Field Trip

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Toby saw the message from Dr. Guro as he was leaving class.  He immediately turned to climb the stairs leading to the professor's office without giving his movement a moment of conscious thought.  When he arrived, Dr. Guro's office looked even more disheveled than usual, which Toby had come to recognize as a sign of productivity on the part of the professor.  Dr. Guro waved him in, his hand blustering about his head in the usual motion he employed to communicate several things at once without speaking.

"The police found another victim."  Dr. Guro said excitedly.  "Though they no longer need my expertise to reach an accurate diagnosis, nor appreciate my willingness to share my opinion on the matter, I am friends with the coroner and she keeps me in the loop.  Another woman was found dead a few days ago.  Like the other victims, she was an addict and a prostitute, and her cause of death was ruled definitively to be from granulomatous amebic encephalitis."

Toby could not help smiling at the excited professor.  "They say it's not work if you're not paid."

"It just so happens that the victim's needles, along with a small amount of illicit drugs found in the victim's apartment, were collected as evidence.  The coroner has kindly contracted the lab work out to me in order to find out to what extent, if any, the needles or drugs are contaminated with the Acanthomoeba."

Toby nodded, "That qualifies as work."

"For which I will require assistance."  Dr. Guro stated.  "I would also like to get samples of tap water from the place where the woman lived."

"It seems like she would have also spent a lot of time in bars and hotels."  Toby said, considering other alternatives.

"Where she would have been under the constant threat of being picked up by the police, or robbed.  A prostitute strung out on dope would most likely live close to the area she works in my opinion.  That way she would be able to make frequent stops to use in between jobs.  It seems to me that it would be too risky for a woman to be carrying a significant quantity of drugs on her person in her line of work."  Dr. Guro stroked his beard thoughtfully as he spoke.

"When will the specimens arrive?"  Toby asked.

Dr. Guro raised an eyebrow in his direction.  "We will have to pick them up.  If you do not have other plans already this afternoon, you can ride with me."

Toby nodded, and pulling out his tablet, messaged Cass that he would be out for the evening.

The sprawl along the interstate stretched all the way from Norborne to the city in a long swathe of box stores and chain restaurants, broken only by the occasional anomaly of a scrap metal yard or run down motel.  Behind the gaudy signage lining the shores of this river of traffic were vast neighborhoods that had at one time been working class, but which in their decrepitude had come to most closely resemble favelas.  To the east, a large hill rose out of the otherwise flat terrain, a treeless mound of dirt combed over decades worth of accumulated trash, that from a distance looked eerily like the ancient mounds that mystified early explorers of Central America.

Dr. Guro drove over the Oklahoma River, a man made stretch of water with the appearance of a large reflecting pool that lined the city southwest of the downtown area.  The city's health sciences complex loomed on the southeastern edge of the metro.  Dr. Guro and Toby exited the highway, driving into the center of the health sciences research zone.  Hospitals towered on every side, casting shadows over the road as Toby and the professor drove to the building that housed the Chief Medical Examiner's office.

The coroner was a lean woman of nondescript age, with the exception of short, tousled white hair.  Her eyes were bright blue, and when she spoke her voice held a deep and steady rhythm.

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