Joining him in the quest is his son, Mitch, whose tiny variation in molecular DNA is responsible for startling changes. Only Dr. Herman Walenz, a rogue scientist under siege by his peers, knows the full impact the mutation will have on the future of mankind. To validate Walenz's research and unlock the growing genomic mystery, the Duchesnes must evade a deathtrap and recover the Registro. What they discover will send shockwaves through the scientific community and constitute a full-scale assault on Darwin's theory of evolution.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.87(d)|
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By Wayne Hammer
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Wayne Hammer
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Chapter OneLily Maru
The elderly couple walked within a few feet of the boat slip. The woman slightly rotated her frail body and hunched her shoulders to prevent the chilled morning air from leaking in over the collar of her oversized windbreaker. She shivered, and left her husband's side to stroll towards the edge of the dock. When she got to the railing, she leaned over to get a better look at the sixty-five-foot ketch gently rocking in its berth.
The white-haired man stood behind her, his breathing calm and even for the first time in months. He'd been looking forward to a much-needed break from his work. Since the publicity surrounding his challenge to Darwin's theory of evolution, tensions had grown. The scientific community was in uproar. Jealous colleagues had clawed at his reputation and torn his controversial hypothesis to shreds.
Dr. Herman Walenz needed to get away. At least for a while. His wife suggested that a vacation to Maui might be a worthwhile diversion, and he agreed. She suffered from chronic motion sickness, so when a tour company suggested a sailing excursion, she insisted that he go without her.
After looking the sailboat over a second time, the couple walked back toward the slip's access ramp. They stopped about ten feet from the sign-in station where a woman was shuffling papers. She was tall, with muscular arms, and appeared to be in her early 30s. She wore a white sun visor with a large bill, and when she came out from behind the counter, her tightly-bound ponytail bounced with the movement of her head. The young woman looked up and waved at Walenz and his wife.
"Are you joining us this morning?" she asked as the couple approached.
The man fiddled in his jacket pocket for a slip of paper.
"Yes. Walenz is the name, Herman Walenz. You should have my reservation."
The woman responded without checking her documents.
"Of course. Mr. Walenz, you're all ready to go. I just need you to sign this form."
She reached for her clipboard and handed him a pen.
While he signed the paperwork, his wife turned to the young woman and asked, "Are there other people going?"
The woman smiled and shook her head. "Your husband will have the boat almost to himself today. We have only one other passenger."
She pointed to a man sitting on the bench alongside the walkway with a large canvas bag at his feet.
Walenz finished with the paperwork and stepped back, turning towards his wife. He placed his hand on her arm, but before he could say anything, the young woman's voice bellowed, "All aboard!"
She briskly walked to the dock's edge and paused at the bridge leading to the boat's main deck. "Follow me, and watch your step."
Walenz acknowledged the boarding call with a raised hand. At the ramp, he glanced back and saw his wife waving to him from the dock. Then she turned and walked away.
His footsteps echoed over the metal ramp. He looked up and saw a clean-shaven man with pressed shorts and a tight-fitting collared sport shirt. The man grabbed Walenz's hand from the ship's deck to steady the elderly man's balance.
"Nice to have you with us today, Mr. Walenz. I'm your skipper, Andrew. Sheila, who you met at the desk, will be our first mate. Welcome aboard."
Walenz carefully stepped down on the deck and moved to the side. The other passenger followed, slipping past him to take a seat near the helm.
The first mate was last to board. She removed the clasps securing the bridge and hopped on deck to face both passengers.
"Andrew and I will be busy for a few minutes getting us out of harbor," she said. "Make yourselves comfortable." And then, acknowledging her forgetfulness, "I'm sorry, I haven't introduced you, have I?"
"No, I'm afraid not," Walenz said.
"Herman," she said, with a hand pointed in his direction, "I'd like you to meet Frank."
The subdued man gave a slight nod of acknowledgement, but did not get up from his seat.
Walenz returned the gesture and then said, "Nice to meet you."
"Not much room around here," the first mate remarked, looking down at Frank's bag. The oversized duffel bag completely blocked the walkway.
"Why don't I stow that for you?" she offered, reaching down to pick it up.
"That's okay," Frank replied. Before she could get the bag more than a few inches off the deck, the man took it from her and placed it on the seat next to him.
"Are you sure?" the woman asked.
She waited for a response. Nothing. Then, "It feels like you're packing quite a bit of weight in there. Lemme guess: snorkel gear?"
Walenz watched the verbal exchange with interest. The man didn't appear to be very friendly. Maybe he's just a quiet man ... like myself, he thought.
The first mate tossed the small sack she was holding by the drawstring down to the galley and left her passengers in the cockpit area. As soon as he saw the first mate unfasten the last tie-down, the skipper cranked the diesel engine and began to back the boat out of its mooring. As he executed his steering and throttling maneuvers, his first mate tipped-toed around the cabin sideboards to secure the boom. Once the boat cleared the buoys lining the harbor speed zone, she began to inspect the sail rigging.
