“COME IN GENTLEMEN!” The three professors came forward to shake the hand of the CEO of Herod Pharmaceuticals.
“It’s good of you to see us, Sir, at such short notice. But our information is of tremendous importance.”
“So I am given to understand. Something about the DNA of a miraculous child?”
Professor Melchior waved away the description impatiently. “My staff have taken to calling him that – all nonsense, of course. Although, I have to concede there are more than a few aspects of his young mother’s pregnancy that baffle me entirely.”
“That’s why my colleague ordered the tests”, interjected Professor Caspar.
“And the results”, chimed in Professor Balthazar. “The results were so unusual and appeared to offer so much promise, that we contacted Herod Pharmaceuticals immediately.”
“When this child is born,” Professor Melchior explained, “his blood offers the best hope yet of ending the global pandemic.”
The CEO of Herod Pharmaceuticals’ expression of benign (if somewhat bemused) interest changed abruptly. “Our vaccine is already making a huge impact, gentlemen. We’ve got the virus on the run. The world simply does not have the time to start the process all over again.”
“No, no, you don’t understand”, Professor Balthazar responded. “What this child’s DNA offers is what you might call the makings of a ‘super-vaccine’. How he got it, and from whom, we have so far been unable to determine. The mother is very vague about the identity of the child’s father. The fellow she’s with, Joseph, is a lovely bloke, and he obviously loves Mary to bits – but he’s not the child’s father. Our tests have ruled him out definitively.”
The CEO steepled his index fingers and brought them to his lips in a gesture of intense concentration. “It would be extremely helpful, gentlemen, if we could be introduced to this child. When is his mother – Mary is it – due?”
“Very soon”, Professor Caspar replied. “In fact, we’re expecting to hear that she’s gone into labour any time now.”
“Well, in that case, don’t let me keep you, gentlemen. Just be sure to let me know how everything goes – so that Herod Pharmaceuticals can perform some exploratory tests of its own. After all, this company – and the whole world – has a huge amount invested in the fight against this awful pandemic.”
OUTSIDE, ON THE SIDEWALK, the three professors huddled together in conference.
“I don’t trust that man”, said Caspar. “Did you see the look on his face when he heard the word ‘super-vaccine’?”
“Yes, I did”, Melchior replied. “He had the look of a man watching billions of dollars’ worth of investment going up in smoke.”
“I agree,” said Balthazar. “We must be careful to see that Mary’s little boy is kept as far away from Herod Pharmaceuticals as possible.”
“They’ve located them!” Caspar held up his cellphone. “Somewhere down on the south coast. They’re stuck apparently, the roads are all blocked up with lorry-drivers trying to get across the Channel.”
“Dear God! How are they going to get home? The whole of the bloody south-east is about to go into Tier Four!”
“Our people have got a lock on their position from Mary’s cellphone. They’ve hired a helicopter to take us there. We can still make it – but we’re going to have to hurry!”
THEY SPOTTED THE GARAGE from a thousand feet up. It was ringed by a score of big twenty-six wheelers, their lights all trained on the humble concrete-block structure. From that altitude the beams of the lorries’ headlamps formed a pattern resembling a bright star that had fallen to earth.
The professors’ chopper set down in a flurry of snowflakes at the far-end of the carpark. Hastening towards the garage, they had to elbow their way through a great throng of lorry-drivers.
“What are you blokes doing here?” Melchior shouted above the din.
“It was strange,” one of the men replied. “We were parked-up on the hard, going nowhere, when our radios suddenly crackled into life, and all our phones lit up with the same text: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men’ – along with directions to this place.”
And the three professors found the baby in that roadside garage, wrapped up tight in a travel blanket and lying in a sports bag, because all the motels were in lockdown.
To all the readers of Bowalley Road, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
This short Christmas story was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Thursday, 24 December 2020.