(from “Holding Wonder” Avon short stories paperback,
© 1971 by Zenna Henderson, pages 70-86,
original © 1965 by Galaxy Publishing Corporation.
First published in Worlds of Tomorrow, May, 1965)
 SUCH THINGS HAPPEN, inevitably, perhaps, since both seek isolation, but the sign post at the junction of the Transcontinental and the narrow secondary road seems a contradiction in terms:
EDRU 14—12 miles
The association of these two groups is so unlikely that the picture of the sign post is always turning up in magazines, newspapers and Tviews under Laugh-a-bit or Smile-a-While or Whoda Thunkit?
Away – in the the remote possibility that someone does not remember – is the name chosen by one of the fairly large groups of people who choose to remove themselves, if not from the present age, at least from the spirit of it. They locate in isolated areas, return to the agricultural period wherein horses were the motive power, live exclusively on the land, foreswear most modern improvements and, in effect, withdraw from the world. There are degrees of fervency, ranging from wild-eyed, frantic-bearded, unwashed fanaticism, to an enviable, leisurely mode of living that many express longing for but could never stand for long. These settlements, and their people,are usually called Detaches.
EDRU 14, is of course, Exotic Diseases Research Unit # 14. Each unit of EDRU concerns itself with one of the flood of new diseases that either freeload back to Earth from space exploration or spring up in mutated profusion after each new drug moves in on a known disease. Each unit embodies the very ultimate in scientific advancement in power, sources, equipment and know-how.
In this particular instance, the Power Beam from the  Area Central crossed the small acres and wooded hills of Away to sting to light and life the carefully-fitted-into-its-environment Research Unit while the inhabitants of Away poured candles, cleaned lamp chimnies, or, on some few special occasions, started the small Delco engine in the shed behind the Center Hall and had the flickering glow of electricity for an evening.
Despite the fact that EDRU 14 was only across a stone fence from Away, there was practically no overlapping or infringing on one another. Occasionally a resident of Away would rest on his hoe handle and idly watch an EDRU 14 vehicle pass on the narrow road. Or one of the EDRU 14 personnel would glimpse a long-skirted woman and a few scampering children harvesting heaven knows what vegetation from the small wooded ravines or the meadows on EDRU 14’s side of the rock fence, but there was no casual, free communication between the so-unlike groups.
Except, of course, Ainsworthy. He was the only one at EDRU 14 who fraternized with the residents of Away. His relaxant was, oddly enough, walking, and he ranged the area between the two locales in his off-duty hours, becoming acquainted with many of the people who lived at Away. He played chess – soundly beaten most of the time – with Kemble, their Director – for so they call their head who is chosen in biennial elections. He learned to “square dance,” a romping folk-type dancing kept alive by groups such as the one at Away, and sometimes brought back odd foods to the Unit that Kitchen refused to mess with. But, after a few abortive attempts to interest others at EDRU 14 in the group at Away, he gave up and continued his association with them without comment.
The disease, KVIN, on which EDRU 14 as well as EDRU 9, 11, and 12 was working was a most stubborn one. Even now very little is known of it. It is believed to be an old Earth disease reactivated by some usually harmless space factor that triggers it and, at the same time, mutates it. Even those who have experienced it and, the few miracles, recovered from it, are no help in analyzing it or reducing it to A = the disease, B = the cure. A + B = no further threat to mankind.
The only known way to circumvent the disease and prevent death is the complete replacement of all the blood in the patient’s body by whole blood, not more than two hours  from the donors. This, of course, in the unlikely event that the patient doesn’t die at the first impact of the disease – which most of them do. Even replacement would often fail. However, it succeeded often enough that each Regional hospital kept a list of available donors to be called upon. This, of course, was after the discovery of CF (Compatible Factor), the blood additive that makes typing of blood before a transfusion unnecessary.
In spite of all possible precautions practiced by the Unit, at unhappy intervals the mournful clack of the Healiocopter lifted eyes from the fields of Away to watch another limp, barely breathing, victim of the disease being lifted out to the Central Regional Hospital.
Such was the situation when Northen, the Compiler, arrived at EDRU 14 – loudly. A Compiler would have been called a troubleshooter in the old days. He compiles statistics, asks impertinent questions, has no reverence for established methods, facts, habits or thoughts. He is never an expert in the field in which he compiles – and never compiles twice in succession in the same field. And very often, a Compiler can come up with a suggestion or observation or neat table of facts that will throw new light on a problem and lead to a solution.
