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Excerpt from Hidden Dragon.

The bunch of keys hanging from the chain in George Lee's pocket included a small, gold-coloured-metal one. He walked over to a bookcase and touched a small button. Immediately, asection of shelving sprang open to reveal a small room. He reached inside and switched on thelight.

Along one wall of this inner room were a couple of grey, four-drawer filing cabinets. He went toone marked F-L and used the key to open it. He took out a folder, stuck it under his arm, closedand locked the drawer and left the room. He pressed the button again and the disguised doormoved back into position.

Sitting in a comfortable armchair near the marble fireplace, he opened the file.

Patient No. 9 had been born seventeen years ago, the result of one of his first successfulimplants. All the facilities at Telomere had been newly built then and the baby known as SharonFerris, with her mother, had been moved there soon after her birth. Before her there had onlybeen a couple of other successes, others had suffered so badly from early degeneration thatarrangements had to be made for their 'discontinuance'.

Baby No. 9 had a normal childhood and, until last year, he'd hoped they were ready to go publicwith the results; maybe even beat the USA who, he knew, thought they were ahead in the gameof cloning. But then Sharon began to show signs of arthritis, particularly in her hands. GeorgeLee guessed she was getting worse when he'd last examined her at his clinic in the village andhe'd given Ed Boyle instructions to keep him informed if she deteriorated further.

When Sam Halliwell had suggested that Ed Boyle should be based in Telomere, to keep thepatients secure in the village, and also to keep strangers out, he had been sceptical, but over theyears the 'Sergeant' had proved indispensable. Pity he hadn't been able to keep those noseyreporters out though. By all accounts they were on their way back to where they came from.Hopefully that would be the end of that. He was sure they hadn't got much, by way ofinformation for a story, during their visit.

The intercom on his desk buzzed and he got up, walked over and lifted the handset.

'Send them in,' he said abruptly and put the phone down.

There was a knock at the door and it opened to reveal Sam Halliwell with Sergeant Boyle,followed by the nervous-looking blond-haired figure of Sharon Ferris.

'Come in, my dear,' George Lee said gently. 'Don't look so afraid, I'm sure I can help you.'

'You don't need me to hang around, so I'll go up to the kitchen and make myself a drink,' EdBoyle smiled across at Sharon. 'See you soon. They'll let me know when you're ready and I'lltake you home.' He glanced quickly at George Lee, turned and walked out.

Dr. Lee turned towards Sharon. 'Go into my consulting room,' he said, opening a door betweentwo bookcases. 'You know the routine - get undressed and put on a robe. I'll be with you in aminute.'

To Sam Halliwell he said, 'When I've examined her, I would like you to take some blood foranalysis.' Sam nodded and followed the Director into the consulting room.

'Now my dear,' George Lee bent over the examination table where Sharon lay, covered by ablanket. He lifted one of her hands and could see that the joints were much more swollen thanwhen he'd last examined her.

'Has the pain got worse in the last couple of weeks?' he asked.

'Much worse,' Sharon winced as the doctor put her hand back by her side. 'What's happening tome, Dr. Lee? Will I get as bad as Susie? Am I going to die?'

Susie Renshaw had been Sharon's best friend at school. They had gone everywhere together,until Susie's legs began to give way and she complained of awful pain in her hips, knees andankles. One day they took her away in an ambulance and she never came back to the flat the twoof them shared.

'No need to get yourself into such a state,' George Lee tried to console her but his manner, asusual, was cold and impersonal. 'Dr. Halliwell is going to take a blood sample then we willprescribe some stronger painkillers.'

He folded back her robe to reveal the pale, golden skin of her slim hips and neat, firm breasts.He ran his fingers over her hips and her sharp intake of breath told him how much pain she wasin when he touched her. It's only a matter of time, he thought, before walking becomes aproblem.

He covered her up and nodded to Sam Halliwell. Without speaking to the girl, he slipped arubber cuff over her arm, tightened it and gently drew a phial of blood from her vein beforeremoving the cuff. He glanced at George Lee and left the room.

'I'll leave you to get dressed now,' the Director said, still without emotion. 'When you're readycome back into my room.'

Stiffly, Sharon got off the bed, put her clothes back on and went to find the doctor.

'I think we should take you away from Danny's,' he decided, indicating a chair in front of hisdesk.

Sharon sat down awkwardly. She looked across at him.

'You will stay here for a while and then we can monitor your medication.'

Sharon panicked. 'Oh please, no, 'she cried. 'Susie came here when she was bad and I never sawher again.' Tears streamed down her cheeks as she remembered the night Ed Boyle had come totell her that nothing could be done for Susie, and a couple of days later they told her that herfriend had died.

In a voice lacking all feeling, George Lee said firmly, 'Your friend was very ill by the time wepersuaded her to come to us and we couldn't help her by then. You are different; we can controlyour pain and, hopefully, stop the deterioration. Be a good girl now and everything will be fine.'He lifted the telephone and dialed an internal number.

Sharon was not convinced that he was telling the truth. She sobbed as she heard him asking oneof the nurses to come and take his patient to her room.

Minutes later there was a tap on the door and a nurse who Sharon recognized, from her previousvisits to the clinic, as Marjorie Shaw, entered. She was smiling and spoke gently as she helpedSharon from her chair.

'Come along now, my dear,' she said quietly. 'Your room is all ready for you. Ed Boyle has goneto your flat to bring a few things that you'll need for now. Later you can make a list of otherthings you would like him to bring.'

She led Sharon out of the room.

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