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Curing Emily by Jeremy Hodgson Book

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Curing Emily by Jeremy Hodgson Read Book Online And Download

Overview: At the heart of this light, moving work of medical fiction is a scientific discovery so intriguing it promises to change cancer treatment for good …

Thirty-five-year-old bachelor Dave Tennant is at the peak of his career as a bioscientist. But he faces a lonely future without his mother, Emily, who is terminally ill with cancer. In walks Meghan MacDougal, a brilliant young Scottish microbiologist with whom Dave soon forms a bond. A seeming error in a blood analysis leads to a startling discovery: a bacterium that holds promise as a cure for cancer. Where did it come from? How is it linked to cancer?

As Dave and Meghan race to solve the riddle, Emily’s condition worsens. The company’s strict policy against workplace romances keeps them apart. And corporate-espionage agents lurk in the shadows. Will they solve one of humanity’s oldest medical questions before time runs out? And will they find a way to be together? The key lies in curing Emily.

Curing Emily by Jeremy Hodgson Book Read Online And Download Epub Digital Ebooks Buy Store Website Provide You.
Curing Emily by Jeremy Hodgson Book

Curing Emily by Jeremy Hodgson Book Read Online Chapter One

Monday—February 2023

“That bloody bird!” Dave Tennant mumbled as he struggled out of bed. He stumbled over his shoes before reaching his bedroom window. He yanked back the curtain viciously, and the robin on the windowsill took flight before Dave slammed the window closed. He hardly noticed the sky as he turned back to bed, already regretting he had frightened his friendly robin.

He was about to lie down again when a thought surfaced. He fed the bird some crumbs every morning. “Is it that late?”

For close to an hour, he stopped thinking. Functioning on automatic, he followed his morning routine: coffee, shave, shower, dress, muesli. More coffee. Wash the cup and bowl, lock the flat, and walk to the Underground.

After five steps on the pavement, he stopped. “Shit, I’ve forgotten my umbrella.”

The rain would soak him before he got to the station. Every step back to his apartment, up and down the stairs, was an effort that deepened his foul mood.

The weather didn’t help. It was below three degrees centigrade, with a miserable rain carried by the wind swirling between buildings. Dave turned the collar of his coat up, holding it closed with one gloved hand, the umbrella in the other, and hunched his shoulders to stop the wind forcing its way down his neck.

On the escalator down to the platform, he didn’t notice the people riding the up-escalator. Still, a small part of his mind registered every one of them—survival during his teenage years had developed this basic animal instinct.

He boarded the next district-line train without hearing the voice that said, “Please mind the step.”

His mind slowly came alive. “Oh shit, I forgot to take the sheets off the bed and drop off the laundry.”

The train started with a jerk that his laundry-occupied mind had not anticipated.

He staggered, his movement cushioned by a stout woman with greying hair and a shopping bag.

Invariably polite, almost to extremes, he apologised. “Sorry, ma’am.”

“That’s ok, young man, not your fault.”

He thought she was “nice”, like all the women who called him “young man” were nice. It triggered a stray thought from his waking mind: sometimes too nice.

At sixteen, Dave had carried a woman’s shopping bags to her home, hoping for a tip. She had asked him to take them up the stairs and then offered him a cup of tea. He had understood what bonus she proposed to give him when she came out of the bathroom wearing a diaphanous gown that revealed her pendulous breasts. So he left in a hurry.

He had seven minutes to his stop. Just enough to examine why he felt so depressed this morning.

Was Uncle Paul the cause? He had been an unexpected addition to Dave’s Sunday routine: clean and tidy the flat, a salad lunch, a bus to the hospital to visit his mother. Uncle Paul, his mother’s brother, whom he hadn’t seen for more than a year, was already beside his mother’s bed.

Dave remembered to get off at the third stop, and he reviewed his yesterday as he walked miserably to the lab.

Dave’s mother, an advanced cancer case, had been in the hospital for over three months; according to her oncologist, she would never leave except in a hearse.

Every visit Dave made to his mother was depressing enough. Instead of his regular, exhausting run in Ravenscourt Park to relieve the stress after the hospital visit, yesterday he had gone to a pub with Uncle Paul to explain his mother’s prognosis without her hearing.

Uncle Paul, a usually cheery smallholder farmer from Derbyshire, had come to London for an agricultural show and extended his stay to see his sister. His sadness was catching as Dave explained her illness.

“Uncle, her cancer is not getting better. They slow the progression and even get a slight reversal after a period of chemotherapy. Then they must stop the treatment, allowing her immune system to recover. Her cancer then increases again, and they try a different chemo cocktail.

