Authors: F. Paul Wilson
Tags: #Fiction, #Detective, #General
|Series:||Repairman Jack |
|Tags:||Espionage, Fiction, Thrillers, General, Intrigue, Mystery Detective, Repairman Jack (Fictitious character), Detective, Fiction - Mystery, Hard-Boiled, Mystery Detective - Hard-Boiled, Microbial mutation|
Espionagettt Fictionttt Thrillersttt Generalttt Intriguettt Mystery Detectivettt Repairman Jack (Fictitious character)ttt Detectivettt Fiction - Mysteryttt Hard-Boiledttt Mystery Detective - Hard-Boiledttt Microbial mutationttt
Repairman Jack returns in a sequel to the New York Times bestseller, The Tomb! Repairman Jack has been tearing up the urban adventure scene ever since he was introduced in the New York Times bestseller The Tomb . As his fans know, Repairman Jack doesn't deal with electronic appliances; he's a situation fixer, no matter how weird or deadly a situation may be. Repairman Jack has no last name, no Social Security number, and no qualms when it comes to getting the job done'even if it means putting himself in serious danger. After fifteen years of separation, Jack is contacted by his long-lost sister, Kate, to help her track down the source of her girlfriend Jeanette's sudden trance-like behavior. Referred by a mysterious stranger who gives only Jack's name and phone number, Kate is shocked to find out that the "repairman" she seeks is none other than her little brother'and not altogether happy to find out what little "Jackie" has been doing with himself for all these years. With Jack leading the way, Kate finds out that Jeannette's behavior can be traced back to the experimental therapy she underwent for a brain tumor: now Jeannette's brain and those of several other subjects are infected by a mutated virus. Like any good virus, it wants to multiply'and if Jack can't stop the virus in its path, there will be deadly results. Meanwhile, Jack is traveling on the 9 train when suddenly a passenger goes berserk and starts shooting at random'leaving Jack no choice but to throw himself into the spotlight by putting the shooter down. Worse for Jack, one of his fellow passengers is a reporter for the local tabloid, The Light , who sees Jack's heroism as his ticket to journalistic stardom. The reporter promises to make Jack a celebrity hero, a household name'which could mean the end of Repairman Jack as we know him.
F. Paul Wilson
Special thanks to Charlotte Abbott for her many valuable insights.
And thanks to the usual crew for their enlightened and discerning input: David Hartwell, Coates Bateman, Elizabeth Monteleone, Steven Spruill, and Albert Zuckerman.
Kate Iverson stared out the window of the hurtling taxi and wondered where she was. New York was not her town. She knew certain sections, and if it were daytime she might have had some idea as to her location, but here in the dark and fog she could have been anywhere.
She'd started the trip thirty minutes and who-knew-how-many miles ago in the West Twenties with a follow-that-cab scenario—
I still can't believe I really said that
—that moved across town and up the FDR Drive. The East River had served as a comforting landmark for a while, but as twilight had faded to night, the river fell behind, replaced by dark shapes and fuzzy lights looming in the fog beyond the roadway.
"What road is this?" she asked the driver.
Through the Plexiglas barrier came the accented reply, double-rolling the r's: "Bruckner Expressway." The driver's ID tag showed a dark mustached face with glowering black eyes and indicated he was Mustafah Salaam.
She'd often heard "the Bruckner" mentioned in the incessant traffic reports on New York City radio but had no idea where it was.
"This is Bronx," the driver added, anticipating her next question.
Kate felt a quick stab of fear. The Bronx? Visions of burned-out buildings and rubble-strewn lots swirled through her brain.
Oh, Jeanette, she thought, staring ahead at the cab they were following, where are you going? Where are you taking me?
Kate had stashed her two teenagers with her ex and taken a short leave from her pediatric group practice in Trenton to stay with Jeanette during her recovery from brain tumor therapy. The experimental treatment had been a resounding success. No ill effects… at least none that would be apparent to Jeanette's treating physician.
But since completion of the treatment, Kate had noticed a definite personality change. The Jeanette Vega she'd come to know and deeply love over these past two years was a warm, giving person, full of enthusiasm for life, with an opinion about everything. A delightfully edgy chatterbox. But slowly she had changed. The new Jeanette was cold and distant, rarely speaking unless spoken to, leaving her apartment without a word about where she was going, disappearing for hours at a time.
At first Kate had chalked it up to an acute reactive depression. Why not? What medical diagnosis can rock the foundations of your world more deeply than an inoperable malignant brain tumor? But depression didn't quite explain her behavior. When Jeanette should have been depressed—when she'd been told she had a literal death sentence growing in her brain—she'd remained her upbeat self. Now, after a miraculous cure, after regaining her whole future, she'd become another person.
Maybe it was a stress reaction.
Or a side effect of the treatment. As a physician Kate prided herself on keeping current with medical progress, so she was familiar with medicine's cutting edge; but the experimental protocol that had saved Jeanette seemed damn near science fiction.
