in coming from the Medical Societies.
Our Order, one of thousands of similar organizations in the Empire, is focused on understanding the sources and validity of knowledge. There is an abundance of knowledge kept under lock and key by the monopolies granted by the Crown to Societies and Guilds in exchange for a financial consideration. Part of the reason, albeit a minor one, for the failed revolution of 1776, was to abolish the intellectual monopolies of the Societies and Guilds. Rumor suggested it was referenced in their Declaration of Independence.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Free pursuit of Knowledge.
Maybe that was in the Declaration and maybe it was not. We will never know since the authors were terminated at the end of a rope and there are no extant copies of the document. The pursuit, and hoarding, of knowledge has remained the purview to the profit of the Societies and Guilds.
People sharing a common interest join Fraternal Organizations. Some Fraternal Organizations feed the poor. Others collect stamps. Others are an excuse to leave home and drink. A few Fraternal Organizations have been rumored to control governments and guide the fate of nations. The Freemasons and the Illuminati seem innocuous enough to me. I have, however, lobbied for a secret handshake. To date I have been ignored. The Crown currently views the Fraternal Organizations as mostly harmless. Currently.
I belong to the local Order of Arcesilaus, where I am the current assistant Grand Pooh-bah, actually Vice Chairman, of the Portland Branch. We chose the name after our archetype, Arcesilaus, the founder of philosophical skepticism. Obscure, I know. But all the old Fraternal Organizations are named after Greeks or Romans, humans or gods, and there is no god of skepticism. Of course, there isn’t. Arcesilaus doubted the ability of the senses to discover the truth about the world. We suspect he was on to something. Our biggest problem? We lack an alternative to the experience of the senses by which to judge the world. But we are working on it.
Skeptics in the Pub attempts to be a small counterweight to the Societies and Guilds; we think information should be freely disseminated for everyone’s benefit. We Skeptics seek knowledge, sometimes openly, sometimes in secret, depending on the tolerance of those who control that knowledge. The Medical Societies are particularly reticent about sharing their expertise for fear it will erode their income. Skeptics meet and talk, and debate. And drink. We call our meetings Skeptics in the Pub because the Pub is our preferred meeting place. Pubs, after all, have beer. And Skeptics in the Pub is easier to say than the Order of Arcesilaus in the Pub.
We try to determine truth, small t, as best we can. We look for reasons to support or deny the validity of, well, anything and everything. Our goals would make quite the mission statement and one we could never accomplish. The Empire has no centralized leadership for its Fraternal Organizations; each local Order concerns itself with whatever bee is in their bonnet, whatever interests them. Like our namesake, Arcesilaus, we are skeptical that authority and personal experience are valid ways to understand the world. But we have been struggling for a framework to evaluate Natural Phenomena. The automatic gainsaying of others is just contradiction, unsatisfactory and unconvincing. We have long had the sense that Philosophical discourse is missing something fundamental. But what?
So, in twenty-first-century America, we meet at a pub every week for beers. We discuss Natural Philosophies and their explanations of phenomena, keep notes, communicate with other Orders across the Empire, and try to keep the fire of truth burning, or at least smoldering.
The Order is an eclectic group with a variety of interests and backgrounds, but we all share a curiosity in understanding how and why the universe functions. I still wish we had a secret handshake.
Now I needed their help. I was in high school for the last Cholera outbreak, and now I was about to oversee the Ministry’s response. The Medical Societies and Guilds would almost certainly be of little direct help. I needed information about the Cholera, and my only reliable source was likely to be Skeptics in the Pub.
I checked the time. An hour until the meeting. I wanted to arrive early for some food. I was too tired to cook, and the kitchen was bare after two weeks away.
I tucked a large envelope of papers into my coat, documents I had obtained in New York. I had read them over and over on the train ride home, amazed, and excited at what I learned. The papers described a new Philosophy from the Continent I wanted to share with a few friends at the meeting. I did not think these papers were necessarily illegal. There was nothing in the content identifying their Continental origin. But. It was Continental. The Empire prohibited or suppressed almost everything originating from the Continent.
