Part 2
by Chris

See Author's notes in Part 1
Day 3 - Steele in Preparation
[Day 3, morning, GMT - 8 hrs]
It is early morning and Laura is in Remington's and her bedroom, packing. Laura tries to pack wisely with easy-to-wash clothes that are well coordinated and do not show dirt and dust easily. Katie enters, dressed in pants and a top, and ready for school. Mildred can be heard in the background settling in in the guestroom.
"Mom. As soon as Grandma Mildred told me about this new case, I talked to my teacher in biology. If I help out and write a paper on what has happened, I'll get extra credits." Katie informs her mother.
"That's wonderful, Katie. But with your finals coming up, won't that be too much for you?" Laura wonders.
"You know me, mom. With the high speed Internet access connection we have I can stay at home and study, and still help out. Grandma Mildred can work part-time from here as well, 'when she has to look after me'." Katie says with a grin implying *do I need looking after, c'mon mom*. "Also, she could always use the help of a qualified Internet browser." She continues in almost a whispery voice.
"Heard ya." Mildred can be heard shouting from the other room.
"True, any extra help could do… Okay, agreed then. I know you will handle things wisely." Laura says, patting Katie's shoulder in assurance. "Well, you'd better get off to school and Mildred needs to take me to the airport. Oh, almost forgot, when it comes to keeping in contact, calling could be a bit troublesome but the camp is supposed to have one good Internet connection so e-mailing and that sort of thing will be alright." Laura says as she is finished packing and carries her luggage downstairs, Katie and Mildred following.
Laura gives her daughter a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Remember, whatever happens, Dad and I love you very much."
"I know. I love you, too… Have fun!" Katie says quickly hugging her mother, then she picks up her backpack and heads out the door.
"Kids don't bother about much, do they?" Mildred says as she comes up to Laura.
Days 3-5 - Steele Touring Helvetica
Steele going rural
[Day 3, before noon, GMT + 1 hr]
The train ride from Zurich presents Remington with a wondrous landscape, with the Alps as an ever-present background scenery, a scenery getting more and more impressive as he gets closer to Luzern, located on the northern slopes of the Alps. In Luzern he is met by Ms. Claudia Goetscher, an interpreter he has hired, as he knows from making the appointment, that the farmer knows some English but Remington is not sure that it would be good enough for the purpose of discussing the matters he needs to bring up.
Remington and Ms. Goetscher drive up a narrow road to a farm near Luzern,. It is very peaceful with animals out on the steep fields. A man comes out from the house as they stop the car.
"Hello. Herr Giddey, I presume?" Steele asks as he walks up to the man to greet him.
"And you, Herr Steele? Herr Giddey says as they shake hands.
Steele introduces Ms. Goetscher. Then, "Can you tell us what actually happened?"
"Doch, it started some time after getting new food for 'meine Kuhen', Herr Giddey begins.
"My cows." Ms Goetscher whispers to Steele.
"Tired. When hurt, 'riesengrosse blaue Flecke'. 'Schwierig zu gehen.' Cuts, much blood." Herr Giddey continues, looking like he really feels sorry for his animals.
"Huge hematomas. Difficult walking." Again Ms. Goetscher discreetly translates.
"How was the feed or food changed?" Steele queries.
"Same wheat grain but new name. 'Persönlische adressierte Werbung' from a 'biotechnische' company in Basel…Ah, BioNovus. Good price." Herr Giddey explains.
"Individually addressed promotion." Ms. Goetscher says, unsure if she had chosen the right words.
Now standing at the fence surrounding his herd of cows, with some cows curious about Herr
Giddey's visitors, Herr Giddey continues. "The 'Tierarzt' knew soon."
"Vet" Ms. Goetscher interludes.
"Not enough K-vitamin. As if eaten 'Rattengift'." He continues.
"Rat poison" Another discreet whisper from Ms. Goetscher.
Herr Giddey pulls out some pictures, depicting some cows with bumps and swollen joints. He then says, remembering the translation, "This cow here 'im Bild'…"
"In the picture." Ms. Goetscher interludes.
"Is the cow here." Herr Giddey continues, stroking the neck of a now perfectly healthy cow, showing genuine care. "Changed back to old food and now my…cows…are OK. Lucky, no dead."
At the same time Remington backs away from the cows, startled by a cow's attempt to give him a big licking kiss.
Steele meeting at the airport
[Day 4, early morning, GMT + 1 hr]
Remington meets Laura at the gate at Zurich International Airport in Kloten, when she arrives in the morning.
"Good flight? Ready to get going?" Remington asks after a hug and a quick kiss.
"Just fine. Perfect flying weather. Slept like a baby…And, yes, sure am" Laura says in a perky voice, referring to Remington's second question. Walking towards the exit, Laura continues, "Mildred sent me an email that I've downloaded. She's been able to dig up some information on the people at UNEASE, the purchasing process and about FutAgro."
"Good, very good. Mildred is reliable to say the least. Fact finding and managing the Nesari case.
Before Mildred goes to bed we need to call her about something else. Let's find a place where we can use this one in peace and quiet." Steele says holding up a mobile phone with a miniature camera attached to it. "And by the way, we'll leave early this afternoon for Basel by train."
"Basel? Then we're not going straight on to Ethiopia?" Laura asks somewhat surprised.
"No, I've rebooked our flights for tomorrow. In Basel you'll be able to show off your low golf handicap with the President of a biotech company." Remington says, making a demonstrative swing for Laura.
Steele parking in Zurich
[Day 4, mid-morning GMT + 1 hr]
While waiting for their train, Remington and Laura decide to call Mildred from a park near the railway station in Zurich. (They had to search for a while to find a quiet spot as they were somewhat shocked about the many drug users hanging around in the park, unfortunately a true Swiss experience.)
"Good evening, Mildred" Remington says, Laura with her hand on his shoulder, listening intently.
"Hi boss. Did Mrs. Steele arrive properly?" Mildred asks, her face showing on the mobile phone display.
"Yes, I did." Laura says cheerfully, as Remington tilts the phone to make Laura come within the range of the camera.
"Your info so far has been very valuable, but we need some more info on a company called BioNovus in Basel, Switzerland. The name of that company came up when I talked to all of the farmers affected by that strange disease." Remington explains, tilting the camera back to face him, quickly getting down to business.
Mildred assures them, "First thing in the morning, boss. Anything else?"
"No, that's all. Give Katie a hug from us, will you?" Remington continues.
"That order's always gladly received, boss. Bye then" Mildred finished, her face disappearing from the screen.
"So what did the email from Mildred contain?" Remington asks Laura, while putting away the mobile.
"Let's see. First, our client Mr Van Kasteren is white as snow. Always by the book. Dr Ng Kheng is a skilled scientist who got excellent remarks on her PhD. Truly a dedicated, concerned woman who got her physical impairment after her mother being affected by chemicals at a textile plant. Nothing on her as well. And Mike came out clean, except for some speeding tickets."
"I guess we'll have to trust them for now." Remington comments, indicating to Laura to continue.
"FutAgro in New Jersey is just a wholesaler who does a lot of business with the UN and they were presented with an "Outstanding Supplier Award" only last year. Looks like they can be removed from the list as well." Laura says with a slight frown, knowing the comment that would come from Remington.
"What's wrong with you dear? You're actually removing suspects?" Remington says teasingly, giving her a friendly hug.
"I'm afraid I've come down with a bug." Laura says, slightly grinning at Remington. "There was one strange thing though. In the purchasing documents, a change in barcodes could be noted a couple of months ago…all other things remaining unchanged. And now when I think of it, BioNovus was not the name of the supplier of the grain to FutAgro." Laura explains further.
"Hmm…so not the same supplier, and different barcode labels. Strange that UNEASE didn't mention this, the labels I mean. Still, most likely there wouldn't be any barcode label reading equipment at the Ethiopian camp, so it could have easily passed by."
"That's true." Laura says agreeing to Remington's conclusion. "What else?"
"Those samples of the feed that I got from the farmers near Luzern are on their way to the lab Dr Ng Kheng recommended. She would personally go there to oversee the analysis she told me."
"Very nice of her, isn't it? Oh, that reminds me, Mike should have somebody send samples from those two differently barcode labeled packages, both as seed and as a grain for consumption." Laura comments as she looks at her watch and notices that it is time for them to board their train.
Laura and Remington gather up their things and head back to the railway station.
Steele having a ball
[Day 4, late afternoon GMT + 1 hr]
Remington and Laura drive by car to the Basel International Golf and Country Club, which is located in a rolling landscape setting, much unlike the rest of Switzerland. After parking at the main building,
Remington removes the set of golf clubs they have hired for the day from the trunk. Remington carries them, as he will be Laura's caddie for the afternoon. Laura is dressed to her teeth in golf attire, which she's been able to rent from the golf club store, eager to let her clubs swing, a pastime she just too seldom gets to practice. They see an elegantly dressed lady in her 50's and a man in his 40's dressed in a mix of clothes badly in need of coordination stand outside the entrance.
"Must be the biotech people" Steele comments to Laura as they walk up to them.
"Dr. Suchard? 'Guten Tag'. Nice late afternoon for a round on the green turf, eh?" Remington says, smiling widely, as he greets Dr. Suchard, then letting his eyes wander over the beautifully landscaped golf course.
"'Bon jour', Mr. Steele. Yes, lovely, isn't it?" Dr. Suchard responds with a friendly smile, discreetly pointing out that she's French Swiss. "And you are Mrs. Steele, I presume?" She continues, over-pronouncing words as if a bit rusty speaking English.
"Yes, I am." Laura responds, shaking Dr. Suchard's hand, then turning to the man, smiling widely as she continues, "Dr. Lindt? The R&D Manager? Good day to you sir, and how NICE to meet you. Your reputation as a researcher is profound."
Meanwhile Remington cannot help notice the suspicious look Dr Lindt has been giving him and Laura ever since he spotted them.
"Good day, Mrs. Steele. I'm glad that somebody noticed." Dr. Lindt responds slightly edgy, direction Dr. Suchard. "So what can we do for you this afternoon? I'm sorry if I seem unwilling to help but I DO need to leave shortly for another appointment." Dr Lindt responds with a smile, a put-on smile, that is.
'Huh' Remington thinks, letting out a silent sigh, 'she seems to be of the friendly kind, but he's neither friendly, nor happy.', while he too shakes hand with Dr. Lindt.
"Shall we get going? We can talk as we play, OK?" Dr. Suchard asks, starting to walk towards the first tee.
"Certainly. As you know from my previous call we would like to know more about the feed you advertised to dairy farmers some time ago, a feed that seems to have caused some odd disease in dairy herds here in Switzerland." Remington explains as Laura gets ready to play her first ball.
Laura gets a good hit and the ball lands about one hundred meters down the fairway, causing her to comment proudly, "Old habits tend to die hard.", then falling silent noticing Dr. Suchard's somewhat surprised look at her from her outburst of sudden excitement.
As Dr. Suchard gets ready to play her first ball, she explains, "Yes, I know about that. It was just after my appointment. It was one of the first things I had to sort out after starting to work for BioNovus. I worked at a different company before, you see." Dr. Suchard finishes the sentence by giving her golf ball a good sendoff down the fairway. As they start to walk down the fairway, Dr. Suchard continues, "As soon as it was noted that this particular wheat grain had…an unanticipated side-effect, in order not to cause badwill for our company, I decided that this product should be withdrawn from the market immediately. We took it off the market several months ago."
"And this unanticipated effect was?" Laura asks as Remington gives her her next golf club and she manages another good swing.
"It was of a kind that I've not heard of before. When digested, this grain caused a lack of K-vitamin in the organism consuming it." Dr. Suchard explains as her second swing makes the ball fly way down the fairway.
Remington cannot help noticing that Dr. Lindt twinges at Dr. Suchard's openness, an openness forcing Dr. Lindt to comment, "Yes, unfortunately one of my research groups didn't test this particular modified grain as extensively as one could expect."
Both Remington and Laura notice the defending tone, as if Dr. Lindt just has made an effort to free himself from any responsibility of this lack of thoroughness. Not trying lay any blame on either of them, Remington continues, "What wasn't revealed in the tests carried out?"
"The wheat grain was tested on guinea pigs, since when it comes to metabolism, these animals resemble humans to a large extent. The guinea pigs being fed with it, DIDN'T get sick." Dr. Lindt answers, still in a slightly defending tone.
With Laura walking next to Dr. Suchard, she cannot help notice a slight grimace on Dr. Suchard's face, as if the head of the company does not appreciate the way her research manager responds to the questions.
"What is the problem then?" Remington asks, now a little confused.
"This grain is safe for humans, but not for cows and other animals that CAN produce C-vitamin by themselves." Dr. Suchard explains, as she makes her first put on the green.
"So….?" Laura begins, wanting Dr. Suchard to explain it all, her mind somewhat concentrating on her putt.
"It's just that humans do not produce C-vitamin themselves. We all have to get it through our food." Dr. Suchard with a gentle smile, as if overlooking their lack of knowledge of vitamins.
Remington and Laura exchange confused looks, then Laura whispers to Remington as she gives him her putt back, "How are we going to find a link between the incident here in Switzerland to the one in Ethiopia? They're PEOPLE for heaven's sake."
Then turning to face the doctors, smilingly she says instead, "Dr. Suchard, since our flight isn't scheduled until tomorrow, you don't mind me finishing the round with you, do you?"
"Certainly not, Mrs. Steele. I'd be delighted." Dr. Suchard responds.
"Well, ladies, Mr. Steele. You have to excuse me. I must leave now for my other appointment." Dr. Lindt says, again a forced smile on his face. As he shakes hands with Remington he says, "Good luck with your investigation." Dr. Lindt heads back towards the car park.
As the women concentrate on their golf, Remington cannot help notice that Dr. Lindt makes a phone call as soon as he is outside hearing range from them.
Steele out of range
[Day 4, late afternoon GMT + 1 hr]
After leaving Dr. Suchard and the Steeles, Dr. Lindt walks back towards the car park. When feeling sure that he is out of hearing range from his recent company, he looks around to make sure nobody else is nearby and then dials a number on his mobile phone, impatiently waiting for the call to come through. As the other person answers he says in German "Stefano? Hallo, Hermann hier. Die wissen 'was. Mach 'was!" [Stefano? Hi, it's Hermann. They know something. Do something!] and presses the off button, stopping shortly, looking straight ahead as if contemplating the situation at hand, then continuing with determined strides to the car park.
Reflections of Steele
[Day 5, very early morning GMT + 1 hr, late evening day 4, GMT - 8 hrs]
In their hotel room in Basel, where they have spent the night, Remington and Laura discuss the latest news from Mildred, the background check on BioNovus AG, as they finish getting dressed and starting to pack.
"Mildred once again managed to dig up some dirt. It seems like a lot of people are unhappy with Dr. Suchard's appointment to President for BioNovus AG, especially our 'friendly' Dr. Lindt. Some people in the business thinks she's TOO ethical, how that can be." Laura says.
"Yes, I can especially understand Dr. Lindt's disappointment since he thought he would be the one appointed. He seems like a guy who has a poor idea about how other people regard him but thinks the world of himself. Still, with his record concerning other issues than research I can understand why he wasn't. He was LUCKY getting out of that trial with such ease." Remington comments with emphasis.
"Well, his lawyers earned their wages in that process. Dr. Lindt's obvious ethical negligence turned into blaming the legislation for being vague and inconsistent, of all things." Laura says, obviously upset over how the legal system had worked in this case. "And our meeting yesterday only once again showed his lack of interest in taking responsibility for actions he reasonably SHOULD be responsible for." She continues, still somewhat agitated.
"However, I can see why BioNovus keeps Dr. Lindt. He IS an outstanding researcher with several international research awards so when it comes to research merits he's way above Dr. Suchard." Remington reasons.
"Well, excellence in research doesn't help your reputation or career if you're willing to kill a person or two in the process of getting your awards, does it?" Laura says indignantly, somewhat misunderstanding Remington.
"Can't agree more with you on that point, dear. " Remington says reassuringly in an effort to remove the misunderstanding. In an effort to prove to Laura that he doesn't have high thoughts of Dr. Lindt's ethics he says dryly, "My impression of Dr. Lindt so far has not been in HIS favor. I wonder how much Dr. Suchard knows about the 'amicable' Dr. Lindt and how much control she actually has over him? And whom did he call from the golf course?"
The questions leave Remington with a contemplating expression on his face, causing Laura to respond to him with a similarly questioning expression on her face.
Day 5 - Steele Finding A Link
Steele searching in LA
[Day 5, morning, GMT - 8 hrs, evening Ethiopian time, GMT + 2 hrs]
"I know it's Saturday, but I'm so happy you want to help me dig for more information. What we know so far doesn't make sense, don't you think?" Mildred asks as she and Katie enter the office. A bit surprised they find Joe sitting in the front office.
"Hey, Joe, what brings you here?" Katie asks, giving him a curious grin.
"Well, I heard what you said last night, couldn't help myself. Since you have to look for a needle in a small haystack by the sounds of it, you shouldn't have to worry about food or drinks. I'll be at your service for whatever you need. In-between your requests, I'll let my nose dive into this." He finishes with a smirk, holding up a thick textbook on organic chemistry.
"How nice." Katie says, referring to both Joe being there and him studying. "So what should we start with Grandma Mildred?" She continues turning to Mildred who has already gone to her office, causing Katie to head there herself.
"Well, you know that I can dig for anything as long as I have a lead to follow." Mildred starts.
"But now you're running out of leads?" Katie finishes.
"YES. The only link I still have to explore is if there is a connection of some kind between that Swiss company and the purchasing organization at the UN. It seems like a long shot since there is no connection in company names, the Swiss grain is safe for people, and in Ethiopia people are hurting. But hey, I've come across stranger things than that before." Mildred says with determination, not letting the confusing situation at hand get to her spirit.
"Yeah…" Katie comments, a thoughtful expression on her face, then she continues, "The only connection is the same symptoms, and the K-vitamin treatment. Both the cows and the people seemed to get a similar blood clotting disorder. How DO we establish a link?"
Steele given a clue
[Day 5, noon, GMT - 8 hrs, late evening Ethiopian time, GMT + 2 hrs]
Mildred, Katie and Joe are sitting around the coffee table in Mr. Steele's office, having Mexican food for lunch. Mildred and Katie have been letting Joe in on what they have found so far.
"So far I've found 'nada' about a connection between that Swiss company and the UN. But it's hard stuff to look into." Mildred comments her morning's work while digging into some burritos.
"Since I have an assignment in geography with a free choice of topic, I got this hunch about looking into differences between Switzerland and Ethiopia." Katie reveals to explain her fact finding exercises this morning, munching on some corn chips. "I've got no clue whether it means anything but the types of soil are quite different between those two countries. Ethiopia is rather unique by African standards."
"Yes, that's true. Depending on when…and how the land and mountains were formed the soil should be different." Mildred says, backtracking her memory on what she once learned learnt in school.
"Different soils meaning different minerals…meaning different basic elements and salts?" Joe thinks out loud.
"Yes?" Katie asks, wondering what Joe is aiming at.
"I haven't studied all that much yet, but it seems like organic compounds easily changes properties if an element in a structure is changed." Joe states.
"You mean that if the soil is different, maybe the wheat grain grown in it may change properties, depending on which organic compounds are in the grain? Sounds a bit sci-fi to me." Katie reasons.
"Well, not too strange. Just think how a pot of flowers can thrive with the right nutrients added to the soil." Mildred comments.
"So this could be just taking it a step further? That it doesn't affect the grain that much, but rather affects the organism consuming it? We ARE dealing with genetically modified grains here, right?" Katie now reasons with excitement.
"Could be." Joe says, looking mused.
"Let's see. Mr. Steele sent off the samples he got in Switzerland two days ago so Dr. Ng Kheng should have been able to start on those yesterday. But then the Ethiopian samples wouldn't arrive to the lab until tomorrow, I guess…" Mildred thinks out loud.
"Your math isn't all that bad, Grandma Mildred." Katie says teasingly, then she says with excitement
"We should contact Dr. Ng Kheng about our ideas, don't you think?" Katie then becomes completely serious, "I hope she doesn't think we're being ridiculous. But maybe it's just too simple to even be considered?" Katie makes a questioning grimace.
To Part 3

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