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Title: Mate in Two Moves
Author: Marks, Winston K., 1915-1979
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mate in Two Moves" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

                          MATE IN TWO MOVES

                           By WINSTON MARKS

                        Illustrated by ASHMAN

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Galaxy Science Fiction
May 1954. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
copyright on this publication was renewed.]


[Sidenote: _Murt's Virus was catastrophically lethal, but it killed in a
way no disease had ever thought of--it loved its victims to death!_]

Love came somewhat late to Dr. Sylvester Murt. In fact, it took the
epidemic of 1961 to break down his resistance. A great many people fell
in love that year--just about every other person you talked to--so no
one thought much about Dr. Murt's particular distress, except a fellow
victim who was directly involved in this case.

High Dawn Hospital, where 38-year-old Dr. Murt was resident pathologist,
was not the first medical institution to take note of the "plague." The
symptoms first came to the attention of the general practitioners, then
to the little clinics where the G. P.s sent their patients. But long
before anything medical was done about it, the plague was sweeping North
and South America and infiltrating every continent and island in the

Murt's assistant, Dr. Phyllis Sutton, spotted the first irregularity in
the _Times_ one morning and mentioned it to him. They were having coffee
in Murt's private office-lab, after completing reports on two rush

She looked up from the editorial page and remarked, "You know, someone
should do a research on the pathology of pantie raids."

       *       *       *       *       *

Murt spooned sugar into his mug of coffee and stared at her. In their
six months' association, it was the first facetious remark she had made
in his presence. To this moment, he had held an increasing regard for
her quiet efficiency, sobriety, professional dignity and decorum. True,
she wore her white coat more tightly belted than was necessary and,
likewise, she refused to wear the very low hospital heels that thickened
feminine ankles. But she wore a minimum of come-hither in both her
cosmetic and personality makeup. This startling remark, then, was most

"Pantie raids?" he inquired. "Whatever would justify an inquiry into
such a patently behavioristic problem?"

"The epidemic nature and its increasing virulence," she replied soberly.
"This spring, the thing has gotten out of hand, according to this
editorial. A harmless tradition at a few of the more uninhibited
campuses has turned into a national collegiate phenomenon. And now
secondary effects are turning up. Instructors say that intramural
romance is turning the halls of ivy into amatory rendezvous."

Murt sipped his coffee and said, "Be thankful you aren't a psychiatrist.
Bacterial mutations are enough of a problem, without pondering
unpredictable emotional disturbances."

His assistant pursued it further. "It says the classrooms are emptying
into the marriage bureaus, and graduation exercises this year will be a
mockery if something isn't done. What's more, statistics show a
startling increase in marriages at the high school level."

Murt shrugged broad shoulders that were slightly bent from long hours
over a microscope. "Then be thankful you aren't an overworked
obstetrician," he offered as an amendment.

She glanced up from the paper, with annoyance showing in her dark,
well-spaced eyes. "Is it of no interest to you that several hundred
thousand youngsters are leaving high school and college prematurely
because they can't control their glands?"

"Be glad, then," Murt said coldly, "that you aren't an
endocrinologist--now drink your coffee. I hear the microtome working.
We'll have some business in a minute."

Dr. Phyllis Sutton rustled the pages of the _Times_ together, folded it
up and threw it at the wastebasket with more vigor than was necessary.
The subject was momentarily closed.

       *       *       *       *       *

His staff position at High Dawn paid less, but the life suited Dr. Murt
better than the hectic, though lucrative, private practices of many of
his colleagues. He arrived at the hospital early, seven o'clock each
day, to be on hand for quick tissue examinations during the morning
operations. By ten, the biopsies were usually out of the way, and he
spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon checking material from
the bacteriology section and studying post-operative dissections of
tumorous tissues and organs removed in surgery.

It was engrossing, important work, and it could be accomplished in a
normal work-day, leaving the pathologist considerable leisure to study,
read and relax. Shortly after the pantie-raid conversation with Phyllis
Sutton, he found the evening paper attracting more than his usual quick

This emotional fuss in the young human animal was beginning to preoccupy
the newspaper world. Writers were raising their eyebrows and a new crop
of metaphors at the statistics, which they described variously as
alarming, encouraging, disheartening, provocative, distressing, romantic
or revolting, depending upon the mood and point of view.

As June, the traditional mating month, wore into July, national
statistics were assembled to reveal that marriages were occurring at
almost double the highest previous rate, that the trend was accelerating
rather than diminishing.

Jewelers and wholesale diamond merchants chalked up fabulous increases
in the sale of engagement and wedding settings. Clergymen and qualified
public officials were swamped with requests for religious and civil
marriage ceremonies.

Parks, beaches and drive-in theaters were jammed with mooning and/or
honeymooning couples, and amusement parks began expanding their
over-patronized tunnel-of-love facilities.

The boom in houses, furniture, appliances and TV was on, and last year's
glut of consumer goods for the home was rapidly turning into a shortage.

All was not good news, however. The divorce courts reported their
calendars stacked months ahead of time, and an increasing number of
lurid headlines were devoted to the love-triangular troubles of the
rich, famous and notorious. Love-nest exposés and bigamous marriages
rocketed in number.

The whole world, adolescent and adult, was falling in love, with the
inevitable unrequited infatuations, the jealousies, infidelities and the
bitter-sweetness of wholesale, illicit, impossible love situations in
which vulnerable people found themselves increasing astronomically.

