Doc Noir

[inside joke]

Bachtell RK, Weitemier AZ, Galvan-Rosas A, Tsivkovskaia NO, Risinger FO, Phillips TJ,
Grahame NJ, Ryabinin AE. (2003). The Edinger-Westphal-lateral septum urocortin pathway and
its relationship to alcohol consumption. J Neurosci. 23(6):2477-87.
(AB: Anita Bechtholt; CC: Chris Cunningham; CH: Christa Helms; TG: Tina Gremel)
TG: A dark night on a campus that knows how to keeps its secrets, but high above the Mac Hall courtyard on the 7th floor of the Medical Research Building, one man is still trying to find the answers to life’s persistent questions—Doc Noir, P. I.—
CC: It was January and the sky looked as cold and gray as an old hippocampal slice left in a cryostat. My door was closed and I pretended to be working while I tried to catch a few Z’s before faculty meeting. Suddenly, my computer woke me up
[FUNNY COMPUTER VOICE: “You have mail”]
CC: I checked my In-Box. It was another message from that Russian scientist, Dr. RyeBreadovitch. After checking for Cyrillic viruses, I ran it through the translator. The message was terse: “It’s gone! Help me!” She sounded desperate, so I decided to walk
across the hall to see what I could do.
AB: [FRANTIC, RUSSIAN] Doc! I’m so glad you came over. I really need your help. I’ve looked everywhere, but I just can’t find it anymore.
CC: Wait—slow down, slow down, take it easy. Exactly what is it you can’t find anymore?
AB: The Edinger-Westphal nucleus! It’s disappeared!
CC: What? You lost some tissue samples? Why don’t you just go collect some more?
AB: No, no. It’s worse than that. It’s completely disappeared from the mouse’s brain. At first I thought maybe it had just moved closer to the cortex or hippocampus or something like that. But no, it’s gone, completely gone. I’ve checked hundreds of mice from dozens of vendors and not one of them has an Edinger-Westphal nucleus. Nothing! I even had Dr. Meshulkovsky look with his electron microscope and Dr. Stevenowsky scan with her vf-EMI.
CC: vf-EMI?
AB: Very fucking expensive magnetic imager.
CC: Oh, I see.
AB: (Desperate) I don’t know what to do! My whole promotion is riding on Edinger-Westphal. What if the P & T Committee finds out?
CC: Calm down. Pour yourself a glass of vodka from that bottle you keep in the cryostat and take it easy. I’ll check it out and see what I can find.
CC: I decided to take the elevator down to the Mac Hall cafeteria and look for clues. I arrived 20 min later and noticed a tall woman with long blond hair and spike heels had replaced the usual cashier. Her tight black cocktail dress didn’t quite match the new décor, but it sure looked like it had increased the number of physical plant guys taking a coffee break. I filled a cup with Diet Pepsi and walked over.
TG: [SEXY] Hi there! I’m Bambi. You must be Doc Noir. I’ve heard a lot about you.
CC: All good I trust. Say, Bambi, I was wondering. Have you heard any of your customers talking about Edinger-Westphal lately? Like maybe they’d seen one recently or knew where it might be.
TG: Well, there is that Russian scientist with the bad hair and cheap clothes who’s always saying “Edinger this” and “Edinger that.”
CC: Yeah, yeah, I know all about her. Anybody else?
TG: Yes, now that you mention it, I remember this other scientist who’s mentioned it once or twice. She’s got a British accent and keeps asking me to let her pay $8 tomorrow instead of $5 today for her lunch.
CC: I think I know who you mean. Short. Kind of impulsive. Dr. Suzie Skinner. I’ll check her out. Thanks for the lead! It was all starting to make sense. Skinner had arrived in town just about the time that RyeBreadovitch said she’d first noticed the E.W. was missing. I didn’t know her motive, but Skinner sure had a lock on opportunity. It didn’t take me long to find her. As I got off the elevator, she came skipping down the hall in my direction.
CH: [SINGSONG, BRITISH] Loo, loo, skip to the loo! Loo, loo, skip to the loo….
CC: Uh, Dr. Skinner, may I talk to you?
CH: Oh, Hi! Sure. I think I have time.
CC: I just wanted to ask you a few questions. See if you know anything about a brain nucleus that’s gone missing.
CH: Oh, well, you know I’m not really a neuroscientist yet. I mean, I think I know where the brain is. I’m just not quite sure where all the parts belong.
CC: She seemed quite sincere. But I wasn’t buying her act. She’d spent time back east and was as slick as a New York department chair. As we continued to talk, I noticed a portable vacuum pump and soda straw sticking out of her back pocket. Say there, Suzie, I can’t help but notice that pump and straw in your back pocket. Mind telling me what you use those things for?
CH: [HESITATION, STAMMERING] Oh, well, sure. I, uh, use those to, uh, clean mouse
droppings out of my operant chambers. I was just on my way to the W.C. to dispose today’s collection.
CC: Then exactly how do you explain the earwax and brain tissue crusted around the tip of the straw? Come clean, sister! What do you REALLY use those things for? Suddenly, she took off down the hall, ducked into a room and locked the door.
CC: I called Public Safety. But when they put me on hold, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Suddenly, as I approached the door…
CC: It sounded like she was trying to destroy the evidence. So I decided to kick the door in.
CC: As I entered the room, she was sitting on the floor. Leaning against the wall. Holding
pieces of the vacuum pump and looking all disheveled. [PAUSE] So, how’d you do it
CH: Oh, it was really quite simple. I hid out on the loading dock where the mice arrived.
Before the animal care techs picked up the boxes, I inserted a straw into the auditory meatus and sucked out the E.W. Sometimes, I accidentally drained the ventricles, but generally it was pretty quick and painless.
CC: I figured she probably didn’t have an approved protocol for that procedure. But before I busted her, I had to know. Why, Suzie, why’d you do it?
CH: Have you ever tasted an Edinger-Westphal nucleus?
CC: Can’t say that I have.
CH: They are exquisite! Much better than fig newtons or crack cocaine. I especially enjoy
them in the morning with my breakfast tea. I have a few here in my pocket if you’d like to
try one.
CC: Uh, no thanks. Might ruin my taste for diet pepsi. As Public Safety slapped on the cuffs and hauled her away, I decided a diet pepsi sounded real good. Wouldn’t mind taking a trip down to Mac Hall cafeteria to tell Bambi I’d solved another case.
TG: A dark night on a campus that keeps its secrets, where one guy is still trying to find the answers to life’s persistent questions…Doc Noir, P.I.