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"Hero Anonymous"
by Jonathan A. Murphy

from Enchantments: The Many Facets of Magic
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September 13, 1969

“Dearest Lord, we are gathered here to bid farewell to Marilyn Cadman....”

Professor Neil Cadman sat on the small folding chair next to the grave of his beloved wife. His seven-year-old daughter Cheryl sat on his lap. Behind him were the lone hearse and three limousines that had brought him and the other mourners from the church. There was a slight breeze, and the faint aroma of roses. After living in the city for so long, the fresh air was an unfamiliar sensation.

“We know not why you took one so young…”

A surge of grief and regret welled up inside him. He did know why she had died. He was a research scientist. He had found the cause of his wife’s ailment. He just hadn’t found the cure.

As the funeral ended, his friends and associates stepped forward to pay their final respects and express their condolences. He didn’t listen to them; he couldn’t.

They didn’t understand. They couldn’t understand. It was just he and Cheryl now. He had failed his wife, and he didn’t need any more reminders.They walked back to the car. Cheryl was holding his hand tightly, and he could only imagine what went through the mind of a little girl who had just lost her mother.

“Daddy?” her small voice floated quietly up between them.

“Yes, dear?”

“Mommy said you were her hero.”

Neil hoisted his daughter into his arms and hugged her close. “That's right,” he said. In that moment he felt helpless. He could not predict the future. In spite of all his knowledge, he had been unable to save the life of his wife. Cheryl already had enough to deal with, now being a child with a single parent. She was young and would miss so much.
“Promise you'll be my hero, too.”

He fought to control the surge of emotion that tried to overwhelm him. He didn’t want her to see him cry. She would not understand for years to come. For the moment he could make her feel a little better.

“Yes princess,” he answered, “I promise.”


May 27, 1980
11 years later

The office and lab were cluttered, but Neil knew exactly where everything was. And he even knew what everything was. For him, everything had a purpose. And right now, research was taking the form of feeding his pet animals.
There were six cages lined against one wall, each containing a lab rat that he had been feeding his potions to. He had created ten so far, naming them CADMAN “A” through CADMAN “K,” skipping the “I” so it wouldn’t be confused for a numeral “one.” He took the vial of CADMAN C and added a small portion to a piece of bread. He then passed it through the cage, and the rat immediately consumed it . He clicked his stopwatch on and waited. The rat suddenly shuddered violently for a moment, limbs spasming and whiskers twitching, and then it straightened up on its hind legs, and looked at him.

Neil glanced at the stopwatch. “Not bad, little fellow,” he said, “but what can you do with it?” He placed a piece of cheese on the other side of a set of steel bars.

The rat sniffed around it for a moment then pushed his way into the barricade. The bars began to bend. After three minutes, the rat had obtained his prize.

“Getting better all the time,” Neil said. He opened the cage door, removed the barrier, and rewarded the rat with another morsel.
“That was a very impressive demonstration, Dr. Cadman.”

The voice was definitely female, most probably German or Austrian. He always had welcomed visitors to his lab, but had not known any to ever sneak up on him like this. Not even his daughter Cheryl.

He turned to greet the newcomer. She was plainly dressed in an inexpensive pantsuit, her light brown hair pulled from her dark brown eyes and put up in a bun. “Yes, it is a great experiment, Ms.—?”

The woman smiled. “My name is Sophia Rosenthal. I am a molecular biologist from the University of Munich. I read your publication in the New England Journal of Medicine, and wanted to meet you.”

Neil smiled back. This Sophia was very engaging, and not unattractive. He had not been part of many social circles since his wife had died, and he found himself in the awkward position of not knowing exactly what to say. He resorted to holding his hand out towards her and saying, “Well, here I am.”

Sophia took his hand gently, holding hers with the knuckles up, almost as if she expected him to kiss it. He looked at her hand blankly, a thought of his wife rolling to the forefront of his mind. He realized how long it had been since he had felt the soft touch of a woman. Saving him from his awkwardness, she let go and walked over to one of the cages. The rat was running on a wheel. The attached tachometer showed almost seven hundred revolutions per minute.