“I don’t like questions!” he announced to Ainsworthy at the lunch table his first day at the Unit. “That’s why I like this job of playing detective. I operate on the premise that if a valid question is asked there is an answer. If no answer is possible, the question has no validity!”
Ainsworthy blinked and managed a smile, “And who’s to decide if no answer is possible or not?” he asked, wondering at such immaturity in a man of Northen’s professional stature. “I decide!” Northen’s laughter boomed. “Simplifies things. No answer – forget it! But if I think there is an answer – tenacity’s my middle name!”
“Then you obviously think there is a clear-cut answer to the question that brought you here,” said Ainsworthy.
“Obviously—” Northen pushed back from the table. “This is an inquiry into a real problem, not one of those airy nothings – And to forestall another obvious question I’m always being pestered with – I consider that I am only one biological incident in a long line of biological incidents and when I die, the incident of me is finished. I have no  brief for all this research into nonsense about soul and spirit and other lives! One life is enough! I’m not greedy!” And his large laughter swung all faces toward him as he lumbered up to the coffee dispenser with his empty cup.
Ainsworthy reflectively tapped his own cup on the table top, repressing a sudden gush of dislike for Northen. It was thinking like his that was hampering the Beyond Research Units. How slow! How slow the progress towards answers to the unanswerables! Was it because Believers and Unbelievers alike were afraid of what the answers might be?
Northen was back.
“You were at the briefing this morning?” he half-questioned as he sat down massively, his bulk shaking the table.
“Yes.” Ainsworthy inspected his empty cup. “Something about the odd distribution of cures of KVIN, or conversely, the deaths from KVIN.”
“That’s right.” Northen inhaled noisily of his coffee. “As you know, a complete blood replacement is the only known cure. Only it doesn’t work all the time. Which means,” he waggled a huge forefinger triumphantly, “that replacement is not the answer! At least not the whole answer. But that’s not the question I’m currently pursuing. I want to know why there is a geographical distribution of the cures. KVIN is a fairly scarce disease. We’ve had less than fifty cases a year in the fifteen years we have studied it – that is, the cases reported to and cared for at a Regional. There have been, undoubtedly, more unreported and untreated, because if a patient is out of reach of a Regional Hospital and immediate treatment, he’s dead in four hours or less. But we’ve had enough cases that a pattern is emerging.” He hunched closer to the tale and Ainsworthy rescued his cup and the sugar dispenser from tumbling to the floor.
“Look. A gets a dose of KVIN on the West Coast. Quick, quick! San Fran Regional! Replacement. Too bad. Dead as a mackerel. Now look. B and C gets doses at Albuquerque. Quick, quick! Denver Regional! Replacement. B lives – C Dies. Personal idiosyncrasies? Perhaps, except without exception all A’s die. Half of B’s and C’s live!
“And D; gets a dose at Creston. Quick, quick! Central Regional! D always recovers! Same technique. Same handling of blood. Same everything except patients. So. Different strains of KVIN? After all, different space ports – different space sectors – different factors. So, E picks up a  dose on the Coast. Quick, quick! Central Regional. Replacement. Recovery!”
Northen hunched forward again, crowding the table tight against Ainsworthy.
“So transport all the A’s and B’s and C’s to Central? Not enough blood supply. Bring in more from other Regionals. It won’t work at Central any better than where it came from! So – See? An answer to find and definitely in this area. Now all I need is a case to follow through to get me started.”
It had fallen to Ainsworthy to escort Northen about the Unit, to acquaint him with the area and answer any questions he might have concerning procedures and facilities. The two were in the small public lounge one afternoon, pausing between activities while Northen groaned over his aching feet and legs.
“I’m used to skidders.” he boomed. “Faster, more efficient, less wearing on the legs! Just step on, toe the switch – swish!” He gestured with a massive arm.
“This Unit is really too small for skidders.” said Ainsworthy. “Occasionally we use flitters out in the grounds, but only a few bother. Most of us enjoy walking. I do especially, since it’s my relaxant.”
“Really?” Northen peered in astonishment at Ainsworthy. “Imagine! Walking by choice!”
“What’s your relaxant?” Ainsworthy asked, remembering his manners.
“Blowing up balloons.” said Northen proudly, “until they break! Bang! Wham!” His arms flailed again. “There’s satisfaction for you! They’re finished! Gone! Destroyed! Only a rag of rubber and a puff of carbon dioxide left! And I did it!”
“Pleasant,” murmured Ainsworthy, automatically falling into polite phraseology, wishing Northen’s eyes would not follow so intently eery face that passed, knowing he was waiting for someone to collapse from KVIN.
He wasn’t long disappointed. As they toured Lab IIIC a few days later, one of the lab assistants, Kief, carefully replacing the beaker he had been displaying, took tight hold of the edge of the table, drew a quavering breath, whispered, “Away!” and collapsed as though every bone in his body had been dissolved, his still-open eyes conscious and frightened.
In the patterned flurry that followed, Northen was omnipresent, asking sharp questions, making brief notes, his rumpled hair fairly bristling with his intense interest and concentration.
The Healiocopter arrived and, receiving the patient, clacked away. Ainsworthy and Northen, in one of the Unit vehicles – a mutation of the jeep – swung out of the Unit parking lot and roared down the road to Central Regional, Northen struggling with the seat belt that cut a canyon across his bulk.
Northen peered at his notes as they bounded along. “how’d this Kief person know he had KVIN?” he asked.
“Don’t know exactly,” said Ainsworthy. “It varies from person to person. Clagget – the one before Kief, said a big brightness seemed to cut him in two right across the chest and then his legs fell off. Others feel all wadded up into a sticky black ball. Others feel as though each cell in their bodies is being picked away as if from a bunch of grapes. I guess it depends a lot on the person’s imagination and his facility with words.”
“And when he said, ‘Away’ just before he collapsed. That was part of this picking away idea?”
“No.” Ainsworthy felt a surge of reluctance. “Away is the settlement next to our Unit – a Detach.”
“A Detach!” Ainsworthy smiled slightly, his ears battening down hatches against Northen’s expected roar. “Don’t tell me you have any of those–!” He bit off the last part of his sentence and almost the tip of his tongue as the jeep regrettably bucketed up over a hump in the road.
“The people from Away are our main source of donors for replacements,” said Ainsworthy over Northen’s muttered curses. “In fact they’ve adopted it as a community project. Regional knows it never has to look farther than Away for an adequate number of donors – as long as the cases don’t come too close together, which, so far, they never have.”
They had arrived at the turn-off to Away and jolted off the fairly good Unit road to the well-maintained dirt road to the settlement.
“Surprises me that they’ll give anything to the world. Thought they gave it up along with the Flesh and the Devil!” grunted Northen, lisping a little.
“Maybe the World, but not the people in it,” said Ains- worthy. “The most generous people I know. Unselfish—” He fell silent against Northen’s barely contained disgust.
“Why’d we turn off here? asked Northen. “Thought we were headed for Regional.”
“No telephones.” said Ainsworthy, swinging between the stone gateposts of the drive to the Center. “Have to alert them.”
He was gratified that Northen fell immediately into the almost silent role of observer and kept his thoughts to himself.
Kemble met them at the door. “KVIN?” he asked, reading Ainsworthy’s sober face.
“Yes.” said Ainsworthy. “It’s Kief. You probably heard the Healiocopter. Who’s available?”
“Providentially, the workers are all in from the fields.” Kemble stepped back inside the Center, and tugging the bell rope that hung just inside the door, swung the bell into voice. Ten minutes later he spoke from the Center porch to the crowd that had gathered from the stone and log houses that, with the Center, formed a hollow square of buildings backed by the neat home vegetable gardens, backed in their turn by wood lands and the scattered areas where each family grew its field and cash crops.
“KVIN,” said Kemble. “Who’s available?”
Quickly a sub-group formed, more than twice as many as were need-ed if all were accepted. The others scattered back to their individual pursuits. Kemble gathered the donors together, briefly, speaking so quietly that Northen rumbled to Ainsworthy, “What’s he saying? What’s going on?”
“ They always pray before any important project,” said Ainsworthy neutrally.
“Pray!” Northen crumpled his notebook impatiently. “Wasting time. How they going to get to Regional? One hoss shay?”
“Relax!” snapped Ainsworthy, defensive for his friends. “These people have been personally involved in KVIN lots longer than you have. And they’re going nowhere.”
