“No, Ma’am, we don’t suspect anything sexual. We believe the man was a carrier for a disease that, frankly, isn’t very contagious. But we are checking all the children exposed to the suspected carrier just to be sure.” Agent Chris Green wished the NSA had come up with a better cover story. Anything would be better than this ‘Altiplano Fever.’ “The CDC has set up a temporary office and is giving free physicals for the kids, if you are concerned. Here’s the card with their address and the number to call for an appointment.”
She took the card, a worried crease between her brows. Andrew himself was visible in the small backyard, playing with a big gangly puppy. Orangy-red, the dog reminded Chris of a boxer he had once owned, although this pup looked to be part great dane.
This boy, like all the others he’d seen, looked healthy. My investigation is littered with abandoned inhalers and crutches, two wheelchairs. Fat kids’ clothing. Glasses. I feel like I really am chasing down Santa. We may finally have found one. A real Anomaly, something, or in this case, someone from “Outside.”
“Thank you for your time, Ma’am.” This boy hadn’t had his lollipop ‘specially treated.’ But he did have a puppy, pulled out of nowhere.
Back in the car, Green flipped to his next appointment. A quick five minute drive from here. This is getting weirder instead of getting sorted out.
Kathie Maitland was a chubby little four year old brunette. Her clothes were baggy, and her mother looked worried. “She’s lost so much weight. I took her to Dr. Yama, but he was just pleased, and said to not change her diet, since it was working. I don’t think he listened to me, when I told him nothing had changed. He said the blood sugar test was normal, so not to worry. Not worry! She’s wasting away!”
The girl looked like she had a ways to go to hit average weight, so Green shrugged. “These people will give her a complete physical, and check for Altiplano fever, free. Just call the number.”
A fifteen minute drive into near rural conditions, and Green was given a demonstration of athletic ability by a boy who talked non-stop about how Santa had fixed his muscular dystrophy. His father shrugged, but a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. “I can see why the CDC is interested. Since there isn’t a cure. But your ‘Carrier of Altiplano Fever’ dripped some wine on a lollipop, and Davy was feeling a bit better by the time we got home, and he’s improved steadily since.”
“Please call these people, to set up an appointment. We need to figure out what is going on.”
Davy’s father nodded. “Dr. Harrison took blood samples. He’s very excited.”
Back in his car, Green updated his notes. Davy went into both the ‘treated lollipop’ column and the ‘extreme improvement’ column. Katie had gotten an ordinary lollipop, and lost weight. Andrew had been healthy before and after and had a puppy. A bunch of kids had improved allergy symptoms – as in completely gone – a few had reported cleared up asthma, eczema, acne, tiredness, near and farsightedness gone. One boy with a genetic degenerative eye problem was completely cured. That had really disturbed the CDC. But they couldn’t get a doctor near him, the father had a whole law firm on speed dial. Apparently a very good one. Cancers were gone, diabetes gone. Two cases of spinabifida much improved and still ‘healing.’ The doctor Green had spoken to had said the cells of the region were reverting partway to stem cells and then following the developmental path they ought to have followed as fetuses. Eight students from a special program for Downs Syndrome children had visited Santa. The three the doctors had seen so far had no obvious external changes, but at the cellular level, the children had lost the extra chromosome. One heart problem had disappeared. They’d be watched for years.
He looked at his watch. Two more calls then he was done for the day.
Lakisha Larkspur was a change from the other children. Sullen and unhappy.
“It’s her teeth.” Her mother fussed around the girl. “She always has had problems with her teeth. Two fell out last week and the big teeth coming in are making her more miserable than a teething baby. I thought about taking her to the dentist, but what can he do? All he does is complain about me giving her too many sweets.” She tsked. “I thought we’d finished with all the teeth, so maybe Doctor Sparrow’s right. I don’t pay enough attention.”
Which got Green his opening about Santa and his lollipops. And the CDC’s physical, which he was sure could be extended to a dental exam. Free.
“Princess eats all my nightmares, just like Santa said. She’s a Special Puppy.” Margarite beamed proudly at the lanky dog. Blue merle, they called the color, a splotchy gray and black. White markings, short hair, great dane and something else. Perhaps german shepherd, her ears were trying to stand up.
“She’s a very good looking young pup. You are lucky to have her.”
Her dad grinned at that. “I was horrified, myself. But she’s been a very nice girl, housebroken, scold her once for anything and it never happens again. She’s got a repertoire of tricks that has to be seen to be believed.”
Margarite proceeded to show off Princess’s tricks. She pointed her finger and yelled “Bang!” The puppy flopped down and rolled belly up. Then jumped up for a “High Five!” Fetched things by name. Opening doors to get some of them.
Green eyed the puppy. Four months old maybe? “That’s impressive.”
He added notes about the puppies to his records. The three he’d seen had been welcome members of their human family. He was beginning to hope he’d find one looking for a new home.
He was halfway home when his cell rang. “Green? We’ve found Santa’s Elf.”