Authors: Kevin Guilfoile
The most exhilarating thriller debut since Michael Crichton’s
The Andromeda Strain
Imagine you are a cloning specialist confronted with the rape and murder of your teenage daughter. What would you do if the police drew a blank in their investigations but mistakenly sent you DNA from the crime scene… DNA you could use to clone the killer? How far would you go to look into the eyes of your child’s killer?
Justin Finn, at three, looks like any other child. But his face, one day, will be the exact match of the cold-blooded killer of whom he is a perfect genetic replica.
And Justin Finn at fifteen has developed an unhealthy obsession with the Wicker Man, a notorious serial killer who prowls the streets of Chicago.
“An always surprising medical thriller, complete with elegant prose and well-developed characters… It’s a sure-handed, extremely pitchable what-if, a great high-concept platform on which to build a thriller”
New York Times
Copyright © 2005 by Kevin Guilfoile
For Mo, who said everything would turn out exactly the way it did
The opinions which naturally spring from the character and the situation of the hero are by no means to be conceived as existing always in my own conviction; nor is any inference justly to be drawn from the following pages as prejudicing any philosophical doctrine of whatever kind.
Mary Shelley, from the preface to
This wasn’t grief Davis felt, staring at her so-still feet pointing at impossible angles to the tight synthetic weave of charcoal carpet. Grief is born. Grief matures. Grief passes. Despair, on the other hand, which arrives in an instant, ferments into depression. And although depression was months away, at least, already he felt himself not caring. About his life, his wife, his practice, his patients, his new home, near the golf course, and his second home, by the lake. He imagined everything — people, property, possessions — in flames while he stood before it all, impassive, not caring.
The fluorescent lights exposed the room from the ceiling straight down, a glow so bright and perpendicular that Davis couldn’t find a shadow in the entire place. From the inside, the broad windows to the street looked covered in black paint, and from the outside, beyond the police cars and oily snowdrifts and yellow tape, the store was as white and naked as a nighttime portrait of a home by Mies.
There were cops on the sales floor and they were talking, but Davis’s mind registered only the broken echoes of their whispers:
“What’s he doing here… he’ll tramp all over the crime scene, for Chrissakes…”
The cop standing next to Davis was named Ortega and had been his patient once. Tonight, Ortega had let him in the back door of the Gap — led him through the stockroom and out onto the floor and inside the rectangular checkout island where he now stood — and Ortega was getting his ass reamed by a detective for it. Anna Kat’s feet went in and out of focus, but Davis’s eyes never left them. From the ankles down they looked like tan plastic, rigid enough to have been severed from one of the mannequin torsos dressed in ribbed sweaters against the wall, and he began thinking about Ortega’s lifeless semen and the day he, Dr. Davis Moore, had delivered the bad news to the cop and his pretty wife. Catholics, he remembered; they decided against in vitro. They clucked their tongues at the anonymous DNA and all those extra embryos, the routine runoff of his work. He wondered if they had ever adopted, if the cop, now a parent, might understand that the sorrow Davis now felt was incurable.
Back the way he came, jacketless in the dark and snow. A different cop would drive him home to the big Prairie-style house on Stone Avenue, where Anna Kat’s mother, Jackie, would be sobbing into the consoling collars of their neighbors. He would prescribe something for her and pour the Macallan all around and hope they could manage a numbing, dreamless sleep. The first morning after would be the worst of all, when he would wake having forgotten, and then, in the daylight, remember that his only child was dead.
These women were older than his wife. More desperate maybe, Terry thought. They were around his age, late thirties, and that embarrassed him. In front of men, he was never uncomfortable talking about Martha’s age. In fact, he liked to show her off with hand-holding and impromptu snuggling and by sharing the same side of the table at restaurants. He was certain he could give up drinking or smoking pot, and he planned to when the child was born. Pot, anyway (if there ever was a child). But there was no high like the ability to inspire jealousy, and his marriage to young, smart, sexy Martha could turn other men a sickly pale green. That high he could never quit cold turkey.
