by on January 6th, 2011
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Louis was shaking with nervousness as he and his professor wheeled the cage towards the auditorium. This was the moment he and Dr. Wenger had been anticipating for two years. All of their research was about to come under scrutiny from the university’s board of trustees. Their hard work could save millions of lives throughout the Ivory Coast. The country was counting on him and his professor to deliver. He stopped backstage to wait for his introduction and to gather his thoughts. He pulled out a handkerchief and wiped some nervous sweat off his brow. At last, everyone was about to see the creation.

“Please welcome to the stage Dr. Marcel Wenger and his assistant, Louis Bizet,” said university president Dr. Antoinette Marcheaux. “What they have to show you today can save anyone bitten by a snake. Their countless hours of work will save many lives. Abidjan University is truly blessed to have them.”

Louis and Dr. Wenger pushed the cage out from behind the curtain and removed the cover. A collective gasp filled the room as people stared at it. It stared back at them, its forked tongue flickering in and out of its mouth.

“Please have a seat and relax,” said Dr. Wenger. “The snake might look scary, but rest assured, there is no reason to become alarmed.” The board sat down, still nervous at what they were seeing.

“What we have here is a cross between a puff adder and a black mamba,” said Dr. Wenger. “Yes, this snake is highly venomous, but the anti-venom it produces immediately stops the deadly effects of venom from either species. It will save millions of lives.”

Everyone began to relax. Dr. Wenger continued with his presentation.

“Successfully cross-breeding the two species took two years of genetic engineering,” Dr. Wenger explained. “Through trial and error, we have perfected the cross-breeding process to a point where it is foolproof.” He continued for two hours, answering questions and reassuring the audience.

“It cannot break out of its cage,” assured the professor. “It has been tested for strength and has not failed, even under enormous loads.”

Confident the board was satisfied with the presentation, Dr. Marcheaux stepped in.

“Why doesn’t everyone come up and have a closer look,” she suggested. “Don’t be nervous.”

The board members came up and took a closer look, Dr. Wenger making them feel at ease the whole time.

“I’ll be happy to answer more questions over dinner,” said the professor. Everyone left the room and headed toward the banquet hall next door. They left the cage in the auditorium, a police officer standing by in case anyone wanted to come and see it.

Louis, Dr. Wenger and Dr. Marcheaux finished up their dinners.

“I knew they’d be surprised by my creation, but I think they’ll learn to like once a few lives are saved,” declared Dr. Wenger.

“I agree,” Louis added with a huge grin across is face. “This could earn both of us quite a bit of money as well. I’ll be set for life.”

“Aside from money, both of you will earn yourselves and this university tremendous prestige and honor,” said Dr. Marcheaux.

“I’m more concerned about the money,” said Louis. “I’ve been a poor college student for years. I’m excited to actually be able to support myself.”

“If our creation is accepted, you’ll be able to do that and much more,” added Dr. Wenger. “You could easily become a ri….” Dr. Wenger’s phone rang. He excused himself and stepped away to answer it. Louis and Dr. Marcheaux stayed at the table.

“I seriously hope all of this wasn’t just about money,” said Dr. Marcheaux. “I don’t like our graduates to be so shallow.”

“It’s not,” assured Louis. “But the reality is that everyone in this world has to make a living somehow and having more money usually means you can live a better life.” Both of them glanced over at Dr. Wenger, still on the phone. He looked nervous and was talking very quickly. He hung up and quickly left the room.

“I hope nothing’s wrong,” said Dr. Marcheaux.

“I’m sure everything is fine,” assured Louis. “He excuses himself to answer his phone all the time. He always talks a mile a minute on that thing.

Dr. Wenger rushed into the campus security office.

“Take a look,” said police Chief Bernard Faure. Dr. Wenger leaned in towards one of many television monitors. A stunned look gripped is face. A couple beads of sweat dripped from his hair. The snake’s cage was there, but the lid was on the floor.

“The officer stationed in the room isn’t answering his phone,” said Faure. The snake was gone!

Dr. Wenger and Faure rushed back to the auditorium. Out of breath, both they walked in. The officer was lying on the ground. The snake was nowhere to be seen. Faure took a closer look at the officer. Two small wounds about an inch apart appeared on his left calf muscle. Dr. Wenger looked on in horror. He immediately checked for a pulse. None. The officer was dead! Dr. Wenger stood up and put his hand over his mouth in disbelief. Faure’s phone rang.

“What?!? Where?!? Yes, we’ll be over there immediately,” he said.

“What is it?” asked Dr. Wenger.

“A young woman has been found dead outside the chapel,” said Faure with a solemn look on his face. “Let’s go.”

Back at the banquet, Louis and Dr. Marcheaux were growing worried about how long Dr. Wenger had been gone.

“I hope everything’s okay,” said Dr. Marcheaux.

“This is a bit unusual,” said Louis. “His phone calls normally don’t take this long.” Then Louis’s phone rang. He quickly grabbed it from his pocket, anxious to see who was calling. It was Dr. Wenger. Louis quickly answered it.

“What’s up?” asked Louis. He listened intently to the professor’s answer, his face growing more worried. Dr. Marcheaux was also growing worried. Louis hung up.

“We’ve got to go,” said Louis very abruptly.

“Is everything okay?” asked Dr. Marcheaux.

“No,” Louis answered. “We need to go to the chapel next to the main quad. I’ll tell you while we’re heading over there.”

Dr. Wenger and Chief Faure examined the young woman. She was laying under a tree next to the chapel with two fang marks on her lower left leg-exactly the same wound as the officer in the auditorium. Louis and Dr. Marcheaux came running over.

“How did the snake escape?” asked Louis.

