Jack finds the secret behind 9/11 in this dark thriller in the bestselling Repairman Jack series
Ground Zero is not only packed with action and revelations, but told so well that fans will want the next two books now. . . . Wilson's writing has never been sharper, with the story really focused on the main problem at hand, all leading to a climax where even Jack seems to be powerless with what he has to face. It's truly going to make his fans giddy.
There are some writers who, once they settle into an ongoing character, become complacent and happily just write and rewrite the same two of three books over and over again. And then there's F. Paul Wilson, whose Repairman Jack series seems to get better as its hero gets closer and closer to his ultimate fate.
Wilson remains in top form with By The Sword, which receives my highest recommendation.
Part hard-boiled detective novel, part Matrix, and all fun, Wilson's latest and, perhaps, greatest kept me up all night. A pulse-pounding novel that grips you by the throat and doesn't let go even when it's over.
Read an Excerpt
A Repairman Jack Novel
By F. Paul Wilson
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2009 F. Paul Wilson
All rights reserved.
Diana stared at herself in the mirror. She did that a lot. Maybe too much. No, definitely too much. But she didn't have much else to do.
She hated her life. So boring.
Mainly because she was so lonely. Not that she was alone. She shared this big house with three men — grown men, sworn to protect her with their lives — but they weren't friends. She could talk to them, as in have conversations, but couldn't really talk to them about things that mattered. She chatted online all the time, but that wasn't the same as having another flesh and-blood fourteen-year-old girl in the same room.
But that flesh-and-blood girl wouldn't stay long once she got a look at Diana's eyes.
She stared at the reflection of those eyes now. With their black pupils, black irises, and black everything else, they looked like ebony marbles stuck in her sockets. Sometimes she wanted to rip them out. Yeah, she'd be blind, but at least then she could go to school instead of having tutors. And she'd have a true excuse for wearing wraparound sunglasses all the time instead of lying about a rare eye condition.
She guessed it wasn't a lie. It was rare — only a few Oculi left around the globe — and it was definitely a condition.
So she was an Oculus. Big deal. These black eyes were supposed to allow her to see things regular eyes were blind to, warnings from Outside.
She'd yet to experience one.
Not that she was complaining. She'd seen her father when he'd received Alarms and it didn't look pleasant. In fact, it looked awful.
Why was she thinking of Alarms tonight? She hadn't —
Something flashed to her right. She turned to look but it flashed again, still to her right. She realized it wasn't in the room, but in her eye. A scintillating scotoma. She'd looked it up. The flashing lights always preceded her migraines. This wasn't the sparkle she usually saw, more like wavy lines, but she knew the sooner she dug out her bottle of Imitrex and took one, the better.
And then the room tilted. For an instant she thought earthquake or tsunami, but then the pain stabbed through her head — much, much worse than a migraine — and the lights flashed brighter and longer and fused to blot out her room as her knees gave way and she dropped to the floor.
As she lay there shaking, shuddering, writhing with the pain that suffused her, a tunnel opened through the light, revealing ...
... a man in a loincloth, standing on an old-fashioned scaffold and carving a huge block of stone more than twice his height into some sort of thick pillar or column ... his hammer striking the chisel again and again but making no sound ... all eerily silent ...
... the same man carving strange symbols into the side of the pillar ...
... and others ...
... and carving a cavity, perhaps three feet across and five feet deep, into one end of the pillar ...
... and suddenly she is grabbed from behind and bound hand and foot ...
... forced into the cavity ...
... sealed over with a stone plug, plunging her into darkness ...
... as she struggles for air she feels the pillar tilt as it slides into a deep hole in the earth and is covered over ...
... she thrashes in the small space until her air runs out and darkness claims her ...
... and then ... a spark in the distance ... growing ... swelling ... to become a glowing egg ...
... the egg fades and darkness regains control until a booming voice splits the silence ...
IT HAS AWAKENED!
... and then the egg reappears and a spot of darkness materializes within it ... growing ... growing until ...
... it bursts free ...
... a strange, formless, flickering, alien being ...
... and as it emerges, an odd word forms in her mind ...
Fhinntmanchca ... Fhinntmanchca ... Fhinntmanchca ...
The vision faded, and with it the pain, replaced by beckoning oblivion. Diana fought the draw of the temporary reprieve it promised and forced her eyes open. She pushed herself off the floor and staggered to her bedroom door. She had to tell them ... she had to go to New York.
She had to tell the Heir. She had to find Jack. But where was he?CHAPTER 2
For an instant her fingers froze over the keyboard — surely no more than a heartbeat — before she forced them to keep typing. But they were typing gibberish now.
The man seated by the door was watching her, she was sure of it.
The cybercafé was small but tended to be only half full at this hour — the reason she timed her visits for this time of day. She didn't want anyone too close while she typed.
