With Dan still imprisoned without trial, Sarah finds someone who might be able to help, a scientist willing to contradict ICM’s model.
The office looked much as Sarah had expected with bookshelves of academic literature and well-worn leather chairs pulled up by an old mahogany desk where a laptop and coffee mug took pride of place. A solar powered decoration sat silent at one corner of the desk, the plastic yellow anchor of a boat unmoving amongst blue plastic waves.
The professor, however was not as Sarah had expected- she’d imagined a white bearded bespectacled older man, like the head of ICM, but Professor Jones was not yet forty with bronzed skin, raven black hair held back in a short ponytail, and piercing blue eyes that softened as he greeted her.
“Thank you for coming,” he said, gesturing to one of the chairs. He placed a book back on a shelf and moved his briefcase from the other chair so he could sit.
“Thank you for seeing me,” she responded. She sat, clutching her handbag in her lap. “If there’s anything you can do for Dan, I’ll be grateful beyond words.”
Jones nodded. “They’ve been talking about genetics and how that’s informed the ICM model. Some of my colleagues and I have been looking at the data we can get hold of, which is precious little, and we’re concerned. When we compare their findings with our own research, these supposed danger markers that make someone prone to violence or to carrying an infectious disease are, to be blunt, bullshit.”
Sarah blinked. “They’re a lie?”
“They are without a doubt unproven,” Jones said. “You’ll see similar markers in most people if you look, and in many animals, and, as I’ve been trying to prove, in plants. You can argue for a violent killer horse, maybe, but a murderous carrot?”
Despite, or perhaps because of the situation, Sarah laughed. It felt good, even with the tinge of hysteria to it.
“The problem is getting the ICM to acknowledge this. Government funded organisations never like to admit they are wrong. It would affect their funding in future. Academia is not now, if it ever was, a bastion of truth seekers. Everyone has their biases, myself included. Money talks.” Jones leaned back in his chair. “And speaking out against the mainstream narrative can get your own funding cut. It can get you ridiculed and have you lose your reputation or your position. And, in some cases, worse. Like Doctor Riah.”
Sarah remembered the unfortunate man. He’d been found dead from a supposed self-inflicted gunshot wound. A wound, some had insisted, that could not have been self-inflicted at all.
“Speaking out is dangerous,” Sarah acknowledged. The hateful comments on Dan’s social media accounts and those of his supporters were one thing but this was something else. Bryan, Dan’s lawyer, had warned her that things could get ugly. She’d thought he meant graffiti on their house or broken windows, but social media influencer Tamara had received death threats for vlogging in Dan’s defence, and many experts Sarah had approached had refused to have anything to do with her or Dan’s case.
Jones was the first researcher who’d agreed to speak with her.
“It can be. But we cannot live without risk,” Jones said. “That’s part of why I’m agreeing to help.”
No doubt he, like Dan’s lawyers also hoped to gain from the exposure this would provide, the Davids against the Goliaths of the government and the ICM. There were also rumours he and the head of ICM had always been at odds, academic rivals. Sarah didn’t care. If he supported her cause sincerely that was a bonus, but his support alone was enough.
“What they’re doing is unconscionable,” Sarah said. “He’s never had a trial or any chance to plead his case.”
“I know. This imprisonment, to confine someone just in case they cause death or injury, is the epitome of a risk averse culture and is utterly alien to our very way of life.” He leaned forward in his chair. “If I can help provide evidence that will release your husband, or at least get him a fair trial or a transparent, public, evaluation that outlines what minimal risk he poses to the public, then I must.”
“Thank you.” Sarah bit her lip, tried to hold back tears of relief. Through the window behind the desk sunlight streamed as the clouds moved off. The solar powered decoration responded and the anchor bobbed back and forth amongst undulating waves.
“My testimony, the research my colleagues and I have been doing, won’t be enough,” Jones told her gently. “But it will be a start.”
She took a tissue from her handbag, dabbed at her eyes. “It only takes one pebble to start an avalanche.”
He smiled. “Quite.”
As soon as she got home Sarah emailed Dan. She didn’t mention Jones by name, only that she’d found an expert who would defend him. That they had to have faith. And that she loved him.
When she prayed that night it was with thanks for renewed hope, and requests for Dan to stay strong, and for Jones to stay safe, and for her to be able to keep striving to free her husband. She missed Dan holding her, but that night was the best night’s sleep she’d had in weeks.