Chapter (?-4): Confirmed
Dr. Ibrahim came into Eliza's curtained cubby. Eliza had just had her diaper changed yet again. The doctor checked her vitals and the level of fluids in the iv bottle and the turned to Rune, who had just come back in from getting a cup of coffee.
"Dr. McHaggerty wishes to speak to you," he said. "Something about mushroom samples."
Dr. McHaggerty's face was a sheen of sweat. Under his gown, Rune could see that he too was wearing diapers. He looked eons older than he had a few days ago. There were baggy dark circles under his eyes, which watery and paler than normal.
"You have samples from our meal?" He asked Rune. "The shaggy manes should have all autodigested themselves into black slime."
"Yep, they did," Rune said, pausing dramatically, the way he had taught her.
"Then what have you got?" he asked, puzzled, and somewhat irritated. A brief smiles played across Rune's lips as she considered all the times she had been irritated with him for just such a ploy.
"These," she said, producing the Ziploc bag and staring into it to ascertain that the bits of white mushrooms were still visible among the clinging black slime. She handed him the bag and watched his face.
It registered curiosity, surprise, and then consternation. "You found these where?"
"Mixed in with the shaggy mane stems and bits from your meal with Eliza on the night . . . " she almost said on the night you raped her, but thought better of it.
"Could it have come from elsewhere, from some other source?"
"It's possible, but extremely improbable. The compost bucket had been emptied and washed that morning. I know; I did myself. On top of the shaggy mane refuse was a layer of shiitake stems and pieces and garlic papers from the shiitakes I prepared for every that, after . . ." she trailed off again.
McHaggerty studied the bag, a grim and sorrowful expression on his face. Rune leaned forward and whispered very very quietly, "You raped Eliza Landon. I know it, Jody knows it, Bart knows it and we will not forget."
McHaggerty looked up sharply, and their eyes met. Rune was filled with rage, and did not turn away. She shot McHaggerty a look so powerful that she feared it would permanently damage him.
He looked away.
"I love you, Colin McHaggerty, and I love your wife, Elizabeth. But I do not love you romantically or sexually." Rune was having trouble speaking. She stuttered and could hardly talk. She had been trained not to speak her mind.
"I love you, like a father, like dear mentor, but you and I are going to come to terms about this," Rune choked out. "You will never touch me or any other girl or woman inappropriately again.
"Why are we talking about this now? I am probably going to die a horrible painful death. Isn't that punishment enough?"
"You are not going to die, Colin McHaggerty," Rune said, fiercely, and with conviction. “Not if I can help it, and not if Dr. Ibrahim can help it. Yes, as we know, everyone used to die from the Destroying Angel. There was no reprieve from it, once the symptoms started. But that's not necessarily true any more."
The slightly glazed look in McHaggerty's eyes cleared and a spark became visible. "Take these to Dr. Warner immediately!" He said.
Rune leaned over and gave him a peck on the cheek. She ran out to the pavement and called Warner and told him it was a life and death emergency and to meet her in Baker Labs. Then she called Larry. "Get me at the hospital now. I'll be walking up Irving toward ESF. Life and death!” she hung up. It was six AM and Larry would be getting up anyway.
Rune was tired but wired. She strode along Irving, tempted to break into a run, but knowing that was silly. She'd only passed the third cross street when she heard the beep of Larry's old battered Ford Falcon. She jumped in and they sped down the still quiet streets to campus.
"Larry," Rune said, "Did you have any reason to kill McHaggerty and Eliza?"
"Of course not!" Larry exclaimed, turned for a moment to face her in surprise.
"Someone did, they've both eaten death angels and are sick. In the hospital."
"Yup." She paused, looking at him. "Any relationship between this and those four professors you don't want me learning about?"
For a long minute, Larry didn't answer. Finally, he said, "I hope to hell not." He looked grim, his jaw set.
“Larry, don’t you think it’s time for you to tell me what you’re hiding from me? Dr. McHaggerty’s life could depend on it.”
Larry pulled in behind Baker and they walked toward the door. Dr. Warner screeched up in his mustang and they turned to greet him.
“What’s going on?” he asked, gruffly, “I missed my breakfast and kisses from my daughter.”
“McHaggerty and a student, Eliza Landon, ate these,” Rune said, handing him the bag.
“Looks like Coprinus . . . he started, then paused . . . and something else, Oh my God, it’s not . . . “
“I think its Amanita phalloides,” Rune said, grimly, “test it.”
“Just what you predicted,” Dr. Warner said, pointing at the markers he’d placed at certain points on the spectrums on the screen.
“Make sure you save these. Call the hospital—ask for Ibrahim, if he’s still there. The night resident. Tell him your results, and tell him who you are. Reference Dr. McHaggerty and Eliza Landon,” Dr. Warner looked at Rune strangely. “Sorry,” she croaked, “I didn’t mean . . .”
“Shush,” Dr. Warner said. He was dialing his phone. He had the hospital numbers programmed in, as he was called for various tests regularly. Ibrahim was still there, and Warner gave him the news.
“I don’t have an eight o’clock,” Warner said, “I’ll take McHaggerty’s class. I was going to come in for a guest lecture on the chemistry of mycological toxins, I’ll just do it now.”
Rune impulsively gave him a hug. Dr. Warner looked surprised. “You must be really worried,” he said, after a moment’s hesitation.
Rune burst into tears. Dr. Warner hugged her and then Larry hugged her. “Can you . . . I mean will you . . . take me back to Crouse Irving?” she asked Larry.
“Did Dr, Ibrahim tell you?” she asked Eliza?
“Tell me what?” she asked?
“”You ate some Destroying Angel. I don’t know how much. Have you called your parents?”
“Do it now.” Rune handed Eliza the phone.
“Oh, Daddy,” Eliza said, and started crying. Rune took the phone,
Rune had never met Eliza’s parents. “I’m sorry, Mr. Landon. Eliza is in the hospital. She has consumed some poisonous mushrooms. If you can come, you probably should. No, I’m not a doctor; I’m one of her roommates. I’m a friend.”
Eliza took the phone back. “The mushrooms can kill you, Daddy, but they might be able to save me. Mommy!” she shrieked. She cried again, but this time, Rune let her.
“I’m at Crouse-Irving Hospital—they might send me to Strong Memorial in Rochester if I need a liver transplant. I don’t know. I don’t know. Just come. Come here. If they move me, I’ll call you.”
Rune went down to talk to McHaggerty. “They confirmed Amanita phalloides,” she said, “But you are not going to die. Do you know who might have wanted to kill you?”
McHaggerty put his face in hands and wept. “Everybody,” he said.