The Dying

The Dying

by Leslie Alan Horvitz

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Overview

The Dying by Leslie Alan Horvitz

After lying dormant for decades, a deadly virus is unleashed, threatening millions of lives and uncovering a shocking conspiracy

Danger lies frozen in the Alaskan wilderness, unnoticed by mankind, waiting to be released. A man’s corpse holds the remnants of a ferociously infectious disease that ravaged the globe at the end of World War I. Once the virus is set free again, a gruesome death awaits millions of unlucky victims. Everyone on Earth is at risk—or so it seems. The followers of a mysterious religion possess an uncanny immunity to the illness, and a sinister intrigue unravels.
 
But before long, the insidious virus begins to mutate, daring the unwavering Dr. Lightman to keep up with it. Desperate to find a cure, he discovers that in order to stop the spread of the pandemic, it will be necessary to discover the human forces responsible. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781497655522
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 07/01/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 967,496
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Leslie Alan Horvitz is the author of over twenty novels, including The Memory HoleThe DonorsDouble BlindedThe Dying, and Causes Unknown. Editions of his books have been published in Germany, Poland, Hungary, Norway, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Brazil, and the United Kingdom. He is also the author of several works of nonfiction, most recently The Essential Book of Weather FolkloreThe Encyclopedia of War Crimes and GenocideThe Weather Tracker, Night Sky Tracker Eureka: Scientific Breakthroughs That Changed the World, and Understanding Depression with Dr. Raymond DePaulo of Johns Hopkins University. In 1996 Horvitz collaborated with Dr. Joseph McCormick and his wife, Dr. Susan Fisher-Hoch, both noted epidemiologists, on Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC. “Level 4” refers to a biohazard unit in the Centers for Disease Control where scientists examine some of the most lethal pathogens known to man.
 
Horvitz has covered a variety of business, political, and social topics for general interest magazines including articles on money laundering, international organized crime, financial mergers, global trade, and fraud in biomedical research.

Leslie Alan Horvitz is the author of over twenty novels including The Memory HoleThe DonorsDouble BlindedThe Dying, and Causes Unknown. Editions of his books have been published in Germany, Poland, Hungary, Norway, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Brazil, and the UK. He is also the author of several works of nonfiction, most recently The Essential Book of Weather FolkloreThe Encyclopedia of War Crimes and GenocideThe Weather Tracker, Night Sky TrackerEureka: Scientific Breakthroughs That Changed the World, and Understanding Depression with Dr. Raymond DePaulo of Johns Hopkins University. In 1996 Horvitz collaborated with Dr. Joseph McCormick and his wife, Dr. Susan Fisher-Hoch, both noted epidemiologists, on Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC. “Level 4” refers to a biohazard unit in the Centers for Disease Control where scientists examine some of the most lethal pathogens known to man.

Horvitz has covered a variety of business, political, and social topics for general interest magazines including articles on money laundering, international organized crime, financial mergers, global trade, and fraud in biomedical research.

Read an Excerpt

The Dying


By Leslie Horvitz

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1987 Leslie Horvitz
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4976-5552-2


CHAPTER 1

Without warning it turned black. Lightman had never seen anything like it It was a blackness altogether different from the blackness of storm clouds he'd flown through previously, although he reasoned that a storm cloud was what it was; no other explanation suggested itself. But this blackness was denser and more enveloping. Had he just now awakened he would have thought it the middle of the night, but a night without a moon, without stars.

And then they were out of it, back into the morning sun. There was no one to turn to in the cabin to ask what they'd just been going through since he was the only passenger.

They began to descend, banking toward a snow-draped peak, then dropping farther among the mountains, headed for what might have been the most desolate-looking airstrip in existence. The plane's descent was wobbly, the small six-seater being buffeted about by devious wind currents as it got closer to the ground.

Lightman was used to flying. He'd flown in craft as frail as this one before, but that didn't mean he had to like it. His stomach lurched, he held on, breathed deep, then didn't breathe at all—not until the wheels, with a great clanking and screech of rubber, touched down.

It was a bumpy ride down the length of the runway to an undistinguished, gray squat building whose aluminum siding shimmered in the sun. The fierce wind whipped the American and Alaskan flags savagely about at the tops of their respective poles.

