Published: 20th January 2015 by Forge Books
Mark of the Beast: A searing medical thriller by Adolphus A. Anekwe, a renowned doctor, about the ramifications of isolating a gene that causes violent behavior
Dr. Regina Dickerson is a Catholic physician in San Diego who has discovered that there is a certain genetic marker that indicates the carrier is prone to psychotic violence. Working on blood from prison inmates, her theory begins to prove itself time and again with violent offenders. The variety of crimes is diverse: one couple murders their children for organ money, another man kidnaps young girls to seduce and kill them, yet another has a penchant for cyanide.
As Dickerson's work begins to show results and catches the attention of the media, people begin to fear that witch hunts and Spanish Inquisition–style mayhem will result if forcible testing is carried out. Meanwhile, a race begins to find a cure. With science and religion at odds, Dickerson must find her own answers while trying to escape those who want to put an end to her inflammatory research.
Dr. Regina Dickerson was sitting on the aisle side at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church on Mount Pleasant Street in La Jolla, California, listening to Father Yarderos delivering the sermon on a cloudy Sunday morning.
“In the letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians from today’s second reading, St. Paul teaches us one thing”— Father Yarderos’s piercing voice interrupted Dickerson’s deep thoughts—“that there are people who rejoice at others’ misfortunes. We see this every day in our daily life, especially in this competitive world. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with competition— after all, competition is the fabric of American society, but the Lord will not take kindly to those who feel glee when their neighbor is suffering. What ever happened to Christ’s teaching of loving thy neighbor as thyself?”
Immediately Dickerson thought about Dr. Peter Millons. That jerk.
She remembered the conversation they had had on Friday, when Millons appeared to be rejoicing at her misfortune.
“How is Manuel?” Dr. Millons asked in the crowded doctors’ lounge at the university hospital.
“Peter, I’ve told you for the tenth time, we are no longer together,” Dickerson responded, while still flipping through the morning newspaper.
“I didn’t know you’re divorced.”
“We’re not divorced yet, but we’re planning on it.”
“I like that guy; I thought it was a marriage made in heaven.” Millons smiled sarcastically.
“Well, then, you should have married him.”
“Come on, Dickerson, I am strictly pusa- bagged,” Millons answered, using the new California subtle slang for a nonhomosexual male.
“Whatever that means . . . and for your wife and children’s sake I hope you remain that way.”
“I thought you were a Catholic?” Millons persisted.
“So . . . and . . . ?”
“They don’t believe in divorce, do they?”
To mask her obvious anger, Dickerson very noisily sipped the hot coffee she was holding, and then replied, “You know what, Peter, if they sell brains at Sears, yours must have been purchased from the Idiot Department.”
She got up to leave, heading back to finish rounds with the residents.
“Well, I’m still married.” Millons was hoping to sneak in the last word.
“You call that marriage?” Dickerson replied, in obvious reference to the rumor circulating around the hospital that Mrs. Millons enjoyed one- night stands with young residents.
Dickerson couldn’t help but ask how Millons could be so naïve— or did he just surreptitiously choose to ignore it?
Driving home from church, Dickerson thought about her life.
Here she was, a forty- something, still- attractive medical doctor, and one of the top research scientists at the University of California, La Jolla Medical School; she had no children, no obligations, yet her life appeared to be in shambles. However, she got along very well with her patients. She had long figured out that her patients were the key to her success.
Treating patients the way you would like to be treated, regardless of each patient’s status in life, she thought, was the key. She could communicate with patients in ways no other doctor could.
Those difficult, know- it- all, Internet- educated, question- every- test patients were her most treasured. She delighted in explaining to them in her most simple verbiage the hard- to- comprehend medical terminologies and tests, and those patients loved her for that. They knew they could talk to her and be able to get an understandable answer.
Her marriage to Manuel was wonderful for a while, but then a major crisis had erupted.
Manuel was the senior sales representative for Atira Pharmaceutical, in the San Diego region. Mike Smith, the drug representative who normally called on Dickerson, had brought his senior manager along on one of his details.
Dickerson always liked to challenge the drug reps on the merits of whatever article they quoted in support of the use of a par tic u lar drug. Dickerson, a published researcher herself, loved these exchanges. That day, however, Manuel volunteered to answer all Dickerson’s questions.
The exchange was a little testy at first, but finally, Manuel asked, “Can I invite you to an evening at a medical conference in the Hilton La Jolla hotel, sponsored by University of California, Los Angeles Medical School? The conference may shed light on some of your concerns.”
At the conference, Manuel was surprised to see Dr. Dickerson drink as much as she did without getting drunk. Eventually the conversation turned personal.
“Are you from San Diego?” Manuel asked.
“No, I’m from Vermont,” Dickerson said, “a little town called Bellows Falls.”
“I’ve heard of it,” Manuel said, excited.
“How?” Dickerson asked, looking at Manuel askance.
“When we were at the company headquarters in New Jersey for training, one of the guys came from that town, and they used to tease him by calling the town . . .”
Dickerson did not let Manuel finish, for she had heard that joke several times. “Fellows Balls,” Dickerson matter- of- factly finished. “Yeah, we know.”
“I’m sorry, go ahead,” Manuel urged.
“After my medical school training at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, and residency at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Boston, I did a fellowship in Immunology and Ge ne tics at San Francisco General Hospital. From there, I was hired in San Diego.”
“You like it here?” Manuel asked.
“Yeah, I love it.”
“What do you do for fun?”
“Oh, nothing. I had my marriage annulled after sixteen months because my ex-husband, who wasn’t Catholic, refused to convert, and like a typical man, no offense intended, also refused to zip up his pants.” Dickerson paused. “Since then, I’ve buried myself in my work, and I’m near a breakthrough in a new HLA- antigen and its linkage.”
“That sounds interesting,” said Manuel.
“Yeah, it is.”
“Do you like Mexican food?”
Author Bio - Adolphus Anekwe
ADOLPHUS A. ANEKWE, MD, is a Clinical Assistant Professor at Indiana University Northwest Medical Center, and is also an active staff member at five area hospitals, a Board Certified Diplomat and Fellow in two medical specialties, and an active community leader. He resides in Schererville, Indiana, and is the author of Mark of the Beast.
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