FEAR is an American spine-chilling story that offers romance too. A young Japanese-American doctor takes the strong female lead.
Fishermen in China are found, not just dead, but as light as hay with every drop of water missing from their bodies. American scientists are drawn into the mystery.
Killer worms, new to science, suck on water in human blood to make more of their kind. They surface in Massachusetts. An entire hospital in Boston is overrun, and from there the worms pour into the Charles River that snakes through the city. Dogged research by the young heroine doctor leads to a discovery.
There is a love story as well, between her an an eccentric entomologist who becomes infected by these worms. They go on the run together when the President orders the killing of those infected.
The story ends on an up-lifting note.
FEAR E-BOOK PREVIEW
With ice sheets still clinging to the shallows along the river, a black and red motor launch of the People’s Armed Police prowled the waters of the Songhua.
The boat travelled at speed around a lazy bend in the river, then growled all the way down to slow. Something odd. Captain Shi Quanyou narrowed his eyes and fluttered a hand to signal a further reduction in speed.
They were four miles from the city of Harbin, home to ten million people in NE China, sitting on the south bank of the Songhua River. This great water highway flows towards the Black Dragon River, which is known to the Russians as the Amur; a huge waterway that defines the northeast frontier between these huge countries. In winter, this whole region goes into deep freeze, triggering the extraordinary snow-sculpturing and ice-carving festival for which Harbin is justifiably famous.
Ahead of them a dilapidated sampan slowly revolved in a listless way. It was driven by a cold wind and a clockwise eddy, near the north bank of the great river. There appeared to be no movement on board.
“Machine gunner, take her into your sights.”
The gunner, no more than twenty years old, swung around his RPD light machine-gun and took the cabin aft into his focus. Behind him, three others readied their type-56 assault rifles.
Captain Shi was still not sure. Pirates, in fast outboards, menaced this stretch of the river: four attacks this week on tourist traffic coming out of the city. The captain’s suspicion ticked higher. Was the drifting hog of a boat a lure to draw them into a trap? With his binoculars he swept the dense reed bed behind the boat. Any attack would come from there. Nothing but reeds, all bending before the breeze, filled his field of vision. He again scanned the sampan from bow to stern. No sign of life.
“Anyone on board?” His voice was metallic in the loud-hailer. “Those on board stand up—now.” Nothing happened. The young machine-gunner raked his sights up and down the boat. Still no movement. The sampan continued its slow aimless clockwise movement. “We are coming alongside. I repeat—we are going to board. Stand with your hands above your head.” The powerful motor launch nudged closer. Reeds brushed its side. A stain of diesel oil in the water trailed the drifting boat in its slow vortex.
“Prepare to board. Reverse engine. Stop.”
After the deep throb of the engine, silence swept in against the men. Then, the sound of the hiss of the bone-chilling breeze through the reeds. The police launch caressed the side of their quarry. Two officers sprang forward and boarded the boat.
The anchor, a hank of rope tied to a cement block, lay in the bow of the fishing boat. It would explain the drift. Then they saw them—bodies scattered on the bottom of the sampan. The river police immediately set their weapons. Nothing. No movement of figures drawing back into better cover.
Only when satisfied that they had not been drawn into a trap did they focus on the bodies. Seven in all—and dead for days by their appearance. But there was something that didn’t fit right. Something warned Shi Quanyou. Six buckets of rotting fish, crowded together near the makeshift anchor, held his attention. The stench of the putrid fish seeped away from the boat. Then he realised what was odd. Flies. Masses of them crawled and buzzed around the filthy buckets. But there were no flies on any of the bodies.
Crouching low down, one of the officers ran to the cabin at the back. No one. He signalled the all clear. The captain quickly stepped on board and went from body to body. ‘Killed by pirates’ was still uppermost in his mind. No pirates had done this.