The other women were stealing curious looks at Martha, her face tilted at a month-old issue of
. Of course, they were wondering what a woman so young was doing here. There was both envy and pity in the creased corners of their eyes when they glimpsed her and then looked away. Their husbands noticed her, too, Terry figured. The first look gauged the size of her breasts. The second, the shape. The third lingered long enough to measure her youth, her weight, her curves, her face against the standard of other men’s wives.
Whatever sexual electricity her husband imagined throughout the room, Martha Finn was oblivious. She was nervous, though, for reasons that had nothing to do with jealousy or fantasy or lust. Unlike many of these women, her eggs and ovaries functioned as designed. And unlike many of these men, Terry’s sperm were frisky and numerous, which accounted for the self-satisfied grin on his face now, she figured with a wince.
A nurse led them from the white leather chairs, past several examining rooms and unmarked doors, and into Dr. Moore’s office. From the clean lines of the windows to the custom couch and desk, Davis Moore could have been any successful professional. There was a disconnect, a deliberate one, between the spare, monochromatic environs of the waiting room and the warm mahogany of Dr. Moore’s office.
“It still seems so strange,” Terry Finn said, his fear concealed beneath an anxious snicker. Martha touched his knee.
At work Terry was used to being the alpha male in the room, but Dr. Moore — tall and thin with a long torso and a tight weave of brown hair (a politician’s head of hair, Terry thought) — was an impressive figure. He wore a white clinician’s jacket over an expensive cotton shirt and a red silk tie. His voice was a gentle but commanding baritone, as steady as his hands, which amplified relevant words with confident gestures. His desk was free of clutter, suggesting a man who solved problems as he encountered them and immediately disposed of the paperwork. He was also modestly famous:
magazine had named him one of the city’s “Top Docs,” stating in a caption under his picture (which Martha had carried in her purse since they had made the appointment) that Davis Moore was one of the nation’s leading experts in cloning and cloning ethics.
“Some couples have doubts about the procedure,” Davis said. “Some have moral questions science can’t answer. And there’s quite a bit of opposition from some of the organized religions, of course. Do you go to church?”
“On Christmas.” Martha reddened.
“If it makes a difference to you, I believe in God myself, and I’m at peace with the science at work here,” Davis said. “We can’t clone a soul, you know. Actually, I’ve found that some religious people find cloning a less troubling option than conventional in vitro, with sperm and egg.” He had been through countless of these preliminary meetings and could predict the questions, and even the order in which they would be asked. He barely listened to them before answering anymore.
“You don’t need to create as many embryos, is that right?” Martha said.
“That’s right. In many cases now, we need only one.”
“I know there are some legal issues,” she said. “I’ve been doing some searching on the Internet. A little reading here and there. Only enough to make me realize how little I understand.” She giggled, and when she smiled Davis realized how it changed her, as if her unsmiling face were a masquerade disguise, and her grin like an unveiling. “I know some doctors out east got in trouble last year.”
“We are bound by strict guidelines — rules and laws both — and there are severe penalties for violating any of them. They range from loss of a doctor’s medical license to jail time. For instance, the donor must be dead. That’s to make sure your child doesn’t run into his double in line at Jewel.” Terry and Martha and Davis laughed.
Martha said, “It seems incredible to me — well, the whole process is still incredible to me — but amazing that you can clone someone after they’re dead.”
“DNA isn’t as fragile as we once thought, and although we have sophisticated methods for storage and preservation, they really aren’t even necessary,” Davis said. “With current technology we can recover viable DNA even from long-dead tissue. Once an individual is cloned, however, his remaining DNA is destroyed. We never make multiple clones from the same individual. Your child would be the only person alive with his genetic markers. Unless the procedure results in twins, of course.”
“Exactly who are the donors?” Martha asked, her voice becoming more assured.
“Sperm and egg donors, mostly. When they go through the donation process they indicate whether or not they want to make their DNA available for cloning after they pass on. If the answer is yes, they also contribute blood — it’s ironic, but we can’t clone from reproductive cells alone — and are paid about three times as much. If they’re egg donors, the fee could be a multiple of ten.”
“Women donate their DNA less frequently,” Martha said, recalling a fact from her research. “That’s why most cloned children are boys.”