Author: Chana Kohl
“When Dr. Helena Athanasiou took the lectern, I could feel the hair on my arms prickle, as if the electrostatic potential inside the auditorium increased several Coulombs. It wasn’t just because she was a brilliant geneticist, a sharp intellectual, and a breathtakingly handsome woman. She exuded the most dignified sangfroid as if a Greek bas-relief had sprung to life.”
“Dr. Baram,” Tamar Levy, an Interpol intelligence agent with the Jerusalem Central Bureau, massaged the pressure point between her eyebrows as if staving off a migraine. “Just try to recall the facts, please.”
“I’m sorry. Forgive an old man for romanticizing the past. It was more than fifteen years ago.”
“It’s OK,” her tone softened, “Please, continue.”
“I remembered Helena from our graduate school days in the 90s. I always fancied her back then, but, for her own reasons, it never went anywhere.
“As I recall, her presentation that day was on genomic imprinting. Her lab had silenced the genes prohibiting the development of a parthenogenote—that’s a viable embryo developed completely from the mother, with no genetic contribution from the father. It was a remarkable breakthrough.
“I approached her after the talk to congratulate her on decades of hard work. She seemed genuinely happy to see me, or maybe that’s just my own wishful thinking refracted through the lens of time. I had hoped to get a chance to catch up before the end of the conference, so I asked if I could buy her a drink later.” He took a sip of tepid tea, “Whoever said chivalry was dead, never dated Aryeh Baram.”
Detective Levy continued to record notes on her tablet, keeping her thoughts to herself.
“That evening, we toasted her success overlooking the coast of Caesarea. I do remember asking what she hoped would be gained from her research. It seemed beneficial only to women.”
“And what did she say?”
“It was very odd, actually. She spoke in generic terms, mentioning that parthenogenesis was a biological fail-safe developed by nature for times when the male population was absent or unfit.”
Levy’s eyebrow lifted, “Do you know what she meant by that?”
“I’ve no clue. I assumed it was all theoretical. But it’s not a secret that many women of her generation had it rough going through the gauntlets of academia. Can you blame her if her life’s work took a feminist slant?”
Detective Levy slammed the tablet down, “The U.N. Sanctions Committee issued a notice pursuant to her violations of resolution 59-280.”
“The ban on human cloning?” Baram thought he was helping a missing person case, not a criminal investigation.
“Among other human rights violations. Reports track her to the US, under an alias, Dr. Helena Pallas. She’s part of a secretive group of dangerous women who indiscriminately blame men for society’s woes. They’ve been on our terrorist watchlist for some time. So, I will ask again. Is there anything else of importance you can remember?”
“There was one thing. The next morning, I came downstairs and noticed a young woman in the lobby. At first, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. She looked just like Helena.”
“Perhaps her sister or a niece?”
“No. She looked exactly like ‘my’ Helena, back when we were younger. Except…”
“Except she was somewhere in her second trimester.”
When the interview was over, Dr. Baram, shaken, hailed a taxicab. He couldn’t help wonder what would have happened, all those years ago, if he had told Helena how he felt about her. If he had mystified her less and defended her more.
The world will never know.