“This is most impressive,” Sophia said. “If I may ask, what is the aim of your research?”

Neil smiled. It was not often that he got to show off his work. “I’ve developed several chemical agents that enhance muscle and nerve cells. It makes them stronger, faster, and more receptive. There is the potential for effective treatment to several diseases that affect these systems, including possible cures for Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, cystic fibrosis, and muscular dystrophy.”

Sophia didn’t say anything else, but looked through the rest of the cages and at the results of his other potions. Neil felt like a giddy schoolboy again. He wanted to tell her something, anything, but kept finding the words stuck in his throat.

Finally, she turned to face him again with that intoxicating smile. “I would like to offer you an opportunity to carry out practical testing on subjects afflicted with these ailments you are researching—see how they respond in clinical trials.”

Neil’s spirits fell slightly. “But I don't have FDA approval to test these on humans. They want more information.” Sophia stepped closer to him. “And with my help, they shall have it,” she said, “I know… people… who are willing to offer themselves in the name of research, if it will some day help others like them.”

Neil's discomfort was becoming palpable. He could feel the heat rising beneath his collar as he choked out the next sentence. “I don’t know...”

The door to the outer office opened. “Dad? Are you here?” Cheryl’s voice called out.

“Yes dear,” Neil answered. “I’ll be just a minute.”

Sophia slipped a business card into the pocket of Neil’s lab coat. “Think about it, Dr. Cadman. But remember—” she put a finger to her lips “—our little secret. No one must know.”

She turned and exited the lab just as Cheryl entered. Sophia winked at the teenager and said “Your father is a very gifted person. Perhaps someday he will be famous.” She continued out of the lab, and Neil heard the office door softly close.

Cheryl looked after her, pulling a wisp of brown hair away from her blue eyes, and tucking it neatly behind her ear. She reminded him so much of her mother when she did that.

“What was that all about?”

Neil sat down at his desk. “I’m not sure. She says she’s from Germany, and wants to offer me a chance to test my potions of live human subjects.”

Cheryl leaned on the edge of his desk. “That sounds fascinating and suspicious at the same time. Anyway, I came by to remind you we're going to dinner tonight with Jason.”

Neil laughed. “Oh yes, your young suitor.” How quickly time had passed. He felt nothing but pride for his daughter who grew into a woman without the guidance of a mother, and a stogy old scientist for a father. “ I thought he preferred to be called ‘Jay?’”

“Only with his guy friends.” she said with a smirk. “We have reservations at the restaurant at five-thirty. We’ll see you then?”Neil nodded and brushed his fingers over the bald spot on the top of his head, pushing the two of three strands of longer hair into place, trying to hide it.

Cheryl giggled, and kissed the bald spot. “Give it up, Dad. There's no hope.”

Neil laughed . “Okay, no comb-overs. We'll see you tonight.”

Cheryl gave him a squeeze. “Thanks, Dad,” she said. “You’re my hero.”


The clock on the wall chimed five, and Neil sat back from his work and rubbed his eyes. . He needed to go home and change into something more appropriate for his dinner date. He turned off his equipment and placed the last vial of serum in its container on the shelf of a locked cabinet. Each vial held more than a full dose of what could be one of the biggest medical breakthroughs in the history of mankind. It would soon be time for testing.

There was a knock at the door. “Professor Cadman?”

“Doctor, actually,” Neil replied, and turned to see a uniformed police officer standing in his doorway. He felt his skin go cold, and his heart skipped a beat. “Is... there something I can help you with officer?”

The man in uniform looked at the desk, the ceiling, the floor, anywhere but at him. “Sorry to bother you, sir,” the officer said. “But you.... have a daughter named Cheryl?”

The look on the officer’s face and the tone of his voice sent a chill of dread down Neil’s spine. “Yes,” he answered, feeling the word stick in the back of his throat. He felt his brain tilt into dizziness, and struggled to ask the next, obvious question. “What happened?”