“Her oncologist says he doesn’t know how long they can continue this process. It may be two or three years. It may be six months. But he offers no hope of remission.”

“But she is so cheerful and looks nice. She doesn’t look that ill.”

“It’s one of her better days, Uncle. She has been off chemo for four weeks. That’s a wig she’s wearing; the hospital got it for her, as she has no hair, and an assistant comes and does her makeup before the visiting period.

“I’ve seen her when she can hardly speak; she’s so tired and sleepy.”

“And there’s nothing else they can do? What about all these fancy drugs they write about in the newspaper?”

“You know I’m a bioscientist and that I work in a medical lab. You don’t know that I’ve studied cancer every night since my mother got it twenty months ago. I’ve read hundreds of articles and technical papers about the disease. Most of the progress is due to the work of pharmaceutical labs. Research done by universities helps, but it’s very hit-and-miss. The labs produce something that might help, and then they test it. They might try dozens of treatments before finding one that is effective, but it only works for some cancers—for others, it doesn’t make a difference. The drugs help, but they make life horrible. Mum is in the middle. Without them, she would die in four months.”

Uncle Paul became maudlin. “Such a shame; she was a wonderful girl when we were young. What can I do? I must do something.”

“Come to see her every month or six weeks. Please tell me when you do. Talk to her about when you were kids. She likes remembering that period before she married. Bring some photos of the time. And others of Aunt Mavis, the farm, and the animals. Give her something interesting to discuss.”

Dave said goodbye when Uncle Paul left for St Pancras to catch his Derby train.

But it was one beer too many; and too late to run.

He went to Marco’s.

A week after starting work at BaVir Labs at the beginning of 2020, Dave lost his way going home and found a small, unique takeaway pizza shop by accident.

The alley leading to it had a sign on one wall: “Pizza Out”. Further down the white-painted alleyway, an iron gate that looked like it belonged at the entrance to a medieval castle, complete with spikes, lay flat against one wall. On the opposite side, an unknown artist had written and illustrated a tag stating, “Tag here, and Marco busts your balls!!!”

The man behind the counter was a first-name greeter. “Hi, I’m Marco. What can I get you?”

“I’m Dave, Dave Tennant; I’ll have a medium Quattro Stagioni, please.”

“Sure. Do you play chess?”

“An odd question, but yes.”

“Then would you like a quick game while you wait? There’re tables in the room through that door. I can introduce you to another chess player; anyone who comes for a pizza and wants a game can usually find a partner for a game while they wait. I’ve got bottled beer and soft drinks if you’re thirsty.”

Dave felt like Alice falling into Wonderland as he followed Marco into the next-door room and enjoyed a short game with a young, bearded student called Fred.

With no friends nearby, chess became a habit for Dave once or twice a week. He learned Marco’s history and recounted part of his.

One day, when Marco asked Dave how he had learned to play chess, Dave answered, “I was thirteen when I started. It sounds like a fairy tale, but the guy who first taught me was a tramp called ‘Old Tom’, who slept in a doorway.”

“How’d you meet him?”

“I couldn’t miss him; he installed himself in the same doorway every evening. He had a dozen sheets of cardboard, stashed behind an emergency stairway, that he laid out to sleep on. He carried his blankets and stuff in an old shopping trolley, and his dog slept with him.

“I passed him by many times; his dog just looked at me without barking. Sometimes, he would be playing a board game with another tramp; I thought it was draughts.

“Then one evening, when he was alone, Old Tom said, ‘Hey lad, Rufus likes you, come and say hello.’

“I sat down with him on a sheet of cardboard and stroked Rufus, who put his head on my leg, and Old Tom asked, ‘You play chess, lad?’

“That’s how it started, Marco. I don’t know if he was any good, but I beat him a year later, and after he disappeared to London for the winter, I never saw him again. But I continued to play. At first, the kids thought I was nuts, but they all learned to play.

“It’s a game that teaches patience and the value of planning, and for a kid who has little to boast about, it gives a feeling of achievement when he wins a game.”

Dave liked Marco and in him felt he had a friend he could trust.

When Tansy called Dave only a week after he’d met Marco, he took her to play chess. She protested that she hadn’t played for years. He had last seen her when he began studying at Kent University. She had been under sixteen then, and he knew she adored him, but three years is like a hundred at that age. He had brushed it off as a schoolgirl crush.

Tansy at twenty-nine was a different story. She was one metre seventy-four, and her dark hair, in an elfin cut, framed her pixie-like face and large brown eyes. Her body curved everywhere, and her breasts were proud, but her lips … He had lost the first game thinking only of her lips. To Dave, her smile made her beauty unusual and captivating; her mouth was wide, and her grin spread to her ears.