One of the dead men lay on his back, more skeleton than human. His filthy T-shirt was clamped hard against his chest so that the grill of ribs beneath stood prominent. But it was the bare stomach that flooded the captain with disbelief. It was completely flat and drawn hard down against the backbone, as though there was nothing between the skin and column of bones beneath. The face was frozen into a scream. Yellow skin was tightly stretched against the bone structures. Where eyes had once been, there were now black pits filled with flakes of dried skin. It was as though all liquid had been siphoned away.
“What the hell happened here?” the captain said, more to hear himself speak than to ask questions of his officers.
He turned the body over to inspect for gunshots; for anything that might explain what had killed the man. No gunshot wounds—but something else. The body was as light as a bag of dry hay. It weighed nothing at all.
“All are the same, sir,” one of the officers reported. “Every one of them dry as dust.” His eyes showed alarm.
Each corpse looked as if it had been mummified and the skin dried to leather. The captain eased back from the last body, that of a boy, but so wizened that he could not even be sure of that: it could just as well be the remains of an old man. Again he stared at the buckets of sickening fish with their swarms of flies in attendance. He almost welcomed the flies. They said ‘normal’. But these others! He understood now why no flies paid any heed to them. They were sawdust-dry and just as light. Again he examined each body. There was no evidence of violence—yet these people had died horribly. One, that of a man in a black pigtail and a rag of a beard, had extremely long fingers that were clenched into claws. Even death had not relaxed them out of their set condition. Did that mean anything? Did anything about the boat mean anything?
In the tiny cabin at the back of the sampan, bags of stale food, days old, hung on hooks. A photograph of a woman was nailed to one of the walls. The captain stepped over the sad remains of an old man, slumped against a stack of fish boxes, and stood back out into the weak sunshine.
“Medic, you are needed here.”
Yang Yu, a young trainee doctor, vaulted on to the fishing boat. He went from body to body examining the eyes, the mouth, the limbs. He repeatedly turned the bodies this way and that looking for something that might say different. But all the bodies were the same: no sign of gunshots; no bones broken; no ribs caved in—and all as light as balsa wood is light. He pressed and probed with his fingers as though they would give him understanding where his eyes had failed. Finally, he stood up.
“Captain, there is not a single drop of water in any of the bodies. It disappeared so fast that there was not time for the skin to even begin to decay. Everything has been sucked dry and reduced to powder. That is impossible, sir—yet it has happened. ”
“So, give me an explanation?”
“Captain, I don’t know what killed these people. I am sorry, sir.”
Shi Quanyou looked beyond the young trainee doctor. He looked at the outboard motor and at the long sculling oar that the river people called a yuloh. And he looked, too, at the bundle of illegal fishing nets.
“Nobody dies like this. So what happened here?” He stared at his officers, seeking an explanation. One by one they shrugged their shoulders and looked again at the bodies that the dead might yet yield an explanation. “We’d better get all of this to the smart boys in Forensics,” he said. “Take this hog in tow.”
When the rope was made fast the crew readily scrambled back on to the motor launch, relieved to get away from the stink of putrid fish and the horrors that lay in the boat. One man fired up the engine and turned the launch down-river.
The sampan twitched its bow around and straightened out when the rope drew taut. Then it slowly slipped from the eddy and followed behind.
The captain was already on the radio.
“Pearl, phone call.”
Her dad’s voice carried from the small wooden farmhouse to the water-melon field where she was cutting melons. She put down her knife and hurried towards the house; her dad was holding the telephone on the end of its extension lead.
She took half a blue towel from her belt and ran it across the back of her neck. Cutting melons in the heat of a fine Hawaiian day was hot work.
“What you mean to say is—Dr Pearl Fujiaka, medical doctor, with, in addition, a thesis on Jumping Genes.”
For a moment she could not place the voice, and stared into the distance at the bony figure of Jim Skinner, their only hired hand. Jim was backing up the trailer to load the melons. She would take them the following morning to the Hilo Farmers’ Market. Then it came to her.
“Professor Hounsley! What a lovely surprise.”