I was nervous about leaving the papers at home and equally nervous about carrying them with me. But could anyone know I was carrying potentially intellectual contraband? No one. Right? I should have nothing to worry about.
I left the apartment and flagged down a carriage; it would be faster than the streetcar and more direct. After giving the address to the driver, I stared out the window and watched the city go by to the clip-clop of horseshoes on the pavement.
The Cholera was back after eighteen years. Why? Where had it been hiding and why had it returned? The weather? It was unseasonably warm this year. Had it been this warm in 1999? I could not remember. I would have to find out.
Were the Cholera cases linked? Was there a commonality? Hard to know when the cause of the Cholera was unclear. And what was the cause of the Cholera? And who to ask? All the Medical Societies had their unique explanations for the one true cause of disease that were, at best, vague, perhaps misleading, but always in their own interest.
I took out a pen and note pad and started making a list of the information I might need and the questions that needed answers. I was not trained in any Medical Philosophy, but I could learn the basics. All I needed was a mastery of all things Cholera. Simple, right?
The Societies and Guilds did not, despite their best efforts, have a complete monopoly on knowledge; it was more of a business monopoly. Besides the Fraternal Order of Arcesilaus, there were public and private libraries, the local College, a few of which had access to a Babbage-Ada Universal Knowledge Machine (UKMs) to store, search for, and share knowledge. Most of the UKMs were linked by the telegraph for communication.
With luck, members of the Order could help me search the libraries and the collections of other Orders across the Empire to find useful information on the Cholera. As long as I did not try and monetize or publicize my findings, I did not think the Societies would notice. What they did not know could not hurt me.
And now I was armed with a unique Continental Philosophy that might provide a conceptual framework for my approach to the Cholera. Or so I hoped.
I scribbled a growing list of questions and to-dos in the notebook, and the more I scribbled, the more I realized how much I needed to learn, and I needed to learn it fast.
The carriage stopped, and I hopped out, giving the driver a five-dollar coin.
“Keep the change,” I said.
“Thank you kindly, sir,” he replied, “The King’s blessing on you.”
“And on you,” I replied automatically.
The King can’t bless me. I know that. He’s just this guy back in London. But there is no point in being rude to strangers.
I looked up at the sign, swaying slightly on its hinge: The Lying Husband. A faded painting of a man gesturing with his hands outstretched, apparently pleading. Or trying to appease someone. The Lying Husband is an old pub, founded after the Portland flood of 1894, and is a popular fixture on lower Hawthorne Street. The angry wife of a local banker established the pub with some of her divorce settlement. He had told his wife he was out helping flood victims when he was seeing his lover. So “lying” could be understood in several ways. It was one of the first divorces in the Empire where the wife received half of the worth of the husband, resulting in one of the first businesses in Portland to be owned and operated entirely by a woman.
The pub was large, lined with old oak and mahogany, worn but still with more than a hint of its original luxury. Now it was a comfortable east side pub, deliberately constructed above the 100-year flood line. Besides a spacious bar, they had a large meeting room on the second floor that the owner, also a member of the Order, let us use for free as long as everyone ordered food or drink, which was not an onerous requirement, as they had excellent fish and chips and beer.
For the members of the Fraternal Order of Arcesilaus, The Lying Husband was a refuge, a place to meet and talk freely and honestly, share knowledge, and learn. A home away from home.
I pushed open the front door and inhaled the comfortable smell of beer, tobacco, and deep-fried fish. I was twenty minutes early, so I went up to the bar to order.
“Hey, Agnes,” I said.
Agnes Davies was the bartender and the eldest daughter of the owner, the fifth in line from the founder of the bar. One hundred and twenty-three years in the same family. She, at least, was happily married.
“Hey yourself,” she replied. “How was New York?”
“I’ll tell you sometime when you need a nap. For now, a pint of bitter and a large fish and chips. I haven’t eaten since my last meal, and I am hungry and thirsty.”
“On the way,” she replied. “Should I have them sent upstairs?”
“Not yet,” I said. “I like the noise down here. It helps me focus and think.”
“Have a seat anywhere, then.”
I picked a table for two near the bar and took out my notebook and made some more notes while I waited for the food.
Why was the Cholera only on the east side of the Willamette River?