She made a practice of rotating among a long list of cafés, coffee shops, and libraries that offered laptops and computers for public use. The list was numbered and she used a random integer generator to choose which one she would visit on any given day. The only time she did not follow the generator's choice was if it happened to produce the same number twice in a row.
On some visits she would simply surf through her list of blogs and Web sites, blocking and copying pertinent passages and storing them on her flash drive. She never posted on surfing visits. And she never surfed on posting visits.
Today was a posting visit. She'd typed out her posts last night and this morning, then stored them on her flash drive. That way, when she reached a computer, all she had to do was plug in her drive, block and copy the posts onto the various forums or into the appropriate blog comments sections, then be on her way.
She was just finishing up — no more than ten minutes at the keyboard so far and maybe two to go — when she noticed the man get a call. He spoke briefly on his cell, then began scanning the room. After studying everyone, his scrutiny settled on her.
She kept her face toward her screen but watched out of the corner of her eye. He had a bit of a Eurotrash air about him. Maybe it was the hair — bleached blond and short, combed forward for a Caesar look. A well-preserved fifty, tanned, muscular, with strong cheekbones. She didn't know the country of origin of his clothing, but it was not the U.S. All in all he seemed just a little too well put together to need to rent a laptop in a cybercafé. He looked more like a BlackBerry type.
He was discreet, pretending every so often to stare off into space as if composing his thoughts, but she'd caught him eyeing her. Certainly not because she was attractive. She had no illusions about her appearance. After Steve's death, it had ceased to matter much. She'd let herself go somewhat — gaining weight, dressing in baggy warm-ups designed for comfort and little else, letting her hair grow out and wearing it in a styleless ponytail. In fact, if her frumpy looks deflected attention, so much the better.
No illusions about her mental state either. Maybe a bit paranoid. She might have been pushing evasive measures to the extreme.
You weren't paranoid if people were really out to get you, but she couldn't be sure. If the wrong people were reading her posts, they might — might — care. And if they did care, they might — might — want to stop her.
If they thought she was a threat.
A big if. Who frequented these Web sites besides weirdos and nutcases? But the weirdos and nutcases were on to something. They were ninety percent right about everything except who and why. They were pointing fingers in the wrong directions.
Everything was either political or religious or cultural to them. They couldn't see that the real reasons were much darker, more sinister, and more dangerous and threatening than their wildest nightmare scenarios.
Only one man was listening — or at least not dismissing her as a kook as were most of the others.
When the kooks think you're a kook, maybe it's time to reassess your position.
No. Not when you're sure you're right.
And she was sure. Well, pretty sure. As sure as you could be about these things when —
There. He'd looked at her again. Her gut tingled with alarm. No question: He was watching her.
How could they have found her? Her practice of switching log-in locations guaranteed a different IP address every time, and her random choice of location made it impossible to predict where she'd be.
Well, not literally impossible, but virtually impossible.
She'd sensed they might be looking for her, but never dreamed they were this close.
The café, already small and cramped, seemed to shrink.
Her practice was to situate herself in a rear corner with her back to a wall so no one could read over her shoulder. But that was working against her now. She wished she were closer to the front, nearer the door.
Keeping her fingers moving and her head perfectly still, she flicked her gaze back and forth. The coffee bar sat against the far wall; to her right, the restroom — "Customers Only" — and an "Employees Only" door leading who knew where; the front door to Amsterdam Avenue lay all the way across the café to her left. Through the windows she could see people whisking by in the bright July sunshine.
She jumped at the voice, then realized it was the waiter. Where had he come from? She glanced up at him — certainly no older than his late teens. He looked underfed and overtired. A college kid maybe?
She forced a smile as she nodded. "Why, yes. I do believe I will."
She liked to indulge herself in these cafés, usually with a mocha latte — she was expected to buy something, so she might as well enjoy it — but only one. But today a second cup might prove useful. Make it look as if she intended to stay awhile.
While she waited, she put the time to good use by uploading the rest of her posts. She'd just hit ENTER on the last when the waiter returned.
"Hang on," she said as he placed the cup on the table. She handed him a bill. "Here. I may have to leave on short notice. Keep the change."
He looked at it, then her. "This is a twenty."
"I know." She understood his confusion: The tip was more than the coffees. "You look like you could use it."
He gave her a self-conscious smile. "Yeah. Thanks."
As he wandered away, she glanced into her virtually empty bag. She kept no ID of any sort on her person. Cash, a few toiletries, a pay-as-you-go cell phone, the keys to her three front door locks — that was it. No one could be allowed to know where she lived, because that was where she kept her proof, all the documentation for what she knew to be true. It had taken her years to assemble it and she doubted she'd ever be able to do so again. She couldn't allow it to fall into the wrong hands.
With a start she noticed her stalker rise from his seat and amble her way. She stiffened as her heart rate jumped. What was he doing? Was he going to speak to her?
No, he passed without a look and stepped into the restroom.
The not-looking was a giveaway. A casual patron would have glanced her way. Or would he?