“Haven’t heard from my star pupil for quite a while now!”
“Well, you know how it goes, Dr Hounsley—busy, busy. And thanks again for all of that mentoring during your time in Oahu. Without you pushing me around I’d still be floundering about with that genetic project.”
“Pearl Fujiaka—floundering! Never. Stubborn as they come, I’ll give you that, but as bright as a morning over the Big Island.”
“Come off it, Dr Hounsley, I wasn’t that stubborn.” She heard him laugh in his familiar chortling way.
“We’ll let it pass, Pearl, we’ll let it pass. I called to catch up on how you’re doing. Now that you’re a qualified doctor, have you taken up a post yet?”
“Not yet, Professor Hounsley. Since Mum died I thought I’d stay for some time around the farm, for Dad’s sake. Not that he wants pity. You know Dad.”
“Pearl, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know about your mother. On the two occasions I met her she struck me as a strong lady.”
“You mean stubborn.”
“All right then, stubborn—like her daughter.” There was a pause, then he said: “But things need to move on, Pearl. Your parents, both of them, sacrificed a lot to put you through Med School. The way to pay them back is to practise what you’ve studied. That job in Boston will come on stream in five months. I want you there.”
“I haven’t forgotten, Professor Hounsley, and thanks. Boston sounds exciting.”
“But that’s not what I’m calling about. Something has come up at CDC in Georgia. They’re sending a team to China. Something odd over there. Gender balance is now the rage in Atlanta. They need a lady doctor on the team. I talked to Ed Mackinteer. We go way back. I said I knew the very person. If you’re prepared to go to China, Pearl, it would fit in nicely. A bit over four months. Then the Boston job would be in the frame. What do you say?”
A long pause, then:
“I don’t know. China! Never been there. What would the job entail?”
“Something strange going on in a river in the northeast. Something is killing people in a bizarre way. Don’t know more than that. The real work will be done by epidemiologists. I’d take the job, Pearl. A step up the ladder.”
She knew he was right. These last few months working on the farm weren’t just for her dad. She had needed that space to get over her mum’s death, too. Three months on the farm was enough. Hounsley was right. It was time to shake out of it: to move on. This China thing—would she be up to it?
Then Hounsley’s voice came again:
“Two weeks training in Georgia, then China. Can I tell Mackinteer it’s a yes?”
She felt the heavy persuasion in his tone.
“Dr Hounsley, you’re still a big cuddly bear,” she said, and laughed. He had been her mentor while doing her post-graduate studies under his stern direction as Visiting Professor to the Islands.
“Cuddly Bear, my ass! I heard it was ‘Growly Bear.”
“So you knew?”
“You got it in one.” They both laughed. “So it’s a yes, Pearl?”
“It’s a yes, Dr Hounsley—I think. And thanks.”
When she put down the telephone she sat on the veranda steps and looked beyond the clump of red jade vine to Hilo Bay. In the distance two outrigger canoes were fast moving through the emerald-green water. Then, the full force of what she had agreed to slammed home. Would she be up to it at all? She wondered, did all newly minted medics have the same doubts when confronting their first real job? She had scant experience in water-borne infections. Indeed, she had damn all real experience as a practising doctor. She was comfortable with research, thanks to Dr Hounsley, but when it came to anything else! She should have told him she’d think about it. Now it was too late.
Her father came out of the house with a plate of diced pineapples and sat down beside her.
“That was Dr Hounsley,” he said. “I recognized the voice.”
She took a piece of pineapple. There was silence between them. She knew by the way he didn’t look at her that he knew she’d be leaving the island. He was second generation Japanese. Her mother had been born in Montana. Her dad, as was his nature, didn’t speak much, letting the silence carry meaning. Finally, he said:
“Atlanta for two weeks. Then China. After that, the Boston job. Three more days cutting melons, Dad.”
“Skinner will do that. Tomorrow we’ll go visit your mother’s grave.”