Kemble turned back to Ainsworthy and accepted calmly the introduction to Northen, reading his attitude in a glance and smiling faintly over it at Ainsworthy. He excused himself and called, “Justin, you’re co-ordinator today.”
Most of the interior of the Center was one huge room, since it served as meeting and activity center for the settle-  ment. Under Justin’s direction, closet doors were opened, cots were unfolded and arranged in neat rows down the hall. Equipment was set up, lines of donors were formed, and everything was in readiness by the time the Bloodmobile clacked out of the sky and pummelled the grass in the hollow square with the tumult of its rotors.
One by one the donors were given essential checks by means of a small meter applied to an ear lobe, and were accepted or rejected with quick efficiency.
Northen stood glowering at the scene of quiet activity. “Why can’t they go to Regional like any other humans?”
“Any particular reason why they should?” asked Ainsworthy shortly. “They’re a willing, never-failing source, and have been since our Unit was established. Why shouldn’t we cater to them? It doesn’t jeopardize any of our operations.”
For a moment longer they watched the quiet rows of cots and their intent occupants, then Northen, with a grimace of annoyance, turned away. “Lets get to Regional,” he said. “I want to follow this through, inch by inch.”
“But there’s got to be a difference!” Red-faced and roaring, Northen thumped on the desk in Isolation at Regional. “There’s got to be! Why else do KVIN’s recover here?”
“You tell us.” Dr. Manson moved back in distaste from Northen’s thrust-out face. “That’s your job. Find out why. We’ve researched this problem for ten years now. You tell us what we have overlooked or neglected. We will receive with utmost enthusiasm any suggestions you might have. According to exhaustive tests from every possible point of reference, there is no difference in the blood of these donors and any donors anywhere!” He did a slight thumping of his own, his thin face flushed with anger. “And KVIN is KVIN, no matter where!”
“I don’t like it.” Northen growled to Ainsworthy a few days later. “Kief’s convalescent now, but why? I’ve been drawing up another set of statistics and I don’t like it.”
“Must you like it?” asked Ainsworthy. “Is that requisite to valid results?”
“Of course not,” growled Northen morosely.
“What statistics?” Ainsworthy asked, interest quickening. “A new lead?”
“It’s true,isn’t it, that the only blood donors used for KVIN replacements are those from Away?”
“Yes,” nodded Ainsworthy.
“That’s a factor that hasn’t been considered before,” said Northen. “I’ve queried the other Regionals – and I don’t like it. There are no Detach donors involved at San Fran Regional. At Denver Regional, half their donors are Detaches.” His thick hands crumpled the papers he held. “And curse’n’blastit! All the Central Regional donors are Detaches!”
Ainsworthy leaned back and laughed. “Exactly the ratio of deaths and recoveries regionally. But why are you so angry? Will it kill you if a Detach has something to do with solving our difficulty?
“It’s that those lumpheaded-sons-of-bowlegged-sea-cooks at Central swear there’s nothing in the blood of any of these Detaches that’s any different from any other donors! And the benighted-fuzzlebrains at Denver swear the same!”
“Hoh!” Ainsworthy leaned forward. “No answer?” he chuckled. “Maybe it’s an invalid question. Maybe no one recovers from KVIN!”
“Don’t be more of a fool than you have to,” snapped Northen. Then automatically, “Your pardon.”
“It’s yours,” Ainsworthy automatically responded.
The two sat in silence for a moment, then Northen pushed himself slowly to his feet. “Well, let’s go see this – who’s he? The Away fellow.”
“Kemble.” said Ainsworthy, rising.
“Yes, Kemble.” Northen knocked his chair back from the table as he turned. “Maybe he can give us some sort of lead.”
Kemble was in the fields when they arrived so they had a couple of hours to kill before he could talk with them. They spent the time in touring the settlement, each aspect of which only deepened Northen’s dislike of the place. They ended up at the tiny school where girls, long-braided, full-skirted, and boys, barefooted for the warm day and long trousered in the manner of Detaches, worked diligently and self-consciously under the visitors’ eyes.
After they left the school, Northen snorted. “They’re no angels! Did you see that little devil in the back seat slipping that frog down into the little girl’s desk drawer?”
Ainsworthy laughed. “Yes,” he said. “He was very  adroit. But where did you get the idea that Detaches are supposed to be angels? They certainly never claim such distinction.”
“Then why do they feel the world’s so evil that they have to leave it?” snapped Northen. That’s not the reason—” Ainsworthy broke off, weary to the bone of this recurrent theme harped on by those who dislike the Detaches. Well, those who took refuge in such a reaction were only striking back at a group that, to them, dishonored their own way of life by the simple act of withdrawing from it.
Kemble met them in a small office of the Center, his hair still glistening from his after-work wash0up. He made them welcome and said, “How can I help you?”
Northen stated his problem succinctly, surprising Ainsworthy by his being able to divorce it from all emotional bias. “So it comes down to this,” he finished. “Are you in possession of any facts, or, lacking facts, any theories that might have a bearing on the problem?”
There was a brief silence, then Kemble spoke. “I’m surprised, frankly, at these statistics. It never occurred to me that we Detaches were involved in KVIN other than purely incidentally. As a matter of fact, we have no connection with the other Detach settlements. I mean, there’s no organization as such of Detaches. Each settlement is entirely independent of any other, except, perhaps, in that a certain type of personality is attracted to this kind of life. We exchange news and views, but there are no close ties.”
“Then there wouldn’t be any dietary rules or customs—”
“None,” smiled Kemble. “We eat as God and our labors give us food.”
“No hallucinogens or ceremonial drugs?”
“None,” said Kemble. “We approach God as simply as He approaches us.”
Northen shifted uncomfortably. “You’re Religious.” He made it a placard for a people.
“If the worship of God is so labeled,” said Kemble. “But certainly, Detaches are not unique in that.”
The three sat silent, listening to the distant shrieking laughter of the released school children.
“Then there’s nothing, nothing that might make a difference?” sighed Northen heavily.
“I’m sorry,” said Kemble. “nothing—”
”Wait,” said Ainsworthy. “It’s remote, but what about your prayer before various activities?”
“Prayer!” snorted Northen.
“But that’s our custom before any—” Kemble broke off. He looked from Northen to Ainsworthy and back to Northen. “There is one factor that hasn’t been considered,” he said soberly. Then he smiled faintly. “You, sir, had better assume your most unemotional detachment.” Northen hunched forward, scrabbling in his bent and tattered notebook for an empty page.
“Go on,” he said, his chewed pencil poised in readiness.
“I had forgotten it,” said Kemble. “It has become so automatic. Each of us donors, as our blood is being taken, prays continuously for the recipient of that blood, with specific mention of his name and illness if we know it. We try to keep our flow of intercessory prayer as continuous as the flow of blood into the containers.”
Northen had stopped writing. His face reddened. His mouth opened. Ainsworthy could see the tensing of the muscles prepatory to a roar and spoke quickly. “Do you know if this is a practice among other Detaches?”
“We got the idea from a Denver Area settlement. We discussed it with them by correspondence and if I’m not mistaken, we came to the same conclusion. It makes a purely impersonal thing into a vital personal service. They, as well as we, give intercessory prayer along with our blood.” He stood up. “And that, Mr. Northen, is the only factor that I can think of that might make a difference. If you’ll excuse me now, gentlemen, there are things to be done before milking time.”
“One minute,” Northen’s voice was thick with control. “Can you give me a copy of the prayer?”
“I’m sorry,” said Kemble. There is no formal prayer. Each fashions his prayer according to his own orientation to God.”
“Well one thing.” Northen sagged in exhaustion over his desk at the Unit. “This can be settled once and for all. The next case that comes up, we’ll just make sure that no one prays anything while they’re giving blood. That’ll prove there’s nothing to this silly idea!”
“Prove by a dead patient?” asked Ainsworthy. “Are you going to let someone die just to test this theory?”
”Surely you aren’t feather-frittered-mealy-brained enough—” roared Northen.
“What other anything have you found to account for the recovery of KVIN’s at Central?” Ainsworthy was impatient. He left Northen muttering and roaring in a whisper over his notebook.
About a week later, Ainsworthy was roused out of a sound post-midnight sleep by the insistent buzz of the intercom. He half-fell out of bed and staggered blindly to answer it. “Yes,” he croaked, “this is Ainsworthy?”
“No prayer—” The voice came in a broken rumble. “Not one word. Not one thought—”
“Northen!” Ainsworthy snapped awake. “What is it? What’s the matter?”
“I’ve got it.” said Northen thickly.
“The answer?” asked Ainsworthy. “Couldn’t you have waited until—”
“No, KVIN,” Northen mumbled. “At least someone is sawing my ribs off one by one and hitting me over the head with them—” His voice faded.
