Authors: Ken Goddard
Copyright © 2011 by Ken Goddard
Cover design by Passageway Pictures, Inc.
Books by Ken Goddard
CSI: IN EXTREMIS
Special Agent Henry Lightstone series
CSI Detective-Sergeant Colin Cellars series
This book is dedicated to the real wildlife investigators of Interpol; my friends, my colleagues and my heroes.
My sincere thanks to Marcus Wynne — former-paratrooper, former-many-other-things, and current fiction-writer — for his cheerful willingness to help me keep my main antagonist more-or-less within the bounds of reality; which, in my mind, made the fictional Marcus all the more frightening.
And sincere thanks, also, to Eleanor Wood, my literary agent through all these many years, who has remained supportive and encouraging throughout the long process of getting this story into the hands of my cherished readers.
In writing this story, I have taken liberties with a number of national and international locations, entities and agencies; not the least of which is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for whom I work.
And, in doing so, I’m sure I’ve caused several of my real-life special agent friends to roll their eyes in response to the manner in which I’ve portrayed their fictional counterparts.
However, my readers should also know that my portrayal of the dedication and determination of these agents, and their international counterparts, are — in my certainly biased opinion — right on the mark.
They are heroes, and they deserve to be recognized as such.
And while it is not yet possible, as of the writing of this book, to use a combination of veterinary and genetic-manipulation techniques to bring some of the fascinating creatures that inhabit this book to life; the time when this will certainly happen is not far off.
The question is: are we prepared to deal with the social, environmental and legal impacts of extinct species suddenly resurrected, and the creation of other like-creatures that have never before stepped foot upon this planet?
Or, much worse, are we ready for the impact of such creatures being released into the wilderness areas of our planet, where they have few — if any — natural enemies?
The answer to both questions, I’m afraid, is a resounding no.
Sadly, we humans find it difficult enough to deal with the impact of existing species on our lives and habitats; much less worry about creatures that are long gone, or have never existed.
But there is every reason to believe that DNA molecules are far more complex than we can possibly imagine; and geneticists throughout the world are unraveling those secrets with ever-increasing speed and comprehension.
Can manipulative veterinarians, and self-absorbed poachers willing to pay ‘anything’ for a trophy not-of-this-world be far behind?
The Chimera are coming, I am certain of that; it’s just a question of when they arrive, and what happens when they do.
A simple placard that has sat in a high corner of my lab office all these many years as a useful reminder:
“Whoever battles with monsters had better see that it does not turn him into a monster.
And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
In Greek mythology, a fire-breathing animal with a lion's head and foreparts, a goat's middle, a dragon's rear, and a tail in the form of a snake; hence any apparent hybrid of two or more creatures.
— Tiscali, 2005
Part I: The Russian Connection
A Cheap Hotel on the Outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand
An insistent ringing began to invade Dr. Sergei Arturovich Draganov subconscious, demanding his attention and dragging him out of a deep but restless sleep.
Confused and disoriented by his sudden awareness of the unfamiliar mattress and strange pungent smells of his equally-unfamiliar surroundings, and the fact that his head was throbbing painfully, he reached out for the bedside table alarm clock with eyes tightly shut, fumbling desperately to shut off the insistent noise … and then, when he failed to do so, opened his eyes and stared in confusion at the small blank clock face, barely visible in the almost completely dark room.
What … ??
The suddenly familiar rang out again and he reached across the table top for his red-flashing cell phone — the only source of light in the room.
Where am I?
he asked himself as he reflexively activated the phone and brought it to his ear, the effort magnifying the pain radiating across his forehead,
“Hello?” he rasped sleepily.
“You’d better get up, Dr. Draganov,” a deep unfamiliar voice spoke, “you’re going to be late.”
Late? Late for —? Oh my God, the Symposium!
What time is it?
A quick glance at digital clock on the glowing face of his cell phone caused him to snap upright on the hard mattress, tearing off the thin blankets as he lunged out of bed and stumbled into the tiny bathroom.
Barely twenty minutes after receiving the warning phone call, Dr. Sergei Draganov burst out of the narrow stairwell into the hotel’s small, dark and seemingly empty lobby, clutching a worn briefcase in one shaky hand as he struggled to pull on a ragged raincoat over his badly wrinkled suit and poorly knotted necktie.
He spent a futile three seconds scanning the lobby for the on-duty clerk, then — sensing the hopelessness of his situation, but desperate to try anyway because he had so much to lose — he ran for the main door leading out into the hotel’s shabby entryway, shoved the creaky door open … and stumbled out into a torrential rain and darkness lit only by the headlights of distant structures and vehicles.