They sat for a long time on the veranda, with the slope of the enormous Mauna Loa volcano rising up behind them. A whiff of acrid smoke. Peli was by her cauldron brewing up a fresh lava lake. Then her father said:
“Wherever you travel, Pearl, remember your mother—and perhaps, now and again, a little thought for your dad, too.” He did not look at her; his eyes set in the distance.
“Dad.” She squeezed his arm. “Dad.” It was all she could say.
The plane rumbled down the runway on its way from the Hawaiian Islands to Los Angeles. Her first real job. Again a wave of apprehension swept through her. Would she be up to it? That one thought kept coming back to her. What the hell would she be doing in China anyway? Yes, the place sounded exciting . . . but.
She scanned for snippets of world news on her mobile; for anything about China. Food riots in a town with a name that she could not even begin to pronounce. A bit on the politics between China and Japan over the disputed islands that were increasingly in the news. Then, a strange bit of text: the discovery of a boat with seven skeletons on board. How they had died was a mystery. No further details. None of this was helping to calm her nerves. She slipped her mobile back into her pocket and took out a small vanity bag. Best to try to look one’s best!
The little mirror showed nose. She backed it up until she had a face. Hair straight and black, with a more or less orderly fringe across her forehead and down both sides. The lot was neat in a way that didn’t say over-groomed. Gold button-earrings her dad had bought for her on her graduation: earrings he could not really afford. Nose again, stubborn-straight, that threw in a bit of a give that said—yeah, stubborn as hell, but can be persuaded. Chin with a bit of a dimple in the middle. Eyes—willow eyes with a pool of darkness in the centre of each. They were her best feature. She let them smile into the tiny mirror. Good teeth, small mouth, full lips.
“At five feet six with good legs, you’ll do fine, kid,” she whispered to the mirror. “So, damn it, let’s bring on the big world!”
She snapped closed the mirror. No touch-ups needed.
Two high-sided trucks, of the Shenyang Military Regional Structure in north-east China, crested a hill and skidded to a stop. Soldiers of the PLA, in olive-green uniforms, tumbled out to form two lines and await orders.
“Nothing more than that?”
“That’s all we got. Three civilians. Three different accounts. But something weird has happened.”
The commander stared at the flash of sunlight coming off the back of the great Songhua River below.
“Right, we’ll do a recce: see what we got. Over and out.”
He hit the switch and eased himself out of the truck. His knee was giving him trouble again.
“We got a situation.” He walked up and down the two rows of soldiers. “Something strange in the village below.” He pointed a gloved hand down the steep slope. “It’s our job to find out what.”
Spread out, they pushed down the hill through scrub Mongolian oak, and flooded out on to the only street that ran through the village. A few hens pecked desultorily at a piece of rotting wood. In the distance, a dog nudged at a pile of rubble. The soldiers looked about them—and looked at each other. The village, like a million other Chinese villages, should be a world of noise and activity and children at play. But only silence came back at them.
Small things started to fall into place. No smoke from any of the chimneys. A door tapped back and forth at the slightest breeze. A lele cart with its characteristic large wheels. An ox, between the shafts, was tied to a tree. The great restless beast frantically pulled at the restraining rope. Clearly it had not been watered for days. But it was not the animal that froze the soldiers’ attention. A man was seated in the cart, holding the greasy traces. He was slumped forward so that his face was crushed down on to his knees. He was dead, his hands reduced to bone and skin, as was the back of his neck, the little they could see. The cart owner was not just dead—he was reduced to a dry husk.
In a make-do kitchen in one of the mud brick houses, a soldier discovered a woman holding a child tightly to her. Both were dead and lying among a scattering of toys. The smell in the kitchen forced the soldier to back away: death lived in that place. Others, too, brought similar reports back to the commander. Some of the reports were of bodies undergoing decay. Others spoke of finding remains that were totally desiccated. Those found along the river or in the areas of the village where flooding had recently occurred had been turned to powder: hardly people at all. Those found above the flood-line, for the most part, had remained intact.
