Magazine1 about a team of American scientists going to examine the Shroud of Turin, a religious relic believed by many to be the burial shroud of Jesus Christ. He had heard of the Shroud but had always dismissed it as just another example of religious fraud designed to pick the pockets of gullible worshipers. But here was an article in one of the most widely read science journals reporting that credible American scientists were actually taking their time to examine this thing.

At first the article had aroused only amused disbelief, but among the list of the scientists involved, Decker found the name Dr. Harold Goodman. This made no sense at all. Goodman, as Decker knew from his frequent pronouncements, was an atheist. Well, not exactly an atheist. Goodman liked to talk about the uncertainty of everything. In his office at the university were two posters. The first was crudely hand-printed and stated: 'Goodman's First Law of Achievement: The shortest distance between any two points is around the rules' (a philosophy which obviously had not set well with the dean). The second poster was done in a late 1960s-style psychedelic print and said: 'I think, therefore, I'am. I think.' Mixing the uncertainty of his own existence with his disbelief in God, Goodman had settled on referring to himself as 'an atheist by inclination but an agnostic by practice.' So why was a man like Goodman going off on some ridiculous expedition to study the Shroud of Turin?

Decker filed the information away in his memory and probably would have left it there had it not been for a phone call from an old friend, Tom Donafin. Tom was a reporter for the Courier in Waltham, Massachusetts, and had called about a story he was working on about corruption in banking – something which Knoxville had plenty of in 1978. After discussing the banking story Tom asked Decker if he had seen the article in Science.

'Yeah, I saw it,' Decker answered. 'Why?'

'I just thought you'd be interested in what old 'bushy brows' was up to,' Tom laughed.

'Are you sure it's him? I didn't see him in any of the pictures.'

'At first I didn't think it was possible, but I did a little checking, and it's him.'

1 J. Culliton, 'Mystery of the Shroud of Turin Challenges 20th Century Science.' Science, July 21, 1978. 201:235-239.

'You know,' Decker said, thinking out loud, 'There might be a story here. Religion sells.'

'If you mean covering the expedition, I think you're right, but security is really tight. I tried to dig into the particulars a little but hit a brick wall. They're limiting coverage of the expedition to one reporter: a guy from the National Geographic' 2

'That sounds like a challenge to me,' Decker said.

'Oh, I'm not saying it can't be done, but it won't be easy.'

Decker began to muse how he might, if he wanted to, go about getting the story. He could take the direct approach of trying to reason with whoever was making the rules. After all, why should they have only one journalist? On the other hand, what possible reason could he give to convince them to take someone from a tiny unknown weekly in Knoxville, Tennessee? Clearly, his best bet was to work through Goodman.

Over the next three weeks Decker made several attempts to reach his old professor, but without success. Goodman was doing research somewhere in Japan and even his wife, Martha, wasn't sure exactly where he was. With little to depend on beyond luck and determination, Decker arranged to fly to Norwich, Connecticut, and booked a room in the hotel where the Shroud team was scheduled to meet over the Labor Day weekend. He arrived the day before to look things over.

The next morning Decker found that a private dining room in the hotel had been prepared for about fifty people. Checking with one of the waiters, he quickly confirmed that this was where the Shroud team was meeting. A few minutes later the first of the team members walked into the room. The eyebrows were unmistakable. 'Professor Goodman,' Decker said, as he approached Goodman and extended his right hand. Goodman looked puzzled. 'It's Hawthorne,' Decker offered. It was obvious that Goodman was struggling to place the face. 'From the University of Tennessee,' he added.

A gleam of recognition began to show in the pale green eyes beneath the massive clumps of hair. 'Oh, yes, Hawthorne! Well, how the hell are you? What are you doing here in Connecticut?'

Before Decker could answer, another person entered the room and called out, 'Harry Goodman!' and came over to where they were standing. 'So, where were you last night? I called your room, hoping to have dinner with you.'

2 For the resulting article see K. F. Weaver, 'Mystery of the Shroud.' National Geographic, June 1980, 157:729-753.

Goodman did not respond but proceeded instead to formal introductions. 'Professor Don Stanley, allow me to introduce Decker Hawthorne, a former student and research assistant of mine from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.'

Professor Stanley shook Decker's hand, gave him a quick onceover, and then looked back at Goodman. 'So Hawthorne here must be the research assistant that I heard you'd suckered into helping out. What a shame,' Stanley added, pausing and looking back at Decker, 'I'd have thought you looked too intelligent for that.'

'He is,' responded Goodman, 'and, unfortunately, so is the young man you're referring to.'

'Oh, so he jumped ship on you, did he?' responded Stanley with a chuckle.

'Well, after all,' Goodman shrugged, 'it is quite a lot to expect a young man to pay the cost of an airline ticket to Turin, Italy, just to go on a wild goose chase.'

Decker let none of this escape his attention. The possibility of replacing the missing research assistant provided a much better chance of getting onto the team than did the direct approach of getting the team to accept a second reporter. Now it was just a matter of waiting for the right opening.

'If you're so sure it's a 'goose chase,' why do you insist on going along?' Stanley asked.

'Somebody's got to keep the rest of you honest,' Goodman said, with a grin.

By now several other members of the team had filed into the dining room and were gathering in small groups for conversation. One of the men caught Professor Stanley's attention and Stanley walked over to greet the new arrival. Decker seized the opportunity to question Professor Goodman further about the missing assistant.

'What is it exactly that your research assistant was going to do on this trip?' Decker asked.

'Oh, everything from collection of data to general 'gofer' work. We've got hundreds of different experiments planned and we may have as little as twelve hours to do them all. It's the kind of environment where an extra pair of trained hands can be very helpful.'

'I don't suppose you'd be interested in a substitute?' Decker asked. He was counting on the fact that Goodman didn't know that he had switched his major from pre-med to journalism after Goodman left the University of Tennessee. Decker felt a twinge of guilt, but this certainly wasn't the biggest omission of fact he had ever used to get a story. Besides, he was pretty sure he remembered enough to get by. And he could certainly qualify as a gofer.

'What!' Goodman responded. 'After I just told Professor Stanley you were too smart for such a thing?'

'Really, I'd like to go,' Decker insisted. 'Actually, that's why I came here. I may be a little rusty, but I read the article in Science and I've got experience with most of the equipment you'll be using.'

'What you read was just the beginning.' Goodman paused long enough to frown and then continued, 'Well, I'm not going to refuse help, but you know that you have to pay your own way: air fare, hotel, food, transportation?'

'Yeah, I know,' Decker answered.

'But why?' asked Goodman. 'You haven't gone and gotten religion, have you?'

'No, nothing like that. It just sounds like an interesting project.' Decker realized it wasn't a very convincing answer, so he turned the question around. 'Why are you going?' he asked. 'You don't believe in any of this stuff.'

'Hell, no! I just want a chance to debunk this whole thing.'

Decker refocused the conversation. 'So, can I come along or not?'

'Yeah, well, I guess so; if you're sure about it. I'll just need to talk to Eric,' he said, referring to one of the team's de facto leaders, Eric Jumper. 'We'll have to get your name added to the list of team members. The

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