Writers of popular newspaper psychology columns attributed the rampaging
emotional fire to everything from mass-hysteria, caused by sunspots, to
the paternalism of a government that gave increased income-tax
deductions to married people.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dr. Murt's growing interest was not entirely academic. His bachelorhood
was no accident of fate, but rather a carefully contrived independence,
for which he paid the price of eternal vigilance. As the world supply of
eligible bachelors diminished sharply, his wariness increased, and he
became more and more curt with nurses and female technicians at the

He revealed the depth of his leeriness one afternoon at the scrub-up
sink, where he and his assistant were washing after a messy dissection.
Phyllis Sutton remarked, "Holly, down in Personnel, showed me a
tabulation she ran off for her own curiosity today, Doctor. Do you
realize that in this whole hospital there are only _eight_ unmarried
female employees?"

Murt threw water droplets from his bare arms and muttered, "Yes, and
every one of them's giving me the eye--to say nothing of half the
married ones."

His aide dried her long arms and slender hands and looked at him with a
crooked smile. "Not to underestimate your good looks, Doctor, but I am
one of the unmarried females. I trust I'm not giving you too much

He looked up, startled. "Yes--no, _no_--of course not. I'm referring to
the nurses and the technicians. What's got into them? The whole lot
seems to be on the make!"

Phyllis combed out her short dark hair and looked at him in the mirror.
"I assure you the males are just as bad. These interns and four of the
male nurses give me a physical with their eyes every time I happen to
meet them."

"I suppose this ties in somehow with your pantie-raid theory."

"Well, what do _you_ think?"

"I don't think. I just dodge. You'd do well to do the same," Murt told
her, putting on his jacket and adjusting his tie.

She sat down in his oak swivel-chair and crossed her slender ankles.
"Are you aware of the problem they have downstairs in the out-patient

"Hadn't heard," Murt said.

       *       *       *       *       *

She removed a file from her purse and touched up her short nails. "The
outlying clinics are sending their overflow to us. They can't seem to
diagnose the odd symptoms they're getting."

"I had noticed the large number of negative test results coming out of
the lab," Murt acknowledged. "Haven't followed any of them through,

"I have," Phyllis said with a little frown. "Seems to be a psychosomatic
nightmare down there."

"What are the symptoms?"

"Mostly neurotic," she said. "Listlessness, loss of appetite,
palpitations, cold sweats and absent-mindedness."

"Why don't they go to the psychiatric clinics?"

"Overloaded. They're sending patients here."

"What age groups?"

"From puberty to senility. I'd like your permission to do a little
special work on blood samples."

"Another theory?" he asked caustically.

"Yes. Will you give me your permission to test it?"

Murt adjusted his Panama straw in the mirror and noticed that the
nostrils of his straight nose were flared for some reason. "Your time is
your own after three P. M. every day. If you want to take time out from
your thesis research, that's your business."

He crossed to the door and was opening it when he became aware that he
had had no answer. He looked back at the profile of his assistant's
body, which was now stretched out full length, suspended at three
points--her higher-than-practical heels on the linoleum tile, her spine
and curved hips using only an inch of the chair's edge, and her head
tilted over the chair's back. She inhaled from a king-size filter-tip
cigarette and blew a feather of smoke at the ceiling.

"_Yuh!_" she said finally. Her flat abdomen jumped at the exhaled
syllable, and so did her generous breasts under the soft emerald-green
street dress.

"Good _night_!" Murt closed the door behind him quickly and became aware
of a sharp stab of what he defined as pure rut--the first he had
suffered in fifteen years.


He taxied downtown to the athletic club, where he maintained his
three-room apartment. The 20-story building was a citadel of
masculinity--no females allowed--and recently it was an especial relief
to enter the lobby and leave behind the world of turbulently mixed

The small but lush entry chamber had a deserted air about it this
afternoon. At the room desk, Crumbley, the clerk, handed him his key
with a pallid hand and returned to sigh over a colored picture in
_Esquire_--it was the "fold-out" page, featuring a gorgeous blonde
reclining at full length. Crumbley's expression, however, was far from
the loose-lipped, lecherous leer that he normally exposed to such art.
His eyes had a thin glaze over them, he breathed shallowly and, if Dr.
Murt had not known the little man's cynically promiscuous nature so
well, he'd have sworn Crumbley was in love.

Upstairs, Murt donned rubber-soled gym shoes and sweat clothes and rode
the elevator back down to the gymnasium. Three times a week, he put his
muscles through the whole routine-work on the bars, rings, the leather
horse, the rope climb and a twenty-lap jog around the balcony racetrack.
Afterward, he showered, took a dip in the swimming pool and retired to
the health service department for a rubdown and some sunlamp.

Throughout the whole routine, he encountered not a single other member.
While Charlie, the husky blond masseur, hammered and kneaded his
muscles, Murt reflected on the abating interest in athletics at the

"Are we losing members, Charlie?" he asked.

"You'd think so from how dead it is up here," Charlie replied. "But
Crumbley says we aren't. The guys just aren't exercising. Can't figure
it, Doc. Even with the usual summer slump, it's never been this slow."

When he had absorbed all the punishment he could stand, Murt rolled off,
went into the ultraviolet room, set an alarm clock and lay down by
himself on one of the paper-covered tables. He adjusted the dark goggles
and reflected thankfully that he didn't have to go to the beach for his
sun and have sand kicked in his face by a procession of predatory
females, ogling his long limbs and trying to attract his attention.

The clean smell of ozone was pleasant, the warmth of the lamps relaxed
him, and he dozed off. He dreamed that he heard someone else come in and
lie down on the next table and, when he raised his head to see who it
was, was amazed to discover his assistant, Dr. Phyllis Sutton, stretched
out like himself, wearing only shower-sandals and goggles.

