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Germ Art

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Mac waited at the port for the ship to arrive, her old friend from England was arriving and she was really happy to welcome her colleague to Melbourne. They were invited to Wardlow for dinner. Both Phryne and Jack were looking forward this dinner too.

Mac smiled to herself, that her beloved idiots were now together and so happy it was a bit disgusting. She was happy for them though, they had really struggled but now they truly fit, the pieces of their lives slid together like a beautiful jigsaw puzzle.

The ship came in and she waved at her fellow Scot. He was no longer Captain Fleming but was Dr Fleming again and all the excitement of his recent discovery had left him so exhausted he jumped at the chance to come to Australia to visit with Mac. Captain Fleming was very brave and he was also really strong. thought Mac. His encouragement of her ambitions to be a doctor to help woman was something she could attain was precious. Of course her old friend was a dreamer and renegade too, so it was not surprising that a woman doctor was not something that he would blanch at.

Dr. Alexander Fleming was at St Mary’s hospital where he was researching antibacterial substances and bacterial growth. Long after Mac had returned home to Australia she was astonished to read in 1928 how her old friend had revolutionized medicine. And by accident, yet!

Fleming had been investigating the properties of staphylococci and he was known as a brilliant researcher, but his laboratory was often untidy. On 3 September 1928, Fleming returned to his laboratory having spent August on holiday with his family. Before leaving, he had stacked all his cultures of staphylococci on a bench in a corner of his laboratory. On returning, Fleming noticed that one culture was contaminated with a fungus, and that the colonies of staphylococci immediately surrounding the fungus had been destroyed, whereas other staphylococci colonies farther away were normal, famously remarking “That’s funny. Fleming grew the mold in a pure culture and found that it produced a substance that killed a number of disease-causing bacteria. He identified the mold as being from the Penicillin genus, and, after some months of calling it “mould juice”, named the substance it released penicillin last year.

Mac had sent him her congratulations noting with something like this we will now be able to save many lives. Now as he walked down the gang plank a single suitcase in his hand, she saw that he had aged, she wondered if it was time or the tension from his amazing discovery.

“Alex!” Mac yelled as he came closer, he smiled and waived. As he came near they hugged affectionately, “Dear Mac, you look a wonder as always.”

“Thanks Alex, so do you, how is your family?”

“Fine, they are having fun in Hawaii. I am happy to come here though, I needed to get away from everyone and everything. It has been crazy. I am so happy there are no members of the press here.”

“Yes, well my friend Jack Robinson arranged that. He is a Detective Inspector and he has a lot of interesting friends from his war days.”

“Yes, I have been fascinated by your sleuthing couple. I can’t wait to meet them”

“They can’t wait to meet you. Jack wants to hear all about your discovery and Phryne wants to see your culture art. Did you bring any?”

They were walking to Mac’s car. He nodded and tapped his suitcase, “it's insulated in here. Did you know one of my “Germ Pictures" as they call them, is being auctioned in London. A few years ago they thought me eccentric.”

“You will fit in perfectly with my crowd, we are all eccentric.”

“Even your Detective Inspector?”

“Oh yes, when you first meet him you think he is thoroughly conventional, but don’t let that veneer of civilization fool you. Jack Robinson is as eccentric as the rest of us. In fact now that he and Phryne are an actual couple he has relaxed a great deal and it is more obvious when they are home. You will love them.”

“I can’t wait!”

To be continued…