They had a passionate, three-month-long affair until she found a new boyfriend. Dave didn’t mind; Tansy was an electronics enthusiast, and they had only their pasts in common, so it was natural that she be with Greg, a likeminded electronics nut.

Marco was the first person Dave told when his mother got cancer.

Three months ago—after taking his mother to the hospital, feeling depressed because he felt he had passed a milestone into an empty wasteland—Dave had met Valerie.

When he’d entered the pizzeria, his greeting was not his usual cheerful, “Hi”, but rather an expressionless, “Hello Marco. How about something different tonight? A Hawaiian?”

Marco knew him too well to ignore his expression. “Problems, Dave?”

“No, just a milestone I wanted to avoid passing. I took my mother into the hospital today.”

“Shit, can they do anything?”

“Maybe delay it, but not cure it.”

“That’s sad news. I suppose you don’t feel like playing?”

“Is someone waiting?”

“There’s a lady, thirty or so. She comes here occasionally; she told me she’s a child psychologist. Always has a Margherita with olives and lots of garlic.”

It made Dave smile. “Then a good guess is she’s not married?”

Marco nodded. “No ring anyway.”

“Ok, I’ll play. How good is the lady?”

“I think you could beat her in a straight game, but she’s heavy on false moves.”

Marco introduced him to a woman dressed in a business suit. “Valerie, this is Dave; he’s about your level if you are interested in a game.”

She looked up and studied Dave with interest. “Ok, Marco, it’s why I came.”

She held out her hands clenched in fists. “Choose.”

Dave got white, a slight advantage, and made his first move. As the game progressed, he felt her tension, bordering on aggression; some of her moves seemed foolish, but they were all threatening. Because of Marco’s warning, every time she moved a piece, Dave considered three possibilities: a direct attack, a defensive move, or neither—a feint made to deflect his attention from an attack through another chess piece. It took half an hour of careful thought, but he finally said, “Checkmate.”

He added, “Thanks, Valerie. That was interesting and very educational.”

“Dave, I want to play against you again; it might take many games, but I have to beat you.”

He hadn’t thought of meeting her again—the tension he felt was unsettling—but her emphasis on the word “have” surprised him; he thought if he refused, it might hurt. Dave didn’t like hurting people, so he offered a solution: “Ok, Valerie, let’s exchange cell numbers. If I’m coming here, I’ll send you a text checking if you can make it. You do the same.”

“Sounds good, Dave.”

After exchanging numbers, they fetched their pizzas. Dave trailed behind to look. She had a good figure, a trifle slim, and would be ten centimetres shorter without heels. He liked her swaying walk.

Marco was boxing the pizzas.

Dave thanked Marco and then turned to face Valerie. “Nice meeting you; see you again.”

A week later, Dave had nothing to do on the evening Valerie’s first SMS came.

“Dave, please play tonight, at seven pm. I need to play.”

He remembered how desperate she’d seemed to play him again, and he didn’t want to let her down, so he said he’d come.

Marco gave them a corner table. “For you, I’ll do pasta. If you want pizza, then ok; you choose. If you like pasta, I’ll bring you a bowl. I also have ice-cream. You can eat it here. I’ll tell the others you are guests, and you can stay as long as you like.”

Dave and Valerie played three games, talking and eating between bouts. Dave thought she concentrated well during the last one.

Each time they met, Dave learned more about her. She was an orphan raised by nuns who ran a convent orphanage. Amongst the children were many traumatised by the death of one or both of their parents. Valerie had managed to get a scholarship to study psychology; she wanted to help children who had the problems she had experienced first-hand.

She told Dave of a girl taken in by an aunt after the girl’s parents had died. The girl had repeatedly fallen into a withdrawal trance before being handed over to the nuns.

Then of a boy whose uncle had taken him in but had handed him to the nuns because the boy was violent if told to do something.

And of a girl who at fifteen kept leaving to look for love and finally returned to the convent, pregnant.

Dave had told her about his mother. His job. His studies of cancer.

With his meeting with Uncle Paul still on his mind, Dave wandered into Pizza Out, greeted Marco, then added, “I’ll have my usual, but I won’t play tonight.”

Marco could sense his depression. “Is your mother ok, Dave?”

“No, but it’s no more than I’ve had to endure for months; it slowly wears you down.”

“Yeah, I know. You want to talk?”

“No, Marco. Forget.”

Marco said nothing; he thought he might make things worse.

Dave’s mind, tired, decided to wander somewhere else. While waiting for the pizza, he thought of nothing.

Then, with the pizza in hand, he plodded down the alley.

Concerned, Marco watched him go.

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