As soon as Lightman had his feet planted on solid ground he saw the man he presumed was McKay. He was burly and bearded, two attributes that must come in handy in a climate this inhospitable. He was standing by a Land Rover, with its motor running, motioning for Lightman to join him. One glove removed, he extended his hand. "Welcome to Alaska, Doctor Lightman," he said.

A single, winter-scarred road led from the airport in the direction of Samothrace and, eventually, Fairbanks.

"This your first time in Alaska?" McKay asked once they were on their way.

"That's right. Somehow I always pictured my first trip here would begin with Juneau or Anchorage, though."

"We don't get many tourists out this way, that's for sure. A few hunters in season, a few climbers, that's it. I myself seldom get into these parts."

"Just when you're on assignment?"

McKay nodded. He was working out of the State Department of Health in Juneau. "I fly my own plane—makes life simpler. You?"

"What? Fly my own plane? Sorry to say I don't."

"You should learn. The important thing is to stay calm and collected—and make sure you're high enough off the ground. Your engine cuts out, you've got five thousand or more feet to work with, you have time to deal with it. The worst thing is overconfidence.

You run out of space, you run out of time, you're fucked."

"My eyes."

"What about your eyes?"

"Myopia. Glasses don't compensate enough."

"Too bad." He paused, considering Lightman's disability for a moment. "Still, I imagine you get around a lot."

"All over the world."

"For the National Institute?"

The National Institutes of Health was sponsoring this assignment, but he had in his time done work for the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization as well as various universities with money to burn on research.

"For anybody who'll buy me a ticket," was how he answered McKay.

Lightman took out of his coat pocket the letter he'd received from the National Institutes in Bethesda outlining what was known about the case he'd traveled all this way to investigate. He wanted to check the facts he'd been given with the facts as McKay understood them to see how—and if—they lined up.

"Tell me about this cadaver, and this man," he glanced down at the letter for the name, "Emil Brown...."

"Browning, it's Emil Browning."

Lightman made the correction. "Emil Browning then. He found a cadaver while he was out trapping, is that right?"

McKay nodded. "About thirty miles south of here as the crow flies. There was a storm the night before he made his discovery. He took shelter in a cave. Next morning he walks out and sees this cadaver lying under a sheet of ice. He brought it to the police in Samothrace. That was only natural. He thought he'd found the body of a fugitive who'd gotten lost in the wilderness and died of exposure."

"The body was lying out there for several years according to the information I have."

"Eighty to be precise."

"Eighty?" It didn't say that anywhere in his letter.

"Guy's name was Joe Taylor. He'd escaped from jail and was on the run."

"What was he in jail for?"

"Murder. Shot three fellows in a dispute over a land stake. Shot two dead and left the third wishing he was.'

"How was the identification made?" Lightman asked.

"First off, his clothes weren't what you'd order from L.L. Bean. They belonged to another age. Then, I don't know how to explain this, there was something about his face that didn't look like it was contemporary. It looked like an old photograph, you understand?"

"You saw the body?"

"Of course. I wasn't present at the examination, but I got a good look at it. He was a big man, you wouldn't have wanted to mess with him."

"Was the pathologist from around here?"

McKay laughed. "A pathologist in Samothrace? You crazy? No, he came in from Fairbanks. More business for him in Fairbanks."

"And he was the one who determined that the cause of death wasn't exposure?"

"That's right. When we get into town I'll show you his report."

"He back in Fairbanks?"

McKay shook his head. "No, he's dead." He gave Lightman a doubtful look. "Doesn't it say so in that letter?"

"No, it just states that three people died and that a viral agent is suspected. Who were the other two?"

"One was the trapper, Emil Browning. The other was a fellow by the name of Vinny Russell—the cop who first examined the body. He was all that Samothrace had byway of a police force. A real pity."

Lightman raised his eyes toward the road. They had it all to themselves; there were no other cars or trucks to be seen. It was as if there was nothing out there where they were headed.

"And when did these deaths occur exactly?"