“Northen!” Ainsworthy grabbed for his robe as he called. “I’ll be right there. Hang on!”
“No praying!” said Northen. “No praying – This’ll prove it. No— promise—promise—”
“Okay, okay!” said Ainsworthy. “Did you deliberately—” but there was no sound on the intercom. He stumbled out the door, abandoning the robe that wouldn’t go on upside-down and wrongside-out, muttering to himself, “Not another case already! Not this soon!”
“He couldn’t have deliberately infected himself,” protested Dr. Given as they waited on the heliport atop the Unit for the Healiocopter. “In the first place, we’re not even sure how the disease is transmitted. And besides, he was not permitted access to any lab unaccompanied at any time.”
“But two cases so close together—” said Ainsworthy.
“Coincidence.” said Dr. Given. “Or”–his face was bleak–“an outbreak. Or the characteristics of the disease are altering–”
They both turned to the bundled up Northen as he stirred and muttered. “No praying.” he insisted in a jerky whisper. “You promise– you promise!”
”But Northen.” protested Ainsworthy, “what can you prove by dying?”
“No!” Northen struggled against the restraint litter. “You promised! You promised!”
“I don’t know whether they’d—”
“I promised.” Ainsworthy gave in. “Heaven help you!”
“No praying!” Northen sagged into complete insensibility.
Ainsworthy was standing with Kemble, looking around at the brisk preparations in the Center at Away. The Delco plant in the little back shed was chugging away and the electric lights were burning in the hall and floodlighting the area where the Bloodmobile would land.
“It’ll be difficult,” said Kemble. “We are so used to praying as donors, that it’ll be hard not to. And it seems foolhardy to take such chances. I’m not sure whether morally we have the right—”
“It’s his express request,” said Ainsworthy. “If he chooses to die to prove his point, I suppose it’s his privilege. Besides, we really don’t know if this is the key factor.”
“That’s true.” Kemble agreed. “Very well, I’ll tell the donors.”
The waiting group looked back blankly at Kemble, after the announcement. Then someone—a girl—spoke.
“Not intercede? But we always—”
“I know, Cynthia,” said Kemble, “but the patient specifically does not want intercession. We must respect his desires in this matter.”
“But if he doesn’t believe it’ll do any good, why would it hurt him? I mean, our praying is our affair. His beliefs are his. The two—”
“Cynthia,” said Kemble firmly. “He has been promised that there will be no intercessory prayer on his behalf. We owe him that courtesy of keeping the promise. I suggest to all of you that in place of interceding for the patient, you choose some other important need and intercede in its behalf. Or just blank your minds with trivialities. And Cynthia, you might use your time to assemble arguments pro and con on whether it is necessary for a person to know he is being prayed for, for prayer to be efficacious! I think Theo is going to give you a lot of trouble on that question  as soon as we’re through here!” The group laughed and turned away, offering all sorts of approaches to both Theo and Cynthia as they drifted out to wait for the arrival of the Bloodmobile. “It’s hard to suspend a habit,” said Kemble to Ainsworthy “especially one that has a verbal tie-in with a physical action.”
When Northen finally came back to consciousness—for come back he did—his first audible word was “Prayer?”
“No,” said Ainsworthy, shakily relaxing for the first time since the long vigil had begun. “No praying.”
“See! See!” hissed Northen weakly, “it wasn’t that!”
“Take satisfaction from the fact, if you like,” said Ainsworthy, conscious of a pang of disappointment. “But you still have no answer. That was the only new angle you had, too.”
“But it wasn’t that! It wasn’t that!” And Northen closed weary eyes.
“Odd that it should matter so much to him,” said Dr. Manson.
“He likes answers,” said Ainsworthy. “Nice, solid, complete answers, all ends tucked in, nothing left over. Prayer could never meet his specifications.”
“And yet,” said Dr. Manson as they left the room. “Have you read the lead article in this month’s Journal of Beyond Research? Some very provocative—”
“Well, it’s been interesting,” said Ainsworthy as he helped a shrunken Northen load his bags into the jeep prepatory to leaving the Unit. “Too bad you didn’t make more progress while you were here.”
“I eliminated one factor,” said Northen, hunching himself inside his sagging clothes. “That’s progress.
“These clothes! Don’t know whether to gain my weight back or buy new clothes. Go broke either way. Starved to death!”