The alarm clock wakened him from the disturbing dream. He was sweating
profusely and took another shower, using the cold water at full needle
force to dispel his shock at his subconscious.

       *       *       *       *       *

Wrapping the robe around him, Murt returned to his apartment to dress
for dinner. As he snapped the paper laundry band off a clean shirt, he
caught himself wondering how old Phyllis Sutton was. Twenty-eight?
Thirty? She appeared younger, but she was in her last year of residence
to gain her specialty of pathology. That meant over eleven years of
school and practice. She was a lovely creature, but she was no child.

He had half an impulse to phone her for dinner, then became lost in
studying his own reaction to the thought. Pulse over a hundred,
respiration quickening, irregular. There was a tensing of the abdomen, a
faint burning in the pit of his stomach.

He remembered the urge at the office, the dream in the sunroom, the
sudden sweat that had required five minutes under the cold needle

After so many years of deliberate, scholarly celibacy, what was
happening to him?

He stared at the phone. With six motions of one finger, he could dial
Phyllis Sutton's face into view, and suddenly he yearned to do that very
ridiculous thing.

After staring at her, off and on, for the six months since she had
transferred to High Dawn to complete her residency, now he wanted to see
her face outside of working hours for some inexplicable reason.

Call her up, date her, take her dancing, proposition her--get this silly
feeling off your chest!

Suppose she was busy or refused to go out with him? Suppose she already
had a boy friend?

This last thought deepened the burn in the pit of his stomach, and he
finished dressing listlessly. To hell with it! This was poker night. If
he did succeed in dating his assistant, they'd inevitably talk shop.
That was why he enjoyed a night of cards with his six non-medical
brother clubmen, once a week. It was refreshing to break away from the
professional point of view.

No, he wouldn't sacrifice that for any woman.

       *       *       *       *       *

He ate alone, read the paper, joined the poker party at seven o'clock,
played six hands of stud, cashed in his chips and returned to his room.
In a mood of deep irritation, he found Phyllis Sutton's home phone
number and rang it four times with no result.

He thought to try the hospital. She answered from the lab extension on
audio only, but her voice and its frankly curious tone sent vertically
polarized chills through him.

"I--I wanted to apologize for my rudeness this afternoon," he said with
difficulty from a suddenly dry mouth.

There was a brief silence. "Have you been drinking, Dr. Murt?" He
noticed that she did not call him Sylvester. Why was he so damned
thirsty for some little sign of warmth and friendliness from her?

He cleared his throat. "No, I'm serious. It occurred to me that your
interest in the out-clinic problem was commendable, and that I was
rather short in my remarks to you."

"Oh! I take it I have your permission to work my project in during the
day, then?"

"That's right, so long as it doesn't interfere with the routine." He
sounded stuffy to himself, but he was entirely out of practice in
speaking to please a female.

"Thanks," she said wryly, and the conversation ended.

Somehow, the brief talk with her restored his perspective. Once again
she was his assistant, and the significance of her as a woman faded. She
was a dedicated physician like himself. In another few years, she would
find a residency of her own. She had no more inclination to knock off
and become a woman than he had to squander his time and energy on
attaining the status of family man.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was with mounting admiration that he followed her new project in
examining blood samples. As they came up from the clinic, she sorted the
specimen tubes at once, putting a tiny snip of yellow Scotch tape under
the label of each sample that belonged to a patient with the new
undiagnosed disorder.

Then, after the requested hemoglobin, blood sugar and other standard
tests had been run, she retrieved the samples from the technicians,
grouped them in a special rack and devoted every spare minute to further

She centrifuged, precipitated, filtered and stained over and over, using
every qualitative procedure in the book. Murt signed her requisitions
for exotic reagents and rare stains. He helped her balance out the large
centrifuge to get the maximum r.p.m. from it. He let her use the most
costly of the fine-porosity filters.

He had little hope of success, but it was good practice for her. She was
required to identify every organism she found, bone up on its known
effects, then determine that it could not cause the symptoms reported.

She did all this without impairing her usefulness to Murt. When he
needed her, she was at his side, dissecting, taking down notes,
preparing delicate sections and checking slides before they came to him.

In several weeks, she exhausted all known tests on the first samples.
After lunch one day, she turned her palms up. "_Nichts da!_" she said,
pulling a mashed cigarette from the huge pocket of her white smock.

He glanced at her and swiveled to stare out the window. It was part of
his tight campaign to prevent a disastrous recurrence of the emotional
tempest he had suffered the day she had begun this research.

"It was a nice brush-up on your bacteriology," he said. "Have you saved
the filtrates?"

"Yes, of course. Did I overlook anything?"

"Nothing that we could do here, but there's an electron microscope
downtown at Ebert Industrial Labs. How about photomicrography? Could be
a filtrable virus."

He knew that she was aware of the possibility, and also that she was
reluctant to ask him for additional funds to go into a virus hunt with
the expensive piece of equipment.

"Wonderful!" she told him. "I did hate to ask you, but it would be a
shame to waste all that immaculate filtrate."


A week passed, during which a bulletin from the Government Health
Service announced official suspicion that the human race was suffering a
mysterious, pandemic affliction which was as yet undiagnosed. Although
the symptoms, as reported by hundreds of clinics, were relatively mild,
the effect on the nation's economy was growing serious.

Industry and business reported unprecedented absenteeism. Factory
supervisors and insurance companies were frantic over the upsurge in
accidents. It was estimated that almost fifty per cent of the population
exhibited the symptoms of depression, absent-mindedness, insomnia and
loss of appetite.