“And you’re sure, not one person alive?”
“No one, sir.”
The commander threw his eyes down the length of the eerie street and said again: “No one?”
“All dead, sir.”
“Permission to speak, sir.”
“Out with it, soldier.”
The man swept out his hand to encompass that part of the village that had recently been flooded.
“Everywhere here has only dried-out bodies, while elsewhere, not so many. Something in the river, sir.”
The soldier was from Daqing, bright, and overdue an upgrading. The commander stared at him and knew he had to be right.
“Sweep the village again. I need survivors, people who can tell us what happened here.”
When his men had peeled off, the commander turned his attention to the dead man in the cart. He was as dry as attic dust. The skin on his neck was stretched yellow canvas, and sucked so tight against the neck bones that he expected that it would split apart at any moment. A woollen hat was crammed down about his ears. If he were to remove the hat, he had no doubts that the bones and brains contained within would fluff away in the wind. His thoughts were disrupted by the struggling of the great beast between the shafts. The huge ox bellowed and stamped its feet. The commander took the huge head in his hands. He knew oxen. He had worked them on his farm to cultivate potatoes and millet.
“Water, lots of water. We’ll have to see about that, old boy.”
He pulled two wooden buckets from the back of the cart and hurried to the river.
The soldiers worked their way through the village. They went from house to house; from shed to shed; from chicken coop to chicken coop. Finally they came together and agreed the tally—274 dead. No survivors.
They discovered their commander lying at the feet of the ox. He had brought water to the stricken animal. In his overpowering need to drink, the distressed animal had kicked over the buckets, drenching the commander. He lay on his back, trembling uncontrollably, eyes a mess of pain and darting here and there. His lips worked to mouth out words, but no words came. Sweat streamed from his face. So much sweat. It dripped and dropped to the ground. Words then, in bubbles of froth.
“Don’t come near me.”
“But commander.” The tall soldier from Daqing was already on his knees.
“Back off, soldier. That . . . that’s an order.”
In his confusion, the private rolled back on to his heels and got back to his feet. A fresh surge of convulsions shot through the stricken man. In a frightening show of determination he lurched up on to his knees. Then, with an unnerving effort of will, he dragged himself to his feet. So much sweat that he could only see his men as phantoms in a falling drizzle. Pain flashed down his legs and seemed to bounce from the ground before shooting back up again. Then he was falling in a twisting motion. One of the younger soldiers dropped to his knees. The big man from Daqing grabbed him and threw him back.
“You heard the commander. There’s nothing to be done. He’s dead. Something from the river—so stay well back.”
“But he’s our com . . .”
“He’s dead. Get that into your skull—he’s dead. Whatever happened to the villagers got to him, too.”
Slowly the dead man’s hands fisted into claws. Even with the gloves on, they formed claws.
“What is that?” one of the bent heads over the dead man said.
A spidery trickle of liquid was seeping away from the body. But it wasn’t moving as water would. It flowed, dead reckoning, it seemed, down towards the river. If some small thing blocked its way it flowed over the object and continued on its path.
Every pore was now draining liquid from the dead man. Each droplet of water, if water it was, when it hit the ground shunted towards others until they formed a thin necklace of beads. Then, as on a signal, the beads suddenly shucked together to form a thin thread that moved in a relentless fashion in the direction of the river. The soldiers didn’t need telling: they moved back from the body. This wasn’t military. No way was this military. Something more serious was happening here. This stuff wasn’t simply draining away from the body: it was leaving with a purpose. That was ridiculous. Ridiculous or not, that was the only way they could explain what was happening.
Something else then. Some of the liquid stopped seeping towards the river. It shimmered with a silver sheen and did not puddle like water, and had a vibrancy about it. They stared in disbelief. Dozens of thin tendrils started to crawl from the tiny pool towards one of the men’s boots.
“That thing is alive!” It came as a shout from several of the men. “This mother is alive.”