"First week in December. Browning first, then the other two. Browning died here in Samothrace. Russell was taken to a hospital in Fairbanks and died there."

"And the pathologist?"

"Burt Lyon? Oh, he died in Fairbanks too."

Lightman asked if postmortems had been conducted on the three deceased.

"Not that I know of. The families refused permission. Remember now, we got around to this after it had already happened, there was no chance for the state to intervene. We wouldn't have had anyway of knowing that there was a suspected outbreak until a Fairbanks physician, Lloyd Baker, let us know. He'd treated Lyon for pneumonia. But Lyon didn't respond. He went fast. At the end his blood turned black."

Lightman shot him an astonished look.

"Air hunger, oxygen starvation. I've never seen anything like it myself, I thought maybe you would have."

Lightman did not reply.


Samothrace appeared after the road took a sharp turn, skirting the side of a mountain. The town was nothing much to look at, not from a distance and not from close up, either. Anywhere else, in the Lower Forty-eight, you'd say that the town belonged to the mid-1950s. Eisenhower era was written all over it. The buildings, houses and commercial establishments alike were practically all prefabricated. There was no hint of an architect's hand at work in these ugly structures, only an impatient contractor's. Although some of the owners had made an effort to paint their homes a more acceptable shade of pastel, the dominant color scheme was still a revolting lime and pink, quintessential fifties' colors. About the only thing of any charm that Lightman could see were the wooden sidewalks which creaked loudly anytime somebody set foot on them.

They pulled up in front of a building with a sign proclaiming it Luisa's General Store & Cafe.

"Thought you could do with lunch before we went to work," said McKay.

Luisa's was crammed full of goods, some of which appeared to have been collecting dust for years. In back of the store there was a scattering of tables, each with its own candle melted into old Coca-Cola bottles.

Luisa in person was just what Lightman imagined: breezy in manner and abundant in body, with untamable blond hair and forty years at least of bad weather and unruly times etched on her reddened face.

"Is this the guy you were telling me about, McKay?" she wanted to know.

"You're looking at one of the top virologists in the world, Luisa."

She frowned. "Virile? That sounds okay in my book. You'll get lots of competition around here, though. Every guy who passes through thinks he's virile."

"No, no, Luisa, you got it wrong," McKay said. "He's a specialist in viral diseases."

"Oh," she said, fixing her gaze on Lightman, "so you're going to tell us what was it that got poor Vinny?"

"I'm going to try."

"Anybody can do it, he can," McKay said.

Luisa still hadn't taken her eyes off Lightman. "Just how old are you?"

"Luisa!"

Obviously in the short time McKay had been in Samothrace he'd struck up something of a friendship with the woman.

"That's all right, Howard. I'm forty-two. Forty-three in June."

Luisa seemed to be thinking this over. Then she said, "You could do with some fattening up." She pinched his arm. "Why, you're all skin and bones, good God in heaven! You married?"

"Not anymore."

"Well, I can't see why. This morning I saw old Jim Jillian with one hell of a good-looking broad. Don't know where she came from. She's not a local. Our homegrown stock couldn't hold a candle to the likes of her. A bit stuck-up though."

"Jim Jillian's the mayor here," Howard put in.

"What I'm saying is that if Jim can do that well for himself there's no reason on God's earth you can't find a girl to haul up to the altar. We'll just have to see what we can do about putting things right." Cupping her hands to her mouth she shouted toward the front of the store to somebody out of view. "Ernie, fix up a number three special for our guest! And a tuna melt for McKay." To Lightman she said, "This'll fatten you up, you'll see."

Lightman decided it would be better not to ask what the number three special was. He didn't even ask after it was set down in front of him.

Over coffee they reviewed what they had.

Following the discovery of Joe Taylor's body three people had died after experiencing symptoms that suggested an influenza type syndrome. Each case, as reported by the attending physician, was marked by severe headache, a nonproductive cough, marked prostration, substernal pain, persistent fever and pneumonia caused by a secondary bacterial infection.

While Browning was getting on in years (at various points he claimed to be sixty-five, sixty-seven and seventy-two), and consequently might be more susceptible to the flu, both the pathologist Lyon and the police officer Russell were in their thirties and in apparent good health. Why they should have died, and so quickly after being admitted for treatment, was the most alarming aspect of the case. Of the three, only Russell's blood had turned black from oxygen starvation.

