When psychologist Laura Monroe is handed his strange case, she is unwittingly thrust into the dangerous world of political subterfuge and intrigue. As Laura and her boyfriend, Jordan, begin to uncover the extraordinary facts behind the case, they find themselves battling against a formidable opponent and an unscrupulous government-enemies that will stop at nothing to silence her. With the prize of eternal life and complete political mastery at stake, Laura's life is in jeopardy.
In this gripping thriller, Laura's only chance of survival is to track down enough hard evidence to expose a deceitful plot. But there's only one problem. Who does she confide in when she cannot trust her own government?
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.88(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Memories to Die For
By John V. Kriesfeld
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 John V. Kriesfeld
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLong days and hours I've toiled with plaguey care, Still nagging questions asks How? When? and Where? Old Master Death is feeble grown and slow, And even loses grip on Whether or No; On rigid limbs I'd often feast my eyes, And all was sham, for they would stir and rise. Goethe, Faust II
Doctor Richard Rathbone watched as a nurse checked the vitals of the patient in room 224. A sign above the bed identified the man as James Chandler. Heavy sounds of mechanical breathing filled the ward as the life-support systems battled to support the patient's vital functions. Rathbone studied Chandler's bloated white face and then reviewed the machine's displays near his bed.
A prime candidate, he thought dispassionately. Without the machine, he'd be dead in minutes.
'Let me know immediately when the family arrives,' he instructed the nurse before resuming his tour of the wards.
The call came shortly after 2 p.m. The mother and daughter were hunched nervously around the bed as Rathbone hurried in.
'How are you both today?' he asked sympathetically. They smiled bravely, and he assumed a grave look. 'Would you mind stepping into my office? I have a serious matter to discuss.'
They followed apprehensively, and Rathbone waited until they were comfortably seated.
'I'm sorry to inform you that according to our tests Mr Chandler's brain has degenerated beyond the point of recovery.' Both women gasped, and he turned to address Chandler's wife. 'I know it's distressing, but I need to explain a few things about your husband's situation. Is that all right with you?'
Mrs Chandler nodded weakly, her hands fluttering helplessly on her lap as she struggled to control her emotions. 'Thank you, I'd like to know,' she said finally.
Rathbone inclined his head, acknowledging her spirit. 'Medically speaking, a person is considered to be brain-dead when a critical mass of neurons known as the brainstem is destroyed.'
'Excuse me, doctor,' interrupted the daughter, her voice sounding harsh as she battled to control it. 'Can't the body regenerate these brain cells? Isn't that why people lapse into comas, so the body can rest while it repairs itself?'
'No, I'm sorry, but once a neuron is destroyed it cannot be replaced. Unfortunately, your father lost the supply of oxygen to his brain during his stroke. Although he was resuscitated, critical damage had already occurred.'
Mrs Chandler looked up, her eyes anxious. 'Are you saying he hasn't got much time, Dr Rathbone? He doesn't seem any different to how he's been for the past few days. His breathing even seems a little stronger. Surely that's a good sign, isn't it?'
Rathbone shrugged. 'He's on a respirator, Mrs Chandler. The machine does the breathing for him. Because you want him to improve, you look for little signs to reinforce your belief. I'm sorry, but if you have any last words to say to Mr Chandler, now would be an appropriate time.'
The daughter folded her arms defiantly. 'So you're just going to let him die.'
Rathbone chided her gently. 'Letting him die is only meaningful if we could prolong his life and not do it. In this case, we're allowing your father to die with dignity.'
Mrs Chandler looked wearily at her daughter. 'We've already talked about this, dear. If the machines are of no further use to your father, they should go to somebody who could benefit from them. Your father was never selfish.'
'I'm glad you understand,' murmured Rathbone sympathetically. 'Disconnecting the respirator should be seen as no different to pulling a sheet over the recently dead. These actions symbolize death; they certainly don't contribute to it.' Mrs Chandler was still an attractive woman, and he put a consoling hand on her shoulder. 'I'll tell the ward nurse to give you some privacy.'
Rathbone let his hand linger on her shoulder and then walked briskly from the room and hurried down the corridor into 224. He took a syringe from the thin, metal case in his pocket, filled it with insulin, and injected the liquid into the patient's IV line. Then he slipped into the adjoining ward and waited.
An alarm abruptly sounded, and Rathbone rushed back as several nurses hurried in to attend to the patient.
The Chandler women were by the side of the bed, silently clutching each other; they stared at the monitoring machine as it emitted one long, steady beep. Rathbone pushed his way through to the bedside and quietly asked one of the nurses to take the family members outside. He always enjoyed this piece of theatre. He flicked on a torch and peered under the patient's left eyelid.
'Come on, damn you, be there,' he muttered loudly as he shone the torch directly into the patient's eye, looking for a response. He finally straightened up with a sigh, reached out for the monitor, and turned it off.
'He's gone,' he decreed gravely. 'Send his body to pathology immediately. I will carry out the post-mortem.'
Mother and daughter looked at him fearfully as he joined them in the passage, and he dramatically shook his head. 'I'm sorry; it happened even quicker than I thought.'