All of the immediate building, street and traffic lights were as dark as the surrounding sky.
Watching his steps as best he could to avoid tripping on the broken concrete sidewalk, he lurched across the hotel’s small, half-circle driveway — that, like the connecting front street, was mostly a ragged mixture of broken asphalt and mud — to a small leaky hut where the hotel’s single on-duty clerk and doorman sat crouched, looking cold and miserable.
“I asked for a wake-up call,” Draganov screamed.
“Why didn’t you —?”
“All power out,” the clerk interrupted, gesturing with his hands at the surrounding darkness, clearly in no mood to repeat the explanation he’d already given many times this morning. “Wake-up call list in computer.
Computer down. Everything down. Nothing I can do until power back on. More important I watch for delivery truck. Then we all have hot breakfast.”
“But I don’t care about —” Draganov started to argue, but then remembered that he had a much more important concern. “The early bus to the airport — where is it?!” he demanded.
“You too late for early bus.
Draganov sagged, his eyes bulging in dismay.
“Gone? But – when will it be back?”
“Two hours, maybe three.
Traffic very bad now.”
No, I can’t wait that long. Call me a cab immediately!”
The clerk shook his head.
“No cab come here until street fixed.
Only bus … and delivery truck,” he added, looking around hopefully.
“But, but —”
“No cab come here.
You want cab, must walk to St. James Hotel.”
The clerk pointed indifferently off into the darkness.
“How far away is that?”
“Not far.” The clerk shrugged.
“Half hour maybe.”
Draganov glanced down at his wrist watch, sighed heavily, and then began picking his way along the broken sidewalk, cursing in Russian.
In doing so, he failed to notice a man in an expensive-looking trench coat slip out of the hotel lobby’s side door and begin to follow his labored path.
A half hour later, a thoroughly wet, miserable and despondent Sergei Draganov was still cautiously picking his way through poorly illuminated mud and street debris, head down against the rain and cursing half-heartedly, when a loud clanking sound caught his attention.
He stopped, looked up, and saw a Thai male thirty feet away holding a metal pipe.
“Who are you? What do you want?” Draganov demanded, trying to keep his rising fear out of his voice.
Draganov laughed bitterly. “Can’t you see I have no money? Why else would I be walking in a morning like this?”
The thug shrugged, and then gestured with his head toward a nearby second thug and a third who had stepped out of the dark shadows behind Draganov.
All three men were armed with pipes, and appeared poorly dressed for the bad weather.
“You will give us money – all you have – and briefcase too,” the first thug said confidently.
Draganov’s eyes widen in horror as he looks back and forth at the three men, and then shakes his head firmly.
“No, you can’t have my briefcase.
My money, yes, but I must have —”
“You took a wrong turn, Doctor.”
Draganov spun around and stared at a tall Caucasian man — wearing an expensive-looking trench coat — who was now standing calmly between him and the third thug.
Before Draganov could respond, the third thug lunged at the newcomer, who moved with deceptive casualness.
As Draganov watched in disbelief, the thug crumbled to the ground with a gasp of pain as the pipe clattered away into the darkness.
“You wanted to take a left at that last stop sign,” the newcomer continued on as if his interaction with the thug hadn’t really happened. “Walk ten blocks and you’ll see the St. James off to the right.
Can’t miss it.”
Draganov stared blankly at the newcomer, and then switched his attention to the other two thugs who were approaching warily.
“But they —”
“— won’t be bothering you.”
“Hurry along now, doctor.
You’re going to be late for your lecture.
The lads and I will sort things out here just fine without your help.”
Finally understanding that he’d been rescued from a certain beating and the loss of his briefcase, Draganov hurried down the debris-strewn street. Behind him, in the darkness, he heard another agonized gasp and then the clattering sound of a metal pipe.
The Miracle Grand Convention Hotel Lounge, Bangkok, Thailand
His lecture completed, a less-despondent Dr. Sergei Draganov was sitting alone at a table in the far corner of the lounge, staring gloomily at an expensively-printed menu, when the sound of approaching footsteps and a familiar voice caused his head to snap up sharply.
“May I join you, doctor?”
The tall newcomer pulled out a chair on the opposite side of the table from Draganov, sat down, and then motioned for a waiter.
Draganov started to say something, but then sat in silence as an attentive waiter quickly appeared.
“Would you like some coffee, doctor? And perhaps a sweet roll?”
Draganov glanced down at the menu in his hand and then tossed it aside with a grimace. “No, it’s much too expensive here —”
“Nonsense. I’m sure you haven’t eaten anything all morning.
It will be my treat.” The newcomer looked up at the waiter. “We’ll have coffee, fruit, and breakfast pastries, please.”