Having made the initial epidemiological surveys, McKay had come to the conclusion that there was only one factor that the three had in common: They had all come into contact with the body of Joe Taylor.

"As I said, there's no chance of getting an autopsy on either Russell or Lyon."

"What about Browning? Did his family deny permission too?"

"He had no family. The fellow was all alone in the world. However ..."

"However what?"

"He's beyond our reach as well. He was cremated by order of the mayor, who was afraid of infection. We were lucky he didn't do the same with Taylor, but my guess is he was confused about how to dispose of the corpse of a man who's been wanted by the police since 1918. It's funny, you should see the wanted poster we dug out. Looks just like him."

Although the loss of the three victims was discouraging, Lightman was certain that the hospital in Fairbanks would have preserved specimens of blood and tissue from them that harbored the virus—if it was a virus.

But McKay had already checked. "You're not going to like this."

"Don't tell me the specimens are gone."

"Let's just say they're not immediately available. Our department's still trying to find out what happened to them. But I have to tell you it doesn't look promising."

Lightman was getting annoyed. "Didn't they send specimens off to Atlanta too?"

Atlanta was the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control.

"No, just to London," McKay said. "At the present time the only hard evidence available to us is Joe Taylor."

"And where is Mr. Taylor at the moment?"

"Not far from here. Of course, nothing in Samothrace is far from anything else in Samothrace."

"Well, shall we then?"

McKay stayed seated. "We can't do a damn thing until tomorrow morning, I'm afraid.

Taylor's being kept in the back of the dispensary. Only fellow who can open it up for us is Jim Jillian."

"The mayor?"

"That's right. Nothing happens in this town without his okay."

"And he's the one who authorized Browning's cremation?"

"That's right. We were called in by the people in Fairbanks, not the people here. Luisa's all right. The rest of them though." He made a face.

"There's nothing we can do about getting in?"

"Absolutely nothing. I talked to Jillian this morning before you arrived and explained the situation. 'Rules are rules' is what he said. Anyway, he's gone for the rest of the day.

You'll just have to be patient until tomorrow at eight when he opens up."

It turned out that the only lodging to be had was in a house painted violet in front and blue on the other three sides that was owned by a cousin of Luisa's who spent most of the year in the Lower Forty-eight. Luisa collected the money. McKay had a room downstairs and Lightman was given one above him that looked over the street, allowing him a view of the dispensary a block away.

There was nothing much else to do but read and watch television. The news was on when Lightman wandered into the parlor. McKay had already settled into an armchair and was loudly sucking on his pipe in an attempt to fire the tobacco. On the screen tanks were advancing through a desert landscape. Clouds of black smoke hung on the distant horizon.

"Middle East," said McKay.

Lightman sat down next to him with a shot of unblended scotch, one that was sufficiently strong to fortify himself against the tidings of violence, disturbance and sudden death that he was sure would soon follow.

"They at war yet?" Lightman asked.

"This? No, just border fighting, skirmishes."

Nonetheless, it looked like war to him.

Next came a volcano eruption. Long dormant, Mauna Kea was now spurting out smoke and lava over the island of Hawaii. Thick black clouds of dust and particles from the volcano were being carried westward by the wind currents. Some of them were reaching the coastline of the Northwest U.S. and parts of Alaska.

Seeing this, Lightman recalled the black cloud his plane had flown through earlier in the day. He was sure that it must have been from the volcano.

McKay didn't seem surprised. "It happened years ago. I don't remember whether it was Mauna Kea or not. Might have been another volcano on the Hawaiian islands. But you can see what it did to some of the beaches. You walk along them and you'll find only black sand. It was strange how it worked, leaving certain beaches just the way they were, blackening the others. I hear that some of those beaches that escaped last time are being hit now. Not that it matters except for the color. Still, it's strange, all that debris from Mauna Kea coming this way."

It was, Lightman thought, like a sign.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Dying by Leslie Horvitz. Copyright © 1987 Leslie Horvitz. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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.

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