Walenz watched these movements with fascination, but found himself distracted by the odd man seated nearby. Herman smiled and made eye contact with Frank.
"Where are you from?" he asked.
"I live in Canada. Here on vacation," the man answered over the drone of the engine.
Herman nodded, but Frank had already looked away. Walenz shrugged and turned his attention back to the ship's activities.
He suddenly felt a jarring motion. The skipper continued to give the wheel an aggressive spin as the boat skirted the outer edge of the jetty.
"As soon as we've cleared this area we'll set sail and be on our way," he said, reaching over to push down on the throttle. "It's about twenty-five minutes to Olowalu reef and then another ninety-minute sail to Molokini."
The boat lurched forward, and a shower of sea spray came over the top of the hull.
"Have either of you sailed before?" the skipper shouted from his place at the wheel.
"No. First time," Herman called out.
Frank shrugged. "Once or twice."
"Well, you're in for quite an experience."
As soon as the first mate came up the stairs from the cabin's galley, the skipper shouted, "Let's get sailing."
The woman immediately raced up front, broke the mainsail free from its sleeve and then activated the automatic wench, raising the halyard. Once the mainsail was fully extended, she hoisted the jib, hand over hand, to the top of the mast. While she adjusted the tension on the front rigging, the skipper raised the sail on the mizzenmast in back.
Walenz rose up and peered over the cabin to watch the first mate at work. After a few reverse cranks on the wench, the boom broke loose and the mainsail caught the wind like an invisible air ball in a catcher's mitt. A stiff breeze came in from the north, and when the skipper raced over and shifted the boom's position, the mainsail fully inflated.
Herman turned to follow the action when his cap suddenly blew off his head and landed on the deck at Frank's feet. When he reached down to retrieve the cap, he noticed that Frank had his head turned in the direction of the open water. When Herman followed Frank's gaze with his eyes, he could see another sailboat with a blue and white spinnaker sail off their stern. Herman became momentarily enchanted with the majesty of its huge, billowing sail.
Walenz leaned over in his seat so he could feel the cool breeze on his face. He heard the soft whistle of wind past his ears, the slushy sound of the sea being pushed aside by the slick hull, and the occasional slap of the waves. The bright sunshine was directly in his eyes. He tilted his head downward, took a deep breath, and smiled. He hadn't felt this free in months. He had no serious thoughts to plague him, no deadlines to meet, no bad press to read. For now his world consisted of the sea, the wind, and the feeling of immense power as the boat cut a path through the water.
Across from Herman, Frank sat hunched over with his elbows on his knees. Then Frank lifted his head to look over his shoulder. The tilt of his head concealed from Herman a sly smile as the man tracked the boat and its blue and white spinnaker with his eyes.
Twenty minutes later they approached their first stop at Olowalu reef. The reef was a popular snorkeling and diving area, a good place to observe sea turtles. The shimmering water was crystal clear. Colorful coral formations could be seen all around them.
From the cockpit, the skipper carefully surveyed the sea-bottom, looking for a sandy patch to drop anchor. He slowly maneuvered the boat into the correct position.
"We're good here," he finally called out.
The first mate released the boom and the mainsail deflated, immediately bringing the boat to a near stop.
Walenz watched intently as the woman methodically relieved the rigging's tension on the other sails.
Meanwhile, the skipper moved to the bow to drop anchor. As the plow-shaped casting penetrated the blue waters on its freefall to the seabed, the clanking of the anchor's chain got both passengers' attention.
"Nice ride, huh?" Frank turned and addressed Walenz.
"Yes, quite invigorating."
Walenz was relieved to think that the man was finally showing some interest.
A few minutes passed. Frank stood and twisted his body from side to side. When the first mate approached the two men, she saw that Frank was again tightly gripping his bag.
"Okay. I already know you want to snorkel," she said to him.
She turned to face Walenz. "We'll either look for wildlife or have a sailing lesson while he's in the water."
"I'd like that," he responded. "Either one."
She nodded and turned back toward Frank. "I assume you've done this before?" she asked, gesturing out to sea.
"Lots," he said.
"You'll be the only one in, so stay close. Within thirty yards."
"Not a problem."
"I'll drop the ladder in a minute."
The woman turned to retrieve her sunglasses from behind the windshield.
"That won't be necessary."
She heard Frank's comment while her back was turned, and when she looked up, he was already unbuttoning his shirt on the other side of the boat.
From his seat, Walenz could see the skipper, down below, talking to someone on the marine phone. He caught a quick glance at the man's face. His eyes had become thin slits. His lips were pursed tightly, and a look of concern had swept over his entire person. In that instant, the thought crossed Walenz's mind that there might be a problem. He felt a shot of anxiety course through his veins. He did his best to shake off the apprehension and ignore the paranoia.