Yet it had worked. The tumor was dead, and Jeanette would live on.
But would she live on without Kate?
That, Kate admitted, was what was really disturbing her. Nearing middle age—in darn good shape for forty-four, she knew, but still six years older than Jeanette—she couldn't help worrying that Jeanette had found someone else. Someone younger.
That would be so unlike the old Jeanette. But this new Jeanette… who could say?
Jeanette had been put on notice that her remaining time on earth was numbered in months instead of decades; she'd believed she'd seen her last Christmas tree, tasted her last Thanksgiving dinner. And then it was all given back to her. How could anyone's psyche survive that sort of trauma unscathed?
Perhaps the ordeal had caused Jeanette to reassess her life. Maybe she'd looked around and asked,
Is this what I want
? And perhaps, in some new back-from-the-brink perspective, she'd decided she wanted something else. More. Different.
At least she could tell me, Kate thought. She owes me that much.
Jeanette hadn't asked her to leave—she had the right since it was her apartment—but she had moved out of the bedroom they'd always shared on Kate's visits and into the study where she slept on the couch. No amount of questioning from Kate had elicited a reason why.
The not knowing gnawed at her. So tonight, when Jeanette had walked out the door without a word, Kate had followed.
Never in a million years would she have imagined herself trailing the woman she loved through the night. But things change. It hadn't been all that long ago that she never would have imagined herself loving another woman.
Up ahead, Jeanette's cab turned off the Bruckner and Kate's followed it onto a road the signs identified as the Bronx River Parkway. And after a few miles the city suddenly disappeared and they were in the woods—in the Bronx?
"Stay closer," she told the driver. "You're letting them get too far ahead."
She didn't want to come all this way just to lose her.
Then Kate saw signs for the Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Gardens. More turns, each new road smaller than the last until they were traveling a tree-lined residential street.
"Are we still in the Bronx?" she asked, marveling at all the well-kept homes trailing by on either side.
"Still Bronx, yes," the driver told her.
How come it never looks like this on TV? she wondered.
"Keep going," Kate said when she saw Jeanette's cab pull into the curb before a neat brick colonial.
Her anxiety soared as a thousand questions cascaded through her mind. Who lived there? Another woman?
She had the driver stop half a block beyond. She watched Jeanette's cab leave her on the sidewalk and pull away. As Jeanette started up the walk toward the house, Kate opened her own cab's door.
"Wait here," she said.
"No-no," the driver said. "You must pay."
Nice neighborhood or not, this was still the Bronx, and a long way from Jeanette's apartment. Kate did not want to be stranded here. She glanced at the meter and fished the exact amount out of her wallet.
"Here," she said, keeping her voice low as she handed him the money. "You'll get your tip when we get back to the city."
He seemed to accept that, nodding without comment as he took the money.
She pulled her raincoat tightly around her. A chilly night for June. The fog was thinning and the wet street glistened in the glow from the streetlights; every sound seemed amplified. Kate was glad she'd worn sneakers as she padded along the street, keeping the parked cars between her and Jeanette.
When she'd approached as close as she dared, she stopped behind a tree trunk and watched Jeanette walk up the front steps of the house. Kate's heart ached at the sight of her: a yellow rain slicker and loose jeans hid her feminine curves; a Yankees cap hid much of her straight, jet black hair, but Kate knew those curves, remembered the strawberry scent of the shampoo Jeanette used to wash that hair.
Suddenly Kate wished she hadn't come. Who was going to open that door? Forty minutes ago she'd been dying to know, now she was terrified. But she couldn't turn away. Especially not now, because the door was opening and a man stood there, a heavyset fiftyish man with a round face and small eyes and a balding melon head. He smiled and opened his arms and Jeanette embraced him.
Kate's stomach lurched.
A man? Not Jeanette! Anyone but Jeanette! It simply wasn't in her!
Stunned, she watched Jeanette follow him inside. No, this couldn't be. Kate moved out from behind her tree and approached the house. Her sneaker slipped on a wet tree root and she nearly fell, but kept going, stumbling on until she reached the foot of the front stoop. She saw the name
on the mailbox and fought a mad urge to hammer on the door.
Then she noticed silhouettes moving back and forth within the front windows. More than two. What was going on in there?
Kate started toward the nearer of the two windows but changed her mind. Too much light out here. Wouldn't do to have a neighbor pass by and catch her peeking in. She backed away and moved around to the shadowed side of the house. There she crouched between a pair of azalea bushes and peered through the screen into the Holdstock living room.
Six… seven—no, eight people in the room. Three men, five women, of varying ages, shapes, and sizes, all taking turns embracing Jeanette as if she were a long-lost relative. And Jeanette was smiling—oh, God, how Kate missed that smile. Days since she'd seen it, days that felt like a lifetime.