‘Thanks. You’re a decent bloke.’

They drove over to Baberton in silence and Dewar parked outside Ferguson’s house. He could see that Joyce had come to the window. She looked small and fragile.

‘Malloy said, ‘We have your word?’

‘I promise,’ said Ferguson. ‘I will not try to run away.’

‘Five minutes,’ Dewar reminded him.

Dewar and Malloy sat outside in the car while Ferguson, gathering Joyce in his arms, disappeared inside. Five minutes passed with no sign of his return. ‘Another couple,’ said Dewar.

‘Right,’ said Dewar after ten minutes had gone by, ‘Let’s fetch him.’

Dewar rang the bell. There was no response. He tried again. Nothing.

Both men ran round the back of the house, half expecting to find the back door flapping open and Ferguson gone but the back door was locked. Dewar shrugged and put his shoulder to it. It gave after the second challenge.

Ferguson, Joyce and Malcolm were all lying together on the living room floor. The television was on but they were all quite dead. There was a vague chemical smell in the air.

‘Cyanide,’ whispered Dewar, freeing a small brown bottle that was still in Ferguson’s hand. ‘Poor bastard, I guess this was plan B all along. The Iraqis just provided an alternative scenario for a few weeks.’

‘Oh George,’ whispered Malloy.


‘Tell me it’s really all over,’ said Karen as she and Dewar travelled south together on their way back to London. Ian Grant was well on the road to recovery, the outbreak in Edinburgh was under control and people were being vaccinated in circles of ever increasing radius from the city to ensure that the virus would find it difficult if not impossible to spread. With a bit of luck it would be contained and the earth would be free of it again.

‘It’s over,’ smiled Dewar.

‘What will happen to the Iraqis?’

‘George Ferguson’s death will provide the authorities with the excuse they need to avoid any kind of public trial. No testimony from George means no trial for Siddiqui means no embarrassment for the establishment. Nobody comes out of this affair with any credit.’

‘So it will all just be swept under the carpet?’

‘That’s my guess.’

‘But surely there will be demands for an enquiry?’ insisted Karen.

‘For some politicians, calling for a full public enquiry is a way of life. They do it so often that nobody takes a blind bit of notice any more. Their requests will be denied and armies of spin doctors brought in to make sure everyone concentrates on the fact that the epidemic is over and the disease has been contained. Celebration and services of thanksgiving will be the order of the day.’

‘Doesn’t that make you angry?’

‘Just numb.’

‘Will you get leave?’

‘I’m presenting my report at the Home Office tomorrow morning then I’m all yours. How about you?’

‘My leave started this morning.’

‘Shall we go away for a few days?’


‘Scottish Highlands? Very few people and lots of fresh air.’

‘Deal,’ smiled Karen.

When Dewar finished delivering his report on the happenings in Edinburgh he was met with a wall of stunned silence. There were about thirty people in the room, the Home Secretary and Minister of Defence were sitting in the front row beside Macmillan.

‘Dr Dewar, I think we owe you a debt of gratitude,’ said the Minister of Defence. ‘Thanks to your efforts, a potentially disastrous scenario in the middle east has been averted. There are already signs that Saddam will now back down and allow the UNSCOM inspectors to resume their work.’

‘Until the next time,’ said Dewar.

‘Almost certainly true, I’m afraid. ‘But I’m sure we can all learn from this experience.’

‘I must say I’m pretty alarmed at how close he came to getting what he wanted. I thought we had all sorts of safeguards with respect to micro organisms,’ said one of the politicians in the second row. ‘It seemed almost … easy in the end?’

‘It was,’ agreed Dewar.

‘Dr Dewar, are you suggesting that all the legislation we’ve brought in, all the regulations we’ve imposed about the storage and handling of dangerous viruses and bacteria, count for nothing?’ asked an official from the Health and Safety Executive.

‘In this instance, sir, they were irrelevant,’ said Dewar. ‘In the final analysis, all it took was one lab technician and a few glass bottles in his garage and we had a biological nightmare on our hands.’

‘Just how many of these old infectious diseases hospitals do we have out there?’ asked The Home Secretary.

‘Several hundreds sir,’ came the reply from the back.

‘And how many are being pulled down?’

‘Most of them sir; they’re no longer required. We don’t have the epidemics we used to …’

There was a very pregnant pause before the Home Secretary turned to Dewar and said, ‘And it’s conceivable that many of them have forgotten stores of bacteria and viruses?’

‘It’s a distinct possibility,’ Dewar agreed.

‘Then all our efforts at containing dangerous micro-organisms in strictly controlled environments …?’

‘Are excellent in their place, sir.’

‘What does that mean?’

‘It means sir, the animals in the zoo are perfectly safe. It’s the ones in the forest we have to worry about.’

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