How could water be alive? Alive or not, all of them stood way back from whatever this thing was. They watched the tiny runnels of liquid creep out several feet from the pool, then stop, as though sensing that the boots were no longer there. For a long moment the filaments of liquid did not move further, then they slowly ebbed back towards the pool that had given them birth.
“So what do we do now?” It came as a whisper from the soldier whose boots had been nearest the thing.
“Do? We report back,” the Daqing man said. Then he was running back up the hill to the trucks.
“And you say he’s dead? That they are all dead? The entire village?”
“All dead, sir.”
There was a long pause.
“A chopper is on its way. Throw up a cordon. No one enters the village.”
The radio went dead in the soldier’s hand.
“Well, damn you, you piece of junk. You couldn’t give me ten more yards. Oh no, that would be too much.”
Pearl had borrowed a twelve-year-old car, Sally Jay, from a friend of hers in Atlanta. That it was old was fine: she’d only need it for two weeks, then the China thing. The clapped-out Ford nearly made it to the front of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Building. Then it cut out.
She hit the steering wheel and again and again tried the key, more in hope than in expectation. Each time—nothing but a clunking sound. She got out of the car, got in again and out once more, not knowing what to do. Her first day at work—and this! And something else—the damn thing had stalled at a spot preventing other cars, real cars, reaching the building.
An ancient and weird European car rumbled up behind her. It barked untold power once, and then went silent. That was all she needed—some jock with attitude! The car sat for a moment, the driver not getting out. She could see his head in the rear view mirror. He just stared at her, not pouring out of the thing to roar and fist at the air. He had blond hair that dropped down about his face that said: ‘Don’t give a damn’. Finally, the door edged open and he got out. He was taller than she had supposed. A long grey coat, in spite of the Georgian heat, added to his sense of tallness. The jeans, the bits she could see, could do with a wash. His loose long-striding walk towards her reminded her of a hungry coyote on the prowl. She waited for the tirade of words.
“What—what?” she said, when he strode right up to her. She wanted her words down first to defend her patch before he started yelling.
With hands on hips, so the long grey coat rode up a bit, he looked at her a moment out of a face showing several days of growth.
“Batteries,” he said in a grave voice. “With women it’s always flat tyres or batteries.”
Before she had time to flare, he gave her a slow smile that seemed to go on forever and wiped the insult clean off her memory board.
“You could be right—battery,” she said, not knowing what else to say.
“Of course I’m right. Like I said . . .”
“Got you the first time—flat tyres and batteries!” She looked at him, her head cocked to one side, and laughed—and hoped her hair wasn’t too tossed about.
“The first thing we do is shunt her out of here so respectable cars can get by,” he said and stared at the broken side-window and waited for a reaction. No reaction. “Put her in neutral and we’ll see about a push.”
She did as he said, and watched in the mirror the massive grill on the front of his car creep nearer, then jolt into the back of Sally Jay. Then he pushed her up the little slope and nudged her towards the azalea bed directly opposite the front door of the building.
Stepping out of his muscle car, he again gave poor Sally Jay the once over.
“You could always keep chickens in it,” he said, leaning comfortably up against the wide door of his own contraption. “They’re now all the rage—chickens!”
He didn’t wait for a reply. She had none to give, not knowing how to take this guy. He leaned away from the door and opened the trunk of whatever the hell of a thing he was driving. Out of a crumpled golf bag, stuffed with an entanglement of fishing tackle, he lugged heavy jump-leads. Then, biting home the crocodile teeth into the battery of her car, he shot juice. Sally Jay roared like a bitch in heat. When his eyes fixed on her again, Pearl wondered if she, too, had not been given a touch of the jump-leads. Deep blue-grey eyes that said ‘trust me’. The last thing she’d do is trust those eyes. They were now all over her, stripping her of all reserve, removing her clothes, and taking her, not in a lascivious way but just taking her as though it was the most natural thing to do between a man and a woman.
