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Chapter 19
For a week, I did my best to return to my regular schedule,using the time freed up by Eva’s cleaning and the cancellationof the Father Project to catch up on the karate and aikidotraining that I had been missing.
Sensei, fifth dan, a man who says very little, especially to theblack belts, pulled me aside as I was working the punching bagin the dojo.
‘Something has made you very angry,’ he said. That was all.
He knew me well enough to know that once an emotion wasidentified I would not let it defeat me. But he was right tospeak to me, because I had not realised that I was angry.
I was briefly angry with Rosie because she unexpectedlyrefused me something I wanted. But then I became angry withmyself over the social incompetence that had doubtless causedRosie embarrassment.
I made several attempts to contact Rosie and got heranswering service. Finally I left a message: ‘What if you getleukaemia and don’t know where to source a bone-marrowtransplant? Your biological father would be an excellentcandidate with a strong motivation to assist.
159/290Failure to complete the project could result in death. There areonly eleven candidates remaining.’
She did not return my call.
‘These things happen,’ said Claudia over the third coffeemeeting in four weeks. ‘You get involved with a woman, itdoesn’t work out …’
So that was it. I had, in my own way, become ‘involved’ withRosie.
‘What should I do?’
‘It’s not easy,’ said Claudia, ‘but anyone will give you the sameadvice. Move on. Something else will turn up.’
Claudia’s logic, built on sound theoretical foundations anddrawing on substantial professional experience, was obviouslysuperior to my own irrational feelings. But as I reflected on it,I realised that her advice, and indeed the discipline ofpsychology itself, embodied the results of research on normalhumans. I am well aware that I have some unusualcharacteristics. Was it possible that Claudia’s advice was notappropriate for me?
I decided on a compromise course of action. I would continuethe Wife Project. If (and only if) there was further timeavailable, I would use it for the Father Project, proceedingalone. If I could present Rosie with the solution, perhaps wecould become friends again.
Based on the Bianca Disaster I revised the questionnaire,adding more stringent criteria. I included questions on dancing,racquet sports and bridge to eliminate candidates who wouldrequire me to gain competence in useless activities, andincreased the difficulty of the mathematics, physics and geneticsproblems. Option (c) moderately would be the only acceptableanswer to the alcohol question. I organised for the responses togo directly to Gene, who was obviously engaging in thewell-established research practice of making secondary use ofthe data. He could advise me if anyone met my criteria.
160/290In the absence of Wife Project candidates, I thought hardabout the best way to get DNA samples for the Father Project.
The answer came to me as I was boning a quail. Thecandidates were doctors who would presumably be willing tocontribute to genetics research. I just needed a plausible excuseto ask for their DNA. Thanks to the preparation I had donefor the Asperger’s lecture, I had one.
I pulled out my list of eleven names. Two were confirmeddead, leaving nine, seven of whom were living overseas, whichexplained their absence at the reunion. But two had localphone numbers. One was the head of the Medical ResearchInstitute at my own university. I rang it first.
‘Professor Lefebvre’s office,’ said a woman’s voice.
‘It’s Professor Tillman from the Department of Genetics. I’d liketo invite Professor Lefebvre to participate in a research project.’
‘Professor Lefebvre is on sabbatical in the US. He’ll be back intwo weeks.’
‘Excellent. The project is Presence of Genetic Markers forAutism in High-Achieving Individuals. I require him tocomplete a questionnaire and provide a DNA sample.’
Two days later, I had succeeded in locating all nine livingcandidates and posted them questionnaires, created from theAsperger’s research papers, and cheek scrapers. Thequestionnaires were irrelevant, but were needed to make theresearch appear legitimate. My covering letter made clear mycredentials as a professor of genetics at a prestigious university.
In the meantime, I needed to find relatives of the two deaddoctors.
I found an obituary for Dr Gerhard von Deyn, a victim of aheart attack, on the internet. It mentioned his daughter, amedical student at the time of his death. I had no troubletracking down Dr Brigitte von Deyn and she was happy toparticipate in the survey. Simple.
161/290Geoffrey Case was a much more difficult challenge. He haddied a year after graduating. I had long ago noted his basicdetails from the reunion website. He had not married and hadno (known) children.
Meanwhile the DNA samples trickled back. Two doctors, bothin New York, declined to participate. Why would medicalpractitioners not participate in an important study? Did theyhave something to hide? Such as an illegitimate daughter in thesame city that the request came from? It occurred to me that,if they suspected my motives, they could send a friend’s DNA.
At least refusal was better than cheating.
Seven candidates, including Dr von Deyn, Jr, returned samples.
None of them was Rosie’s father or half-sister. Professor SimonLefebvre returned from his sabbatical and wanted to meet mein person.
‘I’m here to collect a package from Professor Lefebvre,’ I saidto the receptionist at the city hospital where he was based,hoping to avoid an actual meeting and interrogation. I wasunsuccessful. She buzzed the phone, announced my name, andProfessor Lefebvre appeared. He was, I assumed, approximatelyfifty-four years old. I had met many fifty-four-year-olds in thepast thirteen weeks. He was carrying a large envelope,presumably containing the questionnaire, which was destined forthe recycling bin, and his DNA.
As he reached me, I tried to take the envelope, but heextended his other hand to shake mine. It was awkward, butthe net result was that we shook hands and he retained theenvelope.
‘Simon Lefebvre,’ he said. ‘So, what are you really after?’
This was totally unexpected. Why should he question mymotives?
‘Your DNA,’ I said. ‘And the questionnaire.............
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