“We don’t know, but we’ve got to find it,” explained Dr. Wenger. “Two people are already dead. It seems that this snake’s venom kills very quickly. There is rarely time to administer anti-venom. In case there are any more bites, I’ve got five doses with me. We need the snake back so we can keep milking its venom.”

“Milk its venom?” chief Faure asked sarcastically. “That snake needs to die! If I find it, I’ll shoot it!”

“Why?” asked Dr. Wenger. “This is just an unfortunate mishap. This snake will save far more lives than it will take!”

“I don’t care!” screamed Chief Faure. “You’ve let the snake escape once and it’ll probably happen again. Your creation is a menace to this university and to everyone who gets close to it!”

“It can’t escape again unless we don’t kill it when we find it,” Louis said sarcastically.

“Fine!” said Chief Faure, annoyed with the sarcasm. “If you find it and catch it, it can live! If I find it, I’ll shoot it!”

With that, Chief Faure stormed off in a huff. Dr. Wenger and Louis stood there, not sure what to do.

“We can’t let him find the snake first,” said Dr. Wenger. “Let’s increase our odds be searching separately. Let’s walk the quad on opposite sides. If we don’t see it, we’ll proceed to the golf course.” Louis nodded in agreement, still stunned at chief Faure’s display of anger.

They took off down the quad, Dr. Wenger taking the side closest to the academic buildings, with Louis taking the side closest to the residential buildings. They walked slowly, very methodically. Five walkways crossed the quad between where they were and the other end. They reached the first one and looked up at each other from a distance. Both shook their heads. Dr. Wenger motioned onward. The same thing happens at the next one. And the next one. And the final two. At the other end, both walked toward each other quickly.

“Unless we’re both blind, the snake isn’t here,” said Dr. Wenger.

“We’re not blind, it’s somewhere else,” Louis replied. Both of them walked past the duck pond and up a hill to the clubhouse of the golf course. The club pro was standing outside, talking frantically on the phone.

“He’s laying next to a lake on the 15th fairway!” he told the paramedics over the phone. Hearing this, Dr. Wenger and Louis sprinted up to him.

“What is it?” asked Dr. Wenger.

“Snakebite on the 15th fairway!” exclaimed the club pro.

“Take us there,” said Dr. Wenger. The three of them hopped on a golf cart and sped toward the scene.

“We had a snake that we cross-bred for powerful anti-venom escape from its cage earlier today,” explained Dr. Wenger. “A side effect is that its venom is also very powerful-twice as powerful as an Australian Taipan. Odds are against anyone surviving if they are bitten. Luckily, I thought to grab five doses of anti-venom before my presentation this afternoon.”

They arrived at the scene. An older man was lying on the ground, a 5-iron in his hand. Dr. Wenger rushed over to him and checked for a pulse. He had one, but his breathing was very short and fast-paced. Time was running out!

“Louis, keep searching for the snake while I administer anti-venom,” commanded Dr. Wenger. “Chief Faure is bound to get here soon and you know what’ll happen if he sees the snake first.”

Louis looked out over the lake. He saw something moving on the far side of it.

“Can our snake swim?” he asked.

“I can only assume so,” replied Dr. Wenger. “Both puff adders and black mambas are good swimmers and this is a cross of the two.” With that, Louis jumped in and started swimming out towards the middle of the lake. The movement he initially saw started coming in his direction. It was moving in a fashion exactly like a snake swimming through water. It got closer and stopped. Two eyes and a diamond-shaped head appeared above the water. It was the snake! Louis slowly began to swim backward. The snake followed. He backed up a little more. The snake followed.

Dr. Wenger finished injecting the bite victim with anti-venom as the paramedics arrived. The victim’s breathing and pulse slowed and he became alert. Dr. Wenger looked across the lake and saw Louis and the snake staring at each other. He grabbed the golfer’s 5-iron and stood at the edge of the lake.

Chief Faure arrived and quickly noticed the snake and Louis in the water. He pulled his gun and pointed it toward the snake, but felt Louis was too close to risk firing. He and Dr. Wenger glared at each other.

Louis backed up a little more. Still, the snake followed. Louis backed up until he could stand. Slowly, he stepped backward, losing his shoes in the muck at the bottom of the lake. The snake moved closer. Louis suddenly turned and ran onto shore. Dr. Wenger reached for the snake with the 5-iron. Chief Faure grabbed his arm. They both lost their balance and fell.

Bang! Chief Faure’s gun went off. He and Dr. Wenger quickly got out of the lake, their clothes soaked. They looked at each other.

“You have blood all over your face,” Dr. Wenger told Chief Faure.

“Likewise,” replied the chief.

They both slowly turned their heads toward the lake. Bubbles laced with blood were rising to the surface. The snake was nowhere to be seen.

“Victory is mine!” declared Chief Faure. “The snake is dead and nobody else will get bitten. The menace has been defeated!”

“Good for you,” Dr. Wenger said sarcastically. “Go brag about this to your department. Tell them you just destroyed the most important research in the history of Abidjan University.”

“Don’t worry. I will,” Chief Faure assured with a smirk on his face. The two walked away in opposite directions, leaving Louis behind. He started crying, knowing that the years of work he put into his Ph.D. were now wasted. All he could do was walk back to his car outside the auditorium and drive home. He walked into his apartment, changed out of his wet clothes, stretched out on his sofa and turned on the TV. He drifted off to sleep.

Louis arrived at Dr. Wenger’s office the next morning. Dr. Marcheaux was waiting for him, tears streaming down her face.

“What’s wrong?” asked Louis.

All she could do was point inside the office. Dr. Wenger lay motionless on the floor, his entire anti-venom supply spilled on the floor. Louis lifted up his left pants leg. Two fang marks appeared.

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