Fear

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Toby kneaded his brow between his thumb and forefinger as he sat in front of his computer screen, and stared down at the keyboard lost in thought.  There were bits of knowledge he had acquired in researching Everatt Neilson; scraps of information that tugged at his awareness like puzzle pieces, directing his attention back to a picture that remained incomplete.  Toby's thoughts circled back to finding the clues that his father had clearly hoped he would eventually possess in Dennis Moore's home office, subsequent to Moore's death from a rare amoebic infection.  It seemed too great a coincidence that Everatt Neilson, a man whom Toby's father had felt it necessary to warn him about in code, happened not only to be an expert in the field of parasitology, but had also personally hired Toby's father to work for the same corporation from which Dennis Moore had retired years later.

Now that he was back home and in his own room again, Toby spent almost all of his free time on his computer.  He had not received any messages since the one from Hampton a few weeks before, letting Toby know that he had touched down at the airport in Oklahoma City.  Toby had driven Leah to the airport to meet Hampton, feeling her anticipation in a dull ache.  Every scene they passed along the drive became a reminder of how his own anticipation had been met on his last trip to the airport.

Despite the grinding fury that still lurked in the ends of his nerves, he had been disappointed that Quinn was not at home when he dropped Hampton and Leah off at the Moore residence, after picking Hampton up from the airport.  The problem of Everatt Neilson had proven a welcome diversion from his bigger problem, which was that the only thing that cut deeper than the thought of Quinn being with Daniel, was the stretch of time Toby had gone without seeing her.

Still staring at his monitor, Toby logged in through his student portal on the university's network, toggling between screens to run multiple searches simultaneously through the academic search engines he could only access through the university's site.  He had not searched Dennis Moore's name before, and ran it as a search term out of curiosity.  He entered the term 'Acanthameoba' with Everatt Neilson's name, separating the two terms with a comma as the parameters of another search.

It took a matter of seconds for the results of his searches to blink onto the screen in front of Toby.  The search of Dennis Moore's name returned a post from a well-respected science blog, dated shortly after Toby's birth.  It read:

'Dennis Moore, who assisted Dr. Gephardt Harjo in the gene therapies research division at HomaTech, has confirmed that subsequent to Dr. Harjo's mysterious departure from the company, he will be transferring to a different department within the corporation.  He has declined to comment on the nature of the research that Dr. Harjo conducted for HomaTech, stating only that it is neither his or HomaTech's intention for Mr. Moore to continue in the same line of inquiry as the still missing scientist, who received much acclaim for his graduate research in biomedical applications of mechanosynthesis.'

Feeling the hair rise on the back of his neck, Toby toggled over to the screen with the search results for Everatt Nielsen's name in conjunction with the term 'Acanthameoba'.  There were several news articles, going back many decades, regarding random cases of Acanthamoeba infection.  Toby experienced an excited disbelief when he located Everatt Neilson's name, specifically referenced in the brief of one of the articles near the top of the listing that his search had returned.  Clicking on the article, he read:

'A fun Fourth of July weekend turned tragic for the Loch family.  A week after ten year old Haile Loch spent the holiday with her family at the lake, her parents had to rush her to the emergency room, where it was suspected the child suffered from an acute case of meningitis. 

Doctors tried various treatment regimens, but within forty-eight hours of the initial onset of Haile's symptoms, this bubbly ten-year-old girl was gone.  Her parents were grief stricken and baffled by the tragic turn of events that claimed their daughter's life.  Lab results later confirmed that Haile died from a parasitic infection of Acanthomeoba, an amoeba commonly found in fresh water sources.  The infection was likely contracted at the lake where Haile celebrated with her family over the holiday weekend.  In an effort to understand the rare circumstances that resulted in Hali's death, The Norborne Transcript contacted Dr. Everatt Neilson, a specialist in the field of parasitology who currently works in an administrative role for the HomaTech corporation. 

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