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  • Kowtowing to Lord of the Knives
  • Laurence Lieberman (bio)

                    The desecration of our        dead—worst, a close family member—comes                at so high a cost, no            end to the price              that must be paid . . . Milly    gave her mother's just-defunct body to doctors for autopsy,            against her mama's oft-          muttered dying wish.        Please, oh please, don't let them be breaking          and entering my private            belly or brain parts              with their meddlesome

knives. Do not violate my chilled skin    or bones, once I've crept away to my final resting      place . . . But chief of the rare-disease center kept working Milly        over: no one knew what          killed dear Liza, it might be the start of a plagueor epidemic, many hundreds—oh thousands maybe—could die. If they found        the root cause of a new,    obscure virus, those thousands could yet be saved. Well,

                    loyal Milly refused    to sign release papers for the cadaver                until they'd upped          the bribe four times—                she hinted, from the start,that she was a woman of honor, an idealist—but just maybe            she had a price. She'd          never sold herself [End Page 278]

        before, for blood or money, but the Advancement            of Science and sleuthing          out a dormant plague                bacillus to stop

the killer outbreak were mortal stakes,    so she pocketed the three hundred dollars and signed.      No mystery bug turned up, for all their ruthless scavenging.        The last word: she died            of occult natural causes, a befuddlementto all tools of diagnosis. The body, bought and paid for, would be turned        over to the rookie    medical students at the new school in the neighbor

                isle for dissection        exercises, down to the innermost uterine            tubes and cervical          pipelets . . . Two days            after they'd exhumed Liza'scorpse from fresh-dug grave, Milly up and vanished, leaving no            clue of her whereabouts.          All her close kin        and friends were at a loss. They sought the aid            of magnetists and augurers,        but the best advice          they got were denials,

negatives: she wasn't dead, she hadn't    drifted far away—never left the island. One child    clairvoyant guessed that she was raised high above the town.        She could look upon us,        but not we up to her hideaway. Anotherveteran soothsayer deemed her to be cast down far below, but not drowned        in the sea or buried    alive . . . Weeks passed. Mostly, her dearest next of kin had [End Page 279]

                    given up on her, all        supposing she might have done violence                to herself—for shame            over betrayal                of her mother's disinterredcarrion. But one day, a devout foreign gentleman—visiting from            faraway Bolivia—idled            on the flat hilltop        nearest the Catholic church, and had a fierce            premonition that shook him          so hard where he stood            he needed to grasp

a tree limb to keep his balance. He sniffed    the flow of wind currents northeast to south, and pointed    thus: A woman sat directly below the distant cliff! She was trapped,        stranded in a cave. Who        was she? He knew her not, but gave a fair accountof her features. They showed him a random sampling of photos—all young women        from the town. He pickedMilly. She was the one he'd seen in his hilltop vision,

                down to the small oval    scar on her left cheek, where she'd been            kicked by a pony        as a small child,            his findings soon reportedto the chief's council. Thereupon he left for his home country.            Flyers were posted at all        diners and watering    holes, offering a reward to any man willing          to risk his neck to rescue        Milly from the remote,            all-but-impassable [End Page 280]

crevasse in the cliff that impended over    the sunken cave. One brave man came forward, and pledged    to try his luck. A rock-climber and gorge-plunger of some repute,        he bid the chief's office            to supply him with cables and pulleys, wheelsand cranks, plus an assist staff to operate the mobile platform. They worked        fast, day and night,racing against the clock to save the stranded lady

                before she might starve    to death. When they lowered him to a level            from...


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pp. 278-282
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