At lunchtime on Saturday May 9 2015, the staff at La Quinta Inn in Springfield, Missouri, decided they had better see why the bikers in rooms 216 and 218 had not checked out. The two men had arrived three days earlier, pausing as they rode their Harleys along Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. Their accents were unusual: the clipped vowels of white South Africans. One of them had passed through the lobby the previous evening. But there had been no sign of them since.

At 1.06pm, the police took a call from the motel. In room 216, the staff had found one guest lying naked on his bed. In room 218, the other was on the floor of the bathroom in his underwear. Both were dead but there was nothing to show what had killed them. When they arrived, the emergency responders jumped to a terrifying conclusion. They took one look at the diarrhoea, learnt the men’s origins and thought of the deadly African virus that was in the news: was this Ebola? ..

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