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Authors: Kira Peikoff

No Time to Die

BOOK: No Time to Die
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Highest Praise for
NO TIME TO DIE

“Breathless thrills and pace, but real substance too: a perfect mix of nail-biter and thought-provoker, from a writer to watch. Highly recommended.”

—Lee Child

 

“An intelligent, exciting tour de force. The story is tight, the characters are fascinating, and the twists are terrific and totally unexpected . . . A crackling good read . . .
Has the magic touch.”

—Michael Palmer

 


No Time to Die
takes a terrific, original premise—What if someone literally could not age?—and turns it into a heart-pounding thriller that keeps its surprises coming to the last page. Fans of Michael Crichton will love this.”

—Joe Finder

 

“A fast-paced thriller with sound, cutting-edge science that explores the fundamental mysteries of aging.
No Time to Die
may be fictional, but it vividly evokes the most exciting aspect of my research to date.”

—Dr. Richard Walker
, editor-in-chief,
Clinical
Interventions in Aging

 

“Defeating aging may be far harder than
No Time to Die
suggests, but it's definitely possible. By highlighting in fiction aspects of this tragedy that are all too real, Peikoff may just save some.”

—Aubrey de Grey
, Ph.D., chief science officer, SENS
Research Foundation

 

LIVING PROOF

 

“A well-written thriller that deals with issues of great relevance in today's world. To her great credit, Peikoff creates believable, well-rounded characters who represent both sides of a tough moral question.”

—
Mystery Scene

 

“Peikoff's unsettling, timely debut presents an uncomfortably plausible near-future . . . This engaging effort marks her as an author to watch.”

—
Publishers Weekly

 

“Peikoff shows a deep understanding of the issues she explores.”

—
Kirkus Reviews

 

“For anyone interested in a writer who cuts to the chase over a highly difficult subject, this is the book for you. Peikoff will find legions of fans that will look forward to her second novel.”

—
Suspense Magazine

 

“A compelling and thought-provoking thriller, enriched with fascinating medical science, big ideas, and vivid characters. This frighteningly plausible novel will keep you turning the pages all night long.
A stunning debut.”

—Douglas Preston

 

“Makes you think, makes you sweat, leaves you happy—everything a good book should.”

—Lee Child

 

“Risky, daring, and sure-to-be controversial, Kira Peikoff 's debut novel draws a jagged line between cautionary tale and romantic thriller. This story reminded me of the best of Margaret Atwood: a chilling and tangible portrait of the near future, where the best and the worst of humanity is challenged at every turn.”

—James Rollins

 

“Kira Peikoff 's imagination is a wonder to behold and an amazing place to visit.
Living Proof
is not only thought provoking, it's an all-too-believable premise that makes for some high drama. You have to check this one out.”

—Steve Berry

 

“Taut, energetic, and imaginative,
Living Proof
is a near-future page-turner that asks vital questions about the value of human life. Kira Peikoff bursts on the scene with style, offering readers a tight and suspenseful thriller that will not only keep them up past their bedtimes, but also have them pondering its life-and-death issues long after the book is closed.
A remarkable debut!”

—Lisa Unger

 

“Kira Peikoff gets suspense and how to write it. This is a terrific read—tightly woven and tense as a coiled snake. I was a decade older than Kira Peikoff when I wrote my first thriller . . . I'm jealous. Do yourself a favor and buy this book.”

—Michael Palmer

 

“A thriller that keeps you turning pages; a novel of suspense fraught with danger; a fascinating look at a serious moral issue. Kira Peikoff belongs to a very small cadre of writers to watch—who have something important to say and are hell-bent about entertaining you at the same time. I cannot wait to see what she writes next!”

—M.J. Rose

 

“First-time novelist Kira Peikoff comes out of the gate with power, grace and insight. This is a brilliant debut thriller!”

—Jonathan Maberry

 

“A tremendous debut—smart, savvy, and suspenseful.
Kira Peikoff is a writer to watch.”

—Alafair Burke

A
LSO BY
K
IRA
P
EIKOFF

Living Proof

NO TIME TO DIE
KIRA PEIKOFF

PINNACLE BOOKS
Kensington Publishing Corp.
www.kensingtonbooks.com

All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.

To M.J. Rose

 

and in memory of
M
ICHAEL
P
ALMER

PART 1

Every Night and every Morn
Some to Misery are Born.
Every Morn and every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight.
Some are Born to sweet delight,
Some are Born to Endless Night.