Walenz looked out over the railing and cast his sights on the shimmering water's fusion with the bright blue sky. He spanned the horizon with his eyes and again spotted the boat with the blue and white spinnaker. How odd it was, he thought, that the boat hadn't closed the distance while they were anchored.
Walenz glanced back over at the skipper and saw him darting about, looking in all directions. Then Frank appeared, coming up the galley stairs. He had stripped down to his swim shorts. The skipper eyed the man as Frank adjusted the strap and position of the snorkel tube attached to his mask. He watched as the quiet passenger with the hardened body of a forty-year-old athlete began to roll his shaved head in loose circles and flex each group of well-defined muscles on his medium-size frame.
Walenz looked on and was discomforted to notice that the skipper looked at Frank with the same tight-lipped expression he'd worn during his phone call. Walenz wondered what that could mean.
When he was done stretching, Frank carefully lifted a rather large camera from his canvas bag. The first mate had hooked the ladder to the side of the boat for his convenience, but with his camera in one hand and no swim fins on his feet, Frank simply back-flipped over the side.
While Walenz's eyes swept the surface of the water to see where Frank had gone, he spotted a green sea turtle off the bow. He watched as the slow-moving creature made a full circle, kicking with his hind legs and using his fins to make large, sweeping motions. In a moment, like the strange passenger, the turtle had disappeared beneath the waves.
Meanwhile, the skipper stared over the port railing and watched as Frank made several dives with only his bare feet and one arm to propel him downward. When he finished his underwater maneuvers, Frank cruised the surface, breathing through his snorkel. Every few seconds he lifted his head to check what was happening on deck.
As the late-morning wind began to pick up, the skipper left his post to check the position of the anchor. The first mate and Walenz were still aft, looking for more sea turtles. When Frank saw that everyone was clear of the ladder in back of the boat, he grasped the railing with both hands and came on board.
From the cockpit, the skipper made a quick, circular notion with his index finger, indicating to his first mate that he was ready to move on. She immediately went to crank the anchor off the ocean floor. After locking the anchor in place, she hoisted the mainsail and then the jib while the skipper raised the mizzen. Within a few minutes they were at full sail to Molokini, the remnant of an ancient volcanic crater, out in the open ocean off the coast of Maui.
Walenz turned away from the turbulent breeze and sea spray and made his way toward the cabin in search of the toilet. The skipper was at the wheel, and Herman noticed Frank, fully clothed, seated on a side bench. Walenz reached the stairs and paused. Off the port side, he sighted the same sailboat, still traveling in sync with the Lily Maru and drawing closer.
A few minutes later, Walenz emerged from the galley and went aft to retake a comfortable position at the rail. As the boat rocked, he shifted his feet for balance and moved sideways. Unaware that Frank had come up to stand right next to him, Walenz unexpectedly bumped into his fellow passenger and almost lost his footing. Frank stiffened with the sudden contact and planted himself with his bag at his feet.
"S-sorry," Herman stammered. "Didn't know you were there."
Frank didn't respond. Herman nervously moved over a few steps. He didn't notice as Frank glanced over his shoulder, looking past him towards the cabin. Thinking that Frank's reaction to the accidental contact seemed a bit cold, Herman decided to refocus on the pleasant sensations he had experienced before: the gentle flapping of the sails, the splash of the waves, and the scent of the salt air.
While Herman was regaining his emotional equilibrium, Frank knelt down and unzipped one of his bag's side pockets. He took another look back and shifted the position of his body to screen Herman from view. Then he reached into the open pocket and took out a syringe wrapped in tissue. With his hand concealed by his loose-fitting windbreaker, he primed the needle.
The boat's rocking intensified. Herman gripped the rail more tightly and concentrated on the steady horizon. Frank worked quickly and quietly. Herman was completely unaware as Frank closed the distance between them and brought the syringe to within a few inches of his neck.
From his location behind the wheel, the skipper saw Frank hovering over Walenz with his arm raised. The skipper sprang from the cockpit, released the stay on the rope clutch, and threw his body at the boom, smacking his head into the solid wood pole. He landed face down on the deck, but the force of his weight managed to swing the boom around and strike Frank from behind. Frank fell against the rail with a grunt. The syringe in his hand missed Walenz and flew out of his grasp.
"Sheila! Get out here!" Andrew yelled, trying to recover.
With no one at the helm, the boat's rudder turned uncontrollably beneath the vessel. The Lily Maru was at the mercy of the cross-slashing swells. By this time, Frank recoiled from the blow that had knocked him into the rail. He pivoted around in a wild frenzy to face the crew.
Walenz instantly fell to the deck, scrambling to escape his attacker. He crawled on hands and knees for several paces before he looked over and saw the syringe. It was sloshing back and forth in the gutter.
Excerpted from Shifts by Wayne Hammer Copyright © 2010 by Wayne Hammer. 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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