Green looked over to where the CDC’s youngest troops were evaluating the Von Neumanns multi-biorepair’s effect on various common lab animals. “Is that one of the old rats?”
“Yep. That fellow had clear signs of senescence, and a couple of tumors. Three days ago he drank 1cc of Santa's bio-repair. Now look at him.”
“He’s the biggest rat I’ve ever seen.” Chris frowned. “Did he grow?”
“The male rats get pretty big, when they live this long. And they’re tough to measure, with the flexible spine and all. He’s lost point six kilograms weight, though. Mostly when the tumors shrank, but he’s shaped up, too.” The timer dinged and they removed the rat, put him back in his cage and brought out the next. They were all fitted with sub-cutaneous instruments that sent metabolic data to the computers.
“How are the females doing? And the young ones?”
“Fine. Better than fine. Lower rate of every single rat problem known to man. Same with the mice, rabbits, guinea pigs, and dogs. We’re starting on primates tomorrow. This stuff is incredible.” He poked a finger at the rat on the wheel. “Those old ones ought to be in the process of dying. Now I’m wondering how long they will live.”
“Huh. I think I’ll go have a chat with the local news anchor woman.” He rubbed his arms as if cold. “We’ve covered all the kids whose parents’ contacted us. Located ten of the fourteen puppies he gave away.”
“I want to test a puppy.”
“No one seems to be sick and tired of their puppy yet. I’ll keep my eyes open."
Mark Dillinger was still pissed off.
And the Lawyer wasn’t talking.
Just like me, I suspect. One second I was following a suspect into a room with two patrollers on my heels. A flicker of black. Then the three of us and the lawyer and mall manager we’d been looking for were stumbling around a men’s restroom upstairs in Macy’s. And everyone said we had been missing for eight days. The lawyer and manager for two weeks.
John and Steve were taking longer than previously planned vacations with their families.
Mark was still on administrative leave. The Department didn’t like the whole idea of disappearing cops.
The mall manager tended to gibber and avoid when the subject came up. But he’d finally disgorged the name and address of the lady who’d run the Santa Claus nonsense at Northside Mall.
“She doesn’t know who the man was.” The fellow had said. “She hired him on the spot when her first Santa quit. Paid him cash. She’s a nice girl!”
And now Mark was parked just down the street from the nice girl, and he was going to follow her everywhere.
Chris watched as locally well known Anchorwoman Phaedra Barber pulled the TV interview up on the screen. In person, without makeup, she was friendly and good looking. Much younger than he’d guessed. The woman he’d watched on news clips, with her perfect make up, professionally styled hair and designer suits was gorgeous, and coolly professional. He’d have bet she’d had a facelift. And been wrong.
“I interviewed every Mall Santa in the area. Half of them were women, under all the fake hair. And they were all glassy-eyed after the endless streams of children. Eldon was a breath of fresh air. He actually listened to the children, and seemed to like them.” She stepped back and pointed the remote at the big screen in the staff lounge.
"Northside Mall's Santa was a bit of a surprise. Not only was the beard and hair his own, his skin tones were dark enough to be ethnic and he managed to be large without looking gross. He had that aura that draws kids, and even after a long day he was still connecting with each child as they trooped past in their hundreds. Heck, he managed to charm this reporter, and even gave me a special wine flavored lollipop." In the background an elf with curly red hair was beating her head on the North Pole. The cute blonde reporter held up the sucker, and gave it a good long stroke with her tongue.
The screen flipped back to the news studio. The male anchorman snapped his mouth shut, got his finger out of his shirt collar, and flashed a smile at the camera. "And that's our Santa report for tonight.."
Chris sympathized. For one moment that woman had oozed more sex appeal through the airwaves than any ten Hollywood stars could manage in five minutes face-to-face.
“You said his name was Eldon?”
“Eldon Denison. Poor man only got a hokey paper certificate for being the best Santa in Town.” She blushed, and a grin snuck out. “So I took him out to dinner.”
And what else, eh? Chris grinned back at her. “Did he supply the wine flavor lollipops for desert?”
She chuckled. “We skipped the candy and went for the straight wine. Umm.” Now she was all soft, smiling, bedroom eyes.
Chris let his smile widen as he clicked off his recorder. “Good in bed was he?”
“Oh, Darlin’ he done ruint me for other men!” She chuckled. “Damn right he was good. When you find him, send him back my way.” She pulled the disc from the machine and handed it over. “A copy for you.”
Her smile widened at his surprise.
“All joking aside, I’ve been interviewing an incredible number of people with complete cures of various cancers, children with birth defects walking for the first time in their lives. And every one of them either visited the Mall Santa or drank some red wine they got from a skinny red headed girl named Chrissy. I smell a huge story. And I’m cursing myself for tossing an empty wine bottle two months ago.”
Chris pulled out his sheaf of cards. “The CDC has set up a temporary clinic. They’ll give you a complete physical, if you’d like to find out if anything has happened to you.”
She took the card, and eyed it thoughtfully. “Do you know, I just might do that."
"Guess that settles any questions about whether it works on people.”
Chris looked over at Ian Maitland. The doctor was still wearing his white lab coat.
“That Newslady you sent us. Did you realize she’s fifty-three?”
Chris blinked. “I thought she looked a lot younger than her news clips.”
“She is. And all the faint scars from the eyelid jobs and chin lift are gone, the nerves have regenerated from the botox treatments. And she’s two months pregnant.”
“She said that was the only possibility, once she recovered. I told her that if she aborted, we wanted to do it, to get a tissue sample.”
“What did she say?”
“She fainted again.”
Chris grinned. “Have you got any reports in from the older cancer patients Miss Zietler has been dosing with her von Neumann’s Bio-repair wine?”
“No. I have been cussed out as being a representative of the Illuminati, trying to recover and cover up the secret to eternal life, in order to keep it away from the serfs. It would be funnier if it wasn’t so close to true. What the hell are we to do with this stuff? I keep talking to these thirty-somethings, asking to speak to their fathers or mothers, only to find out that they are the eighty year olds I’m looking for.”
Chris nodded. “At the rate it’s spreading through the old codger’s network, it’ll be world-wide by next year. Hell, I keep wondering if I shouldn’t have taken Chrissy Z up on her offer and tried a sip.”
“The old rats are still going strong.” Maitland glanced toward the locked refrigerator. “Where the hell is Eldon the Mall Santa from?”
“And where did he go?” Chris ran his hands through his hair. “The cops following him said he sat down on the sidewalk and meditated for a bit, then pulled a big white Studebaker ‘Suburban’ out of thin air, hopped in and disappeared.”
“A Studey? They went belly up thirty years ago. And Chevy makes Suburbans.”
“Yeah. Kinda makes you think, doesn’t it? I’m on my way to talk to the physicists who are examining a perfectly normal bit of street for anything odd.”
“Should be as much fun as exercising rats."