—W
ILLIAM
B
LAKE

PROLOGUE

Washington, D.C.
Thursday, March 7

T
he echo down the hallway didn't surprise him. Not at first. The old industrial warehouse creaked whenever Eli stayed late to work in his lab.
His
lab: he could say that finally, after two decades of toiling away in this windowless steel complex, where his most important colleagues were the half dozen chimpanzees in cages lining the side wall. They were the first to try whatever new multimillion-dollar drug was being developed for human use by the research team at Panex Pharmaceuticals—the team that was now officially led by Eli himself.

He was peering through his microscope, reveling in his recent promotion, when the faint echo down the hall assumed the distinctive pattern of footsteps. Usually the researchers wore sneakers, so their movements were announced by squeaks of rubber against the floor. But now the rhythmic slap of a man's dress shoes struck the ground, drawing closer.

Eli glanced up with a frown. He'd thought he was alone—it was 10:15
P.M.
on a Thursday after all. Everyone else had left hours ago. Even the security guard went home at ten o'clock.

“Hello?” he called. Across the room most of the chimps were sleeping, but an elder one with a crown of silvery fur perked up with a grunt, curling his massive finger around the wire of his cage.

“Not you, Jerry,” Eli muttered. He had affectionate names for all the chimps—Jerry and Elaine shared a cage, next to George and Kramer, Larry and Newman—even though he knew theoretically not to get attached to animals who sometimes had to suffer and die for the sake of the research.

The footsteps were louder now, nearly encroaching on the lab.

Eli slid off the stool and nervously tore off his latex gloves.

“Who's there?” he called.

A lean older man crossed into the doorway. He wore wire-rimmed spectacles and an elegant gray suit that matched the color of his thinning hair. His alert eyes lit up at Eli as if in recognition, though Eli was sure he'd never seen him before. His face was all edges: a pointy nose, jutting chin, bony cheeks. A leather briefcase hung off his left shoulder, and he was double-fisting crystal champagne flutes, each one filled with bubbly golden liquid. One glance at his sharp looks told Eli that this man was shrewd, dignified, respected. He was
someone
.

Eli felt himself relax as his curiosity piqued. Any brief worry about a trespasser vanished. In any case, Eli cut an imposing six-foot-three figure, albeit more bulk than brawn. He could take care of himself. The man smiled at him.

“Dr. Eliot Shipley?”

He nodded. “Just Eli. And you're . . . ?”

“Mr. G. I'm on the board at Panex. We're all very excited that you've been promoted to head of R&D.” He walked toward Eli and extended the champagne flute in his right hand. “At our dinner earlier tonight, the board agreed you deserve to be congratulated in person, so I came to surprise you with a little toast on their behalf. We heard you usually stay late.”

Eli took the fancy glass, grinning. He ran a hand through what remained of his sparse blond hair—which, at age sixty-seven, wasn't much. It was about time the corporate bigwigs sat up and took notice of him, after years of his toiling in practical obscurity to help put the cheapest, most effective drugs on the market for their bottom line. Sometimes too cheaply produced, in Eli's opinion, though to the execs there was no such thing, so he did as he was told.

“Wow,” he said. “I'm flattered. You didn't have to—”

The man lifted his own champagne. “Please. The pleasure is mine. Cheers.”

They clinked glasses and drank. Eli recognized the sweet, smooth flavor. It was the good stuff, Dom Pérignon, the kind he bought his wife last year for their thirtieth anniversary.

“Delicious.” He took a few more hearty sips to show his appreciation.

A strangely satisfied smile tugged at the man's lips. “You've done so much, it's only fitting that you finish on top.”

“Oh, I'm not planning to retire anytime soon.”

The man was still smiling that same odd way, in almost ironic glee.

A vague uneasiness settled over Eli. “In fact,” he added, “I'd rather die than ever retire.”

The man's smile widened ever so slightly. “I'm glad to hear that.”

There was nothing unfriendly about the way he said it, yet Eli felt a chill of hostility as sure as if he'd delivered a blow.

Eli lifted his leg to take a step back—and that's when he noticed the sudden heaviness in his foot. Moving it was like trying to uproot a tree. He uttered a little gasp; fear shot through him.

“What's happening?” he demanded. Then, as if without permission, his fingers loosened around his glass. It slid through his grip and shattered at his feet, splashing the remaining drops of champagne on his white coat. He stared from his weakening hand to the man, terrified. “Who are you?”

“I told you,” the man said calmly. “You can call me Mr. G.”

He racked his brain trying to remember the names of the company's board members—was there anyone whose last name started with
G
?—but Panex had been acquired by a major conglomerate, and the management at the highest levels had never interacted with him before.

Now the rest of the chimps were awake, anxious, scratching at their cages. Eli glanced over to them as if for help. Through their cages, six pairs of glassy black eyes were trained on him, set deep in heads the size of globes. His eyes darted to his microscope ten feet away, its light still shining on a petri dish. On the counter nearby, a tray of chrome instruments gleamed under the fluorescent lights.

