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Dr. Hugo Pecos: My Story (Part III)

The early years of the project were a string of failures. In vaccine work, the objective is to expose the patient to enough of the virus to develop immunity, but not enough to make him sick. With HVV, the Human Vampirism Vaccine, it was always the same problem; injections of "killed" virus failed to stimulate antibody production, and injections of the treated, live virus caused vampirism. We knew that the secret lay in finding the right way of manipulating the virus before injecting it into the patient.

Fortunately, the war ended without the threatened onslaught of vampire armies. But most of us stayed on with the Project, plugging away. Weeks turned to months, years. To alleviate the stress, we played chess, formed a softball team and enjoyed frequent barbecues.

And then, five years after the Project had begun, we finally had a breakthrough. Simply put, we injected the virus into a chicken egg, took fluid from that egg and injected it into another egg, and repeated the process about a dozen times. In doing this, we were able to weaken the virus, but not so much that it failed to stimulate antibody production. So, on a sunny October day (Friday the 13th, believe it or not), a Santa Fe auto mechanic named Joe Valdez was brought to Santa Rosa showing early signs of vampirism. We gave him the new vaccine, stepped back and held our breath. It was a long night as Mr. Valdez tossed and turned with fever, then slipped into a vampiric coma. But the next morning, to our amazement, Mr. Valdez awoke with no symptoms of the disease! We put on some music, had a brief celebration and then got back to work. After all, the world was waiting for this vaccine.

At work at the
Institute, 1955
In my years in New Mexico, I had fallen in love with the strange beauty of the state, and so when the Zozobra Project was folded into the Santa Rosa Institute, I decided to stay on. I also agreed to head up the Southwest Office of the Federal Vampire & Zombie Agency (FVZA). I must confess, there was another reason for me wanting to stay: Maria Turner, a microbiologist who had fled Germany in 1934. We were married in 1953 and eventually had two beautiful boys.

The vampire vaccine was an unqualified success at checking the spread of vampirism, but as FVZA Regional Director, I was busier than ever, as vampires proved to be particularly tough to root out in the Southwest. Where my work at the Zozobra Project had been confined to the lab, my FVZA duties took me all over the region. I mastered martial arts and weapons, I faced vampires in abandoned mines, old Indian ruins, forests and caves. I grew to know their smell, the sound of their breathing; it got so I could sense their presence well before I saw them. Between 1950 and 1960, my New Mexico office alone destroyed over 1500 vampires.

My dedication to my work took its toll on my personal life. I divorced, remarried, and got divorced again. My family grew to include two more children. Slowly but surely, the vampire population dropped to a point where my life got quieter. I taught classes, watched my children grow into adults. My son Rogelio is an emergency room physician in Santa Fe. The next oldest, Ferdinand, manages a restaurant in Corrales, New Mexico. My daughter Rosa is a Professor of Hispanic Studies at the University of New Mexico.

You may have noticed that I mentioned only three of my four children. That is because my youngest son, Emilio, is no longer with us. He realized his dream of going to medical school and came back to New Mexico to set up a family practice in the small town of San Miguel, where he was the only doctor for 150 miles. One night, he got called out of bed to deliver a baby. On the way back home, his car was struck by a drunken driver and he was killed. I had lost my brother, mourned the deaths of my parents, but I never expected to have to bury my own son.

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