The daughter wiped away her tears with the back of her hand. 'Are you sure? You didn't even try to resuscitate him.' Her tone was accusing. 'I mean, I've read about supposedly dead people waking up in morgues and at funerals, and I just wondered ...' Her voice trailed off as she stared at him.
'No, no,' he said patiently. 'The machines were keeping his body functioning, but his consciousness, his core being, was no longer there. If it will help, we do have grief counsellors available.'
'No, that won't be necessary,' said the mother, pulling herself up to her full height, the strength in her quite apparent. 'It's probably for the best. It's time he was left in peace, but I would like to be alone with him for a moment.'
'I understand,' said Rathbone as he glanced at the nurse busily detaching the machines from Chandler's body. 'You can have a couple of minutes once the nurse has finished.' He spoke briefly to the nurse, nodded to the family, and quietly left the room. Within seconds, his solemn demeanour disappeared and he whistled happily as he strolled back to his office. When seated at his desk, he put through a call to his business associate.
A soft, sibilant voice answered. 'Borkov speaking.'
'Isaac, it's Richard. I have another package for delivery.'
'Excellent work, Richard. Your usual fee will be deposited into your account upon receipt. You may be interested to know we are about to launch Prototype One once the software is installed. If Prototype One is successful, we will start placing advance orders with you. Your business is going to pick up.'
'I'm not sure I follow you. I'm already supplying your needs now.'
'Yes, but the haphazard nature of your current delivery program will not be suitable once we move to our next operational phase. We will place an order for a certain date, and you will fill it.'
Rathbone frowned. 'You have to understand, Isaac, that a suitable package may not be available when your order comes through.'
Borkov laughed carelessly. 'No, my friend, you have to understand that the package will be available when ordered. The success of our enterprise depends upon it. You're a resourceful person and have a wonderful supply of raw materials. I have full faith in you.'
Rathbone shook his head in annoyance. 'I don't think so, Isaac, it's too dangerous. This is beyond our agreement. You don't know what you're asking for.'
'My dear Richard, I know exactly what I'm asking for, and believe me, it will be far more dangerous if you don't do as I ask. Too many powerful people have a vested interest in this project to allow your misplaced ethics to get in the way.'
'Are you threatening me, Isaac?'
'Of course,' replied Borkov as he ended the call.
Rathbone stared at the phone in consternation, knowing he was trapped. If he went to the authorities, he would be charged with murder. Borkov was right about one thing: he was resourceful, and he slowly relaxed as he considered his options. If he handled things carefully, everything should be okay. He could certainly do with the extra money. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all.
Chandler's body was delivered to pathology shortly after 3 p.m. Rathbone had fewer than twenty minutes to complete his task, as degeneration to the brain after that point would make it unusable. He adeptly cut around the scalp just into the hairline and peeled the skin back from the skull. Then he cut the top off the cranium with a surgical saw.
The flow of blood was minimal, which allowed him to perform the operation by himself. Using a slender pair of shears, he began snipping around the extremities of the brain. His instructions had specifically stated that he protect the lobes of the left hemisphere.
The final section was the hardest. He gently lifted the brain from the rear, inserted the shears underneath until he reached the spinal cortex, and began the awkward task of detaching the brain. It came away quickly. He placed the brain in a metal ice chest, carefully packing shaved ice around it.
Returning his attention to the body, he cleaned the edges of the skull, glued the top of the cranium into place, carefully folded the peeled skin around the skull, and stepped back to admire his handiwork.
'Not bad, if I do say so myself,' he muttered softly. Many families insisted upon 'viewing' funerals, and it wouldn't do to have a body with the top of its skull missing. He tugged off his surgical gloves and hurried to meet the courier outside the Pathology entrance.
* * *
A man of medium height alighted from a taxi as it stopped outside a spacious house set neatly among aging elm trees. He tugged a coat around his shoulders and hurried through the rain, only stopping when he reached the shelter of the veranda. He glanced curiously at the sombre funeral wreath fastened to the front door, absently touching the leaves as he pondered its significance. He then keyed in the security code and entered the house.
An observer, parked in the shadows across the road, captured his actions on a digital camera.
Once inside, the man draped his wet coat over a chair and ambled towards the kitchen, pausing in the doorway to admire the trim figure of his wife as she busied herself peeling potatoes. He had always liked her in black, although she usually softened the effect with a colourful scarf or blouse.
His wife had aged elegantly and, while well into her fifties, she looked ten years younger. He smiled as he crept up behind her and covered her eyes. 'Guess who, my little chicken?'
The blonde woman stiffened in shock. She tugged free and whirled around, her eyes wide. She screamed and pressed back against the bench.
'Who are you?' she gasped, her hand fluttering to her throat, and the potato peeler dropping to the floor. 'What are you doing in my house?' Her breathing was laboured.
'Honey, what's the matter? It's me,' he said softly as he stepped towards her.
She inched away from him until she found herself trapped in the corner. 'Don't come any closer,' she warned weakly as she grabbed a large soup ladle and held it defensively in front of her.
'Come on, Annie, this is ridiculous. What's gotten into you?' he asked, puzzled by her behaviour. He sensed movement behind him and turned to face an angry young woman brandishing a golf club.
'Tracey ...' he began, but her savage words cut him off.
'Get away from my mother, you bastard. Who the hell do you think you are, creeping in here and scaring the daylights out of her? Get out now, or I'm calling the police.' She held the club higher and took a step towards him.
'Now, just hold on a minute, Tracey,' he said in a mixture of anger and bewilderment. 'What's going on? Why are you behaving like this?' He turned and sat on a chair, folding his arms as he did so. 'If you're playing a joke, it's in very poor taste. I've had a hard day, and I don't expect to come home and be treated as if I've stepped into another dimension.'
'Your home? Are you insane?' The young woman brandished the club menacingly.
He waved a hand at her. 'Take it easy with that club, Tracey. It was a present from your mother, and I wouldn't like to see it damaged.'
The blond woman gave a small gasp. 'How did you know that? Who are you?'
The man stared at her with genuine concern. 'What's the matter with you? Have you both been drinking? It's me, James,' he said with a frown. 'Your husband.'
'You low-life scum,' the young lady screamed as she rushed towards him. 'My father died of a heart attack five days ago. We buried him this afternoon, you sick bastard.' She swung the golf club at him, and he only avoided serious injury by tumbling backwards off the chair.
'Jesus Christ!' he shouted indignantly. 'What's gotten into you both?' He rolled away from the outstretched golf club and quickly moved to the other side of the table.
Tracey brandished the golf club in his face from across the table. 'You've had your chance. Leave now or I'm calling the police.'
'That's fine with me. Let's get this sorted out.' His neck felt stiff and bruised, and he gave it a quick rub as he struggled to make sense of the situation; when he looked up, nothing had changed.
'Go on,' he repeated, 'call the police.' He turned back to the woman who had been his wife for the past thirty-four years. 'Listen, honey, I don't understand how you can stand there and tell me you don't know who I am. I'm your husband for God's sake.' He spread his arms beseechingly. 'Look at me? Do I look dead to you? Ask me anything you like.' He thought for a moment. 'What about that small scar on the inside of your thigh? You told me you got that falling off your bike when you were a young girl.'
The older woman stared at him in horror and began sinking slowly to the floor. 'How could you know that?' she whispered despairingly. 'Please don't say anything more. Just go away.'
Tracey hung up the phone and hurried over to her mother. 'The police are on their way.' She turned and snarled at the man. 'I hope they lock you away forever. How do you know about us? Have you been spying on my mother?'
The man sat down and slumped miserably against the table. 'I don't understand any of this.' He suddenly straightened and looked at the two women. 'Annie, your favourite colour is light blue, you have a handicap of 18 at golf, you were born in May, your best friend is Mary, and the first dog we owned was called Dusty. I know you hate pumpkin, and I know Tracey had her appendix out when she was seven. Ask me anything you like. Go on, ask me.'
The two women huddled closer together as they watched him in mute horror. A police siren sounded faintly in the distance.
'Please, I beg you,' said the older woman, 'don't do this. Please.' Her voice trailed off, and she hid her face in her daughter's shoulder, small sobs racking her body.
The three of them waited in heavy silence as the siren grew closer. A loud knock at the door caused the man to jump nervously. Tracey backed slowly to the doorway, and a buzzer sounded as she pressed a button in the panel by the door. 'We're in the kitchen!' she yelled, her voice tinged with relief. 'The door's open.'
A burly police sergeant holding a collapsible baton moved cautiously into the kitchen followed by his female partner.
'You won't need that, officer.' The man sighed. 'This is just a bad dream. It'll be okay once I wake up.'
'Sure, mister,' replied the policeman pleasantly. 'In the meantime, please place your hands on the table where I can see them. And you can put down that golf club, young lady; your grip's all wrong to start with.' He paused while he replaced the baton in his belt. 'Now, who can explain the problem?' He nodded towards Mrs Chandler. 'Why don't you go first, madam?'
The older woman looked up at him with tear-filled eyes. 'I'm Anne Chandler, and this man says he's ...' She turned to look at her daughter and began sobbing again.
'I'll tell you,' said Tracey bitterly. 'This has been a terrible week for us, and now this scumbag has made it worse by breaking into our house and terrorizing my mother.'
'Terrorizing in what way?'
Tracey snorted. 'I know it's ridiculous, but he claims to be her husband, my father, for God's sake. I think he's a bit, you know.' She tapped the side of her head.
'Is that right, sir?' asked the sergeant. 'Do you claim to be this lady's husband?'
'Of course I'm her husband,' spluttered the dark-haired man in exasperation. 'How can I not be?'
Tracey glanced meaningfully at the officer and rolled her eyes.
'Do you have any identification on you, sir?' asked the sergeant, firmly but politely.
The man patted his pockets. 'No, I'm sorry. I don't appear to have my wallet with me.'
Excerpted from Memories to Die For by John V. Kriesfeld Copyright © 2012 by John V. Kriesfeld. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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