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Authors: Melinda Snodgrass

The Edge of Ruin

BOOK: The Edge of Ruin
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Contents

Cover

Also by Melinda Snodgrass

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Prelude

One: Richard

Two

Three: Richard

Four

Five: Richard

Six

Seven

Eight: Richard

Nine

Ten: Richard

Eleven

Twelve: Richard

Thirteen

Fourteen

Fifteen: Richard

Sixteen

Seventeen

Eighteen: Richard

Nineteen: Richard

Twenty

Twenty-One: Richard

Twenty-Two

Twenty-Three

Twenty-Four: Richard

Twenty-Five

Twenty-Six

Twenty-Seven: Richard

Twenty-Eight

Twenty-Nine

Thirty: Richard

Thirty-One

Thirty-Two: Richard

Thirty-Three

Thirty-Four: Richard

Thirty-Five

Thirty-Six: Richard

Thirty-Seven

Thirty-Eight: Richard

Thirty-Nine: Richard

Forty: Richard

Forty-One

Forty-Two: Richard

Forty-Three

Forty-Four: Richard

Forty-Five

Forty-Six: Richard

Forty-Seven

Forty-Eight: Richard

Forty-Nine

Fifty: Richard

Coda

Acknowledgements

About the Author

Also Available from Titan Books

Praise for the Edge of Reason

ALSO AVAILABLE FROM MELINDA SNODGRASS AND TITAN BOOKS

The Edge of Reason
The Edge of Dawn
(September 2015)

The Edge of Ruin
Print edition ISBN: 9781783294626
E-book edition ISBN: 9781783294633

Published by Titan Books
A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd
144 Southwark Street, London SE1 0UP

First Titan edition: November 2014
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

Copyright © 2008, 2014 by Melinda Snodgrass. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.

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This one is for my Minnesotans. Kay McCauley, agent extraordinaire who makes all this possible, and Dr. Ian Tregillis, writing partner, friend, and science advisor whose help made this book a whole lot better than it would have been.

PRELUDE

E
ddie Tanaka dug his elbows into the mud, releasing the sweet and sickening smell of rotting vegetation. He wriggled frantically toward the river. It was monsoon season, and the leaves of the bushes, disturbed by his passage, sent water pattering along the length of his body. Some trickled down his collar and joined the sweat bathing him. His sweat wasn’t due entirely to the tropical heat. Most of it was because of gut-trembling, bowel-loosening terror.

What were those things?!

Behind him he heard screams of pain and terror from his colleagues, maddened, triumphant screams from the attackers, and over everything the keening wail of the
things
. Eddie pressed his belly against the muck, reached out for a tree root coiling up from the earth like an exposed rib, and pulled himself forward. Ahead was the soft gurgle and slap of running water. Not much farther now.

He wondered if anyone else had made it out of the lab, and even as he crawled he hated himself for not going back. To look for any other survivors. To help them escape. But the only reason he was alive and outside was because he had been on the catwalk suspended high over the accelerator. There was a narrow access tube used to replenish the hyperpure oil surrounding and shielding the rest of the building from the massive, though brief, release of atomic particles created by their experiments. Experiments that tried to approximate conditions nanoseconds after the Big Bang. Though Eddie was tall, he was also thin, and he had been able to squeeze through the pipe.

The men who attacked the lab offered no mystery. Brandishing knives and machetes, faces obscured behind headcloths, they had extolled their god in voices made shrill by nerves and euphoria.
Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar.
It was what was with them that froze the throat with pure, blind terror.

Things like whirling dervishes constructed of slivered glass. The sound as they spun was a mind-numbing howl. When they swept across a person their passage ripped away clothes and flesh.

Eddie pushed up on his elbows and vomited. He had seen Anne just before he entered the pipe. Clothing and skin flayed off, screaming, still standing, not dead. He retched again and brought up only bile. It wasn’t just water and sweat bathing his face now. He tasted tears. Anne had liked him. After they got past him following her into the bathroom that time. They had been discussing the results of that day’s experiment, and Eddie just hadn’t noticed.
She liked me. She had told me so. And I didn’t do anything to help her.

Tears blinded him and he found the edge of the river without meaning to. Arms flailing, he rolled down the bank and into the water. The current took him. The pockets of his lab coat filled with water, but despite the added drag Eddie waited until the water had carried him perhaps a mile downstream from the lab before kicking off his tennis shoes and shrugging out of the coat. He didn’t want the
things
realizing too quickly that someone had survived and escaped.

He had to find a phone. Call the emergency number he’d been given. Tell the man who ran Lumina Enterprises what had happened. Hope he didn’t get committed as a madman.