Was that the case in prior outbreaks?
Was there a difference in age or gender in the cases?
Did animals get the Cholera? How would we know?
Were there other outbreaks currently in the Americas? In the world? And were they linked to the Portland cases?
I continued jotting down questions until Agnes set down the beer.
“What are you working on?” she asked.
“I wondered, given your job, if you would be involved. Terrible way to go, shitting yourself to death and all. Any clues?”
“So far, just questions. What little I know I got from the newspapers.”
“In other words, body counts and bullshit.”
“Pretty much,” I said. “I have been away for almost a month and have no idea what has been going on in Portland during that time. Portland is invisible to the East Coast. The city could fall into the Pacific, and no one would notice. I will find out more tomorrow when I get to work. In the meantime, any insights for me? What do your customers say?”
“Not much. Mostly they talk about how it’s a horrible way it is to go. And die. A few think the Cholera is a punishment from God. Someone always does. God’s idea of punishment for our sins is intractable, fatal diarrhea. Odd sense of justice if you ask me.” She rolled her eyes. “Good thing Jesus didn’t go out that way. We would be wearing a crapper instead of a cross.”
“A step down from a plague of frogs,” I suggested.
“Perhaps,” she replied, “although a few say it is some sort of attack by the Continent. So, it could be a plague from frogs.”
It was my turn to do an eye roll.
“Thanks for that,” I said.
She continued with a grin. “But why would the Continent attack Portland—in the middle of nowhere, Oregon—of all places? That makes zero sense to me. The rest seem to have no opinion beyond not wanting to visit the Kenton neighborhood.”
“Can’t say as I blame them,” I said. “I am probably going to have to head to Kenton tomorrow, and the thought does not thrill me. But I will touch as little as possible and eat and drink nothing. If I can just figure out a way to not breathe…”
She snorted. “Good luck with that.”
A bell chimed in the distance.
“And that would be your fish and chips,” she said, walking back to the kitchen and returning with a plate of food. “Enjoy,” and left me to my meal.
I kept one eye on the front door as I ate. I was happy to see that the first person through the door was Mary Walker, the only female surgeon in the city.
Surgeons are an odd lot, not trained by the Medical Societies, but at Surgery Centers. Because Barber-Surgeons, now just Surgeons, have, for centuries, been the only medical practitioners allowed by the Crown to operate, set bones, and pull teeth. They have never bothered to have a formal Society. Instead, they are loosely affiliated independent practitioners, who, unlike the Medical Societies, do not worry about protecting their turf. Surgery is not a skill set that others can pick up on their own. Anyone can learn to make a chair or cut hair, a skill the surgeons, sadly, no longer offer. But learning how to remove a tumor or an appendix is impossible with self-study. I would hope.
Mary was odd, even by surgeon standards. Tall and thin, she had a perpetual resting bitch face. She looked angry even when she laughed, which was often and she was one of the kindest people I knew, facial expressions notwithstanding. Being one of the few women to be allowed to train in surgery, she had learned early not to take shit from anyone. It allowed her to not only get through her training but thrive in an environment of mostly patronizing men. She also had a reputation for the fastest hands in the West—not a small talent when racing the sedation from morphine, whiskey, and ether.
She has been part of the Order of Arcesilaus longer than any of the other current members and is the reason ours is the only branch that does not have “Fraternal” in the title. Fraternal was removed the day she became a member. Mary is convinced that virtually everything she is told is suspect unless accompanied by tangible proof. She said it was the result of being a surgeon. The diagnosis and the results of her surgeries, she always says, were obvious. She literally held the diagnosis in her hand, and if the patient died, you knew the operation was not a success. It made her a concrete thinker who liked unambiguous results.
The problem with the universe, she insisted, was that it was the opposite of surgery. You rarely had a substantive proof to support a belief. In comparison to her time in the operating room, “facts” were rarely supported with more than the say-so of others. She, more than anyone in the group, has been looking for a framework to understand the world that was more reliable than personal experience.
I caught her attention, and she joined me.
“Jordan. How was New York?”
“Dull as dirt. Except.”
“Except? Except what?”
“We will talk later after the meeting. Regarding the except.”
She frowned even more. “OK,” she said. “After the meeting. But good to have you home. I see you heard about the Cholera.”
“Yep,” I said. “Hard to miss it. I read about it in the paper as soon as I got off the train. Set off the distress flair for the Order. Work will certainly be intense tomorrow and I hope they can help prepare me. Do you have any insights?”
Mary laughed. “The flux is not a surgical problem, thank the gods. They have not needed my services. The Cholera often kills too fast for anyone to help, surgeon or otherwise.”
“It’s that bad?”
“It’s that bad,” she agreed. “And if the last outbreak is any guide, we are at the beginning of what will be a literal shit storm. Or perhaps flood. With no Noah building a Cholera ark.”
I sighed. “Well,” I said, “The Cholera will be my number one priority when I get to work tomorrow, and I want more to do more than nail quarantine notices on doors and bury the dead.”
“I assumed as much,” Mary said. “So, I put the word out early this week as soon as the Cholera started. Beat your telegram by three days. I told everyone who had the resources to find out as much about the Cholera that they could. They will be here tonight. The Medical Societies will be worthless, as they always are. But, as you know, there are other sources for information. We don’t want to see another several thousand people die this time around.”
I smiled. “Mary,” I said, “you are the best. Let me buy you a beer.”
“Of course. A beer is the least you can do.”
I signaled Agnes, who brought Mary her usual, a pint of Guinness. I ate my last chip, and, taking my beer, we walked upstairs together.
The upstairs meeting room could hold about a hundred people and was usually reserved for musical events and the occasional wedding. In the back was a small stage about two feet off the floor, with a short staircase on either side. Tonight, the tables were pushed to the side of the room and chairs were stacked in a corner, the leftovers from a dance the previous night.
Mary and I occupied our time by setting up the room, unfolding the chairs, and moving the tables into a large circle. People like to sit as they have their food and drink. As we worked, a few more members joined us, all asking me how New York had been.
My standard reply. And it had been boring. Except.
By five minutes after the hour, there were fifty people in the room, about twice the usual number and maybe two thirds of our total membership. It was rare to have the full membership show up for a meeting; people have lives to live, after all. But I was pleased with such a large turnout. I considered this a sign that Mary’s call for information was going to pay off.
Mary was the current chairman and once everyone was settled in, she walked to the podium on the stage. “Let’s get the meeting going,” she said. “Take your seats.”
There was a chorus of pint glasses thumping on tabletops.
I sometimes wonder about the wisdom of having these meetings in pubs. Alcohol does loosen the inhibitions and make for better conversations, but simultaneously makes conversations more boisterous, harder to control, and focus. Win some, lose some. It was the price we paid for a free meeting place.
“As most of you are aware,” she continued, “today’s meeting has a specific goal.”
There was another round of pints on tabletops.
“The Cholera has returned to the city.” She paused. “The Cholera. Many of you remember the outbreak in the summer of 1999 when almost 2500 men, women, and children died; died quickly and unpleasantly.
“It is safe to say that the response of the Crown, as well as that of the Medical Societies, to the Cholera, was worthless. They had, and have, no understanding of the nature of this plague. What causes it? Where does it come from? How to treat it? Why does it vanish? Why did it return? Each Society has their unique answer to these questions. Since they all can’t be right, I assume that they are all wrong.
“Not only does this apply to the Cholera, but for every epidemic that periodically runs through our community. The Medical Societies are at best clueless, and at worst incompetent, in the face of all contagion. But year after year, epidemic after epidemic, we lose family and friends to these outbreaks and…”
She paused and emphasized each of the next three words. “Nothing. Ever. Changes.”
There was a subdued murmur in response.
“Some say it is God’s will. Color me unimpressed with that explanation. It is an excuse to throw up your hands and surrender to death and disease. I’ll pass.
“Our Medical Societies are useless, each with its own proprietary explanation for each epidemic and its own proprietary treatments. Are their explanations valid? Do their therapies work?” She gave her best exaggerated Gallic shrug. “Who knows? All we have is the self-serving say-so from the Medical Societies with their endless series of anecdotes and testimonials. But dead men tell no tales. We,” she swept her arm over the audience, “of the Order of Arcesilaus suspect there are better ways to understand these epidemics, to understand Medical Philosophy, to understand the world.
“For centuries, the various Medical Philosophies have had a monopoly on the diagnosis and treatment of disease, lining their pockets to the detriment of the health of the Empire. Perhaps a time has come for something new. Something different. A new paradigm.”
Mary did not care for the Medical Societies. In large part this was due to attempting to salvage their failed interventions, often too late. She knew the consequences of applied Medical Philosophy first-hand and was not impressed.
“As you all know, the Order has been trying for years to obtain information about the Medical Societies to learn more about the fundamentals of their Philosophies, and we have had some success, but not enough. The Societies are as impenetrable as steel plating and just as malleable.
“The Cholera, perhaps, is an opportunity for a new approach to epidemics. To understand the pestilence by first ignoring the useless approaches of the Medical Societies. To start from the beginning, to start fresh, and to be a force for change.”
Mary really should run for office.
“We may have an opportunity to be the first to start that change within the Empire. The Cholera has returned to Portland, and there may be gold under this shit-covered gift.
“You all know Jordan Bruno. He has been a member of our group for five years and is the head of the Multnomah County division of the Oregon Ministry for Social Hygiene. He will be in charge of the Public Health response to the Cholera. We are fortunate to have someone in a place of authority who may be able to make a difference with the Cholera outbreak. And he will need all our help.”
“We have the opportunity, perhaps, to light a fire and shine a light on the Cholera. Both disgusting when taken literally, I will admit. Let us not waste the opportunity.” She stopped and looked at me. “So, Jordan, what do you have to say for yourself?”
I was expecting neither the long introduction nor it ending so abruptly. I jumped to my feet. “For starters,” I said, “Another beer.”
This resulted in a burst of laughter and more pints hitting the table while giving me time to collect my thoughts.
“The problem,” I continued as the noise died down, “Is how little we know about the Cholera. My time at the OMSH has been mostly concerned with the quarantine of communicable childhood illnesses like Measles and Scarlet Fever. The Cholera? We were not expecting its return. But given the severity of the last outbreak, I assume that all our resources, however inadequate, will be focused on combating the Cholera. It is likely that the only tool we will be able to use is the quarantine.
“If we are going to defeat the Cholera with other, novel, interventions, it may have to be accomplished somewhat surreptitiously, and with the help of every Skeptic in the city. It will be a group effort. If the Medical Societies even get a hint that we could possibly be treading in their bailiwick, it will be more than the Cholera hitting the fan. I understand there have been some investigations on the part of the people here to help me get up to speed. So, what do you have for me?”
Time for the Hawthorne Street Irregulars to show their stuff. First up was Darin Boyles. Darin was a thin Irishman who has been wasting away for the last six months from what was probably the Consumption. I don’t think he had much time left, but he still showed up every week. He was a chemist by trade and owned a successful pharmacy in the Alameda neighborhood. He had an interest in Empire history, and he, like many at the Pub, had a comprehensive knowledge of the topic from a lifetime of study.
“Jordan. How was New York?”
Darin nodded in agreement. “It is how I have found New York to be. Overrated. But you are interested in the history of the Cholera, not comparative vacations. The Cholera appears to be as old as humanity. As best as I can determine, and there is some disagreement as to the particulars, the Cholera was first reported in India around the 5th century B.C. or perhaps in Greece around the same time? Perhaps. I think India is more likely. Diarrhea is diarrhea, and the old texts are not particular in their specifics.”
“But the Cholera is old,” I said.
He nodded and continued. “Ancient. The first written description of an outbreak of what sounds like the Cholera was in 1543 in the Ganges Delta of India. It most resembled the disease we have seen in the Empire, where it often killed people in hours. They had trouble keeping up with burying the dead. It was nasty. And for whatever reason, it went away, popping up now and then over the centuries in India and adjacent countries.
“Then sometime in the early 1800s, the Cholera escaped India. It swept across Asia and somehow made it to Europe, England, and then the Americas. All in less than fifty years. How it traveled so far, so fast, has never been explained. The best explanation I have come across blamed, with no proof, migrating birds or sea animals. There would be no other way for the Cholera to cross the oceans or over mountain ranges.”
“We don’t have sea animals in Portland,” I said, “We are too far inland. But lots of seabirds and other migratory animals.”
“Oh no,” replied Darin. “We have sea animals. Sea lions are often in the Columbia, feeding on salmon. This is the time of year they can be spotted.”
“So, birds and sea lions spread the Cholera?” I asked.
“Birds or sea animals,” corrected Darin. “Either. Or both. Or neither. No one knows. But I would be skeptical. It was just a supposition on the part of one writer, who wondered what could bring the Cholera all the way from India to Europe and then to the Americas. He suggested wild animals or birds as the only way it could cross the Atlantic.”
“Or humans. On a ship,” I said.
“The writer dismissed that since no one with the Cholera would have made it across the ocean without dying,” Darin replied. “It takes at least three weeks to sail from England to New York. Most on board would die from the Cholera if there were an outbreak. And there are no reports of ships with the Cholera ever reaching North America. I suppose it could have been smugglers or pirate ships that were the source, which would go unrecorded. But it seems unlikely that a crew infected in Ireland would have survived to make it to the Americas.
“In the past two hundred years, they have been four large outbreaks in the Empire outside of India. One in the mother country. One in the Northeast, New York. Boston. Montréal. That was a bad one. It killed tens of thousands. One centered in New Orleans. One in the Caribbean, in Haiti, and surrounding islands. And there have been numerous smaller Cholera outbreaks, like the 1999 outbreak in Portland.”
I interrupted. “Small? It killed over 2000 people, and maybe seven times that many fell ill.”
“Small only in comparison to what happened in India,” replied Darin. “Hundreds of thousands have died in the East during outbreaks. For whatever reason, the 1999 outbreak was comparatively mild. We were lucky.” Darin resumed his history. “The details of the Cholera, and most plagues, are always sketchy. The Crown and the Medical Societies try to keep all outbreaks, if not actively suppressed, at least minimally reported outside the outbreak areas. Reporting just isn’t done. As is so often the case with Crown business, the official reports are unavailable to common folks like us, and the Medical Societies are their usual unrevealing selves. As to outbreaks outside of the Empire, reports are even sketchier and more unreliable.
“Here is the best I can determine. The Cholera has been part of human history; it causes local and epidemic disease all over the world, sometimes with horrific mortality. But if there is a pattern to the coming and going of these epidemics, I cannot say. Except for one thing.”
Darin paused and smiled. Darin liked to be asked questions.
“And that one thing?” I asked.
“The Cholera is a disease of warm weather and warm climates. The outbreaks tend to be in the summer and tropical areas. I think. Again, the historical record is incomplete and fragmentary. But there are no winter outbreaks in those areas that have cold winters. If I could get my hands on the official reports, I could confirm it. But I think it is a real phenomenon. It suggests that the Cholera is somehow associated with heat or air or the sun or the weather or the climate. Something in a warm environment triggers the disease, and something in a cold environment stops it. Maybe. But it does lend credence to the assertion that it was the cold that stopped the 1999 outbreak.”
“Wow,” I said, impressed. “That is interesting. If true, that would be a first in understanding the epidemiology of the Cholera. The Societies never made that association that I know of.”
Darin grinned. “I try to be of service,” he said. “As if the Societies ever make their conclusions known. And there is more. By chance, I had been spending the last few months reading old newspapers at the library. They have some that date to the early 1800s. I was researching a variety of topics of interest to me, among them trying to see if there is a pattern to recurrent diseases, trying to see if there were any commonalities. Measles, the Gasping Oppression, the Pox. Things like that. Maybe I could get a hint as to when then the next outbreak would hit. It was in anticipation of future pestilences, but I did not come up with much, just piles of numbers. Dates, temperatures, deaths, illnesses. Anything I could give a number to. By happenstance, I also collected information on the Cholera. When I received the call for Cholera information, I took the liberty of giving the material to the Professors Ford. I suspect they found it of use.”
He sat down and lifted an empty mug. “You owe me a pint,” he said, starting to cough.
“On its way,” I said, gesturing to a waitress.