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No chance to dry. The air was too still. Too thick with the humid heat. Kaspar Künzli had taken a shower in the hope it would cool him down. But it just encouraged his sense of fever all the more. And fresh beads of sweat gathered almost instantly again in every cranny of his skin as he wiped the towel across his chest.

He poured himself a glass of cool sparkling water from the minibar. Then flicked the switch on the wall. He didn't expect it to do any good. And he was right. The blades of the ceiling fan were not going to move for anyone. They just hung there like the legs of a spider in suspended animation. Teasing him while he dressed.

Kaspar never enjoyed huge social gatherings at the best of times. And the prospect of 1500 neurologists and their hangers-on was the ultimate test of his devotion to science. In truth, if he hadn't been awarded a prize for his research, he probably wouldn't be going - probably wouldn't even be in Athens at that moment attending the congress.

'Why do you want to go to a place like that in the buckling heat of July?' his mother had said as he was leaving for the station a week ago. 'You'll fry.'

These words came to him again now like a freight train thundering through an airless tunnel...

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