“I’m instructed to take you to Central Hospital as quickly as possible,” the officer told him.


An emergency-room doctor intercepted him at the door and escorted him to a family conference room.

“Dr. Cadman,” he began, “be assured that we did everything we could, but the damage was just too great. I’m sorry, sir, but your daughter is dead.”

Neil felt the blood drain from his face. Reality refused to set in.

“What happened?” He had lost count how many times he had asked this question, but he had yet to get an answer. It was as if they were afraid to tell him what he’d figured out. He wouldn’t be going out with his daughter that night. He wouldn’t watch her graduate next month. He would never see her again.

“She was shot at close range by a high-powered weapon. She’d lost a lot of blood by the time someone found her. I’m sorry for your loss.”

Neil’s mind was numb, like a thumb squarely hit with a hammer. “Can I see her?” He heard himself saying it, but it didn’t sound like his voice. Life had slowed to a crawl. He felt that if he took one more step, he would find the world had ended, and left him behind.

The doctor shook his head. “I wouldn’t. The damage was... well... I think it would be better for you to remember her the way she was.”

It took a few minutes for it to set in—for it not to feel like he was on the other side of the glass watching someone else’s life, but Neil agreed. He was wrought with the memory of his wife in her last days: frail, fragile, and full of pain. The last time he saw Cheryl, she was alive, exuberant, and full of energy. That’s how he wanted to remember her.

“Is there anyone else I should call?”

Neil shook his head. “No. There’s no one else that needs to know.”


It was close to midnight when he finally left.

He was on the verge of depression. His life was in ruin. Without his daughter he would have nothing. It was her life that had inspired him to do the research he’d done. All the feats he accomplished were to somehow make her life better, longer, and livelier than sitting at home alone, not knowing where to go next. She had been his everything. Now he had nothing. There was no life left to celebrate. Not even his own.

It had clouded over, and there was a damp chill in the air. The spaces between the street lamps seemed unusually dark. Somewhere a radio was playing too loud. A dog barked, followed by the rattling of metal trashcans. He was headed back to his lab, and had rounded the corner onto its street when a dark-dressed person stepped out from the shadows of the buildings, blocking his path.

“Dr. Cadman?”

Neil stopped just outside the next circle of light. He could only see the silhouette of the person in front of him, and hadn’t recognized the voice. He was starting to question his motive of not taking a taxi.

“Are you Dr. Neil Cadman?” the man asked again.

Neil held his hand up in front of his face, warding off some of the street lamp’s effects, trying to get a good look at the man. “Who wants to know?”The man flashed a police badge. “I tried to catch you at the hospital. I have a few questions for you regarding your daughter.”

Neil felt his body relax, and took a step forward. He was about to say something when he was grabbed from behind and dragged into the alley. He was roughly thrown against the building, his arms pinned there. There were at least two assailants. When he regained his wits, he saw two men in dark clothing; a third person in a black sports coat blocking his way.

“Hello, doctor,” the one with the badge said.

“What do you want? I thought you had a question about Cheryl?”

“Oh, but I do,” He stepped up and clicked on a flashlight, and shined it in his face. Neil tried to turn away from the brightness, but it followed him. “That was quite a talk you had with Sophia this afternoon, wasn’t it?”

Cadman glanced towards him, squinting against the light. “What of it?”

“Why’d you tell, doc?”

“Excuse me?”

“She took you in complete confidence. She said it was to be a secret. Why did you tell?”

“I don’t understand…”

“You told your daughter,” the other man interrupted. “She told Jason.... And it gets back to me.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“No, I’m sure you don’t. But because you said something, everyone who knows has to be eliminated.”

Realization slapped him in the face. These were the men who killed his daughter. They killed her because they thought she knew something. Something she wasn’t supposed to know. And she’d had no idea what it was. “You bastards!”

“I guess that fits,” the man with the badge said. He reached into his jacket, and pulled out a silenced forty-five. “Let him go, boys… turn around, Cadman, and I’ll give you one shot to the face—just like I did to your daughter.”
Neil turned loose the rage that had built up inside him. He lashed out with his fist and smashed into the cop’s jaw.