* * *

The low hum from the big jet’s engines and the underoxygenated air of the cabin conspired to send her to sleep. Dagmar Reitlingen blinked hard, removed her wire-rim glasses, rubbed her eyes, and pinched the bridge of her nose. Another five hours and they would arrive in Dallas. A three-hour layover, then the two-hour flight to Albuquerque. Add to that the hours she had already spent sitting in the first-class lounge at London’s Heathrow airport. The ground crew kept saying there were “phenomena” which were keeping them from departing, but they never said what “phenomena” meant. Dagmar did the calculation and realized she had left her house twenty hours ago.
Only ten more to go
, she thought glumly,
assuming there aren’t more “phenomena.”

She had tried to take the Lumina jet, but discovered that Brook was in jail in Baltimore, and the Gulfstream GV was parked in a hangar in Maryland. Since she had a new boss, she didn’t feel comfortable just hiring another pilot. It was a quirk of her charming, though secretive, CEO that Lumina Enterprises owned only one plane and employed only one full-time pilot. When she’d crabbed at Kenntnis after one particularly daunting journey back from Singapore, he’d given that rollicking, fixture-shaking laugh, and told her he didn’t want his chief officers becoming too distant from the average run of humanity. He’d then added that it wasn’t like he made them fly coach. So she only got to travel on the GV when Kenntnis was aboard. She had spent a lot of hours on the private jet, but compared to how many she spent flying it wasn’t near enough, and she’d tell him so next time. The thought choked and shifted to a worse thought. Maybe there would never be a next time.

The call had come from George Gold, chief counsel for the company, on Christmas Day, informing Dagmar that certain criteria had been met which set in motion the transfer of control of the company into the hands of—Dagmar pulled a copy of the
Washington Post
from her briefcase and studied the face of the man who now controlled a vast corporate empire more valuable than Microsoft and far less visible.

Despite the grainy quality of the photo the young man’s extraordinary handsomeness came through, although his face was marred by what looked like dark bruises. He was flanked by two older men, one whose severe features showed kinship. It was clear from the relative heights that Richard Oort was not a tall man. His expression was tense and haunted, and he held out a hand as if to ward off the photographer. The headline shouted out
BOMB PLOT UNCOVERED.
In smaller type was
American evangelist sought to bring about Armageddon in nuclear fire.

All of Dagmar’s instincts screamed out
fraud
, and she said as much to George. The lawyer had disabused her of that notion.

“No, the documents were carefully drawn. Mr. Kenntnis was very specific in his instructions. Oort is to have total control of the company up to and including liquidating all the assets.”

As the COO of the company, Dagmar was left shaken and sickened by that bit of news.

“When did this happen?” Dagmar had demanded.

“December second.”

“As if Kenntnis knew something might happen.”

“I couldn’t say.”

“Is he dead?”

“I couldn’t say.”

She had wanted to scream and curse him for the legalistic caution and cold precision.
Tell me if Kenntnis is alive or dead!
But perhaps George didn’t know either.

“What do we know about this Oort?”

“He’s a policeman. From a well-to-do and respected Rhode Island family. Father’s a federal court judge.”

So Richard Oort was not a con artist, but he was certainly heedless and indifferent to the welfare of his employees. Why hadn’t he obtained Brook’s release?

Well, she would find out in a few hours. She hoped that Oort was bright as well as beautiful.

The paper crackled as Dagmar lifted it from her lap and studied that face again. She wondered if this insane action by Kenntnis was due to passion, although she hadn’t thought Kenntnis had been inclined that way. But why else would you leave a multibillion-dollar company in the hands of a young cop in a nondescript city in a nondescript state?

* * *

The Reverend Mark Grenier stood on the verge at the edge of the westbound I-81 freeway trying to thumb a ride. It wasn’t easy to do when your right hand was missing. Overhead the moon struggled among the heavy clouds, occasionally breaking free and touching the ice-clad branches of the trees with silver. There had been an ice storm two nights ago, and the cold was so intense none of it had melted.

He couldn’t keep standing still. Grenier began to walk along the shoulder. His thin-soled Italian loafers offered little protection against the cold, and the buttons of his shirt and coat barely closed over his burgeoning paunch, allowing fingers of cold to lick at his skin. He was losing sensation in his feet, and he stumbled on tussocks of winter-brown grass.

He had made bail yesterday and rushed to his Washington apartment, the apartment he’d maintained so he could be close at hand when a president had need of a little midnight counseling. He was desperate for a shower in privacy, the thick lather of verbena soap, the crackle of a starched Egyptian cotton shirt, and the caress of a cashmere sweater to drive away the memory of that polyester prison jumpsuit. But he’d found the locks changed. He rushed to the bank and discovered his accounts had vanished. He had always been a subtle man; he didn’t need a skywriter to get the message: He had failed his overlords, and they had jettisoned him.

BOOK: The Edge of Ruin
7.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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