“But you haven’t answered anything,” said Ainsworthy. “You still have the unexplained geographical distribution and the presence of the Detaches in the case.”
“Eliminate nonessentials and what’s left will be essential and the answer.” said Northen, climbing into the jeep.
“But what have you got left to eliminate?” asked Ainsworthy.
”Curse’n’blastit!” roared Northen. “Stop needling me! If I knew what to eliminate, I’d be eliminating it! I’m backing off to get a fresh start. I’ll put those KVIN units out of business yet. And you’ll be eliminated!” And pleased with his turn of phrase, he chuckled all the way down the Unit drive to the road.
Ainsworthy felt a little disappointed and sad as the turnoff to Away swung into sight. He had an illogical feeling that,in some way, his friends had been betrayed or let down.
He braked the jeep suddenly, throwing Northen forward against the seat belt that no longer cut a gash in his bulk.
“What now?” Northen growled, groping for his briefcase that had shot off his lap.
“Someone flagging us down,” said Ainsworthy, with a puzzled frown. “A Detach woman.”
He pulled the jeep up into the widening of the Away road where it joined the Unit road.
The woman from Away stood quietly now by the clump of bushes that bordered the road, her skirts swept back a little by the small breeze that moved the leaves.
“Can we help you?” asked Ainsworthy.
“I—I must speak to you.” The woman was examining her clasped hands. She looked up timidly. “If you’d like to come over in the shade.” She gestured to a log under the overhang of a huge tree just off the road. Ainsworthy looked at Northen. Northen scowled and they both flipped open their seat belts and got out.
“I—I’m very interested in your research on KVIN,” the woman said to Northen as the two men gingerly found seats on the log. “Oh, I’m Elizabeth Fenway.” Northen’s eyes flicked with sudden intentness to her face. “Yes,” she said softly. “You’ve heard of Charles Fenway. He was my husband. He preceded you in your job. He died of KVIN at the San Fran Regional. I was there with him. We were both born and grew up here at Away, so I brought him back here and stayed.”
Ainsworthy intercepted Northen’s astonished look and smiled, “’Can any good come out of Nazareth?’” he quoted.
Northen reddened, shrugged inside his oversized clothes and fingered his notebook.
“When Charles was in San Fran Regional,” Elizabeth  went on, “just before he died, he had started checking out a new lead to KVIN that he had just turned up—the odd geographical distribution of deaths from KVIN.”
Northen’s eyes snapped to her face again.
“He was going over the list of donors, to see if the key could be there when he died, in spite of replacement.” Elizabeth smoothed her hands down the sides of her skirts. “He hadn’t even had time to write up this latest development. That’s why you had to retrace his steps. I had an idea of what you were doing when we heard you were at the Unit.” She looked sideways at Northen. “I wondered how you were going to react when you found your research lead you into such distasteful company. You see, your opinion of us at Away and of anything religion-oriented is well known at Away. That’s why we complied without much protest with your wishes concerning our intercessory prayers.
“But I—” Her voice failed her and she clasped her hands tightly. “I had gone on with Charles’ statistical work, following the lead he had uncovered. I—I found the factor of the Detaches, too. I—you and your work have been in my prayers since you took over Charles’ job.” Her voice failed her completely and she blinked and turned her face away. For an uncomfortable moment she struggled for composure. Then, in a sudden outrush of words, she said, “I couldn’t let you die! The others couldn’t have let you, either, if they had known! You can’t just stand by and let another person die when you can save him! So I prayed! I interceded for you the whole time my blood was being drawn!
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry if I’ve done violence to your principles—or to your research, but I had to tell you—I prayed!” Then, with the barest sketch of the mannerly dip of the knees to the two men, she was gone, back through the woodlands to Away.
“Well!” Ainsworthy let out his astonished breath. Northen was sitting, his face blank, his notebook crushed in one hand. Then slowly he straightened it out until he could open it. Laboriously he dampened the stubby point of his battered pencil in one corner of his mouth. Then he crossed out a few lines, heavily,and wrote, forming the words audibly as he recorded.
“One prayed. Was extra blood obtained as precaution? Was hers used in my replacement? Proportion of prayer necessary to be effective—if it is the effective factor.”
He paused a moment, looking at Ainsworthy. “Is prayer subject to analysis?” Then he bent to his notes again.