“Doc’s Codicil”, a mystery told with gentle humor in a style reminiscent of Clyde Edgerton with touches of Garrison Keillor, tells the story of a veterinarian who teaches his heirs a lesson from the grave. When Wisconsin veterinarian Doc dies, his children and nephew learn that to inherit his fortune, they must decipher the cryptic codicil he added to his will–“Take Doofus squirrel-fishing”–and they can only do that by talking to Doc's friends, reading the memoir Doc wrote of a Christmas season decades earlier, searching through Doc’s correspondence, and discovering the clues around them. “Doc’s Codicil” is a story within a story. As the heirs read Doc’s book, they learn of a Christmas season, 27 years ago, in which Doofus goaded Doc into action on his dreams and bragged about his own project, a Christmas nativity pageant in New Orleans that, unbeknownst to Doc and Doofus, Doc’s sister and brother in law were also working on. In writing his memoir, Doc realized he'd missed important lessons about life, lessons he wanted to impart to his adult children. He knew they wouldn't listen to him, so he invented the riddle of Doofus and squirrel fishing to teach them what he had missed.
Doc's sister Linda is having lunch in New Orleans with their mother Elspeth. Linda is afraid her husband Mark may be wandering. Elspeth suggests Linda volunteer Mark to work on their church's Nativity Pageant.
After watching 500 lb calves avoid going through a gate and then acting stupid when they did, Doc realized that the behavior of the calves isn't that different from people. He ruminates on this, and acknowledges that he's done some pretty stupid things himself. So many, in fact, he should have realized he was getting help in that venue.
Doc's brother in law has been trapped into directing a Christmas Nativity pageant with live animals. He has no idea what to do, so he calls Doc for advice.
Doc has returned from a long day of work in cold barns and animal facilities. He's tired and cold, and the rest of the family is already asleep. An odd sound in the living room, a shadow moving in the dining room, and Doc realizes he's not alone. In the old Jimmy Stewart movie, "Harvey," Stewart consults and discourses with an invisible 6-foot rabbit that no one else can see. Doc is about to wander down a similar rabbit hole.
A faucet has a problem, a simple, cheap problem that Doc figures he can fix. After he's promised to fix it, he discovers it's a bigger job than he thought
The 3 men who will play the magi have had their camel riding lesson, had dinner--with wine
Charles is finally on a camel. The camel is resting on its knees so he could mount. Before Charles can ride, his mount must stand.
The three men who are to ride into the Nativity pageant on camels as the 3 wise men go to an animal park for lessons on riding a camel.
Doc and his old friend and attorney Al are sitting on Doc's deck. Doc complained that feeding the birds or planting a garden is only chumming for squirrels. Al suggests how to get rid of them, but Doc demurs.
Sam is a teen only tangentially involved in the Christmas pageant. He had to cancel a date with Marcy because he's been grounded. Before he could tell her, she told him she had to break the date because her grandmother died.
Jim is a teenager who has been roped into playing a part in a church's nativity pageant. This short sketch could describe many teenagers.
Julie looks at Rockburg, her home town, with fresh eyes after living in the Twin cities for a decade..
The three men who volunteered to ride the camels and play the Magi in the Christmas nativity pageant take a camel riding lesson. None of them has ever ridden anything wilder than a riding lawnmower. Their first look at Gladys, one of the camels to be used in the pageant, comes as a shock.
Doc and a crew are trying to get 400 pound calves into a chute to vaccinate them. The calves have avoided the chute, but finally one of them is standing at the entrance, sniffing the cow-flop other calves going into the chute have left. Doc notes parallels between politics and calf behavior.
Al relaxes over dinner and watching a ball game on TV at home the evening after the reading of Doc's will. His wife Jan has stumbled across information Al would be interested in, but she can't get his attention. Like too many men, myself included, we get lost in our thoughts as our wives are speaking.
The book opens with Al, Doc's attorney, preparing for the reading of Doc's will. Al is nervous because this will be the first time Doc's children learn about the codicil, a codicil Al had opposed
Veterinary virologist Jason Mitchell can’t keep his mouth shut, can’t lie convincingly, and can’t follow orders. He’s an unlikely candidate to help the CIA locate and destroy a deadly hybrid virus stolen from Jason’s lab at the University of Minnesota. From Washington to Djibouti, From Minneapolis to Yemen, Marines cringe, Senators turn livid, and CIA agents shudder as Jason struggles to prevent the virus from becoming a biological weapon in the hands of jihadists. Jason and Ann Hartman, veterinarians, lovers, and graduate students, conduct a study of BCV in calves, a common virus that causes diarrhea in cattle. A recently arrived Chinese student accidentally exposes the calves to the SARS virus, a close relative of BCV. The calves and the Chinese student develop a severe and puzzling pneumonia. The Center for Disease Control isolates a hybrid BCV-SARS virus from the Chinese student and the calves. The FBI is notified of the new and dangerous virus. Ahmed, more con man than graduate student, discovers samples of Jason’s that contain the virus. He steals them and flees to Yemen where he pretends to be a devout Muslim to get funding from a jihadist group. The jihadists believe the virus will be valuable as a biological weapon and as bait to lure the CIA into military action that will kill innocent civilians and increase hatred of the US. Jason and an unconventional CIA agent redefine “thinking outside the box” as they con Ahmed, dodge bullets, and thwart the jihadists.
Ann, the grad student running a study in which a virus seemed to have mutated to something more dangerous, was ordered to put all of her samples under lock and key. An inventory of samples is done and a strange lock encountered.
Ahmed goes back to the Vet. Sci. building late at night and steals vials of a recently discovered hybrid-virus. He hurries to the elevator to leave the building--and the country. Two floors above, Margie, a senior in the College of Veterinary Medicine, has been working late in a lab. She's had trouble identifying unknown bacteria in an assigned sample. If she gets it wrong, she might not graduate--and she hasn't been able to get it right for hours. There has been ill-will between Margie and Ahmed before. Tonight they meet at the elevator.
The agricultural attache of the United States embassy in Djibouti has a discreet meeting with the French agricultural attache. Their real positions are officially confidential but utterly transparent. Djibouti has no agriculture. They are both in charge of their country's espionage in the region.
A friend of Jason's whose wife is expecting a baby lost a pocket guide to baby names in Jason's apartment as they watched a basketball game on TV. The friend leaves and Jason's girlfriend drops by. She finds the book. She is pregnant and hasn't had the courage to tell Jason yet. Now, she thinks he knows.
Ahmed talks a consular employee, Fasi, into sneaking a stolen package out of the U.S. and into Pakistan. Fasi has no idea what it is. He breaks the rules and drinks alcoholic beverages--lots of them--on the flight home and is hung over when he delivers the package. He requests a receipt for the package. Things go wrong from there.
Jason's long-standing romantic interest spent the night with him. She has something to tell him.
Ahmed has fled to the Pakistani consulate for protection and medical treatment after stealing the viral samples. He tries to bamboozle Consul Sharif and portray himself as a hero, but Sharif has other sources of information. The scene opens in the Consulate. Sharif walks toward his office with an intelligence agent.
Veterinarian and virology graduate student Jason and Joe, a recently arrived Chinese graduate student, spent the evening feeding and examining calves on a coronavirus study. Joe isn't feeling well and the next morning can't be roused.
A new graduate student arrives from Hong Kong in the spring of 2004. He goes to work right away at the U. of MN veterinary school, helping Jason feed the calves in his study. Something looks wrong.
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