His eyelids drooped, but he forced them open, his head lolling forward. Then his knees buckled, the walls appeared to shift, and he found himself sprawled on his stomach in the middle of the lab. A pleasant fogginess rolled in, spooling around his brain like cotton candy; it dissolved his fear and his urge to fight. Somewhere far away an inner voice was shrieking at him to run, but all he wanted was to rest his cheek against the cool tile floor for a moment. Just one little moment, and then he would get up. He allowed his eyes to close. God, that felt good.

An acute sting at the base of his neck snapped him awake.

“Ow!” he cried, reaching up to swat away whatever it was.

His fingers brushed against a thin needle as it was being pulled out of his skin.

His mouth opened to scream; a whimper came out instead. His breathing grew shorter as he rolled onto his back. His muscles were turning to concrete, solidifying him from within.

Before, he had imagined death as a distant concept in relation to himself, something that mainly happened to the old and the sick. But now he wondered if he was about to die. He wondered if it would hurt. He wasn't a religious man, but through his mental fog he sent up a quick prayer to any and every deity he could think of: Jesus, God, Allah, Buddha.

He raged at his body to sit up. He flexed his core, his arms, his chest, yet when he expected to move, nothing happened. He felt utterly limp, a puddle where once there was a man. Struggling to keep his eyes open was like trying to lift a car with his lids. He became aware of a shadow above him. With great effort, he looked up.

The man was sipping champagne, regarding him with a look of amusement, as though Eli had only pretended to lose control of himself for their mutual entertainment. Eli tried to communicate a look of entreaty—
I'll do anything, anything at all—
but even his brows had frozen. His throat seized up, choking off his air. He was a statue. He would suffocate in a few minutes if something didn't change fast.

The man inhaled an indulgent breath. “So, Dr. Shipley, how does it feel to be locked-in?”

Eli could feel his face turning purple. That was when the chemist in him realized what had been plunged into his neck. Succinylcholine. Nearly untraceable, with a quick half-life, the drug was used to paralyze anesthesia patients before they were intubated.

“Don't worry,” the man said, as if reading his mind. “It'll wear off real fast.”

Eli tried to wrestle his lips into one question:
Why?

“The worst is the surprise, isn't it? Thinking you're doing well, better than ever, actually, when out of nowhere your world is destroyed.”

What the hell have I ever done to you,
Eli wanted to shout.
I don't even know you.
His mouth merely twitched.

A twitch! That meant the drug really was wearing off already. He felt a loosening in his throat, all the way down to his diaphragm.

The chimps were aggravated now. He couldn't turn his head but he could hear the commotion coming from their cages—the restless pacing and scratching at the bars, the high-pitched shrieks and taunts that sounded like a fight about to break out.

Just as he was able to force a tiny gasp of a breath, the man unhooked the two gold clasps on his briefcase and pulled out a pocketknife. When he flicked it open, a shiny blade popped out. Eli's eyes widened. The hand and the blade came closer until his whole visual field was a glint of light on a silver edge.

Let it be fast,
he thought, bracing his neck for the pain.

But the blade sunk into his cheek. Its point cut across his flesh, ear to nose, in one deep horizontal gash. He cried out as warm blood oozed down his face. Since he couldn't lift a hand to wipe it away, it dribbled down his lips, over his teeth.

The man crouched down to appraise his handiwork, his impassive face close enough that Eli could smell the alcohol on his breath. Apparently satisfied, he clicked the knife shut, slipped it back into his briefcase, and turned away. Eli felt a jolt of hope. As if it were an afterthought, the stranger threw a glance over his shoulder and remarked, “They like the face.”

They?

The man retreated, but instead of heading for the door, he veered left, toward the chimps.

Eli sucked in a ragged breath, trying to thrash his legs; they moved an inch.

Time seemed to slow as he heard the slide of a metal lock and the squeal of a cage door opening wide. Two of the beasts lumbered out, attracted by the scent of his blood. He braced himself as they stampeded on all fours toward him, their longtime captor. George and Kramer came into view, the two youngest and most aggressive males. He tried to scoot away, but his muscles were too weak.

They tore into his cheek wound with astonishing viciousness. The pain was stunning. But it wasn't until their teeth sank down to his bone that he knew agony.

Before he lost consciousness, he caught a glimpse of the man sauntering toward the door. He was waving good-bye with a postcard in his hand. On the front was a picture of the Earth revolving around the sun, and on the back, some kind of scrawled message that Eli couldn't make out. At the bottom was a signature in large cursive, one that meant nothing to him, but that would come to evoke radical feelings everywhere.

It was a single name:
Galileo.

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