Negligent driving was increasing the highway toll sharply. Educational
institutions reported classroom discipline rapidly vanishing. Armed
forces headquarters cautiously admitted a new high in desertions and

The consensus among psychiatrists and psychologists was that the
condition stemmed from pathogenic causes.

Dr. Murt raised his eyebrows when he read this. Perhaps Phyllis Sutton
was right, after all.

The bulletin continued, "All clinical pathologists are requested to be
alert to the presence of any unusual organisms discovered in body fluids
or tissues examined. Please report your findings to the U. S. Public
Health Service."

Murt found Phyllis Sutton at the microtome, finishing a wax section, and
showed her the bulletin.

"Score one for woman's intuition," he smiled. "Federal Health Service
tends to agree with your theory."

"Now I _am_ eager to see those pictures," she said.

       *       *       *       *       *

Less than two hours later, a messenger brought the photomicrographs, and
the two pathologists bent over them together. Phyllis had submitted
eighteen samples, six of which were controls taken from healthy,
unafflicted subjects. Per her instructions, smears of the specimens in
various degrees of dilution had been photographed through the great
electron microscope.


Murt muttered to himself as they compared the controls with the
"infected specimens." The "healthy" samples were relatively clear,
except for minute protein matter. Conversely, all twelve suspect
specimens swarmed with shadowy six-sided dots.

Phyllis' eyes widened. "There is something there! Do you suppose it
could be the Love Bug?"

"Love Bug?"

"Certainly. That bulletin didn't go into the psychologists' findings.
The diagnosticians downstairs say that the symptoms appear to be no more
than complaints of the lovesick."

"Are you back on the pantie-raid theme again?"

"I've never been off it," she replied. "From the first, I've had a
notion that some organism was increasing glandular activity. Excess
emotionalism often originates in overstimulated glands."

"Of course, but mental attitudes can trigger the glands, and they are
interacting. How do you separate the effects? How could you guess that
an organism was responsible?"

She shrugged. "It was a possibility within our specialty, so I set out
to prove or disprove it. From the appearance of these photographs, I
don't think we have _disproved_ it."

It was a properly cautious statement that pleased Murt. They were a long
way from proving that their newly discovered virus was the culprit, but
the research had definitely produced a question mark.

Murt ordered copies of the photomicrographs from Ebert Industrial Labs
and arranged for a complete dossier to be forwarded to the U. S. Health

That night, he was startled by a headline and lead story that quoted the
government bulletin. The science editor had a field day, tying in
speculation that "Doctors Suspect Love Bug Epidemic."

       *       *       *       *       *

The next day, three reporters called upon him, each with the same query.
"It's rumored that you are doing research on the Love Bug, Dr. Murt.
Anything to report?"

He shooed them out angrily, after learning that someone at Ebert Labs
had given them the tip. Phyllis smiled at him as he slammed the door
after the last reporter.

"You still discount the Love Bug idea, don't you?" she asked.

"I dislike sensationalism in a matter like this," he said. "Even if
their assumptions were true, I wouldn't like it."

"You can't blame the papers. They're starved for some explanation. I
pity your passion for anonymity if your virus proves to be the causative

"_My_ virus?"

"Certainly. The whole project is under your auspices and direction."

"See here, Phyl, _you_ did the work."

"Don't you dare mention my name," she said. "You're my superior and
senior pathologist and it's your duty to protect me against the press. I
don't want columnists popping out of my bathroom any more than you do."

Murt gave up. "The argument is entirely anticipatory," he pointed out.
"The virus might turn out to be a batch of dormant German measles. Would
you consider having dinner with me tonight?"

"Why?" She shot the question back at him like a rebounding tennis ball.
"Answer that first!"

Murt opened his mouth. He could not recall ever hearing such a rude
rejoinder to an invitation to dinner. Not that there had been a plethora
of amenities between them, but this was unthinkable! The question was,
why _should_ she have dinner with him? Give her eight good reasons. What
was his motive in asking her? In one word, _why_?

Murt searched her face, but only a quiet interest showed in her

"Why does any man invite any woman to dinner?" he countered.

"You aren't _any_ man, Dr. Murt. Nor am I _any_ woman. I want your
specific reason for inviting me to dinner. Is it to discuss professional
matters or--what?"

"Good Lord, Dr. Sutton!" He followed her lead in using the formal
address. "Man is a social animal! I would enjoy your company at dinner,
that's all. At least, I thought I would."

She looked at him unrelentingly. "If the talk will be about baseball,
books or billiards, I'm for it. If it's to be moonlight, roses and
dimmed lights--no sale."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was like asking one's grandfather for a date. His regard for her
highly professional approach turned to resentment. After all, she was a
woman, a woman who persisted in belting her smock too tightly and
wearing sheer nylons. Why this absurd revulsion at his casual
acknowledgment of her sex?

He almost withdrew the invitation, but changed his mind at the last
moment. "You name the place and the subject for conversation."

She nodded. "Very well, I'll pick you up at seven."

He had his date--with an emancipated female, and she didn't let him
forget it during the whole meal. The restaurant she picked was
expensive, but about as romantic as a bus depot. She ordered beer
instead of a cocktail, toyed wordlessly with a $5.00 steak, and argued
over the check.

Only as they were preparing to leave did she betray a sign of
femininity. A platinum blonde, two tables away, had been eying Murt.
Suddenly, she lurched to her feet without a word to her escort,
staggered over to the pathologist, slurred, "You're what I've b'n
lookin' for all m'life," and planted a wet alcoholic kiss on his mouth
before he could defend himself.

Her escort peeled her away with sad-eyed apologies. There was no
jealousy or anger in his face, only a deep hurt. "She--she isn't well, I
think," he said. "You know, this new--whatever it is that's going

Murt wiped off the lipstick and looked at Phyllis, expecting to find at
best sardonic amusement, but she seemed pale and annoyed.

"I'm sorry I brought you here," she said.

"Think nothing of it," Murt told her. "You heard the man. This is what's
going around. Do you think I'll catch it?"

Phyllis wasn't amused. She did let him ride the taxi to her apartment,
but bade him a terse goodby at the door.

Except for the incident of the blonde and Phyl's reaction, the evening
had been a bust. Murt wondered how he had ever visualized her as a
warm-blooded, responsive female. He smiled at the evening of torment she
had once given him.

She was entirely frigid or else so leery of men that she might as well
have been one herself.


The following morning, he presided at a specialists' conference at the
hospital, during which he revealed the results of the blood research.
They had all read the Health Service bulletin and were sharply
interested in the photomicrographs.

When the meeting was over, Feldman, the bacteriologist, and Stitchell,
an endocrinologist, volunteered to work with Murt. They gave Phyllis'
"gland-irritation" theory more credence than Murt. He outlined a
program. Both agreed to take the problem back to their own departments.

The conference set Murt behind in his work and he spoke scarcely five
words to his assistant until he was ready to leave. As he finished
scrubbing up, she handed him an early edition of the _Times_.

"Local Doctor Isolates Love Bug!" The story was sketchy and not half so
positive as the headline, but it did name him and High Dawn Hospital,
and described the new virus.

He stared at Phyllis Sutton. "Did you--"

"Of course not. The reporters were here, but I sent them away. I told
them we were medicine men, not tobacco men."

"Your name isn't even mentioned," he said suspiciously.

"You signed the report to the Health Service," she pointed out. "The
leak probably came at that end." She put her hand on his arm. "It wasn't
your fault."

His fury cooled as he noted her gesture. Then she realized that he was
looking down at her hand and withdrew it quickly.

The next few days were blindly busy. A note from the government
acknowledged receipt of his report and pictures, and was followed by a
message that the virus could not be identified. The implication was that
there was a strong possibility that it was the causative factor in the
new _malaise_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Murt devoted more attention to the joint laboratory work on the virus.
The newspapers continued to come up with confidential information they
shouldn't have had, and they dubbed the Love Bug, _Murt's Virus_. The
name stuck, and the pathologist found himself famous overnight.

Phyllis continued to force all the credit upon him, on threat of
transferring out if he violated her confidence. Except for the nuisance
of dodging reporters, the accolade was not entirely unpleasant.

His pictures--old ones, Lord knew where they had dug them up--began
appearing in the papers. Instead of reproving him, the hospital board
voted him a substantial salary increase and gave him a free hand in
directing the research. A government grant was obtained to supplement
his budget, and the work picked up speed.

Necessarily, the lead that Phyllis Sutton's early research had given
them on the rest of the medical world was maintained largely because of
the time lag in disseminating the information contained in Murt's
report, and the additional time it took for other clinical laboratories
to confirm it.

Cages of experimental animals began arriving along with several
additional specialists. Ebert Industrial Labs, contrite over the
original information leak, made available their electron microscope, and
Murt assigned the new toxicologist to work over there with Feldman, the
bacteriologist, studying ways to weaken or destroy the virus.

Stitchell, the endocrinologist, and a trio of psychologists from the
State University began injecting monkeys with virus when Feldman found
he could propagate it in sterile medium.

On September 12, 1961, Dr. Sylvester Murt became a victim of the virus
which bore his name.

       *       *       *       *       *

He had slept poorly and he awakened feeling empty. His first dismal
thought was that Phyl wouldn't be at the hospital this morning. He had
told her to spend a few hours down at Ebert Labs, getting notes on their

As he shaved, dressed and breakfasted, this thought preyed on his mind.
It wasn't until he had put in half the morning clock-watching and
door-gazing that he stepped outside his wretchedness and took an
objective look at his feelings.

It wasn't that he missed her help--he had plenty of personnel at his
disposal now. He simply longed for the sight of her, for the sound of
her voice and her heels clipping busily around his office-lab.

_Here we go again_, he thought, and then he came up short. The feeling
was similar to the silly evening of infatuation he had allowed himself,
but it was intensified tenfold. The burn in his stomach was almost
painful. He caught himself sighing like a frustrated poet, and he grew
to hate the sight of the hall door, through which she kept right on not

When she failed to show up by 11:30, and he gagged over his lunch, he
knew he was sick.

He had Murt's Virus!

Now what? Did knowing you had it make it any easier? Easier to make a
damned fool of himself, he supposed. He'd have to take hold of himself
or he'd scare her off the grounds.

At the thought of her leaving him for good, something like a dull
crosscut saw hacked across his diaphragm, and he dropped his forkful of
potato salad.

Back at his office, he diluted 30 cc of pure grain alcohol with water
and swallowed it. Some of the distress and anxiety symptoms were
relieved, and he bent determinedly to his work.

When her distinctive steps finally came through the door, he refused to
raise his head from the binocular microscope. "How are they making out
over there?" he mumbled.

"It's slow," she said, dropping her notes on his desk. "They're halfway
through the sulfas so far. No results yet."

       *       *       *       *       *

Relief at having her near him again was so great, it was almost
frightening. But he gained equal pleasure from finding his self-control
adequate to keep from raising his head and devouring her with his eyes.

"Sylvester," her voice came from behind his stool, "if you don't mind,
I'd rather not go over there again."

"Why not?"

Her voice was strangely soft. "Because I--I missed...."

At that instant, her hand rested on his shoulder and it sent a charge of
high voltage through him. He stiffened.

"_Don't do that!_" he said sharply.

He could see her reflection dimly in the window glass. She took a step
backward. "What's the matter, Sylvester?"

He fought back the confusion in his brain, considered explaining that he
was making a fine adjustment on the scope. But he didn't. He turned and
let her have it. "Because I've got the virus," he said in a flat voice.
"And the object of my affection--or infected, overstimulated glands--is

"Oh, dear! That blonde at the restaurant...." Phyl's face was pale, but
she composed her features quickly. "Do you want me to leave?"

"Lord no! That magnifies the symptoms. Stay with me and--and just be
yourself. I won't bother you. If I lay a finger on you, clobber me."

"Have you had your blood tested?"

"I don't have to. I've got all the symp--"

He broke off, realizing that he was taking for granted that the new
virus _was_ the cause of his feeling. Clinically, this was nowhere near
proved yet. Slowly he rolled up his sleeve above the elbow. He dipped a
swatch of gauze in alcohol and swabbed a vein.

"All right, Phyl, you're the doctor. Make with the syringe."

       *       *       *       *       *

By nightfall, Murt came to understand the reasons for the increase in
industrial accidents, absenteeism and the rest of the social effects of
the "mild" epidemic. Phyllis Sutton was in his mind constantly. He
deliberately did not look at her. But he was aware of her every
movement, the texture and shape of her hand when she handed him a slide,
the scent of her powder, the sound of her heels.

When she left the room, he found himself awaiting her return and
conjecturing on what she was doing every moment. Not that it was
difficult to adjust his behavior--no, that was relatively easy. All he
had to do was think about every remark he made to her, censoring word,
inflection and tone of voice--and, by keeping his back to her, it was
easy to prevent his eyes from darting glances at her profile and staring
at the curve of her hip below the tight belt.

By staying busy, he fought off the depression until he left for the
club, when it closed in on him like an autumn fog. He stopped at the
club bar.

Curly, the bald-headed bartender, eyed him curiously when he ordered a
double Scotch.

"Heavy going down at the hospital these days?" Curly asked.

Murt envied him his relaxed, carefree expression. He nodded. "Pretty
busy. I suppose you're catching it, too. Lot of people drowning their
sorrows these days?"

Curly looked up at the clock. "You said it! In about a half hour, the
place'll be loaded. This epidemic is going to run the distilleries dry
if it doesn't end pretty soon."

"Does liquor help any?"

"Seems to--a little. It's the damnedest thing! Everybody's in love with
the wrong people--I mean ten times as bad as usual. Of course, not
everybody. Take my wife--she's got it bad, but she's still in love with
_me_. So it could be worse."

       *       *       *       *       *

"What do you mean?" Murt asked, raising his head.

"I mean it's bad enough for the poor woman to have the guy she wants.
It's the jealousy angle. Every minute I'm away, she sits at home
wondering if I'm faithful. Calls me up six times a shift. I don't dare
take her out anyplace. Every time another female comes in sight, she
starts worrying. Kate's a damned good wife, always has been, or I
wouldn't be putting up with it. That's what's happening to a lot of
marriages. Some guys get fed up and start looking around. About that
time, the bug bites _them_ and look out, secretary!"

"But it's not her fault," Murt said emphatically.

"I know," Curly shrugged. "A lot of people don't make any allowances for
it, though. You know Peter, the elevator boy? He and his wife both got
it. For a while it was okay, but I guess they finally drove themselves
nuts, keeping tabs on each other. Now they can't stand to be together
and they can't stand to be apart. Poor joker ran the cage past the
basement limit-switch three times today and had to be bailed out of the
shaft. Mr. Johnson said he'd fire him if he could get another boy."

The implication was shocking to Murt. He had supposed that unhappiness
would stem principally from cases of unrequited love, such as his own,
but it was apparent that the disease magnified the painful aspects of
mutual love as well. Over-possessiveness and jealousy were common reefs
of marriage, so it was hardly illogical that the divorce courts were as
busy as the marriage license bureaus, after all.

       *       *       *       *       *

It helped a little to immerse himself in the troubles of others, but,
after another double Scotch, he went to his apartment and immediately
fell into despondency. The desire to phone Phyllis was almost
overpowering, though he knew talking to her wouldn't help. Instead, he
dressed and went to dinner. The club boasted a fine chef, but the food
tasted like mucilage.

Later, he went to the bar and drank excessively. Yet he had to take a
sedative to get to sleep.

He awoke in a stupor at ten o'clock. His phone was jangling
persistently. It was Phyllis Sutton, and her face showed sharp concern.

"Are you all right, Sylvester?"

For a moment his hangover dominated, but then it all came back. "Good
morning! I'm _great_!" he moaned.

"Stitchell and the new toxicologist think they have something to
report," she said.

"So do I. Alcohol is positively not the answer."

"This is important. Your suggestion on the sulfa series seems to have
paid off."

"I'll be right over," he said, "as soon as I amputate my head."

"Come down to the zoo. I'll be there."

The thought of a remedy that might relieve him was a fair hangover cure.
He dressed quickly and even managed to swallow a little coffee and


At the hospital, he went directly to the "zoo" in the basement. A knot
of personnel, including Phyllis, Peterson, the toxicologist, and
Feldman, opened to admit him to the cage under their inspection. A quick
glance at the control cages showed no change in the undoctored monkeys.
Males and females were paired off, huddling together miserably,
chattering and sadly rubbing their heads together. Each couple eyed the
other couples suspiciously. Even here, the overpossessiveness was
evident, and Murt cringed from the pitiful, disconsolate expressions.

The cage before him, however, appeared normally animated. The monks were
feeding and playing happily. Feldman was grinning. "Had to try a new
derivative, Sylvester, but the sulfa series was the right approach."

Murt stared at the cage, redeyed. "Hadn't realized you succeeded in
producing the symptoms in monkeys."

Phyllis said, "Why, I gave you that report yester--" She broke off with
an understanding glance.

Peterson was exclaiming, "I never saw such a rapid-acting remedy! And so
far, there's no evidence of toxic effect."

"It must absorb directly into the gland tissue," Feldman added. "Hardly
had time to materially reduce the virus content significantly."

Murt murmured words of congratulations to them, turned on his heel and
stalked out. Phyllis followed him to his office.

"Get me some of the stuff and notes on the dosages they administered,"
he ordered.

"Certainly," she said. "But why didn't you ask--_Dr. Murt, you aren't
going to try it on yourself?_"

"Why not?" he barked hoarsely.

"It'll be weeks before we can determine if it's safe," she protested,

"We haven't got weeks. People are falling apart. This thing's

Even while Murt said it, he felt it was the wrong approach. He knew his
own perspective was shot, but Phyllis would probably try to protect him
against himself.

She did not. Instead, her face softened with sympathy and something else
he refused to identify. She said, "I'll be right back."

       *       *       *       *       *

The pressure in his head throbbed down his neck into his body. He wanted
her so much, it was difficult to resist following her out into the hall.
She returned in a few minutes with a 500-cc glass-stoppered reagent
bottle half full of a milky fluid.

"Oral administration?" he asked.

She nodded. "Fifteen cc for the monkeys."

She secured a small beaker and a tapered graduate from the glassware
cabinet and set them before him. He poured 50 cc into the graduated
measure and transferred it to the beaker.


"What do they call it?" he asked.

"Sulfa-tetradine," she replied. "One of a series Peterson was testing.
There is no physiological data on it yet. All he knows is that it
inhibited the virus in culture. So they tried it on the monkeys."

Murt raised the beaker to his lips. It was against every sensible tenet
of scientific procedure. He was amazed that Phyllis was silent as he
swallowed the bland, chalky fluid. He heard a clink. Turning, he saw her
raising the graduate to her lips. In it was a like quantity of

"What are you doing?" he half-shouted. "We don't need a test-control!"

"I'm not a control," she said softly, touching her lips with a scrap of
gauze. "I've had the virus for months."

He stared at her unbelievingly. "How do you know?"

"One of the first test samples was my own blood," she said. "You saw it.
It was one of the twelve positive."

"But the symptoms--you don't show a sign of--"

"Thanks," she said. "I started to break down yesterday, but you didn't
notice. You see, you are my fixation and when you told me that you had
it, too, I--"

"_Your_ fixation!" The beaker slipped from his fingers and smashed to
the tile. "_You're in love with me?_"

Her arms hung loosely at her sides and tears rimmed her eyes.
"Pathologically or otherwise, I've been a case since before I started
the blood tests."

They moved together and clung to each other. "Phyl, Phyl--why didn't you
tell me?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Fiercely, she closed his lips with her own, and her fingers dug deeply
into his shoulders. His arms pulled her closer yet, trying to fill the
void in him that was greater than the Universe. For a long minute, the
knowledge of her love and physical contact with her straining body
dispelled the bleak loneliness.

When their lips parted, they gasped for breath.

It was no good. It was like tearing at an itching insect bite with your
fingernails. The relief was only momentary, and it left the wound
bleeding and more irritated than ever. Even if they were married--look
at Peter at the club--Peter and his wife, mutually in love and
completely miserable. It wasn't normal love. It was the damned virus!

As well argue with gravity. He tried to tell her, but he couldn't make
her understand. Her restraint had been magnificent, but when the dam
broke, it was beyond stopping the flood of her emotion. And now he
couldn't believe it himself. Nothing this wonderful could be destroyed
by mere misunderstanding. He cursed the years of his celibacy. All that
time wasted--lost!

It was six o'clock before they reached her apartment. The License Bureau
had been a mob scene. Hours more, upstairs in the City Hall waiting for
the judge, while they held hands like a pair of college sophomores,
staring into each others' eyes, drinking, drinking the elixir of
adoration with a thirst that wouldn't be sated.

Phyllis weakened first. In the cab, after the ceremony, she released his
hand and wiped her damp forehead.

Then, in the elevator, Murt felt himself relaxing. The alchemy of
sustained passion had exhausted them both, he decided.

As Phyllis slipped the key in the door, she looked up at him in
surprise. "Do you know, I'm hungry. I'm starved--for the first time in

Murt discovered his own stomach was stirring with a prosaic pangful
demand of its own. "We should have stopped to eat," he said, realizing
they had forgotten lunch.

"_Steaks!_ I have some beauties in my freezer!" Phyllis exclaimed. They
peeled off their coats and she led him into the small kitchen. She
pointed at the cupboard and silverware drawer. "Set the table. We'll eat
in five minutes."

       *       *       *       *       *

Slipping into an apron, she explored the freezer for meat and French
fries, dropped them into the HF cooker and set the timer for 90 seconds.
When it clicked off, she was emptying a transparent sack of prepared
salad into a bowl.

"Coffee will be ready in 50 seconds, so let's eat," she announced.

For minutes, they ate silently, ravenously, face to face in the little
breakfast nook. Murt had forgotten the pure animal pleasure of
satisfying a neglected appetite, and so, apparently, had his wife.

_Wife!_ The thought jolted him.

Their eyes met, and he knew that the same thing was in her mind.

The sulfa-tetradine!

With the edge barely off his hunger, he stopped eating. She did, too.
They sipped the steaming coffee and looked at each other.

"I--feel better," Phyllis said at last.

"So do I."

"I mean--I feel differently."

He studied her face. It was new. The tenseness was gone and it was a
beautiful face, with soft lips and intelligent eyes. But now the eyes
were merely friendly.

And it aroused no more than a casual pleasure in him, the pleasure of
viewing a lovely painting or a perfect sunset. A peaceful intellectual
rapport settled over them, inducing a physical lethargy. They spoke
freely of their sensations, of the hypo-adrenal effects, and wondered
that there was no unpleasant reaction. They decided that, initially at
least, sulfa-tetradine was a miraculous success. Murt thought he should
go back to the hospital and work out a report right away.

Phyllis agreed and offered to accompany him, but he said she had better
get a night's sleep. The next day would be hectic.

After four hours at his desk, he called a taxi and, without hesitation,
gave the address of his club. Not until he fell wearily into bed did he
remember it was his wedding night.

By mutual agreement, the marriage was annulled the next day.

Feldman and Peterson were gratified at the efficacy of their drug, but
both were horrified that Murt had chosen to experiment on himself. As
usual, Phyl had insisted on being left out of the report.

       *       *       *       *       *

After a week of close observation, one of the monkeys was chloroformed
and tissue-by-tissue examination was made by an army of histologists.
Blood samples showed completely clear of the virus, as did a recheck on
Murt's own blood. No deleterious effects could be detected, so the
results were published through the Government Health Service.

It was the day before Christmas before Dr. Sylvester Murt first noticed
the approaching symptoms of a relapse, or reinfection--he couldn't guess
which. The past weeks had been pleasantly busy and, as acclaimed
authority on Murt's virus, he had had little time to think subjectively
about his experience.

Sulfa-tetradine was now considered the specific for the affliction and
was being produced and shipped by the carload all over the world. The
press had over-generously insisted on giving him all the credit for the
remedy as well as the isolation of the disease virus. He was an
international hero.

The warning of another attack came to him at 3:30 in the afternoon, when
Phyllis Sutton was leaving. She stuck her head back in the door and gave
him an uncommonly warm smile and cried, "Merry Christmas, Doctor!"

He waved at her and, as the door closed, caught his breath. There was
the burn in his stomach again. It passed away and he refused to give it
further thought.

His own cab wound its way through the heavy Christmas Eve traffic an
hour before store-closing time. Finally, the vehicle stalled in a jam.
It was only six blocks to his club, so Murt paid off the driver and

Part of his strategy of bachelorhood had been to ignore Christmas and
the other sentimental seasons, when loneliness costs many a man his
independence. But now it was impossible to ignore the snowflakes, the
bustling, package-laden crowds and the street-corner Santa Clauses with
their tinkling bells.

       *       *       *       *       *

He found himself staring into department store windows at the gay

A pair of shimmering, nearly invisible nylons caught his eye. They were
the most impalpable of substances, only their bare outline visible
against the white background.

He thought of Phyllis and, on impulse, went into the store and bought a
pair. The clerk had to pick a size at random for him. Outside, on the
sidewalk, he stared at the prettily gift-wrapped package and finally
acknowledged the tremor, the tension and the old ache in the region of
his diaphragm.


He plodded three slushy blocks up a side-street before he found a cab.
He gave Phyllis Sutton's address to the driver and sank back in the taxi
as a wave of weakness overcame him. What if she weren't home? It was
Christmas Eve. She would probably be visiting friends or relatives.

But she wasn't. She opened the door under his impatient knock, and her
eyes widened cordially.

"Sylvester!" she exclaimed. "Merry Christmas! Is that for me?" She
pointed to the package, clutched forgotten in his hands.

"Merry, hell!" he said dispiritedly. "I came to warn you to look out for
a relapse. Mine's been coming on all day."

She drew him inside, made him take off his coat and sit down before she
acknowledged his remark. The apartment was cozy, with a tiny Christmas
tree decorated in the window. She returned from the hall closet and sat
beside him.

"Look what I did--on impulse," he said and tossed the package on her
lap. "That's what really turned it on."

She opened the nylons and looked up at him sideways.

He continued unhappily, "I saw them in a window. Made me think of you,
and about that time the seizure began. I tried to kid myself that I was
just getting you a little token of--of my esteem, but the symptoms are
almost as bad as before already."

       *       *       *       *       *

Apparently she refused to accept the seriousness of the situation. Her
smile was fatuous, he thought, kissably fatuous.

"Don't you realize what this means?" he demanded. "Peterson and Feldman
turned up a very distressing fact. Sulfa-tetradine deposits out in the
endocrines, so a single dose is all a person can take. This relapse of
mine means we have it all to do over again."

"Think, Dr. Murt! Just think a minute," she urged.

"About what?"

"If the sulfa deposits out in the very glands it's there to protect, how
could you be suffering another attack?"

His arms ached to reach out and emphasize his argument. "I don't know.
All I know is how I feel. In a way, this is even worse, because--"

"I know," Phyllis said and perversely moved close to him. "My relapse
came last Tuesday when I bought you a tie for Christmas. I sent a blood
sample over to Ebert Labs right away. And do you know what?"

"What?" Murt asked in a bewildered fog.

"It was negative. I don't have Murt's Virus." She slipped an arm around
his waist and put her head on his shoulder. "All I've got is Murt

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