“Ammon’s Horn,” is the name that ancient anatomists gave to the hippocampus, one of the brain areas involved in memory, and where the initial pathology of Alzheimer’s disease occurs.
OPERNHAUS, ZURICH, SWITZERLAND
DECEMBER 14, 2017
Fred Lindenmayer was about to conclude the meeting of the Opernhaus board when he felt his phone vibrating inside his jacket. He looked at the caller ID, excused himself, and left the room. It was Heidi, his personal assistant. She knew he was in a meeting and would never call if not for a very good reason.
“Fred, I’m so sorry to disturb your meeting, but this is an emergency.”
Fred immediately thought about his wife. “Has something happened to Meg?”
“Yes, Fred, I’m afraid so.”
His heart skipped a beat. “What happened? Where is she?”
“She is at Sprüngli’s, in the manager’s office. They couldn’t find your cell number, but they had the office number and—”
“What the hell is going on?” Fred was getting impatient, and Heidi knew better than to drag out her explanations.
“Apparently one of the saleswomen at the chocolate shop recognized her and called the manager. Meg has been wandering through the shop and the tearoom in a state of agitation asking everyone when the chocolate Easter eggs would be available. She is now having some tea and has calmed down, but she doesn’t remember her name and doesn’t seem to know where she is.” Heidi could not hear anything on the other end. “Fred, are you there?” “Yes, yes, Heidi, I’m listening,” he replied. He felt cold fear closing in on his heart as he paced up and down the corridor outside the meeting room while nervously rattling the keys in his jacket pocket. “Please tell them that I’ll be there in about twenty minutes, I’m leaving the meeting now.”
Fred rushed back into the meeting room, whispered an excuse into the board secretary’s ear, grabbed his computer bag, and left without another look at the people around the table, who had stopped talking. He ran down the imposing staircase of the Opernhaus, holding on to the handrail as he felt his legs going wobbly. Upon reaching the ground floor, he bolted to the right, heading toward the side door. His driver was waiting and within seconds they were on their way.
This was the moment he had been dreading ever since Meg had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s two years ago. From this point, nothing could stop the decline of her condition. He felt helpless and angry at the same time.
When the car pulled up at Sprüngli’s on Paradeplatz fifteen minutes later, Fred felt like they had been driving for hours. The manager’s assistant was waiting for him at the door and took him up to the office without a word. When she opened the door, Fred saw Meg sitting there with a cup of tea she was cradling with both hands. She raised her head toward him with an empty look in her eyes.
Fred nodded to Mrs. Niggli, the manager, and went to kneel by Meg’s side. He gently took her hand. “Hello, my darling, how are you?”
Meg looked at him and dropped the cup on the floor. The crash made her startle and she stood up. “Would you like to go home, sweetheart?” he asked. Fred took hold of her arm, but she withdrew it violently and stepped back, almost falling over the chair she had been sitting in.
“Who are you?” she replied. “I don’t know you. I want to stay here and have another cake while waiting for my Easter eggs.”
Meg was shouting, raising her arm and threatening to hit him. Large halos of sweat showed on her silk blouse. As Fred took hold of her arm to stop her, he noticed the smeared makeup on her face and her untidy hairdo. What had become of his impeccable-looking wife?
Noticing Fred’s dismay, Mrs. Niggli stepped in and gently taking Meg’s elbow guided her toward the door. “Why don’t you and I go choose another cake, Mrs. Lindenmayer,” she said softly, “and then I will take you to your car.”
Meg looked at her, delighted. “Yes, thank you, my dear, and let’s not forget the chocolate eggs.”
Fred followed them to the elevator, and once out of the door, Meg seemed to recognize José, the driver, who was holding the backseat door open for them.
“Hello, José, what a great time I had here. Let’s do it again soon.” She shook Mrs. Niggli’s hand and lowered herself into the car.
Fred got in on the other side and asked José to drive them home.
In the car, Meg fell into a deep slumber and Fred called her neurologist. Though Professor Trümper was about the leave the hospital, he assured Fred that he could meet them at their home within half an hour.
Meg woke just as the car was pulling up at their front door. She looked at Fred and seemed to be surprised. She smiled at him. “Hello, darling, why are you in the car with me? We did a great job finishing the Christmas shopping, didn’t we?” She did not move to get out of the car.
Fred stretched both his hands toward her to signal he was helping her out of the car.
“Hello, my Meggy,” said Fred helping her out of the car. “Why don’t we go in and have a drink?”
“That would be lovely, but I first need to look at my shopping bags.”
Fred felt tears welling up in his eyes as he was talking to her, “José will bring your bags inside once he has parked the car, don’t worry.”
Meg followed him in, and Fred handed their coats to Ida, the housekeeper.
When he turned to talk to Meg, he saw that she stood very still, as if rooted to the floor of the hallway. “I don’t know this place, why don’t we go home,” said Meg in a shaky voice, “and I’m not sure I want to stay here. But I’m really thirsty. May I please have some tea?” “Of course, my Meggy.” Fred guided her to the library and asked Ida to bring some tea and cakes. Once settled in her favorite armchair by the fireplace, Meg went back to sleep.
LINDENMAYER RESIDENCE, KÜSNACHT, SWITZERLAND
APRIL 28, 2018
Standing at a window framed by a heavy brocade curtain, Jonathan Boswell waited for the next contestant to arrive. When his boss, Mr. Lindenmayer, had first told him about the award, he had been moderately enthusiastic. At this stage of his life, he was never more than moderately enthusiastic about anything. However, he had not anticipated the effect of seeing the young contestants.
The first contestant, Sarah Majewski, had arrived early for her appointment that morning. She had run up the steps then slowly ambled back down. With big, dreamy eyes, she stared at the stone house. She was a tall, slender woman. When Boswell opened the door, she greeted him with a strong American accent. He had adopted his most avuncular tone and had led her up the stairs to the drawing room, seating her in a comfortable armchair to wait for Mr. Lindenmayer. He wasn’t worried about her. He felt sure she was a contestant that he would be able to manipulate.
Next had been Philip Caldwell-Tyson. The strong jaw and stocky build did not fool Boswell for a minute. He could not have said precisely what had given Philip away. He certainly didn’t reveal his sexual orientation in his gestures or even in his manner of walking or in his British accent, but it was quite clear to Boswell that the man was gay.
The third contestant, Jean-Pierre Abdoulayé, might be less easy to manipulate. He had arrived at eleven o’clock on the dot. A short, wiry man with dark skin and a French accent, he had run up the steps and pressed the gold button twice, and then, when Boswell tarried, a third time. Despite his annoyance, Boswell trusted that he had adopted a relaxed demeanor that in no way revealed his displeasure. “I’m sorry to keep you waiting,” he said, in a breezy manner. “Mr. Lindenmayer is in the drawing room.” He pointed him to the stairs, but did not bother to accompany him all the way. It was too bad for him if he got lost.
After Lindenmayer’s lunch break, Boswell led the fourth contestant, Yucun Fang, into the cloakroom, where he reviewed her appearance. “Very nice,” he said, admiring the shiny black hair that gleamed beneath the light. He almost whispered “my accomplice” but decided not to, fearing it might make her uncomfortable. He approved of her outfit. In the navy blue skirt and white shirt, she almost looked like a school-girl. The pumps accentuated the shape of her legs. He led her all the way to Mr. Lindenmayer, right up to his chair. Bowing, he introduced her before tiptoeing out of the room.
Now Boswell was most eager to meet Edoardo Gardelli, the fifth and final contestant, who should have arrived ten minutes ago.