The surprise of the move had one of the other two off balance. Neil grabbed him, and slung him around into the third man trying to contain him, then ran out of the alley. He could hear the men cursing as they took up the pursuit. His lab was close by; he found his way there, and burst into the outer office.

Fighting back the panic that threatened to consume him, he realized there would not be time to phone the police. As far as he knew, the police were somehow involved. These men had killed his little girl, and they wanted to kill him. He had no weapons. In fact, there was nothing of any real use in his lab... except his potions.

He went over to the cabinet, and pulled out Cadman “D.” It had worked almost instantly on his test subjects, providing additional mass to the muscle tissues, forcing it to regenerate. It should make him stronger, more capable of dealing with those who pursued him. Without a thought, he upended the vial.

He waited. Nothing happened.

Anxiety increased with every passing second. When he heard his pursuers pounding down the hall, paranoia took over and he grabbed every vial in the cabinet and downed them all. It appeared that none of them worked. He dropped to his knees and cried out. Where had he gone wrong? Where was his miracle cure for the world? He had nothing except a bunch of potions that were only useful to make rats suited for the circus. He couldn't save his wife. He couldn't save his daughter. Now, he couldn't even save himself.

As the door to the outer office crashed open, the seizure hit.

Every muscle in his body convulsed and he flopped across the table, pushing the computer and other things to the floor. Intense pain followed. Of all the burns, cuts, and broken bones he had endured in his life, nothing prepared him for what he was feeling now. He felt as if his heart were about to burst out of his chest. He howled like a wolf caught in a steel trap, and slammed against the lab table. Beakers crashed to the floor, their contents splashing against the back of the oscilloscope. There was a flash. Sparks flew from the back of the equipment, igniting a fire that spread quickly along the carpet and into the animal cages. There were squeaks of terror as they started banging against the bars, trying to escape.

Neil Cadman began to laugh. The fit of hysteria endured until he was overcome by the fumes, and lost consciousness.


Neil’s body was brought to the awaiting ambulance in full cardiac arrest. CPR was started, and an IV line of lactated ringers plus an atropine drip of five milligrams was started.

(Cadman “E” found the atropine quite delightful, and bonded with Cadman “A” to form a new substance that began to synthesize the blood.)

The paramedics used their defibrillator to send an electrical charge into his body.

(Cadman “J” polarized in the electrical field, and started attracting hemoglobin to it. It immediately started sending electrical impulses down all nerve endings.)

The medic plunged a hypodermic needle into the port on the I.V. tube, and squeezed in a prepared dose of epinephrine.

(Cadman “B” sucked in the epinephrine rather nicely, excreted a byproduct that bonded with Cadman “H,” and started coupling with the pigmentation of the epidermis.)

He followed this with a bigger dose of sodium bicarbonate.

(Cadman “D” broke down the singular components to the sodium bicarbonate, and left the charged particles loose in the bloodstream.)

They shocked him again.

(The electricity changed the polarity of the bicarb, which Cadman “K” found to be quite appetizing.)

They placed a bag mask on Cadman's face, furiously pumping in oxygen.

(Cadman “C” bonded with Cadman “F,” and buried itself deep within the bone marrow of his left leg. Cadman “G” was left alone, and continued to push its way though the bloodstream sending out electrical pulses that emulated a heartbeat.)

The ambulance sped towards the hospital, siren wailing and red flashes lighting up the night, its cargo of the living dead hanging in the balance.


June 5, 1995
15 years later

It was three in the morning, and Sally Wirth was on duty at the nurses’ station of Riverside Convalescent Center when the monitor alarm sounded...

*     *     *

Dr. Neil Cadman has been out of the loop for a while, but when he wakes up, he'll discover some amazing things have happened to his mutated body. And amidst trying to come to terms with the horror that has happened to him, there's another horror to deal with: Who killed his daughter, and tried to kill him--and why?

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