She sighed and slumped in her seat. Maybe this was all in her head. God knew she'd been told often enough she was crazy — starting in her teens and continuing through the rest of her life. Maybe they were all right. Maybe —
No. She couldn't allow herself to think like that. She knew some of the truth and had to put what she knew out there, to stimulate others to help her look for the rest of it.
She also knew that blond man had been watching her. Her second cup of coffee had lulled him into thinking he could take a bathroom break.
She straightened and rushed through her routine of deleting cookies and erasing her browser history. It wouldn't stop anyone really serious about finding out what she'd been up to, but would foil run-of-the-mill snooping. She pulled her flash drive from the USB port and shoved it into a pocket. Normally she'd delete everything, then fill the drive to capacity with junk — overwriting all the memory — then delete all that to make sure none of her original files were recoverable, but no time for that now.
She rose and hurried toward the door.
Outside she paused and looked around. The air-conditioning in the café had been set a little too low for her and the hot air on the sidewalk felt good. The nearest corner lay to her right so she headed that way at a trot. The sooner she was out of sight of the café, the better.
She'd broken a little sweat by the time she rounded the corner. Out of shape. Well, what else could she expect from a sedentary life spent reading from either a page or a monitor?
She glanced back. No one following.
She slowed her pace. Had she lost him? Had she truly had anybody to lose?
Even if she'd been wrong, she'd just had a good drill on staying alert. She couldn't allow herself to become complacent. Not with what she knew.
Another glance back and she almost tripped over her own sneakers as the blond man rushed into sight at the corner. He stopped, looking around. His movements seemed jerky, almost frantic.
As if desperately looking for someone.
She wasn't imagining it. He was after her.
Panicked, she ran blindly. She cut toward the street and felt someone grab her arm.
She twisted free and increased her speed. If anything happened to her, her brother would check her house and read the note ... the note that told him to contact Jack.CHAPTER 3
"All right, lissen up."
Jack stood on the Lexington Avenue sidewalk with a dozen typically scruffy Kickers and pretended to pay attention as Darryl gave them their marching orders. Darryl's scraggly brown hair had grown longer as he'd grown progressively thinner over the past couple of months. He didn't look well, but he was as enthusiastic as ever as he handed out the sample chapters of Hank Thompson's bestseller, Kick.
Jack always saw him around on his regular visits to the Lodge. Hadn't ever spoken to him, but he didn't seem a bad guy. Thompson's gofer. Kind of the Jar Jar Binks of the local Kicker enclave.
His first encounter with Darryl had been in the basement of the Kickers' borrowed club house back in May on the night all hell had broken loose. Jack had been clean-shaven then and had had a foot planted in Darryl's back. No way he'd ever recognize him today.
"Now," Darryl said as he scratched his arm with his free hand, "I think you've all been here before, so you all should know the drill. But just in case one of you's a newbie, here's how we play it. We're gonna go across the street and stand in front of the Dormie building there and hand this sample chapter of the boss's book to anyone going in or coming out."
Jack stared at the art deco front of the Dormentalist Temple on the far side of Lexington and scratched his new beard. Relatively new. It had filled in nicely since he'd stopped shaving a couple of months ago. He'd needed to change his appearance and it had worked. With his hair cut short — not much longer now than his beard — he looked like a different person.
Thompson, the Kicker leader, was the reason. Their last meeting had not gone Thompson's way. Nothing he'd like better than to extract a little pay-back from Jack's hide. He'd probably spread his description among his followers, so Jack wasn't taking any chances.
He glanced down at the faux tattoo on the thumb web of his left hand.
Thanks to Gia's deft touch with a black Sharpie, he looked like a true-blue, dyed-in-the-wool Kicker.
* * *
"You can't miss the Dormie members," Darryl was saying. "They got the Michael Jackson jackets on."
"Faggots," said Hagaman, a long-bearded, barrel-chested biker type to Jack's left. "Just like their boss man."
"Former boss man," Jack said.
Indelicate photos involving Luther Brady, the Dormentalists' disgraced Supreme Overseer and Acting Prime Dormentalist — now former SO and APD — had surfaced last fall. He was awaiting trial on a variety of charges, sexual misconduct the least of them.
Hagaman sneered. "Bet the new one's a faggot too." He squinted at the entrance to the temple. "And what's that bullshit over the door? I seen it a dozen times but what the fuck's it mean?"
The desires of the worthless many are controlled by the desires and knowledge of the decent few.
Jack shrugged. "It's Plato. And Plato didn't always make a lot of sense."
He'd never understood how anyone had ever bought into that shadows-on-the-wall stuff.
"Yeah," Hagaman said with a derisive snort. "What can you expect from Mickey Mouse's dog?"
Jack laughed, then noticed Hagaman's sharp look. "You were kidding, right?"
Excerpted from Ground Zero by F. Paul Wilson. Copyright © 2009 F. Paul Wilson. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >