The dim air is heavy with sickness, sour with blood. Keller lies in the farthest corner, ashen, all humor leached from his face.

It takes Florian some time to reach him, passing down the long aisle from one makeshift cot to another, with a word or a handclasp for every patient. Finally he settles into a crouch at the journalist's side. "Well, my friend."

He lays a hand on the damp forehead. No response.

"This," Florian says, "is disgraceful. A comic genius of your caliber has no business playing at tragedy."

He counts Keller's smile -- faint, wry -- as a victory.