“What’s with the big long coat? Shouldn’t a guy driving a weird thing like that be wearing a leather jacket and shades?” she said, trying to grab back some cool.
“Must remember that—leather jacket and shades.”
“And boots.” She looked down at his sandals.
“Big coat and sandals—some combination.”
“Warm feet?” They both laughed. “You need coffee. I need a dose of coffee, real bad, and you’re paying,” he said, and led her into the huge building.
In the canteen, after a circular argument over what de-caffeinated really meant, he put it to her directly that they should see more of each other. Just like that—all directness. This was getting a bit too much: a bit too speedy.
“And you are?” Pearl said, raising her eyes.
“Oh, excuse my manners. I’m Mick, Mick Wilson. I work in this deranged cookie jar.” He opened the long grey coat and cleaned a hand on the lining inside. When the grease from Sally Jay’s battery had been transferred to the coat he held out the clean hand. They shook hands.
“Thanks for the help. I’m Pearl Fujiaka.”
“Not Irish, then?”
“Not Irish.” The two of them laughed.
“So what do you do in CDC, Mick?”
“I’m supposed to be an entomologist. I specialized in blister beetles. And don’t ask. But if you find you have fleas in your bed at night, you just call me. I’ll be right around.” He gave her an impish stare.
“Mick, the entomologist, if I’ve got anything wrong with my bed you’d be the last person I’d want to call.”
They laughed again.
“Women,” was all he said, as though that single word said everything. Then, taking her refusal as a ‘yes’, he insisted on buying strawberry milk shakes to celebrate the good news of their relationship.
“There’s no relationship, Mick. I’ll take the milk, but there’s no relationship.”
She relaxed a bit. He had a good jaw line and a straight nose and, if he’d cut his hair, he’d pass for handsome in a wild sort of way. But he was not her type. She liked neat dress in a man. Mick, the entomologist, would never be that.
Leaning back in his chair, he pushed long hair out of his face and studied her out of those ‘trust me’ eyes, as though she did not understand the affair that should exist between them; that should exist between a man and a woman. Then, with those odd coloured eyes still trimming up and down her face, and trimming up and down her figure, he eased his chair forward and drew a thumb nail up the length of her spine. It drove an electric shock thrilling through her. No need of jump-leads.
“A deal is a deal,” he said, staring at the two tall glasses of strawberry milk. Then he broke out laughing and banged his forehead several times against the table among the dishes. Others, at other tables, looked across at them, looked across at her, and some touched their heads with the tips of their fingers. They obviously knew Mick.
“So, what brings you to the cookie house?” Mick said, drumming his fingers on the table.
“I’ve been offered a job here. A small job. Three to four months at most.”
“Don’t rightly know. Some sort of a China project.”
“Harbin? You going to Harbin?”
“Yes, Harbin. At least that’s what they tell me.”
“Well, welcome on board. We’re now a team of five.”
“We? Are you part of the team?”
“Yeah. We ship out in two weeks. So you must be the MD that’ll fill the final slot? Well, fancy that. And let me guess. You’re here today to make your acquaintance with Clip-clop.”
“The Director. Clip-clop Mackinteer, the big cheese of all you survey.” He waved his hand to encompass the entire building. “The primo beetle that runs the place.”
“Mick, are you always so disrespectful of people?”
“Only the nice ones. So, when is your getting-to-know-you meeting with old Clip-clop?”
“I’m told, any time today. How did he get that name?”
“Owns a string of horses and wears loose shoes. So what other name could you give him?
“How about—mister? Mister Mackinteer?
“Yeah, must surprise him. Must try that some time. See how he reacts. He’s into golf, as well, and lots of Jack Daniel’s and bonsai maples. There, you now have enough leads to stir a bit of conversation out of Loose Shoes when you meet him. You’ll get lost in this place. Let me show you to his office.”
Thank you for taking the time to read the preview Water Worms. If you would like to read more, the full e-book can be purchased from Amazon by clicking the button below. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!